Level 7 [Escape]

From: Privateer Press
Reviewed by: Ron McClung

Level 7 [Escape] is a new Board Game from Privateer Press.

You awaken on the cement floor, naked and covered in goo, surrounded by huge tanks with other humans. You see that you have fallen out of a similar tank, conduits and wires dangling. You are in some kind of experimental facility, dark and strange, and all you know to do is ESCAPE!

Thus is the basic premise of Level 7.  It has the feel of other games similar to it with some interesting twists.  It is a heavy thematic game with interesting mechanics.  One to four players can play a character who must escape from the Subterra Bravo facility while dodging armed guards and alien clones.

From the website:
“You are a captive of Subterra Bravo, imprisoned in the facility’s deepest laboratory, the hall of nightmares known as LEVEL 7.”

Because of my role playing game roots and my propensity to envision a story while I play a game, no matter what type of game, I lean towards thematic games over puzzle solving games.  Puzzle solving and min-maxing type games just don’t give me the thrill that a good thematic game gives me.

From the perspective of theme, in the myriad of zombie and Lovecraftian games, this game was a breath of fresh air.  This is probably one of the reasons it attracted me the most.  Don’t get me wrong, I love a good zombie or Cthulhu themed game every once in a while.  However, something different always seems to catch my eye.

The game is basically tile based.  Random tiles are placed around the starting tile defining surrounding rooms.  Players play characters trapped in this facility and go from room to room encountering things, finding things and/or performing tasks.  Characters can encounter clone gray aliens, alien hybrids, and facility guards.  The dynamic in these encounters is at the center of what makes this game different.

Each game is driven by a scenario.  The scenario booklet defines seven levels of the game.  In each scenario there is everything you need to setup and play that particular level.  One of the challenges I had initially was understanding the scenario setup.  I recommend that you read the entire entry.  The scenario outlines tile stacks, the number of enemies in the scenario, the scenario goals, and special scenario rules.  Once you go through the instructions of the scenario setup, the game board is ready to play.  Every scenario is different.  Each has different goals to get to the next level and each progressively presents more and more bad guys and challenges.

There are four characters to play.  The characters’ stats are all identical to start with.  The basic stats are what you would expect – intelligence, strength, speed and toughness.  They represent the number of dice you need to roll.  They are modified by two random skill cards, differentiating each character from each other.  You can have a Sneaky Amateur Boxer or a Cautious Bookworm.  The skills from the skill cards add to existing stats or give certain abilities.  Any bonuses from these are translated as extra dice.

Each character has two other important stats – threat and fear.  These go up and down during the game.  These two stats are what make encounters so different.  Enemies also have threat and fear, as defined in the scenario.  Enemy threat and fear may shift based on conditions defined in the scenario.  The alien clone enemies experience a sense of euphoria when they feed off a frightened human.  They generally are attracted to the target with the highest fear – which may be the guard or it may be a player.  On the flip side of this is threat, which attracts the guards.  Again this may be an enemy in the room or a player.

There is also vitality, which is basically hit points but is more than just life in the game.  Vitality is a measure of the maximum hand of Adrenaline Cards the player can have.  Adrenaline Cards are quite literally the life of a character.  They have three functions – special one-time abilities, one-time boosts or immediate fear adjustments upon discard.  Each player has a number of cards to start with and various things can burn cards throughout the game.  If you run out of cards, you get knocked out and taken to the infirmary where you have to crawl your way out.  Characters can also be killed in the rare event their vitality score reduces to the “skull” icon or if they are knocked out during a special condition called “lockdown.”

From the back cover website:
“There is no Subterra Bravo. Officially, the top-secret military facility doesn’t exist. There is no record of it: no blueprints, no photographs, no credible accounts. Rumors persist, but no one has ever found it. And those who have looked have disappeared.”

In game play, encounters occur on some tiles.  There are Event Cards that tell what happens there.  Sometimes it is a test called a Challenge, and the player rolls a number of dice to check for success or failure.  Certain things happen depending on success or failure, and many times there are consequences that affect the other players.

The game is described as semi-cooperative.  I love that term.  It’s cooperative until you have to make a hard choice – help a buddy out or leave him behind because he has the higher fear or threat.  As you traverse levels, you might work together on the goals but when push comes to shove, you may end up leaving someone behind.  Event cards also tell you when to spawn enemies and when you “activate” them.  Each time you activate enemies, all enemies of that type do something – move, attack or recover.  The catch is to remember to draw an event card whether the tile has an event icon or not.  You always see if enemies activate regardless of whether there is an event or not.

The game-flow is fairly smooth and easy to catch on.  Once you get the details down and the special rules when they come up (like Lockdown, Guard Posts and Clone Nests), you have this game down fairly easy.  My major issue with the game was that I never really felt the tension that it supposed to have.  I never really felt like I was in a big hurry to get out or felt the fear that I might not make it out.

The game materials itself are a little disappointing as well.  For a game company that does such an amazing job with minis in Warmachine and Hordes, I thought I would see some of that craftsmanship in this game.  Unfortunately, everything is card board stand-ups.  For a game at that price, I would have hoped that I was paying for a little more plastic and a little less cardboard.

Additionally, for a game with so much theme, the events seem lacking.  In some events, there are challenges but they never really give you an in-game reason for why they must be performed.  I know that might not seem like a big deal to a regular board game player, but from a theme stand-point I think a little more flavor text in the events would go a long way toward increasing the tension.

The game mechanics are much like other games I have played and did not impress me much.  They were simple enough but did not get in the way of the game, but unfortunately they did not enhance the game much either.  My major issue with this though is the specialized dice.  I am not a big fan of specialized dice.  If you lose them, you are screwed.  You cannot substitute your own dice.

In conclusion, Level 7 is a pretty good game that could have been better.  It has a great theme but seems to fall short in exploiting that theme.  It seems a little over priced for what you get and from a company that does so well with miniatures, I would have thought that some cool minis would have been included in this one.  When I played the game, I really felt like the game was missing something. Maybe expansions will enhance the game better but the base game did not blow me away.

For more details on Privateer Press and their new Board Game “Level 7 [Escape]” check them out at their website http://www.privateerpress.com, and at all of your local game stores.

Codex Rating: 11

Product Summary

Level 7 [Escape] From: Privateer Press
Type of Game: Board Game
Game Design by: William Schooonover, Matthew D. Wilson
Cover Art by: Nestor Ossandon
Additional Art by: Ed Bourelle, Lain Garrett, Chris Walton
Number of Pages: Rulebook: 15.  Scenario guide: 15
Game Components Included: 47 Map Tiles, 138 Cards, 4 Character Sheets, 133 Tokens and Markers, 28 Stands, 8 Special Dice, Rulebook, Scenario Guide
Retail Price: $ 54.99 (US)
Number of Players: 1 to 4
Player Ages: 14+
Play Time: 30 min+
Item Number: 62001
ISBN: 75582-01172
Website: www.privateerpress.com

Reviewed by: Ron McClung

 

Roll20.net Virtual Table Top

From:  Roll20.net
Reviewed by: JUN10R

Roll20.net is a new Virtual TableTop from the Roll20.net founders, Riley Dutton, Nolan T. Jones and Richard Zayas.

Roll20.net is a virtual tabletop that will allow you to play games with your friends from the comfort of your own computer at home.  The web-based interface removes many of the connection issues of other virtual tabletops, like getting everyone connected without having to reconfigure your firewall.  The cost ranges from free to $99.99 per year, depending on the amount of content you wish to store on their servers and extra features that interest you.

“Roll20 is the easy-to-use virtual tabletop that brings pen and paper gaming to the web the right way. Built on a powerful platform of tools, yet elegantly simple, it focuses on enhancing what makes tabletop gaming great: storytelling and camaraderie. It’s incredibly user friendly, and runs right in your web browser, so there’s nothing to download or configure.”

I have been interested in Virtual Table Top (VTT) gaming ever since my regular gaming friends and I all grew up and started gaming less. We found ourselves only getting together a few times each year.  We had tried various solutions and we were disappointed, along with many of you, when the VTT for Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition never materialized.  Naturally MOST gamers are technically savvy; in fact most of us appear to work in Information Technology in some form or fashion.  However, we quickly grew tired of spending most of our precious gaming time trying to decipher why we could not get everyone through the firewall and working on the locally installed VTT!!  When I saw the Kickstarter campaign for Roll20.net in April of 2012, I was intrigued by the fact they were creating a WEB-based interface instead of something that had to be installed on all the gamer’s local machines!!

As a backer of the project, I had early access to the Roll20.net signups and our local gaming group has been using the software since September of 2012 for our Thursday night game.

The setup is pretty straight forward. You begin by creating your user id and password and you have instant access!!  The amazing part of the software is that it is FREE to use!  You can choose to become a Supporter or Mentor for $4.99 to $9.99 a month and gain more storage, remove the ads, and get access to new features.  There are also annual payment options that reduce the total cost by 15% if desired.

Once you have successfully signed up, you may wish to spend a few minutes setting up your account and public profile.  The ‘Looking for Games’ (LFG) feature is a great way to organize a game night or to jump in and start gaming and making new friends.  As I scroll through the list of campaigns that are currently looking for gamers, I am seeing D&D, Edgerunner, Traveller, Pathfinder, Toon, Fiasco and many other game systems!  That is the beauty of the VTT, your ability to game is only limited to YOUR schedule.  The LFG page has the ability to filter the results by keywords,  day of the week, and even time you want to play.

If you prefer to start your own campaign, you will click on the ‘Create New Campaign’ button which then leads you to a screen asking the name of your campaign, tags and then a feature that mentions Modules.  Those do not appear to be a current feature, but I have heard that it is coming soon!

Once your campaign has officially been launched, you will have the ability to invite players directly to your game or you can open it up to the public and list in the LFG area.

The next major screen is the Roll20 editor.  I would suggest you start by reading the HELP files and watching the videos they provide on how to build your first campaign.  They will cover important topics like how to upload your own images, search for others in their interface and use sources for new content such as Monster Tokens by Devin Knight.  I will review some of the tokens that I have received from Devin in another article soon.

What Roll20 provides is an intuitive interface to run your campaign and allow your players to see your images and make dice rolls!  Unlike other VTTs such as Fantasy Grounds, Roll20 does not attempt to calculate all of your rolls for your character.  Instead it assumes that you know how to play your game and you simply type /roll 1d20+6 to see if you hit and /roll 1d4+1 for your damage.

An interesting ability is to use the /gmroll function so that only you and the GM can see the results, and you can use /w to whisper back and forth to another play or /w gm to speak to them alone.  Not that any of you would be up to anything tricky!?  I am looking at YOU rogues!!!

If you think Roll20 is just for Role Playing Games, you will be surprised at the number of card and board games that are being played every day!!  If the game has dice in it, chances are you can use Roll20 to play it with a little bit of work.

What is our favorite feature so far?  The roll20 Jukebox allows you to quickly search and find sounds for setting the mood in your game, such as Dark Swamp by johntaylormusic.  But it also allows you to quickly find that 80s song that someone just happened to mention in game and hit the PLAY button and let the hilarity ensue.

What has not worked so well for us?  The audio/video system has been the feature we have struggled with the most, and that is not entirely un-expected.  Skype and other major VOIP providers are still perfecting their multi million (billion) dollar interfaces and the Roll20 folks are using a feature provided by Tokbox. What happens the most often is one of us will suddenly lose the ability to hear the rest of the gamers or they cannot hear or see us.  The usual fix is simply to log out of the program and shut down the browser.  Once we log back in everything is working again.  Rebooting a computer is not a bad idea right before you login, just to have your memory as clear as possible.

The web interface is also a bit buggy at times for our crew, though only a couple of us are brave enough to allow the other gamers to see what exactly our game room/office looks like!  One final thought is to suggest gently to all gamers that they should invest in a microphone headset instead of using the default microphone on the laptop, to eliminate the noises from their surroundings.

In conclusion, Roll20.net has allowed my gamer buddies to game more often.  We are able to reduce the spouse aggro by being home on a weeknight instead of out gaming until o’dark thirty somewhere across town.  If we need to get up for five minutes to accomplish a quick HONEY DO item, the rest of the gang is able to continue on.  For the price of your average video game, you can pay for an entire year of Supporter-level membership and increase the amount of time you have to game exponentially!

For more details on Roll20.net and their new Virtual Tabletop check them out at their website http://Roll20.net

Codex Rating: 15

Product Summary

Virtual TableTop From: Roll20.net
Type of Game: VTT
Written by: Riley Dutton, Nolan T. Jones and Richard Zayas
Retail Price: $0 to 99.99
Email: Riley@Roll20.net
Website: www.Roll20.net

Reviewed by: JUN10R

B-Movie Inspiration: 70s Italian Cheese (1977-1978)

Cosmos: War of the Planets (1977)

waroftheplanetssm

Alfonso Brescia, Italian director and movie maker, churned out 4 movies between 1977 and 1978.  I have seen two of them and these films could easily be connected directly as sequels.  Both have similar sets, costuming, and themes, and some actors are in both films.  They are also equally as bad.  So bad that I felt they deserved to be lumped together in one article.

All four films in the series are Italian low budget films that were put out to capitalize on the Star Wars craze.  They have all the great elements of a sci-fi B movie Star Wars rip-off – space ships, rogue pilots, robots, aliens and disco music.  These two films were shot basically back to back, obviously.

Cosmos: War of the Planets is a disjointed and odd film about a far future that becomes overly reliant on computers and robots to make their own decisions.  The protagonist is a computer-hating rogue that gets into alot of trouble over his hatred of the “main computer” called The Wiz.  In the first 45 minutes or so there are various scenes that seem to have nothing to do with the story.  The editing is terrible because the sheer randomness of some scenes almost loses the whole story altogether.  There is a scene where a couple wishes to get “intimate” and apparently they even use computer gizmos to simulate that. This is just one translucent attempt to illustrate the central theme of the movie.

Throughout the movie, there is reference to something called the Robot War.  It’s never clear what that is but I interpret it as something like a robot uprising.  When I first saw the title of the other movie in this review, I thought perhaps it was a prequel explaining that plot element.  However, as I watched the War of the Robots, I realized just how wrong I was.

This rogue captain, Mike Hamilton, is later sent off on his ship the MK-31, on a mission to investigate an “unstable planet” (whatever that means) that is sending disrupting signals to Earth.  There they encounter flying saucers that attempt to shoot them down, forcing MK-31 to land on the planet.  On the surface of the desolate planet, they find a portal that zaps a number of the crew underground where they stumble across the subjugated humanoid inhabitance and their robotic boss – a giant controller robot that looks like something ripped from the old Lost in Space show.

The boss, a cheesy precursor to Terminator’s Skynet, has enslaved the entire planet and is sort of worshiped like a god.  However, it has a problem.  It needs repairing and the enslaved sheep of his world no longer have the knowledge or ability to fix it.  He tries to force the crew to fix him.  Perhaps the most cheesy part of the movie is the fix that was needed – just a simple board switch-out that could have been done by a child.  It should have been more complex and challenging, perhaps making the heroes sacrifice a part of their ship or something, but no, they cheesed it up.

They eventually destroy the controller robot computer thing and all escape only to discover the consciousness of the controller transferred to one of the crew.  He goes on a killing spree until the heroes take him down.  The overall story and theme of the movie is pretty good but unfortunately it is veiled by poor editing and cheesy music.  The acting is also very bad and the english dubbing made it even worse.  The sets and special effects are old Dr. Who quality, the aliens being simply green painted humans with pointy-ears.

From an RPG game master point of view, this movie has a few gems in it, some of which I have used before.

  • Over-reliant and complacent Society – The primary theme I got out of it is the common saying “Forget history and you are doomed to repeat it.”  Here we have Earth already over-reliant on technology to the point that they cannot make a decision on their own.  This is the primary motivation for the main character, as he “follows his gut” and brutishly makes decisions on his own, sometimes ignoring the decisions made by the machines.  And what does he discover?  An alien race that has been there and done that…and regrets it.  The forewarning-of-doom story line can be worked into long term campaigns easily.  You have whole societies of “sheeple” reliant on one particular thing or another.  It does not have to be technology; it can be magic or a particular type of magic. Ignorant of what could happen, these people continue to rely on this particular plot device to the point that it’s dangerous.  Enter in an ancient race or being that has done it before and learned the consequences.  Now it is up to the players to show their society that there are other ways.
  • Planet-wide controlling computer – This I have used before and actually continue to use because I keep finding plot lines that I can use it in.  Ancient alien races that build these giant computers that control their entire society.  What happens after the aliens are gone? Does the computer go crazy?  Does it die?  Does it go dormant until something else wakes it up? What does it do when it discovers it has nothing left to control?    All these questions and more can be explored in a sci-fi setting.  In a fantasy setting, it is a little more difficult but not impossible.  It does not have to be a planet , it could be a castle or a dungeon.  The computer could instead be some kind of magically generated personality trapped inside the structure for the purposes of controlling it. An idea I had was a once great kingdom destroyed by war, that was once ruled by a powerful sorcerer.  The computer can be this sorcerer or some malevolent Sauron-like being trapped in some magic item, ruling over some wasted lands, using golems to do its bidding.
  • The Killer Robot – Expanding off the Computer element, it could have lost control of one robot or golem and the task the party must complete is defeating that robot/golem.
  • The post-apocalyptic aliens – I like the idea of a post-apocalypse that is not our own.  These aliens lived underground in compounds accessible only be teleport gates.  Cool idea.  Another aspect of these people are that they are telepathic.  That’s either a racial thing or something they develop due to mutations from the war.  Not very original but still an aspect that gives them a more alien feel.  They historically complacent and lazy because they were once dependent on robots and computers, which is something you can tie into other plot elements.

War of the Robots (1978)

waroftherobotsWar of the Robots takes us to a similar future.  On a planet, a genetic engineer (Professor Carr) and his beautiful assistant Lois are experimenting with “the forces of nature” by artificially creating life.  This process apparently involves the use of a big nuclear reactor that the scientists have near their lab.  While arguing over the morality of creating artificial life, the scientists are kidnapped by silvery aliens with bad hair-cuts (which we later find out are robots) and taken off planet in a ship that looks very similar to the flying saucers in Cosmos: War of the Planets.  Unfortunately, the good doctor left his reactor running and because he has heavily modified it, no one knows how to shut it down.  It’s going critical and in 8 days and it will take out the entire city! Our hero, coincidentally the assistant’s secret lover John Boyd, is dispatched to rescue the two by the space authority of Space Base Sirius.

Through a few recycled shots and props from Cosmos: War of the Planets,  the crew of the ship Trissi (at least it’s not another bunch of letters and numbers) get on the trail of the alien kidnappers.  They catch up only to be attacked by two other saucers.  They take out the attackers but sustain enough damage that they have to land and repair.  They find a nearby world called Azar.  On planet, they encounter the Azarites who think Boyd and his away party are people of Anthor, an apparent enemy of the Azarites.  In short, they discover that the Anthorians have enslaved the Azarites and used them as slave labor and unwilling organ donors.  Anthorians seek immortality through harvesting Azarite organs and have kidnapped the good doctor and his scientist assistant to find a better way.  After thinking about it, I really did not think that was all that bad.  Except for the fact that he needs to shutdown his reactor, he’s actually trying to give the bad guys a good alternative and free the Azarites.  But that’s not how the writer saw it and the plot goes downhill from here.

The climax involved a lot of strange back-stabbing and betrayal.  Character motivation is very blurred for many of the characters as you begin to lose who is the bad guy and who is the good guy in a confusing array of events that lead to the final battle.  Professor Carr turns traitor and joins the Anthorians to help them, while Lois was somehow adopted as the Anthorian queen (I guess they thought she was hot).  Lois betrays Professor Carr but then betrays Boyd and everyone else for no apparently reason.  It get’s quite confusing towards the end.  Then, “Oh look…,” the giant controller robot from Cosmos: War of the Planets is now being used as Dr. Carr’s research computer.  Unlike Cosmos: War of the Planets, the editing in this was a little better, the story-telling a little clearer.  The failure was in the characters and their motivations.

Drawing ideas from this for an RPG campaign is not all that hard.  The theme is far less epic but still kind of interesting.

  • Mad scientist playing god: Common theme in many comic books, the mad scientist or scholar toying with things he doesn’t quite understand is easily used in any setting or genre.  Although it was probably a failing of the writers in character development, we see the scientist go from only slightly maniacal and morally ambiguous to eventually full blown mad when he realizes the Anthorians can supply him with not only means to his goals but a proper motivation.  This mad scientist was just waiting for a reason to be mad.
  • The search for immortality:  The Anthorians were searching for a way to live forever.  Harvesting organs from another alien race assumes they are compatible, so apparently the Azarites are an off-shoot race of the Anthorians.  There is a long and sorted background just waiting to be written right there alone.  The Anthorians apparently thought themselves as gods and sought to reach that level through whatever means necessary.

This kind of story has been explored in various ways in the Star Trek franchise.  I distinctly remember race of aliens that harvest body parts from other aliens to live.  I would imagine it took some serious genetic engineering to make all those parts compatible.  Also I think the second-to-last ST:TNG movie, Insurrection, had similar plot elements in it –both immortality and organ harvesting.  The search for immortality has been around since before Ponce de Leon and his search for the Fountain of Youth.  From this writer’s point of view, though, the journey to immortality is not as interesting as where they find it.

Although equally bad, both War of the Planets and War of the Robots are different movies with different themes.  Both have pretty good stories if you look past the terrible acting, special effects and editing.  Like most B-movies, there is inspiration somewhere in there.

Beginners Guide to Gaming Conventions

In 1989, I attended my first fandom convention – Dragon Con in Atlanta.  It was an amazing spectacle of fans, dealers, and everything about sci-fi, fantasy and horror that you wanted to know but were afraid to ask.  It was incredible.  I didn’t even know that there was gaming going on. I later attended other Cons and discovered that they did have gaming.  It took a few more years of just attending cons, but then I finally got involved and now have been  gaming coordinator for several  conventions through the years.

Since I have been working for cons, I have seen con-attendees of all types.  Newbies are usually pretty overwhelmed and intimidated by all that is available and approach everything timidly.  Sometimes the con does not help with badly written programs or a cliquish type of atmosphere.  I feel that if a newbie was a little more prepared, a convention environment would be less intimidating and easier to get involved with.

Gaming Convention vs. Convention Gaming

It’s important that all gamers recognize one thing – not all fans of sci-fi are gamers AND not all gamers are sci-fi fans.  This is why the distinction between gaming conventions and gaming at a general sci-fi/fand0m convention is important.

One important word to learn as you enter the convention-going arena is Fandom.  This is a general term that covers all fans of sci-fi, fantasy, and/or horror of all types – collectively called sci-fi or speculative fiction. You’d be amazed at the things people are fans of.

General science fiction conventions were born out of this collective fan base.  These types of cons usually include gaming, but gaming is not always the primary focus.  Many other sci-fi related events appear on the program and appeal to the non-gamers or the more broad-based fan.  Some gamers are also fans and find it hard to game while at the same time attend the panels and events they like.  It’s a hard choice to make sometimes when you are staring at a program, realizing you can’t be in two places at once, even though you want to be.

For these cons, however, the program is the key.  Usually, the game schedule will appear in the program along with the rest of the events, so a gamer that is a fan can at least map out the games he wants to play and the other events that he wants to attend.  If the programming director is smart, they will schedule key events between gaming breaks to allow for the maximum attendance.

In the cases where your time is a premium, be very strategic about your eating times.  You might even forget that you need sustenance with all that you want to do.  You might skip a meal here or there but be sure to schedule time to eat at least once or twice a day.

Gaming Convention – A gaming convention is just that – nothing but gaming, gaming related panels, and dealers. Pure sci-fi fans are going to be bored here.  There are at least two major gaming cons in the US – Origins and GenCon.  They are the “Mecca” to gamers.  Here, the game schedule IS the program.  The bigger the con, the more complex the schedule is.

The drawback to these larger cons is that most games at a larger con cost something to play.  It’s usually not much – $2 or $3.  In some cases, however, like in Live Action Role Playing (LARP) games, it can get expensive.  This money is usually used to offset the cost of prizes, supplies, and other costs to put on the event, but some gamers are opposed to the pay-to-play aspect of larger cons.

Smaller gaming cons can be satisfying to many gamers because they can usually be found more close to home and are a good way to meet area gamers in your state or neighboring state. These “grassroots” cons usually have a lot of heart in them and are a lot more personal to the attendee.  Most games at these cons are usually free (with LARPs sometimes being the exception).

Convention Gaming – Gaming at science fiction conventions is usually set in a specific area in the con.  Activity either happens around that area or separates from that area depending on the size of the Con.  What a gamer has to realize and respect in these situations is that there are a lot of fans involved with this con and many of them do not game.  It is sometimes a shock to a gamer when he realizes that not all fans are gamers. I know it was for me.  I couldn’t imagine a fan not wanting to totally immerse themselves in the world that they are such big fans of, but alas, there are.

A Gamers Glossary to Conventions

CCG – Collectible Card Games

Gaming Coordinator – The guy in charge of gaming at a con.  Larger cons divide their gaming staff by departments.  Also sometimes called Gaming Director or Gaming Manager.

Gaming Registration – The area within the convention space where the game schedules are available and game sign-up is possible.

Game Library – Some cons have a specific area set aside where stacks of games are made available to play.  The key is finding someone that knows how to play.  Be respectful of these games because they are sometimes part of someone’s personal library.

LARP – Live Action Role Playing.  One of the most popular is Mind’s Eye Theater’s World of Darkness LARP rules based on White Wolf’s World of Darkness.

LFR, LA, LD, LG – These are various RPGA Living campaigns.

ModeratorGM, Game Master, Judge, Warlord – all names for the same guy, the guy in charge of the game.

Networked Games, Living Campaigns, Organized Play – All these terms apply to RPGs, mainly.  The Role Playing Gamers Association is the classic example of a networked game.  No, that’s not another version of EverQuest.  It is an organization that organizes campaigns nationwide that hundred upon thousands of players play in, collectively experience and collectively effect.

PFS – Pathfinder Society. Since the onset of Pathfinder, the demand for an organized play campaign gave birth to the PFS – Pathfinder Society.  This is the RPGA equivalent to Pathfinder, but there are many subtle differences.

RPGA – Role Playing Game Association.

RPGs –Role Playing Games

Sanctioned Tournament – This is usually a term referencing some kind of competitive game and means that the manufacturer sanctioned the event and is supplying prizes and recognition for the winner.  All the hardcore gamers show up for these events (or at least they hope they do).

Sponsored Games – Sponsored is like sanctioned in most ways, but they are not always competitive.  However, there may be prizes given out at the Moderator’s discretion.

TCG – Trading Card Games

Why one goes…

At the heart of a convention-goer is the driving reason why they go to cons.  For a gamer, it is usually the overall drive to game, but the fine details of that answer need to be understood.  Gamers like to game.  Some convention organizers think that is all they like to do.  That may be true for some, but some do not and look for other ways to spend their time at cons.

The most important thing for a person who is considering going to their first con is to figure out why you want to go.  Look at the web site, check out the preliminary schedules and talk with people that have been.  Decide why you want to go and figure out if that particular convention will meet your desires.  You will spend money going to this con, paying for at least the con fee and maybe more (like hotel room, food, gaming “deals” in the dealer’s room) and it needs to be worth the money you plan to spend.  Therefore, finding a few things to make it worth going is essential.

A gamer that is a fan attends a con to enjoy all aspects to the con.  He might play a game or two but won’t commit to a long-term game because a panel he wants to go is scheduled during that game time.  For this type of gamer – and fan-gamer – it is good to game a little but also keep in mind the fan things he wants to do.

The hardcore gamer totally immerses himself in games.  However, I really feel like gamers of this type miss out.  Maybe it is because I am a fan-gamer.  The hardcore gamer always seems to be judge a con totally based on his gaming experience.  The amazing thing is that this may not be based on the scheduled games at all – a hardcore gamer could get his total satisfaction from pick-ups games.

The tournament player or organized player is a subtype of the hardcore player that already knows what he is going to do and when.  The tournament(s) and/or certain organized games are all they are here for.  They come to game in a specific game and to hopefully win something – may it be a trophy, a rare miniature or experience in a ‘networked’ RPG game (and I don’t mean computer games).

Of course there are all kinds of gamers in-between these extremes.  The important thing in all this is to get a completely satisfying experience out of the con, whether it be seeing stuff you would have never seen otherwise, meeting and seeing someone you never thought you would, or playing a particular game all weekend long, there should be something (or multiple somethings) that got you to this con.

To all types, I recommend that, if anything else, try something different.  Of all the advice I can give to GMs and players alike, this is the most important one.  TRY SOMETHING DIFFERENT! (This will be a reoccurring theme through out this article).  Variety is the spice of life.

Another good opportunity for variety is simply playing your favorite game with people you have never met or played with.  In the case of competitive games, it is a good way to measure how good you are at the game. In the case of RPGs, it is a good way to see other gaming styles and other GMing styles.  In general, gaming is one thing above all else – a social activity.  It is a way to interact with people. Use these opportunities at cons to get to know these other gamers and enlarge your sphere of friends.  You never know who you might meet.

Use the Web Site

Most cons have a web site.  Most gaming cons have a gaming schedule posted on the web site.  Good gaming cons have an online game pre-registration system a player can use.  Know that most online pre-registration should only allow you access after you have pre-registered for the con.  Use the online schedule to make an initial plan for your weekend, but check the web site often because changes might be made on the schedule and you may have to change your plans accordingly.  Sometimes GMs drop out a week before the con, leaving games cancelled and a gaming coordinator frustrated that he now has empty tables.

Every web site is different.  Cons do not have endless sources of money so most of the time the web site is put together by one or more volunteers who like that sort of stuff anyway.  Some are lucky enough to have really talented web designers and an even smaller subset actually have professional web designers helping them.

The web site is essential in getting your initial information about the con and what is going on.  If the con is out of town for you, it should give you the hotel information and directions.  Make reservations ahead of time, if you can.  These cons live off the number of room-nights they get for the hotel – the more they get, the more likely you will see that con around next year.

Along with the hotel information are the locations of food sources – which can be obtained with a short extended search on the hotel web site (which the con should have a link to).  Hotel food is expensive.  One of my cons has brokered deals with local food venders to sell food in the hotel.  Not all hotels are nice like that.  Many want to force you to eat in their expensive restaurant.  Many do not have an understanding of a gamer’s limited budget.

Other possible useful tools related to the web site are message boards, online forums, and/or mailing lists dedicated to attendees of the con.  This is a good place to post questions, find out who is going and find out the general atmosphere of the con.

The web site is an invaluable resource prior to the con, but remember that chances are you will not have access to it at the convention.

Use the Schedule

The use of the schedule is essential, but of course it depends on how it is printed.  Good cons make it easy to plan things out.  Their gaming schedules are listed in some kind of slotted table set up so that you can clearly map out your gaming.  Other cons may have a confusing mesh of too much information and confusing tables.  Take your time during the slow times at the beginnings of all cons and map out what you want to do.

The program is also usually the place where (if any) prices are listed to play the games.

If it is possible, it’s always a good idea to plan ahead. If you can download the schedule ahead of time from the web, then do.  It’s always a good time saver.  However, the early bird schedule is not always 100% accurate so it’s also a good idea to pick an updated one up at the con and make note of the changes and if they effect your plan.

One good thing to note about conventions and their events schedules – the Auction.  It’s usually a great time to get a ton of good gaming stuff cheap.  Always make time for the auction.

Sponsored vs. non-Sponsored Games

Sponsored or sanctioned games are usually rampant through out the gaming con.  That title simply means that the manufacturer has recognized the event and has supplied some kind of prize for the event.  This does not mean the ordinary walk up player cannot play.  Anyone can play in these for a chance to get the prize. The GM, in fact, is often doing it because he got some free stuff to do it.

An important subcategory of sponsored games is the celebrity-sponsored game – those games run by the maker, writer or contributing writer of the game.  Those are always fun and are good in order to get a feel for the way the creators see the world they write for.

Tournaments vs. Open play

Tournament play is a little more structured than open play and usually hardcore gamers are involved with them.  Open play is what most people do everyday with your favorite game, but this time it gives the players an opportunity to play with people they may have never played with.  It’s a good idea to use open play for those times you want to try something new.

Open gaming or pick-up games are an aspect of a gaming con that is quite common.  Sometimes the con sets aside specific tables designated as open gaming area, while others just label the tables they can’t put a game on as open gaming.  Either way, these are available for the gamer to bring their own game and open it to the other attendees to play.  The problem with this is getting the players.  Some gamers think all they have to do is open the box or put up their GM screen and players will flock.  That is not usually the case. It’s a good idea for a gamer who wants to open up a pick-up game to (1) find out if the gaming coordinator of the con has some method of scheduling and advertising pick-up games, and (2) find a few players yourself.

Bring your Characters?  RPG Organized Play games

Organized Play or Networked role playing games bring on a lot of gamers and a great variety of them.  The RPGA has thousands of members that get together at cons all over the country and role-play in these networked campaigns.

Most RPGA members know they have to bring their characters.  Most have whole portfolios of character laid out based on the campaign(s) they like to play in.  If you want to join one of these types of organizations, you need to be prepared.

The RPGA is by far the largest and most well known.  There are others that are more local, but most of their members are also RPGA members.  RPGA membership is free.  See [Web site] for more information.

Other than bringing your own character, the most important thing to remember about these types of events is know what you want to play ahead of time.  Use the web site and the schedule to plan out your gaming day or weekend. Also, do not be intimidated by their specialized lingo.  The RPGA likes to put things in terms of abbreviations and slot numbers.  It is not as complicated as it sounds.  Just ask one of the coordinators if you have any questions.

Be also aware that there are some gaming cons that are 100% dedicated to organized network campaigns like this.  There are many RPGA-only conventions through out the US.  Make sure you know what kind of convention you are looking at before you decide to go.  Not to say that an all RPGA event would be less of an experience than one with a good mix of other games, but you need to make sure you know what you are getting into.  Usually, the web site will tell you what you need to know.

Non-organized or non-networked games, otherwise known as independent games, usually have characters provided.  Some GMs will allow for you to bring your own, if you contact him ahead of time.  You can usually get contact information of GMs from the gaming coordinator.

Networked or organized play usually does not apply to other games.  If it is applied, people are usually talking about sanctioned games or tournaments.  In these cases, bringing your own supplies usually depends on the game and the type of tournaments.  For board game tournaments, the game is usually supplied.  Miniature games usually require you to bring your own figures and some require them to be painted in some way or another.  Collectible card games have tournaments that require you to bring your own decks (called custom deck tournaments) as well as tournaments that require you to buy decks at the tournament (sealed deck tournaments).  In most of the above cases, the requirements for the sanctioned tournaments and particulars about what you should bring can usually be found on the manufacturer’s web site.

Other Aspects of a Con

Most cons have a dealer’s room and/or an exhibitor’s room and some have an art room.

A dealer’s room is a place where vendors set up and sell stuff.  At a gaming con, they usually are gaming vendors with a whole array of gaming stuff to sell.  One of the core reasons conventions are held is to make the dealers money, and one of the hardest things an organizer must do is keep a dealer happy – primarily because they never make ‘enough’ money to make them happy.  So spend your money!  This will keep the gaming industry alive.

Sometimes the con integrates industry exhibitors in along with the dealers and sometimes they have a separate exhibitor hall.  Industry exhibitors are usually publishers or distributors of games that want to reach the masses directly.  They not only sell their product there, but most will have scheduled or pick-up demos of the games they are selling.  It is a good opportunity to meet the designers and playtesters of the game to ask those questions you have always wanted to ask.

An art room is a place where the con has been paid by artists to exhibit their art and sell it.  Some of the art is art done by your favorite gaming artists and is a good place to get an original from that artist or a large poster size picture of the gaming book cover you like so much.

Some other things a gaming con might have: computer gaming and live action role-playing events.  I am neither a computer gamer nor a big LARPer, so you take these for what they are.  Both usually cost money.

 Advice to GMs

The following is in reference primarily to GMing non-RPGA games and applies mostly to RPG GMing (as opposed to board games, card games, or miniature games).

Game Mastering at a con is a whole new situation.  I would not volunteer to run a game for a con I have never attended.  Attend the con first, get a feel for the attendees and make sure they would want to play the game you want to run.

Running a con game is a great opportunity for a Game Master.  However, especially in the case of small local cons, it is a hit-or-miss situation where players are concerned.  Some games do not attract the players.  The gaming coordinator can only do so much, but sometimes the players just do not show up.  Other times, you have the players but maybe one or two of them do not fit your gaming style.

It is a true test of your game mastering skill, however.  Some GMs get complacent with their regular home group and their skills are not as sharp as they were when they first started.  This is a good way to sharpen up those skills of thinking on your feet and dealing with difficult situations or difficult players.  Be prepared for anything.

There is also a sense of freedom at running a con game, for RPG GMs especially.  The GM does not have to feel as constrained as he does at home because chances are he will not see these players again for another year.  So if he feels like it, he can freely kill or maim a character as he sees fit.  This is why it is important for an RPG GM to challenge himself as well as the players.  When creating the adventure he plans to run at the con, the GM should ‘think outside his respective box’ and do things he has always wanted to do but has not had a chance with his regular game.  Be creative.

It is important for RPG GMs to have those pre-generated characters ready ahead of time.  Depending on your lifestyle, you may want to start on them considerably in advance.  Regardless of when you do it, use that as an opportunity to freshen up on the subtle details of the rules system – like for instance, the details behind certain feats (in a d20 system) or spells.

Non-RPG (board game, miniature games, card game) GMs have a fundamental question to answer – are you going to be a GM or a marshalling player.  Some organized tournaments require you to be an objective judge.  Gaming mastering open-play games allows you the freedom to either play or sit back and teach the game.  Some GMs like it one way, and others like it the other.  Playing in the game means one less player slot the gaming coordinator has to worry about filling.  GMing without playing means the gaming coordinator has one more slot to make available.  Some coordinators require the GM to make that slot available if necessary, but it is totally up to the coordinator.

Non-RPG GMs have similar opportunities as the RPG GM.  The opportunities to play with other players to learn different strategies or teach new players is always there and helps the community overall.

How can I afford a Con? Financial Advice

One of the biggest obstacles to attending a con is affording it.  Between the con fee, the hotel and food, it’s a lot to spend in a weekend.  On top of that, you want money for the dealer’s room, auction,  and possibly art room,  LARP fees,  etc.  Larger cons tend to take place in larger more expensive hotels.  Smaller cons work hard with the hotel to get you a good deal on room prices, but a good deal is still usually $60 to $80 a night.

The best thing for a person to do is find some roommates.  Attend with a group of friends and share a room with them.  If that is not possible, find an online message board, forum or mailing list for the con and post a question about finding roommates.  This could be hit or miss because you could get a person that snores really loudly or a freak of a roommate, but it is better than spending all that money to be alone.

Bring snack food and a cooler with drinks to save money on meals/snacks.  Budget your eating and your dealer room money.  One thing I’ve done that has helped me make money to pay for cons is bring a crate of old gaming stuff I want to sell and sell it at the con.  I suppose I have an advantage because I have a table set up for me at gaming registration and set the crate there.  Some gaming coordinators may let you set your crate there as well and agree to handle the sales when you are not available.  Be sure you trust the guy before you arrange this, but it is something I have done and done for other people.

In conclusion
Despite all that I have said, one thing is true – every con is different.  The type of people set the social atmosphere.  Most cons are a great place to socialize, game, and meet new people within your interest area.  Some cons (a small percentage) have turned cliquish and are hard for first time con-goers to really break into.  It is a good idea to talk to people about the con and find out what other people like about it.

I cannot stress enough to all gamers – experiencing a con at least once is essential to your “gaming maturity.”  It is an outstanding experience, at least for me, and I have been doing it for 15 years.  I love going to them, and I love gaming at them.  I have been very happy to be involved with the cons I have and have been privileged and honored to meet some of the best gamers in the region at these cons.  I encourage you as a gamer to try out a con.

Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game

From: Upper Deck Entertainment
Reviewed by: Tony McRee

 Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game is a new Deck/Pool Building game from Upper Deck Entertainment.

In the ever growing and crowded category of deck building games, Upper Deck Entertainment has released Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game. The game has many of the same characteristics as Ascension and Thunderstone such that those that have played these games will be able to immediately grasp the rules and strategies of Legendary. The key difference is that in Legendary players are working to defeat a common Mastermind and failure to do so results in everyone loosing. While this co-op addition is refreshing in the deck building game category, it wasn’t enough to keep it from seeming like similar games on the market.

 Something LEGENDARY is coming from Upper Deck

Other than having the name Legendary in the title, this game is similar to most deck building games thus not making it that legendary. Legendary uses two blind draw pools which is somewhat different than other games. Most games have a pool that all players can see and if there is a second pool of cards, this one is blind. The one you can see is usually the one that players will build their deck from. The blind draw deck is the one where the players end up battling over for victory points.

In Legendary the pool you use to build your hand is the hero pool. From here, five cards fill areas that allow the player to recruit cards into their hands. The second pool generates either one of four things: ‘Villains,’ ‘Scheme Twists,’ ‘Bystanders,’ or ‘Master Strike.’ If a villain appears it goes to the city area of the board so players can try and defeat them. If the card is a ‘Scheme Twists’ card, then it helps advance the end goal of the Mastermind, which if enough are revealed the players will lose the game. If a ‘Bystander’ is drawn while a villain is on the board, the Bystander(s) is captured and needs to be rescued by defeating that villain. If no villain is on the board when the ‘Bystander’ is drawn, the Mastermind captures the Bystander and will be rescued when the players defeat the Mastermind. And finally, if the ‘Master Strike’ card is drawn, the Mastermind can attack the players and do damage to them which usually equates to a wound card being added to a player’s deck.

The blind draw for the player’s hand caused me some concern in Legendary because it is a co-op game, so to me players should be working together to build strong decks. While the game has you working together to defeat the mastermind, we found ourselves not able to help one another with deck strategy. We found that by not drafting a card from the pool so someone else could have it would either waste your recruit points or hamper getting other cards into the drafting area. Often times, somebody could only recruit the card you wanted. Also, the more cards you recruit, the better chance the draw pile will reveal the more powerful hero. Therefore, the blind draw just did not seem to work in the co-op deck building part, but it did provide suspense to the villain draw.

As with all deck building games, there is that initial build that goes on during the first few rounds as players work on their strategy for their decks. With the villain pool concept, I was hoping that there would be a more intense feel to the game in those first few rounds, that there was a rush to defeat the villains so that they would not escape. But that was not the case, the villain escaped and nothing really happened to us. Now there are some villains that cause bad things to happen but even when they escaped, the consequences did not seem to impact our decks like I thought they might.

“Players must work together to successfully attack the evil Mastermind four times.”

As the game progressed and the Mastermind’s schemes were revealed, tension in the game began to develop and we started believing that the Mastermind might defeat us. That only lasted a few rounds because even though it seemed like our decks where not one consistent strategy, we began to easily work through the villains in the city and could then concentrate attacks on the Mastermind, thus removing the tension from the game and we secured a fairly easy victory.

With this game being built on the rich history of the Marvel Universe, one would believe that the game would be full of theme to tie closely in with the characters represented in the game. This was not the case for me. An example of this would be in the Spider-Man card. Here is a hero whose ability of spider sense could play well into this game. The text of the card could have taken this theme and allowed you to identify the next villain to come up in the deck by revealing the top card from the villain pool. Instead, Spider-Man allows you to draw the next card from your deck and if it that card’s recruit cost was two or less, you got to play it. While this was nice to be able to do, it kind of missed a great opportunity to take something from the Marvel Universe and apply it to the game.

Components of the game are what you would expect. The cards are of good stock. Rules are easy to follow and can be found online if you want to read through them before you purchase. The artwork on the cards is very nice and the heroes look like they should. In other words, they look like they stepped out of their respected comic books. The board used to play the game is beautifully detailed and is a nice touch instead of just having scattered piles of cards lying on the table. However, all these nice touches to the game were not enough to make up for the lackluster feeling I got from playing.

In conclusion, Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game is a well constructed and nice addition to the deck building genre, but the mechanics were somewhat less than desired especially since the big selling point is that this is a co-op game. If you are a big fan of the Marvel Universe and don’t have a deck building game on your shelf, then this could be the game for you. Otherwise, you might want to wait and see what Upper Deck has planned for this franchise to determine if you should add the game to your collection.

For more details on Upper Deck Entertainment and their new Deck / Pool Building game “Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game” check them out at their website http://www.upperdeck.com/Products/Entertainment/marvel/marvel-legendary.aspx, and at all of your local game stores.

Codex Rating: 11 – Fairly Good

Product Summary

Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game From: Upper Deck Entertainment
Type of Game: Deck / Pool Building game
Game Design by: Devin Low
Additional Art by: Julius Abrea, Bien Flores, Katrina Mae Hao, Ray Anthony Height, Jay David Ramos, Nigel Raynor, Kevin Sharpe, The Marvel Bullpen, Tony Kordos, Brian “Tots” Valerz, Will Conrad
Game Components Included:  Rulebook, game board and 500 cards (plus 60 dividers): 14 cards for each of 15 different Heroes (210 cards) (Each Hero has 1 rare, 3 uncommons, 5 of one common, and 5 of another common), 8 cards for each of 7 different Villain Groups (56 cards), 10 cards for each of 4 different Henchmen Villain Groups (40 cards), 40 S.H.I.E.L.D. Agents, 20 S.H.I.E.L.D. Troopers, 30 S.H.I.E.L.D. Officers, 30 Bystanders, 30 Wounds, 4 Masterminds, each with 4 Mastermind Tactics (20 cards), 8 different Schemes, 11 Scheme Twists, 5 Master Strikes, 60 Dividers
Retail Price: $ 59.95 (US)
Retail Price: $ 59.99 (Can)
Number of Players: up to 5
Player Ages: 14 and up
Play Time: 45 minutes
UPC: 053334803663
Website: http://www.upperdeck.com/Products/Entertainment/marvel/marvel-legendary.aspx

Reviewed by: Tony McRee

B-Movie Inspirations: It! The Terror from Beyond Space (1958)

It! The Terror from Beyond Space
Year: 1958
Rated: NR

When I first started this idea of watching B-movies as inspirations for GMing, I knew there were bad movies that I would get nothing out of or at least struggle with. Well, this movie is one of them, I suppose, but not because it is bad. It! is a story that has since been told in many ways, some better and others not so much. It has much of the 1950s sci-fi trappings of low budget filming while at the same time had some interesting aspects to it as well.

ittheterrorfrombeyondspace

To begin with, I will give you the IMDB summary:

In 1973, the first manned expedition to Mars is marooned; by the time a rescue mission arrives, there is only one survivor: the leader, Col. Edward Carruthers, who appears to have murdered the others! According to Carruthers, an unknown life form killed his comrades during a sandstorm. But the skeptical rescuers little suspect that “it” has stowed away for the voyage back to Earth… Written by Rod Crawford

For all intents and purposes, this is an alien stowaway movie that has since been done better with movies like Alien. The alien is not well done but probably scary for its time. It’s a big scaly body suit with a cheesy mask that has very little articulation. The creature’s roar is something you would hear off of Lost in Space or something like that. In fact, the entire movie felt like a bad episode of Lost in Space.

The movie’s pacing is about what you would expect for its time – slow. Where movies like Aliens focus on the tension and suspense of having an alien on board, this one approached it a little too casually. “Oh, we have an alien on board. Let’s stop and have a smoke while we wait for it to go away….” That was sort of the sense I got from the movie. You get the feeling back then that it took a lot less to put an audience in suspense.

The gratuitous smoking was a great sign of the times. Never mind that fact that you are around highly explosive oxygen tanks. Also, despite the fact that this is the future – 1973 – they still had Korean War era weapons on board. Even in the real 1973 we had new and more menacing looking weapons than that. And of course, they are slug throwers. I guess they have strong hulls. It wasn’t so bad that they had old .45 pistols and a bolt action rifle, but they also had GRENADES and a BAZOOKA on board! Holy cow! That’s some serious firepower!

The creature seemed to have no explanation other than perhaps it was a devolved version of a Martian from their dead civilization. It seemed impervious to any of their weapons, including grenades and the slug throwers. It was also immune to radiation and some kind of poison gas they threw at it. However, for some reason, it was afraid of a blow torch which a crew member used to fend it off for a long period of time. I found that quite silly.

What I liked was the ship set. It was the standard vertical design, with stair cases linking each level. The only problem with that was they were not always consistent with the order of levels as the characters ascended and/or descended. However, it was a rather well-done set, with lots of bells and whistles of a 50s style rocket ship. They seemed to be selective about when explosive decompression would occur when the airlocks were open, however.

So what value can a RPG game master get out of this movie? Not a whole lot that has not been done before. A few plot points can probably be used if you change a few things.

  • Man Accused: The basic initial premise of the movie is that a second mission to Mars is sent to retrieve the survivor of the first so that he can face trial for the murder of the crew. Of course, he didn’t do it but no one believes his story that some strange alien did it. This could be the basic premise to set up whatever the GM wants, from sci-fi settings to fantasy. The key things to remember are that (1) it’s in an age of exploration and unknown, and (2) the creature needs to be unbelievable for whatever location they are exploring. The sense of mystery and exploration sets the mood and sets up the environment perfect for this kind of plot. Idea: Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde – Imagine if the man accused was telling the truth from his perspective and the alien he claims is actually “in him” somehow. Perhaps a parasite, a demonic possession or an alternate personality, but it’s good to keep the mystery for as long as possible.
  • Alien Stowaway: This kind of adventure, regardless of setting, has been done over and over again. I think I have done it at least 20 different times in different settings. But there are key things you need in order to maximize this kind of adventure’s experience for the players. (1) Fully flesh out the alien. When I say alien, it could be something demonic or foreign, in any setting. As long as it is something the players are not familiar with and fully fleshed out, it will keep the players interest. (2) The location needs to be fully mapped out. In this location, have secret passages, crawl spaces, and/or tight areas for the creature to hide. If you are using miniatures, you need to have a scale map as well. Flesh out the location also. Empty rooms are boring. Lay out supplies, special items, and equipment for the players to find and perhaps use against the new visitor. (3) Give the visitor a goal and/or a reason for being there. Anything the players have to figure out gives more challenge to them.

It! The Terror from Beyond Space wasn’t really original, at least for today, but it was a good example of a very good RPG plot, the alien stowaway. Use with caution.

Fortress America Board Game (2012)

From: Fantasy Flight Games
Reviewed by: Ron McClung

Fortress America is a Board Game from Fantasy Flight Games.

fortamericaFew games bring about more emotional reaction than Fortress America, in my experience.  It has come to epitomize the American style of board game.  You either love it or you hate it.  There are very few who are in-between those extremes about this game.  This game has a lot of history for me and for others in the gaming community.  And that history has brought out these reactions.  I own and have played the original for years and have thoroughly enjoyed it, so my history with it is already fairly positive.

Originally part of Milton Bradley’s Gamemaster series that included Axis & Allies, Samurai Swords, Conquest of the Empire and others, it fell into obscurity for years after, while the other games in its line saw new life being republished by other publishers.  A game of it’s time, it is a throw back to the old Cold War paranoia that those my age knew and loved.  Thanks to Fantasy Flight Games and Wizards of the Coast, no longer does Fortress America lie in the shadows of our memory as a game we once played.  It has been resurrected!

From the inside cover of the rulebook:
“One Nation, Under Siege”

For those that did not live in the “dark times” us old folks called the Cold War, Fortress America was born of an idea that America may one day be invaded by its enemies.  Many likened it to the classic 80s movie, Red Dawn and in many ways it is very similar in theme.  But unlike the recent remake of Red Dawn, this remake of a game is as good if not better than the original.

The concept behind the game is simple.  If back-story to your game is important, here it is in a nutshell. America is being invaded by three fronts – east coast by the European Socialists,  the south by the Central American Federation and the west coast by the Asian alliance. (For some reason, Canada stays out of this one)  Why invade America, you ask?  Well, apparently the world is a little angry that the US built the equivalent of Ronald Reagan’s SDI plan with lasers in orbit to shoot down missiles and they thought it best to just invade us.  For those that remember the original back-story, there are some subtle differences to modernize the storyline, but in general that’s the basic sense.  Quite a few people are up in arms over the tone of the rewritten background, however.  They are upset mostly because it sort of makes the US seem like the bad guy more than the old one. But we are here to play a board game and not a role playing game.  Leave the drama at your RPG table.

There are several units in the game and Fantasy Flight Games (FFG) has done very well with the plastic units.  I have always loved the way FFG does their plastic pieces for their games.  In this game, there are Infantry, Tanks, Mobile Units, Helicopters and Bombers.  The US also has Partisans as well as Laser Units.  On the surface, because of the extra units, it looks like the US has all the advantages but in truth there is balance if the invaders work together and play their cards right, figuratively.

NOTE:  Some Assembly Required.  The Laser units and the helicopters require some snapping together in the new version of the game.

Invaders takes their turns first so the US gets to take the beatings first.  Each round, the US gets two things – a Laser unit and at least one Partisan card (more if he takes back cities).  These are the US’s version of re-enforcements while the Invaders get a fixed number of units each round until they run out.  The object of the game is for the Invaders to take 18 of the 30 cities and the US to keep that from happening.  The invaders have a limited time to get reinforcements so they have to accomplish thst in those turns or the US can go on the offensive.

Mechanically, the advantage goes to the defender, which in most cases is the US.  Unless things are going really really well for the US, nine times out of ten the US is the defender.  The defending units fire first and the attacking kills do not get a chance to fire back.  That is a huge factor in the game.  Couple that with the unit limit in each territory and the attacking player has to think about his attacks before committing.

The Lasers are the most dreaded thing if you are an invader.  There is no defending against them, and in certain circumstances they nearly can’t miss.  If you are the US, these little helpers can not come soon enough and you have to keep your cities in order to place them.

From the inside cover of the rulebook:
“Every army dreads fighting a war on two fronts – the United States is about to face three.  Will Fortress America survive?”

Fantasy Flight Games can’t remake a game without adding a little something to it, and I have enjoyed their additions every time they have.  First, they gave a nod to the fans of the game who made house rules and actually gave a function to the Mobile Units other than canon fodder.  They can move units as well.

They also added a few aesthetics that help in play, including the US Turn Track and the Capture City Track.  There are some minor adjustments they made on the map as well.   As I said before, the minis are much nicer and much more detailed.

One interesting change that I like, even though there is a downside to it, is the custom dice.  The shape of the dice is the same.  There are  6-, 8-, and 10 sided dice. However, in the case of the 6- and 8-sided dice, instead of numbers, they have symbols on the dice representing hits, misses and retreat/disengage.  They left the 10 side alone because laser hits can be varied depending on a card in the Partisan deck.  I am not a  big fan of that because when you lose them, you have to go to the manufacturer and get new ones but with a little thought, standard dice can be used in a pinch.

Fantasy Flight also added new optional variant rules to make things more interesting.  The most notable one is the Invader card option.   With these, the Invader player can forgo a number of re-enforcements in exchange for a card, which gives him certain other advantages.  However, these cards might have requirements on them.  For example the Marching from the South card requires one mineral territory, one agricultural territory and 2 oil territories. Each Invader has 8 cards available to them.  Most notable of these cards are the Footholds.  The cards allow the Invaders to move up their invasion zones deeper into enemy territory by establishing certain cities as footholds.  From America’s point of view that is bad enough but what is worse is that one particular foothold is a permanent one – once San Antonio is placed, there is no taking it back.

What they changed is as good as what they did not change.  The basic mechanic and flow of the game is unchanged.  The heart of the game is unchanged.  It is still the fun war game I remember from the late 80s.

In conclusion, the Fantasy Flight Games version of Fortress America is a brilliant update of a classic board game.  As a game, it is a plain and simple war game where the dice are as much a factor in deciding your fate as your strategy.  There is always the strange and unique case where a single Infantry unit holds a city from an insurmountable force.  It is rare but I have had it happen and that one-turn delay in the Invaders’ plans can really help the US player survive. It is semi-cooperative for the Invaders and the American player stands alone.

For more details on Fantasy Flight Games and their board game “Fortress America” check them out at their website http://www.fantasyflightgames.com, and at all of your local game stores.

Product Summary

Fortress America
From: Fantasy Flight Games (licensed through Wizards of the Coast)
Type of Game: Board Game
Game Design by: Michael Gray, Kevin Wilson
Cover Art by: Scott Schomburg
Additional Art by: Ben Zweifel, Jason Beaudoin (miniature design)
Number of Pages: 24 page rulebook
Game Components Included: game board, reference sheets, various other sheets, various counters, dice and plastic figures
Retail Price: $ 79.95 (US)
Number of Players: 4
Player Ages: 14+
Play Time: 1 to 2 houras
Item Number: VA83
IBSN: 978-1-61661-398-3
Website: www.fantasyflightgames.com

Reviewed by: Ron McClung

B-movie Inspirations: Forbidden World (1982)

Year: 1982
Rated: R

forbiddenworld1982

In his over 50 years of filmmaking, Roger Corman has to be one of the best sources where an RPG game master might look for inspiration.  Any good GM that is also a B-movie fan should know who he is and has probably seen at least one of his movies.  Forbidden World is not one of his best but it has some entertainment value as well as inspiration in it.

Bottom line, Forbidden World is a cheap rip-off of Alien.  Even the creature looked like a bloated copy of a xenomorph.  According to IMDB.com, Roger Corman originally wanted a sci-fi version of Lawrence of Arabia but settled for the Alien copy.  Trust me, however, the clumsy puppet they used for it was so cheesy that it was embarrassing to watch.  I also had a facepalm moment when I recognized the first few scenes that made up the space battle between the main character and some pirates as recycled scenes from another Corman movie, Battle Beyond the Stars.  In addition, I recognized some sets that were recycled from Galaxy of Terror.

The basic premise of the movie is that far in the future where man has colonized many worlds a government enforcer/troubleshooter of some kind (Mike Colby played by Jesse Vint) is sent to investigate an incident at a experimental genetics station on some remote and desolate world.  Why a remote and desolate world, I am not sure but the scientists are working on some means to solve the galaxy-wide food problem.  Apparently, despite having the technology to colonize other worlds, we still do not have enough fertile worlds to feed all of us.

Of course, the foolish scientists, ever so obsessive about learning more about the universe, find themselves in trouble when they create a generic aberration they can not control.  Part synthetic DNA, part human, this creature evolves rapidly and starts killing off station members one by one, turning some into food.  I should note, along with all this gore, there are also a few sexually explicit scenes (R rated) and several gratuitous topless female scenes, so do not watch this with your kids.

The subtle subtext of the story was that the creature was keeping humans around to create a food supply for itself, tying it into the original premise of the station in a sort of ironic fashion.  I thought that was kind of creative.

From an RPG game master point of view, this kind of story has been done before over and over again.  It could be a strange creature summoned from another plane, or a magical golem created by a mad wizard.  There are several seeds that you can draw from this.

  • Something’s wrong at the station: Always a good plotline.  Something has gone wrong at a remote location like on a space station, island, abandoned oil rig or derelict ship.  Anything can happen there; the key thing is to have it mapped out.  Like a first person shooter, plant supplies for the players to get.  Perhaps place a key element clear across the location where they have to get past a peril to get to it. Instilling a sense of claustrophobia and limited resources always challenges a party.  Have them keep track of their ammo, their supplies and the sense of fear will definitely set in.
  • Alien intruder: Another plot line that requires a good and fully fleshed-out location, the alien intruder could be anything.  The key to this is it has to be something that the players have not seen before or can not predict (something a little outside the typical Monster Manual creature). Use these kinds of plot lines to show your creativity in creature creation but also keep it balanced. The last thing you want the players to feel is railroaded into a unbeatable situation.  Give them all the resources they need to defeat whatever they are facing.
  • Mixing things you shouldn’t: Central to the theme of this movie is scientists mixing DNA from multiple sources.  Although primarily a sci-fi idea, it can be applied to other genres.  It does not have to be DNA.  It could be types of magic or types of planer energies.  It could be anything.  The key to this is that it’s something forbidden or cutting edge; something no one has tried before.  The experiments being performed can be forgotten or lost lore, something that someone has tried before and failed with dire consequences.  This can be a true test of the imagination because even if it is something the players have seen before, the result can be totally original.

As I said, Roger Corman is one of the best resources for adventure ideas from movies.  He has many decades of movies, transcending many eras of movie making.  Forbidden World is not an original film but it has some good stuff in it if you can get past the cheese.  Enjoy these movies for what they are worth.  Inspirations!

 

Conspiracy Rules (Dark Conspiracy III)

From: 3Hombres Games/Kinstaff Media LLC
Reviewed by: Ron McClung

conspiracy1

Conspiracy Rules (Dark Conspiracy III) is a new Role Playing Game Core Rules from 3Hombres Games/Kinstaff Media LLC.

Old school rises up again in a new release by 3Hombres Games.  Dark Conspiracy is an old game once published in 1991 by the now defunct Game Designers’ Workshop, and has floated around in different hands since GDW’s demise in 1996.  A second edition was published which updated the rules and a few adventures were published by it slowly died after that.  A couple of fans worked hard to revive it and after some difficulties, the 3rd edition was put out in PDF form.  The results of their labor is now available on DriveThruRPG.

From page # 29:
“Mo Dugan winced as he stepped on something wet and spongy.”

The setting of Dark Conspiracy has a special place in my heart although I struggled with the system.  When it was updated to a 20-sided die system, it ran a little smoother.  However, GDW collapsed before I could get started with a regular group and everyone was ready to move on to something else.  I have followed it ever since but with the advent of d20 and other house systems, I felt that they gaming community (at least the one around me) has evolved past that type of game.

For those new to it, Dark Conspiracy is a near-future horror game born out of the age of X-files, Roswell and the like.  Imagine all the folklore, myths and tabloid headlines were true to some degree or another, but each are twisted in some strange way.  Now couple that with the fact that a global economic collapse has enveloped the planet, leading to wars, population decline and general chaos.  Populations have flocked to the cities creating huge megaplexes.  For example, the east coast US from Boston to Washington DC is a solid city called New Boshwash.  Meanwhile, the countryside has become either abandoned or overrun with outlaws a la Mad Max.  All this despair and desperation overshadows the dark creatures crawling in the shadows and the strange aliens watch you at night.

Player characters are presumed to know something of the “Darkness” – the coming of evil creatures from beyond the veil of reality.  They are called Minion Hunters and they have dedicated their lives to stopping the minions of the darkness in whatever form they come, while dealing with the dark future of mega-corporate dominance, environmental collapse, and economic depravity.

At the time, GDW was fluctuating between several systems.  Twilight: 2000, Traveller, and Space:1889 were just a few of the games they were supporting.  Very forward thinking, they were one of the first to attempt a house system, bringing all their titles under one system. But unfortunately, that house sytem continued to fluctuate even as they released new versions.

I fell in love with the setting right away and continue to run it when I get a chance.  This near version has revitalized my passion for the setting but unfortunately, the system is a little too old school for today’s gamers, I feel.

First off, it’s important to know that Conspiracy Rules is just that – the rules for Dark Conspiracy III (DCIII).  Well, that’s not entirely true, because there is equipment as well as a long list of baddies for your to peruse.  The only thing really missing is the setting information.  They state in the book that the setting information will be released in a separate PDF called Conspiracy Lives! I hope in that, they will update it to more modern feel because 2013 is about what I imagined the near-future was in the 1990s.  A little updating would probably help the setting.

From the page # 75:
“When I was a kid, growing up, I heard the stories about albino alligators living in the sewers, clear-skinned cannibals who would pull you out of phone booths, and gargoyles that turn into living creatures after midnight.”

I hate to overuse a term, but it really applies to this game system – it is old school.  DCIII updates the rules to the most recent version of the GDW, used in the award winning Traveller: The New Era and Twilight: 2000 v2.2.  It is not a rules light system where the GM has a lot room to make fiats.  It has a pretty stringent combat system, a very detailed character generation system and extensive skill system.  Core to the system is the d20 die and rolling under a total of attribute and skill value.  The basic system fairly easy but the devil is in the details.  The combat system is pretty detailed and realistic.  It is one of those systems that sacrifices simplicity for realism.  However, I don’t feel that it goes overboard with the realism.  It makes a pretty good attempt at a balanced approach.  I think they describe it best:

The original rules were firmly based in the science of physics (as much as possible) and the desire to realistically account for the range of outcomes of modern weapons made the rules more complex than the average player feels necessary. The rules for fire combat, as complex as they are, are extremely consistent across the range of results they intend to model.

For example, it is one of the last systems to use hit locations in combat.  I know other games have it as an option but in this game requires it because each hit location has its own hit points.  Also, Weapons have their own recoil value and this is calculated into combat.  There is a certain level of detail that other games do not have or bother with.

Character creation for this game is legendary.  I am not entirely sure which games started it, but DCIII uses the career path system.  This system was used in some of the variants of Traveller and well as later versions of Twilight: 2000.  In one of those version (not in DCIII), there was a chance that a character could die in character generation. Not really sure what the logic was in that one but in general, it is a fairly in-depth system to create your character.  After you allocate your initial points for your attributes, you go through 4-year terms in specific careers and these careers give you skill, attribute and other bonuses.  In DCIII, there is a vast list of civilian and military careers.  From Clergy to Welfare Case, Army basic training to Navy Seal, you can fully flesh out a character in this system.

Since there is supernatural creatures involved, it would make sense that character had something supernatural on their side.  For this game, it is Empathy, often interchanged with the term Psionics. In the old books, Empathy was treated just as another skill.  In this version, combining some elements from the old Protodimensional Sourcebook as well as , Empathy/Psionics is given a little more attention.  The chapter also has an in-depth information on a concept central to the dark invasion – protodimensions.  These are different dimensional planes of varying effects and also where some of the dark creatures come from. With these powers and access to the protodimensions, characters can dimensional walk, astral travel and other multiple supernatural feats to help them fight the dark invasion.

Despite my love for the setting and respect for the rules, this new version does have it flaws.  There are a few editing issues through out the book.  For example, Character advancement is no where to be found. Also the game references the supernatural attribute as PSI but the character sheet still has the old version’s EMP attribute.  However, when it was released, the authors even admitted to the editing issues and are releasing errata as they find them on their web site.

This book is also more than just a regurgitation of previous information, reorganized and shuffled. In the writer’s attempts to consolidate all the years of material plus work in the updates from the final version of the GDW d20 house system, he reworked some things, reworded a few others and expanded on others.  For example, protodimensions were only hinted at in the first core rule book and expanded upon in the Protodimensional Sourcebook to some degree.  These were all fragmental dimensions where weird things happened.  But they never expanded upon what Earth’s dimension was or were there others.  In Conspiracy Rules, they at least categorize our dimension as a prime dimension and expand on more about other types of dimensions.  This opens the door to much more than I think even the original writers thought possible for the game.

In conclusion, despite the some amateur editing, the book itself is definitely a worthy new edition to a classic. I am not entirely sure it is something today’s gamer is going to thoroughly appreciate because of the level of detail and complexity, but it does keep the theme of original with great updates to the system. But like I have said before, I feel that perhaps the time of this type of game has moved on in favor of more player friendly, less detailed games.  The age of Pathfinder and Savage Worlds is upon us and anything else pales in comparison, at least in some circles.  GDW was breaking new ground when they decided to go with one house system and tried to merge all the best elements of the current RPG products.  Unfortunately, the system is far more involved than I think the players today are willing to take on.  I could be wrong and I hope I am, because it is a very intelligent and real-feeling system that deserves more than what it got just before GDW went under.

For more details on 3Hombres Games/Kinstaff Media LLC and their new Role Playing Game Core Rules “Conspiracy Rules (Dark Conspiracy III)” check them out at their website http://www.kinstaffmedia.com/3hombres/, and at all of your local game stores.

Product Summary

Conspiracy Rules (Dark Conspiracy III)
From: 3Hombres Games/Kinstaff Media LLC
Type of Game: Role Playing Game Core Rules
Game Design by: Lester W. Smith, Marc Miller, Frank Chadwick and Loren K. Wiseman
Developed by: Norm Fenlason, Lee Williams
Cover Art by: David Lee Ingersoll
Additional Art by: Earl Geier, Bradley K.McDevitt, David Lee Ingersoll, Norm Fenlason, Janet Aulisio, Timothy Bradstreet, Steve Bryant, Paul Daly, Elizabeth T. Danforth, Amy Doubet, Larry Elmore, LaMont Fullerton, Earl Geier, Dell Harris, Rick Harris, April Lee, David Martin, Ellisa Martin, Timothy Truman, and Kirk Wescom
Number of Pages: 298
Game Components Included: 1 PDF rulebook
Retail Price: $ 10.00 (US)
Website: www.kinstaffmedia.com/3hombres/

Reviewed by: Ron McClung

Blood Moon Expansion for Talisman 4th Ed. Rev.

Talisman: Blood Moon Expansion

bloodmoon1From: Fantasy Flight Games
Reviewed by: Ron McClung

Talisman: Blood Moon Expansion is a new Board Game Expansion from Fantasy Flight Games.

When Fantasy Flight Games (FFG) took over the Talisman license back in 2008, I was more than excited.  Being a fan of the game since the 1990s, I was really looking forward to seeing how FFG can improve the game.  2008 was the first year I got to go to GenCon and while there I talked to some of the writers of the game.  I was really encouraged by their vision.

Since then, they have done what FFG does a lot – put out expansion after expansion.  Not satisfied with just reprinting the classic expansions (of which they have done a few), they have put out a few small box expansions, some of which have some very original and innovative ideas.  Talisman: The Blood Moon is one of those small box expansions that has some fairly innovative ideas; however they had already done something similar with Talisman: The Reaper.   Blood Moon uses similar rules introduced in The Reaper expansion with a few new additional aspects mixed in.

From the website:
“Once in a generation, the Blood Moon begins its fell cycle, bathing the realm in a pallid light.”

The Blood Moon expansion introduces a new aspect to the game of Talisman never seen before in the game, at least in my memory.  The Time Card.  It is a card that has Day on one side and Night on the other.  At Night, ALL creatures gain a +1 to attack and during the Day, all creatures suffer a -1 to all attacks.  Like many things in a game like this, the key thing is to remember these modifications when you are going into combat.  That could make a lot of difference. The card is flipped between night and day when any Event Adventure Card occurs or if instructed by the cards.  The new adventure cards also introduce new effects based on the Time Card.

The expansion adds 111 adventure cards to your already expanding stack of adventure cards.  I have all the expansions so far released and my stack is a hazard on the table.  I need to design a card dispenser like they have in casinos for these things.  The theme of The Blood Moon expansion is sort of given away by the cover art.  It has the three new characters (see below) being chased by a Werewolf.  The general theme throughout the game is sort of a Halloween-style, dark and shadowy one.  Several of the adventure cards have Halloween elements in them.  For example, the Tricks and Treats card allows you to take an item from a character you encounter and trade it for the card.  The card perpetuates throughout the game that way.  As mentioned, some cards have different effects based on the Time Card and there are objects that work differently in day or night.

The new characters are the Vampire Hunter, the Doomsayer, and the Grave Digger.  Vampire Hunters are more like monster hunters, getting bonuses against enemies, as well as advantages in drawing cards. The best part of the Vampire Hunter is that she is immune to the Graveyard effect and instead draws a card.  The Doomsayer benefits from the misfortune of others and has card advantages involving enemies and events.  The Grave Robber can draw from the discard pile, aka the card ‘graveyard.’  He also literally robs the graveyard by drawing several cards from the adventure deck and taking an object from those cards.  Knowing the classic versions of the game (I have the full set of the 1985 version), it is refreshing to see new approaches to the rules.

If I plan to sit down and play a sincere game of Talisman, I might consider using the Alternate Endings, but more often than not, we just whip it out for some casual beer-and-pretzels fantasy adventuring, never really intending to end the game.  We just don’t always have the time to get to the ending, although in many ways FFG has made it easier to achieve that goal and have closure in the game.  With the recent proliferation of Alternate Endings, however, I may consider taking another look at them for even our casual play.  However, I am not overly pleased with at least one ending – the Horrible Black Void.  I really have a problem with an ending that destroys the character that encounters it, no questions asked.  The characters work pretty hard to get ready for the middle, not to just be sucked out a void.  That’s one of the three alternate endings in this expansion.

From the website:
“Compelled by its sinister presence, the restless dead rise from their graves, vampires hunt for unwary prey, and witches engage in nocturnal rituals. Worse yet, the horrifying Werewolf prowls the night, seeking heroes with whom to share his curse.”

At the heart of this expansion is the Werewolf.  He is a new figure that sits on the board and moves around when certain events occur to menace the characters.  Much like the Reaper in The Reaper expansion, if a player rolls a one (1) for movement, he gets to move the Werewolf as well.  Since we had both the Werewolf and the Reaper on the board, we made a house rule that the person chooses which to move, not both. I have not gone out to find out if they answered that question but it was not on the rule sheet.  When the Werewolf lands on a character, that player must roll on a chart.  On that chart a variety of things can happen including being turned into a Lycanthrope.  Once a Lycanthrope, the character is forced to attack other characters when encountering them and there is a chance they spread the disease.  But have no fear, there is a cure…get turned into a Toad.

In conclusion, heavily themed games like this can be overwhelmed by too many expansions.  Case in point, Arkham Horror.  You have to be very selective about the expansions you use with them and resist the temptation to “use them all.”  In my circles, Talisman has become known as the game that never ends.  Fantasy Flight has worked hard to streamline the game a little while keeping the theme.  The problem is, at least in my experience, people forget the central goal of the game – kill the other players any way possible.  Many get distracted by the “questing” aspect of the game.  That’s all nice and good but you have to remember you are playing against one another.

Blood Moon is one of those expansions that reminds the players of the central goal of the game.  One primary aspect of it literally forces the players to attack others. That makes this expansion good for those that play the game the way is intended.  And in the end, that makes the game have a more reasonable play time.  The expansion itself does not add too much to the game to slow it down, though, which is nice.  It is just another piece you have to remember to move on a specific role.  The day/night mechanic is interesting if you have someone that will remember that each time.  Overall, I like the expansion.  It adds some very interesting themes to the game and plays to the games strengths.  However, I am not sure I would play the game with The Reaper expansion because it can get confusing.

For more details on Fantasy Flight Games and their new Board Game Expansion “Talisman: Blood Moon Expansion” check them out at their website http://www.fantasyflightgames.com, and at all of your local game stores.

Codex d20 Rating: 16

Product Summary

Talisman: Blood Moon Expansion
From: Fantasy Flight Games
Type of Game: Board Game Expansion
Game Design by: Bob Harris, John Goodenough
Game Expansion Design by: John Goodenough
Cover Art by: Rakph Horsley
Graphics Design by: WiL Springer
Number of Pages: 2 page rulesheet
Game Components Included: Rulesheet, 111 Adventure Cards, 10 Spells Cards, 1 Time Card, 6 Lycanthrope Cards, 3 Alternate Ending Cards, 3 Character Cards, 3 plastic character figures, 1 werewolf figure, 1 werewolf card.
Game Components Not Included: Talisman 4th Edition Revised required
Retail Price: $ 24.95 (US)
Number of Players: 2-6 players
Player Ages: 9+
Play Time: 90 mins
Item Number: TM09
ISBN: 978-1-61661-399-0
Website: www.fantasyflightgames.com

Reviewed by: Ron McClung