Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Double Dark

Out of my ten scheduled Blood Bowl matches this season, four have been against elves, three of those against dark elves. Back when I started playing the game in 1994ish I did quite well with my own dark elf team, and although Blood Bowl has changed quite a bit since then, I knew that the pointy eared braggarts would be difficult to beat.

So it proved in my first and second games, so I wasn't expecting too much...

First up were the Vaggaroth Villains, a somewhat experienced team currently sitting in the top half of the overall rankings. My vampires got smashed in the first half by the dominant elves, suffering a bunch of casualties and conceding an early touchdown.


"There's still the second half," I thought to myself, "So there's plenty of time to turn this around." I am nothing if not optimistic.

As the ball was kicked off for the second half there was a pitch invasion, and rampaging Villains fans knocked down and stunned all but three of my players.


Oh. Good start.

Even so, I somehow managed to prevent another elvish touchdown and almost scored an equaliser, but ran out of turns.

Final Score: Purple People Eaters 0 - Vaggaroth Villains 1

Match eight was versus The Tigers, a rookie dark elf team. Going into the match I was emboldened by the Tigers' lack of reserves and a complete dearth of rerolls, but I knew how good dark elves could be and as my opponent had little in the way of previous form, I had no idea what his play style was like.

Things looked iffy from the start as I lost a vampire at the end of an assassin's blade, and although I tend to take the swinginess of Blood Bowl to be part of the fun -- otherwise I wouldn't have picked a team as unreliable as vampires! -- I must admit that I thought this calamity would set the tone for the whole match.

One good thing about vampires is that they tend to recover from their injuries, even death, so Chris was back in action almost straight away.


I scored an early touchdown and although the dark elves equalised just before half time, I was feeling content, if not confident.

One of my players caught the ball from the second half kick off, the vampires formed a loose cage, and began to rumble down the pitch. While vampires have the agility of elves, they are not as fast and I didn't want my ball carrier to be exposed, so I felt the cage was the best strategy. The dark elves threw everything into defence and forced me to change direction a couple of times but the cage held, I managed to maintain forward momentum, and in my last turn, my ball carrier made a break for the line.

In Blood Bowl, players have a standard move allowance, but can Go For It to gain a couple of extra squares, although they have to roll 1d6 for each square and on a 1 they trip and fall. My player had six squares of movement and the end zone was seven squares away. Can you guess what happened?

If you said "You rolled a 1" you would be half correct because I did indeed roll a 1, but I had a reroll!

Which also came up a 1.

Oh well.

Final Score: Purple People Eaters 1 - The Tigers 1

I am disappointed that I missed out on winning the match, but I know it was down to bad luck rather than poor play, so I'm happy(ish) with the result. I picked up a fair few star player points as a result of some lucky casualties so the team as a whole is looking stronger, and I do feel like I'm getting the hang of the vampire style of play now.

I have two games left to play and I hope I can still get one win before the season ends. Let's see.

Tuesday, December 03, 2019

More Barbarians

I've been working on something I can't talk about for eighteen days, so instead here are some other bits I have done for Barbarians of the Ruined Earth, which should be out in 2020.




Saturday, November 30, 2019

Wilhelm Chaney Is A Liability

I lost, of course, but let's talk about Wilhelm Chaney, so-called "star player".

I was 2-1 down to the Black Mountain Mad Dogs, an experienced orc team, albeit one rather down on its luck, coming off a nine game losing streak. With three turns left in the game I had punched a hole in the left flank and Chaney was through to a scoring position, out of range of any of the orcish defence, with a gaggle of vampires in support

One of my vampires throws the ball. It's good! All Chaney has to do is roll a 3 or more on a d6, and he has the Catch skill to try again if he misses.

He rolls a 2.

Then another 2.

That's not good, but it's okay. Two turns left, the ball is loose in the end zone, and the orcs are miles away.

Next turn, Chaney steps into the end zone and goes to pick up the ball. It's a 3+ again.

He fluffs it.

Right then.

There's no need to worry. The orcs are getting closer but there's still a turn left and the ball is just sitting there. All Chaney needs to do is pick it up, he scores and I tie the game. On a 3 or more. That's all I need.


Gah.

The werewolf fumbles the ball into the crowd, which lobs it back into the arms of an orc who then hoofs it up the field and that's the game.

In all fairness, my opponent did score two touchdowns, both of which were somewhat soft, so I can only blame my poor defensive tactics for letting those happen. Failing to score an equalising touchdown after three very easy attempts? That's all down to the dice failing me.

But that's Blood Bowl for you.

Elsewhere it was quite a balanced game. My opponent suffered some poor luck of his own with two of his players -- including his troll! -- injuring themselves -- one fatally! -- when attempting to tackle mine. After a cagey, defensive start from both teams, the game opened up, there was quite a bit of movement  up and down the pitch, and it made for a fun and exciting game. A long one too, after three riots delayed the game to the extent that we ended up playing turn seven three times in the first half.

But that's Blood Bowl for you.

Final Score: Purple People Eaters 1 - Black Mountain Mad Dogs 2

I have four games left in the regular season. My hope is to still walk away with at least one win, but I am running out of time.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Oh, What's the Bloody (Bowl) Point?

I played two league games of Blood Bowl last week, and alas, I lost both.

First up was the Chaotic Warps, a mixed team of goblins and skaven. It was a brutal match with plenty of casualties on both sides, but the only touchdowns were scored by the Warps, and it's touchdowns that count.

(Well, until you get to end-of-season tiebreaks, then casualties count, but I doubt that will be relevant for me.)

I'm not sure where I went wrong with this one. Perhaps it was getting drawn into a brawl rather than trying to score, but then again I'm not certain I had many opportunities to score.

I do know that once again I had a vampire taken off and refusing to come back on -- and I think it was again my number 11, Bella, who doesn't seem committed to the cause -- so I resolved to hire a fourth vampire for my next match to give me some more options.

One of my thralls somehow avoided being killed and picked up enough experience points to develop a new skill, so I gave him Kick, which again should give me some options in future matches.

All in all, it wasn't a win, but the match did generate plenty of experience points to help develop my team so it could have been worse, I suppose.

Final Score: Purple People Eaters 0 - Chaotic Warps 2
(Casualties 2 - 2!)



The very next day I played the Vanaheim Valkyries, an experienced amazon team that as of writing sits at third overall in the league, separated only from second place by touchdown difference. The Valkyries are in their third season, have lots of skills and special abilities, and an excellent win/draw/loss record. I wasn't expecting to get even close to a win.

The vast difference in team value -- Blood Bowl's rough indicator of team quality -- between the Valkyries and the vampires allowed me to pick up some special benefits to -- in theory -- balance things a bit. The difference was so vast that I was able to hire the most expensive star player, Morg'n'Thorg in the game, and I couldn't turn that opportunity down.

The Valkyries, despite the strength of the individual players, was short on numbers, so my plan was to strike at the relatively weak linewomen, take them out of the game, and then exploit the numeric advantage to maybe, just maybe, scrape a draw. Morg, or in this case his sister, Marge, was key in that strategy.

As you can probably imagine, it was not to be.

Aside from the match against the Chaotic Warps, I seem to have had awful luck in taking out opposing players, while at the same time mine crumple like paper. Even the soft halflings seemed to bounce when they should break. Marge'n'Thorg was of little help and despite smashing amazons all over the pitch, couldn't put one down for longer than a turn. One of the Valkyrie linewomen was killed but it was as the result of an opportunistic foul, so the player didn't even pick up experience for it.

Meanwhile the skilled Valkyries players carved my defensive lines to pieces. They seemed to be everywhere at once and I had no response. My vampires managed to get the ball a couple of times but were unable to get it further forward than the halfway line.

My attempt to outnumber the amazons failed, and I had no further strategy beyond that, so I can't blame anyone but myself for the loss. Yes, my luck is sometimes terrible and yes, the opposing coach is very good at the game, but the truth is I had no idea what to do and it showed.

Final Score: Purple People Eaters 0 - Vanaheim Valkyries 3

Worry not! Despite the title of the post, I haven't lost my enthusiasm for Blood Bowl. It's one of my favourite games and I enjoy playing even when I'm losing, which is good, as I lose most of the time. I have five more games to play this season and I hope I can get some better results; I will be happy if I can win at least one game.

Next up is an orc team that is again much more experienced than mine, but has lost their last nine games. They look to be a tough, bashy team, so my plan is to make use of the vampires' greater agility and try to out-manoeuvre the orcs and maybe score a touchdown. Stranger things have happened. Apparently.

Thursday, November 07, 2019

Chubby Little Maniacs

Earlier this week I played the third game of the local Blood Bowl season and I managed to scrape another draw, but this time I also managed to score a touchdown, so I'm considering that to be an improvement.

I played against a halfling team. Halflings are considered one of the worst teams in the game -- even worse than vampires! -- but the coach had a couple of years of experience over me, so I wasn't expecting any sort of significant advantage.

I scored early, which I feared might be a problem as it would give my opponent plenty of time to score in return, and that did indeed happen although a few of his plays failed to come together because of bad luck, so it could have been worse.

My luck failed in the blocking and tackling. Halflings are weak and soft and I should have smashed lots of them but while I knocked plenty down, I wasn't able to injure any. I think the only proper injury to afflict my opponent's team came about when his own treeman dropped its halfling team-mate on his head, killing him! That's Blood Bowl.

My players are in theory made of much tougher stuff but once again I ended the game short on personnel as all the injury rolls favoured my opponent. The thralls are cheap and are designed to die, but one of my vampires spent about two-thirds of the game unconscious in his coffin, refusing to get back into the game. Flakey Anne Rice bastards.


Two of my thralls will miss the next match, which doesn't give me much wiggle room in terms of numbers. I am saving up for a fourth vampire but I am tempted to get another thrall in the interim, just to give me more people on the pitch.

My number 13, Gary, scored the only touchdown for the People Eaters and was named MVP for the third match running, so is now staggering under the weight of all his experience points; this is good as he now has a fine array of special skills, but it has left the other vampires undeveloped, and makes him a bit of a target. I need to weigh up keeping him in the game, and making use of those skills, against protecting him and allowing the other two vampires to get involved and earn experience. It's a tough balance.

Anyway, I'm happy with how the game went and I feel most of what went wrong was bad luck rather than bad play. I hope.

Final Score: Purple People Eaters 1 - Lamb Shank Redemption 1

I have organised my first inter-conference games, and will be playing them in the next couple of weeks. I was reluctant to do so at first because I'd been drawn against teams with much more experience than my own and I feared the mismatch would be too much, but I have decided to embrace the inevitable.

One of the teams is an Underworld squad, a loose alliance of skaven and goblins, and I am expecting a big loss there as they have a couple of high-level players, including at least one that can score in one turn. The other has a much higher team value than my own, and lots of dangerous-looking players, but has lost nine games out of eleven, so I'm not sure what will happen there.

Monday, October 28, 2019

The Book of Dreams



I have fond memories of sitting on the sitting room floor and leafing through the back section -- always the last few pages, with the toys and games -- of the Argos catalogue and making a list of all the wonderful things I wanted for Chrimble that year. I imagine that, wherever you are, you have a local equivalent.

Someone has done a wonderful, nostalgic, thing and scanned and uploaded the Argos catalogues of years past. Look at this page from 1993's catalogue:


Battle Masters! Dungeons and Dragons! The Legend of Zagor! Warhammer Fantasy Battle! Games Workshop, Fighting Fantasy, and D&D all in one festive season!

It's interesting that Battle Masters was more expensive than its "grown up" cousin Warhammer; I suppose that's because it had more miniatures in the box, even if they weren't quite as good as the proper ones.

(By 1994's catalogue Battle Masters is gone, Warhammer has gone up by £5, and is joined by the second edition of Warhammer 40,000.)

The big surprise is that D&D is only a tenner, not least because this is the Big Black Box edition that came in a, um, big black box, with the rules, a big dungeon map, a GM screen, cardboard miniatures, and probably a bunch of other stuff too. This version of the game only covered up to fifth level -- the Rules Cyclopedia took you the rest of the way -- but that's still a bargain.

Was 1993 the geekiest Chrimble ever?

Friday, October 18, 2019

Back From the Drawing Board

I spent some time over the last week thinking about defensive tactics in Blood Bowl and I think it paid off as I managed to scrape a draw in this week's league game!


It wasn't the prettiest or most flamboyant game. Kick-off aside, I don't think I got the ball into my opponent's half of the pitch at any point. Instead it was a bit of a scrum along the centre line, with lots of pushing and shoving and plenty of lateral movement, but only the briefest attempts at breaking out of the central mêlée.

I think my opponent was too focussed on harming my thralls, either to pick up casualty points or to leave my vampires without backup, but that left him with no time to score. By the end of the match I had only four players left on the pitch -- through a combination of blocks, hungry vampires, and being sent off -- and he was a turn away from getting a touchdown, but he had run out of time.



I suppose that in a sense his approach helped me, but I do think my defensive play worked to a certain extent. On the other hand, I didn't have much of a plan for scoring beyond some half-hearted positioning for a pass, so that's what I need to work out for my next game.

Final Score: Purple People Eaters 0 - Tiranoc Titans 0

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Kick Off

I started playing in the local Blood Bowl league last week. I hadn't played the tabletop version in fourteen months, I'd never played in a proper league setting before, and I'd picked one of the more difficult teams -- vampires -- to master, so what could go wrong?



I didn't get any more pictures after setup as I was too busy being thrashed 3-0.

To be honest, given my lack of recent experience I was expecting such a result and I found out later that day that my opponent was last season's champion, so I think 3-0 is probably quite good.

I have nine more games to play, assuming I don't get into the playoffs, and I think that's a safe assumption. I'll be happy with at least one win but I won't be too concerned if I don't even get that; most of the people I'll be playing are very experienced Blood Bowl coaches and I have to play at least three more elf teams, which tend to be the best in the game.

(Alas I won't be playing Stuart, as he's in a different division and we weren't matched in the inter-division draw.)

I will post as I play, and I hope I can bring you some good news in a future match report.

(I doubt it!)

Final Score: Purple People Eaters 0 - It's Always Sunny 3

Tuesday, October 01, 2019

Gone to Seed



From The Seed, an upcoming thing that I will talk about more when I know more.

I wasn't intending to do Inktober this year but let's see how we go.

Friday, September 13, 2019

The Laboratories of Joseph Cullen

I'm not sure if this is a spoiler or not. I think this -- along with some details of what is in all these rooms -- will be published somewhere at some point but I shall leave the details undefined for now.




Thursday, September 05, 2019

Bargain Quest Review

This is a review of Bargain Quest by Jonathan and Victoria Ying. It's a fun game and I quite like it.

Oh, you want more? Then please enter my establishment...

See what I did there? It's like I attracted you with my shopfront, then lured you in, just like you do in Bargain Quest! So clever. Blog of the year.

I am reviewing the second printing, which was released a few weeks ago. I missed the Kickstarter but there was a pre-order window between the crowdfunding and retail release and I got in there, which means I have a bunch of extra components you may not be getting if you buy now, but I'm also missing the Kickstarter bonuses and exclusives.

(I don't want to start with a criticism of the game, and to be fair this isn't an issue with the game itself, but a small number of the bonus items I got for buying the game before release are useless because they tie in with an expansion that Kickstarter backers got but those pre-ordering had to be buy separately. This wasn't made clear at the time, but it's not a huge problem. Anyway, carry on.)

In Bargain Quest monsters are attacking the town, and murderhobos heroes have arrived to kill the monsters and take their stuff, but the murderhobos heroes will need equipping before they go, which is where the players come in. Two to six players each run a shop and the goal is to attract murderhobos heroes then sell them a bunch of tat and hope they survive to come back and spend their loot. The shop that equips the most successful murderhobo hero and makes the most money is the best mercantile enterprise of them all and wins the game. Woo!

It's simple enough described like that but there are a lot of phases, making the game feel more complex than it perhaps is. You start by dealing random cards then drafting them; these are the items you are going to be selling in your shop. Then you place one -- or more, if you've upgraded -- items in your window. This item should attract a murderhobo hero, depending on who has wandered into town and whether the other shops have more attractive displays. Once every shop has a murderhobo hero, the players sell as much stuff as they can before sending them off to fight the monsters.

If the murderhobos heroes hurt the monster they earn victory points for their shop, and if they survive the battle, they earn more points and also some cash. If the monster is killed, the murderhobos heroes get even more cash but a more powerful monster arrives next turn. The shops then get to upgrade their window displays or storage, or hire new staff, before the murderhobos heroes return to town to spend their winnings. When three monsters of increasing toughness are defeated, the game ends and the most successful shop owner wins.

(There's a semi-cooperative element in that if all the murderhobos heroes are killed, the monsters then go on a rampage and murder everyone in the town, in which case everyone loses, but I haven't had that come up yet. It adds a bit of balance and external tension but it's much more of a distant, vague threat in comparison to something like Pandemic.)

There is a lot going on in the game and as most of it is driven by drawing random cards from various decks, the game can feel a bit chaotic and cluttered at times, but it does flow well once you've got the hang of it and it's always fun. With so much going on it is difficult to identify one approach or strategy that seems better than the others, and this seems like good design to me; do you put rubbish items in the window and hope that you can sell your good gear to whoever wanders in? Do you upgrade your shop or do you save the money and convert it to victory points at the end of the game?

(That said, there is a certain type of employee that provides a general boost to hero abilities and they seem to give a big advantage, but they don't always emerge from the employee deck.)

Some cards also modify other cards and mechanics when played or revealed, and this adds another level of complexity and interest. A monster might affect whether shops can upgrade this turn, or a murderhobo hero may buy items for more or less money than normal. With this added complexity comes some murkiness in terms of mechanics, such as the timing of effects and whether cards are discarded or kept or even returned to the deck, but I have found that there's nothing so confusing that it doesn't have a logical interpretation that can be agreed by the other players.

Some of my group disliked the randomness of the mechanics, in particular a sort of personality card that is attached to a murderhobo hero after they've been equipped but before they face the monster, because a poor card can scupper an entire turn's planning and strategy. I do sympathise but I love randomness in games, in part because it's funny when your super tank paladin loses all his weapons on the way to the dungeon, but also because I am terrible at all board games so I never have a strategy that can be ruined. I admit that I am perhaps in a distinct and quite strange minority.

The game has great presentation. It all comes in a compact box and given it's got one of those Fantasy Flight Big Useless Insert™ things, you can even fit an expansion or two in there. The components are sturdy and the cards look like they will stand up to the metric fudgeton of shuffling the game requires.

It also has great representation, with lots of people of different ethnicities and genders on display, although I would have liked the artist Victoria Ying to lean more into the fantasy element and give us more blue, green, and orange people alongside the brown and pink. I do have a robot in my set, but I think it's a pre-order bonus.

Ying's art takes a quaint, heartwarming, almost whimsical approach reminiscent of that of Kazu Kibuishi, or Ryan Laukat's art for Above and Below. It's D&D through a Disney/Ghibli lens and it's lovely without being twee. The individual shop playmat things are perhaps my favourite pieces, evocative environments that you don't want to spoil by laying cards over them.

The title is rubbish though. It's neither evocative nor descriptive, and instead falls into some half-arsed agonising beige abyss betwixt the two, but I'm not going to suggest you avoid it because of that.

In fact, I suggest you do the opposite of avoiding the game, which is... er, buying it, probably. If you can find it, that is. It seems to be out of stock or at a pre-order stage everywhere, including direct from the publisher, but there is a print-your-own version you can buy from the designers. However you get it, get it, because it's ace.

(It's also reasonable in terms of price at about £32, but even I have standards and the obvious pun is below them. Just.)

Arbitrary numeric score: +1/+1

But wait, before you go, I have a special offer for you!

(See what I did there?)

As a pre-order bonus I also got the Solo Mode expansion. This does exactly what it says on the tin. Box. You get a small deck of cards and a little rules booklet that together modify the game so that you are competing against a vague, nebulous cloud of competitors that you never see. It's a bit weird because there are no other items or shops and when the murderhobos heroes go to the competitors, they disappear from the game, so it feels like half the game is off in some strange ghost dimension.

Perhaps I'm overthinking it, or perhaps the expansion should be called Strange Ghost Dimension Shopping. You decide.

Anyway. The solo mode works in much the same way as the base game but skews things a bit here and there and as such is both easier and more difficult, which I know makes no sense, but there it is. Your shop can suffer damage, and the apocalyptic losing condition remains and is a bit more pressing with murderhobos heroes disappearing each turn, but is still probably not going to happen unless things go very wrong. On the other hand, winning is much easier as the Strange Ghost Competitors don't score any points, but there are degrees of victory so the game becomes more about beating your own high score.

I think Bargain Quest works best as a group game because you can steal each other's murderhobos heroes and money, and laugh with each other when someone keeps sending murderhobo hero after murderhobo hero to fight monsters with nothing more than a pair of old boots, but it is a fun enough game that I will play it solo now and then. Would I buy the expansion if I didn't get it with the game anyway? I don't think so, but that's just because I'd prefer to enjoy it with others.

Arbitrary Strange Ghost Dimension score: X

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Monday, July 01, 2019

Oh Dear...

This is a bit embarrassing. Following on from the role-playing games I have played and the games I own but have not played, here are the adventures and campaigns that I own and have not played. Again, I am not including free stuff that's been shoved at me by Drive Thru RPG, nor am I including adventures from magazines, because that would be ridiculous and this is quite bad enough.

Adventure Number Ten - Lamentations of the Flame Princess (LotFP)
Assault on Blacktooth Ridge - Castles & Crusades
Bad Myrmidon - OSR
Barrowmaze - OSR
Better Than Any Man - LotFP
Blades - Earthdawn
Blood in the Chocolate - LotFP
Broodmother SkyFortress - LotFP
Carcosa - LotFP
The Cursed Chateau - OSR/LotFP
Dark Frontier - Rogue Trader
Death Love Doom - LotFP
Death's Dark Shadow - Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay
Deep Carbon Observatory - OSR
The Doom-Cave of the Crystal-Headed Children - LotFP
Doors to Darkness - Call of Cthulhu
Dungeon of the Unknown - LotFP
Dwimmermount - Adventurer Conqueror King/OSR
- I have played one session of a pre-release version of the dungeon online with the author, James Maliszewski, so maybe I shouldn't count it.
England Upturn'd - LotFP
Eyes of the Stone Thief - 13th Age
Fantastic Four: Fantastic Voyages - Marvel Super Heroes Adventure Game
Fever-Dreaming Marlinko - OSR
The God that Crawls - LotFP
Going Through Forbidden Otherworlds - LotFP
The Grinding Gear - LotFP
Hammers of the God - LotFP
The Idea from Space - LotFP
Kafer Dawn - 2300AD
King for the Day - OSR
Lamentations of the Gingerbread Princess - LotFP
Lure of the Expanse - Rogue Trader
Masks of Nyarlathotep - Call of Cthulhu
Maze of the Blue Medusa - OSR
Misty Isles of the Eld - OSR
The Monolith from Beyond Space and Time - LotFP
Nameless Horrors - Call of Cthulhu
No Dignity in Death: The Three Brides - LotFP
No Salvation for Witches - LotFP
Oddpool - Into the Odd
Palace of the Silver Princess (DIY Remix) - OSR
The Pale Lady - LotFP
People of Pembrooktonshire - LotFP
The Punchline - LotFP
Qelong - Lamentations of the Flame Princess
A Red & Pleasant Land - LotFP
Sacraments of Evil - Call of Cthulhu
Scenic Dunnsmouth - LotFP
Silent Titans - Into the Odd (I think)
A Single, Small Cut - LotFP
Slumbering Ursine Dunes - OSR
Sounds of the Mushroom Kingdom - LotFP
The Squid, the Cabal, and the Old Man - LotFP
Tales of the Scarecrow - LotFP
Thulian Echoes - LotFP
Tomb of the Iron God - OSR
Tower of the Stargazer - LotFP
Towers Two - LotFP
The Weird that Befell Drigbolton - OSR
World War Cthulhu: Europe Ablaze - Call of Cthulhu
X-Men: Who Goes There? - Marvel Super Heroes Adventure Game

There's a lot of OSR -- LotFP in particular -- stuff there because I do a fair bit of work in that area, but my own group doesn't play old-school games unless I'm playtesting something. It's a feeble excuse but it's all I've got.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Space Barbarians!

These are from Barbarians of Orange Boiling Seas, an upcoming adventure written by Zzarchov Kowolski for Lamentations of the Flame Princess.




This one was supposed to be the matriarch of a Neanderthal clan, but it looks more like Doctor Who person Steven Moffat. Oh well.

I believe the adventure will be released at this year's Gen Con in August, and will be on general sale soon afterwards.