Thursday, 22 December 2011

Rippers Playtest, part 2

Continuing on from the previous session, the Rippers, under the leadership of Count Ernst von Hemming are battling to save the people of Guntersdorf from the Cabal.

Things began to go wrong for the Cabal. The Inmates, seeing the Professor on the roof of the town hall, decided against further investigation of the the northern side of the village, and went for what they saw as the easy kill - an academic and two villagers cut off from the rest of the Rippers. They entered the building and confronted the Professor on the roof. Pruzt and the Innkeeper battled to save the Nun from the Inmates.

Professor Pruzt is trapped on the roof!

Meanwhile, the last Wolfman resolved his Shaken condition and made one last effort to break down the door of the cottage, in which cowered three villagers, before he was gunned down at close range by the Wolfen Jaegers. The Jaegers entered the building and rescued the villagers.

Veneticus in the foreground leads a young damsel to safety.

In the central section of the village, two soldiers and Count von Hemming put down the Wolf they were fighting, and the marines now proceeded into the central alleyway. The surviving Wolves attacked the last two villagers hiding in the cottage nearby, killing one (Cabal 3, Rippers 0). Shortly afterwards, two marines fired through the window of the building, and both Aced, killing both Wolves (Toughness 5).

Two Jaegers guard the door to the cottage as a third goes upstairs to rescue the villagers.

As Father Veneticus and the Wolfen Jaegers retreated with four villagers towards the board edge, it became increasingly obvious that the battle on the roof of the town hall could become important. Count von Hemming joined the action, tackling the Inmates, and killing one, but after that his combat rolls seemed to be jinxed, and a string of bad luck followed for the Hero in which he burned up all his bennies to no avail.

The Jaegers leave the cottage with the villagers: things begin to look dour for the Cabal.

The inn was empty!
The Rippers decided to split up again - Father Veneticus checked the inn, but found nobody there. The Wolfen Jaegers took charge of the existing posse of six villagers and began to move them towards the eastern side of the village and safety. This freed up the marines to join the battle on the rooftop.

As the marines burst onto the rooftop, Pruzt killed another Innmate. Both he and Hemming had now burned through all their bennies, the Professor desperately soaking hits as his d4 Fighting was making little headway against a violent lunatic with d10 Fighting and no requirement to make Spirit checks.

At this point the Cabal player conceded, as we were already running out of time. The Innkeeper was Shaken, but not down, and the remaining two Inmates were facing off against the marines, Hemming and the Prof. Game over. The Rippers won 8-3.

The end of the line for the Inmates...

Post game analysis:

I was really just wanting to try out some new scenery and test-drive the Rippers rules. Although the groups were roughly equal in points - the Cabal brought three units to the party, while the Rippers had two, it was the Wild Cards that made the difference. I don't think enough was made of the Professor's Local Knowledge ability, and it was a tactical error for him to get himself trapped in the town hall. Luckily he had Count von Hemming nearby. The buildings proved harder than expected to break into, and the Wolf Men were weaker than anticipated. I'll need to look more closely at that.

NEXT: Having rescued the villagers, the Rippers now discover that the Inmates were sent by an evil vampire and Cabal leader, Baron Konig. Professor Pruzt hypnotises one of the Inmates to discover the whereabouts of the vampire's lair in nearby Bohemia. However, the vampire realises what is happening, and sends some of his acolytes to assassinate the two prisoners before Pruzt can make more use of them... 

Meanwhile, the Rippers being Rippers, will be using the bodies of the lycanthropes to make aid them in their struggle with the evil Cabal. Tune in next time for the Battle of the Gotznerhof!

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

The Golden Age of GW boardgames

Back in the 1980s, Games Workshop used to have its fingers in many, many pies - pretty much everything apart from the nascent computer gaming industry. While its line of miniatures was expanding and the first couple of editions of Warhammer were published, it also dabbled in RPGs like Judge Dredd and Golden Heroes. In addition, apart from cutting its teeth importing board games from the US, GW also began designing and publishing board games.

Probably the most widely known of these is Talisman, now back in print thanks to Fantasy Flight Games, which appears to have the rights to publish board games based on the GW IP. It has given me the opportunity to start filling in some of the holes left in my collection when the originals went out of print. However, and here's the real point of this post, I'm hoping to also be able to play through my collection of GW board games over the course of 2012, if at all possible. We'll see how we go. Here's is what we've got:

Fury of Dracula (1st edition)

Fury of Dracula I bought when in the Lower Sixth (not sure what the US educational equivalent is). I had originally ordered some Call of Cthulhu supplements, as it was around the time I was getting more interested in playing something other than AD&D. As it happened, GW has sold out of the items I wanted, but they sent me some tokens instead, and I used them to buy FoD. We already owned a copy of Scotland Yard, which uses a similar hidden movement mechanic to FoD. I played this game a LOT between 1987 and about 1991. The new version from FFG adds a fourth hunter character to the game and slightly tweaks the way the game manages hidden movement. I'm still in two minds which is the better.

Rogue Trooper (1st edition)

Back in the Eighties, GW had the license to publish games related to 2000AD properties, and Rogue Trooper was one of the beneficiaries of this. It was an excellent game. Players took on the roles of Genetic Infantrymen, scouring Nu Earth for clues to the identity of the traitor who betrayed the GIs in the Quartz Zone Massacre. In many ways, Runebound reminds me of RT, with its hex map and card-driven encounter and equipment systems. I took this game to university with me in my third year, when we'd all run out of drinking money, and it was a major hit. We were regularly able to put together six player games.

Block Mania (1st Edition)

Staying with the 2000AD theme, my brother picked up Block Mania and Mega Mania in GW Reading at a time when they were selling off all their non-Warhammer stuff in favour of focusing on their miniatures games. He got them for £5 each. He's since 'loaned' them to me on a semi-permanent basis, as his place is too small for stockpiling games. Block Mania players each take control of a hab block in Mega City One and try to do as much damage as possible to the other players' blocks before the Judges arrive to clear up. The end-game mechanic is great, as the game automates the arriving Judges and their assets, like H-wagons and riot foam. The players can't beat the law, but the game ends once all rioters have been dealt with.

Blood Royale (1st Edition)

A friend of mine bought this and then donated it to me when he left school. We used to play this when we should have been revising for our A-levels. It's a long but entertaining game of medieval power politics, which has elements of role-playing in it. You control a dynasty, rolling attributes for the various members of your dynasty as they are born, and seeking to arrange strategically beneficial marriages with other European noble houses. Like in Imperial, there was also scope for being disenfranchised - i .e. having your kingdom taken away from you, although invading and occupying another player's realm was hard, as you still had to pay your armies, and foreign territories had more scope to rebel. I also liked the way that knights killed in battle took 10 years to replace, representing the real losses to chivalric manpower medieval battles could wreak.

Space Hulk (1st edition)

Some would argue SH is not strictly a boardgame, but that is how it was original marketed. At the time GW was beginning to publish games that combined elements of miniatures and boardgaming together, and I suspect we're getting back there now with the likes of Tannhauser and Battles of Westeros. We played a bit of SH when we first got it, but then went on to lose the pieces having made a botched attempt to paint them all. I'm now in the process of replacing them by painting up contemporary GW Space Marines and Genestealers, which I will hopefully have ready soon. My brother was the real SH afficionado, and also managed to buy Deathwing, one of its supplements, before he went off it. I see supplements for all editions of this game are still trading for silly money on eBay. We recently played some Death Angel here in Brighton, although it was not quite the same.

Dark Future (1st edition)

Now THIS I have not played before. I recall seeing it covered in White Dwarf in some detail when GW was first marketing it, but it obviously didn't sell well enough, as the effort ground to a halt. I didn't have enough sterling to buy it either, and since then it has generally been trading for £50+ on eBay. Recently, however, I jumped into an auction for two copies plus some extra bits and pieces and got it for far less. It looks to me that quite some painting time will still need to be spent on it before it is ready, so will probably kick this project into Q3 or Q4.

Warrior Knights (2nd edition)

At the time GW first published WK it seemed like a great game. I was writing a PBM game concept with a school friend called Dominion which we intended to eventually turn into a money spinner (well, £250 a month seemed like a lot of money in 1988). WK WAS, to all intents and purposes, the same game, but smaller. Our idea, the Grand Duchy of Irongrim, was a little more like George Martin's Westeros in concept. It could well have worked, but we got detoured by A-levels, university, chicks, etc. Same old story really. I got the chance to play the second edition more recently in an epic session that went on to three o'clock in the morning. I've now got my own copy and hope to play it in 2012.

Blood Bowl (3rd Edition)

I bought 1e Blood Bowl in about 1989 (another GW sale) and took it to university, playing it a lot with my flat mate in the early 1990s in North London. I quickly learned that teams like the Halflings and Skaven were a bit underpowered! Later, I progressed to 2e when my brother bought it, and then more recently have been playing 3e using a Chaos team. Overall, I think I favour the latest edition over the previous incarnations of the game, which tended to drag on a bit. 3e Blood Bowl strikes me as the most suitable for league play, although some people I know find the heavy reliance on dice rolls to be frustrating. Still, if I get a couple of games of this in during 2012, I'll be happy.

The big question is whether Talisman, which was arguably the most successful of the GW boardgame releases of the Eighties, is too close to Runebound to warrant buying...? I've never played it, so difficult to compare. I distinctly remember standing in a book store in Worcester faced with a choice between the first edition of Warhammer, ICE's Fellowship of the Ring, and GW's Talisman, but only having enough money to buy one. In the end I went with Warhammer.

That's pretty much it. I've recently been playing some of the scenarios from the Blood Bath At Orc's Drift campaign pack, which was released by GW in the 1980s for Warhammer. You can read more about it here. The plan next year is to continue with this campaign, and hopefully take it to its conclusion, using the Lord of the Rings rules from GW.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Tatters of the King

With Pathfinder temporarily on hold while Ben re-charges his batteries, Kelvin has kindly stepped up to the plate to run some Call of Cthulhu. As mentioned previously, I've generated a famous investigator, namely writer Ernest Hemingway, en route to Spain to do some research for his next book. You can read more about my char gen efforts here.

Hemingway aside, most of the other PCs have something to do with the arts or the psychology profession. We have Frannie Fitzpatrick, a professor of Italian medieval literature (Ric), Thaddeus Price, a somewhat overweight professor of psychology (Ben), Harold Fisher (Manoj), an artist and former pugilist interested in exploring dreams through his painting, and Jonathan Crust (Seb), an engineer.

"Have you seen the Yellow Sign?"
I'm not going to go into great detail on the plot, having missed one session myself. We started out attending a performance of the play, The King in Yellow, in London's West End, which ended in a riot. The investigators also got to rub shoulders with the cast and drink cocktails. Hemingway was then called away on a book signing tour (I missed the next session), while the rest of the party was called in to try to exonerate Alexander Robey, a lunatic who had apparently murdered his wealthy father and sister and was now interned in an asylum in Herefordshire.

It has swiftly become apparent that there is more to this Robey case than meets the eye: investigators are having odd dreams and premonitions, one of the staff at Robey's asylum was brutally murdered, and as Hemingway returned to the fray (and the party was reinforced with the addition of Crust), the party has become aware of Robey's membership of some kind of occult cabal which might once have practised dark rituals in a small village in Suffolk. One of the cabal, an antiques deal called Bacon, seems to be in the habit of murdering tramps in North London in order to prolong his longevity, and is dwelling in a fortified antiques shop in Islington which the party is loath to break into at the moment (despite Hemingway's urging - spineless Limeys!)

"Crust is toast!"

The visit to Clare Melford in Suffolk (a village, not a girl) could have gone better: our landlord, the owner of the local inn, turned out to be a cultist, but then seems to have been killed by a creature he summoned with a magic bone whistle, presumably to slay the investigators. SOMETHING  scrawled 'the king is coming' on the wall of the cellar the investigators had locked themselves into for safety, without tripping our alarms or anyone seeing or hearing it (Fisher slept in his room rather than cower in the cellar, but he sleeps beside an eazel as he has taken to painting strange and bizarre vistas in his sleep).

Things were not helped by the blizzard that descended on Suffolk, which prevented the police from getting through immediately. Investigating a suspect ritual site, the group found a grouchy farmer and some obelisks called the Nine Teeth. When the farmer confront the party and shot at them, he damaged an obelisk, precipitating an attack by winged beasties. The farmer was butchered immediately, his dogs fled, and in the battle that followed, Fitzpatrick and Price were badly hurt by gunfire and Crust was mauled (0 hps) by a monster. Hemingway proved useless, flailing around with his scythe, and it was really Crust and Fisher who put both critters down. The group sought refuge in the farmer's house, where Hemingway proceeded to fluff all his First Aid rolls, despite having 50%.

"It was a dog, constable..."

Eventually the law turned up, a village doctor was found, and investigators were patched up, and Fitzpatrick and Hemingway proceeded to empty the drinks cabinet at the inn. As soon as the trains were running again, they high-tailed it back into London.

"Did you bespeak the End of Day?"


"You fool Philippe, you poor, poor fool."

Reading/translation of some occult texts, including some poetry written by Robey in German, and a copy of The King in Yellow, has helped most of the investigators to boost their Cthulhu Mythos scores. An intern of Fitzpatrick's, who was doing some German translation, had to be tracked down when he failed to materialise, and was found to have gone mad, locked himself in his attic flat, and covered all his windows with newspaper. He was having premonition of his own death, brought on by learning a spell from the Robey text. Fisher has also learned the spell.

"This is the British Library sir, we do not accept bribes."

Hemingway and Crust liked the look of their shiny new guns

It seems as if the cabal may have an inside man intent on bringing down Bacon, possibly for personal reasons. We have learned that the Robey family doctor felt that Robey himself should not be released from the asylum, and was subsequently murdered in St James's Park, potentially by a man called Coombes, who acts as the cult's enforcer. We have failed to track down other members of the cabal, despite Hemingway's best efforts at the British Library to obtain the library card of one of them. It also looks as if the only cultist we have a serious lead on is Bacon, who despite surveillance, never seems to leave his abode.

Our new informat in the cabal, an individual called Gresty, who may/may not be a woman, has told us in a letter to Price that Bacon will leave the house on 27 November to again drain a vagrant of life energy. At this stage it looks like the team, which is already tooling up with firearms after the Clare Melford affair, means to do him some permanent harm. That is certainly what Gresty seems to want to happen. If Bacon does not meet his end on the 27th, the stars look as if they will be right on the 15th for some kind of summoning ritual to take place in Suffolk.

I'm really enjoying this campaign, helped I feel by the high standard of roleplaying from the group, and the easy atmosphere we seem able to conjure up. As we approach the end of the year, I think a mutual slap on the back is warranted, especially for those who still managed to participate despite spending a great deal of time in another part of the country, or are juggling additional family responsibilities. Well done all, and have a Merry Xmas! Here's to more fun in 2012.