The stuff of nightmares...


Alien - The Roleplaying Game Trailer from Free League on Vimeo.

One of my favourite SF franchises is coming as an RPG from a company whose work I like. The artwork here is fantastic. I suspect this is going to be really popular at cons.

The One Ring - End of Season 7

The One Ring image - By Xander - own work, (not derivative from the movies), Public Domain,
We finished Season 7 of our The One Ring RPG 'The Darkening of Mirkwood' inspired campaign tonight, brilliantly run by Paul.

(minor spoilers for The Darkening of Mirkwood follow)

This season saw our final confrontation with the Gibbet King, our nemesis since the early days. We managed to rally the Beornings after the disruption of Beorn's ascension with the Hunter and slay the Gibbet King's body. A hard autumn passage over the Misty Mountains got us to Rivendell for the winter, where we were happy to meet Elrond again.

After a short respite, we travelled to the Barrow Downs, unearthing a barrow to find a blade capable of destroying our enemy permanently. The wights inhabiting it were destroyed, and we headed north to Bree, and then to Fornost Erain and the North Downs. A hard passage across Angmar took us to Carn Dum, which we entered through tunnels that our new Noldor companion remembered of old. We penetrated the inner sanctum, dispelling wraiths and destroying the Gibbet King permanently as he manifested in a new body.

Fleeing, we quickly built a significant lead on the pursuing orc forces, but two of the fellowship nearly fell when we foolhardily attacked an orc patrol. We found evidence that the Enemy was coordinating with Angmar. Fortunately we prevailed, and rendezvoused with the Rangers, and then helped them destroy the orc forces.

We rest for the winter in Rivendell, awaiting our return to the east of the Misty Mountains. My Dwarf yearns for Erebor as it is more than two years since I was last home.

Our campaign will return.

1) Eyes of Sauron are nasty
2) Once you drop endurance below fatigue there's a potential death spiral as you drop equipment to avoid being weary.
3) We always felt threatened, despite having characters that are very highly developed.
4) It is fantastic to play an extended campaign in a world we love.
5) Bringing in a Noldor elf with an developed party works really well.
6) Jag, Elina and Simon are brilliant players who make this something I really look forward to.

Easter Floral Cross

I took some pictures of the floral cross that Wetherby Methodist Church creates each year as it is stunning...
Easter Floral Cross

Easter Floral Cross

Easter Floral Cross

Ice Cold in Arrendale - an OSR scenario

A properly nasty film.

I've always liked Disney's Frozen because it's a properly nasty and dangerous fairy tale wrapped in fluff. Parents die, nobles scheme, uncontrolled magic, and a false lover coming between sisters, all wrapped in happy songs and comedy from Olaf and Sven. For a while (maybe six months) it was the youngest lad's favourite film (until his 6-year-old friends told him it wasn't cool).

But it had me thinking, "What if"?

In the end, back in 2017 I wrote a scenario for Heroic Fantasy (Graham Spearing's more complete hack of the Black Hack) and ran it at Furnace XII. I can't see myself publishing this any time soon - and indeed, it'd need a bit of work to protect me from litigious mice, so here's a Google Docs link to the file. It should easily be usable with other OSR clones or plain D&D.

Ice Cold in Arrendale (Google Docs, Comments enabled)

Feel free to make any notes in comments if you should run it.

Here are the six characters I created for the convention. Three are a party from Britannia, sent to set up trade agreements and find out what is causing this damnable weather, and the other three are a party from the Southern Isle sent to find out why the King's youngest son, Prince Hans, has not returned for six months. All the characters have one aspect left for the player to allocate and are gender non-specific.

Ice Cold in Arrendale Characters (Google Drive, PDF, 2MB)

It's fair to say that when I ran it I had imagery from The Golden Compass, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Where Eagles Dare and parts of The Hateful Eight in my mind. The broader area of the seting is a point crawl sandbox in the nature of Slumbering Ursine Dunes.

I'd love to have your feedback for this!

19 April 2019


Chromebook away

I keep on checking, hopeful it'll be fixed
As I posted previously, my Chromebook (which I use for most of my day-to-day computing) is sick. It's back with Lenovo for a warranty repair to the power button, which no longer works. I think it's a simple mechanical issue, but I think I'll be without it for a bit. As I've been doing most of my writing on it recently, I feel like I've had a part of me cut off. It also meant that I couldn't work on one of the projects I'm trying to finish while I was away with work earlier in the week, as the firewall frowns on a lot of the Google services.

Fortunately, it happened in the last month of the warranty, not a week after.

Another Place


Another Place
Close encounter with Another Place
I was away with work for a few days this week, staying in Crosby right beside the beach where Antony Gormley's Another Place is installed. I've seen pictures of it, and looked across to the beach from New Brighton, but it's really impressive. I can see how it freaks people out by making them think someone is drowning. It was nice to get a few minutes on the beach away from work, just watching the world.

Another Place 2
The original picture, lightly filtered.

Murder with the Family

Murder at Devil Pines
Murder at Devil Pines: Perhaps the killer's here?
We travelled down to Portishead this weekend to see my parents. The boys had fun catching up with their grandparents and running remote-controlled boats on the lake. We got back after dinner and had some nice cake (a combination of birthdays, Easter coming up and belated Mother's Day) and then the boardgames came out.

We had a number of increasingly cutthroat games of Kartel during which it was a pleasure to see the youngest's mathematical ruthless streak coming out. After that, we tried Murder at Devil Pines, which is a short semi-cooperative memory-game based X-Files style investigation for 3 or 4 players.

The game is played over 6 turns (maximum), where each player gets a go at investigating the mystery. There are shades of Cluedo here. There are a set of clues for the way the missing person has been murdered (you get to find them and the method), a set of clues for who is leading the evil cult, and a set of clues for the evil creature which has been summoned.

There are five of each clue type; four are put in a lead deck for that clue type, and one is randomly selected as a 'mystery card'. On your turn, you get to investigate (by picking up a dice of the relevant investigation skill number and rolling equal-to or over the 'heat' number (the round number). Each successful roll lets you look at a card from the lead deck for that die colour. Thus you eliminate the potential leads. The cards are returned and shuffled so you can't guarantee that you'll not get the same leads again.

If you are certain what the clue chain has got you to in eliminating leads, you can 'call it in'; if you are successful, this will get you benefits (equipment, extra dice) but failure could (in the worst case) take you out of the game.

You can also wait around for a random mail-order delivery of equipment (most of which amends dice rolls or allows a different set of dice to be used).

In certain situations, you may have to do a raid (for example) against the monster of the week when that is revealed. This involves a combination of the different dice pools. Ultimately, to defeat the creature you will need as many successes as there are players so it could take several attempts.

We succeeded through a combination of Aidan's observation and Nathan's writing it all down process!
Overall, I enjoyed it but I don't think that we got the best out of it. We did have a good time.

It was the first playthrough and some boardgame conventions (like rotating the first player) messed with people's heads a bit. The escalating difficulty (which worked well) and the added complexity for raids confused a bit. The fixed-movement (up to 3 spaces) also caused confusion as some of the players expected a die roll. The rules have everything you need, but I think a crib-sheet is needed and a clearer statement of the Raid action. Nathan and I would play it again, Aidan is a maybe and Jill doesn't see the point beyond Cluedo (but she's a great fan of that game).

The board looks lovely and is evocative of the feel for the game. It plays in under 20 minutes. Worth a look if you can find it.

Murder at Devil Pines
Posing with his Grandma with the investigation log!

Earlier on, I said it was semi-cooperative. You all win or lose by defeating the monster-of-the-week. However, the rules as written give all the players a conspiracy card, each of which has a symbol related to the method of death, the cult leader and the monster. If two of these symbols align, you win by stopping the other players winning. We didn't use this as it would just add complexity for the first outing. In most sessions, everyone will be working together.

13 April 2019
Comments (2)

Great Customer Service

Great experience with Amazon customer service today. My Chromebook has developed a fault with its power button two weeks before it's out of the warranty (phew, at least it was before). The button seems to have failed mechanically (the Chromebook is working otherwise). This wouldn't be an issue except it means that I will struggle with some of the ChromeOS reset commands if it ever hangs (and that's happened maybe twice after updates in the last three years of using these devices).

I bought it through Amazon from a third party. Anyway, I decided to try Amazon's customer service, who got all the details, contacted the third party, put me through to them. They then said it would have to be the manufacturer's warranty and gave me the details to address it. The Amazon rep, Mauro, was on the chat system in parallel and called and connected to Lenovo, who have now arranged an uplift for repair. It was a very smooth experience and Mauro definitely was a great example of customer service (and I rated his assessment as such).

I know Amazon has a bad reputation for parts of how it addresses its workforce, but from a customer perspective, the experience was really impressive and helpful. And now I need to plan the powerwash of the Chromebook...

Thoughts on the Maus

Maus (World of Tanks Blitz)
Panzer VIII Maus in Legionary Camouflage

One of my guilty pleasures is playing World of Tanks Blitz on the iPad to chill out. Nathan and I started an account back at Christmas 2014, and we've played far too many games since. I don't do many video games, but this one has stuck. I find that it's got a great combination of being a game you can play for fun and also a bit more seriously. You have teams of 7 players facing themselves off across a variety of different maps. You can platoon with one other person if you want to work as a sub-team. All the tanks are pretty unique with different play styles. The game has vehicles from the start of armoured warfare to the 1960s. The tanks range from actual vehicles to prototypes (either built or blueprinted) to pure fantasy tanks (we hates those, my precious). I'll never be a great player (I don't have the reflexes), but I know from game stats that I'm an above-average player.

I've recently been grinding crew experience on the Maus. The Maus was a super-heavy panzer designed in 1944 which got as far as part-built prototype hulls and a turret. In some ways, the Nazis were lucky that it never reached production as it would have been an absolute resource hog and easily flanked by more mobile forces. However, on a 500m x 500m battlefield it does quite well.

I've learned a few things playing it. I'm not great at this tank, but some things become obvious.

1. Wait and see where your team goes at the start before you move. At 20 km/h you can't afford to go the wrong way.

2. Never look an enemy in the face until you mean to shoot them (because your armour is stronger when angled).

3. The damage you block, and as a result stop your team taking, is more important than the damage you do. You can block a lot as you are one of the most heavily armoured tanks in the game.

4. You can easily pin a flank as the enemy don't like approaching you (albeit cheeky medium tanks will try and circle you).

5. If you're going to die, position yourself so your wreck gives your team hardcover, not the enemy.

6. Don't get stressed; like the American T95 tank destroyer (the 'doom turtle') you're slow to get to position and half the time the rest of the team forgets that or screws things up by splitting up so you are alone. You can only do what you can do.

7. Consider the terrain and run on roads if you can as you are faster and can turn better.

8. The gun is good enough for snapshots as it aims quickly. This helps you when you look away to improve the armour and then flick it in to take a shot.

I ended up putting the Legionary camouflage on the tank (named after the European winners of the Blitz Twister Cup in 2017) as it looks great.

8 April 2019

Kartel - breaking the Crime Ring

Kartel - it's very long and thin...
I picked up a copy of Kartel from Games Crusade in Harrogate, and we've played it a few times this week. I think it's going to be one that stays around for a bit. Written by Reiner Knizia, it's a simple game that takes about 15 minutes and is suitable for all the family.

You are all playing detectives investigating the seven criminal gangs in the city. There is a single large detective meeple (with a sticker) used by all the players. The game board comprises a ring (the 'crime ring') of randomly spread out crime lords (each with a unique colour), criminals (groups of 1-3, each coloured for the crime lord they have allegiance to) and potential bribes (sorry, donations to the police widows and orphans fund).

Each turn, you roll a d6 which generates a result between 2 and 4. You advance the detective as far as you want up to the number rolled around the crime ring, and then pick up what you have landed on. If it is a bribe or a criminal group, you place it in front of you as a potential arrest or payoff. If it is a crime lord, they go to jail. From that point, all the criminals that are in the same gang (same colour) are flipped to the scoring side when you pick them up. Any you have in front of you already, also get flipped as you've now got the evidence to arrest them. Any bribes from an arrested crime lord become worthless rather than scoring three points.

There's a catch; there are only five cells in the jail, and the moment that the last one is filled, the game ends (with any criminals from that crime lord now scoring). You get a point for every criminal arrested and 3 points for each bribe from a crime lord who hasn't been arrested at the end of the game.

It's a good game, with a degree of scheming and planning, and it works well as a filler. It certainly landed well with us across the family. Recommended.

6 April 2019

Board game breakfast
Boardgame breakfast - Kartel went down well with the whole family