Homemade Arkham Utensil

I have a confession to make: I’m one of those people who got *really* into board games during the pandemic. Like, spend way too much cash on games like Root and Scythe, supercomplicated games you ideally have to have four players to play, which is ironic, because there’s only two people who can read in my household and we weren’t supposed to have people over.

Suddenly, our house was littered with cardboard boxes containing meeples and coins and dices and oh my god these games are absolutely terrible to set up, aren’t they?!

Thank God we had a second lockdown. One in which I decided that maybe I should get into woodworking. Because as it turns out: these two hobbies are pretty compatible!

So it was obvious that one of my first projects was going to be something to clean up the table on our weekly Arkham Horror nights. Arkham is one of those games I pimped up the wazoo with custom-made tokens, arrow markers, session cards, etc. And I made it my mission to have them neatly stored on the side of the table so they don’t interfere with the game – and look cool doing so.

This is how it started – with a few scraps of wood

It had to hold eight kinds of tokens, and three sets of cards, two of these horizontally (the so-called act and agenda decks, which advance the game) and one vertically (the scenario overview, which tells you what the game’s symbols – essentially its dice rolls – mean in this scenario). The cards have to be visible at all times, the tokens have to be easily reachable so you don’t have to look for the right one. As an added bonus, I wanted to include the “mythos deck” in this utensil – the deck you pull a card from at the start of every turn, but I quickly dropped it because there was no way to do it elegantly.

In essence, I made a box with five compartments. Originally, I wanted to divide one of these compartments into three more, and prepared all the pieces too – but that didn’t work because of how I did the lid. I gotta say: I love the lid. It doubles as a lectern that holds the cards and makes this box look hella unique.

So I made some measurements and took them to class (I made this utensil in a workshop). There, the teacher handed me some leftover wood and essentially threw all the measurements out of the window. The rest was really quite unspectacular: we cut the wood to size, partially by table saw, partially by hand. Then I routed out the compartments and the lid, chiseled the sides to fit said lid, and grinded for what felt like ages before gluing everything together.

After what felt like hours of careful chiseling, the lid fit.

In the end, I slathered wax on it, which I will never do again because it was a smelly mess and it kind of cheapens the whole deal. But hey, at least I learned something.

It’s not perfect by any means – I made some chiseling mistakes and the routing was off by a millimeter, creating a crooked look for the compartments if you look at it from above, but god damn it’s my first project and there’s nothing in this world that looks like this and I love it like a widdle baby.

It works! It woooorks!

Final Fantasy IX

I’ve been replaying a lot of Final Fantasies lately. It started with 12 (the zodiac age!), a japanese star wars; then I switched to 7 (the remake!), the edgiest of the bunch barring 8, and then I landed on nine. And man, I love Final Fantasy IX.

When it came out in 2000 (a few years before I had a PlayStation and could actually play the damn thing at full-speed and not emulated on a PC without a dedicated GPU), Final Fantasy IX was supposed to be a victory lap of what was arguably one of the most successful video game series of the 90s. It had all the tropes and then some. And man, teenage me looooved me some tropes.

Now that I’m older, I enjoy Final Fantasy IX differently. I enjoy its incredibly rich world. Its amazing characters, who, like no other Final Fantasy, can carry both the comedy and the tragedy embedded in the wonderful script. And man, that music… it’s something else.

Unfortunately, it looks like a playstation game. Because it is. It’s got the crude models, the blocky backgrounds, that weird floaty polygon effect that happened because 3D graphics were just out of the Playstation’s reach. And because I always played it on a Playstation console (or a vita), I could do squat about it.

But now, for the first time in ages, I have a PC. And I can mod it.

Enter the Moguri Mod, a modification bigger than the game itself that, with a few clicks, transforms the game in widescreen and wonderful HD. Suddenly, those blocky backgrounds look the way they were intended, like wonderful paintings of beautiful locales; the music sounds amazing, and the character models… them polygons don’t float, man.

Just click the link and look at the trailer and tell me that ain’t the most precious thing ever!

Final Fantasy IX is my happy place. And now it’s a happy place that doesn’t look like shit.

PS Quina is the absolute best character ever and I won’t be convinced otherwise.

Arkham Horror – the card game

If the amount of posts in the last years haven’t been an indicator: I’ve been busy. Between an incredibly demanding but rewarding job, a family with children and a global fucking pandemic, there’s been way too little time for fun. Not because there is no time – worse: when the time is there, I have no energy for it.

And yet, over the last year, I’ve always been able to squeeze in a round of Arkham on Sunday nights.

For those wondering: Arkham Horror is a board game universe, set in the roaring twenties, that loosely draws on an indiana jonesized version of the infamous horror stories by H.P. Lovecraft. They usually involve archetypes (the mobster! the street urchin! the millionaire!) battling against cosmic beings that are very hard to spell. Arkham Horror has three boardgame versions (I’ll probably write something about the excellent third edition sometime) and the reason I’m writing this: a card game.

Now I’ve been burnt by card games. Summer of 2000, fifteen year-old me spent all his hard-earned money on Magic: The Gathering cards. So let’s just say I was a bit hesitant. But one argument swayed me: the cards in these packs are fixed. You know what you’re going to get.

And what you get is quite amazing. You get an interactive story in multiple parts, where the first session might have you start in a local town investigating a disappearance – and then eight sessions later you’re in outer space fighting witches and a cosmic fucking being. Things go delightfully off the rails, all the odds are stacked against you, but even if you lose, the story somehow goes on. It’s choose your own adventure meets deckbuilding and it’s delicious. And how’s the deckbuilding, you say? Well it’s quite the thing. One campaign, I took the millionaire – whose special power is, you guessed it, having a small fortune – and turned him into a philanthropist. Another campaigned, I played a boxer that could draw cards whenever he punched a monster – cards that of course lead to more punches being dealt.

It’s storytelling times three through cardboard, and it’s completely my thing. Firstly, every Sunday evening, we experience a story simply by arranging cards on the table and reading some texts, like a form of D&D lite. Secondly, we choose characters and build them using cards that enhance their innate traits, as if we were equipping them in an RPG. And thirdly, we play those cards, battling hordes of enemies, in an order that causes stories to emerge out of nowhere. In one turn, I shoot at a monster and miss, but then I play a card and suddenly my bullet ricochets into the cultist next to him. It’s so much fun.

So yeah, Sunday nights are for battling ancient ones now. If anyone wants to join, grab your tommygun and join the fun!

(Do people still do blogs nowadays?)