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We-reNotWizards
August 10, 2020
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Matt Thrower
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Play Matt: Petrichor Review

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ubarose
August 07, 2020
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Gods Love Dinosaurs Announced

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Andi Lennon
August 06, 2020
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Swatch Board Game Review

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Episode 53 - Meddling Wizards

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Jackwraith
August 03, 2020
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We-reNotWizards
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August 02, 2020
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Machina Arcana a Lovecraftian Board Game in Review

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15 Jul 2020 11:45 #312079 by Andi Lennon
One has to wonder what xenophobic neuroses-vessel and famed mummy’s...

Steamed Calamari - Can Machina Arcana revivify Lovecraftian relics?

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15 Jul 2020 12:25 #312084 by Jackwraith
Great stuff, Andi. It feels like it should be obvious that games based on HPL's work, where atmosphere is the very essence of its function, require elements that serve that atmosphere like the art style from the 1st edition that you cite. Of course, that's an aesthetic thing and maybe more people feel like the new stuff is even more Lovecraftian. Or maybe it's just because it has color and will sell more. Dunno.
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15 Jul 2020 12:26 #312085 by Shellhead
Lovecraft supposedly disliked board games, so it is ironic that his mythos slipped into public domain and became popular grist for boardgames. This seems like a game I might want to play at least once, but the steampunk trappings are a disappointment. I find steampunk to be the aesthetic equivalent of the comic ms sans font... not inherently horrible, but horribly overused relative to its limited merits. Something has gone terribly wrong in boardgaming circles (cough, BGG, cough) that steampunk games are so common and cyberpunk games are so rare, when steampunk is a cheap spinoff of cyberpunk.
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15 Jul 2020 15:30 #312091 by OhBollox
Good old HPV Lovecraft.

I presume the distinctive 1e art was divisive so they went with something more generic for the 2e? Never heard of the game before, and I'm interested, but the chances of me picking up 2e are non-existent now I've seen 1e, so it's a bust all round.
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15 Jul 2020 17:25 #312096 by SebastianBludd
The 1e art looks like it's "in universe," drawn by a steampunk scientist living in the game's world as he catalogs the monsters humanity is going up against, as well as the items they're using to fight them. For me, it reinforces the tactile aesthetic present in several of HPL's stories, where protagonists record their experiences in papers or journals as they're messing around with forbidden tomes. It's a familiar approach but it has its own style, and it's very evocative and makes me want to learn more about the world, which is not a low bar to clear when one is talking about steampunk nonsense.

The 2e art is the equivalent of a band recording their second album with "better" production, where it ends up obliterating everything that was interesting about their sound in the first place.
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15 Jul 2020 18:43 #312098 by Andi Lennon

Jackwraith wrote: Great stuff, Andi. It feels like it should be obvious that games based on HPL's work, where atmosphere is the very essence of its function, require elements that serve that atmosphere like the art style from the 1st edition that you cite. Of course, that's an aesthetic thing and maybe more people feel like the new stuff is even more Lovecraftian. Or maybe it's just because it has color and will sell more. Dunno.


Yeah, the more fully-realised style of the 2nd edition definitely has a wider mainstream appeal. I feel like this site is probably home to an abnormal percentage of aesthetes who appreciate the thematic consistency and mystique that a more personalised approach entails.

I'm mystified when I converse with people that will swear up and down that say the new GW art is better than the 80's stuff for example, but again- there's no accounting for taste. I will say that the art in the second edition here is fantastically well done and some of the monster illustrations and vistas presented on the chapter cards are wonderfully evocative in their own way. They just lose something by dint of their adherence to what is a pretty common style, formula and digital toolset in my eyes. The game itself still manages to bring both atmosphere and immersion through a punishing insistence on strategy and tactical positioning that is a real strength.
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15 Jul 2020 18:49 #312099 by Andi Lennon

Shellhead wrote: Lovecraft supposedly disliked board games, so it is ironic that his mythos slipped into public domain and became popular grist for boardgames. This seems like a game I might want to play at least once, but the steampunk trappings are a disappointment. I find steampunk to be the aesthetic equivalent of the comic ms sans font... not inherently horrible, but horribly overused relative to its limited merits. Something has gone terribly wrong in boardgaming circles (cough, BGG, cough) that steampunk games are so common and cyberpunk games are so rare, when steampunk is a cheap spinoff of cyberpunk.


Hahaha well to be fair to old Crafty, given that during the era his options were probably limited to Backgammon and 436 slight variations of 'The Goose Game' he was probably right to dismiss such relics as idle frippery. As far as the Steampunk stuff goes, it really only rears its head in the weapons and equipment decks which gifts a thematic coherence to what is actually a pretty sweet crafting/augmentation system that I probably should have touched on further in the main review. It also allows for the 'dungeon' tiles to feature some cool contraptions and whatnot. I'm yet to be choked with Steampunk style offerings and this is probably the first such title in my collection. I think it's version of 'steampunk' is more 'alternate universe Victoriana with hints of Jules Verne' which again separates it from the countless hard-boiled detective takes on HP.

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15 Jul 2020 18:52 #312100 by Andi Lennon

OhBollox wrote: Good old HPV Lovecraft.

I presume the distinctive 1e art was divisive so they went with something more generic for the 2e? Never heard of the game before, and I'm interested, but the chances of me picking up 2e are non-existent now I've seen 1e, so it's a bust all round.


Hahahaha you just know he would have thought that HPV and STI's were further proof of the demonic otherworldly taint of women right?

As far as picking up a copy there may well be another kickstarter for additional expansion materials but if you're hellbent on 1e i'm sure there are some floating around.

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15 Jul 2020 19:01 - 15 Jul 2020 19:02 #312102 by Andi Lennon

SebastianBludd wrote: The 1e art looks like it's "in universe," drawn by a steampunk scientist living in the game's world as he catalogs the monsters humanity is going up against, as well as the items they're using to fight them. For me, it reinforces the tactile aesthetic present in several of HPL's stories, where protagonists record their experiences in papers or journals as they're messing around with forbidden tomes. It's a familiar approach but it has its own style, and it's very evocative and makes me want to learn more about the world, which is not a low bar to clear when one is talking about steampunk nonsense.

The 2e art is the equivalent of a band recording their second album with "better" production, where it ends up obliterating everything that was interesting about their sound in the first place.


Yeah you've hit the wrought iron nail right on the head here and these are my thoughts exactly. The game actually comes with a cool optional codex book that contains a not-insignificant backstory written in that familiar half scientific treatise, half 'confessional unburdening' first person diary narrative style that counterpoints brilliantly with the sketchwork, almost 'botanic specimen' style diagrams of the first outing. It really seemed to make the whole product more mysterious and like if you squinted it could actually be a found relic recounting real events. Much how I felt when I first read "At the Mountains of Madness' as a kid. The clunky stilted prose, rather than being off-putting, instead lending the whole thing a strange authenticity. Again though- the games systems and play are solid enough that even in its more high street garments it remains a pretty compelling playthrough for its genre.
Last edit: 15 Jul 2020 19:02 by Andi Lennon.
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16 Jul 2020 00:13 #312108 by MarloweSpade
I agree entirely with preferring the 1E art to 2E; I think it contributed greatly to the whole atmosphere, which clearly was of primary importance to the designer.

Having played both editions now, I think the fatal flaw in this one is the sheer length; put simply, it takes _forever_ to finish a scenario, even the shorter ones. Sure, you can remove some (or most) of the Chapter cards to make for a shorter experience, but that just results in an even more disjointed experience than is already being delivered. You make a good point about there being a singular lack of motivation here; it's just "weird people exploring a horrible place for some reason". I don't need much to start rolling dice, but give me _something_, you know? Especially in a game that relies this heavily on theme.

That said, I do like the crafting element and the inventory system, and individual turns are neat mini-tactical puzzles. I just think the whole thing needed a developer to package it all up into something that has a chance of finishing in under three hours.
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16 Jul 2020 00:34 #312109 by Andi Lennon

MarloweSpade wrote: I agree entirely with preferring the 1E art to 2E; I think it contributed greatly to the whole atmosphere, which clearly was of primary importance to the designer.

Having played both editions now, I think the fatal flaw in this one is the sheer length; put simply, it takes _forever_ to finish a scenario, even the shorter ones. Sure, you can remove some (or most) of the Chapter cards to make for a shorter experience, but that just results in an even more disjointed experience than is already being delivered. You make a good point about there being a singular lack of motivation here; it's just "weird people exploring a horrible place for some reason". I don't need much to start rolling dice, but give me _something_, you know? Especially in a game that relies this heavily on theme.

That said, I do like the crafting element and the inventory system, and individual turns are neat mini-tactical puzzles. I just think the whole thing needed a developer to package it all up into something that has a chance of finishing in under three hours.


Yeah, we found we had to splinter our sessions into two evenings in order to complete the scenarios as the hours bled into the a.m. too. This is an issue that pervades similar titles such as Mansions of Madness even with its heralded app assistance but it sure does make for a barrier to entry when contemplating a casual evening fling with theme. I have since found that it's actually pretty serviceable to burn through one or two chapters in a sitting though and still enjoy the tactical interplay but it's definitely a game that demands your time. As far as characterisation and a more complete overarching story arc there is talk of a campaign style expansion being developed which will hopefully add more depth to that aspect of things and double down on the atmospheric strengths on offer. Perhaps given the feedback about the artwork since the 2nd edition launched there may be a revisit to a more stylised take on things in that regard too, although I'd imagine they'll want to keep things coherent.

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