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Category: Review

Kingdom Death:Monster – First Session

Kingdom Death: Monster ran two successful Kickstarters. The second has just completed delivery and the game is available in the KD:M store (https://shop.kingdomdeath.com). I thought that I would do detailed play throughs as I go through the game so you can see what $400 will get you. I will warn you, the game is somewhat of an RPG, and learning what is coming up is part of the fun of the game. The first encounter (this one) is the same for everyone and no big mystery, but the further you get into the game the more and more the “surprise” of what you encounter is part of the fun.

What is the game?

It is a horror/fantasy cooperative board game with RPG elements. It uses cards and the rulebook to reveal the story as you go. You start off as a survivor (4 is the standard number, you can play up to 6 in the game) without any backstory except for you are in a wasteland and a lion attacks you and your companions. The game is cooperative – the players against the game. In combat, the players take turns commanding the enemies and the enemies use an AI deck to control them. You roll dice to hit or to see if you are hit and you use dice to see where you get hit whereas you use cards to determine where the enemy gets hit. The monsters ramp up in power over time.
The game is very miniature heavy and the miniatures come unassembled on sprues. You need to clip the pieces off of the sprues and glue them together. Many people paint the miniatures, but it is not required.

Miniatures and supplies

To assemble the miniatures, you will need to cut them away from the sprues and glue them together. You can use an hobby knife to cut them off, or you can use a set of cutters. Something that cuts flush is best and the “God Hand” cutter is expensive but made for the job. They are available on Amazon.com (God Hand), but you might be able to find them cheaper on eBay or from a hobby shop. They are expensive, but work very well and cut very flush. It will save you a lot of time later on cleaning up the model pieces if you use a good tool in advance.
You also will want good quality glue. The best usually is the type designed to slightly melt the plastic and meld it together. I use Tamiya cement (Tamiya Cement). The green top is thinner and the white is a little thicker. The glue sets pretty quickly and you need to put bare plastic onto bare plastic because of the way it works.
Finally, if you want to paint your miniatures, you will need paints and brushes. There are various brands of paints made just for miniatures (this is one example Miniature Paints). The special paints work very well, but they can be expensive. Another option is acrylic craft paints that you can find at stores like Michaels or Hobby Lobby or even Walmart. They work well enough, but tend to be thicker than specially made paints and need more thinning and sometimes more coats of paint.

Cement and God Hand

Different Cement

This blog is not meant to be a painting tutorial, there are plenty on Youtube or other places on the Web. The basic process is to clean the models to wash off the chemicals used to help them release easily from the molds, prime them, typically with a spray primer, paint and then maybe use a protective coat. Painting can include using techniques like dry brushing and inks to bring out details and highlights.
I just use craft paints, but I have been painting for a while and know the consistency to aim at. I am also not aiming for public display of the models or to win an art contest. The miniatures in this blog were painted by me (White Lion) and my 15-year old daughter (the survivors). These were the first miniatures she had ever done. I did some touch up, but I think the pictures will show you what you can accomplish with just a little bit of effort, even if you are not experienced.
This is what what my starting group looks like:

The White Lion and his prey

Starting miniatures

To play the first game, you will need to build the first 4 survivors plus the white lion. The directions can be found here (and it is a good site to see previews of the included miniatures):
Building Instructions

Playing your first game – Session 1

The first comment I will make is that the game board and the space needed around it is very large. You cannot play it on a small coffee table, you will need a big surface. The picture below has a letter sized piece of paper on it to give an idea of the scale.

The Game Board

You will need 4 copies of the survivor statistics sheet. I used my printer to scan and copy the sheet as I can imagine you can churn right through the included pad. The rule book suggests that you use a pencil to record onto the sheet as wounds and statistics change over time.
The rule book steps you through set up and play in detail. First, you set up the 4 survivors and their boards. You place cloth and founding stone cards on the survivor grid and pick names for your survivors. My first 4 are named Myrdin, Neo Linhong and Imani. The rulebook also says you will need tokens to mark status during the fight. I found a 3D printer token holder and printed one up to help keep the tokens organized during the game.

Token Holder

The interesting facts that I picked up from the starting components was that the Founding Stone can be thrown to automatically hit with a critical wound and that the survivors move 5 as their base movement.
The next step to get ready to play is to create a custom AI deck for the White Lion. It starts with only 8 cards, and the “claw” action is placed on top. The different categories for the AI cards seem to be basic, advanced and legendary. The first session has 5 basic and 3 advanced cards and zero legendary ones.

Various Cards

The next deck to get ready is the Hit Location deck. The only special instructions is to place the Strange Hand on top. Then you place the basic action card down for the white lion. These all go onto the monster control panel which also has spaces for a wound stack 4 traits/mood/skull and space for 7 tokens.
I noticed that if you score a Critical Hit on Strange Hand (the starting hit location card) you can spend your one survival point and gain a permanent +1 Strength boost. Other than that hit location card, you can only spend survival to Dodge in the first session. Dodges negate damage from a hit. I do not know the game well enough yet to decide if it is worth fighting with tooth and nail (survivor base attacks with no weapons) just to gain that permanent bonus.
Finally, you place your 5 miniatures on the board. You start with the White Lion and then put the 4 survivors down and they can be up to 5 squares away from the White Lion. Considering that you need to attack and kill the lion and it can move 6 and you can move 5, I thought that being as close as possible made more sense.
The White Lion also has a blindspot in the two squares immediately behind it, which looked like a good place to get to if you are wounded.
Since I wanted to make sure I could approach the White Lion and attack not matter what, I placed all survivors within 2 squares of the White Lion. Again, this is my very first time playing, so I am not sure if that is the best play.

Starting Set-up

Starting Set-up (front view)

The first session alternates between the White Lion (control of the non-player characters alternates between however many players you have and you get a bonus if you attack yourself, well a bonus if increasing insanity can be considered a bonus) and the players. Each player (survivor) acts each turn. For the first session, you follow specific instructions in the rulebook for the first turn and then play on based on the cards you draw.

Game Ready to Play

First turn

Select the monster’s controller. Since I am running solo, it will be me throughout this example (my painting assistant Rachel did follow along). Since there is a bonus for targeting yourself, I kept the character sheets in order and assumed that I was running through 4 controllers.

Monster Controller

You start the actual turn by drawing the top card. I know it is Claw and I am playing Imani as the nominal character this turn.
Card says Pick Target and lists closest threat, facing, in range, closest threat, in field of view, and sniff if no target. Sniff means even if everyone is knocked down (not a threat) or hiding in the blindspot (the two squares immediately behind the White Lion), they are all considered threats until end end of the next turn.
As can be seen from the initial placement photo, Neo and Linhong are both equally placed in front as threats. I decided that the target was Linhong.
One the target is chosen, next up is to move and attack.

White Lion’s First Attack

Claw attack speed is 2 and accuracy is 2+. So I need to roll 2 dice and anything 2 or above is a hit. I rolled 2 4’s, which means 2 hit.


Since there are 2 hits, I need to roll 2 hit location dice to see where they hit. The dice roll result was legs and body. The only location with armor is the waist. I could use a survival point and avoid one hit, but neither hit dehabilitates the survivor, so I recorded a light wound onto each location.

Recording Wounds

It is now the survivors’ turn. Each one gains an action activation and a movement activation. It does not matter what order they are activated in. Attacks from blindspot have a better chance to hit (+1). Next up in my order is Myrdin and I will want to target him to gain the Insanity “benefit”, so I need to make sure Myrdin ends up in front.
I started with Linhong as she was wounded and I do not want her subject to attack next turn. I do not know what all the potential actions could be, but I am hoping most target survivors in front of the White Lion.
I move Linhong directly behind the White Lion and attacked with the Founding Stone. It has a speed of 2, so 2 dice are rolled and a base accuracy of 7, so with the +1 bonus it hits on a 6 or better. With a roll of an 8 and a 1, there is one hit.

First Attack Rolls

I draw a hit location card and get Strange Hand (this has already been placed on top). The back of the White Lion card says that it has a toughness of 6, so I roll another die to see if the hit wounds. I roll a 1, add 1 for the strength of the weapon, and the result is 2 which is a failure. The Strange Hand says perform a basic action and target the survivor.

White Lion

This is where I was confused a little. Basic Action is Pick Target, and I just moved Linhong into the Blindspot. I did a little online research and the ruling is that the card overrules the target rules. So the lion spins around and attacks again. I roll 2 9’s and two more wounds are applied. Hit locations are leg and head. Both result in Linhong being heavily wounded. I could use a survival point and avoid one wound, but not worth it as either results in her being knocked down.
Imani is next up and she hits with 1 of 2 attacks. Hit location is Fuzzy Groin. I roll a 3 in the attempt to wound which results in a 4 which is a failure.
Myrdin attacks from in front and rolls an 8 and a 3 for 1 hit. Hit location is Straining Neck and the wound attempt is successful with an 8 rolled which becomes a 9. An AI card is placed in the wound stack to represent the wound. This is placed face down so I do not know what it is.
Finally, Neo attacks and attacks from the blindspot. I roll 2 7’s, which become 2 eights and represent 2 hits. The hit location cards are Beast’s Maw and Beast’s Ribs. There is no downside to failing the Ribs wound attempt, so I pick it first, rolling a 4 which becomes a 5 and fails. The attempt to wound the Maw works with a 7 becoming an 8.


The White Lion has suffered 2 wounds this turn and needs a total of 9 to die (AI deck size plus one).

End of Turn 1

Turn 2

I draw an AI card for the White Lion and get Terrifying Roar. The targets are all non-deaf survivors. Usually Linhong would not be targeted as she is not a threat, but the target instructions do not mention threat. The White Lion is level 1. I go through each survivor and roll a d10. On a 2 or more the bad effect happens. Imani gets an 8, suffers 1 brain wound, and is knocked back 6. Myrdin gets a 9 and is knocked back 6. Linhong gets a 7 and is knocked back 6. Finally Neo gets a 9 and is knocked back 6.

Terrifying Roar

The lion then targets the furthest survivor in range. All are the same distance, so I pick Myrdin. Since it is his turn, I get +1 insanity. The lion then performs a basic action, moves next to Myrdin (movement is 6) and attacks. I roll a 1 and a 4, so one attack misses. The wound location is leg.

Widely Scattered Forces

Since it is the end of the monster’s turn, Linhong stands up.
Other than the roll of a 1 to hit, not the greatest of turns as my forces are scattered all over the board and the best I can do is attack twice. I also have a quandary as I want to move behind the monster but I need to make sure the monster does not turn around and move over my survivors as that will knock them down and I will lose an entire turn. So I need to move both the other survivors to force sideways movement.
I move Linhong directly behind the White Lion and attack. I roll a 6 and a 2 which becomes a 7 and a 3 and hit once. Location is Beast’s Ear. I roll a 6 which becomes a 7 and a wound, which is fortunate as a failure would have made the lion jump away and trample Myrdin.
I move Myrdin behind the White Lion and attack. My rolls are 6 and 4 which is 7 and 5, so one hit. Hit location is Clever Ploy, which means that Myrdin has fallen into the White Lion’s trap (it is a trap card).

Clever Ploy

Myrdin is also doomed and cannot use any survival points until the card is resolved.
The White Lions spins around and attacks, which negates my previous plans.
An 8 and a 3 is 2 hits. Hit location is waist and body. Waist armor absorbs 1 and the body hit results in a light wound.
I reshuffle the hit location deck.

Turn 3

I would say that the situation seems pretty bad to me. White Lion starts its next turn and the AI card is Grasp. It has only suffered three wounds so far and my survivors are pretty scattered. This is nominally Linghong’s turn.

Grasp

Since Myrdin and Linhong are both directly in front of the White Lion, I choose Linhong and get one insanity as it is her turn as Monster Controller.
Grasp is one attack and then a trigger after damage. I roll an 8 for the speed one attack and take a hit. Hit location die is a leg. That will result in a heavy wound, but she will be knocked down by the after damage trigger anyways, so I save the survival point.
Linhong is grabbed and suffers another hit as the White Lion is level 1. Body Hit Location, so heavy wound there but already knocked down.
White Lion makes a full move away. The rules are not super specific about facing but you turn the way you are moving as a general rule, so I turned the White Lion away from the rest of the survivors.

From Bad to Worse

Non of the survivors could get into range (except to throw their Founding Stones which would not kill the White Lion), so I moved as close as I could and it went to the next turn.

Turn 4

AI card chosen was Maul. The first target listed was victim of Grab last round, so Linhong was attacked again. Both attacks hit her, and each does 3. Plus a bleed token. Does not look good for Linhong. I roll arms and waist. Arms has no armor and only 2 hit locations. I expend my one survival point to dodge it. Linhong still takes another heavy wound, but was already knocked down so cannot be knocked down again.

Mauling Its Victim

Now Myrdin moves into the blindspot and attacks. I roll a 2 and a 1 and miss with both. Linhong stands up. She is limited by the board edge and cannot move behind the White Lion, so she attacks. She rolls a 6 and an 8 and hits once. Hit Location is Beast’s Ribs. Wound roll is a 5 which becomes a 6 and a wound.
The rest of the survivors move as close as they can and the turn ends.


Turn 5

AI deck is depleted, so I need to reshuffle the 4 cards in the discard pile. I draw Terrifying Roar, which again is bad news.
Imani takes a brain wound and is already wounded there so rolls on the brain trauma table (p. 89 of the rule book). She rolls a 6 and gets danger seizure as the result. She takes a damage to her arms (no other survivor is close), rolls a 9 and gains 5 insanity (3 and over is insane), and gains a disorder. I shuffled the disorder cards and drew Vestiphobia which prevents her from wearing armor at the body location. She is also knocked back 6 squares.

Phobia

Myrdin has insanity of 1, so that is reduced and no damage (roll was a 6).
Neo had a lantern roll (10) and no insanity. Rolls another lantern on the brain trauma table which is Frenzy. Gains 2 insanity, and a speed and a strength token.He cannot use weapon specialization or mastery, but that does not apply in this first session.
Linhong also rolls a lantern but has an insanity point and is just knocked back 6.
The White Lion then moves and attacks Myrdin, who is the furthest in range. Both rolls hit. One to the arms, one to the body. Myrdin spends a survival point to avoid the body damage and stays on his feet.
He attacks and gets a 7 and a lantern, both are hits. I draw Beast’s Maw and Beast’s Tricep. I choose tricep first and roll a 2 (becomes 3) and fail. The White Lion counter attacks and hits twice. Arms and head are the result, both are heavy wounds and Myrdin is knocked down. Under the knock down rules, any unresolved wound attempts are wasted.
Neo moves in, using 6 movement. Cannot get to the blindspot, but he attacks with a speed of 3. Rolls 9,8, and 5 and hits twice. Hit locations are Soft Belly and Beast’s Scapular Deltoid. No failure trigger for soft belly, so I try that first. I get an additional +1 from the Strength token and roll an 8, +2 is 10. One wound. Second roll is a 3 and the resulting 5 is a failure.
The White Lion now moves 6 straight forward and grabs both Myrdin and Neo. Myrdin takes a waist hit, Neo takes a waist hit which is expended on the armor (Myrdin had no more armor).
The White Lion moving forward allows Imani to attack from the blindspot. She rolls an 8 and a 9, hitting twice. Hit location cards are Fleshy Gut and Beast’s Brow. I go for the Gut first and roll a 1, failure. The White Lion attacks and hits twice. The hits are body and head. Spend a survival to get rid of the head wound. The second wound attempt fails as well.
Linhong throws her stone and autohits. When a Founding Stone is thrown, it auto-criticals as well (if applicable) for the wound. Beast’s Temple is drawn as the hit location, and the Critical Wound description has a persistent injury that potentially (roll of 1-2) negates the White Lion’s action on a turn. One interesting feature of the Founding Stone is that if you draw a hit location card without a Critical Wound text/rule, it does not cause a wound.

Beast’s Temple

So at the end of Turn 5, I have done 6 wounds and the White Lion is down to 2 AI cards. One is Tremendous Roar. One is unknown as of now. I need to do three more wounds to kill it.

Turn 6

AI card is grasp and the injury roll is over 2. That means that last wound was Claw. Both Neo and Myrdin are knocked down and same range. Myrdin is the nominal Monster Controller. I pick him as the target and he gains one Insanity.
Myrdin is hit with the first attack and takes 1 damage to body. That inflicts a heavy wound, but he is already knocked down. The second step of the card also creates a collision with Neo. However, he is already knocked down so nothing further happens to Neo. Myrdin takes one more damage to Body location. That exceeds the number of spaces, so I roll on the table on page 88 to see what happens. I roll a 10 (lantern) and the effect is that Myrdin knocked down. Since Myrdin is already knocked down, nothing happens.
At the end of the monster turn, Myrdin and Neo stand up.
Myrdin goes into the blindspot and and attacks, rolling a 1 and an 8. I draw Glorious Mane, which is Impervious and cannot be wounded. I do not do a critical wound. Neo then moves and his three speed gives three dice plus he is in the blindspot. He rolls a 4, 5 and 6. The +1 gives him one hit. Hit Location is Beasts Heel and the wound roll is a 2. The resulting 4 does not wound the White Lion.
The other 2 survivors move closer.

Turn 7

I draw Terrifying Roar for the AI card. I roll a 9, so the Temple persistent injury does not apply.
Imani reduces Insanity by 1 (to 4) and is knocked back. Myrdin reduces insanity by 1 (to zero) and is knocked back. Linhong takes a brain injury and I roll a 2 on the table on page 89. She dies. Neo reduces his insanity by 1 (to 1) and is knocked back. I choose Myrdin to be the target and he is hit twice. Both are to the waist and he is knocked down and suffers a roll on page 87. I roll a 5. His pelvis is warped, he gains -1 Luck permanently and a bleeding token.
Neo moves into the blindspot and attacks. I roll a 1, 4 and 9 giving 1 hit. Hit location is Beast’s Ear. I roll a 1 to wound, +2 is a 3 which fails. The White Lion moves one space forward, colliding with and ending in the space with Myrdin and knocking him back 5.
This allows Imani to get into the blindspot. I roll a 3 and 4 so the resulting 4 and 5 miss.

Turn 8

I draw Grasp as the AI card and roll a 6, so Temple persistent wound does not count. white Lion moves to Myrdin and attacks. One hit to the legs. Heavy wound, but Myrdin is already knocked down. Myrdin then takes a head hit from the Grab. Since the head is already wounded, I roll on the table on page 86. I roll a 4 and Myrdin is decapitated and dies.
During their turn, the survivors move toward the White Lion but cannot reach it. I make sure to be 8 spaces away.

Turn 9

I shuffle the AI deck again and draw Terrifying Roar. I roll a lantern 10, so the persistent injury does nothing. Imani and Neo get their insanity reduced to 3 and 1 and are knocked back. The White Lion moves up 6, but no target is in range for an attack. I am a little confused by the wording here as I am supposed to perform a basic action (which has a target in range) but there also is target furthest survivor in range, which there is none. I played it as the basic action card if none are in range.
As both the survivors are out of range, they do not move.

Turn 10

I draw grasp. According to the target choices, no knocked down, no closest in range, so it it sniffs.
I start edging the survivors to make a run for the blind spot.

Turn 11

Shuffle AI deck and draw terrifying roar. Roll a 3 on the injury check, so it roars. Reduce insanity (Neo now has none left).
Because of the interplay between the two cards and the knockback, I decide I need to close the distance.

Turn 12

Draw Grasp. Roll a 3 on the injury roll. Target Imani. Attack and hit. Damage location is legs. Grab location is body, which is a heavy wound, but grab knocks her down anyways.
Move Neo into blindspot (6 move). roll 3 dice to attack with 10, 10 and 4 (2 hits). Hit location is a trap – clever ploy. He is hit to waist and body, both do light wounds. I reshuffle hit location.

Turn 13

Reshuffle AI deck. Draw Grasp. Injury roll of 6. Imani is hit. Body location, so I roll on table on page 87 as it is full. I roll an 8. Broken rib, -1 speed (permanent) and bleed token.
Imani stands up. Neo rolls 3 dice in his attack and hits all three times. Locations are glorious mane and then Clever Ploy. I stop there as trap card’s stop all hits. Neo is hit twice to body. I use his survival and the heavy damage knocks him down.
Imani cannot make it to the blindspot and the roar is dangerous, so she throws the founding stone. Hit location is Beast’s Knee. Critical wound gives the White Lion a shattered knee and a -1 movement token.

Turn 14

Draw grasp. Targets Neo. Injury roll does nothing. Damage is to legs and arms (both light). Neo stands up.
Neo moves to blind spot. Hits once with 3 dice, hit location is Beast’s flank. Wounded. Neo now has priority target token. Imani moves closer.

Priority Target

Turn 15

Perform basic action as there are no more AI cards left in the deck, Neo is in blind spot, cannot be picked (I assume this is right, possible that Priority Target means you are picked no matter what, even if not a legal target), so White Lion goes after Imani. It collides with Neo and ends turn in his space, he is knocked back 5. White Lion hits arms twice.
Imani is knocked down and rolls on page 86. I roll a 7 and she suffers a broken arm and permanent -1 Strength and Accuracy.
Neo moves up and misses with all three attacks.

Turn 16

Perform basic action. Neo is chosen and loses priority target token. He is hit 2 times to the body and I roll a 10 on the table on page 86 and he is knocked over. Imani stands up.
Imani misses with Tooth and Claw (unarmed attack).

Turn 17

Imani is targeted and hit twice. I roll 2 on the arm table and she dies. Neo stands up and enters the blind spot. He hits twice. Hit Location is Straining Neck and Beast’s Elbow. Straining Neck is not wounded. elbow suffers a critical wound (rolled a Lantern). White Lion dies and Neo gains 3 Insanity.

Victory!

First encounter ends.

The Rewards

Basic Rewards

As a reward, you get 4 White Lion resources and 4 basic resources. the White Lion resources I drew were: 2 x Lion Claw, 1 x Shimmering Mane and 1 x Great Cat Bones. The Basic Resources were: Broken Lantern, Skull, Love Juice, and Monster Organ. None of these are explained in the first rule section.

White Lion Rewards

My Impressions

As you can tell from the session play through above, the game lasted quite a long time. I am not sure if it was just a combination of bad dice rolls and the card sequence, but I was quite tired of chasing down the White Lion by the end of the session. 3/4 of the survivors players died, and I can imagine that would have been disappointing in a live session.
The obvious strengths of the game are the detailed miniatures and the fairly straightforward rules. There were a few times when I was a little confused, but I did a google search each time and easily found what I was looking for. The general advice here is follow the cards or the rules as closely as they are written and don’t try and read too much into it. The game also drips atmosphere.
I also had some bad rolls and bad luck on card drawing, which extended the game. I think ending it around turn 10-12 would have made the experience more fun.
There are a lot of cards, hundreds and hundreds, and the rule book also extends the story, so there is a lot of game play ahead of me.
The only disappointment I had with the game components was the card stock used. The backs don’t seem to have any coating or lamination. That means they absorb oils from your fingers pretty easily and they do not shuffle very well as they do not glide across each other. They also scratch pretty easily and their edges are not strong. I am not sure why in such an expensive game put together with a very good insert and box, would not have used better card stock. I highly recommend using cards sleeves. Standard European Board Game sleeves should work for the AI and Hit Location cards, the gear cards are not a standard size. The Kingdom Death store carries sleeves.
The tokens are well printed on good stock and the cards are easy to read (important for an older gamer like me). The rule book is a hard cover and the pages are good quality glossy paper and in full color. The huge game board suffers a little from not having a protective coating and also picks up stains from your hands pretty easily. I also noticed a little warping after it had been on the table for a while.

Evil High Priest – First Impressions

 

Might as well lead with the main link. This is my quick review of Evil High Priest that I used their print and play preview to try out at the local board game Meet-Up that I go to every week. This is a new game by noted game designer Sandy Petersen which he co-designed with his son, Lincoln Petersen.

The game is a worker placement game for 2-5 players. You are all part of an evil cult trying to summon your patron Great Old One from the Cthulhu Mythos. There are two cult boards included in the print and play (Cthulhu and the Black Goat) plus all the boards, cards and tokens you would use in the basic game.

The object of the game is to have the most resources (the best places High Priest) when the Great Old One is released. All players are working to summon the Great Old One, no player is working to stop it. Other than the normal worker placement rule of only one worker (cultist in this game) per space, the other interaction is to trigger raids when they are not convenient to the other players.

Before I discuss the game mechanics, a few things about the print and play. The boards are not set to standard paper sizes, so make sure you have a plan on how to print them (I used “poster” settings for the cult boards and then cut the pieces out and taped them together, for example). You can take the files to your local office supplies / printing shop, but color printing on non-standard paper sizes can be pricey. I managed to print everything on my home printer, it just took a little bit of work. Petersen Games should take a look at paper sizes for a print and play file and a printing instructions page would help, especially if you have to explain it to a copy shop. Also, be careful when saving the file. I saved from Adobe Reader, and it flattened the file and I lost an icon on one of the boards when it did that.

I used light card stock and then laminated it using this machine:

AmazonBasics Thermal Laminator

I bought it a while ago for a print and play and card stock terrain projects and for around $20 it does a good job.

The game needs some game pieces and 3 6-sided dice. I have plenty of dice and I could have repurposed some Cthulhu Wars cultist figures, but I didn’t want to take them back and forth to the Meet-up. Instead, I did a quick search and for a design for some meeples I could print on one of my 3D printers. I used these ones, but there really are many, many choices:

Meeples!

I used 2 different types – the wizards with a staff to be the high priests and the regular ones to be the acolytes. I wish I have made the wizards about 15% larger than the others, but they served well enough. I also did not want to switch out colors 5 times and print 5 times, so instead I did this:

Once the paint dried I ended up with 5 different colors of meeples (red, white, bluse, black and gray). I used spray paint, but model paint for miniatures would work just as well.

I happened to have a 1″ circle punch, so that made punching out most of the circular tokens quick. That was a little large, you could use a 3/4″ one for the smaller tokens and the 1″ one for the larger tokens worth 3 units each if you wanted. A circular punch is a lot faster and neater than using scissors, but not needed if you do not have one. There are punches in all sorts of shapes, check out the scrapbooking section of your local crafts store.

In the end, it ended up looking something like this in the Meet-up:

Overall, it looks good and helps in playing. I like the fact that the turn order and the victory point values are on each priest card.

The game itself

Like almost all worker placement games, you pick a turn order and then each player places a worker and then you rotate with each other player in turn placing workers until there no more workers to be placed. You then resolve the skulk action and the action phase ends. You then resolve the preparation phase which involves one of the boards (ritual board) and return cultists that were used back to their pool unless they are still performing a ritual.

There are 5 resources in the game – treasure, blood, magic, spellbooks and Elder Signs and that is the ascending order of victory point value as well, with treasure only valuable in the end game if you have the most. Different action squares cost different (or no) resources in addition to having a cultist placed there and sometimes the cultists themselves are the cost (except there is a no self sacrifice rule so one of their companions is sacrificed).

There are three main boards and a player board that you can perform actions on. These are the Town board (get or exchange resources or become first player), the Cult board (get Elder Signs), the Ritual Board (gain more resources at the cost of 2 or more turns use of your cultist), and the Priest board (everyone has one, only the priest can be used). The ritual board only becomes active after the first raid by investigators occurs.

In the basic game, you only get generic monsters. There are no unique Priests, Monsters or Investigators. These will be added to the game via an expansion and potentially via stretch goals unlocked in the campaign. This made the first play through somewhat generic. An easy fix for the monsters would be to name them and add flavor text with no rules text and the 5 power. *poof* you are now summoning Sandy’s Dark Young instead of a generic monster. Same for the 5 starting high priests. Give them each a name and flavor text and no ability. Vary the art on the cards making, some women and some men and maybe even non-human and you instantly have a game with more flavor with just a little effort and cost.

The game itself played well. We played 4 players and first time for this game for all of us, but we all have played worker placement games before. It took us 2.5 hours and we were all pretty even until about 2 hours in and an ill-timed raid against me knocked me so far back that I never recovered. The designers say 60 to 90 minutes play time and I would add 15 minutes to set-up and tear down the game. We got faster as we learned the game, so 90 minutes is probably doable.

The mechanics tie into the genre. As you break more and more seals, you attract the attention of investigators that raid you. Your cultists start in the asylum (you have 6 and 4 start there) and are not available until they “escape”. You sacrifice cultists (goes back to asylum) and monsters to stop raids and once they penetrate those defenses, the innate defenses you build up slow down and hopefully stop the investigators. If not, they destroy resources. The raids hit everyone, not just the person that triggered it and it is a nice touch. It also adds some chance for all players to do something, even in other peoples turns.

Unless you use your priest to Chant (action on the Priest board) or otherwise gain a Chamber card, any resources you gain are unprotected. You use resources to get Elder Signs which are worth the most victory points but it is not the only way to win.

I liked the different areas to play in, but thought that only having chambers vary made it a little to plain. Switching out Cult boards (2 in the basic game plus 4 more in the expansion) will make the game suitably different each time. The dice are only used to set raid strength (1 to 3 dice so from 1 to 18 total).

All 4 of us liked the game and want to play it again, so it passed the first test. Compared to other “premium” worker placement games, the base game looks shy on components. very few cards and the resources being tokens (most premium games use wooden tokens of some kind at least). I know of a few rules we got a little wrong the first play through, but I found the rule book well done in general.

Since this is still in Kickstarter while I write this, they still have time to add more marketing elements to it. The design looks very solid, but I expect that from Petersen games. They just need to add extra sparkle and fun to the game to make it stand out a little. The extra miniatures you can add do not count for me as I think the boards will need to be much bigger else they will block game text. I also found some of the shadowed white print on parchment background a little hard to read.

Also, since this is a Kickstarter, Petersen Games has a reputation for delivering what they promised  (Sandy Petersen even mortgaged his house to make sure that happened one early Kickstarter) but they are generally late in delivering (not worse than the average Kickstarter). They say they have changed it this time and are ready to produce, but they are not great at delivering on time but good at delivering great games.


Other good Worker Placement games

Lords of Waterdeep

Viticulture – Essential Edition

Scythe

 

RPG Nostalgia

I have written two blogs that have discussed my running a D&D campaign using the Fantasy Grounds virtual tabletop software. Dungeons and Dragons is arguably the first fantasy role playing game in the modern use of the term, and it is certainly the most popular. It was an easy choice for me to make as the game system to start using again as the FG software has a license for the D&D rules and there is a lot of already prepared adventures which greatly reduces my preparation time. My friends all played it as well, so it was simply a matter of learning the changes in. 5th edition (the game is pretty much completely changed from the older 1e and 2e we used to play but the concepts are the same).

I started with D&D when I started playing in high school as well, as most people did. For me, that was around 1980 and Advanced Dungeons and Dragons (the first hardcover set of rules) was just being released around then (the first three rule books came out between. 1977 and 1980). The first game I played in was AD&D and the first rules I owned was the blue box rules for D&D as the game was actually split into two branches back then. I slowly acquired the three hard cover rule books and switched over the AD&D by the end of high school. This was a major purchase for me back then as I was paying for it with allowance money and extra cash from delivering newspapers.

Not long after I started CEGEP (community college, the Quebec system splits school into high school, CEGEP and then University), I fell in with a new group of gamers and I brought some of them into my long running campaign and that was AD&D at the time.

One of the most fundamental rules in D&D is the concept of classes. In D&D, at the very start of character creation, you choose a specialty. The basic classes are fighter, cleric (healer), magic user (fragile but lots of damage and utility) and thief (now called rogue). There are rules for playing two classes at once or starting with one and then switching to another, but most people picked one class and stuck with it. This fit many of the archetypes you can find in fantasy books, at least on the surface. Conan is known as a mighty fighter. Gandalf is dressed in wizard robes and casts spells and gives sage advice. Usually the main characters of a fantasy novel do not cast spells and if they do, it is just something on the side as a minor power.

However, this is really not what most of the novels portray. Conan actually spent most of his youth being a thief, climbing walls, picking locks and he never lost that even years later when he was a king and leading armies. The image of Gandalf as just a spell caster fails when you consider that he carried a sword and directly confronted the Balrog with his sword and he was written as fighting orcs with his sword (his ride to Helm’s Deep, for example). The concept of character classes and the other associated choices you made, like alignment, all worked well enough as game rules, but there was a certain hollowness in them. The modern versions of D&D have partially fixed this and have greatly deemphasized alignment to be more flavor than a hard rule to be followed with consequences, but 30 years ago these were deeply written into the rules.

One final thing that was present in the early D&D days is that there was not much published information about the world you were supposed to be playing in. There were scatterings of flavor that could be found in some spell names that were named after famous characters from the formative campaigns that Gary Gygax, one of the main creators of D&D, had run, but the world of Greyhawk that much of this had come from was not really published yet and the main rules were generic. The honest expectation of TSR (the company publishing the rules then) was that the Dungeon Master would just create their own world and adventures. Even today, most of the money comes from selling the rules books, not the published adventures.

During that time, there was no Internet as known today and obviously no online shopping. Almost all RPG products were sold in hobby stores and you made your choices by looking at products on racks in the store. One game system that had come out in 1977 and quickly gained a good reputation was a system called Runequest. I saw it in a store and looked through the rules quickly. There was a mention that the critical and fumble table was inspired by experience on the tourney fields of the Society for Creative Anachronism, and I was sold on the game. I actually cannot remember if I had joined the SCA by then (I joined in 1984), but I had certainly heard of it and that one fact was enough to draw me in.

I will go into a more detail about Runequest, and why is was different than D&D a little later on, but I want to address the current wave of nostalgia for older style RPG games. RPG games have been around in the market since the mid-1970’s and with the publication of the AD&D rules, were very available from 1980 onwards. That means that there is a player base stretching back 40 or more years. The usual pattern is playing during teen years and into college and then in person gaming going mainly dormant once people graduate, the playing groups scatter as employment begins and time becomes much more limited as careers start taking over and first babies start showing up. Some people keep playing along, but many stop playing. I was still actively playing RPG (first AD&D and then Champions) when I moved to New Jersey in the early 1990’s, but that was more of an accident because the SCA group of friends I was part of had a Sunday game that I joined. Once I moved away from NJ and started moving every two years, my RPG time was mostly buying the new editions of D&D and reading the rules and missing playing.

With the long time span of the games being available, many players are now in their 30’s and 40’s (I am about to hit 50). Many have teen age kids that are discovering the games themselves and as a fact of life, by then most people own houses, are more settled and their kids are old enough that they do not require so much time. Online games are fun enough, and games like Warcraft just climbed on the shoulders of the tabletop RPG before them, but there is something missing as compared to playing a more pure pencil and paper RPG.

You can start playing again, like I have, with the newer versions of the rules, but that does not quite capture the feeling of the original games that many of us now play. There was a huge schism and split back when the D&D rules moved from 3e to 3.5e to 4e. Wizards of the Coast (the new owners of the D&D rules) has decided to open up their game much more to the public and had created an Open Gaming License (OGL) that allowed people to create adventures and even rules using the D&D rules as a base. Many people moved over to a 3e clone called Pathfinder during that time, but the OGL actually allowed people to copy even the original D&D rules and create clones of those systems. There was a big movement then which has continued called Old School Revival and the whole thrust is to have games similar to the origins of the rules. Adventure modules are more raw and anyone you meet in the adventure is probably hostile and can be killed. The adventures tend to be classic dungeons that you enter that have traps and monsters in them.

The start of this movement goes back to the OGL and the edition split, but Kickstarter has been like adding nitro into the fuel for it. The main distribution for games that are part of this movement is the One BookShelf, mainly found on www.drivethrurpg.com and www.RPGnow.com . There, you can buy PDF copies of the rules and adventures to go with the rules.

GMG5070CoverLarge

Available at www.goodmangames.com

I mainly back board games on Kickstarter, but I also have backed two “nostalgia” games. The first is Dungeon Crawl Classics (DCC) 4th edition. The Kickstarter was to reprint and clean-up the existing 3e rules. DCC is not a pure OSR game in that it is not a clone of the D&D rules, but it is very similar to the original rules and it tries to copy the spirit of the way the games used to be played. The other Kickstarter I backed was a reprint of the classic Runequest rules, the same rules I played with 30 years ago. Once I receive the hardcover version of DCC (very delayed from the original promised date which seems to be a constant Kickstarter problem) I will do a review of it, my feeling about Runequest are below,

Runequest is a great variation of RPG rules. What made it very different than D&D 30 years ago (and what still is true) is the fact that there are no classes and that the game system is very tied to one world – Glorantha – which gives the rules a lot more flavor and depth. The system moved from a D20 basis that D&D had to a percentage based system, essentially a D100 which is nominally done via 2 D10 with one being the tens and another being the ones.

Unlike D&D, where you advance in levels and get better at hitting opponents and you hit points increase each level, Runequest has no levels and no experience points. Your Hit Points (how much damage a character can take) is determined by one of your attributes, your Constitution and your HP are spread through different locations of your body. Your armor absorbs damage instead of making you harder to hit. You can, potentially, increase your Constitution and thus your hit points, but you never have that many HP and you don’t get a bigger and bigger pool like D&D gives you.

To be clear, this is just flavor, in D&D you really do not take more damage, your increased HP represent your increased skill to avoid damage that would have killed someone less experienced, but the rule mechanics in Runequest are just more like what you would expect from real life.

You improve attributes by spending money and training. You improve skills by using them successfully which gives you a chance to get a better score. Every character can use battle magic and as you increase your Power attribute you can use more and more.

As the name says, as you grow in experience and power, your character will eventually undertake a quest to get their “rune” which represents their bond to their god and the magic of the world. A character with a rune is much more powerful and is called a Runelord. The game world is set up so that as adventurers increase in power, they start to be able to effect the world in greater and greater ways. It is in the lore of the world that experienced adventurers, like the player characters, were responsible for questing and recovering the dead Sun God early in the history of the game setting.

My group had fun for years playing in that world and using that system. The recent Kickstarter has resulted in a reprint of the rules and the original adventures and city settings that were published back then. All will be available in printed form from www.chaosium.com . I highly recommend that you give the system a try. If you are like me and need to run your game online as your friends are all scattered about, the rule sets for DCC and Runequest are available on Fantasy Grounds (www.fantasygrounds.com) . These are community supported rules (an official rule set for a later edition of Runequest is available) and there is little to no already prepared adventures you could purchase, but the VTT itself does support the games.

Dungeons and Dragons:Temple of Elemental Evil Board Game Review

This is a review of the board game version of Temple of Elemental Evil. There is an old module version for AD&D, the older pencil and paper RPG version, but this review is on the board game. The board game was released in 2015 along with the module Princes of the Apocalypse, an updated and new 5e take on the original Temple of Elemental Evil module. In an earlier post about business travel I mentioned www.meetup.com as a way to find an activity to pass time and this is a typical style of board game you may find at a meet-up.

This review is based on my playing experience with my teen age daughters, several sessions at the local board games meet-up (via www.meetup.com) and some solo play. The tldnr version of the review is that the game is good and fun and I recommend buying it (handy link at the bottom of the review).

toee game being played

(game in full swing)

Dungeons and Dragons:Temple of Elemental Evil (ToEE for the rest of this review) is a tile and miniatures dungeon exploration game using a cut-down version of the full D&D rules set. You can have up to 5 players with each player controlling a hero in one of five classes. Each hero is represented by their own plastic miniature and comes with a cardboard tile that lists the base abilities of the hero. The five classes are Fighter, Ranger, Cleric, Wizard and Rogue. The Ranger and the Wizard are represented by female miniatures and the cleric is somewhat indeterminate. The sex of the hero makes no difference in the game and all heroes are fully clothed and should be appropriate for people who dislike the stereotype of scantily clad females in the fantasy genre.

The miniatures (about 40 different ones counting the 5 heroes and all the monsters) are well done and detailed, but they are made of fairly soft and bendable plastic and my game arrived with two of them broken. They were easy to fix with a dab of modeling glue (anything that works well on plastic will be fine). I have seen pictures online where they have been painted up and for the most part they are in the same scale as is generally used in tabletop RPG playing, so the game is a fairly cheap source of miniatures if that is something you are looking for. The soft plastic can result in them bending a little (the doppelgänger monster seems to suffer the most from the problem) but they can be softened and reset using boiling water if you are so inclined.

herosmonsters

special monstersettin

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Hero miniatures, monsters, special monsters, detail)

I would rank the quality of the components to be pretty high. The tiles and many of the counters and tokens are well printed and thick. The colors are vibrant and they are well printed. The cards are good as well, but since Wizards of the Coast also does Magic the Gathering I would hope so. I used clear card protectors (actually illegal in Magic as small differences in the card back might be seen) so I could see the different card backs.

The storage in the box is so-so. The cards all do not fit once you put protectors on them and the miniatures basically are all tossed into a heap. You can put them back into their plastic baggies but that does not provide much protection. I bought extra bags to hold all the tokens.

ToEE is meant to be run as a campaign where the adventures are run in sequence and the characters you use have an opportunity to improve, but it does not have to be. There are 13 premade adventures. 3 of these are town adventures and 10 are dungeon adventures. Typically you have to either retrieve an item or make it to a specific tile or kill a specific monster to win. The game is a cooperative game, players cannot attack each other (with the exception of the very last adventure that introduces a traitor mechanic). You either win as a group or lose as a group. You lose if someone dies and there are no more resources left in the game to bring you back.

The game mechanics are pretty straightforward. Each turn is three phases which are basically your move, explore, and then run any villains or monsters that showed up and play out any encounters. During your turn, you can move and do one action. The move can be split up before and after your action.

tile stack

The heroes all have the same statistic categories and these are shared with the monsters as well (not all of them, some like surge are heroes only). The base statistics are armor class or AC, Hit Points or HP, Speed, and Surge Value. Each hero card also has a special ability unique to that hero and lists what extra abilities the hero could have (represented by cards). Your AC is how hard you are to hit, the roll on a D20 (twenty sided die), including any modifiers, has to be greater than or equal to your AC for you to be hit or for you to hit a monster (monsters also have AC). Your HP (and monsters’ HP) are how much damage can be taken. When you go to zero you die. Speed is how many squares you can move each turn (each tile is divided up into a grid) and Surge Value is how many HP of damage you heal if you play a surge token (generally limited to 2 in total and used your next turn after you die).  Surge tokens are the resource that bring players back after they die.

hero cardwizard

Each hero is modified by a choice of cards that the hero is equipped with. These are at-will, daily and utility action cards. The cards contain the rules for them. A typical at will card is a weapon or spell attack that will have an attack modifier, damage done, and perhaps other special rules written on the card. Some actions, like daily actions, can only be done once per game.

The goal of ToEE is to keep exploring. If you do not explore, you get an automatic encounter and almost all of them are bad and could damage your entire party. If you kill monsters, you can trade in 5 experience points worth of them to negate an encounter, but encounters are the built in clock to keep you pushing forward.

When you turn over a new tile, there are several consequences that could happen. Each dungeon tile has either a white or a black triangle. The triangles are used to indicate which edge is joined to the tile you just explored from and if there is an encounter created by the new tile. White triangle means no encounter, and black means there is an encounter.

regular tilespecial tile

There are symbols and sometimes names and other features on tiles. Unless the adventure you are playing says otherwise, name and special symbols such as cult symbols mean nothing. Little horse heads indicate monsters (0-3 per tile), Red X means place an upside down trap token there.

traps

Monsters are chosen by drawing cards from the monster deck and the cards have the monster statistics and rules. Each monster also has a miniature to be placed on the game board. Most of the miniatures are well done with good detail and a few are quite large. They certainly add to the flavor and fun of playing the game. Each monster is played by the player that brought it into play and only activates during that player’s turn. The monster cards contain the rules on how to play the monster.

monster and weaponencounter plus treasure

(monster card, hero equipment, encounter and treasure)

There is a lot of dice rolling in the game and there is only one D20 included with the game so I suggest that you toss a few more into the box if you have 3 or more players to speed the game up and reduce searching for where the die has gotten to. Like any game that relies on dice, players can get hot or cold streaks and that can swing the outcome of the game.

Each adventure takes about 45 minutes to play if you have three or more players plus about 5 minutes to set the game up. I was able to explain the basics to new players in about 5 minutes. With. A group of 5 brand new players, several that did not really get the mechanics for a few turns, we played an adventure in about 1.25 hours, but that is the longest we have gone. I played it twice in the regular board game meetup I go to and we won the first adventure and lost the second and the loss mainly was due to bad dice rolls and several very unfortunate encounters that was drawn. The bad dice rolls meant that we did not kill monsters and generate experience points that could be used to negate the encounters.

There is a story that goes with each adventure and the objectives tie to the story, but other than that the story is more flavor than anything else. The game can go for stretches of just killing monsters and gathering treasure.

I would not call it a very deep game, but there are tactical choices to be made. Depending on how well you did, additional (and harder or better) cards are added to the decks and 13 different adventures and 5 heroes to choose from does give it reasonable replay value.

I recommend the game and I think you get pretty good value for the money and most people that like fantasy games and don’t mind dice rolling would enjoy it. If you have a regular group you could play an adventure each session and your characters will advance and improve as you successfully complete each adventure. Because it is a fully cooperative game, it may also help when you have a mixed group with some competitive players and others that don’t play just to win.

Buy the game at Amazon.com

 

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