Warhammer: Return of the Old World – Considerations & Predictions

warhammer the old world fantasy battles Games Workshop creator consortium

It has been several years now since the Warhammer Fantasy Battles fell over and never got back up. Games Workshop made the decision to end the old fantasy setting in a spectacular fashion: they blew it to pieces. The planet, the world, the entire setting was ‘sploded and everyone in, with the exception of some power leaders and a handful of people, were destroyed.

The Warhammer community exploded too. The hate and the backlash were extreme: people were selling their miniatures for a pittance, some went so far as to burn their collections on their YouTube channels. It was a reaction to loss, a grieving protocol which some on the internet didn’t know how to process.

To make matters worse, the substitute for Warhammer was the introduction of the Age of Sigmar. Whatever your feelings on that particular tabletop wargame, the fact is that a large proportion of people seemed to have stepped away from Games Workshop in a sea of salty-salty tears.

(If you read the comments from one of our previous articles, you’ll see what we mean!)

Well, all those tears were apparently for nothing, because after nearly 5 years of Age of Sigmar, the Games Workshop design studios have decided to bring back the Old World.

We predicted this just over a year ago.

(But we’re still surprised).

The Old World fantasy setting was still hanging on thanks to the digital gaming world: Total War: Warhammer, Vermintide, Mordheim, Warhammer Quest and even Bloodbowl held the sputtering torch and maintained the dying light for those who just wanted the snuggly warmth of something they grew up with and loved.

warhammer the old world fantasy battles Games Workshop creator consortium

Predictions

We’re not going to go into a huge amount of detail here, but we’ve put together some considerations and we’d like to get into the hype of what the return of the Old World may mean.

The Horus Heresy Equivalent

The release note from the GW studio suggests that the Old World will be the equivalent of Horus Heresy for Warhammer 40,000. This seems fine, as it will likely start with a smaller following than the mainline games GW currently offer. What is an interesting consideration is whether or not the miniatures supplied with come from Forge World or regular GW supplies.

Forge World is the premium miniature producer for GW (and is still part of the GW corporation). These miniatures are top-notch but you pay a far greater amount of your precious cash to get these miniatures.

The other hand to this portion of the debate is that Warhammer Fantasy Battles was a game of mass rank and file troops, which may put the price of Forge World productions beyond the buying of Fantasy gamers.

How Far?

The studio is suggesting that there’s likely to be nothing for at least two years. It’s typical GW to hint at or promise something so excruciatingly far away that it seems unreal, but it does raise some questions about why it is so far away.

Realistically, 2+ years is not world-shattering when it comes to designing games – which is part of this consideration: are we getting a whole new game system? GW is not beyond emulating industry pioneers, and seeing the success of community-driven games such as the 9th Age and Mantic Games, we’re predicting a return to the rank and file battle system, but perhaps a more streamlined version of the game (personally, I don’t mind the current Age of Sigmar game system).

9th Age warhammer fantasy battle Games Workshop WFB tabletop gaming wargame Fantasy

Let’s keep in mind that the recent GW success story, financially, is heavily supported by its ability to attract brand new players with easy to learn rules and game systems.

The Miniatures

It has been some time. In fact, it has been just the right amount of time for the majority of players to have ditched their old Warhammer Fantasy armies for the newer, sleeker and prettier Age of Sigmar factions. Perfect time to release whole new lines of miniatures.

This is both exciting to consider. And a nightmare for our bank accounts. If GW go down the Forge World rout, that could be bad for the return of the Old World. If they start with army boxed sets (as the casts for all of the old miniatures are probably still around) then we can hope for a return of the classic models and miniatures. This, I hope for personally, because I miss my Wood Elf and High Elf armies.

I think I’ve flogged this article enough already!

If you’ve got any of your own predictions, or hopes and dreams when the Old World returns, leave us a comment below, let’s get into the hype early so we can shout ‘told you so!’ at the top of our voices!

Follow us on Facebook for notifications of new articles and news, or on Twitter with the handle @FerrisWrites.

Let the Old World reignite… 

How to Draw RPG Maps – Part 2, Caves

Last week we started a tutorial on how to draw simple dungeon maps in the style of Dyson and other leading artists in the tabletop role-playing game (RPG).

This week we’ll be covering caves and associated natural formations to bring your tabletop games to life with a touch of professionalism!

If you want to read the part where we talk a little bit about pencils and pens etc, you can find it here!

So, onto caves and natural features!

Notes

Unlike traditional dungeons, caves don’t have an easy way of defining the typical 5 foot square in inches on the map (1-inch = 5-foot). To get around this, simply place a well-defined sheet of squares under the cave map page so you can see through to the squares.

And now the process…

One

Place your page of squares under a fresh sheet of paper – this will allow you to draw to scale. You can see in the image that I’ve drawn a rough square shape with a tunnel for access.

In the following image, I’ve modified the outline to look a little more natural by taking the edges of the squares away and redefining the roughly circular shape.

Two

The next step is to really define the outline. For this step, it’s best to use a brush pen or at least a 0.5mm pen. Remember the outline needs to stand out from the rest of the cave and its contents, as well as the dead space between other chambers. I tend to use a wobbly hand technique to apply a rough and believable cave wall for this part – don’t just make it wavey or zigzagged, add depth, create sharp bumps or points and let it look rough!

I decided to add some features to this cave section – two large natural pillars to hold up the ceiling, and a raised platform in the middle of the cave. Define these too, as they’ll be dead space or features that need demarking. You can see that I’ve filled these in using a similar method to the Dyson hatching style – series of lines which move in random directions, with each series of lines capped by another series of lines.

Note that the centre feature doesn’t have full hatching, this is because it’s a raised step or platform which players should be allowed to explore or monsters can stand on.

Three

Now for the outside hatching! I’ve decided to show you three examples of border hatching (although the third method is more fitting for water banks). The Dyson style is quite arduous but very rewarding and therapeutic to draw. The dotting method is very simple (and with a bit of practice is much faster than I originally thought).

I always draw a guiding line around the edges of the map or tile. This is so I don’t draw in too much, or go out too far with the hatching methods mentioned here.

dungeon maps cave maps fantasy maps creator consortium tutorial DnD RPG

The last method is to use a very fine pen, in this case, 0.05mm, and draw one or two broken lines around the outer edges. As mentioned earlier, this usually marks where the water begins (such as on coastal maps) but is a very quick and easy method if you’re in a rush.

I’ve included some close-up images so you can emulate the style – it only takes a little bit of practice!

dungeon maps cave maps fantasy maps creator consortium tutorial DnD RPG

dungeon maps cave maps fantasy maps creator consortium tutorial DnD RPG

Four

This final section is to add details. Details help to populate your map, making it look realistic, but also serves to add a sense of scale.

You can see from my doodles that I’ve drawn rocks of varying sizes. This was so I could determine a clean map space or a messy one, essentially providing smooth or rough terrain.

dungeon maps cave maps fantasy maps creator consortium tutorial DnD RPG

If you add features such as furniture or treasure chests you can further define the scale to let your players see just how big or small each cave is. Here are some examples of features and how simple little dots and irregular shapes can bring the cave to life!

That is pretty much it! You’ll find that with a little practice you can create some nice, clean and detailed maps in no time at all. Just take the plunge, put pencil or pen to paper and just start – no-nonsense or fussing – just get on with it and the flow will develop from there!

Next week we’ll look at some outdoor maps – a little trickier (especially since we haven’t tried this ourselves yet!)

Find us on facebook or on Twitter with the handle @FerrisWrites

Good luck!

How to Draw RPG Maps – Part 1, Dungeon Maps

(Step by Step)

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been tackling a growing problem in my role-playing gaming sessions – maps.

Maps can really bring your game to life, focus the players and help keep track of locations and events as the game progresses. The problem, however, is that if you’re not 100% confident of your drawing skills, you may be disinclined to draw your own or pay someone to use theirs. This is fine, but you’ll likely not get a dungeon map in the style or layout that you want.

So this is where my practice comes in: you can read the following and hopefully learn a few tricks and see just how easy it is to draw clear, atmospheric maps in a very short space of time.

I’ll be emulating some of my favourite styles, with the mind to develop my own style from the industry benchmark.

Tools

In the UK currently, it is very easy to get your hands on the tools you’ll need to draw out your own dungeon maps. Here’s a list of the pens and pencils I use, which I’ve selected for their inexpensive price tags:

  • Derwent hard pencils – a set of 5 pencils shouldn’t cost you an arm and a leg. There’s a huge variety out there, but frankly you can get away with a pretty standard HB, 2H and 2B set of pencils. HB is your standard pencil, 2H is a harder pencil which gives you a harder and lighter pencil line, whereas 2B is soft, giving you a darker and softer pen line.
  • I use Uni Pin fine liners for the inking of my maps – they’re pretty common and over the last ten years have dropped in price significantly. For my practice, I use different thickness of nibs: 0.5, 0.2 and 0.05 mm pens, with a brush pen for extra thick lines.
  • For practice, I bought a really cheap pad of 50 sheets of drawing pad paper, A4. If I’m sketching I got to town a purchase A5 sketchbooks, these shouldn’t cost you too much, but I like the thicker paper sheets.

All of these items are available at the Range – I was amazed that 10 fine liner pens were around £10 per pack, giving more pens than you will ever need! A4 drawing paper can cost as little as £1. Art pencils can cost a little more than regular pencils, but there’s no need to go crazy for your first time. A simple clean eraser is helpful.

So, here follows my method for quick, simple and effective dungeon maps.

Zero

To save on buying fancy pads of paper, I start by drawing the framework on a new piece of paper. Using the edges of the paper, I mark out inch wide dots to form a series of squares. You can create 1-cm lines if you want, but for the use of tabletop maps, I prefer 1-inch tiles. It’s a standard format, with 1-inch acting as a 5ft space for your players. My example is below. I’ll only really need to do this once, so its best to get it right and save the page for multiple uses in the future.

RPG Map Dungeon Cave Dungeons and Dragons DM

One

Once I’ve got this right, I can start using it to map out my err, map. I place the framework page underneath a fresh page and mark where the lines intersect with a cross. I’ll draw in the walls of the dungeon room, all in pencil. I’m going to just be using a simple square as the dungeon tile, normally you’d leave space for a door in and out, but my examples are just that, examples.

RPG Map Dungeon Cave Dungeons and Dragons DM

Two

The next bit is where it starts to get a little more tricky. My first step here is to draw the outlines of the room in a thicker pen. Here I used the 0.5mm pen, but sometimes I use a brush pen for an extra thick line. So long as the pen you use is the thickest pen for your dungeon map tile, you’ll get a good edge. It needs to be thicker to stand out as the walls of your room.

Next, I switch to the 0.2mm pen and draw the lines of the stonework – this is a simple process, but you should be aware that you don’t want to draw the tiles like a literal grid. For best effect, you want to give the impression of the stonework. I do this by lightly bouncing the pen up and down on the paper as I draw the lines, creating a staggered line. It looks smarter and more realistic than if they were a simple grid.

Using the really fine pen, the 0.05mm pen, I add in some cracks randomly to the stonework and add a few lines to the edges of the room. This is purely fanciful and down to your own preference!

RPG Map Dungeon Cave Dungeons and Dragons DM

Three & Four

In these images, I’ve tried to convey a bit of lighting. Dark and damp dungeons are not airy and light places, so it adds atmosphere – I added some shade or shadows. Shade and shadows can be used for different purposes here – they act as both an absence of light and potentially dirt or dust.

For tile 3 I used lines to suggest shadow, for tile 4 I used simple dots that grow in concentration the darker the shadow becomes.

I added some missing chunks of stonework, which I filled in with some hatching using the 0.05mm pen. You can see where I practised this at the side of the page. You can also add some tiny rocks and surround them with simple dots to create a messy appearance – you don’t need to explain what these are, they could be moss, fungus or just bits of stone or bone.

RPG Map Dungeon Cave Dungeons and Dragons DM

Five

Next, I draw a simple border around the room, about half a centimetre, which you can see in tile 5. You’ll notice that I’ve not drawn using a rule at all in my process – I like it to look natural and a bit rough… adds to the atmosphere!

RPG Map Dungeon Cave Dungeons and Dragons DM

Six

In tile 6 you can see the different border techniques that you can use to provide a bit of depth to your maps and also define what is solid rock and what is room space. These three techniques are used extensively across the internet. I’ve adapted mine from Dyson and Dark Realm Maps – both industry leaders and heavily involved in the RPG community – you should check them out on Twitter!

RPG Map Dungeon Cave Dungeons and Dragons DM

So, at the top of the tile, there is line hatching – this is just a series of lines running in the same direction, repeated and twisted to create a pleasing mess to the eye. To top it off, I just added some random singular lines, dots and small stones to give it a more natural feel. It takes quite a long time to do and easy to mess up – make sure your lines come to a stop with another oblique line for a nice finish.

On the right side of the tile is simple dotting – the closer to the wall you are the more dense the dots become. A simple method that doesn’t take too long to do, but keep in mind how many dots it takes to do a single centimetre square!

Finally on the bottom of the tile is “stone support.” You can use this method for underground dungeons or for free-standing buildings above ground. Each building block has its own shape and size but is organised in clear lines. I tend to keep some stones to the guidelines we drew in tile 5, whereas some go beyond it – I prefer to keep it even as a rule of averages: for every extra tall block, there should be a shorter block to match it.

And that is pretty much it!

I’ve included some of my own tiles which I first started a week or so ago. You can see where I’ve messed up in some places. Overall though, this method is actually quite quick and easy for a small to a medium-sized dungeon. You can keep your map to a single piece of paper or cut out your tiles to allow the players to only see them when they enter a new room.

I hope this has been informative, and we’d love to see some of your creations on our facebook page or tag us on twitter with @ FerrisWrites.

Next week I’ll go into more detail about cave dungeon maps and tiles, which can be a little more time consuming but require less initial setup.

Bye for now!

Ferris

Part 2 – Cave Maps can be found here.

Betrayal At House On The Hill, With Widow’s Walk Expansion – First Impressions

Last night a few of us got together to play Avalon Hill’s classic 2004 spooktacular: Betrayal At House On The Hill with the 2016 expansion: Widow’s Walk. Now, this first impression review will focus on the style and function of the base game; as this was my first time playing the game, I have no frame of reference to tell you whether the expansion makes a difference or changes anything. From what I can tell though, Widow’s Walk mainly adds new bits and bobs to expand your options if you’ve played the base game a few times.

I felt very excited when I sat down and saw all the little pieces laid out ready to play. One of our group (Doddy, of SummonedGames) had played the game a fair few times so we were in safe hands, but everything seemed pretty intuitive and not much prep was really needed before we got right in and chose our characters.

You get a little pentagonal card with your character’s identity and stats on it which has plastic slider clips to keep track of the numbers; a very nice little tracking system, better than a load of counters clogging up table space that you get in games like Talisman.

Once we’d picked our character (I chose the erstwhile Professor Longfellow) and claimed a pre-painted playing piece, all which were fairly thematic, we placed our “explorer” on the Entrance Hall tile and were ready to kick off.

The game starts you out with a few tiles on the board which represent the “landings” in the house, which are points from which the floors of the house branch off. Each of the landings are connected to each other , so you can actually travel in 3 dimensions in the game, which is very interesting.

The style of the game is very simple: you have a “speed” stat, which allows you to move that number of spaces along the board, until you hit a doorway, at which point you declare that you are heading into the next room and you pluck a new, obscured, tile off the top of the stack. Theses tiles can include all kinds of special room with rules on them which surprise you or give you choices you can use to gain effects or items. Normally there is a little symbol on the tiles which correspond to one of the three card types in the game: Item, Event or Omen. If the tile you draw has one of these symbols, you draw that type of card and resolve the effect, or claim the item if it is one.

The above describes the gameplay loop when you begin, so each character goes off on their own, usually exploring a different part of the house and laughing at each other’s misfortune as you face spooky ghosts in the garden or fall down the coal chute into the basement, or becoming envious of the shotgun they just found in a drawer.

The game heats up when, after a few rounds, you begin resolving more and more of the Omen type card. Whenever you draw a tile with an omen symbol, you draw an omen card, which can be good or bad or even an item – after which, you must roll a “Haunt Roll”. At the beginning of the game, when you’ve only drawn a couple of omen cards, you’re not at a high risk of resolving the Haunt, but as more and more get flipped and the Omen Counter grows higher and higher, each Haunt roll gets more and more risky and the tension builds.

Then it happens. If you roll under the number of omen cards that have been drawn on the Haunt Roll, then the Haunt resolves and the game pauses while the players look at the grid table that will determine which particular Haunt scenario is going to befall the group.

The Haunt is really where the game comes into it’s own: depending on the scenario outlined in the “Traitor’s Tome”, one or more players – determined randomly, become a traitor and from that point on, each side has specific and secret objectives which they have to meet in order to win the game. So the traitor takes the tome and rushes into another room to read their secret dossier and the remaining explorers do the same. After that, the traitor comes back in with a smirk on their face and quietly sets up the various tokens and adjustments to the board as specified in the special rules of the Haunt.

In our playthrough, I was actually the traitor. My explorer immediately died and became a zombie lord with accompanying undead minions and it was my objective to mercilessly murder the rest of them. Only one player could harm the zombie lord, so what was a casually paced exploration game with a few twists and turns, became a mad dash to grab as much stuff as possible to be able to face off against the enemy.

I quickly dispatched the players who were unable to harm my zombie lord and after a few turns, on the first floor landing, there stood poor Peter and his loyal dog, wielding a sacrificial dagger covered in chalk. He drove it deeply into the zombie and won the game.

One thing you can really say about this game is that it’s exciting. You never really know what you’re going to get and most of the strategy in the first phase, before the haunt, seems to be gathering as much stuff as you can in the hopes that it will help you post-haunt. The amount of emergent gameplay is astounding, I’ve never really seen a game like it for this; you can literally play tens of thousands of times and never play the same game twice. Very good value for money at being around the 35 dollar mark, with the expansion another 15 or so. There are tons of other haunts too; the scenario we played was only one of around 150 or so unique scenarios if you include the expansion.

I’d say the strengths of the game are also its weaknesses. The game is more of a wild ride that you feel yourself taking part in rather than a true test of your strategic thinking; you make choices and go your own way, but I’d imagine that most of the time you’re basically trying to make the best of the random items you’ve picked up by the time the haunt rolls round, at which point a lot of your agency goes out of the window as the game state changes altogether.

The proof of the pudding, they say, is in the eating and so it really speaks volumes to how I’d rate this game when the first thing that came into my head when we’d finished was “I want to play again!”. You can’t really put a price on a game that values your time like this one does, especially with the plethora of replayability options on offer. I’d say that Betrayal is good for gamers of any skill or experience level – not necessarily the best intro game, but I don’t think anyone would object if it was pulled out of the cupboard.

Click the link and head over to SummonedGames to check out the video of our Playthrough

Handling Creative Projects: Motivation, Content & Formatting

The Godless Realm was born whilst travelling at 70 mph on a dark, rainy motorway somewhere near Coventry. The Godless Realm is a fantasy world setting for tabletop role-playing (TTRPG, or just RPG). It’s not out yet, but we wanted to write about how we’re doing things to give you an insight in what is involved and maybe pick up a few tips along the way.

Since its initial inception we’ve fleshed out ideas, cut and pasted countless more ideas and edited so many documents and versions of documents that we’ve lost count – our Google Drive is a bit of a mess at the moment too. I started to ask myself, what needs to be done?

Here are a few points on what we’ve tried, failed and retried to give you an idea on how to keep a project going…

Share It

Doing a project by yourself is all fine if you’ve got the motivation and the skills to get a project done. But if you’re like most people, sharing your content with trusted friends really helps, especially if they into the same things as you are. We use Google Drive to share, make suggestions and comments and leave helpful little motivational “likes” here and there for bits we particularly enjoy.

creator consortium master page affinity development blog RPG roleplaying game DnD Fantasy Godless Realm

Motivation

One of the hardest things to maintain over a long project like this is keeping motivated and getting the task done. On a personal level, this is something I have to do after getting home from work or spending time with my partner (or for others, juggling a young family). So how do we do it?

Once a week, we meet up for coffee or food somewhere that isn’t our home. The reason for this is quite simple: we get out of the house, have an excuse to meet up and hang our mental washing out to dry. Coffee is great for thinking up ideas and energizing the imagination – and the meal is a great place to discuss ideas without having to dedicate your entire concentration. The key is that it’s a relaxing thing to do.

Since doing this we’ve found that our ideas flow more readily and feel natural without having to engage and force ideas.

Personally, I drive home from work and listen to thematic music to fit the nature of the project (anything from Lustmord to Lord of the Rings), get in, walk the vintage Labrador, eat food and sit down for an hour and write solely for that hour. If I find my attention failing, I spend 2 minutes on Twitter or Facebook, checking the stats and analytics of the various social media platforms, have a stand up stretch and get back to it.

Once that is done, the evening is my own to do with as I wish (which usually involves board games, doggo playtime or friends). Do this for five days a week, you’ve spent a minimum of 5 hours working solidly on your project.

A quality 5 hours too.

As a real example, we manage to proof or edit 10 pages of content. If we’re purely writing, you’re looking at 5 good pages a week – and this based on the assumption that it’s just me working! I’m lucky to have the imagination of Mr James and sometimes Mr Steadman working at the same time.

Proof & Edit

This isn’t something you can really do as you go along. If you’ve ever tried NaNoWriMo you’ll see that proofing and editing should be done at set stages or strictly at the end of the project. The reason for this is simple: you need to give you mind time to forget the details of what you’ve written. Do that and the text seems fresh – mistakes stand out like a whale at a cheetahs party.

Personally I find reading something out loud (or just whispering it to yourself) allows you to see when you need to pause to take in a comfortable breath. If you’re not sure on how something sounds, send it to a friend to look over (maybe just a snippet so they don’t lose focus), or get yourself a few books on writing in the language you’re using. Penguin books are good for this, and there’s a host on free online content with good ideas.

Mark in your document how far you’ve got and go back to it when you’re feeling too tired or bored – it’s perfectly fine to feel tired or bored, just give it time and go back to it again.

If you use Google Docs, you can make comments on your work as you go, leaving yourself little messages so that you don’t forget things. We also tag each other at the points where we feel the content is more in someone else’s domain, or if you need help with a section.

Take your time, and read the content for what it is, don’t just skim read it.

creator consortium master page affinity development blog RPG roleplaying game DnD Fantasy Godless Realm

Formulating Ideas

Ideas do not just come to a person in a complete form – you need to develop something into more refined or expanding ideas. For the Godless Realm project, this meant that we would start with something small in the form of questions:

“How do the Guilds pay their workforce?”

  • Workers are given a station which supplies their food, an abode and expected duties.
  • To gain more money, luxury or influence a worker must gain promotion to a better, hierarchical post, with more responsibility – but these are limited!
  • So who makes the food? Who manages the houses? Who lights the streets? Who cleans the streets? Are there sewers, who cleans them?

The list of extra questions  builds and goes on and on. You don’t have to answer all of them, but building up the picture gives you avenues to explore and ideas from which to build on. From this method we created various guilds, factions and gangs to fulfill the niches we felt needed filling, whilst making them important to the citizens of the Godless Realm.

Formatting

This should be your final step in any written project!

Formatting is where many of the issues can arise. What program do you use to help format your documents into something legible and professional looking? How professional do you want it to look? Where do you need to add spot-filler art or page breakers?

creator consortium master page affinity development blog RPG roleplaying game DnD Fantasy Godless Realm DriveThruRPG

We purchased some stock art from DriveThruRPG (it’s usually a few dollars / GBP for some sets) and grabbed a copy of Affinity Publisher – this was the most expensive part of the project so far, as Affinity costs £48 – but it’s a one-off payment… no subscription (looking at you, Microsoft!).

You can get free versions of publisher style programs such as Scribus, but I found them to be old and stuffy and not as user friendly or efficient with my computers CPU. Affinity also do video tutorials, which I found very easy to follow. That’s my endorsement for the week!

creator consortium master page affinity development blog RPG roleplaying game DnD Fantasy Godless Realm

With Affinity and some simple stock art I was able to start producing master pages and spreads which look reasonably professional quickly – less than an hour in fact.

I’ll say it again: At this stage, you need to have all of your project text finalised, with no changes, edits or additions or subtractions from the main body of text – because doing so once it is formatted is just undoing a lot of the work you’ve already done, i.e, wasting your own time!

That’s it for today – I hope this insight has been a little helpful or inspiring. The key conclusion I think is that if you think it’s impossible, it will be. Set yourself little goals and read around the subject and you’ll start to formulate your own patterns of working.

If you have any questions, leave a comment below or contact me on Twitter (@FerrisWrites) or Like our Facebook page!

Here’s a little free “bare bones” RPG adventure, feel free to try it out and let us know what you think… constructively…

Bare Bones Adventure 1

Ferris, CC

Credit: Some artwork copyright William McAusland, used with permission.

Runaljod: The Sound of the Runes – Heroic Battles in A Frozen Apocalypse

Our streak of luck is maintained as this week we were able to get our hands on the early version of a rather cool and epic sounding board game, Runaljod: The Sound of the Runes! Runaljod is brought to us by Tempo Games, a Spanish company.

In the competitive world of indie board games, it is quite common to see some interesting and beguiling game mechanics. Runaljod is one such game, but we think it stands out as a game that most of us will enjoy more because of its fusion of tactics and chance.

Runaljod is an adventure board game. It combines tactical combat with dice rolls and special abilities, board exploration with random encounters, and casting runes to provide power to your characters actions and abilities.

If you have played; Hero Quest, Star Wars: Imperial Assault or Mice & Mystics you will be familiar with the mechanics of this game. Runaljod does all of these games justice too.

It is worth mentioning that the prototype game we played is still going through adjustments and testing. The rules were also hastily translated from Spanish to English, so we hope we got things right!

Let’s take a look at the game as a whole.

runaljod sound of the runes creator consortium board game tabletop game action fantasy norse early review kickstarter miniatures

What is Runaljod?

Runaljod is a cooperative game, putting the players and their characters against enemies and creatures found in Norse mythology. The game takes place on small board sections which are revealed as the game unfolds. The game is broken down into the hero phase and the enemy phase. The heroes do not follow a turn sequence as in other board games, instead they decide who will perform an action before deciding who can carry out the next action.

This player driven sequence means players must discuss and weigh up their options, because the enemy follow a simple artificial intelligence system… which we found to be quite lethal.

Now for a little more detail…

Narrative

In Runaljod, four heroes attempt to stem the flow of monsters and enemies who are flooding into their realm for reasons as yet unknown. Spoiler: there’s a big ass giant.

The game can be played in several modes, from single, one-off adventures, to campaigns where several adventures are linked together in the form of a narrative. Don’t have four players? No problem, the rules we received cover special circumstances so you can play the game all by yourself if you can’t find budding heroes to help on your quest.

We think it’s early days for the creators – there’s still very little out there regarding the rest of the story, but we think Runaljod to be a sleeping giant, an avalanche of story potential to really pack the game with world lore!

Setting Up

Runaljod seems a little complicated at first, but in hindsight this observation proved false. The process involves creating a deck of exploration cards, which determine the board pieces you use, the starting location of the enemies, monsters and heroes. The exploration cards also shows where there may be treasure and where to move to when you’re ready to try the next board section.

 

This exploration deck always contains particular start and finish cards, with random cards assigned to the middle of the deck. We liked this because it provides an element of chance to the game, providing us with different scenarios and challenges – in theory each game should be unique depending on how many cards are provided in the final released version of the game.

There are several other decks, which provide abilities for characters, equipment, random events and finally the enemy data cards and artificial intelligence deck. There’s also a host of tokens, which are used for special abilities, such as stun or bleed tokens, tokens for wounds, trance tokens (used by the Volva character) and coloured cubes for the hero character cards to keep track of health points and glory points.

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The board pieces vary in size and shape, from rectangles of 24x11cm to squares as large as 30x30cm. They’re also double sided, so the box isn’t quite so heavy, and we save ourselves a bit of deforestation – all new considerations to the board gaming world! There’s also the “Altar of the Gods” which is where the extra runes are placed, and acts as a home for the exploration cards and time tracker.

Finally, the miniatures are all placed on the board – and these are pretty well sculpted – but more on those later!

Your Characters

The four characters available are classic Norse / viking archetypes, each with their own special abilities and equipment: the berzerker, with a powerful axe and very little armour, the shield maiden with her stout shield to defend her allies, to the spell weaving Volva (a type of Witch) and the keen eyed Hunter with his bow.

Each character comes with their own “dashboard” which is where most of your planning and actions will take place, and of course a finely detailed miniature. Now, we know that these are prototype miniatures but the detail is rather impressive! Take a look at the 3D render of some of these miniatures, and compare them to the hastily taken photographs I took – check out that chain-mail detail!

The level of detail in the miniatures is carried into the enemy and monster miniatures too, more on those in a moment!

Their Abilities

Each character has their own specific deck of cards, which provide certain abilities to perform as actions. These actions require you to use a particular rune to activate, and once activated, that rune cannot be used again that turn – or even the turn after! This is because at the start of each phase you recast the runes, which we’ve described below.

Characters can purchase additional equipment which provides greater offensive and defensive measures during the game, which leads us nicely to the…

Novel Mechanics

There are several novel game mechanics which we found particularly pleasing. Not only are they novel, they’re also a bit of very cunning game design expertly disguised as fun game play elements.

The one we want to talk about the most is casting runes. Yes, much like in a real reading of the runes, you as the player takes up the handful of rune stones, shake them vigorously in both hands, and cast them down onto the table in front of you!

How these runes land determine how you may use them: if they land face up you may use them to perform actions and abilities – some abilities require specific runes to use, so if that rune landed face down, you cannot use that rune! However, if the rune landed on its edge, you can collect extra runes to throw later, or even harness the power of the gods by activating a specific godly rune which possesses a powerful ability.

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Why do we like this unusual system?

It feels good, it feels real and brings you to the table in a way that other games cannot. It’s a great way of bringing energy to the game too, because you’re all hoping to get to use as many runes as you can – Runaljod is a cooperative game, so to succeed you need to cast those runes as best as you can, or rely on others to help you when you don’t.

A good rune casting can also make you feel like a hero, without a poor rune casting making you feel like a useless chump – there’s always something you can do, even if you’re just formulating a plan and being the voice of that plan.

Interestingly, any runes you do not use to access an ability or skill are saved for the next turn, so if you’re struggling to throw some good runes you can save some, guaranteeing you actions on your next turn.

runaljod sound of the runes creator consortium board game tabletop game action fantasy norse early review kickstarter miniatures

There’s a time wheel in Runaljod, which marks how many turns you have left to complete the current section of the board – run out of time and you lose the game. Different events and exploration cads may reset this time tracker, or it may only partially reset the time tracker – we actually liked this, because it means you are sometimes forced to make decisions which you normally wouldn’t in a typical board game.

The attention to detail in Runaljod is great, because the time tracker uses a serpent motif with the head of the serpent approaching the tail, bringing the world to its end – if you’re not familiar with Norse mythology, this is Jormungandr, the world serpent who takes part in the end of the world, Ragnarok!

With a single turn left, you may have to decide who dies and who lives from amongst the heroes, as the goal is to defeat the enemy in time. Make a poor choice, or attempt to heal your allies and you potentially waste time. Don’t be put off by this though, as it’s part of the game challenge and shouldn’t be seen as a negative impact – it adds tension and a dash of excitement.

Your Enemies & Artificial Intelligence

Enemies in Runaljod are savage. The enemies act depending on the draw of a card. This makes the game particularly blood thirsty on occasions, particularly when enemies are told to target a specific character over others!

Each type of enemy is given up to two actions, sometimes stating the direction or target they should take. And it’s not always the nearest hero they have to target! What we liked about this card system is that some detail the order in which the specific heroes are targeted, using the different coloured shields present on the character cards.

Sometimes an enemy miniature may be told to move and attack a hero with a specific damage token. When no target has that specific token, what does the enemy do? It simply defaults to the nearest target it can, and performs actions accordingly.

The exception to the A.I deck are enemies or monsters that have their own decks, which provides in detail what actions that miniature does. This gives them specific attacks and allows them to act differently from the rest of the enemies.

Combat in the Frozen Land

Combat is straightforward in Runaljod, but that doesn’t make it easy!Every offensive action or item has colour coded squares present on their card. Thee translate into dice. There are three types of dice, white, black and red.Each dice has a face of different weapons, which roughly translate to 1, 2 or 3 points of damage.

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Each enemy, monster and hero has a defence value, which deducts the damage dealt by the dice. But be warned! Each dice also has the infinity symbol, which allows the attacker to perform special attacks, which can include powerful abilities such as being unable to defend against the dealt damage.

Damage is translated to health points, and when a hero uses up all their health points, they are knocked down! But there is an action to get yourself up again!

We like the combat dice, they are reminiscent of good old Hero Quest (remember those dice with skulls and shields on them?) So there’s a nice nostalgic feel whilst being efficient and quick. That isn’t to say making the choices or having the runes available make it the combat easy!

Appearance & Artwork

The artwork is superb, evocative of the cold northern climate that Norse sagas are famous for. It also adds an epic element to the game, as we see titanic wolves, colossal giants and other nightmarish creatures.

Rodrigo Flores is responsible for the artwork here, but much like Tempo Games, I cannot find a link to showcase his other artwork. I’ll be in touch and see what I can find for you! For now, enjoy some of the samples Tempo Games have to offer…

runaljod sound of the runes creator consortium board game tabletop game action fantasy norse early review kickstarter miniatures

Miniaturas Alemany produced for the excellent miniatures for Runaljod – the same company who produce high quality miniatures for Avatars of War and Chaos Factory. These are not your regular run of the mill miniatures, and I suspect that the resin casts are probably going to be just as well defined in the final product. They’re awesome miniatures!

Final Thoughts

We think Runaljod is a game for gamers. It is a little more complicated than the likes of traditional or abstract board games. That said, once we got started the game become more intuitive and easy to follow. We tried the game with four players and a “games master” to speed things up. With a proper translation and some proofing, we think this issue will be resolved easily.

The game feels great, it is a high fantasy sword and sorcery style board game with a focus on combat, but also includes some character advancement. It can be fast paced with practice, and it really can punish you for a mistake. We love it because it was atmospheric, a challenge and delicately balanced. The artwork and miniatures are evocative and perfectly detailed, making this game the best polished game we’ve tried so far – even CMON would struggle to get this level of detail!

We’re told that Tempo Games are hoping to create Runaljod: The Sound of the Runes for German, Italy and Spain, covering the entire of the EU, or as close as they can!

Runaljod kick starts in 22nd October, assuming no delays!

If you want to see some of the mayhem played out, you can check out Summoned Games on YouTube. We’d like to thank them for giving us the opportunity to play the game early!

That’s all from me, drop us a comment and tell us what you think of Runaljod so far!

Ferris, CC

@FerrisWrites for Twitter, or our Facebook page!

Damnation: The Gothic Game, Revamp of the 90’s Classic Horror Game (for all the family?)

You walk alone down a dark corridor, footsteps muffled on an ancient red carpet. Candles burn in the gloom, their light muted by the cold and damp. You pause, as a familiar figure glides across an intersection – it was someone far worse than Dracula…

It was your friend.

The Gothic Game, a game of murderous mayhem for friends, is getting a revamp (pun intended) from the original game edition from 1992. Soon we will see Damnation: The Gothic Game!

What was the Gothic Game?

Originally dreamt up in 1966 by Nigel Andrews & Robert Wynne-Simmons, the Gothic game didn’t get an official release as a full board game until the early 90’s, when the game was published with full artwork board by Angela White. The game-play is described as a battle royale of player elimination.

The game took place in Dracula’s castle and involved fast paced action, with the last player standing as the winner. Much like a game of Cluedo, players travelled around the board using a maze of corridors and rooms, making discoveries and collecting items with which to kill others or defend themselves. Players could end up in the moat, stuck in the dungeon or in a bottomless pit of doom.

Each player started the game with 100 points of stamina, which were lost when another player attacked them, or they draw a card from a room they entered and set off traps or suffered supernatural events. If they were lucky, they’d find a weapon or armour of some sort.

To top it all off, Dracula could use an unfortunate player to roam the corridors of his castle draining others of blood and eliminating them from the game!

The Gothic Game had a great feel to it, from an age where the objective was to have fun with family and friends. It was easy to learn and fast to play, with scope to outwit your opponents or throw yourself into danger to not give them the satisfaction of killing you!

Even when Dracula assumed a player, that player had limited turns to kill and get back to his vault. The more Dracula killed the more time he got to roam and hunt, making a terrifying prospect a legitimate game tactic!

But all of this passed quite quickly, and the Gothic Game was lost to the annals of time. And that was it for decades – a limited edition board game that was popular, fast and fun.

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Until now…

We have been fortunate enough to play the old version of the game. But what about the upcoming revision by Black Letter Games (BLG)? BLG has assumed the rights of the game and plans on kick starting in late October (suitably, near Halloween).

I was even luckier, because Summoned Games invited me over to trial the revised version of the game, and I’ve got the chance to write up the review! There’s a chance to get your hands on the old version of the game, which I’ll give you the details for later on.

First though, let’s take a look at the new, darker and grittier Gothic Game, Damnation: The Gothic Game!

damnation the gothic game horror Dracula fury dark castle creator consortium murder adversarial terror hellish hell

What’s New?

First off, it’s a hell of a lot darker than it once was. Reading the top paragraph of the rule book makes it pretty clear:

“Damnation: The Gothic Game takes place on a plane of Hell where Count Dracula holds dominion. Here, a group of villains from the Victorian era find themselves damned for all eternity.”

It gets worse, as the introduction unfolds: each dusk the villains are both resurrected and cursed – cursed to have no memory of the day before, stuck in endless horror of stalking and stalked by one another, presumably for the terror and violence they caused in their lives.  Already this game sets the tone quite clearly: you’re not good people and you’re not getting out. It makes perfect sense for a board game where you pay the same game over and over again, and yet retains its charm!

The Artwork

You know we mentioned Dracula? Well the art for Damnation: The Gothic Game has been brought to life visually by two Romanian artists, that of Hue Teo and Anca Albu. We’re impressed with how much (un)life they’ve brought to the graphics and art of the game. We could go on and on about it, but you can see for yourself what they’ve managed, just read on!

Characters

Character cards did not exist in the original version of the game. It is a sign of game development over the years, as Gothic turns from board game for all the family to a game that is heaped in atmosphere. These nameless anti-heroes fit particular character archetypes from the Victorian era, adding layers to the dark and Gothic vibes.

We have the Gentleman – dashing, refined, but is this gentleman all that he seems? The dark Stranger from a foreign land, and the Mystic a traveller driven from her homeland who conceals a terrible power.

These are just a few of the six playable characters in the game so far. Frankly, these changes make the game more colourful and characterful (obviously), lending the game that extra personal dimension compared to the original which provided simple coloured, plastic meeple!

Characters have some special abilities and a wound tracker, and we’re told there may also be the introduction of a sanity tracker too – even more ways to die!

Extra Dice

Players would roll a dice and work out in what direction they want to move, but now there’s a special extra dice which can make the game harder or easier: roll a candle symbol and your character may move one space more or less, which can be the difference between falling into a trap or not.

Or roll the castle symbol and draw a card from the special Castle Deck… hoping to god you don’t uncover more horrors!

Or you could roll the dark circle, where you trigger the first trap you come across regardless of how far you could move past the trap space!

Card Decks

The new version of the game adds literal variety in the form of card decks. No, don’t get put off, this isn’t a deck building game. These new decks are used to create tense moments at the roll of a dice or provide solace as the night unfolds.

The obvious deck are those found in each room which are unique to that room. When a player enters the room they draw a card, which may be beneficial or utterly crushing. And be warned, these decks are not huge or countless, and cards drawn are placed back into the deck after use… it pays to keep your attention on the other players!

New to the game are the Heirloom deck and the best deck in my opinion the Death Knell deck!

Heirlooms are provided to the players at random at the start of the game. They are given three, which are made up of trinkets and curiosities to help you win the game.

The Death Knell cards are randomly placed face down on the board. When a player is eliminated a random death-knell card is turned over by that player. In rare situations they may be saved, but likely it will hinder those players still alive, such as Hunters Moon; a curse that means players to the left cannot use protection cards to prevent incoming damage. Nice!

Finally, the Castle Deck, which as mentioned before only gets drawn from if you roll the necessary dice. These cards are random encounters, such as a ravenous wolf hound (which may or may not savage you or an opponent, if you play your cards right).

Once again, the new edition is adding many modern layers to the older Gothic Game, but in doing so it’s not taking away some of the charm. It felt nice to play the game, but the feeling was improved by the breadth and depth of these new decks.

Don’t get me wrong, the old game is full of charm, but by today’s standards it lacks that personal feeling of involvement. According to the Damnation: Gothic website, there are in total 130 unique cards, presumably portioned out into the many various rooms and play decks. Layered up like an onion – prepare for tears!

Game Board Revamp

Although the layout is similar, the artwork is vastly updated and improved. The addition of the cemetery adds a location outside of the castle itself, which carries with it risks and rewards of its own. Then there’s the Dark Tower, which can only be entered if you’ve claimed another’s soul (token)!

The board is littered with secret passageways, and trap points. What we found fun about the traps is that trap tokens are placed face down at random, so it’s unlikely you’ll have the same setup each time, unlike in the original. Step onto a trapdoor and find yourself drowning in the moat. Trigger a classic trap, the Pendulum, and lose half of your health. Or worse still, discover the Oubliette and end the game for yourself!

The artwork is second to none and instils the dark and seething dread that the game evokes so effortlessly: lonely narrow corridors and dark and mysterious rooms filled with thinly veiled threats all add to the atmosphere. This is a game for dark and windy winter nights.damnation the gothic game horror Dracula fury dark castle creator consortium murder adversarial terror hellish anca albu hue teo

 

Fate Tokens & Character Talents

Characters now have some extra abilities with which to survive! Fate tokens are added to a character sheet, providing some universal one-off abilities. Each character has at least one unique ability. The extra layers provide a bit of variation to the game, which is never a bad thing!

Soul Tokens

Yup, not only can you kill each other with an array of weapons, you can steal their soul too… and use them in a certain place in the castle to unlock new cards, items and abilities… harvest them as much as you can, you’ll need them win! You can trade soul tokens for extra fate tokens, or as mentioned earlier, gain access to the Dark Tower.

Special Rooms

There’s a lot we could talk about here, so we’ll pick a couple to give you an idea of the mayhem and suffering you can inflict on your friends!

The first is our favourite – The Vault. This is the lair of Dracula. When a player enters the vault and Dracula is not already in play, they become the beast! This can be an entertaining venture for the players – Dracula has a limited number of turns to roam the corridors of the castle, hunting for the other players. If he passes over a character, he gains more blood and a little more time to keep hunting. If he gets back to the Vault in time, the player assumes their normal role, perhaps a little dizzy and unsure why their mouth is filled with the tang of blood!

damnation the gothic game horror Dracula fury dark castle creator consortium murder adversarial terror hellish anca albu hue teo

The Great Spiral Staircase. This bad boy is a slippery slope to death. If a player ends up in this room, they can only use their movement to travel down the staircase. At the bottom of the Great Spiral Staircase? Death, instant and inexorable! The only way to escape this room is by rolling a six on the dice, which you can then combine with your normal dice roll. You could be there a while!

“The Power of Adjacency Compels You!”

But why would you want to enter this room? Well kids, life isn’t always fair. A player can invoke the power of adjacency over players they pass in the castle corridors. This essentially allows them to decide the direction in which that player must move on their next turn… like a horrible pit of death!

Battle in the Darkness

When in possession of a weapon card, players may target each other to perform attacks, dealing damage to their victim. Of course, the target player can use items to defend themselves in the form of equipment or action cards. So be careful who you target – they may be more than they seem! 

Not all death comes from Dracula, traps and hidden rooms – the players are here to be the winner, the last player standing. Naturally, this will involve direct conflict with each other.

What we would like to see…

We played the prototype version of the game, but there are few things we’d like to see:

  • Reference cards, which may reduce the amount of rule book referencing.
  • More character choices, but in honesty, we’re just being greedy!
  • Sudden Death Mode for the final players (optional).
  • Someway of making doors more visible (a simple standee could add a bit more dimension!)
  • Some different ways to play or ways to win (which BLG say they may be looking into!)
  • Expansions: extra rooms to tag onto the board or replacement tiles for extra variation and playability!

damnation the gothic game horror Dracula fury dark castle creator consortium murder adversarial terror hellish anca albu hue teo

Final Overview

This game is fast paced, amusingly adversarial and filled with graphic, bloody fun. It can be quite a quick game to play, although we found towards the end with just two players left it can become a face-off (later we learned we had not played some things correctly, however). That said, there are hundreds of ways to die in Dracula’s hellish domain, and he is just one of them!

Overall, we think the game is set to receive a lot of interest over the next few months. It looks great, it feels great and as we mentioned several times already, there’s so many layers of interest to keep even the most jaded tastes interested.

There’s a lot going on in this game, but it’s not too heavy to take the fun out of playing. It is definitely a game for friends and family, although some of the concepts are a little more grown up.

We still have access to the prototype, so if you have any questions, drop us a comment down below, or find us on Twitter (@FerrisWrites) or our Facebook page.

damnation the gothic game horror Dracula fury dark castle creator consortium murder adversarial terror hellish hell

Want to Win a Copy of the one of the few remaining Original copies?

If you want to see some of the mayhem played out, you can check out Summoned Games on YouTube. They are offering an original copy of the game, from 1992 as a prize. To enter, you just need to subscribe, comment on the video and / or like their Facebook page. What’s more, it is open to anyone anywhere in the world – they’re willing to ship it anywhere in the world.

We’d like to thank Summoned Games for letting us take part in the early game, and of course, Blackletter Games, for creating an amazing revamp of the original Gothic Game, and having faith in letting us see, play and review the game before its release and kick start.

We’re reliably informed it will be available for pledges late in October, and be in the region of £40-£50 (though this is still to be confirmed).

That’s all from me, enjoy your weekend!

Ferris, CC

@FerrisWrites on Twitter