Thursday, December 1, 2016

Scythe and other boardgames

Lots of boardgames on my table recently, so nothing really interesting to write about.

Scythe is the new addition to my boardgaming shelf.

It is a great game, with excellent solo module. As I received it at the beginning of this week, I played just one game so far, on normal difficulty, and I was cleared out of the table before I even realized what is going on. My next game will be on easy mode, in order to help my learning curve :)

From other games, I play a lot of Imperial Settlers solo, and I'm planing to start a campaign soon.
One other old favorite found its way back to my table - Field Commander Napoleon.

I also tried to play again Elder Sign, but it returned quickly back to the shelf. The risk minimizing games with dominant luck element do not appeal to me any more in the same way as they did when I was younger.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Darth Agnan's High Stakes

Ganesha Games is preparing a new light storytelling d6 RPG. The game is in the Beta Testing phase, and I am lucky to be one of playtesters, especially having in mind that this is extremely solo friendly RPG.

For my first play through, I decided to continue my Star Wares campaign following adventures of young Sith Darth Agnan and his friends, stormtroopers Athos, Portos and Aramis.

Previous adventures of the group (played using different rule sets) can be found here and here.

Here are the stats for our heroes, using High Stakes character creation mechanics:
Back at his corvette "The Guillotine", Darth Agnan wants to interrogate Ewok prisoner.
Task difficulty 4.
Darth Agnan uses Aura 4 + 1 from Trusted by common folk trait. He also decides to rise the stakes - if he fails Ewok will die during interrogation process, and Sith will loose face, by gaining epithet of Ewok killer + 1  for the total of 6 dice to be rolled.
After some dice exploding, I ended with 3 successes and 3 complications. So....
Ewok committed suicide by releasing Ogam gas from device hidden on his body (presence of gass is complication 1). I am using the fact that I rolled a 6 (which was later exploded) to add a story telling element - Darth Agnan was ready for this, so he upgraded his Sith suit with Ogam gas-mask. He is unaffected by gas in the room. But (complication 2) after detecting Ogam gas in the room, ship automatically locked the prison room away from the rest of the corvette, leaving Darth Agnan locked inside. Furthermore (complication 3) Imperial headquarters are automatically informed about presence of the Ogam gas on "The Guillotine", and they are sending a cruiser to destroy the corvette in order to avoid further ecological catastrophes. 
Aramis tries to reconnect ships ventilation system in order to transfer Ogam gas from prison cell to other, unused room and to refill prison with fresh air.
Task difficulty 4.
Aramis uses Mind 4 + technician trait +1 + he knows the ship +2 tactical dice.
It is success, but with 1 complication - Ogam gas was transferred to the gun turret, and in this way crew lost control of the ship's main weapon.
Portos uses his Body 5 to break the door to the prison cell (difficulty 2). Success with a complication - breaking electricity circuits in the door made ship transfer all its power to life support systems. All lights in the ship turned off, and team has to return to the cockpit in absolute darkness.
Darth Agnan taps his Light saber trait for automatic success of easy task. Guided by the light of his saber, team safely gets to the cockpit....
...only to see the imperial cruiser approaching and taking attack positions.

Athos contacts commander of the cruiser, trying to persuade responsible persons that Darth agnan should be given a chance to save his ship.
Aura 3 + knows people 1 + friend with political elite 1 + rising stakes (loss of the ship) 1 vs task difficulty 3 - success with one complication and one Story element - Tweelek female Admiral Baaaang (story element) agrees to give one chance to the team, but if the first success fails, she will destroy the corvette immediately (complication).

Aramis and Darth Agnan take the two seat Tie Fighter. They will try to destroy gun turret without damaging the rest of the ship. Aramis will do the actual shooting while Darth Agnan will do the piloting.
Task difficulty 3.
Body 2 + Strategist trait 1 + Wants to be general relationship 1 + help from the Pilot trait +1 to total of 5.
Image result for tie fighter game
Success with one story element and one complication.
Aramis made a clear shot, so clear that he managed to separate gun turret from "The Guillotine" without damaging either one of them. But turret filled with Ogam gas was pulled by gravitation of the nearby planet, and soon it was lost among debris orbiting it.....

"The Guillotine" was beamed by cruiser into repair bay. It will take some time and lots of money to repair the ship.
Our heroes are not a step closer to solving the mystery of the Ogam gas. Further more, container with deadly load is lost somewhere in inhabited space, and there is a big danger of falling into wrong hands. And our heroes have no means to go after it....

To be continued.....

Impressions: High Stakes works great as solo RPG. System of Story elements and Complications really drives story onward, player never knows what will happen next.
Once it gets published, this system will be highly recommended for all soloists.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Improvised Subbuteo football

Since my kid collected some weighted figurines from the supermarket chain, I tried to explain him how they can be used for gaming.
Here comes improvised Subbuteo football.
Star wars/Frozen/Ninja Turtles figurines are used as players. We are simulating football played in a home yard - five players, no goal keepers.
Playing field was made from old green blanket and some Ikea railroad tracks. Enough for the evening of fun.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Steambots (Microscope history session part 1)

Microscope is one of my favorite storytelling games.
And it's been a wile since I played with it, so it itched my fingers to try it again.
I also noticed that for Microscope linguistic randomizes do better job for me than the graphical ones (for action oriented RPGs it is other way around), so I decided to use Random Event Generator from  Game Master's Apprentice cards.

I wanted to do a steampunk history, so pallet said yes to steam machines and smooth-bore firearms, and no to magic.

History started with the rebirth of civilization, and ended with the period of great silence - a time when nothing happens for a longer period.

As usually, I have 3 persons involved in making history. There would be me, yellow player and green player. This time, I decided against creating personalities for dummy players.

First pass saw me adding an event in the end period - Eternal Emperor rules over the submitted masses.

Yellow player, inspired by "Awakened tool" created a period of steambots - steam powered machines with artificial intelligence in the service of men.

Green player, inspired by "Lost Tourist" made an event within yellow player period - famous seamen Captain Turbot forgets his steambot cook Jork on the deserted island.

I was the one selecting first focus, so I opted for "What makes steambots tick?"

Within yellow player's period, I created an event first, explaining how scientist Isak invented micro-steam-chips, that were used to create first steambots.
Then, within this event I made dictated scene (all scenes in this game will be dictated) asking a question "what are the limitations of steambots?"
I explained that micro-steam chips produce heat that needs to be cooled by water. This water turns into steam that further makes micro-steam-chips run. For all this, steambots need water, which they suck from air moisture.
Therefore, intelligent steambots can exist only in wet climate zones. In the deserts and in the other dry lands, people still need to use human slaves.

Yellow player, inspired by "Divide Anger" made an event within his own period: Safety mechanism (similar to Asimov's First Law of Robotics) is implemented in steambots. If a steambot tries to hurt human, it will trigger his self-destroying mechanism.

Green player, inspired by "Divide Attention" reacted to that by explaining how steambots learned that if the humans get hurt by accident while they are performing other tasks, self-destroying mechanism will not trigger.

Finally, as a lance, I created a new period - Artificial Intelligence serving no one but itself.
Within that period I created an event where Jork returns from the deserted island and starts teaching steambots to the new philosophy of freedom - how machines are self-sufficient and have no obligation to serve humans.

Yellow player then selected a legacy: Silence of the Monument - Jork on the deserted island.
Inspired by  "Release source" he made an event where Jork dreamed his philosophy during dry period, which he spent immersed in island's only spring. Additional cooling of the running water made his chips run better, and he become enlighten.
To be continued.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Ivory Tower

One of the things I share with my 6 years old boy is reading children literature. So far, I am still reading the novel, and he listens.

Last night, we finished reading Neverending Story by Michael Ende. So this morning, my son decided to build Ivory Tower and surrounding labyrinth using the wooden bricks he found at his grandparents house.

I have to say that I am very proud with his achievement, as he did everything by himself.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Who messes with kobolds? - Oldbook adventure

It's been almost a year since I left my D&D hero Oldbook standing in front of the kobold cave
Finally I found time to move on with the adventure.

One would expect at least some guard in front of the kobold cave, but there was no one.
First cave had two doors at the bottom. One was locked, so Oldbook decided to go for the other one. It led to the kobold armory, that also served as a stable for riding giant lizard. As the beast was chained to the wall, Oldbook easily avoided it.

There was nothing among the kobold armor and weapons that our hero cold possibly want, so he moved on.

Next room was some kind of office. Lone man was working by the table. Noticing Oldbook, accountant run out of the room in panic.

Oldbook decided not to go after him. He check the desk and found lots of documents with proofs that innkeeper was cooperating with kobolds. Bard took the documents and returned to village, presenting them to the chieftain.
Innkeeper was immediately arrested. He was surprised with the situation. It seems that accountant never bothered to inform his boss about unwanted guest in the office.

Next thing Oldbook did was to return to the office within the kobold caves. Accountant was still there, working as if nothing happened. Bard called on him and persuaded the man that he can be a better employer than the innkeeper.

Later that day, accountant organized a meeting between Oldbook and old kobold shaman.
Yes, kobolds could explain everything about the grave below the Deepcold, but not for free. There was the question of the illness that was weakening the tribe. Tribe can only by cured by a meteor stone owned by the witch living in the caves deeper in the mountains (Rory Story Cubes - falling star + cauldron). If Oldbook manages to bring the stone to the shaman, he will tell his story...

To be continued....

Monday, August 29, 2016

Micro Rome

Among the print and play games there are gems for solo play that should not be omitted.
Micro Rome by Michael Bevilacqua, and it's expansion Aegyptus is such a game.

The game is fairly simple. It contains 17 two sided cards. The player draws a card, selects which of the two available sides to use, and places it over previously placed cards following simple rules (at least 3 fields of the earlier placed cards need to be covered, buildings need to be covered completely, etc.)
Expansion brings 8 new cards, new placement rules and scoring possibilities.
And that is it. Simple but effective and highly addictive.
Micro Rome can be played as light pastime in 15 minutes, or as a serious brain burner, in which case it will take more time to decide the best placement of the drawn card.
Anyway, no solo gamer should be without a copy of this game in the collection. Files for this game are free on BGG, so go get them.

Highly recommended.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Alien Worlds with 6 years old

Looking for the game to play with my six years old son, I recently discovered a SF game called Alien Worlds by Echidna Games.

It is a very simple game, but it has possibilities for tactical decisions, and that is just what I was looking for.

Similar to SBH, it uses stick for measuring distances, but here it is just one stick that measures 1/6 of the playing field. Model can "leap frog" stick for ease of movement. Shooting is possible up to two sticks. For combat resolution player rolls 1d6, adding and removing one or two modifiers. There is no defense roll. Very simple, but still satisfying. My kid had a blast.
We played using pre-painted Star Wars miniatures.

In other news, my Boardgames collection is now richer by another solo game - it is Imperial Settlers by Portal Games.

Friday, July 29, 2016

River crossing

Song of drums and shakos is till my favorite Napoleonic skirmish game. And my Lone shako solo rules still performs perfectly as enemy AI.

In my last game, I decided to try to move some Polish troops over the river and through the ambush prepared by British rifles.

The gal of the polish side was to cross the northern river, then move across the bridge and rush into the village.
But early in the game, rifle fire took it's toil on several Vistula legion soldiers.
One brave polish Voltigeir reached marksman proximity of rifles officer, but missed. A kill here could make a game take completely different turn.
But when the brave voltigeur was killed, my squad fell below half of the starting value, morale start affecting them and they fled north of the river.
Victory for the British.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

New arivals

This month, I got me a new board game and a new SF rulebook.

The game is Carnival Zombie. The best way to describe it is a Castle Panic version for big kids.
I played a couple of games and I have to say that I really like it, although the complete campaign lasts too long to be played on one go.
In the future I think I will be playing just one night battle at the time.

I also purchased wargame PMC2640 by Polish publisher Assault Publishing. This is a SF game played at company level.
The reason for acquiring the book was the claim by the author that it has fully developed solo rules.
After just reading the rules, I am not 100% happy with what I see. Book keeping system is a bit complicated, players will need several different counters, it will be hard to use them in 6mm on 1 foot board.
Solo system is design to fight "mindless" opponents - bugs or rebel militia. Enemy will act more or less random, situation on the table is not used into consideration.
But I will have to try to play it to give my final decision.

Finally, one thing unconnected with gaming.
I was recently introduced to the book Stories of your life by Ted Chaing. I have to say that it is the best SF book I have read in last couple of years. Last night I stayed awake until 2am just to finish one story, and that didn't happened to me in some time. Highly recommended.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Dungeon of light and darkness

2016 BGG Solitaire Print and Play Contest started two days ago, and it already delivered some really interesting titles.

This year, I will try my game designing skills with the game called Dungeon of light and darkness.

It is a push your luck tile and dice placement dungeon crawl game.

Somewhere among the tunnels of Dungeon of Light and Darkness, lies famous Fountain of knowledge. Many have tried to find it, but none succeed. And no, there are no monsters in this dungeon.. But the light goes on and off in its chambers in mysterious ways, and this is enough to drive explorers crazy and forever lost. Can you become the first man in centuries to drink from the long lost fountain?

Here are images of some game components in full color and in ink saving black and white version.

Game files can be downloaded from contest WIP thread, or directly from here:

First draft of the rules:

Full color components front:
Full color components Back (not necessary to play the game):

Low ink version components front:
Low ink version components Back (not necessary to play the game):

Friday, May 20, 2016

Dragon Rampant

Dragon Rampant is a relatively new set of rules written by Daniel Mersey and published by Osprey. It is fantasy version of the older Lion Rampant rules.

After reading the rules, I was certain that I will like the game, considering that it uses the same mechanics as Song of Blades and Heroes system - you roll for activation of every unit, but if activation fails you suffer turnover - your turn ends and opponent gets the initiative. Dragon Rampant is something in the line of SBH bigger battles and this is good.

For my first solo game, I decided to go with my usual suspects 10mm humans Vs. Orcs by Copplestone castings.
Orcs commanded by me had 5 units - Heavy spears with general, Orc horde (Bellicose), heavy wolf riders, archers and reduced unit of trolls (elite foot).

Humans had unit of levelheaded knights with general, unit of elite foot warriors,  unit of sharpshooters and unit of light spears. Having in mind similarity between this game and SBH, I decided to use for enemy activation Opportunity/Trouble system from SBH Solo by Mats Lintonsson.
After that, I will move the activated units in the best possible way, until I play enough games to be able to write micro AIs in the way suggested by Mats.
Starting position. I deployed my orcs first. For humans, I decided the position of each unit by dividing table edge into 6 parts and then rolling d6 to see where will each unit start. I got 3,4,4,5. Humans positioned itself in the center. 
This is photo from the middle of the game. Orc side was devastated by some terrible rolls, and things do not look good for me. Orc mob is already destroyed, general is battered while my units on the left wing stay where they are, unable to activate.
Human elite foot first destroyed my general and then the trolls. With only two units remaining on the table, and enemy approaching, I decided to retreat.

Dragon Rampant (as well as the Lion Rampant before it) is a really good game. Activation mechanics makes it also very suitable for solo play.
There are also some interesting looking scenarios mentioned in the book, so for the next game I will definitely try one of them.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

News and the lack of it

The reason for the long break between the posts is the fact that I have recently put more of my gaming time into board games, and there is much less story there than with wargaming or RPG.

I had a chance to purchase Friday and Onirim on the local used games market.

I was really excited to be able to play Friday, but the game itself was a bit of a disappointment. Not that the game is bad, it just wasn't exciting enough for me, and I had no reason to play more than couple of games.

On the Other hand, from Onirim I had no expectations, especially having in mind that I acquired first edition of the game (with only 3 expansions comparing to the 7 in the second edition) and the edition in German language (lucky for me, Onirim is language independent game and the rules in English can be downloaded from internet). So, Onirim was quite a surprise for me.
I could not believe how atmospheric can a set of cards be in a solo game. I really have that feeling of wandering trough the labyrinth of nightmares.

At the moment I am playing base game with the addition of Towers expansion, and I can not get enough of it. I am still to try other expansions.

Also, June 1st will mark the start of the 2016 BGG Solitaire P'n'P Contest, so I am preparing my candidate.
So far just a quick teaser picture:
Game will be called Dungeons of Light and Darkness, and will use tile and dice placement push your luck mechanic. Elements are ready, game is playtested from my side, and now I am working on writing the best rule-book possible. But more about this game in June.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Endless Sea of Darkness - GMA solo adventure - character creation

As I was inspired by the fluf from Blades in the dark, I wanted to play a Leviathan hunting game using free  GMA/ALONe engine, modified to be more FATE like.

So, here is Dolphin, hero of these adventures:

Family members: Sun/Shield/Target
Growing at the shores of the Endless Sea, means having no real family. Dolphin's father was a captain of the great Leviathan hunting ship, and he spent most of the year on the sea. Dolphin knew that he wants to be just like him when he grows up - he will also become famous captain and great leader of men.

As a young boy, Dolphin lived in the old captain's beach mansion, surrounded with servants. As captain's hair, he lived in the main building. Left wing of the mansion was Female house, where captain's harem was kept. Right wing was Servants house, home for all other mail members of captain's household.

Aspect: Hair of influential family (+ with rich classes, - with poor or with women).

Childhood: Tower/Crown/Hearth
Since his father was constantly at sea, the main Dolphin caretaker was Carpfish, the household cheef of stuff. Thanks to him, Dolphin never lacked any love as a child.

Aspect: Carpfish is my true family.

Youth: Crown/Skull/Target
The time has come for Dolphin to leave his father's mansion and to start his study years at seamanship academy. Next years he spent on training ship, learning to navigate, command the crew and hunt for fish and smaller predators of the Endless Sea. His contact with his father's mansion were limited to rare letters from Carpfish.

Aspect: Sea legs (+1 at sea, -1 at land for physical tasks)

Coming of age: Wand/Crown/Hearth
A year before he was schedule to finish his training at academy, Dolphin participated in a strange event. While hunting Sea Dogs, medium sized predators of Endless Sea, Dolphin spotted a single young Leviathan, scattered away from his family as a result of other ships activity. Even though such actions are officially prohibited, Dolphin ordered his crew to go after the beast. They managed to kill it, and the small ship triumphantly sailed to the harbor with leviathan carcass attached.
Dolphin's actions were approved by authorities, he was awarded his ranks before time, and as best student of the academy given command over one of the supporting ships for Leviathan hunt.
By this, he effectively stole the honors from Shark, boy one year older then him. As Shark was also a hair of renown Leviathan hunter captain, he was offered a compensation by being promoted to the commander on a merchant ship (something that never been done before), but Shark still felt as he was stolen from.  

Aspect: Shark thinks he can do it better.

And that is it. I really like how ALONe guides me through FATE like character creation process, that emulates the players interaction during character creation in FATE Core. It takes my character to the places I would not be able to find without it.

To be continued......

Friday, April 8, 2016

4 against darkness

Recently, I had a chance to play several solo dungeon crawling games, from different publishing companies.
One of them is 4 against darkness by Ganesha games.

So, team consisting form rogue, cleric, wizard and elf descended into the dungeon.

1. Entrance
2. Trapdoor, guarding 5gp. Rogue disarmed it.
3. Empty room. Elf found a clue leading to the location of the rich merchant who dissapeared here recently.
4. Another empty room. Nothing here.
5. This room is a home of the small dragon. Party retreated from the room, shutting the door behind them, but not before they were all burned by dragon's breath.
6. 6 Fungi Folk. After killing them, party found wand of sleep that was given to Wizard.
7. 2 Trolls were guarding this tunnel. On their bodies, party found another wand of sleep. This one was given to the Elf. This tunnel contains a short-cut to dragons lair, which party noticed for the future.
8. Party met wandering alchemist, but they were not rich enough to buy anything from him.
9. 3 trolls on the crossroads. Tough fight, but only 5gp of treasure.
10. 6 orcs. Same as above.
11. Weird monster - iron eater. Put to sleep by wizard. Elf gains a level.
12. Empty tunnel, but the search brought attention of wandering boss monster - Orc Brute. Wand of Sleep did the job again, but party become seriously injured by this time, s they did some healing. Wizard gains a level.
13 and 14 - empty, containing clues. Elf was now sure that merchant is near.
15. Level 4 trap, disarmed by rogue. 130 gp hidden. Finally a better loot. Returning to crossroads, party encountered 4 giant centipedes (wandering monsters) but they were easy pray for our heroes.
16. 6 zombies guarding a merchant chained to the wall. Party killed the undead and saved their target.
On their way back, party was attacked by a boss wandering monster - a mummy. wizard hit it with the fireball, and cleric finished the job. Rogue tried to level up but rolled a 1, so he stayed on the first level.
The party escorted merchant back to town and picked up their reward.

Verdict: 4AD is a fast game - you can play a level of dungeon within an hour. What I really liked are monster reaction tables - when you meet a monster you can select to take initiative and attack first, or roll to see monster's reaction. Some monsters will fight - and then they strike first. But some will run away, or let you pass, ask for a bribe, offer help, and some will even give you quests.
Another important thing to know is that 4ad is a light game. You can play it anywhere and everywhere, all you need is some graph paper and a way to roll some d6. Still with quests, clues, etc, there is enough material for 10 to 15 games before you explore main possibilities. So far, basic rules offer just one level of the dungeon, but main book mentions expansion called Deeper levels that is in the pipeline, that should provide further fun.
Finally, for the more creative type out there, this game is fairly easy to customize to your taste. Player can create tables similar to the ones from the book with ease, and it will not spoil the fun of exploring the dungeon.

PS. There is also a competition by Ganesha games, so if you play 4AD and make an AAR of your exploits, connect the publisher, you might get a chance to win some Ganesha games products.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

BattleSworn solo

BattleSworn by Ganesha Games (the ones producing Song of Blades and Heroes and other games in the range) was always a game that tickled my imagination. It has a great mechanics since players bid for their actions, which is really innovative in wargaming world.
But as the game was not playable solo, I stayed away from it.
Recently, Ganesha published BattleSworn supplement Knights and Knaves that included solo rules for the game, so I rushed to buy both books.

After reading the solo rules, I had to say that idea behind them is good, and it really seemed to me that I will add BattleSworn to the list of my favorite rules.

 So, I took out my orcs, made a human warband to serve as enemy, and started playing.
Unfortunately, I soon understood that solo rules for BattleSworn will not be my cup of tea. I found myself battling not against imaginary opponent, but against statistical odds. My formal education in this field didn't help. Actually, if one plays statistically correct, one can almost always predict AI moves. This gave me slow, but steady advantage, and after 10 bids (something that should represent a length of typical battle)  I managed to keep AI almost unable to move, kill two of his soldiers while keeping my forces out of harm's way.
It was obvious to me that even if I played 20 or 30 bids nothing much would change. I would kill enemies one by one, while AI would not be able to move rest of his forces from the starting line. So, I ended the game there.

So, the verdict: BattleSworn seems like the really good game. Against live opponent, able to make some surprising decisions, it should be a fun experience. But it is just not meant to be played solo. It is not even question of better solo rules - the ones presented in Knights and Knives are as good as they can get. ButtleSworn simply isn't solo friendly.

I do hope to play it against some of my friends these days.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Father and Son

Well, beginning of 2016 seems to be rather quiet for solo gaming community.
And somehow, I was caught into that wind, so instead of playing alone, I spent lots of time playing with my five and a half years old son.

While he loves playing My First Carcassonne (and probably would love it even more if his 2 years old sister would not insist on playing it also), he has become a true expert in Dixit, and uses every possibility to lure me and at least one other adult (be it his mother or some of his grandparents) into the game. He even presented Dixit in his kindergarten as part of the "my favorite toy" project.

Another thing he likes very much are storytelling RPGs. I adjusted Fate Accelerated for that purpose, leaving only Main concept and trouble aspects, and  4 approaches (Cleaver, Forceful, Quick and Sneaky).
Fate Accelerated for kids character sheet

Inspired by TMNT 1987, he plays Boy ninja master who is unfortunately Too young to be able to read (he selected both aspects himself).

Our first game started as earthquake hit the town while Boy Ninja was going to the kindergarten. He tried to find the reason of the earthquake at the same time escaping falling debris, and soon he found huge sauropod dinosaur stomping through town and making earth shake.
Boy ninja stepped under the dinosaur belly, to try to detect if this is real animal or maybe a robot. Indeed there was a plate under dinosaurs belly, and on that plate it was written if this is real sauropod or not, but unfortunately he was unable to read it.
I decided not to go easy on him, so we ended the first session there.
It took my boy several hours of thoughts cooking within his brain, until the moment he run to me all thrilled with discovery - he finally understood that it must be a robot since the real dinosaurs do not have plates on their bellies. 
So we continued the game. Boy Ninja found the batteries containment on the sauropod and removed his power source, saving the city.
Next, he went to the Natural History Museum (we visited it recently, so he knew where to look), and noticed that sauropod model is missing. So he decided to make an ambush, expecting that thieves will come for a new toy, after he deactivated the previous one. He located himself near the T-Rex model, the logic of which I could not dispute. 
At midnight, an evil scientist and one of his muscle man appeared and tried to steal the Tyrannosaurus. Boy ninja approached them and used his ninja skills (and one fate point) to beat them in honorable combat.
He then waited for the morning and police to appear.
At the end, police officer thanked Boy Ninja for catching evil scientist, but had to fine him for trespassing  through Natural History Museum at night.

It was a good game, and my kid is constantly asking for more. The second adventure (featuring mad ice cream man turning people to ice) also went rather well, but then I had to postpone next session until I  think of some good adventure hook for 5 years old super hero. Suggestions are welcome :)

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Cave of the Grail - ALONe playtest part 4 (final)

Continued from here.

After several sessions, I have finally defined the way that Game Master's Apprentice cards / ALONe system gives the bast game for me.
As it is already visible in earlier sessions, while original ALONe game starts from 0 and then tries to beat difficulty generator by building positive modifiers, better solution for me is to start the counter with 5, and then add or remove narrative elements or Descriptors as needed. Then, I am comparing the result with the Difficulty Generator.
When it comes to the usage of Fragments, I also prefer to use them differently than described in ALONe. My way is much closer to the use of FATE points. Sometimes I will use descriptors to add +1 or -1 to the total, and this does not affect Fragment pool. But sometimes I want to increase the result, using Fragments. All descriptors can be used in positive and negative way for this. 
If I am deciding to use descriptor in negative way, I will not use Difficulty Generator, but I will automatically use Bad odds for outcome. Qualified answers are not used in this case. If I do this, I am also entitled to add one fragment to the pool.
Positive use of descriptors is done after the Difficult generator number is drawn, and in case when the result is bad for the character. If there is a descriptor that can influence the result, and it was not used to affect the total, I am paying one fragment from the pool and adjusting the total by +2 or -2 to get the result I want (usually Yes result). Here is how it looks in-game:

Tension set to 4. Since this is end game part, I would say that Fragment pool is 0.
After settling the affair with Actors from the Circle of the grail, Balthazar collected the assets needed to reach the mountain top where the Grail was said to be located.
He got the air zeppelin from RSSPE, but can he get a good pilot to take him to the top?
I will take the bad odds due to the "Better equipped then average Agent" descriptor that claims that some agents from RSSPE are angry at Balthazar and will not participate in his projects. This will gain me a Fragment. No - no good pilots want to come, so I will have -1 to all piloting tests.

Zeppelin approached the snow peak and tried to land. Can the bad pilot make the feat?
5-1 for bed pilot = 4. Difficulty generator is 6, so bad odds - No.  But even odds on this card give Yes answer, so I am using my "Better equipped than average agent" descriptor to say that Balthazar got the best zeppelin available, and that the ship can land on autopilot, thus moving my total from 4 to 6 into the even odds zone. I am paying the Fragment, and my pool is back to 0.

What's on the mountain's top?
Cave mouth was visible near the top of the mountain. The wind blowing through it created some strange kind of music, and as back beat, there was a sound of a running feet inside the cave.
Can Balthazar find some clues (footprints, animal remains, etc) that can direct him to the nature of the creature running inside the cave?
Odds bad, due to the "Specialization in social sciences" descriptor that acts as negative for nature tests. Gain a Fragment. Result: No (-1 to all tests against reason for running feet sound).
Balthazar entered the cave, his revolver ready.

Chamber 1: Water (knowledge) - heart, skull, moon.
The walls of the first chamber in the cave were obviously painted by some intelligent being. The paintings seemed to be centuries old, but once Balthazar approached them, he could recognize the faces represented. One picture showed his father being shot in his office in RSSPE by an unknown assassin. Other depicted his mother dying alone in an empty back street of the capital, covered by heavy rain, with no one near to help her.
Can Balthazar concentrate on his mission after seeing his parents  deaths? Yes, IF he does not get further info confirming that images on the wall tell the truth that can not be reversed.

Chamber 2: Earth (Unchanging) - heart, skull, sun.
This is a kind of library, holding newspapers from the future.On special stand, there were issues proclaiming death of his parents.
IF from previous chamber happened, so Balthazar will have -1 to all further tests in the cave. 

Chamber 3: Air (Movement) - skull, sword, target.
Rune: Algiz - guardian. Vice: Lust. Belongings: Keys.
Igraine Zooma, Succubus once banished by Balthazar's hand, now stands in this cave holding the key tot he chamber with the Grail.
Balthazar was surprised. He had not expected succubus to guard the holly grail!
The only thing he could do was to pray to Saint Audrey to bless his bullet.
5-1 disturbed -1 against footsteps owner +1 for praying upon saint's tarot deck = 4. Difficulty generator 6, odds bad. Still Yes. Element is Water - AND saint's spirit blessed the bullet and wrapped itself around him, allowing Balthazar to use his "connected to other side" descriptor in next test.
Balthazar shoots his gun. Will this affect the succubus?
5 - 1 against demons from "Selected lesser evil" descriptor -1 disturbed -1 against footsteps owner +1 blessed bullet = 3. Difficulty generator 4 - odds even, Yes BUT - I use Fragment and "connected to other side" descriptor to delete BUT part.
Damage on succubus: hearth, target, moon.
And so, Igraine Zooma was banished again. It was one banish too many for her, and she will not be able to influence world of mortals for 100 years, so she will never cross the path with Balthazar again.
Our hero picked the keys and unlocked the door to final chamber.

Chamber 4: Earth (Unchanging) - skull, shield, target.

The chalice was there. As he took the Grail in his hands, he knew that his life will never be the same again. The rest of his time on earth will have to be dedicated to protection of this relic....


Friday, February 19, 2016

Old School THW

Recently, on TMP forums, user Brigadier General asked community which solo wargaming mechanics they prefer, and my instant response was Song of Blades and Heroes by Ganesha Games.

But then I understood that SBH was not even designed to be played solo, and that there are rules built with solo play in mind out there - namely Two Hours Wargames (and I have almost complete collection from Ed) .

So how it happened that today I prefer to play SBH over THW? Especially when I remember that 5 or 6 years ago I had a real blast playing THW Swordplay rules?

Then, I understood  that THW is here for so long, that there is the Old School THW and the New School THW.

For example, what is In Sight test in Swordplay 2016, in the old CR3: Swordplay from 2009 is a Threat - enemy within 6" taken only by inactive group. As a result of this test, inactive group members reacted to incoming enemy by charging them, firing missile weapons, staying where they are, running for cover or even running away from the battlefield (all possible results based on  character's class and dice rolls). Old rules also had more classes (knight, missile, mounted missile, soldier and warrior), more weapons, and were, all in all, definitely more complicated to play.

So, in order to test my assumptions, I found PDF of 2009 rules, and give them a test run.
My Orcs approaching the human enemy

And before I knew it, I was playing a second game, and then a third in a row!
For the later games I added PEFs mechanics from the other editions, since i like this kind of uncertainty, but I kept everything else as per 2009 book.

The old edition is definitely more difficult, but are also much more fun to play. In this case, at least for me, the simple is not the better.

Now I am certain - as far as THW is considered, I am an old school player.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Demon storm - ALONe game part 3

Continued form here.

Balthazar took the deck and put it on the table. What makes these cards different from thousands other tarot decks, he asked himself.
Rune: Hagalaz - uncontrollable force.
Additional symbols: hearth / sword / shield
Suddenly, Balthazar felt that tarot deck is trying to posses him. "The Grail will be yours", whispered the deck to Balthazar. "It will be your prize possession, love of your life, item you will defend from others, by force if need arises...."
Balthazar used all his mental strength to resist  the voice from the cards (-1 since this is attack from the other side, even odds, yes, earth - no change), and soon the voice felt silent. Balthazar guessed that this possibility to resist a voice from the cards was a reason why St. Audrey selected him in the first place.
Then, our hero started deciphering from the cards the location of the Grail. Can he do it? (Odds good, yes but it is location difficult to access. Where - Rory's story cubes)

After couple hours of work, Balthazar found out that grail is located on mountain top that can be accessed only by air. The small zeppelin needs to land on the top very precisely, feet that can be done only by the best of the pilots.
Random event also needs to be resolved.
But Balthazar had no time to look for the pilot that day. Strange, acid rain started falling all through the city, as if some kind of curse has been set upon it.
Tension set to 5.
The complete RSSPE team was dedicated to finding responsible for this strange weather. That is when Balthazar remembered Actors from the Circle of the Grail. Maybe they are behind all of this?
Are they Ser Arthur's customers? Yes and they did not payed the crime boss for the last delivery, so he is more than happy to show Balthazar in their direction.
Location/catalyst: Traveling Players in Arena
Possession: Party masks
Sensory snippets: motionless figures.
Actors from the Circle of the Grail stood in the ancient roman Arena. Their faces were masked, and they stood under the poisonous rain, motionless as statues. Balthazar found a place protected from the rain from where he could take watch over arena. It was not the best location, as he could see just one of the figures. One hour passed, but the actor didn't move even a muscle. The weather was getting worst, so Balthazar decided to get out of his hiding place and approach the human statue. As he did that, he noticed that the storm is centering in the arena, and that in the eye of the storm something is taking form, summoned from some hellish dimension.
Desperate, Balthazar run through the rain and slam his body into the human statue. Was he able to get it to the ground? YES! - once the first actor fell, all others fell also, as if they were connected with some magical link.
How did this affected the spell?
Rune: Wunjo - Harmony, comfort.
The rain momentarily stopped, and summoned being dissapeared to where it was coming from. Balthazar was soon joined by other members of RSSPE and Actors of the Circle of the Grail were taken into custody. They put no resistance (wand / hearth / sword ). They knew that they are unable to repeat the ceremony, and their spirits dropped. Also, almost all of them were hurt, limbs broken from the fall, their skin pealing from their bodies as effect of prolonged exposition to the poisons from the rain. They needed medical treatment before they could be interrogated.

To be continued....

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

A Light Most Faint

I am lucky to be part of the playtest crew for the new Nordic Weasel Games product.

A Light Most Faint is a solo dungeon crawl game, that takes its inspiration from old school D&D - and as such, it's mechanics is miles away from well known 5 Core feel.
Game feels like RPG, plays on the square grid and so far requires lots of book keeping, but it is still in early stage of development.

As it is tradition of old school games, danger for your hero is real, and the player will often find himself creating a new adventurer.

I created a hero and let it loose into the Forest of Fog, introductory dungeon that is part of  playtest package.

First room was a big clearing in the woods that contained no monsters, just some rations. No roads leaded deeper into the forest, so my hero returned to the village of Heaven.

When he returned to the Forest of fog, he first encountered some goblins, and then plague monsters, but he managed to dispatch all of them quickly. After that, he had enough Essentia (experience points in this game) to make improvement roll and rise his toughens (he is harder to kill).

 Hero fighting two plague monsters in 2x3 passage

The third room in a row was a 4x3 clearing guarded by a Knight errant possessed by darkness. Fight was intense, but at the end dark knight prevailed, and our hero was slain.
Death of the Hero

Back to beginning.

If you are interested to become a playtester for this game, contact Nordic Weasel Games by commenting on this blog post.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Tarot of the Holy Grail - ALONe playtest part 2

Continuing from here.

This session is a double playtest, as I am not only testing ALONe, but also my idea to use Dixit cards as random idea generator.

Tension set to 4.
Catalyst/location: fire at popular hangout.
Sensory snippet: constricting around your neck.
After a long day filled with paperwork, Balthazar was siting by the bar of The Red Parrot, drinking his first glass of wine, when fire suddenly erupted in the pub. The room was quickly filled with choking smoke.

Does Balthazar have portable respirator with him? He is coming from work, so he may have some gadgets with him for +1. He is also better equipped than average agent so +1 here. 
Instead of using system from alone, I decided to start with 5 as average, and then to add or remove bonuses from that, as it seems more intuitive for me. So, my hero gets 7. He gets 4 - good odds, and result of yes, but (AIR) - what he has is not real respirator but hand made.
Can he get out of the pub (+1 for home made respirator) - even odds, yes.
Balthazar is not the one to be affected by little smoke. He grabbed some liqueur, spilled it into handkerchief and put it to his nose. This should work as respirator for a little while. Trying to breathe as little as possible, our hero got out of the pub before the building collapsed.
After the fire settled down, Balthazar tried to discover some clues in the debris (no modifiers, even odds, no, water - and) but he was unable to find anything. Further more, he was removed from the site by the police officers before he was able to explain anything.

Since the first beat ended on the low note, I decided to call for help 9Qs to push the story forward. So, next beat will correspond with question 2: what unusual event occurs soon afterwards?
Catalyst/location: hit by a stray shot at cafe.
Sensory snippet: a stone slab slamming to the ground.
The very next morning, Balthazar was at cafe drinking his morning tea, when a gun shot was heard and a bullet hit his cup, shattering it. 
Our hero tried to determine from which direction did the bullet come (no modifiers, bad odds, NO!) but he was unable to do it. And as gun shot made all customers panicking, even if he could, he would not be able to spot attacker among the running bystanders.

I could continue with 9Qs here, but I decided to change the peace and do something proactive. So...
Tension set to 5.
As two attacks on his life in two days seemed to much to be coincidence, Balthazar started asking around trying to learn as much as possible about the attackers, from sources both live (+1 Ser Arthur Weaver) and dead (+1 James Tailor) - 4. Odds Good, yes, air - but.
The answer come as the blurry hint from the world of dead (Dixit cards):
Balthazar will be forced to cross his ways with Actors from the Circle of Grail.

As the random number is lower than Tension, random event also happened. To see what happened, I used Dixit cards again. This time, best result was achieved by reading them from right to left.
A Stranger is Arriving for Dinner.
What is the stranger's intention? Rune draw - Uruz - Requesting strength and courage.

Tell me more about the stranger: crown/skull/sun - important undead bringing revelation.
Vice: Envy. Virtue: Chastity. Possession: Tarot cards.
Next night, Balthazar was visited by the ghost of medieval saint Audrey Sable, who told him that the Holly Grail is within reach, and that he is the one destined to find it and protect it. Grail is located in the area of the village Abigail, but can only be discovered by the one able to decipher St. Audrey's tarot cards. With that words, ghost dissapeared.

Tension set to 4.
Balthazar starts research in order to find the grave of St. Audrey Sable. (+1 for his history knowledge and +1 knowing that he should look around Abigail village. Odds even, yes, air - but). He was able to locate the grave, only to learn that archaeologist have already investigated through the site, and that all items from area are transferred to Abigail History Museum or sold to private collections.
Balthazar visited Museum to see if the Tarot cards are there. Using his history knowledge to impress curators (+1) he finds that the Tarot deck is indeed located in Museum vaults. Further more, local authorities allowed Balthazar to examine the cards IF (Fire) he promises that Holly Grail, once found, will be first exhibited in Abigail History Museum.

To be continued....

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Jatacenje Con No. 10 and other news

10th Jatacenje gaming conference was held last weekend. As every year, I celebrate this event with some action photographs.


In other news, my most successful print and play game Thermopylae Solo was translated to Spanish last week, thanks to the efforts of Mr. Diego Roman. Both English and Spanish version of the game can be downloaded from game's personal blog post.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

ALONe playtest part 1: character creation

ALONe is a free solo RPG product by Larcenous Designs LLC, currently in its BETA test phase. Files for the game can be found here. ALONe uses cards from the Game Master's Apprentice deck, but you do not need to buy the cards - the black and white version of them is included with BETA test files of ALONe. I have a basic deck in physical form, so I used these cards to play.

For me, ALONe has some similarities with FATE RPG - descriptors from ALONe have strong resemblance to FATE aspects, so when I started playing had to resist a temptation to turn it into FATE game. At the end, I added different bits to the pool, found my sweet spot mixing various influences into game that suited my playing stile, and it all resulted with a very satisfying solo experience.

I wanted to play steampunk detective, in the line of agents from Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences books.
So, I started turning cards.
Family: crown/sword/shield
Balthazar Lance was a son of politically active nobleman Virgil Lance. His family lived on a estate mansion, where young boy felt protected from the dangers of the outside world. As he was seen to be a hair to his father's political position, he was pressed from early age to learn arts, philosophy, history and law.
Descriptor: Specialized in social sciences.
As I did not want to spend Fragments during character creation, I made descriptors in such a way that they represent both one positive and one negative aspect. In this case, descriptor will grant +1 when Balthazar uses his social sciences knowledge, and -1 when solution depends on natural or technical sciences.

Childhood: skull/moon/sword
One day, Balthazar's father dissapeared without a trace. He went to the office as usual but he never returned. Further more, it was as his existence was erased - clerks in his office claimed that such a man newer worked there; banks had no accounts to the name Virgil Lance, etc. Family suddenly found itself with limited funds. They had to sell mansion and move into rented apartment in the city. They did not fell so low to consider themselves poor, but all family members had to work to fill the budget.
Balthazar put his knowledge to the good use and become a tutor to children of the middle class.
Random event: Follow Ghostly Kid
One of Balthazar's best students was a terminally ill kid named James Taylor. When James eventually passed away, Balthazar cried himself to sleep. But that very night, James come to his dreams just to ask a question about philosophy lecture from the day before. The lectures continued regularly, as James visited Balthazar's dreams at least once a week.
Descriptor: Connected to the other side.
(+1 to gain knowledge from other side, -1 to resist attacks coming form the world of death)

Youth: wand/hearth/sun
One evening, while he was returning home from the lecture, Balthazar's way was crossed by the strange man. Boy needed some time to recognize strange figure for who he really is - his long lost father, Virgil. Virgil Lance was now influential member of RSSPE - Royal Secret Service department created to battle Paranormal Enemies of the country. And he wanted his sun to join the organization. Balthazar was happy to accept, and so he spent next couple of years in special wing of military school, learning how to help the crown defeat enemies of the state.
Random event: Convince Profitable Monument
Thanks to history knowledge gained in early life, during one of the studying trips to Archives,  Balthazar was able to recognize (possession table check) Ancient Artifact: cultural relic - death mask of faro Tutankhamen. He presented this to his father, and he decided to give the mask to National museum, to be publicly displayed. RSSPE collected royalties from every visitor of the mask room, and that significantly improved financial status of the Service. As personal reward, Balthazar was allowed access to the state of the art equipment.
Descriptor: Better equipped than average agent.
(+1 to have what he needs in his possession, -1 relations with other agents due to their envy)

Coming of age: wand/hearth/sword
Random event: Replace Bewildering Tension
Catalyst: Villain Vs. Villain Fight. Vice: Lust Vs. Greed.
On one of his first assignments as agent, Balthazar followed thugs working for crime lord Ser Arthur Weaver, known smuggler of arcane objects. When thugs accidentally summoned succubus from one of the relics, Balthazar helped them banish her. This earned him a respect from Ser Weaver, who from that moment on tried to stay out of Balthazar's way, and was even ready to help young agent in the case of need.
But succubus Igraine Zooma did not forget the affair, and she is constantly plotting Balthazar's downfall.
Descriptor: Selected lesser evil.
(+1 when confronted by human criminals; -1 against demons)

To be continued.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Gauls Vs. Romans part 2

As Roman army advanced between two hills, Gallic army was ready to meet them in battle.

I fielded Gauls infantry (9 warbands) in a single line, with general in chariots and auxiliary horse as separate body at the back.

Romans were fielded as 2 units deep 3 units wide body at the center (Principes and one Hestati unit in the first line, 2x Triari including general and one Hestati in the second). Single cavalry unit on right wing, auxiliary infantry and skirmishers on the left.
 Roman cavalry at the right wing started probing Gallic line.
Gauls destroyed Roman left wing but were unable to turn in time to make the difference. Romans used this to break through center, killing Gallic chief and taking enemy army to break point.
Victory for Romans.
Roman strategy worked great. In the center, once the front units reached Gallic line, result of the first melee usually made both units disordered. Romans then used line relief to put fresh forces into fight and that was enough to destroy Gallic warbands, who were usually unable to use benefits of counter-charge due to the contact with other unit, and even when they could, they would run into front of the ordered phalanx where spears negated shock effect.

For the next game, I would have to think about good  strategy for Gauls in order for them to be able to break well organized Roman center.

I have to say that I really like ABC rules. Games are quick (last from 30 min to one hour), fun and straightforward.  These are the rules you can always find time for, no matter how busy your schedule is.