Justus Productions

Gygax Magazine #1

From:  TSR Inc.
Reviewed by: Barry Lewis

So when I started gaming eons ago, or at least it feels like eons, I was a hardcore RPGer.  I played D&D, AD&D and Call of Cthulhu.  For some reason as I got older I got more and more into board games.  Eventually I would roleplay every once in a while, but then I just stopped playing all together.  Recently the group I hang around with has been focusing more on RPGs.  I guess it’s starting to rub off on me because I catch myself browsing through RPGs at my FLGS more and more.  Just recently I purchased a copy of Gygax magazine #1 and I’m glad I did!

Gygax is the new quarterly magazine by Luke Gygax, Ernest Gary Gygax Jr. and Jayson Elliot.  It is definitely a homage to the Dragon and Dungeon magazines of yesteryear.  With its’ “Dragonesque” magazine style font for the title to the wonderfully illustrated and colored cover to the black and white illustrations inside that remind you of looking through an old D&D manual.  This magazine definitely caters to the “OSR” or “Old School Renaissance” people, with which I have no problem.  The magazine also has numerous ads throughout for “old school” type RPGs such as Dungeon Crawl Classics and Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea.  There are also plenty of ads for RPG accessories like dungeon tiles, counters and modules.  The majority of ads are also in black and white and adds more to that “old school” feel.

The magazine contains plenty of articles.  They are varied and well written with topics ranging from teaching your toddler role playing to how to keep magic fresh and different in your game after all these years.  There’s also a few articles reminiscing about role playing’s early years and how it evolved, survived, and helped kids of that time period find camaraderie and a sense of belonging just as they still do today.  As much as it looks to re-capture that “old school” feel, it’s not scared to embrace technology either as the article on the use of Virtual Tabletops shows.   As with most gaming magazines there’s also some adventure aids in this issue as well.  The one that stands out, to me, is the well thought out location Gnatdamp, a village in the swamp.  Not only do you get a detailed description of the village you’ll also get a few story hooks to help lead your players there.  Of course a gaming magazine wouldn’t be a gaming magazine without gaming specific comics and Gygax offers three.  The very familiar and always fun to read “The Order of the Stick” by Rich Burlew, the popular “What’s new with Phil & Dixie” by industry legend Phil Foglio and “Marvin the Mage” by Jim Wampler, who is none other than the Art Director for Gygax magazine.

My only gripe with the magazine is the price.  It’s $8.95(US) retail.  Now as someone who buys a football preview magazine at the beginning of every season, which is usually around the $5 or $6 price range, an $8.95 price tag is something I would usually balk at, forgive me for mixing my sports metaphors, especially for a primarily black and white, 64-page magazine, but if the staff at Gygax continue to put out a quality magazine such as this first issue then I’ll have no problem ponying up the money every 3 months for their publication.


Codex Rating:  14


Publishers: Luke and Ernie Gygax

Editor-in-Chief: Jayson Elliot

Contributing Editor: Tim Kask

Games Editor: James Carpio

Art Director:  Jim Wampler

Cover Art: Daniel Horne

Number of Pages: 64

Retail Price: $8.95 (US)

Website:  Gygaxmagazine.com

Reviewed by: Barry Lewis

Pathfinder: Ultimate Equipment

From: Paizo Publishing
Reviewed by: Ron’s Gaming Group

Pathfinder: Ultimate Equipment is a new RPG Supplement from Paizo Publishing.

I chose to do this review a little differently. I wanted to get a wide range of opinions on the voluminous book and so I let several of my gaming group borrow the book and write a short review on it.   So this review is from a gaming group’s perspective – GM and individual players.  Each player has their own gaming styles and preferences but all are at least 30 years old and most are closer to or older than 40.  

From the back cover: With this vast catalog of tools and treasures, the days of boring dragon hoards are over, and your hero will never be caught unprepared again.”


P John Freeman

A player’s perspective

The Pathfinder: Ultimate Equipment is a compilation of equipment listings from multiple Pathfinder sources in one book.  It collects, organizes and re-prints mundane and magical (mostly magical) equipment from the Players Guide, the Advanced Players Guide and several other source materials.  It divides items out into categories, each given its own chapter.  The first two chapters deal with Arms & Armor (non-magical) and Gear.  The next four chapters respectively are: Magic Arms & Armor, Rods, Rings & Staves, Wondrous Items and Artifacts.  Within each chapter, items are listed alphabetically and with further charts for body location, etc.

That is all background; I will admit I was glad to be given the opportunity to review the book because I, frankly, enjoy thumbing through a book like this and thinking “What if.”  From that perspective, the book is a lot of fun.  You can read it and find “old favorites” (Sovereign Glue, anyone?) and new, fun items (Defoliant Polish; kills plants like nobody’s business!).  The new items alone are often fun to read and consider how they might work in actual game play.

However, the purpose of this review is to opine whether or not the book is “necessary.”  This reviewer does not think so.  Or rather, it is not “$45 necessary.”  Many of the re-printed items are likely to be in the Players Guide and other books you probably already own, so in that regard you are paying for something you already have.  If you have a large Pathfinder group, I would suggest a single copy of the book at most for the group to share; it could be beneficial in that regard.  It is a fun “common resource,” but one copy per group is more than enough.


Dawson Kriska

A DM’s perspective

From the back cover: “Pathfinder RPG Ultimate Equipment is a must-have companion volume to the Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook.”

Providing an exhaustive collection of items mundane and magical, the Ultimate Equipment book presents new items and organizes pre-existing into one supplement.

Ultimate Equipment compiles the items from ten years of Pathfinder RPG products into one volume. Although the majority of the content presented exists in other books, having it in a single source proves extremely useful and convenient. A comprehensive guide to alchemical items provides an excellent addition to the collection. With all the playable equipment broken down into comprehensive categories, Ultimate Equipment delivers great ease of use for the readers. A plethora of exotic materials to craft weapons and armor open new possibilities to even seasoned players. At the end of the book a diverse guide to treasure spices up dragon hordes and wealth players gain throughout the game by including valuable art, gems, and in-game collectables.

The book delivers to the readers exactly what it promises and in typical Paizo fashion, the art dazzles and impresses. However, unlike other Paizo products, the consistency of the art leaves the reader wanting. The chapter art opens each section beautifully and most of the in-chapter illustrations match, but others fall far short. Not only do many items remain un-illustrated, but they also miss the opportunity to greet the players with illustration of exotic and Eastern style weapons. Instead, illustrations of long swords, war hammers, and several other fantasy staples appear leaving the players ever wandering what a kyokesu shoge and many others might look like.

The stat-blocks for the items presented follow the same familiar layout, but include some minor updates to make them visually appealing. Several never-before-seen items also make their print debut in Ultimate Equipment. Many of these RPG Superstar concepts make excellent additions to any game. However, this remains the vast majority of original content in a book otherwise full of reprinted and slightly updated material. Though to expect the bulk of the book as original content oversteps reason, the ratio felt too heavy in favor of the reprinted material.

Easily the three most impressive portions of Ultimate Equipment, “exotic materials,” “the alchemical guide,” and “treasure guide” stand out as the best resources for players and game masters respectively. With materials to make weapons and armor stronger, elemental, or fragile the exotic materials portion allows players to customize on a new level. On the other side of the table, the exotic materials include rules for bronze age and stone age weapons to run a more primitive setting.  The alchemical guide includes dozens of inexpensive items for players to craft or purchase. These items go far beyond the typical alchemist fires and acid, to include alchemical solutions as light sources, trap detectors, and more. The treasure guide takes the character wealth by level and treasure reward by CR tables and expands them into fantastic detail. Detailing works of art, tapestries, jewelry, ornaments, and much more makes creating a treasure horde easy, more realistic, and more detailed for the players.

If you seek an easily referenced collection of items and good source of player items and game mastery information, Ultimate Equipment conveys this very well. If you want a book of original content or a guided illustration to the some of the more exotic elements of items, keep your fingers crossed, because Paizo rarely leaves opportunities alone.

Codex Rating: 16 out of 20


Ron McClung

The Gamer’s Codex Chief Editor/Player/DM

Ultimate Equipment is one of a myriad of books Paizo has put out to support the Pathfinder RPG.  It has released a whole series of Ultimate books.  This contains, as the name implies, 400+ pages of various equipment, from mundane to magical.  It is a rather hefty book, with hundreds of entries for a GM and player alike to peruse. In typical Paizo style, they present a stunning book of everything you can imagine to equip your character.

From the back cover:
“Choose your weapon and stride boldly into battle with
Pathfinder RPG Ultimate Equipment!

The book is broken down into six primary sections and the appendices.

Arms and Armor, as the chapter title implies, describes a vast array of weapons and armor.  It ranges from the mundane and previously published to the more exotic and never seen before (at least in Pathfinder).  From swords, bows, and axes to a variety of strange and exotics blades as well as firearms, this chapter has it all.  I tend to gravitate to firearms, and comparing that section to the Firearms section from Ultimate Combat, I did not see a lot of difference, however.  Much of the Firearms were simply reprinted from Ultimate Combat.

On the other hand, the section on Special Materials was very interesting.  I could not tell you if this was previously published but I am sure some of it was.  However, this presents a clear and organized list of various materials you could make weapons and armor with.  Your armor could be made from dragonhide, adamantine, angelskin or blood crystal.  Or you can be a little more old-school and have stone weapons or bronze armor.  There is a good amount to choose from, if you have the gold.

Gear gives the reader a list of mundane items to choose from.  From adventuring gear, tools and skill kits to animals and transportation as well as entertainment and trade goods.  There is also Clothing, Food and Drink, and Lodging and Services.  Most eye-catching in this section is the Alchemical Remedies, Tools and Weapons.  Alchemical remedies range from cure for nausea (defense again sickened or fatigued conditions) to rusting powder (derived directly from the rust monster’s fluids).   There is a great variety of chemicals, solvents, cures and corrosives anyone can use.  The chapter closes out with a two-page discussion on Poisons.

Magic Arms and Armor starts out with a variety of magical special abilities that shields and armor can have, mostly republished from other sources.  Following that is Magic Armor and Shields, followed by Weapons Special Abilities and then Magic Weapons.  Here I am sure players would spend a lot of time.  I was simply fascinated by the number of special abilities armor and weapons could have.  But on top of that there are dozens of armor as well as weapons.  Most are from previously published sources like the core rulebook and the Advanced Player’s Guide, while some are original.  I’ll leave it to the keener eye than mine to truly discern between them.

Rings, Rods and Staves is probably the third most popular place if not the second.  Here you can find wands, rings and staffs of all kinds, and like other chapters, some are previously published and some are original.  I am not one to know every single ring there is, but when comparing the two sources I have that include rings – the core rulebook and the Advanced Player’s Guide – I was able find quite of few that were not in either of those books.

From the page #4:
“Gear is the great equalizer.”

Wondrous Items includes all the magical items from previous sources as well as original items from the RPG Superstar competition Paizo sponsors every year.  Sorting through many of these items, I was able to find a few of the Superstar entries as well, bringing more value to the book.

Artifacts and Other Items has once again a wide variety of items, both previously seen and new.  These are divided up into three sections – Artifacts, Cursed Items and Intelligent Items.  The Artifact section includes both Minor and Major.  From the Deck of Many Things, the Knucklebone of Fickle Fortune and the Talisman of Reluctant Wishes to Axe of the Dwarvish Loards, Demon Prince Armor, and Skullsoul, there are plenty of unique artifacts to choose from.  Cursed items begins with an explanation of what it means to be a cursed item, and then lists several dozen nasty items that most players should stay away from but their DMs usually figure out a way for them to stumble across.  Intelligent Items are those items magically imbue with sentience and usually are treated as NPCs.  This section begins with an explanation and rules on how to create one.  This is followed by a short list of a few of the known intelligent items of the Pathfinder game.

The Appendices has a few handy tools for a GM to use, including a Treasure Generator, aong with various random tables for the various equipment types as well as a Gems and Jewels generator.

One nice feature is that each type is color coded for ease of reference.  Each group is broken out in subgroups and they added nice tabs on the edge of the pages to make it easy to thumb through.  Of course, this doesn’t really help as much if you are using strictly PDF, but I guess I am old-school that way. Another nice feature are the tables with a complete list of each item type in each section, merging all the previously published items with the new.  The book itself is stunning, with fantastic art throughout.  It is a top notch quality book, like most of Paizo products are.

In conclusion, I tried to determine how useful this would be for those that already bought most or all of the previous products that this books covers.  Usually that is measured by how much new stuff is in it.  But in reality this is also useful because of the organization and ease at which you can look everything up.  It is a one stop shop for all the equipment they have created up until now.  Is it a must have?  Probably not, but it is certainly handy.  It is a little pricey but what hardback book from Paizo isn’t?

For more details on Paizo Publishing LLC and their new RPG Supplement “Ultimate Equipment (Pathfinder)” check them out at their website http://Www.paizo.com, and at all of your local game stores.

Codex Rating: 15


Product Summary

Pathfinder: Ultimate Equipment
Paizo Publishing LLC
Type of Game: RPG Supplement
Written by: Jason Bulmahn
Contributing Authors: Stephen Radney-MacFarland, Sean K Reynolds, Dennis Baker, Jesse Benner, Benjamin Bruck, Ross Byers, Brian J. Cortijo, Ryan Costello, Mike Ferguson, Matt Goetz, Jim Groves, Tracy Hurley, Matt James, Jonathan H. Keith, Michael Kenway, Hal MacLean, Jason Nelson, Tork Shaw, Owen KC Stephens, Russ Taylor, and numerous RPG Superstar contributors
Cover Art by: Wayne Reynolds
Additional Art by: Interior Artists: Kerem Beyit, Dmitry Burmak, Vincent Dutrait, Grafit Studios, Francesco Graziani, Michal Ivan, Chuck Lukcas, Steve Prescott, Christophe Swal, Wayne Reynolds, and Kieran Yanner
Creative Director: James Jacobs
Managing Editor: F. Wesley Schneider
Number of Pages: 402
Game Components Included: One hardback book
Game Components Not Included: Core Pathfinder rule books
Retail Price: $44.99 (US)
Item Number: PZO1123
ISBN: 781601 254498
Website: www.paizo.com

Reviewed by: Ron McClung

B-Movie Inspiration: Deathstalker (1983) & Deathstalker II: Duel of the Titans  (1987)

Having reviewed a variety of science fiction films, I felt that I should try to watch some other genres.  Fantasy was the next obvious route, but as we all know, Hollywood has a real bad history with fantasy.  Only recently with movies like the Lords of the Rings trilogy and the Hobbit trilogy, has Hollywood given value to the fantasy genre.  Perhaps CGI makes it easier now, but back in the 1980s a storm of fantasy films came out after the success of Conan The Barbarian  that gave me plenty of cheese to choose from.

The Deathstalker series was one of those that tried to capitalize on the success of Conan. They even implied in the second film that the two universes were connected.  There were a total of 4 Deathstalker moves, all but the first being direct to video.  Roger Corman was the producer behind all 4, and I have written many times about how inspiring some of Roger Corman’s work is for a GM.  However, I have to say that Corman’s fantasy is far less inspiring than his science fiction or horror.  It was not easy watching either of these films.

Deathstalker (1983)

Rated R


Deathstalker is the name of a thief warrior that roams the land of whatever world the movie is set in.  The first blunder is not establishing a tangible setting.  One thing that draws fantasy fans into a fantasy work is the setting.  It just makes the assumption you understand it is a generic fantasy world.

The movie starts out very awkwardly.  I think it could benefit from better script writing and more dialogue.  Maybe a starting monologue to set you up.  Either way, you are presented with a confusing chase scene and battle between a captor, his pretty little slave girl captive and some goblin-looking humanoid creatures.  In steps what you can only assume is Deathstalker who pretty much kills everyone and saves the pretty girl.  I was left wondering why they had the captor?  Why not just have the girl captured by the goblins?  I really felt like they had a lot of extra fluff they did not need.

From that intro, the movie disjointedly tells a tale of an unwilling hero called to bring three artifacts (a chalice, an amulet, and a sword) together and bring down a despotic ruler named Munkar, who is of course a what?… a wizard.  There seems to be common themes throughout the first two films.  Magic is evil.  Wizards are always taking over kingdoms through nefarious means.  And there is always a princess in trouble that hardly wears anything throughout the movie.

The story is disjointed because over and over again it seems like the hero doesn’t really want to “follow his destiny.”  However, he seems to find ways to do it anyway.  This makes for scenes that are just a little too contrived and silly.  The motivation of the hero is haphazard at best, in the beginning.  It is during this time, he stumbles across the first two artifacts – the amulet and the sword.  These scenes all could have been written better and were just horrible.  During his journey, he meets his comedy relief – Salmaron, who otherwise seems totally useless in the story.

At some point (I might have missed it in all the very poor dialogue), Deathstalker learns that Munkar has called all the great warriors to come to the city and fight in an arena to determine the greatest warrior.  He is promising his throne to the winner.  Of course, this is a ruse as Munkar simply wants to eliminate the greatest threats to his rule and somehow fish out the artifacts he does not have.  He only has the goblet at this point.  At first, it seems like Deathstalker is not willing to attend this contest but he eventually meets two people – – Oghris, a rogue-ish swordsman with midriff-baring armor and Kaira, a female warrior who wears only a G-string and a cloak – on the road to the city to be in the tournament and he is convinced.

The rest of the movie is fairly predictable.  You find out that Oghris is working for Munkar and was sent to convince Deathstalker.  Somehow, of course, the great wizard new all along where the amulet and the sword were and just wanted to make sure it got to the city and the tournament.  There are a lot of gratuitous scenes with naked breasts and simulated or implied sex, making this film earn its rating of R pretty handily.  Through all this, Deathstalker fights valiantly in the tournament, saves the princess and kills the evil wizard.

As bad as this was, I found a little inspiration in it.  There were a lot of standard trappings of a fantasy adventure setting and Hollywood, at least back then, commonly repeated them in an attempt to “reinvent.”  I think one of the reasons fantasy fails so badly in the movies is because it is always the same old stuff.  Despite a lot of that in this movie, there were some interesting subplots.

  • Successor Contest:  The concept of a contest to determine a king’s successor seemed fairly interesting.  An interesting arena adventure could be formed completely around that.
  • Weed Out Possible Threats: The subplot of the king actually trying to weed out possible threats with the contest was also interesting.  A multi-day arena fight where the contestants are trying to kill not only the players but also the King, eventually.
  • Classic Artifact Hunt: Although it was very poorly done in this movie, the classic artifact hunt is a staple of all great fantasy adventures.  Never underestimate a well planned out treasure hunt.  Throw in mystery, puzzles, and a competing interest and you have the makings of a long term campaign.

Deathstalker II: Duel of the Titans  (1987)

Rated R


Where the first one had a more serious tone (which in itself made it comical), the second one was much less so.  Where the first movie was just bad, the sequel was just god-awful.  The 80s snarky style with the era or setting inappropriate phrases in the script made the movie just an absolute joke.  I am the last person to slam the 80s because I loved them, but this just had too much bad 80s stuff in it – the big hair, tight leather, and stupid sarcasm.

This not only seems to ignore the tone of the first film, but also the style in a lot of ways.  Deathstalker is a totally different person in this one.  He seems younger, smaller and more rogue, less warrior. The story introduces some blond bimbo (and I use that truthfully because the character can only be described as such) who claims to be a seer and a former princess.  But the actress could not act herself out of a bag.  She seemed to speak in one tone – a very loud one – throughout the movie.  And worse yet, she was actually given two roles on the movie – her real self and the doppelganger-copy the bad guy made to take the throne away from her.  I suppose she expected other assets to get her through the film.

Again, this was produced by the king of cheese, Roger Corman.  He is also the king of recycling stuff because a good portion of the movie is recycled from the first one.   From the female mud wrestling scenes to the guy being dragged by horses and the silly scenes of the pig-faced creatures, a good 15 minutes was stuff I had seen from the first movie.  He also recycled many of the costumes.

The plot is almost a recycle as well.  Deathstalker is “recruited” by the loud-mouth seer named Reena (who is the real Princess Evie) to return her to her thrown with a promise of great reward.  Of course, the journey is perilous and the enemies are powerful.  Enter the bad guy, Jarek the Sorcerer.  What is he?  Of course, he is a wizard.  But he is also a renowned swordsman (darn multi-classers).  As mentioned, he has placed a magically created doppelganger of Princess Evie on the throne.  Jarek is also caught up in a love triangle between the doppelganger and this other warrior woman, Sultana.  Sultana has some grudge against Deathstalker and allies with Jarek to hunt him down.

An important plot element that I should mention is the doppelganger Princess Evie.  To maintain her life, she has to suck the life out of men she seduces. So she is sort of a vampiric succubus doppelganger.  This ties into the warrior woman later, who are from a village where Princess Evie has drained it of all its men.

Deathstalker’s journey takes them through a trap set by Sultana’s goons, a zombie infested graveyard (with a tone of Christian symbolism even though this is a fantasy world), and into a wrestling ring with a fierce warrior woman.  Yes, a wresting ring, with a very large female wrestler who I would probably know if I was into wrestling but I don’t.  They even had ring girls.  Also this wrestling match ended up going on forever, I guess to fill the holes the plot left.  Thank God for fast-forward.

The movie ends with the two of them infiltrating the fortress of the evil Jarek (more recycled shots of the castle from the first film), and fighting their way to victory.  Of course, Deathstalker ends up sleeping with both the real princess and the doppleganger. What great hero wouldn’t?  The big finale is a big battle between Jarek’s men and the warrior woman of the village as well as a sword fight between Jarek and Deathstalker, which apparently the stars practiced very hard.  I wasn’t impressed.

This one was harder than the first to draw any inspiration from because it was so bad.  But underneath the 80s cheese, there were a few small nuggets of ideas:

  • Game of Dopplegangers on the Throne: There can be many twists that can be played on characters when there is a doppleganger on the throne.  But it is not always easy to role play and avoid the meta-gaming that can occur.
  • Lifesucking Succubus Queen – Sucking the kingdom of men-folk would leave a lot of pissed off woman.  So much so, that perhaps they would serve as a good ally to bring down such a queen.
  • The Enemy of my Enemy – Player enemies teaming up is always a concern.  It takes a lot of work to give the players multiple bad guys to be concerned about and then to arrange a situation where they would work together is more work.  But in the end, it is all worth it because it increases the player’s motivation to engage in the adventure.

Talisman: The City

From: Fantasy Flight Games
Reviewed by: Ron McClung

Talisman: The City is a new Board Game Expansion from Fantasy Flight Games.

Talisman City was one of the classic expansions put out for 2nd edition back in the day.  Originally it had some very innovative additions to Talisman and we always played the game with it.  When I saw this expansion for Talisman, I was curious how Fantasy Flight had changed it.

From page # 2:
“Long ago, a powerful wizard reigned over the land, ruling with the power of a magical crown that he forged in the Valley of Fire.”

The City expansion to Talisman is the third corner expansion for the game.  Previously released, The Dungeon and The Highlands both added a lot to the game.  What I mean by corner expansions is that the board fits on one of the four corners of the game. This is the same concept for The City expansion of second edition, the edition I am most familiar with.

The rules themselves are straightforward.  You enter the City through the City space on the main board and can traverse the streets following the arrows. There are streets, where you primarily draw City cards (Adventure cards equivalent for the City), and there are shops where you can do a variety of things.  My first advice about the City to any player – be sure to have a lot of gold.  As they say, however, the devil is in the details and the details in any Talisman game are contained in two places – on the board spaces and in the cards.  There are several new aspects introduced in this expansion and most center around commerce and gaining more gold.

From page # 2:
“For the traveler with some gold to spend, a visit to the City can give him the edge to survive in the most dangerous regions of the land.”

The first new aspect that stood out to me is the Wanted Posters.  This shifts the dynamic considerably.  With all the other expansions, I have spent whole games dirt poor, this gives you one of the first opportunities to gain a lot of gold.  In general, you can claim a bounty one of two ways – buying a poster at the gate or claiming a bounty at the gate.  When you buy it, you actually claim the bounty when it is fulfilled no matter where you are.  There are usually 3 posters at the gate that anyone can claim the bounty from if they can fulfill it with any of their trophies.  In most cases, you claim a number of gold equal to the trophy value of the creature – which could be quite a lot in some cases.

Wanted Posters are among a new classification of cards called Shop Decks.  Also included in the Shop Decks are the Armoury, Magic Emporium, Pet, and Stables as well as the standard Purchase deck.

The Armoury is what you expect but it has a few never seen before weapons and armor. These can be purchased when you visit the Armoury shop on the board. The Magic Emporium Deck, associated to the Magic Emporium shop on the board, is a small deck that includes 6 different items (2 or 3 cards each) for a magic user to use, including a Psychic Crystal, Spellbook, or a Magic Ring.  The Stables deck is just like the Stables Deck from Sacred Pool Horse, Horse and Cart, Warhorse, and Mule are available for purchase.  These three decks with the Purchase deck can be perused by a player who needs something from it.  They are not limited to the top card on the deck.

However, the player always draws from the top of the Potions and Pets Decks as well as the Wanted Poster deck.  The Potions deck has a varied array of interesting magic potions which include Potion of Strength, Healing Potion, and Elixir of Wisdom.  The Pets Deck , another new aspect added to the game, are Followers that one can purchase at the Managerie space on the board.  These include Luna the Owl, Lucky the Panda, or Terrance the Turtle.  Each have a variety of different abilities that help you along the way.

There are other interesting shop spaces on the board including the Warf where you can buy passage to any space in the Inner or Middle region, the Rogues’ Guild where you can choose to be turned neutral, the High Temple, where you can pay 1 to 3 gold to roll on a chart where the number of dice is determined by the amount of gold you spend.  The one place you don’t want to go is the Jail. You can be sent to Jail by various City cards or events on the board.  You get out of Jail by rolling on a chart and bribing the Jailer to add to that roll.

The meat of any Talisman expansion is the encounter cards.  The City is full of perils and adventure if the player so chooses to enter.  But there is a significant difference between these cards and the cards found in its other corner expansions brethren.  The worst you can fight here is a Strength 7 creature and there is only one of those.  There are a lot of ways to lose or spend gold, however, which is why it is important to have a lot when you enter.

The City also comes with six interesting player characters – The Elementalist, Tavern Maid, The Cat Burglar, Bounty Hunter, Tinkerer, and the Spy.  My first reaction to this list was “What?? A Tavern Maid??”  However, she turns out the be one of the more interesting characters as she can really strip characters of their gold and get them drunk at the same time – almost a travelling tavern, if you will.

Also included are three new Alternative Endings – Merchants’ Guild, Assassins’ Guild and Thieves’ Guild.  Like other Alternative Endings cards, these cards put their own twist on the way to win the game and in this case have a tone that fits the expansion – gaining gold, Wanted Posters, or objects.

In conclusion, this is a great expansion for Talisman and to be honest, for the corner expansions, they should have led with this one.  The other two were so challenging, it seemed hopeless to enter unless you were really buffed up.  Now there is a place one can go and not worry about getting killed too quickly.  Here you worry more about going broke or getting thrown in jail.  I did notice that they watered the expansion down since 2nd edition.  There used to be templates one can gain that would beef you up, like Master Thief and Sheriff.  However when one obtained those, it did effect the game balance considerably, so I can understand why those were left out.

If you have the other corner expansions, this is almost a must-have.  The characters need a haven where they can spend or gain gold and not worry too much about getting slaughtered.

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

Codex Rating: 17

Product Summary

Talisman: The City
From: Fantasy Flight Games
Type of Game: Board Game Expansion
Expansion Design and Development: John Goodenough
Talisman Revised 4th Edition Design: Bob Harris and John Goodenough
Producer: Christopher Hosch
Editing: Mark O’Connor
Flavour Text: Tim Uren
Graphic Design: WiL Springer
Cover Art:
Ralph Horsley
Interior Art: Ryan Barger, Bruno Balixa, Nora Brisotti, Massimiliano Bertolini, Filip Burburan, Christopher Burdett, Felicia Cano, J.B. Casacop, Sidharth Chaturvedi, Anna Christenson, Julie Dillon, Carolina Eade, Tom Garden, Alexander Gustafson, Suzanne Helmigh, Paul (Prof) Herbert, Ralph Horsley, Anna Ignatieva, Nicholas Kay, Matt Larson, Sam Manley, Mitchell Malloy, Jeremy McHugh, R.J. Palmer, Ricardo Robles, Thom Scott, John Silva, Lee Smith, Alyn Spiller, Florian Stitz, Fredrik Tyskerud, Adam Vehige, Frank Walls, S.C. Watson, and QipengZhang.
Additional interior art by the artists of Talisman Revised 4th Edition and its expansions.
Managing Art Director:
Andrew Navaro
Art Direction: Mike Linnemann and Zoë Robinson
Number of Pages:
12 page rulebook
Game Components Included:
Rulebook, 1 City Board, 82 City Cards, 12 Armory Cards, 12 Pet Cards, 16 Magic Emporium Cards, 16 Potion Cards, 8 Stables Cards, 18 Wanted Poster Cards, 4 Neutral Alignment Cards, 3 Alternative Ending Cards, 6 Character Cards, 6 Plastic Character Figures
Game Components Not Included: Talisman 4th Edition Revised
Retail Price: $39.95 (US)
Number of Players: 2 to 6
Player Ages: 9 yo+
Play Time: 60+ minutes
Item Number: TM02
Website: www.fantasyflightgames.com

Reviewed by: Ron McClung


1st and Goal

From: R&R Games
Reviewed by:  Barry Lewis

1st and Goal is a football board… Wait! Wait! Don’t click to another review!  I know that sports board games do not tend to get much love, but 1st and Goal is fun and deserves a chance.  The game uses both cards and dice for the game mechanics and they do work well together.  So just take a closer look at 1st and Goal before you click over to that deck-builder review.

The game board itself will not “wow” you.  Although what the board itself does is one of those little touches that we gamers generally like.  The board’s football field has a thin metal strip in it that allows the magnetic football and magnetic 10-yard marker to stay in place on the field so you never have to worry about bumping the board and losing track of where the ball is on the field.  My only issue with the board is minor, but it’s with the way the scores are tracked.  Both players have 2 number tracks.  One track has 1 thru 9 and the other track has 10-90 in tens.  So if you’ve scored 14 points you would place a clear disc on the 4 and another on the 10.  It does nothing to take away from the enjoyment of the game, but maybe they could have found a less “clunky” way of keeping score.  The play calling cards are on sturdy, glossy card stock and are very easy to read and understand.  The dice tell you the outcome of the play called and how many yards are gained or loss.  The dice are a little bigger than normal and easy to read, but here’s the potential deal breaker with the dice.  You have to sticker the dice with the numbers.  It’s not a big deal, but for some gamers it’s a turn off, I know.

To start the game, the two players will flip a coin and the winner decides whether to be on offense first or defer to the second half.  Once this is done, the offensive player will take the offensive deck and the defensive player will take the defensive deck.  Each player will draw 8 cards for their starting hand.  Every time a card is played, the players may draw another from the top of their decks.  The offensive deck has two types of plays: run plays and pass plays.  The pass play cards come in three different styles: short, medium and long/bomb.  The defensive cards have two types as well.  They are running defense cards and pass coverage cards.  The play starts with both players choosing a play card from their hand and laying it down face up for both to see.  You would then compare the cards.  Running cards work better against pass coverage cards and pass play cards work better against run stopping cards.  The cards work in conjunction with the dice, but let’s quickly look at the cards first.  Both the offensive and defensive cards have the play types listed on each card.  You would compare the two cards to see what colored dice the offense would roll for yardage.  The cards also play a part in how long the game goes.  On each offensive running play card is a flame symbol in the top of both corners.  Every time you use a running play with that symbol on it, you must “burn” or discard the top card of the offensive play deck.  So just like in real football the more you run, the faster the game goes.  When the offensive deck first runs out it is halftime, when it runs out again it’s the end of the game.  While the cards are fairly simple, the dice are a little more complicated, but not much.

There are four types of dice; the play die, the referee die, the penalty die and the yardage dice.  The play die is rolled for every play and each side is different.  The play die has an X, a T, a penalty flag, a lightning bolt, a “Hail” and a “Mary”.  If the offense rolls an X it means the play is broken up no matter what.  The “T” means potential turnover.  If you rolled a “T” you would then roll the referee die and if it comes up a “T” then the ball is turned over to the defense.  If no “T” is rolled then there’s no turnover.  If the penalty flag comes up on the play die then there’s a potential penalty on the offense or defense.  You’d then roll the referee die and if the offense side comes up then it’s a penalty on the offense and if the defense side comes up it’s a penalty on the defense.  If neither side comes up then there’s no penalty.  If a penalty is confirmed then the offensive player rolls the penalty die and adds or subtracts the yardage shown on the die.  The lightning bolt means “Breakaway!”  When the lightning bolt is rolled the offense adds the yardage dice together then rolls the play die and yardage dice again.  If the lightning bolt comes up again add the yardage and roll again.  The offensive player continues rolling until anything else but the lightning bolt appears.  I tend to play with the optional rule that if you roll 3 straight “breakaways” then it’s an automatic touchdown.   If a “Hail” or “Mary” is rolled they have no effect on the play except during the last play of the half or game.

The penalty die is rolled on occasion in response to certain results of the play die.  The referee die has a “T”, an X, a “Hail” and a “Mary” like the play die, but has an offense side and defense side for designating penalties.  To help identify the play die and the referee die from one another I used a permanent black marker to draw stripes on the referee die to make it resemble the black and white striped shirt referees wear.

There are 7 yardage dice.  The red, ivory and brown dice are for running plays, while the yellow, blue and green dice are for passing plays.  The seventh die is black and is rolled by the defensive player on most plays and will, usually, subtract yardage from the offensive player’s roll.

Here’s a quick example of play:

Its third down with 9 yards to go for a first down and the offense chooses to run the ball; defense picks a short passing play.  The Defense guesses wrong.  After comparing the two play cards, the offense gets to roll all three running dice along with the play die, while the defense gets to roll his black die.  The offense rolls a “hail” on the play die which has no effect on the play and a 2, 4 and 5 on the yardage dice.  Defense rolls a -1. So add the offensive dice together (2+4+5=11) and subtract the defensive die (-1) to get 10.  The offense gains 10 yards and gets the first down!

R&R put a lot of thought into this game.  What’s in a real football game is in the board game minus the ACL tears, concussions and massive contracts.  Safeties, punts, field goals, Hail Mary passes, extra points; if you can name it, it’s probably in the game.  R&R even have expansion packs for the game with different teams.  There are 6 packs or “divisions” with 4 teams in each division.  Each team has its own strengths and weaknesses so you can pick a team that suits your playing style.  In the end, I’ve put away my other football games, Strat-o-Matic Football and Pizza Box Football, for 1st and Goal because of the relative ease of play and it’s more visually appealing than the 2 other mentioned games.

So if you’re still in doubt about the game, I always like to point out that I have a friend who loves football, but HATES sports games yet will sit down and play this with me every time I bring it to a game event.  Broaden your horizons and try this game at least once.

Product Rating: 12

Product Summary

1st and Goal

From: R&R Games

Type of Game:  Board Game, Sports

Game Design:  Stephen Glenn

Artists:   Scott Fleenor , Matthan Heiselt

Graphic Design:   Jennifer Vargas

Retail Price: $29.95 (US)

Number of Players:  2-4 players

Player Ages:  13 and up

Play time:  60 minutes

Website:   www.rnrgames.com

Those Pesky Humans

From: Minion Games
Reviewed by: Barry Lewis

“Those pesky humans are always trying to steal my treasure!” and that sums up the game Those Pesky Humans.  Thanks for reading…

No, no.  Come back.  There’s more I promise.  Basically you’re a dungeon overlord who has worked hard for his ill-gotten treasure and humans are always showing up and trying to take it.  The nerve of some humans!  As you have gleaned from just these couple of sentences this is a typical player(s) vs. GM/DM game.  This game definitely takes its cue from past games such as Hero Quest and more recent games like Descent.   The objective of the game is for the human team to find the three legendary gems hidden in the dungeon and escape with them.  The Overlord’s objective is simple, stop those pesky humans.

Just looking at the art on the box of Those Pesky Humans you can tell it doesn’t take itself too seriously.  The art work is cartoony but fits the game’s overall feel.  There is plenty of clever and funny flavor text spread throughout the rule book and on the game cards as well.  The game does use card board standups instead of plastic miniatures for the humans and the monsters.  The only real “problem” I had was with the cards themselves.  The ink looked to have faded some and the ink had peeled off just a bit when I first took them out of the plastic wrap.  Also the cardboard they were printed on seemed to be a lower level of quality as well.  These are two very minor problems and do not take anything away from the game.

The game setup is quick and simple.  Each player will take on the role of one or more of the human avatars and one player will take on the role of the Overlord.  The players then take their corresponding character card and pick 3 special ability cards.   The character cards tell the players the avatar’s movement, attack strength, defensive rating and hit points.  Also characters have an “innate ability” which can be used once per round.  Once characters are set the Overlord will select 10 random room tiles.  These tiles will make up the dungeon.  The Overlord will then place doors, which could be locked or trapped, on the connecting dungeon tiles.  Then 10 treasure tokens will be pulled, 3 of which are the legendary gems, and placed strategically within the dungeon by the Overlord.  Now you’re ready to play.  If you would like a shorter game you can use 7 dungeon tiles and only place 2 legendary gems inside the dungeon.

The game has 3 phases: the draw phase, the movement phase and the combat phase.  Each player will draw a number of “human” cards depending on how many are playing.  These cards will either help the players or hinder the Overlord.  Be careful though, the Overlord has “monster” cards at his disposal as well.  The Overlord can summon creatures to help protect his dungeon as well.  A problem with the original rules was the Overlord could summon 2 monsters per round.  This led to the humans getting overrun before the game really got going.  The new rules, which are found on the Those Pesky Humans website, now have the Overlord being able to summon only 1 creature per round.

The game mechanics are simple.  You can move up to the number of spaces that are listed on your character’s card unless there is a card effect in play that modifies movement.  The combat is very basic as well.  You roll your die and add your attack strength along with any modifiers to get your total and if your total is higher than the monster’s total defensive rating than you have wounded the monster.  You only do 1 point of damage per attack regardless unless you play a card that allows you to deal extra damage or allows you to have a second attack.  To move from one room to another you will have to open doors.  To open a door you will have to use your movement.  You will move up to the door and as long as you have 1 space of movement left you may open the door.  If the door is locked you will need 2 spaces of movement to open it.  Some doors are trapped and if any character, other than the thief, opens a trapped door they will take damage.  If the thief opens a trapped door then the thief automatically disarms the trap and takes no damage.  The thief also only needs 1 space of movement to open locked doors.  Once a door is opened it remains open unless the Overlord plays a card closing the door.  Obviously monsters may move freely through doors.

As you can see those are the basics of the game.  There are a few other little rules, but it’s extremely easy to learn.  I would strongly suggest downloading the new rules off the website, though.  I do like this game.  It doesn’t break any new ground, but it doesn’t destroy any either.  It is a solid, light dungeon crawler and is especially good for kids.


Product Rating: 11


Product Summary

Those Pesky Humans

From:  Minion Games

Type of Game:  Board Game

Game Design:   James Mathe

Writing, Layout and Additional Design:  Clay Gardner

Artist: Chuck Whelon

Retail Price: $ 49.99(US)

Number of Players:  2-4 players

Player Ages:  8 and up

Play time:  90 minutes

Website:   http://thosepeskyhumans.com/

B-Movie Inspirations: Day of the Triffids (1962)

Rating: NR


Another movie I remember very well from my childhood days of watching way too much TV was the Day of the Triffids.  I will always remember the sounds the Triffids made.  Only recently did I find out (thanks to Wikipedia) that it was based on a 1951 novel  of the same name and there were also several TV series based on it.  However, this movie stands out to me because of certain aspects of it that were not in the book or the TV series.  Some may call it an Americanization of the film while others may write it up to the era of filmmaking, but there are some aspects that I really liked about this movie.

First and foremost, this movie has a strong “zombie apocalypse” feel to it.  However, before you chalk it up to one of those, you should watch it all the way through.  It’s also from 1961, before any kind of zombie-craze hit pop culture.

The movie’s basic premise is that a meteor shower rains down spores on earth, spawning man-eating plant creatures – triffids.  This meteor shower was a great spectacle and many watched it all over the planet.  However, those that watched it found themselves completely blind by morning, thus leaving them completely at the mercy of the growing population of triffids.

This is a brilliant concept, in my view.  Was this by design? Is this some kind of alien bio-weapon? Or is it a natural migration of some alien plant?

The movie follows a guy who is still healing from eye surgery. An obvious influence of 28 Days Later or even The Walking Dead, this guy did not suffer the blinding effects of the meteor shower.  He awakens to a world thrown into chaos and one of the more shocking and iconic scenes of the film is watching a plane crash realizing it was flying during the meteor shower.  For 1961, that is a pretty horrifying scene.

Our protagonist, an American by the name of Bill Masen, travels throughout this world searching for survivors and some semblance of civilization. But he is not alone.  A second story in the movie is about a marine biologist and his wife, stuck out on an island during the meteorite storm.  We switch back and forth as Masen travels from England to Europe battling the growing number of Triffids while the scientists try to figure out a way to destroy them.

Triffids are man-sized plants that were seeded on this planet by the meteor shower.  This is the major deviation from the book that I really like.  In the original novel (at least according to Wikipedia), the origin is theorized by the protagonist to be a bioengineered plant from the Soviet Union but this is apparently only a theory.  There is no link to the meteor shower that blinds everyone and in fact, the plants are being harvested for their oil, despite the danger.  They are capable of movement and have a nasty stinger that can kill.  I much prefer the extra-terrestial origin as well as the link to the meteors.  It’s a perfect symbiosis – the meteors render the prey blind, making it easier to catch.

The major failure in this story is the end.  Obviously influenced by other movies of the time, this had to have a nice and tidy ending where humans figure out way to destroy the triffids (nevermind that fact that most of the entire world is blind).  The scientist on the island accidently discovers the way to destroy them and suddenly all is well.  Instead of leaving us with a world torn by blindness and the infestation of man-eating plants, it had to end on a high note, like many of the movies at the time.  It was a time when Hollywood was not always thinking of sequels, I suppose.  It was perhaps a more pure time.  This movie would have been much better if they left it hanging.

Day of the Triffids is full of great nuggets that an RPG GM can use.

  • Extraterrestrial Apocalypse: This concept seems to be having a resurgence in today’s theaters and on TV.  With shows like Defiance and movies like Oblivion and After Earth, a world destroyed by something not of this Earth is in vogue.  This gives me hope for a possible remake one day.  A world taken over by alien plants is a setting just waiting to be written for an RPG.
  • Alien Bio-Weapon: The questions left unanswered are also a great inspiration.  Was this an alien bio-weapon sent to clear the planet, and prepare it for invasion?  Is there another wave of something else coming?  Where did they come from?
  • A World Blinded:  A world completely robbed of one its essential senses could be a very interesting setting as well.

Miskatonic School for Girls

From: Fun to 11
Reviewed by: Sitting Duck

Plenty of gamers at some point have made an impulse purchase of a game based solely on the title or the cover art. For me, this happened in the Dealer’s Room at Guns of August 2012 with this game. As a Lovecraft fanboy who especially enjoys the Cthulhu Mythos games which have a silly tone to them, I couldn’t not buy this game. Without even considering what kind of game it was, I plunked down my hard-earned cash for my own copy.

From the back of the box:
“You gather new students to help stave off these wretches and while you’re at it, you send a few of those wretched staff to the other houses. Hey, nobody likes a tattletale, but when your sanity is on the line, you’d start snitching too!”

So having made my rash purchase, what kind of game did I now possess? As it happens, Miskatonic School for Girls is a competitive deck building game. However, a significant difference from other deck builders is that you get the opportunity to build the decks of your opponents. To a certain degree this helps avoid the multi-player soltaire feel that deck builder games can have. As for the premise, you control one of four school houses (house names aren’t provided, so I personally go with Hasturpuff, R’lyehclaw, Ghatanothoador, and Shubbniggurin) at a private girls’ school run and staffed by eldritch abominations and their human minions. Your objective is to recruit desirable students into your house while directing faculty members towards other houses, all the while trying to keep your sanity from slipping away.

Cards are separated into Student and Faculty decks. The Students have feminized versions of character names from Lovecraft’s stories, such as Hannah Armitage and Erica Zann. Meanwhile, the Faculty consist of antagonists and eldritch abominations from the same sources. These are particularly interesting, as some of them come from Lovecraft’s more obscure stories, like The Terrible Old Man and Arthur Jermyn. Blank cards are also included for players to exercise their creativity and are disappointed that there wasn’t a Wilma Whateley card included. Each card has a Friendship Point or Nightmare Point cost (for Students and Faculty respectively) which is scaled appropriately to their stats and special abilities. Each card also has a keyword describing the primary interest (for Students) or staff position (for Faculty). While these don’t have a game mechanic effect, they can serve as useful hooks for players who like to narrate the class sessions (they also provide in-jokes for the attentive Lovecraft fanboys).

Card purchasing occurs at the beginning of a player’s turn. After taking the cards in his purchase pile (if any), the player draws from his deck until he has five cards. These cards are used for the Friendship Points and Nightmare Points which they provide for purchasing new cards. Out of a selection of three cards for each type, the player purchases one Student card (which goes to the player’s purchase pile) and one Faculty card (which goes to the purchase pile of the player to his left). If the player can’t afford any of the available cards or simply doesn’t care for the current selection, he draws a Transfer Student or Substitute Teacher as appropriate. These cards are generics with mediocre stats and no special abilities. But they are free, so you get what you pay for.

If the player was fortunate enough to have only drawn Student cards, his turn comes to an end. But after the first turn, that becomes next to impossible. In that case, Faculty cards from the player’s hand are placed on the Classroom section of the House Board while the Student cards go to the discard pile. Should any of these Students have a special ability denoted as Pre-Class, these may be applied should the player so desire. However, some Pre-Class abilities require that the card in question be removed from the game, so should only be used under dire circumstances.

Class is conducted by drawing a number of cards from the player’s deck equal to the number of Faculty cards in the Classroom. Any Faculty cards drawn are Pet Teachers, which immediately go to the discard pile of the player’s choice. Should any Student cards remain, these are the BFFs used to battle the Faculty. If any of them have a special ability denoted as BFF, these are immediately applied. The Students then total up their Girl Power (the number on the croquet mallet) and distribute it among the Faculty cards. If the Girl Power received by a Faculty card equals or exceeds its Health (the number on the wormy apple), that card is defeated. If all the Faculty cards are defeated, the classroom cards go to the discard pile and the player’s turn ends. If any survive, their total Damage (the number on the spanking paddle) is compared to the BFFs total Resolve (the number on the shield). If Damage is greater, the difference between Damage and Resolve is subtracted from the House’s Sanity.

While minimizing Damage is a high priority, the Survive and Defeat abilities of certain Faculty cards should also be considered. A Survive condition allowed to pass can be even more crippling than Sanity loss, while a Defeat condition met can provide a player with a much-needed edge. If a House’s Sanity reaches zero, that player is out of the game (with the last House standing being the winner). The completely random nature of the Classroom can be off-putting (but there are options, see below), though it could be argued that this makes it truer to its Lovecraft roots. Players getting eliminated one at a time can also be bothersome, especially if someone loses Sanity at an accelerated rate and gets stuck with nothing to do but make snarky comments and going to the kitchen to grab munchies for everyone.

From the back of the box:
“Please remember that parents are not allowed to visit during the school year except for our annual Oddly Shaped Rib Cook-Off that honors the memory of any children that might go missing between now and then”

Two card types which help shake up gameplay are Friendly Students and Aggressive Faculty. Once in a player’s deck, they behave like normal cards of their type. Their uniqueness comes from the fact that they don’t go to the purchase pile when they’re bought. A Friendly Student gets used as a BFF in the Classroom session for that turn, in addition to the normal draws from the deck. This provides an option to make classroom results a bit less random. As for Aggressive Faculty, when one is purchased, the recipient must immediately conduct a Classroom session with it. The purchaser’s turn then resumes as normal.

There are also a few cards which don’t end up in anyone’s deck when purchased. Locker cards go to the Locker area on the purchaser’s House board. These provide a continuous effect of some sort to the recipient’s benefit. Then there are the Event cards, which immediately go into effect when drawn from either of the decks. Sometimes they get used as a Locker card by the player who drew, though this is not necessarily to his benefit.

Overall, this game is best suited for Lovecraft fanboys, as well as those who like narrating random results. For anyone else, it’ll likely come across as just another deck builder game with one unique mechanic to distinguish it from the others. But if you count yourself as one of the above mentioned types, it’ll give you plenty of material to work with.

Rating: 15

Product Summary

Miskatonic School for Girls

From: Fun to 11

Type of Game: Card Game

Game Design by: Luke Peterschmidt

Art by: Betsy Peterschmidt

Game Components Included: 40 Starting Class cards, 51 Student cards, 4 Student Event cards, 46 Faculty cards, 4 Faculty Event cards, 18 Transfer Student cards, 20 Substitute cards, 4 Turn Order cards, 4 House Boards, 4 Sanity Counters, 8 blank cards, 4 ounces hopelessness

Retail Price: $45.99

Number of Players: 2-4

Player Ages: 12+

Play Time: 60-90 minutes

Website: http://www.funto11.com

Reviewed by: Sitting Duck