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What are you playing this weekend? Here’s what we’ve been playing!

Magic, moles and Mancunians.

Image credit: Leder Games

We’re on the cusp of our second back-to-back bank holiday weekend here in the UK, thanks to the king’s upcoming coronation tomorrow, which means there’s even more time to play board games! (And not celebrate the dusty remnants of an archaic system that continues to further benefit the rich and powerful at the expense of those already struggling during an unprecedented cost of living crisis. Happy Friday!)

As a well-needed distraction from *all that*, we’re here once again to share thoughts on what we’ve been playing lately, from a return to some old favourites in Magic: The Gathering and Root to miniatures-made-massive in the live-action Warhammer: Kill Team at the recent Warhammer Fest. (You can read Caelyn’s thoughts on the weekend-long celebration of all things Games Workshop here!)

As always, this regular feature isn’t all about us. We’d love to hear what you plan to play over the coming days, whether you’ve got an extra Monday off or not. Whether it’s something still in shrinkwrap ready to be cracked open for the first time, a battered box preparing for another fond replay or something else, share what you’ll be checking out on the tabletop in the comments!

What We’ve Been Playing - May 5th 2023

Magic: The Gathering - Commander

Atraxa headed up a deck full of incubator tokens and poison to proliferate. | Image credit: Wizards of the Coast

Yes, I’m still playing Commander. In fact, this week I went to my first public Commander night at Brighton’s Dice Saloon board game cafe to rub elbows with the local Magic fans. A weekly gathering of EDH enthusiasts, playing in pods and cracking packs. I could smell the fizz of counterspells on the air and was excited to try out my decks outside of one on one games.

Sitting down with some very nice people in a group of three, and then eventually four, I dipped my toes with the middling power treasure and dragon deck fronted by Kalain, the Reclusive Painter. And after an absolute melting with that in hand, I felt comfortable bringing out the big guns. My Atraxa led Phyrexian tribal deck full of incubator tokens and poison to proliferate.

The team crack open latest MTG set March of the MachineWatch on YouTube

I was looking very big and scary for a long time, especially after using an Unleash the Multiverse which allowed me to rummage through my opponent’s graveyards and nick their biggest creatures, including an indestructible dino with flying, vigilance, and double strike (cheers Luka!). But in the end we were all knocked down by some sneaky spell crafting as one player comboed Professor Onyx’s ability to damage your opponents when casting spells with a spell that can infinitely repeat itself. Ouch.

It was a fittingly silly ending to a game where everyone was bringing out the big guns, from a near infinite supply of artefacts on one corner of the table to a big pile of horrible monsters on the other. Everything that makes Commander such a fun format.

We rounded off the night with some slightly sillier decks. I played my wall tribal deck that can’t attack. Yes, even my commander is a wall. Overall it was such a good time, I’m looking forward to making it a weekly occurrence.


Root: The Underworld Expansion

The Underworld expansion's Corvid Conspiracy add a bluffing element to the board game in the form of hidden plot tokens placed around the map. | Image credit: Dire Wolf

After playing on a regular basis over the last couple of years, a busy 2023 has meant little time for me to return to the Greatest Board Game Ever Made: Root. That changed this week, as Chase, Meehan and I finally found time to venture back into the wartorn woodlands of designer Cole Wehrle and artist Kyle Ferrin’s masterpiece.

Specifically, we hopped back on the digital version of Root (a stellar port in its own right) to play the Underworld expansion, which recently made its way to the app. Like the previous Riverfolk expansion, it adds a new map (set in the mountains) and a couple of new factions - this time, the moles of the Underground Duchy and the wonderfully crafty crows of the Corvid Conspiracy.

I swiftly took to the corvids, enchanted by their sneaky-bastard use of plot tokens. These tokens are placed facedown on clearings, and can be activated on later turns if you have at least one crow warrior in the same space.

When they’re revealed, all hell lets loose. Bombs destroy every enemy piece - warrior and building alike - while snares stop them from moving, raids (when removed, rather than revealed) summon in warriors to adjacent clearings, and extorting lets you draw extra cards (which are used to place crows on every matching space). Revealing plot tokens is also the main way that the crows get victory points, but let’s be honest: you’re here to watch your opponents’ faces as you blast away their troops and structures with crow-bombs.

Watch the team play Root Digital's Riverfolk expansionWatch on YouTube

Like the similarly token-spreading Woodland Alliance, plots can be attacked if left undefended - although they grant a free hit as retaliation if unrevealed - and, in an especially fun twist, can be removed if your opponents try and guess what they are before they’re revealed. It’ll cost them a card from their hand if they’re wrong, though, adding a delightful bit of bluffery to proceedings. At one point, I placed a bomb on an empty space and let it sit there innocuously for multiple turns, until Chase constructed some of the Marquise’s cat dwellings. As the token seemed innocent enough, it was able to sit there until - blam! - it wiped the clearing clean.

While I haven’t had a chance to check out the Underground Duchy’s monarchy of moles, I experienced Meehan’s discovery of them second-hand. They seem like another markedly different addition to Root’s fun mechanical interlocking of asymmetrical factions, making use off an off-map burrow to send warriors quickly through tunnels to areas of the map, while building up their possible actions on each turn by swaying different ministers - granting extra movement, bonus battles, construction and more.

While I enjoyed the Lizard Cult of Riverfolk, Underworld’s additions to Root excite me even more - the bluffing elements of the corvids in particular bring a new side to the scheming and plotting that lay under its strategic surface. Regardless, Root continues to cement itself as an unsurpassed masterpiece of gameplay design, social storytelling and theme. Cats, mice, birds, moles and the GOAT.


Warhammer: Kill Team Live

Kill Team Live made its way to Warhammer Fest - and we were there to check it out! | Image credit: Battlefield Sports

Last weekend me and Wheels took a trip up to Manchester to attend our first Warhammer Fest. While there we checked in with pro players, admired the new 40K minis and, maybe best of all, got to play some Kill Team Live.

This wasn’t just a chance to move minis around - instead we got to pick up the guns of Orks and Imperial Guardsmen and charge at each other in a live-action version of the skirmish wargame.

This was my first time playing laser tag and the first time the Games Workshop version has hit the UK, so it was great to run around and shoot other Warhammer fans all in the name of THE EMPEROR! We did a lot of shouting on the day, it’s a hard habit to break. You can even check out a video going live in the next few days of Wheels as an Ork wielding a shoota and shouting WWAARRGGHH.


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