Showing posts with label Dungeon Crawl Games. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dungeon Crawl Games. Show all posts

Monday, August 04, 2014

Mantic Games Launches New Dungeon Crawl Game on Kickstarter

Mantic Games was created in 2008 by Ronnie Renton who used his experience as former Global Marketing Director for Games Workshop to create a company dedicated to bringing gamers the best in fantasy and sci-fi miniatures and games at affordable prices. Where Games Workshop recently seems to have shifted its focus into intellectual property development and high end exclusive hobby products, Mantic is very much about getting gamers playable games on a reasonable budget.

I've been a fan of Mantic's Dwarf King's Hold games designed by Jake Thornton who has previously worked on a number of GW products like Circle of Blood and  the Dark Shadows campaign as well as several Warhammer army books back in the day. I find that the price to miniatures ratio in Mantic's products place them in the more affordable side of the hobby, but by no means are the games inexpensive. The rules to their games are simple, but I have always hoped they would beef them up a little and create a more comprehensive dungeon crawl game. My hope - one that they hint might be fulfilled in the Kickstarter video - is that Dungeon Saga, the sequel line to Dwarf King's Hold, will have those rules.

The new Dungeon Saga: The Dwarf King's Quest game that Mantic is launching on Kickstarter has only one pledge level and at $100.00 it comes in as one of the more expensive products Mantic has released to date. That's a similar price to Mantic's Mars Attacks game, but Mars Attacks comes with 39 miniatures, terrain, etc. where Dungeon Saga currently has 22 on offer. That number is likely to increase as stretch goals are reached and more people back the project. If the Mars Attacks Kickstarter that Mantic ran last year is any indication, then Mantic will end up providing a great deal of value to backers by the end of the project.

What is certain is that I will be backing this latest project by Mantic and I look forward to seeing what comes next.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

[Gaming] Dungeon Crawl Classics Play Session Report

I was one of the earlier gamers to preorder the Dungeon Crawl Classics roleplaying game.  The entire premise of a role playing game that captured the feel of Appendix N source material without being a retro clone of older rules sets appealed to me.  When my copies -- one regular and one limited -- arrived, I immediately set about the task of reading the rules.  They were clear and captured the feel of the game play I enjoyed as a younger gamer. 

While it is true that DCC captures the feel of games of past generations, it is also true that they are quite innovative.  The game's use of a dice chain to represent the affects of bonuses and penalties is fun in theory and in practice.  It's spell system for Wizards and Clerics, as well as its "Mighty Deeds" system for Fighters, are exciting.  For the first time in a d20 based RPG there is a solid spell duel system that manages to incorporate the normal magic rules while feeling like the magic of fiction.  The ability to invoke patrons, and the mercurial nature of spells add a nice spice to the overall system.  I think that this is a very strong game, and want to play it more and more...

I was very excited to play and began the campaign to convince my players to give the game a try.   This last weekend, I finally got that opportunity.  The only thing missing was a "thematic" ally in keeping the game's tone on target...ah we needed you.

What follows in this blog post isn't a glowing example of joy, instead it's a demonstration of how a well written game can lead to a less than fun time.  This is even when the players knew pretty well what to expect. 

I told my regular players to be prepared for a possible TPK, and that they shouldn't get attached to their characters.  I also told them that they would have to make 4 characters each due to the high lethality of the adventure. Four of the players rolled their characters up in person, and one used the online character generator.  It was an interesting band of characters  made up of farmers, jewelers, glovemakers, and coopers.  Most of them were human, but there were a couple of Dwarves and a Halfling.  On the "attribute" side, and interesting thing happened.  Every player had one character who was significantly above average.  Not with multiple "18s," but with a couple of 16s an no bad attributes.  I could tell right away that the players had begun to build an attachment to their more competent characters.  One player went so far as to call his extraordinary cooper Lord "Spivak" and created a back story that the other 3 characters were accompanying this self-important barrel and chest maker on an adventure.

As an aside, Spivak wasn't his name.  I have forgotten the specific name at the time of this writing, but it should be noted that the player had already become attached to the character and that attachment was only set to grow.

At the beginning of the adventure, I warned the players that this would be a lethal adventure and that their characters would likely die.  They each looked at their characters and began to sort them out as fodder and potential hero in their mind.  Fodder would open doors and heroes would be cautious in the hopes of becoming 1st level characters -- who have a significantly higher chance to stay alive than these beginning characters.

The party heard of a mystic gate that opened between the stones of a neolithic structure when the stars were right...and the stars were right tonight.  They journeyed to the top of a hill that contained the structure in question, only to see the mysterious constellation above them and a mystic gate between worlds before them.

The players were quite impressive in their caution and use of reason and restraint.  They solved the riddle of the constellation, and lost no party members trying to enter the complex.  The next room went as they planned.  They had fodder risk the danger, and the heroes followed behind.  They also came up with and interesting solution to the third room's dangerous trap.  Through an ingenious application of levers, they were able to not only neutralize the trap but to almost turn it into a weapon against their foes.

This is where the fun begins, and where some of the characters began to shine.   You see, the party behaved in a highly efficient tactical manner and Lord Spivak's crowbar seemed to be the weapon that kept dealing the final blow.  He was a wonder to behold, as he split the skull of a giant demonic serpent.  Also a wonder to behold was the Halfling Glovemaker who used all of his small but "unhuman" strength to hold a door closed long enough to create a plan to deal with the dangers behind the door.

After three major combats, a couple of defeated traps, the now smaller party encountered what would be their last fight.  Their foes weren't particularly impressive.  In fact, even with the low hit points starting characters begin with it was likely that a blow from one of these foes would be non-lethal.  When one struck Lord Spivak, I wasn't too worried.  He had a good chance of survival.  Sadly, he was struck down.  I could see the disappointment in the player.  This was his noble character, far better than his surviving character Friar Sloth (actual name) a character with stats suited to becoming a Cleric.  It was almost as upsetting for me as it was for the player.  The heroism of the character, and his great story were darkened by one quick roll of the die.  It was a truly chaotic situation, and a disappointing one for the player.

This was something that I hadn't prepared the group for.  I had prepared them to have a group of characters who were all extremely incompetent.  I hadn't prepared them for the whimsical and almost meaningless loss of a valiant one.  I don't know that my group will want to return to the world of DCC, though I certainly do.  The death of Lord Spivak is one of the best gaming moments I can remember for some time -- as was the amazing bravery of the "unhumanly" strong Halfling Glovemaker.  We even started having quick in jokes, like how all Jewelers start with a 20gp gem we like to call Leather Armor.

While this was a problem with my group, it isn't something that the designers of the game didn't predict.  They have even provided advice for groups to help players get in the mindset.  I'd prepared the group for some character loss, but I couldn't prepare them for the loss of characters who had been so awesome in the past 3 encounters.  In addition to the potential for lethality, I should have warned them to Embrace the Chaos.
Embrace the Chaos
The DCC RPG is unpredictable. Really unpredictable. One moment, the PCs are losing a battle against a Rat God and thousands of his furry minions, and the next, the dwarf has won a strength check against the god, ripped free his bejeweled scepter of death and is hammering that Rat God back through time and space to whatever pit that spawned him.

And the opposite happens as well: When that glorious natural 1 rolls up, the entire table howls with agony, and you get the chance to add another notch in your judge-screen.

It isn’t pretty. It isn’t predictable. But it is a fundamental feature of the game. No battle is truly lost until the last PC gives up, and death is never more than a heartbeat away. With judicious use of Luck, spellburn and piety, the PCs can turn the odds in their favors. But stare too long into the abyss, and at some point the abyss will look back.

Image by Jody Lindke

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Reverb Gamers #14

REVERB GAMERS 2012, #14: What kinds of adventures do you enjoy most? Dungeon crawls,
mysteries, freeform roleplaying, or something else? What do you think that says about you?

My preferred game is something that crosses heavy roleplaying and a mystery. Our long running 3.5 D&D game is about urban investigators solving supernatural crimes for the city watch in Sharn. It's even inspired our 4e campaign about the same thing. In a roleplay/mystery I can develop my character and solve a puzzle simultaneousy. I like to tell stories about interesting characters and places but I love a good mystery. Mysteries in RPGs can be tricky though. If finding a clue is based on requiring specific steps be taken by the PCs the threads can go unpursued. Gumshoe does an interesting thing and guarantees that each scene reveals a clue but it's up to the players to role play how that find them. I think I may need to play more Gumshoe.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Mike Mearls Unboxes the New Ravenloft Board Game

Wizards of the Coast's Ravenloft themed board game was initially slated to be released on August 17th, but the game has been pushed back to the end of the month. I personally blame bureaucrats in customs who are likely arguing whether the product needs to pay some obscure tariff or not.

While we await the release of the product, Mike Mearls has been kind enough to show us some of what is in store for us when we are eventually able to buy the game. I have to say that my first impression is that this game will compare favorably with classics like Heroquest and Descent, but we shall see.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

LOOT AND SCOOT: A Win for Victory Point Games?

I am a sucker for dungeon crawl themed board and card games. I own the vast majority of the games included in Board Game Geek's Definitive Dungeon Crawl Geek List. When I saw that the scrappy independent game company Victory Point Games had developed what they believe to be a "Euro Style" and "Family Friendly" version of a dungeon crawl game, I knew that I would have to add Loot and Scoot to my collection.

Adding the game to my collection is one thing, keeping the game on the "keep ready at a moment's notice" shelf is quite another. I own quite a few games, but only a few manage to find their way onto readily accessible shelf space. Most games end up in one of my gaming closets, or even banished to my storage unit where they rest until my wife and I manage to make the millions necessary for a house big enough to house a proper gaming library. Given that we live in Southern California, that truly means millions. Storage games do get played from time to time, but such occurrences are rare and must be planned. TSR's All My Children and Fantasy Flight Games' Fireborn are both games that are currently trapped in storage. If my gaming group shared certain affections with me, Fireborn wouldn't be there but she is.

What is the fate that awaits Loot and Scoot?

My friend, and fellow board game aficionado, Eric visited my house the other weekend during a non-roleplay gaming weekend and we tried out a number of games to test their merit and Loot and Scoot was among those games we played.

Loot and Scoot is one of many genre themed games published by Victory Point Games designed by Chris Taylor, or as VPG calls him the "Maker of Games." It would be fair to say -- attempting to not tip my hat on this particular evaluation -- that Chris Taylor and I have extraordinarily similar tastes in game themes. In addition to designing the pen and paper FALLOUT game that accompanied FALLOUT: TACTICS, Taylor has designed FORLORN HOPE (an Aliens/Space Hulk inspired game), NEMO'S WAR (a solo game inspired by 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea), and has a number of free web-published games. Let's just say that based solely on his attempt to design a solo game based on a Jules Verne novel places Chris Taylor among my favorite designers.


Loot and Scoot is a game of exploring dungeons, training adventurers, and scoring the most "loot." Each of the two to four players in a game of Loot and Scoot takes on two roles. Every player is a dungeon owner and a band of hearty adventurers seeking to kill the monsters and take the stuff from the other players' dungeons. In this manner, Loot and Scoot combines elements from FFG's excellent Descent game with the progenitor of all Dungeon Crawl games TSR's Dungeon.

Descent has players in direct opposition to one another as one represents the Dungeon Master and the others represent the adventurers. In Dungeon all of the players are adventurers seeking to loot the same dungeon and the first player to meet certain victory requirements wins. In Loot and Scoot players stock their own dungeons and loot those of their opponents. Games with more than two opponents can see some players' dungeons become the focus of several players for a time.

Basic Flow of Play

At the beginning of each game session players select a map they will use as their own dungeon which they will stock with an array of dastardly creatures in the hopes of creating a challenge for their opponents. Each player also begins with two "level 1" adventurers and two hirelings. Players will use these character to explore the dungeons of their opponents, a player can never explore his/her own dungeon.

Once the players' dungeons have been stocked, the players' work as "dungeon master" is finished and the only ways that the dungeon will change are due to the successes of the opponents' adventurers. Monsters don't leave their rooms once they have been placed. It should be noted that the dungeon stocking phase of the game shares some qualities with Stratego. Players want to place their Dungeon Bosses -- really tough monsters -- in such a way as to make their opponents work hard to get to them.

During a player's turn he/she may use money that has been acquired, either through adventuring or using an action to "beg funds," to recruit adventurers and hirelings, train adventurers, or purchase buildings where adventurers may be trained. Different adventurers are more, or less, effective against different monsters and players are well served to have a well-balanced and highly trained party. The game's design is such that there are not enough characters, or buildings, for every player to have multiples of each character type or training facility. This can lead to trading and auctioning activities when a player encounters a monster that his/her adventurers are less than effective against. Having limited resources adds a nice level of depth to the play and increases player interactivity.

When looting an opponent's dungeon, players go from room to room (revealing and combating monsters as they go) attempting to acquire as much loot -- and defeat as many monsters as possible -- before encountering the dungeon's Dungeon Boss. Defeating a Dungeon Boss ends the game and points are scored at the end of a full round of play after the Dungeon Boss is defeated. This activity sounds easier than it actually is in practice. Defeating an individual monster is no easy task, an adventurer has either a 1/6 chance or no chance at all of defeating a monster. Certain monsters can only be defeated by certain character types. For example, the Werewolf may only be combated by the Mage, the Cleric, and the Fighter. Any Rogues in the player's party are of no use. Additionally, only one of each of those characters can contribute in a battle against a Werewolf -- each needing to roll a six in order to defeat the beast. It is guaranteed that players will lose hirelings/take damage while they are adventuring, but it is up to the player to decide how far he/she wants to push their luck as they loot dungeons. Play too cautiously and opponents will run away with the game. Play too loosely and you will never acquire enough victory points to win the game.

The game play has a nice balance of luck and skill. The luck comes in the form of the die roll resolution, but the skill comes in rationally analyzing your odds of success. This kind of luck/skill balance is common in Eurogames and is one of the reasons they have such a broad appeal. Having elements of luck in play allow less skilled opponents to win, and thus expands the number of those who can have fun while playing. Having elements of skill appeals to those who find the whimsical hand of purely luck driven games dull. Taylor's design in Loot and Scoot has the right balance of the two, both in the "planning" stages and in the eventual "adventuring" stages of the game.

Component Quality

Like all of Victory Point Games' games, Loot and Scoot is well designed graphically. Also like all Victory Point Games' games, there is a "hand made" quality to the components. This is because VPG games are designed by people with excellent graphics skills who are actually making the game by hand. The game features hand cut die-cut counters that had their graphics printed on a high quality ink jet printer.

At $17.95, the components compare well to other die-cut counter games and are far superior to the components of early Microgames like Ogre (those Microgames have an inflation adjusted price of approximately $10.00). As a die-cut counter game the components are good, but for those who prefer miniatures/meeple/wooden blocks this game won't quite meet expectations. The game also included one of those microscopic 6-sided dice, something that I actually would have preferred they left out of the bag. Did I write bag? Yep. The game, like those old Microgames, comes in a ziplock bag.

Some of the above comments regarding the components read a little more critical than I intend them too. I just want you to know what you are getting for $17.95. This is the 2010 version of a Microgame, inexpensive components and a reasonable price.


Components and rules aside, whether or not a game gets played repeatedly or gets its place on the "keep ready at a moment's notice" shelf is determined by two major factors -- is the game fun to play and can it be played repeatedly? In the case of Loot and Scoot, I can give a resounding yes to both questions.

There are a couple of things that set this game apart from other dungeon crawl games and make me want to have it as readily accessible as Descent. The game sets up and plays quickly. The games mechanics encourage player interaction due to a scarcity of resources. The game has internal mechanics that prevent one player from feeling "beat up" on for more than a short time. All in all this is a fast and furious game, and I cannot wait for the expansion.