My favorite Cosmic Encounter Alien is back in action!

The SILENCER. With the Cosmic Odyssey big box expansion, they’ve brought back a classic.

These two images speak for themselves. This is not the best power, it’s not the strongest, it’s not going to win you games it’s specific functions is that it:

Here is the full rules. It’s not as harsh as the original one from the Mayfair version, but it’s excellent. Reminder that it’s EVERY destiny draw, not just as a main player. So aliens get ready to SHUT THE FUCK UP!

Bleeding Kansas – Mythras

I didn’t want to spill the beans before the sessions up North last weekend so didn’t go into any details other than it was “old west” stuff, but this scenario is set directly in the early months of the Bleeding Kansas proto-ACW era. We had a very solid couple of sessions over the weekend and I had a lot of fun as the GM for a few reasons. First, Mythras (Runequest 6) makes everything just work and I’ve played enough where I don’t need the book much at all. I love about 3 other systems (DCC, 13th Age, FASERIP), but Mythras is the numero uno. Second, the excellent Call of Cthulhu old west supplement by Kevin Ross called Down Darker Trails. It’s an excellent sourcebook for the genre and easy to read (very easy on the eyes too). Third, the Firearms supplement for Mythras– just made it easier to run gunfights with the custom special effects. Why Mythras over Call of Cthulhu 7? It’s just better.

Great cover too.

Buy IN

The initial events for the characters began on a train headed to St. Louis in April, 1855. The rear car was detached, unbeknownst to the passengers, and after it slowed to a stop, it was then boarded by miscreants who stated that it was a robbery, yet, it clearly wasn’t. The ruffians were after the daughter of a soon to be legislator in the newly organized territory of Kansas for reasons explained below. The girl was accompanied by a bodyguard and her nanny, the former being instantly shot on sight when the ruffians entered the train. The characters being of a violent sort, the guns (and knives) came out instantly and the PC’s, none of which knew each other, were then united as so many parties have been in the past in a shower of lead and wholesome violence. The heist set up was three men enter the train, shake down the passengers and grab the girl. Two waited outside in a carriage and one shooter perched 100 yards out from the train was to peg off anyone that tried to follow the carriage or run off. Once the girl was away the others would grab some hidden horses and be off.

This didn’t go as planned. The PC’s knifed and shot the three men on the train, leaving two stone dead and one with a gutshot, unconscious. They were then pinned down by the outside shooter but were able to shoot one of the men from the carriage (blowing his leg clean off) who came to investigate the shootings inside the train. The man in the carriage rode off top-speed at that point and the sniping shooter outside the train called it quits after taking a hit to the arm from another passenger and then being nicked in the head by one of the PCs.

From a combat perspective, this was very exciting with the length of reloads on all sides, maneuvering and using distractions in order to get the drop. Luckily only one of the PC’s was hit, and it was but a minor wound. I wanted the players to understand, outside of using luck points, they could be gunned down in a single round and needed to be cautious–the opposite of nearly every other RPG we play with the exception of DCC funnels and LotFP. Always use the firearms supplement actions and special effects in Mythras, even when just playing with bows and crossbows.

Now stranded between somewhere and St. Louis with two ruffians still about, they hid with the other passengers in a nearby dell for the night waiting for the next train or some help to arrive. They kept watch all the next day and the ruffians didn’t make another appearance. Eventually a train arrived and they were interviewed by the marshals on the incident.

The Hook

This lead to the big hook of the scenario where the players were interviewed by one Judge Morris who asked them to handle a sensitive mission to accompany three slaves through Missouri to the Kansas territory, using whatever guile, tricks and violence they needed to to make it to Lawrence over the border and meet with a contact there. This seemed simple, except one of the “slaves” happened to be an Englishman of mixed birth who was carrying a packet of papers that would be difficult to hide if he opened his mouth or was allowed to act normally (remember in these times, a slave would never meet the eye of any white folks present unless directly spoken to and would walk in a non-threatening manner as to not draw attention to themselves). The other two were skilled tradesmen and would be set up as freemen in the new territory. Morris explained that this was a test of what may occur if other slaves in larger groups tried to cross into Kansas via the route they chose. The group was given an enormous sum of money to equip themselves and I was pretty scared as a GM that they would simply run off, but the prize at the end per-person was enough to start a business or some sort of racket, or innumerable bottles of whiskey, countless nights with whores of any race, creed or persuasion, so they agreed to pick up the soon to be freed slaves. They went to purchase materials for the trip (including a trunk full of ammunition) and while waiting for it to be delivered, went to pick up the ‘contraband.’

I made an apocryphal small town where they were to pick them up called Forsythe which was influenced by the “porters quarters” area of Gainesville where all the porters who all worked in mansions (not by modern standards) downtown, but lived in the middle of the town in an area with shacks, dirt roads and little running water. When I was there for college the area still had gravel roads!!

They picked up the slaves at a festival in the town that was just beginning and made off into the fields straight away, the biggest issue at first that that Englishman was wearing a suit, but realized they had a tail of a couple mounted men, and that’s where we had to call it.

I wanted to introduce some moral quandaries with the characters, but not so early in the scenario so they didn’t know what to do and didn’t follow story flags. The people who are sponsoring the slaves getting to Kansas by our standards would still be considered racists (maybe these days everyone born before 2001 would be considered one anyway), let alone your normal inhabitant of Missouri, but culturally things are on a continuum and not black and white, and this is a period where multiple groups came together to politically and violently oppose human bondage, even if they themselves felt they were superior to all other races (and were still in the process of wiping out the Native Americans). Like the article in the last post, if you want characters to talk to NPC’s and have political shenanigans, you must have a VERY deadly system, otherwise everything just gets attacked and overwhelmed when people get tired of talking. Within this backdrop of oncoming disorder and madness, the characters are thrust, with huge potential for both profit, roleplaying and being gutshot and left for dead or strung up on a tree limb in the middle of nowhere. Likely their involvement will throw gas on the fire and we will get some double or triple Hendersons out of the whole thing as we go on or they will just take the (ample) money they have at the first sign of danger and leave the foppish Englishman and his two companions to their fate…

Mythras Old West this weekend!

Here we go. This weekend is our annual camping trip and when the weather is bad or after sundown, we get some roleplaying in the deep dark northwoods region.

This year, inspired by a lot of stuff, I’m going to do Old West with Mythras. While the characters take a long time to make (PC’s, I can generate NPC’s pretty quick), the combat system was just too good to not try out for a least a couple sessions. I’m using the Mythras Core rules plus the Firearm rules. I’ve been wanting to run something like this for a long time reminiscent of both our days with Call of Cthulhu where we started to ignore the mythos and run rum as anyone in the 1920’s should and this excellent blog post about boot hill.

New Hope for Keyforge and a WTF?

Ghost Galaxy has taken over Keyforge from Asmodee which puts the crazy fuckn firesale that we just saw from them into context.

Read about it here. It’s still Richard Garfield and Christian Petersen and some of the original game developers. I’m curious to see what happens next. We haven’t played in awhile but one of our game club members at work donated a bunch of decks to the game library, so I will likely be teaching the game soon.

We really had fun with this game casually. I thought the tournament thing at Gencon the first Summer was bullshit as it wasn’t a tournament, it was just a table with players that wanted to play with the most apathetic hosts ever–though they did have the awesome vending machine with decks.

Hence this is good news, but then I came upon this what in the flying fuck:

“Second was the excruciating loss in ’21 of the software engine that made it impossible for FFG/Asmodee to render new KeyForge decks.”

How in the shit does this happen? I’ve been in software development for almost my entire career and I’ve never seen or heard of a software engine being “lost.” I dug into it more and here is what is conjectured to have happened. Apparently a disgruntled employee burned the software that made the decks when fired. It’s quite difficult to do this when there is normal server redundancy and back ups, but a determined person with the correct access levels could pull off deletion of all backups, source code, etc. Why would anyone do this? Is this really what happened? Who knows. What matters is that the game will continue under new ownership and I’ve said this on BGG and other places:

If they build a game like this with algorithm-built randomized decks for multiplayer: it will be the best CCG ever.

Let’s see what Garfield and Petersen do with this now. Even now it’s looking more promising than any new version of Shadowfist.

I just happened to play at lunch at work today and am reminded, this is a SOLID game.

Root – New expansion has tons of toys

I just go a big old box of Root in the mail today with the Hireling boxes, the Landmark box and most importantly, the Marauder expansion that includes the Lord of the Hundreds (mice) and the Keepers in Iron (badgers). I gave it a read over the last couple hours and I’m impressed (again). This one I did not follow along with development compared to the Underworld where I print and played the early moles design quite a bit before it came out, so this is all new to me.


While the Underworld expansion was great, it just had what really amounted to a different takes on the base factions. Moles are an excellent area control faction with a strange point generation engine, but I haven’t seen much enthusiasm for the Corvids (yet), most people just pick the Alliance. The big deal out of the Underworld expansion was the co-release of the Partisan deck (which I have not had a chance to play with yet) that replaces the core suit card deck in the game. Otherwise, it wasn’t too crazy. Marauders expansion plus the addons gets crazy.

The the two new factions are really something. Both of them are “Reach” factions in that they take up space on the board with warriors in order to score (like Cats, Moles, Birds). I’m going to say more after I’ve played with or against them, but I will say the Lord of the Hundreds is a real fucker from reading the rules. People will absolutely love to hate this faction.

The big addition that changes the game quite a bit are the hirelings and the ‘Advanced Set up’ which really mix up the game. Advanced set up is probably derived from people trying to come up with a tournament ruleset on how to choose factions. This is better than what we came up with for the Gamehole Con Tournament. You basically set up a seating order, draw 5 cards from the deck, then one of the “Reach” factions is randomly selected and put on the table, then all the rest of the factions are mixed up and X are drawn and placed on the table (X = number of players). Then players in reverse seating order select a faction and set up via an advanced set up card. Lastly they discard 2 cards to the deck and keep 3 of their original 5. Can’t wait to try this out.

Hirelings are strange, but this is where the real variety in games will stem to make them all sorts of crazy. Players can control these like mercenaries when they get to certain victory point levels, but if the game goes on too long, they have to give control of them to another player, who then also may lose control of them. Most of the time they give a certain power, but in their stronger form, they add units to the map.

I didn’t read them all but my favorite is the Riverfolk pirate ship that can sail up the river or lake and raid. Great stuff. The main thing that’s odd is if a faction is in the game, the hirelings for that faction cannot be, so if you are playing a large player game, you will only get access to the neutral hirelings.

Landmarks are the last new thing and they remind me of Oath a bit. They add rules to certain clearings that can be used if you control that clearing. Cool stuff to add without having to build new maps to include it all.

Really looking forward to getting Root to the table. I’ve started a long post on ruminations after 50 face to face plays, but that may need to be delayed while I get 10 or so plays with all this new STUFF.

Massive Darkness – Chromatis, the sexist rainbow unicorn monster

I sat down with my son and his friends to get into the insanity that is Massive Darkness RNG. We decided on the Spider mission, the most difficult of the early missions in the game and one I had failed on a few times already. All of the guys had played the game and we were ready to super optimize to win, but then not only did the RNG hit with an Orc Agent (who summons mobs every turn– so nasty) being drawn the first turn onto the level 2 board (so we couldn’t immediately attack it) on turn 2 was a wandering monster! Wandering monsters are big deal most of the time but more difficult because in this mission you are on the clock chasing a giant spider Yet it shouldn’t have been absolutely unbeatable with a single draw of a card…

In the original kickstarter, they passed all their goals, and one of the Kickstarter exclusives was a rainbow unicorn named Chromatis. Lots of classic monsters were represented in the roster: Beholders, Chimeras, and the best Cockatrice miniature I’ve seen yet. All of them are pretty nasty, but nothing like Chromatis.

Chromatis’s power is anchored on what gender your characters are in the game and becomes more powerful the more of one gender there is. For each male character, it adds an auto attack, for each female, it adds a defense. So if you have a mixed gender group of characters, it’s not all that powerful. If you have all females (say if you end up with a bunch of girl or dirty old men players) you will find it incredibly difficult to score a single hit. If you have all male characters (say, if you have all 11-12 year old boys who would almost never pick a female character because they themselves aren’t girls), you will get the smack down with 7+ damage rolled each attack.

Since we drew this monster at level 1 and encountered it right when we went into the level 2 zone (before leveling up much or getting any level 2 weapons) it was an absolute slaughter, with at least one character dying each turn. We ran out of lightbringer resurrects instantly and the game was over.

While we were cleaning up, unprompted, my son said “that is a sexist monster” and I thought about that for awhile– while it seems like it’s not horrible design– why on earth would it matter to the people that made this game that would want to punish a group for having either all girls or all guys in their party? Why would anyone think that was a good idea when there are tons of choices to make a balanced party from either gender (which they did on purpose).

Chromatis is a stupid design and should just get tossed into the bottom of the box. If you are chasing down this as a kickstarter exclusive, don’t bother.

KURE KURE TAKORA = Madness

Years ago, I remember seeing some quote that there was a super fucked up Japanese show about an Octopus and a Peanut (it’s not a peanut, it’s a squash) who are in love with the same Walrus. I just happened on a youtube video by accident and BAM there it was in all it’s glory: Kure Kure Takora. While, completely in Japanese, without any translation available at all anywhere for 200+ of the 260 episodes, it’s still 80% understandable because it’s a kids show right? This proves the 70’s were a crazy time everywhere. We had Siggy the Seamonster and Kroft Supershow– Japan had this full bore insanity.

Kure Kure Takora not at all about a love story between a Walrus and an Octopus, it’s about two thieves, liars and hucksters running the jewels on everyone in their forest realm, robbing and tricking the strange inhabitants from the sole ‘police officer’ badger to a pack of sea cucumbers and a scary jellyfish.

I’m posting this here assuming you have never seen this at all, and have no idea what it is because you need to. This is an absolutely batshit show with near executions, gun battles, ritual suicide, characters running around deranged with katanas and two characters that steal anything not tied down or directly guarded and then usually suffer for it in some way. A few of the episodes were too messed up to even air during the show’s run from ’73-’74, but not very many.

Also note, this is a Kaiju show as in, grown people in rubber suits and all practical effects. Here are a few key episodes that I can generally understand what the hell is going on. Buckle up.

Episode 115

In this episode, Takora and Chonbo ambush Biragon (an iguana) and take his paper-recycling/toilet paper cart. Then they proceed to collect paper products from the forest denizens starting with Shiku (a sea cucumber) who brings a big stack of paper– only to receive a SINGLE SHEET of toilet paper, while giving Monro (the Walrus) more rolls than she can carry for a tiny pack of paper. When he complains, they beat his ass!

Episode 208

Another cart theft episode. This time it’s Shiku (again, a sea cucumber) who has a newspaper and banana cart. Takora and Chonbo knock him down with a club and proceed to take the cart and when he complains they take his bell and knock him out. No one will buy anything so Chonbo gives away the news papers and then they trade the newspapers for the bananas. None of this makes any sense.

Episode 212

This time Takora and Chonbo ambush Hera (one of the Cucumbers) who has a saw and garden shears and is dressed as a gardener (?). They go to Monro to trim her trees and they cut down everything and she beats them with coffee cups. They go through the forest cutting phone lines and hoses and then Chonbo gets the idea to cut off one of Takora’s arms, which they do and it doesn’t end well.

Episode 50

In their forest there is only one character worse than Takora and Chonbo, and that’s the Jellyfish To Ro Ro. Almost every time they mess with this guy they get clobbered or worse. In this episode, they try to steal To Ro Ro’s fan. I looked it up and he sprays vinegar out of the top of his head which is what octopi are prepared in to eat in Japan, making To Ro Ro Takora’s nemesis.

Episode 230

In this episode, the cucumbers are making ice cream and when Takora shows up, he is shoed away by the badger. Chonbo uses a magnifying glass on a pole to melt the ice block they are using in secret and then they show up with a new one to save the day. Chonbo and Takora make ice cream for the cucumbers but they poison all three of them and steal the ice cream maker and start making it for themselves until the badger catches them and they are tortured for the remainder of the episode!

There are a ton of episodes to watch on Youtube now after they were pulled for copyright violations years ago, so go watch them. This is a treasure trove of crazy 70’s goodness that I have gotten really addicted to watching and have no idea how I didn’t try to find this stuff before. I cannot imagine how hard the crew and actors laughed and laughed making this stuff.

Twitter nonsense

Almost a year ago, I posted a tweet in response to a question from a game designer I follow who asked about why a good percentage of doctors didn’t get vaccinated. Fair question and I answered in conjecture: 1) because they’ve already had covid and 2) since the emergency status of the vaccine removes all liability from the administrator/manufacturer, there’s no legal recourse if you are injured, which my friend found out about when he got severe bursitis in his shoulder after the technician fucked up his shot. My account was locked within an hour and to unlock it I had to give my cell phone number to get it back, for reasons you can imagine. I just ignored the platform and moved on.

About a month ago, I could not find where I bought a TITAN t-shirt from and remembered I followed an account that sold them on Twitter, tried to log in, still couldn’t: even to see a list of who I followed! Since it took a couple clicks, I put in an appeal and got a response to remove the offensive tweet. What is it? Give phone number? Remove the tweet? I just ignored it until I got this today:

It’s possible this is just standard procedure for naughty “people” like me that talk about the vaccines in any way but rah rah yay and get caught by an algorithm: ban them until they give a phone number/appeal. Or it could be that they are changing because Musk may buy the company (it’s not final and may not even go through). Both scenarios are possible, but I would like to think that it’s this lawsuit from an ex NYT reporter that was banned from the platform for stating what is now completely obvious— the mRNA vaccines have a very short lifespan of efficacy compared to what we have come to expect from say, the measles, mumps, etc. and should be considered a therapeutic. I think this lawsuit is going to pop open exactly what the algorithms are doing and what the staff have been up to this whole time but most importantly, who is funding it.

From the very beginning, Twitter struggled with finding a solid revenue stream. I remember when the founders basically said ‘we have all these people, but haven’t found a way to make revenue yet.” Fair enough, but what that does is open one up for taking money in bad faith from very bad people just to keep the lights on and stockholders (Blackrock and Vanguard mostly) happy. When the financial opportunities to get big checks from Pfizer (like the rest of the media did) came to Twitter, I think they took it hook line and sinker and were obliged to modify their algorithms to fit what that funding source wanted most: no negative talk about the vax no matter what it did to the integrity of the platform or the reputation of it’s degenerate staff. This isn’t a right or left wing thing, this is a corporate shell game where a company pays to have platforms help them pass the dirty information down the road, they can rape mass profits NOW and worry about the heat later. Seeing as it’s come out now via Pfizer’s forced data dump that massive amounts of the vaccine trial data collection methods and participants were not just botched, but actively fraudulent.

When those two vaccine approval guys quit the FDA in disgust, that was the alarm bell that shit was totally fucked and it should have been all over the place, but did you see it? How is that possible if you didn’t?

I loath to post stuff like this, but it illustrates one thing about the advantage of the blogisphere compared to any corporatized social media (including Substack): bloggers can post anything we want about any topic we want.

WW1

I had been procrastinating watching it for a long time, but got through 1917 last night and wow, what a film. There’s something to be said for movies with very simple plots, Dredd, The Raid, Mad Max, The Northman, the Lighthouse, that just open up tons of possibilities for world building and character development that cannot occur when the plot is dominating screen time.

While the constant non-breaking scenes in 1917 are astounding to watch, the best part of the film for me was the changing landscape and how abruptly the characters go from pastoral grasslands to claustrophobia of the trenches, to the devastation of no-man’s land, within less than mile or so in most cases. The landscape becomes one of the characters in the film.

The film got me thinking about WW1 quite a bit as well, and it’s a grim reminder that no one in the first few weeks knew just how the war was going to play out, there were hints, for sure, especially during the American Civil War where Napoleonic tactics were annihilated by rifles that could shoot 3X as far with accuracy and near the end of the war, repeating rifles (see Hoover’s Gap). Yet no one could have guessed the massive trenchlines, mega fortresses and dominance of artillery. It was the end of the days where armies on the march feared nothing until the battle itself. More than that, WW1 represents the biggest fundamental shift in the paradigm of Western thought since the Enlightenment.

“The whole world really blew up about world war 1 and we still don’t know why. Before then, men thought that utopia was in sight. There was peace and prosperity. Then everything blew up, we’ve been in a suspended animation ever since” -Dr. Walker Percy


“The last complete normal year in history was 1913. Security and quiet have disappeared from the lives of men since 1914” -Konrad Adenauer


“World War 1 was more devastating to civility and civilization than the physically far more destructive world war 2: the earlier conflict destroyed an idea. I cannot erase the thought of those pre-World War 1 years, when the future of mankind appeared unencumbered and without limit.” -The Age of Turbulence, Alan Greenspan


“Everything would get better and better. This was the world I was born in… Suddenly, unexpectedly, one morning in 1914 the whole thing came to an end” -Harold Macmillan


“Historic events are often said to have changed everything. In the case of the Great War this is, for once, true. The war really did change everything: not just borders, not just governments and the fate of nations but the way people have seen the world and themselves ever since. It became a king of hole in time, leaving the postwar world permanently disconnected from everything that had come before” -G. J. Meyer

Cosmic Odyssey!!!

!!!!!!! (lots of exclamation points).

Fantasy Flight has done a wonderous job with Cosmic Encounter for the last decade+. The last expansion was superb and this one looks very interesting as it’s a CAMPAIGN version.

Interesting, are those moons? YES! is one made of cheese?

“This mode sees you and your fellow Cosmic Encounter-ers leading coalitions of aliens through a series of games across the cosmological “ages” while garnering prizes along the way. These prizes can be used in subsequent ages or saved for the final age. However, regardless of your win/loss record during the journey, every player that’s declared a winner in the Final Age Game is crowned a Campaign Winner.”

I’m super pumped. This is out in July so we don’t have too long to wait.

Here is the first article on the expansion.