Martial Art – The Card Game: Simplicity and Complexity in Equal Measure, here’s why…

Martial Art and it’s expansion, Battlefields is a two person card game from Spider-Goat Games. Set in Feudal Japan, you play as warlords vying for control of different regions.

The game is simple to learn, and the more you play, the more you realise that it is ultimately a game beyond measure. But I’ll get to that soon, first, let’s look at the game from the players perspective:

Setting Up the Game

It’s super quick and very simple. You start by separating the deck into the lands cards (the nice sea image), the battle deck (the black bird image) and finally two supply cards and the legend cards. The table space should look like this (only the cards in your hand are to be kept to yourself!)

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Each player takes a supply card and then draws four battle cards. With more players (requiring another set of cards completely) the setup is only fractionally more complex, drawing two land cards but only looking at the special rules for the second.

Playing the Game

Simple really, you draw the top card from the lands deck and place it face up. This will show you the region the warlords are trying to capture. Some of the cards have a special text, which gives the locations and lands a feel for the hardship of the battle in a narrative way, such as Kanbara which is covered in snow – the player with the highest strength card must discard a card… its taken it’s toll to win this battle, on account of all the freezing weather.

Each player then commits a single battle card, face-down to the battlefield. When they are happy with their choice, the cards are revealed and the special rules (if any) are resolved. Each card has a strength rating which normally determines the winner.

Normally…

However, some cards can be played during the battle to weaken your opponent, bolster your own forces, or kill them before they even arrive. This is where the complexity of the game really comes in: you’ll need a poker face, a strong one, to fool your enemy. You’ll also need to consider how much you want to commit to each battle – sometimes winning isn’t worth the cost, as we found out. It is a strategy in itself to decide if the prize is even worth fighting for. But fear not, you will always have the Supplies card in your hand, which has a power rating of 0 and you can never discard it. Instead, it allows you to draw an extra card that turn.

Once the battle is resolved, the winner takes the land card to keep score, and each player then picks an extra battle card from the top of the pile.

The first to 12 land points or 3 bridges wins the game.

 

Components

The core Martial Art game consists of 60 Battle cards, 12 Land cards and the rules leaflet (which is very well written).

The Battlefields expansion consists of 8 terrain cards, 8 weather cards and 8 war cards, plus another clear and concisely written rules leaflet.

What makes it good?

There are a variety of cards in the battle deck. Some are simply different soldiers or troops with a power rating, whilst others are weaker with special abilities. The battle cards are colour coded, red for damaging, white for supporting and purple for supplies. Generally, there are only 2 of each card type, so if you happen to draw both you know you’ve denied your enemy.

Some of the battle cards are simple yet amazingly fun and amusing to play: got a card hand of a lot of chaff? Well hope for the peasant battle card, which gains strength for each card in your hand… literally a horde of angry peasants come to fight for your warlord and they’re unlikely to be swept aside!

The supply cards, those troops and specialist forces with the white border, really mix up the focus of the battle. Some, like the archer, will provide a strength bonus if you’re original battle card was strength 7 or lower. The Scout allows you to look at an enemies card hand BEFORE the battle takes place so you can see what they may play, or the Geisha, who presumably disarms your warlord or warriors enough to distract them, removing any special rules text from the card your opponent played.

The land cards are not single point lands, rather they can come with heavy rewards, such as a land card worth 4 points, such as Kyoto. In such battles, often the supply cards can fall fast to try and lever the battle in your warlords favour.

The fact that 12 land points or 3 bridge points can win the game means an opponent can lose sight of the bridges score, allowing you to sneak a victory by capturing all the choke points across feudal Japan.

And it gets better – with the recent Kickstarter completing, the second printing of Martial Art is now complete, with an expansion simply called Battlefields. The Battlefields expansion brings persistent weather effects in the form of land cards, and terrain cards to better exploit your opponent or bolster your own forces. Some of the support cards have also been modified to emphasize the war off-pitch, such as Geisha influences and other nefarious and cunning medieval tactics.

Why did I back this on Kickstarter?

The art. Originally I saw the cards and was entranced by the artwork, which is all taken from historical documents. There’s nothing more atmospheric to a gamer set in feudal Japan than the actual artwork of the time. Colourful, beautiful and utterly alluring, you could spend a fine moment appreciating the detail and energy each picture offers.

That aside, I wanted a game which was quick to play, easy to transport and simple enough for even a novice gamer to pick up and play. Martial Art does this. It took us minutes to understand the concept of the game, and it cost us in headaches and frustration when we realised, one at a time, that we had just played the wrong card, or failed to exploit a weakness.

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All that aside, the price tag was good too. To buy the game now, direct from Spider-Goat Games will cost you $22 for both the core and expansion combined (or more if bought separately). I think this is worth it, for a game you can pick up and play in a coffee break with your elderly grandma or novice player.

Can you stretch to get two of each? I think it’s worth it. For a card game it might seem as little expensive, but for a 4 player game of this sort you’re going to get a lot of use. No doubt I’ll update you all at the bottom of this article in a few weeks telling you about the fun times we’re having!

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A nice little side note…

Spider-Goat Games are cool because they have a little blog on their site about their Kickstarter antics, highlighting where they went wrong and what they have learned. For me, this is a great way of touching upon the minds of the gamers because it shows them to be human. We can also all learn from each others mistakes, a concept which we at Creator Consortium are always keen to express.Extra Points

Martial Art and the Battlefield expansion combine a great game, but even if you can only get the core game, it will keep you going to hours. If you can stretch yourself to get two copies of each, you can battle it out with up to four players. This would make each game last a little longer as each warlord gazes across the table in suspicion. Play some soundtracks from Total War: Shogun or The Last Samurai and you’re at the gates of nerd heaven!

You can buy the card games here.

That’s all from me, let me know what you think.

Did this article help you decide to try it out, or not? We’d love to know!

J.D.Ferris, CC

Groove of War 01 – Tournament Writeup.

 

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The minute wargroove released, the community surrounding it sprang up from a quiet fanbase that had watched and participated it in its development for the past two years. Competition is in the game’s DNA, so it was inevitable that a group of amazing players and fans of the game would put together a tournament showcasing the potential for testing the skill of it’s players.

This is where Groove of War came in, the first and most prominent tournament. Players flocked to sign up and within days, 72 players were locked in to make a small bit of history by participating in its inaugural event and what we’re sure will be a long and exciting tournament season.

The group stages were steadily played out over the week, with participants meeting up as and when to complete their games in a fairly adjudicated manner by tournament organisers. It was here where the real meat of the work began; figuring out the perfect format to provide engaging and watchable games. One massive advantage in a turn-based game like Wargroove is that there is no latency to worry about, so players never have to fret about losing to technical limitations.

Many lessons were learned in the matches preceding the finals in regards to commander balancing, map balancing and turn times. It was found out that stalemates can cause the games to drag out somewhat without timers, so a large discussion is still ongoing to determine the best solution to bring these times down to a more viewer and competitor-friendly format, also the commanders Nuru and Tenri were soon banned from future games having been deemed overpowered.

The grand final was decided between Ash (Ash_IRE on twitch) and Red-Halo, who fought all the way through their brackets to reach the top spots over the week; no small feat considering the wealth of experience from a number of competitive Advance Wars players participating.

Game one: the map was Ban Ban Beach and Ash took an early lead with a heavy Trebuchet focused build; gaining naval superiority early on and pushing right down the coast to stamp out any hope of Red rallying and threatening the seas again. They continued to slog it out in the field, but the game was over by turn 11 when Red Halo conceded, just as he was falling behind in economy.

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Game two: the map was Rumbling Range and Red Halo clawed one back here with an early confrontation down in the bottom right hand corner. It’s a larger map, so the wagons were out in full force, causing Ash to go for major blocking plays to try and deny Red Halo an air factory, but it was all for naught as Ash had clearly overplayed his hand, seeing Red march a lumbering column of pikemen down the right side of the map, successfully blocking Ash’s commander in. Ash valiantly fought on, but conceded on turn 12 when Red’s dragon bore down.

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Game three: We returned to Ban Ban Beach which saw both players try to gain naval superiority early; Red had clearly learned from the last game and held his own in the seas til the end. An early rush into the middle island gained Ash a crucial economic advantage, Red had split his forces and it took him a few turns to gain footing on the important choke point, while Ash built up his core in the centre. The game seemed very close until Red conceded on turn 8, which left both myself and his opponent in surprise. It could have turned on a penny, but with that win, Ash took the set and was crowned Champion.

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It is truly exciting to follow the organisers and now veterans of the game’s competitive scene as they forge a new standard for how this game will be played into the future. Wargroove is an amazingly fun game; this event just shows how games like this can bring people together. This first tournament, while suffering its share of teething pains, was an important first step and an exciting look into what a determined group of people with a love for strategy gaming can do.

Congrats to Ash, on winning!

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Link to tournament hub:

https://smash.gg/tournament/groove-of-war-01/details

Link to Ash’s Twitch:

https://twitch.tv/ash_ire

Finals VOD:

BattleScribe: The Only Army List Builder you’ll need for Warhammer 40,000 & Other War games (Opinion)

I first mentioned BattleScribe in this article, briefly and frankly I think it deserves far more than a mere mention. So here it is, my closer look at the free army builder for nearly every war game out there!

I’m a lazy gamer when it comes to war games. Often I forget to bring or just haven’t bought the hard copies of the books that I really do need to play the game. Often I just borrow those belonging to my friends, and more often than not they never see them again for several years as they gather dust.

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But now, I’ve found something amazing. Something so great that it will blast the dust away from my bookshelf, shoot laser beams from the eyes of my wraithlord and generally add the power of the god-emperor on his relic throne to every aspect of my wargaming.

I’m talking about BattleScribe and I’m talking about Games Workshop’s Warhammer 40,000.

I’ll point out that BattleScribe doesn’t just do Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 stuff. It covers just about every war game currently out there. The data is maintained by the community, so it’s fairly balanced and as far as we can tell, canon (if that’s even possible for anything Games Workshop?)

Just a few games that jump up as popular, to give you an idea of the coverage:

  • A song of Ice & fire: Tabletop Miniature Game (which I kickstarted but yet to play)
  • AvP: Unleashed
  • Battletech
  • Bolt Action
  • Star Wars Armada, X-Wing & Legion
  • Firestorm
  • Fantasy Battles (the 9th Age guys!)
  • Infinity
  • Halo games
  • Harry potter games
  • Warmachine Hordes
  • Warhammer – all of it, from just about every age and era!

There’s something for just about everyone.

Now, I can’t say that I’ve used much in the way of similar programs, but the ones I have seen are poorly maintained, have hidden pay schemes for some or all content or just don’t have the scope to cover everything war gaming.

But BattleScribe has it all. I’m just getting started. Can you tell?

Features

I lied a bit – there are parts of BattleScribe that you can pay for. But this really doesn’t diminish the value of the program if you use only the free version. I think that after a couple of uses you may be tempted to even throw some spare money their way as a thanks for making your life much easier.

Pros

  • I’m terrible at flicking through the book and understanding how armies come together, detachments and points values, layers of this and that, the colour of the banner under a martian moon, etc. This feisty little program does all that for me – it even tells me if there’s something missing, if I’ve over spent on points, how many command points I have, what I need to eat for breakfast the week before (actually, my mother does that but she’s just as thorough too).
  • You want that list but can’t stand squinting at a screen like a cyberpunk mole? Yeah me too – BattleScribe can export your files as text and HTML. I believe the phone app for android also does PDF. So you can print out your army list, with options for including rules, points values etc.
  • You can share the data using URLs and they can be linked to Dropbox – I don’t ever have to pack a book ever again!
  • You can use BattleScribe on just about any modern platform, from desktops to phones, all makes, and versions.
  • Finally, according to their website you can update and edit files if you spot mistakes.

Cons

  • Using the Android App, it can be a bit fiddly when you first use it, and it does take a little bit of time to learn how it functions and how to edit your choices, such as war gear, detachments and commanders etc. Once you pick this up, and it is fairly intuitive, you’ll be fine. I still didn’t fully understand army detachments and specialist forces, so it took a bit of extra reading – it won’t tell you what things actually are until you select them, then it tells you what is missing. It was a bit of trial and error on coffee break.
  • The data files are community driven – there’s a tonne of slimy teenagers and Dorito dusted nerds out there who may want to fudge the rules a little bit. Those errors you friend found… yeah they may have just been a few tweeks to fit the “theme” of their army.

There are extra features for paying customers, mostly nice fluffy stuff like saving and customising units with names, quick views, some dice tools for when you don’t have any dice or math skills and of course, removing adverts, which I have to say, always sounds worth it.

So what does it all look like?

Well I had a bit of a fiddle and worked an army list which I think is legal, according to BattleScribe.

Here is an example of the output from PDF form, as you can see it lists everything I need to know about the unit. Other than a copy of the rules (which are brief now, thanks to GW’s overhaul) I’m covered.

BattleScribe Example Wraith Lord

You’ll notice that some of the Characteristics are labelled “Characteristic 1” etc. These follow a logical order of the stat line. It’s not really a bad point or a con, but worth mentioning in case you don’t realise in a rush.

The overall PDF has each unit nicely sectioned to set pages, so there’s very little run over. I suspect for something really powerful, like, I dunno, a Chaos character (?) the list may go on for quite a bit, but you’ll have to play around.

Here’s the whole PDF for you to look at. It’s not my final list, but I guess it’s pretty close!

Wraithhost Spearhead (HTML)

warhammer 40000 40k fantasy battlescribe army list army builder armylist armybuilder gamesworkshop games workshop

Finally, the link you’ve all been waiting for for BattleScribe.

So there you have it! Let me know what you think about the BattleScribe and maybe pass them a little donation if you like the work they’ve done!

J.D. Ferris, CC

Join our growing mailing list here.

Title Art taken from Warhammer Art (I bought a copy) – you can find the poster for sale here.

Forge World: My first Experience with the Specialist Supplier for Games Workshop – The Craftworld Aeldari Wraithseer Model

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Most of us have seen or heard of Forge World. If you have, you’ve likely stared in disbelief at the prices of some of the miniatures they supply – even compared to Games Workshop – a notorious money snatcher – the prices are pretty high.

But are we getting upset by the price for no reason?

I’ve been gaming for years but I’ve never actually looked into Forge World before. I’ve heard many things, but as a scientist and forensic student, I would not be doing myself any favours without investigating the facts myself.

So, here goes.

My current Project…

I’ve been looking for a nice centerpiece miniature model for this new collection, which had to fit the theme of the faction and the type of army I was hoping to create. Since most of the troops I’ve selected are essentially ghosts and spirits animating some (very cool) looking suits of armour, some random space elf dude wasn’t going to live up to the aesthetic. So I looked around – and stumbled upon a new miniature I haven’t seen before… the Wraithseer. But, oh no, you can’t buy this miniature from Games Workshop, no. You have to order it from Forge World. Hmm… there’s a risk there, I’m sure.

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So I’ve looked into Forge World and I placed an order. I started to put this centerpiece commander together. These are my experiences and conclusions about the quality and worthiness of models bought from Forge World.

You’re gonna get some background on Forge World and I’ll throw in some images of how I went about the process of opening the box and putting it all together. Then I’m going to tell you if I think Forge World are worth it.

But First, some Background

Who the hell are Forge world? Forge World are a supplier of specialists model miniatures and conversion kits as well as specialist games. They generally use a type of resin for their products which is different from normal plastic. You’ll find they make all sorts of wondrous miniatures.

And to be perfectly clear, they are Games Workshop through and through. Same company. Same HQ. Same offices and same website design.

Games Workshop are a UK miniature war-gaming manufacturer. They are best known for their tabletop war-games such as; Warhammer Age of Sigmar (Fantasy Battle), Warhammer 40,000 and The Middle Earth Strategy Battle Game.

There’s a tonne of controversy with Games workshop and its various branch-off businesses, mainly; the pricing of their products, the way in which their new products are generally more powerful than the current stuff and the way in which they imply everything for Games Workshop has to be gold plated to be used. But despite all this, they generally do make some really good miniatures, to a good standard of quality. But if you ask the internet, they hate their customer base. I’m sitting on the fence of absolutes here – I enjoy the stuff they create, but I kind of agree that they are generally over priced.

My First Order from Forge World

Since May I’ve been an adult and started collecting miniatures from Games Workshop to play one of their main game lines, Warhammer 40K. Since childhood I enjoyed the setting and themes of GW’s universe, but I never really understood the concepts of some of the factions (armies) that are available for play. So, since I’ve had a little more free time in the evenings I started to collect miniatures for a faction known as the Aeldari (formerly, the Eldar). Think space-elves are you’re pretty much there. These guys captured my imagination from an early age and it’s taken me over two decades to start collecting them.

This is what I purchased, the Wraithseer, a variant of the Wraithlord.

 

Here’s what I found with my first experience with Forge World:

You essentially get a normal product with extra components to create the specialist unit. Since the Wraithseer is a Wraith Lord, you get all the parts for the Wraith Lord, with some extra bits to make the model into the Wraithseer. GW’s Wraithlord = £28, FW’s Wraithseer = £41. I’m spending £13 on some extra bits. Is that too pricey? Well, we’ll look at the quality later and draw some conclusions.

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The extra components are a different quality resin, lighter grey and more pliable. In the past, this resin was labelled as ‘Fine cast’ which suggested that the detailing on each model was of superior quality. It turns out, that wasn’t the case, so they ditched that marketing and decided to refer to the new range of products as simply, resin.

Edit (17/2/19, 17:30 GMT) – The above stricken text was later found to be incorrect. There is supposedly no link between Fine Cast and Forge World. However, this does not mean that GW dropped Finecast completely, as I’m sure there was overlap at some point between the manufacture. I’m open for more comments on this, so feel free to educate me!

Accurate-Finecast

Was anything bent out of shape or wildly irregular that it will not work? No, apart from a slightly wavy long narrow spear shaft, this model seems fine.

What did I have to do that was different to preparing a regular plastic miniature?

There’s a lot more flash (excessive build up of plastic / resin which you don’t normally get from the regular plastic kits) that needs cleaning and cutting away. If, like me, you’re haven’t done this sort of thing for years, you’ll really need to take your time and go slow. Look at, and think about, what you’re going to cut and how you’re going to cut it – these kits are expensive and you don’t want to mess it up! They’re also much softer, so any cutting risks cutting too deep! Resin kits need super glue to bond efficiently too, and they bond fast!

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The Resin components: How does it look and feel, is the detail any better?

Hmm… yes I think it is. Some of that detail may be lost in the excess resin flash though. It certainly seems crisper in some places, but on areas of the blades, such as this cool looking spear, I had to re-carve the back of the blade so it looked less like a portion of cheese left to rot in Nurgle’s undercarriage. And check out some of those random bubble holes still!

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It glues and sticks fast. Really handy when you’re relying on your heartbeat to not force your fingers to break the delicate bonds using a more brittle and fragile plastic.

It is more pliable. It feels smooth and clean, but there is a bubbling effect in areas which will require more modelling to fill in the gaps. More time required, I guess!

How hard was the model kit to assemble?

Actually, not too hard at all compared to the regular wraith lord (of which, I’ve made three since May). Some of the components are very small and fiddly but if you plan the assembly properly, you shouldn’t have any problems at all!

 

Am I happy with the product?

Yeah, I think I am, but let’s discuss some final thoughts. I did realise later on however that the bases provided for the Wraithlords are scenic, they have nice detail touches like cracked earth and debris. There is no such base for the more expensive Wraithseer. What’s that all about? Well, it’s either money, or laziness on the part of GW’s package planning.

Final Thoughts: Is Forge world worth it?

I think this all depends on the buyer:

If like me, you’re a regular war-gamer with limited funds, then I suspect Forge world products are not for you – simply put, you don’t need them to enjoy the tabletop war games produced by Games workshop.

If your sole attraction to miniatures is to assemble, convert and paint models, then actually yeah, I think it’s for you – I suspect you’ll buy one-off miniatures, paint them to a really high standard and marvel at them in a highly polished glass case. Or sell them on Ebay for a little bit of extra money.

Forge World is not for kids. They’re out-priced for a start – unless you have wealthy middle class parents, but also because they’re not recommended for anyone under the age of 15. Why? Well they’re fiddly, require you to use sharp points and blades… and apparently the resin is toxic as a dust. Perhaps most teenagers probably won’t know how to assemble the over priced miniature too – there’s no instructions provided!

Edit (14/2/19, 21:00 GMT) – Many of you have praised the customer services of Forge World. Apparently they are more than happy to offer replacement parts should your model not be usable, or even if any of its components are not usable. So much so, no one I’ve spoken can fault them for it. Seems they actually care!

And finally – you can’t buy the rules for these models or download them separately like you can for some products on the GW website. No, you need to buy a separate book for about £15.

HOWEVER – I have recently discovered a very cool app called BattleScribe.

BattleScribe is a free army builder app for Warhammer 40,000. It contains everything, which means you don’t need to have any of the books for any of the Warhammer 40K factions and this app even lets you download your selected army as an easy-print PDF with ALL the rules associated with the models and the choices you made for the army.

Yes, it is FREE.

So there you go – it is unlikely I’ll be buying anything else from Forge World in the near future (unless I come into a large amount of prize money for something). But if you’re a collector of interesting miniatures or if you like a challenge, then its good for you.

I’d like to hear your views and opinions on Forge World and their product line, so feel free to add a comment or message us. You can join our slowly building mailing list here.

J.D. Ferris

WarGroove: The Best Game of 2019 Comes Early.

I know what you are thinking: the title of this article is hyperbole of the most unforgivable kind. Just do me a favour and give me a chance to explain.

Wargroove is the latest game developed and published by Chucklefish: the now legendary publisher of the smash hit farm-em-up Stardew Valley and sci fi side scroller, Starbound. The London based publishing and development house have been consistently chucking out winners since the start of the indie revolution, beginning their meteoric rise with Risk Of Rain: a devilishly difficult roguelike.

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The things their games seem to have in common are a focus on brilliant, stripped down mechanics and a high quality pixel art style, both of which suit me down to the ground.

I spotted Wargroove on one of my frequent and mindless trawls through the steam store. The art style immediately caught my eye and I felt utter joy in my heart as I saw an armoured dog leading an army into battle on a 2D battlefield. I was hooked even before I bought it. This feeling only intensified as I was greeted by an anime-like intro cutscene which I just sat and watched. In recent years, Blizzard has been lauded for their amazing cutscenes, and rightly so, but it is nice to see a smaller developer going for the same sort of thing.

The game brings many franchises to mind: Advance Wars, Fire Emblem, The Battle For Wesnoth. These three are stalwarts in the turn-based strategy genre and in a sense Wargroove actually is all these amazing titles that reached their zenith years ago. It is a kind of rebirth of turn based tactics games, embodying the things that made them great; like smaller maps, tighter mechanics and the ability for players to make maps and customise everything, then they repackaged it into something fresh and beautiful, clearly created by people who know and love the genre.

The gameplay is simple: you take control of one of 12 heroes, 3 for each of the four distinct factions and vie for control of a tactical map broken up into squares. There are a profusion of unit types; from lowly foot soldiers to trebuchets, ships and dragons, all which add tools to your toolbox when trying to outfox your enemy. The interesting thing to note is that each faction, while aesthetically unique, can only produce the same units.

This means that the game is easier to balance, with the only asymmetry being with the leader you choose, which puts it in good stead for the Esports scene which has energetically sprung up around the game. From what I have played, the “quick play” option in online multiplayer indeed returns a game quickly, which is fantastic. You can also set up your own game with a whole host of different options to face off against your opponent. I can only hope the devs follow this ease of use up with more features to support competitive play.

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The campaign is fully formed and engaging: you follow Mercia, queen of Cherrystone, who is thrust into the driving seat after her father is assassinated by the undead Felheim faction. It plays much like the older games mentioned above: sections of dialogue interspersed with thematic battles which introduce weird and wonderful mechanics to keep you on your toes. The game also provides “puzzle” and “arcade” modes that will significantly aid replayability. There is plenty of humour in the campaign, alongside the broader themes of adventure and war. It’s safe to say Wargroove doesn’t take itself too seriously.

To me, this game is like chess but better. You take your playing pieces and are able to dynamically fight and counter your opponents strategies as you build units and try to out compete the opponent financially by capturing towns. The amazing “crit” system ensures the need for deep thought when positioning your troops, as they only reach their full potential when meeting criteria specific to each unit. I have found myself staring over a defensive line at my opponent, waiting for one of us to blink, only to find myself outmaneuvered somewhere else and forced to flee. You feel the tactics and back and forth of a good wargame just oozing out of this title.

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This game makes me feel like I am at the start of something new and interesting. This is a feeling we gamers crave; back in 2015, Rocket League hit the market and started a sports-game revolution all of its own. The reason it was able to do this is because it firmly placed itself into that genre, but did the same things as other sports games (use of physics, a ball with goals and a global game timer) repackaged into something new and fresh, the process by which those older, tried and tested elements, could create something satisfying and new. As of the writing of this article, the highest prize pool for a Rocket League tournament was over 1 million dollars.

Wargroove, I feel, is doing the same thing to turn based strategy games. There is a huge demographic of gamers who are starved for this type of game and feel the urge to watch talented people play it against each other; to follow their favourite player and hopefully start that journey themselves. The strategy gamer in on the comeback.

This game delivers on so many levels but it is important to discuss its drawbacks. Chiefly that most people will really be put off by how slow the game can feel when you are in the thick of the action. Every game requires you to really think about how you set up your forces and is almost a cold war where each person is trying to push and maneuver to find an edge. In fact, once the fighting begins, you often know what the result is going to be only a few turns afterwards. To me, this is ideal, and speaks to a wargame that works, but for others it might ring dull.

Winter-Map

In conclusion, I do not think it is too soon to tell that this beautiful little game is going to make waves in the realm of strategy well into 2019 and I cannot wait to play in my first tournament.

Wargroove is out now on Windows, PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch. It is priced at around 15-20 dollars.

P.S. Wagons Are Bad – Brought to you by the Anti Wagon League.

Killing in the Name of: Dungeons & Dragons and the unbridled passion of slaying the adventuring party – A few lessons learned

For the last three gaming sessions, I’ve been guiding my players as they attempt to uncover and solve the mystery surrounding the small fishing town of Sharholme. People have gone missing. There’s a taciturn lighthouse keeper who no one likes. Weird and exotic fish are turning up in the nets of the fishermen. What did it all mean?

Well I’m not going to give you all the details, where’s the fun in that? No, I’m going to give you an insight into when the adventuring party were fooled and the Dungeon Master commits to running the adventure to its inevitable end, whether that’s the final encounter or much sooner!

‘Some of your characters may die towards the end of this adventure – I’m testing the adventure on you guys.’

These were my first words when describing the adventure idea I had to my players, a week before they started. Perhaps subconsciously I was giving them a clue to play tougher or optimised characters, or perhaps I was trying to defend myself from any fallout that may occur if it all went wrong. Whatever the reason, the very next gaming session we started the adventure.

The beginning was cryptic – they were called north, along  the Sword Coast by a voiceless whisperer who would not allow them to rest unless they were moving. A brief stop at Candlekeep is all they needed. Get there, and perhaps some clues could give them answers.

But they will never know.

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The first adventure was to warm them up. I was going to let them be goddam heroes and throw small hordes of easily defeated monsters at them. I was going to give them hostages to break out in a daring escape, maybe face off with the enemy leader and thwart the even stranger, deadlier nemesis who defines the backdrop of the narrative.

Alas, it was not to be. They believed they had reached the final encounter. They had not. The Prince Under the Reef was not the monster’s commander as they thought. I’m chuckling as I write this because some of them will only realise as they read this… yeah, it gives me an amusing tingle.

The adventuring party had, in fact, only reached the third to last encounter in the natural dungeon setting. They had suffered some terrible wounds and faced some unsightly horrors, many of them surprises. Up to this point they had advanced in a somnambulistic way perhaps thinking that, being the first part of a what was promised to be a long running campaign, they would have it easy. To some degree this was right.

grey skulls piled on ground
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Allow me to explain:

As a DM I had done my research, read endless articles by other DMs & GMs, consulted the oracle that is Reddit and gone back to basics. I even wrote this article, which, if any of them had read it, may have given them a clue into what to expect. I threw low-challenge creatures at them, made the monsters act in a fantastically pulp manner, unthinking but not to be mocked.

Then I hit them with a monster whose challenge rating was a single point higher than their party level. He was a large humanoid, fighting on even terms. He didn’t even rush them, instead he paused and waited to see if they would parley, to see if they could talk to him and see if they could find peace. They outnumbered him but they seemed tired – his minions had carried out their task of killing the adventuring party with a thousand paper cuts. All he had to do now was thrust his trident into the open wounds and finish them off.

What followed was five rounds of bloody mayhem.

The bird-man monk fell first, the priest next, followed by the halfling rogue who couldn’t quite dash into cover, leaving the archer as last-elf-standing. It was a bold gesture to cast away that bow and draw a long sword, after-all, the enemy had thrown his trident at them previously, disarming himself in the process. Both combatants were heavily wounded.

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Taken from media-waterdeep.cursecdn.com 6/2/19

The elf stood little chance.

While the fight continued, his comrades bled to death on the wet subterranean sands of the oceanic grotto. Some would stabilize but be useless to sway the flow of battle. As the sun’s final rays set against the turbulent waves above, my heroic adventuring party slumped to the ground in a final gasp below the waves.

As the DM, I had defined my dungeoneering destiny and finalised the characters fates by not holding back. I had lulled them into a false sense of security and then pounced upon them with a well calculated challenge. Or so I thought.

The daft thing is: I expected them to get to the final encounter and then suffer tremendously through a terrifying race across an underground, underwater grotto ala Indiana Jones’ cinematic dash, avoiding natural traps and pitfalls as they barrelled along heroically.

In a nutshell, the DM did not hold the player’s hands and guide them through. I realised that if there is to be any fun in the game, it has to be risky. I knew this already, but the temptation to guide the players through the story had flattened the experience for me… it had simply lost some of its fun.

As for the players, well the fun reached a happy height above our gaming table. Although they were getting ripped to pieces, bleeding all over the place and possibly facing death (well, actually they did) they all seemed happy to go along with it.

Here’s the kicker for the players though – that challenging encounter left the monster with just twelve hit points. TWELVE! That’s one good or two average hits with a long sword… but the dice rolling was poor, and I was using my specially reserved Dungeon Master Dice. They never let me down.

So there you have it:

Dungeon and Games Masters, don’t be afraid to roll up your sleeves and kick their arses if it’s all going wrong, you’ll all enjoy it!

And Players; never trust the DM. Ever.

We’re sly a bunch.

J.D. Ferris

Water Colour Brushes in GIMP – 10 Quick & Easy steps to make your photo images look amazing!

So we’ve had a little trouble lately with getting images for our first complete incarnation of Pulp Fantasy. It’s never easy doing something on a budget and entirely your own time. Our searches for willing artists have been hard, and for good reason – few people want to work and create something for free, credits or no credits. We understand that feeling precisely!

We stepped back and looked at what free resources we could muster to helps us create some images we could call our own (in part). This what we came up with…

GIMP

GIMP or the GNU Image Manipulation Program is a free image editor for just about every digital platform. Its so free in fact, you can edit its source code and distribute that new scripting for yourself if you were so inclined. You can download it from here, its a really cool tool. Yes, it may not have everything Photoshop does, but err, Photoshop is not free!

Pixabay

This cool site is used for media all over the internet. It is chock full of drawings, photographs and vector art. Admittedly, some of it is not up to an amazing standard, but then it’s also free. The vast majority of the images found on Pixabay are both free to use commercially and do not require attribution to the author / creator, meaning you can use it freely for personal or enterprise use. You can find Pixabay here, but make sure you check what the terms of use are, just in case!

Brush Sets

In GIMP and similar programs, you can find and download different tool effects. I’m going to focus on the brush tools, which, rather than just drawing one tiny pixel at a time, allow you to create varied shapes and effects with the click of your mouse button. The are thousands of brushes and special effects out there to use, but here’s a link to a few helpful brushes!

You’ll need to download these and save them in the right folder. To save us all time, there’s a handy little walk through here

Once you’re setup, we’re good to go!

This isn’t a complicated process but it’s worth getting it right. There’s room to play with various levels and tones, so take your time to play and learn what works best for you.

Step Zero

Search to find an image from Pixabay or one of your own and save it in a handy space. I tend to save images to my desktop for ease, I guess this is what its for? Later I’ll save it to a proper directory. Later, sure…

Step One

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Start by opening your image in GIMP using the File > Open options. It should appear just like the image above.

Step Two

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I’m going to work on black and white images, since my final document I want to have a brooding and dark feeling to it, not much room for colour. Artistic choices, eh? You can desaturate the image using Colour > Desaturate. There’s a choice of 3 levels, so play about and see which works best for you. It’s just a choice, and there’s not a huge amount of variety in it.

Step Three

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I don’t want all of the detail to show in the images, as I like a slight abstract feel. So I use the Posterize option found using the Colours > Posterize. Again, you can fiddle for different effects.

You can also use the Threshold tool, following Colours > Threshold for more control. Posterize is quicker, but with Threshold you get more choice with the handy slider bar. Play around, see what you like!

Step Four

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So, now we’re going to work with some Layers. Layers are literally just that, extra layers over or under your image which we use to create effects. Some of them can be invisible, others can be bold. Any image manipulation will involve layers, they’re essential parts to the GIMP and Photoshop process.

You can access a new layer following Layers > New Layer, or there’s a handy little button on the bottom left of the Layer Window.

You want to create a new layer that is Transparent. Then click on the paint pot symbol, which is the Filler tool. You can find it by following Tools > Paint Tools > Bucket Fill.

With the new layer highlighted, fill it with white (you can choose any colour but white works best here).

Now make sure that this new layer is below your original image. You can click and drag it down. If you’ve done this right, you can’t see the new layer, as your original image is now ‘over the top’ of the new layer.

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Step Five

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So click on your original layer image and then right click on it. This will bring up a new menu. We’re going to add a mask layer to the image. Select ‘Add Layer Mask…’ and choose ‘Black (Full Transparency)’ like the image below.

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Your image should now vanish behind a white layer. Fear not, this is meant to happen! Now the fun bit begins!

Step Eight

Select the paint brush tool from the quick menu on the right or by following Tools > Paint Tools > Paintbrush. Increase the size of the brush to something that matches your image size, for me that was a size of over 600.

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Now select the type of brush you want to use from the Brushes window (bottom left of the image above). If you’ve installed your brushes properly they should appear here. If they don’t, hit the refresh button or go over the tutorial earlier to check for errors.

When you’ve selected your brush size and shape, go ahead and click some brush marks on the blank screen. You should see the image start to appear underneath the mask.

The more times you click on the same portion of the image, the darker and more apparent it will appear.

The key to this part is really just seeing what works for you. Mix and match the different brush shapes. If you mess up, you can use the Undo shortcut Ctrl + Z which will take you back one step at a time.

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Step Nine

Keep going until you’re happy with the result. Play around with the image and don’t rush the process. If you’re really not happy, just open the image again and start from fresh.

Finishing Up

Some images work better than others, it really depends on what effect you’re after. Once you’re happy with the final image, you should probably save it as a new file under the File > Save As, options.

Then you just need to Export the new image using File > Export. Give it a new flashy name and select the extension type. Ideally you’re after .jpeg or .png if you’re using the file in word documents or for websites (the files are pretty small but keep a good level of detail).

armour gear

We’ve used this process to create some images for our Fantasy Pulp tabletop RPG and the fantasy setting ‘The Godless Realm’ which you can learn about here:

The Godless Realm – Update and Changes Made

We’re also on Discord, and here’s the link to join us there!

That’s it for now!

J.D. Ferris