Weekend links and Gloomhaven impressions

This was a busy ass week, but I got a game in of Gloomhaven which is… interesting.   It’s definitely not a game I would want to own or try to get people to play (or read the rules) but it was pretty fun.  Gloomhaven is a mash up of Kingdom Death and Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 3rd edition with all the cards-as-actions and tons of counters for everything;  except instead of an RPG, all adventures are pre-codefied in maps that unlock as you play.  Classes unlock as you play as well which is interesting.   While I don’t think it’s especially good after the first play, it’s still worth giving a good college try.

Comparing it to another similar, recent game: The Others, it’s the opposite in that the basic Gloomhaven gameplay is clunky and card driven, while the Others is very smooth and streamlined.  However, the Others has zero as a campaign mode and is replayable only in that you can play through different missions with different hero teams.  The lack of a Campaign mode in The Others really hurts the game, while the campaign mode in Gloomhaven makes a rather lackluster miniatures combat game much more exciting to play.

Anyway, here’s some other interesting stuff from the interweb tubes this week:

New 8th ed 40K FAQ.  I love some of the questions (and answers): basically people are asking if they are planning on AOS’ing 40k.  Seems not.

Freemium ios games are the worst of the worst trash mobile gaming has to offer, but there are exceptions.

An AWESOME rundown of the launch of the original Warhammer 40K.  I read this and then started re-reading it right away.

And another GW-based post about 1989.  That was when I was totally into the Warhammer stuff full bore (as full bore as a highschool kid could be) and it lasted until 1993 or so when we started playing too much Jyhad and MTG (and still a lot of talisman).

 

Ruminations on the Talisman Bounty Hunter

I did a long write up on the fallen from grace Monk years ago, focusing on the fact that with the new version of Talisman, where your characters can easily gain Craft by sending in trophies, the Monk would either be the most powerful character in the game or, as he is now, one of the worst and just how difficult it must have been to design him so he retained his original flavor but wasn’t totally broken.  Basically he got nerfed so bad no one would ever select him if given a choice, as there are few characters worse than the monk these days.

However, I’ve been really pleased with the FF Talisman design team’s designs. I think Fantasy Flight were AMAZING shepherds of this very difficult brand and game since many of us are utter fanatics and I, for one, had a tough time letting go of 2nd edition.  Fate has won me over, gaining craft from trophies has won me over (not totally…) and even dealing with the Balkanization of players with all the boards is OK if you don’t play with all the boards.

One of the designs I want to discuss is the new Bounty Hunter from the City Expansion; despite the fact that he looks like a gladiator. I’ve been in one game vs him and feel that he is a very strong character, but one that does some things absolutely new to Talisman that especially effect experienced players.

First let’s talk about trophies in 4th edition.  Since your Craft and Strength stacks are extremely vulnerable in the game to Spells and some adventure card effects, it’s best to not have a stack of either until you absolutely need it.  Tactically, this means turning in trophies at the very, very, very last moment to gain the Craft or Strength from them–right before a roll vs a monster where you absolutely need it.  Also, psychologically, the other players are looking at your stacks of chips (you are using poker chips right?) to see how close you are to going for the win.  If they don’t see a stack, they will assume you are weak and fiddle around rather than attacking you or going for the win themselves.  This is crucial, and the designers know this.  It takes a bit of play to know when to turn in your trophy stacks, but the basic concept is simple– don’t walk around with a large stack of craft or strength unless you have to. Turn in trophies as a surprise when attacked or attacking another character FTW!

While the Bounty Hunter seems only slightly annoying to new players,  advanced players quake in fear in that he attacks your trophy stack rather than your Strength and Craft stacks because they will be sitting on as many as possible for as long as possible.  With him on the table you can’t be holding onto a huge pile of trophies because there is always the chance that he will drop on in and help himself to them.  This means players in a game with the bounty hunter will be spending their trophies ASAP, leaving their stacks of craft and strength vulnerable to spells and other effects.  The Bounty Hunter is a very meta-esque card that also can work for noobs that don’t even hoard trophies to protect their (future) stat increases.

The Bounty Hunters other special effects are gold when he wins battles which with the addition of the City board, actually helps rather than gold accumulating uselessly late game.   Note that he also wins stand offs against monsters and other characters, in combat and psychic combat, so his first goal in a game is to get the Full Plate armor.  We don’t play quite enough to determine tiers for characters in 4e like we did in 2e, but I feel the Bounty Hunter is way up there, especially if he can get some sort of mobility control to start grabbing those trophies.

Good iphone game: Kingdoms: New Lands

Pretty much every iphone game is shit; total garbage that should never be bothered with at all. However, with every rule, there are exceptions and while incredibly rare– like one per year, it is possible for there to be a few good iphone games. Dreamquest, SmartGo, Ascension, King of Dragon Pass are the main three, as for the rest I make the mistake of buying and installing, one by one they step down into the darkness before the footlamps, destined for a night that is eternal and without name.

That said, Kingdoms: New Lands is pretty great! I finally finished the game last week and even went back to try stuff on various islands for fun. The game is essentially a real time tower defense where you build a town/castle and then try to survive attacks from trolls until you can rebuild your boat and get the fuck off the island you are on before a troll steals your crown. You do this solely by riding around on a horse distributing and collecting gold. You can run your horse, walk your horse, stop for your horse to eat, pick up gold, disburse gold and that’s it! You cannot attack, you can’t shoot a bow, you can’t talk to anyone in the game. Walk, Run, eat, collect, disperse.

One thing the game does is not tell you how or what to do at all. What are the cabins in the woods? What do the different horses do? Why are the trolls attacking and what do they do? I’m going to keep this recommendation very short as to not spoil anything. You can build various stuff and interact with the stuff on the islands in different ways: shrines, trees, horses, portals, etc. Advice: don’t go off at night. Get catapults quick.

Aesthetically the game is fantastic, rendered in a beautifully pixilated side scrolling world with an elegance that approaches Dungeon of The Endless.  The weather effects, change of day, change of seasons (!?) and changes  in light as you run through the woods are worth the purchase of the game alone. While containing some specific elements always, such as a dock and a cliff portal for trolls, each island is somewhat randomly generated.

I was fairly enthralled by this until I was able to finally finish it, and I bet you will be too.

APRIL LAN

It’s the APRIL LAN. We played a lot of Quake last night and Starcraft (now free with the latest update) which ended in the only outcome that could have happened in a FFA: a zerg rush by scooter.

Today we got in some HELLDIVERS and Ultimate DOOM, which is one of the best FPS games ever STILL for gameplay.

Of course, it’s one of those rare nice April days where everyone in the city is outside: except us who are languishing in a basement for the next 12-14 hours.

 

 

DCC magic in LotFP

This is a precursor to a couple of brewing posts about our Scenic Dunnsmouth run about a month ago.  We used the Dungeon Crawl Classics magic system along with LotFP.

First, I recommend trying this out if you don’t mind a bit more chaos in your magic to a more cartoonish, gonzo level. DCC takes the spirit of LotFP’s beloved Summon spell and applies it to everything. The system reminds me fully of Warhammer Fantasy Battle 8th edition’s magic system, which is fantastic and dangerous and explosive.

The biggest differences are:

  1. Spells don’t always work. MU’s have to roll a D20 to cast their spells and then the GM looks at a table to see what happens. It’s about 65% chance that they will work if you have a MU with an INT bonus. Without an INT bonus, you will be suffering as an MU
  2. Unless you fail bad, you keep your spell. So this disrupts Vancian magic completely
  3. You can get REAL fucked up if you fumble your spell rolls, permanent like via corruption and miscasts
  4. MU’s can spell burn their stats to increase their spell rolls. They can loose these stats permanently.
  5. Very high rolls on spell casting of some spells can destroy entire villages and TPK the party.

Good stuff:

  1. Magic users can be badass, or they could be stuck with total shit for spells. The combination of random spell rolling with the mercurial magic from DCC left one of our spellcasters with a light spell that can only be cast in broad daylight and other crap. This is part of DCC’s ‘balance through randomness’ game theory. That sorcerer’s goals will be focused on getting better spells at nearly any cost! What better motivation.
  2. Dice are your friend? My MU used DCC’s flaming hands and always rolled super high (and my character’s version of Flaming Hands caused all animals to flee in terror as well). I burned all the enemies, all the time. While awesome for the party, coming from the LotFP paradigm, the GM was displeased by this.
  3. Spellburn: MU’s can burn their stats to increase their spell rolls. This can leave them puddles of goo that have to be carried around if they burn high. I like this mechanic a lot as you can have a character that is at -2 for every statistic for a period of time. It gives the MU interesting choices before the dice are rolled.
  4. Players don’t have to look up or memorize spell effects.  They just need the name of the spell and then roll for it!

Bad Stuff:

  1. You need the HUGE DCC book handy (or PDF). I had to carry the DCC book on the plane to CO. and it was like it’s own piece of luggage. The rules are only a few pages, but the spell lists are required and take up most of the book.
  2. Clerics. Our GM was not happy about the cleric being able to heal up characters and not losing the spell. I don’t think he will allow DCC Cleric rules again. Having played straight DCC a few times since, the Cleric does get balanced out because each time a roll fails, they increase their chance of fumbling the cast and displeasing their god that gives them spellcasting ability in the first place, which can mean no more cleric…
  3. We couldn’t fit the Summon spell into the DCC paradigm, so we left it as LotFP RAW and during the sessions, and we cast it a LOT.
  4. To fully use the DCC system, you’d have to add a LUCK stat to the stat list, and we just didn’t do that. I think that would get too far away from the current LotFP rules.  You could add it, or use Wisdom, or just tell casters they can only spell burn.
  5. Other classes may feel outclassed.   The Fighters in LotFP won’t get their init bonus for level nor the deed die.  While my character rolled crazy good to destroy nearly all enemies, the fighters could still be marginalized.

Overall, we muddled through and our GM was very enthused about it until there was a Cleric in the party, then Steve was not too happy. It does spin the Gygaxian dislike of spellcasters off into the ether and you have to be cool with that.

Warhammer Total War 2 announced

I was waiting for the Dark Elves to come out before picking up Warhammer Total War and… they aren’t ever coming to that game; instead they are doing a Warhammer 2 in order to add the new races that are flagrantly missing (High Elves, Dark Elves, Lizard Men).  While called “2” this is in effect a stand alone add on in as you can have WTW 1 and WTW 2 and play on a huge campaign map with all races.

I’m still addicted to Attila Total War which is right now my favorite of the series by far, and haven’t purchased the older Warhammer game to even try it out.  While it’s sort of odd that it’s already Warhammer 2: I’m really glad the Dark Elves are finally coming out and will likely wait until 2 comes out to pick up 1 and 2 together.

Q&A here

Garycon 2017! twas good.

This is a unique little Con as it harks back to the era where Wisconsin was ground zero for all D&D stuff, with THE DUNGEON shop (basically the D&D store with the TSR office upstairs), the qtip factory, etc. all around Lake Geneva, where some of these TSR guys still live and still show up to Cons!

So if you do not know, Garycon is a small con at a very cool location, the Grand Geneva Hotel, at it’s worst point in the turn of seasons (end of March) when the snow is gone and the warm weather (even for hiking) isn’t around yet.  40’s and rain is what we got again this year, unlike Game Hole Con which was absolutely gorgeous out all weekend in November!  I think that Game Hole and Garycon bookend each other quite nicely at their times of the year though, where, typically, you ain’t going outside for summer or winter sports at all up here.

This is an OSR con, which means Dungeon Crawl Classics, Swords and Wizardry, Lamentations of the Flame Princess, Into the Odd, Trampier art, Castles and Crusades and a lot of old dudes.  One of the guys I was with mentioned that the demographic was, for the most part, 20 year-olds and younger, and late 30’s and older with the entire millennial generation not even there.

That said, while all about OSR, DCC dominates this con as far as I can tell. They have a huge booth in the small exhibitor hall and while there were tons of people playing 5E, there were also many DCC tables everywhere.  I think one of the reasons DCC does so well here is that a lot of the old Wisconsin/Northern Illinois TSR designers are involved with Goodman games (and now even WOTC with their partnership announcement this weekend on the old school modules).  Goodman does judges guild reprints AND their own Californicated OD&D DCC stuff, they do a rebirth of Metamorphosis Alpha AND their own Mutant Crawl Classics.  So they are pushing ahead with their own games while at the same time not only bringing back some of the oldies, but adding new content from the original authors.  This makes the OS (without the R part because they likely never stopped themselves) happy.

We got to play DCC twice with Daniel Bishop as the Judge. For our first game our gang of freaks was nearly half the players there, which was totally awesome.  I had run a funnel and read modules, but never played the ‘leveled’ version of the game before and I am quite impressed with the rules in play.   I played a warrior, Sensless played a magic user with all BUFF spells and Maat played the only thief,  bowers another Wizard.  The game is dominated by the magic users for the most part (which is very anti-vancian/gygax), but they destroy themselves to pull off what they do and still have to rely on the dice–nothing is every certain no matter what you spellburn.  What it comes down to is trying to maximize chances of a certain spell result using spellburn, corruption, the halfling luck power and personal luck. How it works out in play is basically full on gonzo, where the GM can lay heavy stuff on the players and they can come back from the brink with clever luck/burn/corruption usage — but it’s very costly.  In a CON game Wizards are not going to hold back on the burning for results, so shit will get crazy.

Fighters are awesome however.  They take a beating as expected, but instead of flat bonuses, they get a DEED die with which they can declare a heroic deed, like pushing someone to the ground or dry gultching them if the die comes up 3+.  This allows a lot of creative play for what is normally, even in 13th Age, a bit of a boring class outside of Runequest/Mythras.

My second game I coached my kid through and it was great with a very strange premise in a deathtrap dungeon, which he had never experienced before.  I talked to him after about how the horrifyingly deadly traps were telegraphed by the description of the area, and the non-telegraphed ones were fairly easy to get out of.  Unlike the funnel games, leveled characters in DCC are difficult to kill off as long as the rest of the party is around– but his party had nearly all the spellcasters drop to zero at least once and I would have loved to see some of their character sheets to see how bad their stats were with all the spellburn and voluntary corruption!

Other stuff I saw and did:

  • Played A Study in Emerald three times and it was great each time, even though we got a few of the rules wrong. I also busted out Moongha Invaders, another Wallace classic.
  • Col. Zocchi was there with his dice and stories.  Picked up a D100 and a full 12 die set.  I need them for the funky DCC dice, but these will quickly replace all my other dice, which I will probably donate to the school library or work.
  • We played Alpha Blue with Venger Satanis.  One thing out of playing this I noticed is that when PC’s are presented with the desire for sex from female/male/alien NPC’s, they are ALWAYS paranoid about it being some sort of duplicity. This happened in Alpha Blue and in Scenic Dunnsmouth a couple weeks back.  Even when everything checks out the players are still totally thinking it’s a trap for sure… why are we conditioned this way??  Think about it, you come out of a dungeon with a ton of gold and hit the local inn, the brothel wenches will want you to buy them drinks and other stuff to maybe get them the hell out of there on a gold sedan chair, BUT likely want to actually fuck adventurers and of COURSE any male NPC in the same situation will want to put it to even the brawniest of females when she has gold jangling in all her pockets!
  • Marvel Heroic – there was a table next to us today that was playing, cool to see.  That’s a fun superhero game.
  • Tom Wham – we bugged him about getting some of his games print on demand or kickstarted! I missed the Search for the Emperor’s treasure game though sadly.
  • Grand Geneva knows how to make a fucking good Brandy old fashion!
  • There’s a small space between the city sprawl from Milwaukee and Lake Geneva that used to be a BIG space.  Driving through these areas that will soon be mc-mansion farms as far as the eye can see was sad.
  • I grew up near Saylesville, which isn’t even a village or township any more, being wholly swallowed by Waukesha, with only the name of the millpond to show it was ever there at this point.  To the south of us was a big farm owned by a Gygax, which we heard was a cousin of Gary Gygax.  Everyone in our area pronounced it GEE- GAX and not Gu-I-Gax.  One of the Gygax grandchildren walked around and talked to con-goers and I asked how his name was pronounced and he said the Gu-I-Gax version, so there you have it. My mom will never be convinced to say it that way though.
  • CON food.  I had terrible issues with something I ate or drank, same as a couple years back at Game Hole con.  I don’t have a sensitive stomach normally at all, but fucksake, there was something going on there.
  • Man– Wisconsin– you have to get some exercise!