Monday, March 27, 2017

Something New (-ish) for Monday: Old D&D Adventures from Goodman Games and WOTC

I'm a little surprised they're being this direct. Goodman Games is going to be doing "collector's edition" reprints of B1 and B2 (at least) with all of the original material plus 5E stats and some other additional material.

I'm ... impressed.

I thought we would be seeing more of the "re-interpretation" we've been seeing with their campaigns so far. It's an approach that covers both the nostalgia angle while still being "new" to a large degree. Handing it off to Goodman Games, the "retro" publisher (they print Dungeon Crawl Classics, among other games) means that WOTC isn't "wasting" their limited resources recycling old material. They're allowing and encouraging the kind of stuff some of us wanted for a long time.  It's remarkable how far we've come.

Yes, I will probably end up getting some or all of these. I've converted some of the old adventures for every single D&D campaign I've ever run and I think you could run a perfectly fine 5E campaign using nothing but converted AD&D modules.

This is a really cool development.

Friday, March 24, 2017

The Challenge of an Old West Campaign

It's always been a problem with the western game - what do you do? Kind of like Traveller* it inevitably descends into one of two main types: it seems to be either bank robberies and mayhem or something "weird" like when our old Boot Hill campaigns used that section in the DM's Guide and started going into D&D modules. They may start as a Roy Rogers movie but they end up a Tarantino film.

It's a strange problem considering how much old west media is out there, until you consider a whole bunch of that deals with lawmen vs. criminals and that the criminals are usually having more fun. You'd think that the TV series would provide a decent model for a western campaign but nobody seems to want to play a location based campaign like "Bonanza" or "Gunsmoke" or even "Deadwood"- they want to play Butch and Sundance roaming about the country having adventures.

I had thought Aces and Eights would solve this by putting in actual game systems for things like running a ranch or managing a cattle drive but it has not taken off here. Maybe if I presented it more as a "Cowboy Kingmaker" campaign it would strike more of a chord with players. That's actually an idea worth some additional thought.

For now Deadlands is the best western option for us - fight monsters  and have adventures with magic and steamtech seems to be the ticket. I pondered one type of campaign years ago but never got to run it. I am going to try to keep each session as one episode though, with a clear ending, to avoid player attendance issues. The way the campaign is structured in the book makes this fairly easy to do as most of the individual "plot points" look like a session's worth of action. There are roughly 15 episodes directly related to the big story, add in some interesting side trips in the Maze and the rest of 1880's California and I easily have 20-24 sessions. If we stick to the once-a-month plan I should have 10 sessions the rest of this year so I'm looking at wrapping this up end of next year. I'm kind of hoping though that we find chances here and there to work in an extra session. Not because I want to rush through it but because we're already having a ton of fun and I'd like to get deeper into it quicker.

*in my experience Traveller games almost always go merchants, mercs, or mayhem, and even if they start as something respectable, it almost always goes criminal at some point. The published adventures almost universally promote this so it's not just a reflection on the players. 

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Building a Deadlands Campaign

I've wanted to run a sustained Deadlands campaign for a long time, but the opportunity never really came about. Now that it has, I had to start figuring out what I wanted it to be. Free-form, open range, sandbox type game? Could be fun, but I'd like a little more structure to the thing. There are a bunch of short adventures out for the game, and at least one town-based long adventure (Coffin Rock), but there are also four full campaign books which are similar to an adventure path for other games. Since I didn't have a specific concept in mind already I decided to go with one of those.

Which one though?

  • The Flood - California after the "big one", San Francisco, lots of steampunk tech, lots of Chinese culture
  • The Last Sons - The Dakotas, Deadwood, lots of Sioux culture and shamanic type magic
  • Stone and a Hard Place - Arizona and New Mexico, Tombstone, and it's the most "classic western" of them all, probably spaghetti western in particular. 
  • Good Intentions - Utah err, "Deseret", Mad Science, and a lot of action around Salt Lake, aka the "City of Gloom"
I have all of these (the last one was Kickstarted last year and is PDF only until the books come later this year) and they all have definite points of attraction. I was initially set on either The Flood or Stone and a Hard Place, so I re-read both of them. 

Stone and a Hard Place is really good, and while reading it I had pretty much decided to run it first. It starts with Tombstone, the Earps, the Cowboys, and yes you do get to be a part of the OK Corral situation. Being a huge fan of the "Tombstone" movie it's definitely a very attractive adventure, and it gets better from there. If you want a very "western" campaign with your party in pursuit of a single major antagonist, one where it gets very personal, this is a great campaign. 

Then I read The Flood and things started to turn. While Stone is awesome, I don't think it is as good as The Flood as an introduction to the Deadlands setting. The Flood makes a great effort, particularly early on, to give players a sense of what's going on and why with the Weird West. It's not something I had really considered before, but I've been reading and occasionally running Deadlands stuff for 20 years and never really had the chance for my players to see the big picture. There is evil in the world, but it's evil you can fight. It's a big part of the setting and there are even mechanics for what your party can do to roll back the damage. Once you understand this as a player, you can make plans for it. it and make a big difference in the world beyond just shooting monsters. It's a cool aspect of the game that I've never been able to use but I think I will get to do it now.

My concerns with the Flood are that it's a little more "out there" than say, Stone. The Maze is a great setting for a game but it means you may be spending a fair amount of time on steam-powered boats in the maze fighting Chinese pirates using martial arts weapons and not riding horses chasing bandits as you might expect in a western type RPG. There's room to add in more of the traditional elements for sure, but the backbone of the campaign involves a fair amount of deck time, martial arts, and magic. I don't want my players asking where the "western" went halfway through the game so it's something I'm going to have to keep an eye on.

The Flood also sets up some things nicely. Early on the PC's meet Dr. Darius Hellstromme, one of the big movers and shakers in the setting. He figures prominently in Good Intentions, so by doing Flood first my players will know who he is if we get the chance to play that one. They also meet some other known setting NPCs who are threatened or play another role in some of those other books.   

So I have settled on The Flood for this campaign and I am very happy with it now. Our first session is complete and went well and I am very optimistic for the future. 

Sorry guys, we're going to California - maybe next time!
Bonus: This is also good refresher training in running an ongoing Savage Worlds game which a) makes me happy anyway as I love the system and b) helps me figure things out that will make the inevitable Savage Rifts game that much better.

Mood-setting media ideas: For this campaign I'd say Tv shows The Adventures of Brisco County Jr., Kung Fu, and the classic film Big Trouble in Little China (originally conceived as a western) set the right tone. Heck, just being able to cite those as relevant to a game I am running makes me pretty happy.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Weekend Update

We had a pretty good weekend here - got to run another session of the Star Wars campaign Friday, ran session 2 of the Deadlands campaign Saturday, then saw the new Kong movie on Sunday. Also managed to dive back in to Star Trek Online. Time off is good! There's more to come on each of these but it feels good to have the momentum going again with multiple campaigns.

Friday, March 17, 2017

40K Friday - Mayhem Pack Complete

I finally finished up the trio of helbrutes that forms the Mayhem pack for my Iron Warriors. Each is painted somewhat differently, but I think they look they still belong to the same force. They have some custom bases (to help them stand out), with snow (to help them blend in with the rest of the snow-themed army) and while I don;t think these pictures quite do them justice it'll have to do.

Nothing like deep-striking multiple crazed chaos dreadnoughts into the enemy backfield to stir up some trouble. I may get to field them in their final state as soon as this Sunday.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

"Unplayable" RPG's

I've been listening to a podcast that talks about old RPG's and it's been pretty entertaining both with games I know well and games I passed by. I'll talk more about them later but one thing that comes up in some of the conversations is "unplayable". I'm not going to pick on them specifically because I hear it all over the place. The recent listening just brought it to top of mind and I decided to discuss it in a post.

A strong "get off my lawn rant" advisory is now in effect. 

First, let's talk about what people mean when they describe a game this way. To me it really breaks down into two categories:

  • Literally, mechanically unplayable - I mostly hear this from younger gamers describing older games. I suspect it's more "I looked at it and looked too complicated for me to enjoy so I went no further with it" or "I've heard stories about it". I personally have yet to find a game that is literally "unplayable".
  • Complicated to the point that it's not worth playing, especially when there are alternative games available that cover a similar niche - this is far more common and it's how I feel about quite a few games out there. Really, it's more "not as enjoyable" rather than "unplayable". 
I make this distinction because every so often I hear a game dispatched as "unplayable", sometimes with a bonus of sneering attitude to go with it, which happens to be a game I've played or run for an extended period of time. This of course immediately puts the lie to the "unplayable" description. 

Somewhere along the internet's lifespan theoryhammer/theorycrafting became in some people's minds as valid a set of thoughts about a game as actual experience. Someone looks at the math of the game and declares it unworkable. Someone finds a rule with some kind of logic flaw in it and declares the entire game invalid as a result. 

It's bullshit.

RPG's have never been "here's a book - do everything exactly as it is written here." Never. Different people have interpreted things differently, modified rules into something they liked better, and added new rules to cover something they felt was missing or underrepresented. 

A typical response to this from the non-players is something like "well sure if you start changing the rules it works" - no! It probably "worked" just fine before! I'm changing the rules because I think it works better!

Another common cry: "Why should I pay for it if I have to modify the rules to make them work". If that's your attitude you probably shouldn't! In fact if that's your attitude I'm not sure you should be playing RPG's at all! I don't say that to be some kind of snob - I say it because it's a just part of what people do with  these kinds of games!

Let's get into some specifics:

  • Rifts - I regularly hear when the game comes up about how it's "unplayable". I ran a game for over a year, pretty much by the book. Core book plus whatever add-ons struck our fancy. yes, the rules are clunky and sometimes inconsistent. Yes I think the new Savage Worlds version is going to be a much better experience for most people. By no means though is it "unplayable".
  • Shadowrun: one of the things 4th edition SR touted was the new "better" task resolution system that made it much easier to figure the odds of success compared to the older editions where it was "almost unplayable". Seriously? One of the most popular RPG's of the 90's was "almost unplayable". I played in and ran multiple campaigns through 1st, 2nd, and 3rd editions and we typically thought the system was damned innovative at the time. 
  • Twilight 2000: I was surprised when I ran across "unplayable" applied to this game online last year. When games like Aftermath exist? T2K 1st and 2nd are fairly simple games really. 1E is a percentile skills system not unlike BRP games and 2E simplifies it down from ratings of 1-100 to 1-10. Sure, you'd better like playing with military hardware as that's one of the attractions of the game, but there's nothing particularly complex about either one. Again I have played and run multiple campaigns in both versions so it's completely playable if you're interested.
  • Champions: "Combat takes so long, characters are so complicated, it's just unplayable" - one of the pillars of superhero gaming, something we played a bunch when we were 13 years old and  somehow figured out even though we didn't have the internet to explain things to us is now described by people at times as "unplayable". Please. 
  • GURPS: I actually saw GURPS described as "unplayable" online in the last month. It's not my favorite game anymore but "unplayable"? Sure you have a lot of choices when making a character but once your character is finished the game mechanics are pretty simple. It's 3d6 roll low! For almost everything! I assume this is mostly because it has a bunch of thick hardbacks for rules, despite the fact that you won't be using more than a few of them in most campaigns. 
  • Aftermath: Exhibit A for the classic over-complicated games of the 80's. I own it  - it's playable, it just not much fun IMO. Heck, it has a flowchart to show you how the mechanics work! Actually it has several of them. "Not something I want to play" is not "unplayable.
Even AD&D gets this nowdays - "This game is a mess, how did anyone play this?" - well, we read it, used our brains, and figured it out. 

"Weapon speeds?" - not in first edition.

"Grappling?" - not usually. We used some replacement system form an issue of Dragon.

"Level limits" - sure. Multiclassing was cool.

"AH-HA! So you just ignored the parts of the game that didn't work!" - Pretty much. We still do. There are parts of ICONS that I mostly ignore, and that's a pretty simple very modern system. That doesn't make it a bad game or, god forbid, "unplayable". It means we modify something we already like to make it better in our eyes. Like people do with clothes. Like people do with cars.  Why is this so shocking to some people? Are they under the impression there's a trophy for following the book as written? Have you seen the errata documents for most big RPG books?

Does this really look all that complicated?
Boring, sure, but complicated?

This usually happens though after we have played the game as written a few times.  Not before we ever play a game. Not after we play it once. After 3 or 4 sessions though you have a fair idea of how your group works with a game and what might be better for your group. The games I discuss on this blog are almost always a game I am running, a game I have run in the past, or a game I am about to run - there's a reason for that. I'm not terribly interested in opinions about a game from someone that's never played or run it so I try not to do that. I'm much more interested in practical experiences. 

As one example Savage Worlds suffers from the "let's change stuff after reading the rules once" problem quite a bit.  It mainly seems to happen with people whose only other experience is with some form of D&D, but that's not a strict rule. Someone comes into a forum or a Facebook group and announces how much they like the game and they have a couple of genius changes that they're going to use. Inevitably they've played once and something fluky happened or they haven't actually played at all yet. SW players tend to be a friendly lot but the usual response is "OK, but you may want to try it by the book rule a little longer before you change it." You want to know why? because the game has been around with only minor changes for 15 years now and it works. It works very well for fast playing pulpy RPG campaigns. There may  be a genre-specific thing someone is trying to do and that's cool but there isn't much that needs to be tweaked in the core rules. A more common problem is people not understanding the rules and trying to make changes based on a misunderstanding but there are parts that are tricky to explain purely on a page so that's not always the reader's fault.  Someday Pinnacle will find the perfect way to explain the Shaken rule and we will enter a new golden age I am sure, but until then a little conversation helps explain it much easier. 

Maybe it's the guns that make all of these "unplayable"?

My closing take: no game is "unplayable". Some are harder, some are easier, some will be less fun for your group than others, and that's how it's all supposed to work! I don't have any interest in playing or running Rolemaster but I know groups that have played it for years - clearly it's not unplayable. There was a Kickstarter last year for an updated rulebook for original Deadlands and it blew my mind - why would anyone play that when Reloaded is available? Apparently quite a few people because it funded quickly and went way over the goal. 

Oops! - Nope, that's not it!

I suppose I could re-title this "a word I don't like" because that's what it boils down to. I think we can do better. 

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

British Runequest

Runequest 3rd Edition is mainly known as booklets in a box from Avalon Hill, at least in the US. It's also known for not being over-illustrated to be kind. It's the version I played the most back in the 80's, but there was another version released by Games Workshop in the UK.

The Avalon Hill version:

It's not terrible but it's all sparse black and white line art.

The GW version:

Also, they are hardcover books. They do have the infamous 80's GW binding which means they will come apart on you, but it's still cooler than a pink paper pamphlet.

The internal art is very different:

I'm pretty sure that's a chaos warrior from Warhammer. In fact, Warhammer's 3rd edition (where they went to hardbacks with some color inside) came out the same year as this book (1987).

 More warhammer style art.

Even the black and white art is from warhammer. This gives the book a very different look and feel than the restrained presentation of the AH version. Not all of the art is repurposed from the miniatures game but even the other pieces use a lot of the same artists and so have a similar style.

Some stay that art in an RPG doesn't really matter. I will use this as a prime exhibit that it does, The art in here appeals to the 16-year-old in me way more than the AH version. Pictures of people picking fruit or preparing food or guys in weirdly ornate armor in weird landscapes or surging in the middle of a mass battle? That's an easy choice.

I'm sure a lot of this was dictated by the decisions to separate the rules from Glorantha in this edition. once you lose a setting like that you need something strong to replace it. "Fantasy Europe" as presented was not all that compelling in the AH version. GW's unstated but definitely illustrated option of Warhammer is much much stronger. It's not as culturally developed as Glorantha, but it's a visceral world full of conflict, magic, and enough history to get a party going.

I was a little surprised at the timing on this one when I went back and checked. GW had released the Warhammer Fantasy RPG in 1986. This came out a year later. There are enough similarities that I would guess RQ was one of the games the WFRP designers had played previously, probably more so than D&D or AD&D. I'm guessing RQ was popular enough to make it worth printing a new version - especially if you could save money by re-using Warhammer art - but it had to be separate from the WFRP line due to licensing  restrictions. It's an interesting situation where one company had two fantasy RPG's in print at the same time.

Anyway, I thought it was interesting enough to share. If you're a Runequest fan they're worth checking out.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Something New for Monday: D&D Beyond

Well over the weekend some news broke about a D&D digital toolset that stirred up some excitement. The article and discussion at EN World has some interesting questions and answers. What jumped out at me:

  • It's not a virtual tabletop, it's designed to enhance play at a table. OK, cool. Since we play face to face I'm more interested than if it was another VTT.
  • Character builder - ok that's expected. Are 5E characters really complicated enough to need one though?
  • Digital character sheet - ah, so presumably you'd be able to run your character from a tablet or a laptop, maybe even a phone. If you're going to have one of these. might as well include character creation too. Makes more sense now.
  • Rules Compendium - hyperlinked rules is a handy thing to have. This is already covered to some degree by the SRD. The official one is here (and downloadable) with others here and here and here. I suppose if you're going to have a D&D application then including a rules reference makes sense too.
  • "D&D news, articles, forums, and more" - I suppose it's handy to have these built into an app too but we've already had these for decades accessed through an app called an Internet Browser. I'm not sure this is really something you can tout as a special feature of an app. 

So sitting at a table with this new app on all of our devices, what do we get? We get hyperlinked rules (OK, but I already have those), a character builder, digital sheets, and a way to distract all of my players with news and forums built right in - great!

Oh yeah, Call of Cthulu - there's a game that just screams "I need a character builder" - sigh

As far as the character builder, I just don't see a huge need for one. Sure, it's D&D so someone will make one (we've been doing that since the 80's at least) but I don't think it really solves a problem - it's more of a nice to have. Compared to 3E, 4E, Pathfinder, and other games like Hero System, GURPS, and Shadowrun 5E creation is just so simple that this seems like making something because it's expected rather than a real challenge. Also considering 5E's relatively glacial pace in adding new character options it really seems like a stretch. This is not a question I have with just this app - HeroLab offers a Savage Worlds set too. I can make a SW character in 5 minutes, because they just are not that complicated. I suppose it's worth it to someone or it wouldn't exist but it does surprise me sometimes.  For D&D maybe it will be an easier way to get the Unearthed Arcana stuff out to people for playtesting and feedback for eventual inclusion in some official material, but that's the biggest benefit I can see. 

Digital character sheets are alright but I have had players using HeroLab for iPad in my Pathfinder game and they lock up at least once per session - I don't know why, they just do. My paper sheets never do, and they never run low on battery power either. I'm a fan of technology in general but I've noticed gamers in particular tend to think that adding tech to something can only make it better and sometimes that is not the case. The digital sheet is handy in games that use a lot of conditions, like D&D 4E and M&M and I can see some benefits there. Most D&D types games though ... I just don't see it. Sure, you can get an app on your tablet and use it to build and manage your character for $ every month - or you can do it on paper for about zero additional cost. Oh, you're hasted? you can use that app etc or here's a sticky note or an index card with the relevant modifiers you can hang onto.  Plus, you lose so much character with the lack of doodles in the margins, cheeto fingerprints, Dr. Pepper splashes, and pizza grease stains! 

Advanced 2050's interface by way of the 90's

I suppose I'm in a weird place for this as I'm trying to reduce the amount of device involvement at the table these days. With the M&M campaign I'm fine building a character in HeroLab but I'm back to running the game without it as much as I can. I use it as a rules reference for powers sometimes but that's about it. For Deadlands it's all about the cards and chips and miniatures on the table - I just don't need a  PC or a tablet to run it. I find physical stuff like sheets or cards that can be handed over to a player as needed- whether it's a condition, an item, or an NPC - is just more fun than one of us reading a screen to each other. 

One big exception - I'm running a lot of adventures from PDF's. I like to have physical copies of rulebooks and things the players might use but adventures are something that is really only used by the DM. I'll print out maps and any player handouts but I don't really need to print the whole adventure. It works pretty well so far for DCC, RQ, and ICONS and I figure it will expand into other games too. 

In the end, I'm not playing 5E so there's no immediate impact to me specifically, but I am interested in seeing where this goes. We will play it sooner or later and you can bet I'll be checking on the status and the business model for this tool. 

Friday, March 10, 2017

40K Friday: Traitor Legions

I'm a little late to the party on this one but better late than never, right? In case you were taking your time on this one like I was the short version is this: It's great, and if you're playing a chaos marine army in 40K you should seriously consider it. Since I'm trying to finish up my Iron Warriors -as much as any 40K army can be "finished"- I'm glad I picked it up now  as it changed the direction of my army somewhat.

So why is it worth getting?

  1. It complies the information from multiple other chaos marine supplement type books (mainly Black Legion and Wrath of Magnus) so if you never bothered to pick those up - like me - then it saves you some money. Having it all in one book is nice even if you have the others too. 
  2. It's mostly crunch, not fluff. If you've ever seen the Iyanden codex you'll understand why this matters. Each legion gets about a page of backstory and then we jump right into army lists and special rules. 
  3. It does give more flavor to each of the legions, through a mix of new formations, special rules and access changes. For example, Iron Warriors have Feel No Pain on a 6+, can't include units with marks of any specific power, and can take obliterators as troops. You can argue about whether all of these things fit with their back story but it is a unique mix of rules that no one else has. 
  4. It does make the Chaos Marines more competitive. There's nothing equivalent to scatter laser jetbikes in here, or wraithknights in my opinion, but it is still an upgrade to what we've been working with the past few years. Just having some formations beyond the basic CAD is pretty refreshing. There are still a lot of things to explore when it comes to tournament power combos but if you just want to make a strong list centered around a particular legion with some rules to reflect their composition and philosophy it's a notable step up right away.
I'm in the middle of building out an Iron Warriors army and I have a Plague Marine force as well. Both were originally designed around the traditional CAD. Both started out as ad-hoc forces as some unit caught my fancy and was added to the horde. Over time I developed a philosophy with each one and started a more guided approach to acquisitions. The goal was to fill out a CAD and maybe have some units allocated to a second CAD for bigger fights. 

With Traitor Legions this changes. My IW's are mostly straight-up chaos marine squads. This makes them a perfect fit for the new Chaos Warband formation:
  • Chaos Lord (rides with the Chosen)
  • Chaos Sorcerer (on a bike in my case)
  • Unit of Chosen (in a Rhino)
  • 2-4 squads of CSM's (in Rhinos)
  • CSM Biker squad
  • 1-2 Havoc Squads
Now this is all stuff I already have and plan to use already. These guys all get objective secured (from the formation) and have Veterans of the Long War and  6+ FNP (from the IW rules)

There are a lot of other interesting formations in the book. Many of them require a warpsmith and I do have one, but I'm going to go with the good old CAD for the second part of the force. This lets me bring the rest of the units I have. It also gives me objective secured Obliterators which is an interesting new wrinkle.
  • HQ: Daemon Prince and/or Warpsmith
  • Elites: Helbrute
  • Troops: 2+ Obliterators
  • Fast Attack: Heldrake, Chaos Spawn
  • Heavy Support: Predator
The final element of the army is the Helbrute Mayhem Pack. This is one of the downloadable dataslates that consists of 3 individual helbrutes that deep strike in simultaneously. This is an awesome mix of surprise, effectiveness, and hilarity as at least one always seems to do something unexpected. Who needs drop pods? The loyalist scum are weak! Our dreads drop in with no protection at all!

One further option: Moving the Daemon Prince to a "Lord of the Legion" element and the chaos spawn to a "Spawn" element I can take the "Iron Warriors Grand Company" decurion and get Stubborn on those units and the Chaos Warband. 

So, if you've been frustrated playing Chaos Marines in 40K for the last few years, or if you would just like some more options as far as building your army, take a look at this one. I think you will be pleasantly surprised. It's not the return of the 3.5 Codex but it is closer to that kind of book than anything we've seen since. 

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

First Game of Frostgrave

After talking about Frostgrave as an RPG a while back and looking at the miniatures game even farther back I figured we really ought to play the damn thing. So, over the weekend, Blaster and I did just that. It was just the two of us and we just played the "standard game" from the book, not any particular scenario.

Table-wise they recommend a 3' x 3' area, so we flipped over our X-wing mat and started dropping ruined city parts on it. It's not all that pretty but this is a "prototype" after all.

I took an elementalist because I figured getting a feel for the blasting wizard would give me a solid baseline. Blaster took a necromancer because he was in a zombie kind of mood. We both took apprentices because it makes a ton of sense. Soldier-wise I took a barbarian, a ranger, an archer, two thugs, and a war hound. Blaster went templar, infantryman, 2 archers, 2 thugs, and a war hound. He managed to summon a zombie before the fight while I failed to craft a construct.

We set up our forces and commenced to fightin'.The goal is to hurt the opposition and steal away as many treasure tokens as possible. With 2 players we had six of those on the table.

I quickly discovered that it's very important to keep soldiers close to your wizard and apprentice. First, they provide cover! Second, the sequence of play is wizard + up to 3 soldiers within 3 inches of him, then Apprentice + up to 3 soldiers within 3 inches of him, then your leftover soldiers. It really sucks when you realize all of your heavy hitters have moved off on their own so you're activating just your wizard, then just your apprentice, then all of your other guys while your opponent is moving the full 4 guys each time.

Now you can't always do this. Somebody needs to go retrieve that treasure token on the bridge and it's not going to be my wizard ... hey Thug Bob, why don't you run out there real quick and grab it for us, ok? That means Thug Bob may get to move in the last segment next turn, but it keeps the wizard safe.

Man Down!

My wizard performed pretty well when it came to blasting things. In one memorable moment I lighting bolted an archer right off the top of a monument for the first kill of the game. I was not doing real well on the recovering treasure side of things so I ran my apprentice up to the nearest one and discovered dogs are pretty fast. I also discovered that even dogs can roll really well and he took out my apprentice in one round.

It does take a little getting used to how fragile things are. Figures have hit points which might make you think they're going to take a few hits to kill - maybe, maybe not.

  • Combat is a d20 + your Fight bonus which is typically a zero to a +4. This is an opposed check, high roll wins. 
  • Damage is whatever you rolled, minus the losers Armor number, which is typically 10. You then subtract that damage from the targets Health, which is also going to be around 10. 
As you can see, a d20 + a few, minus an armor number around 10 vs. a health of around 10 means a high roll can kill in one shot. There's also no mitigation from a high initial roll, so if I lose a fight 21 to 19 and I have 10 armor and 10 health I am dead - just as dead as if I had rolled a 3. I don't think it's a huge problem but it did require an expectations adjustment from me after seeing it in action. 

In then end we came out about even. Blaster had more treasure but I had done more damage. He did much better in the gold department but when we rolled for character status after the game several of his soldiers will be sitting out the next game. All of my soldiers came thru OK but my apprentice will be out next time so that will be a challenge. 

We played 5 turns in about an hour and a half and that's with building our warbands, choosing spells,  and fumbling around learning the rules for the first time. I'm pretty sure a regular game will be less than an hour assuming you don't have to pick your forces all over again.

We had a lot of fun and he was already talking about "next time" as we wrapped up so I think it's a winner. I'll post more when we play again.