Saturday, 25 October 2014

The Retronaut: X-Men Trading Card Game

The Retronaut is a new section that looks at games from the past, from board games to CCGs. 

Back in 2000, Marvel was yet to become the movie powerhouse that it is today. Their previous efforts had been largely unsuccessful and superheroes were still solely in the realm of the comic enthusiast. Then X-Men the movie came on to the scene and single-handedly sparked a new generation of comic book films, with its deft writing, slick design and high-calibre actors. So Wizards of the Coast were quick to snap up the license from 20th Century Fox to produce a brand new X-Men movie trading card game to monopolise on the film's sudden success.

I fondly remember picking up the large rectangular box from my local comic book store and hurrying
home to play a few rounds with my friend. Not that the box was much to look at - it was an incredibly dull design, with just a silver X as artwork. Still, that didn't matter much to me because I loved the film and I couldn't wait to play as my favourite characters. Plus, it contained a promotional comic inside, which turned out to be terrible. Go figure.

The set-up was fairly straightforward. Each player had a squad of three X-Men and four villain cards were placed in the centre. The objective was to be the first to take out two villains or to be the last one with any X-Men on the table. The idea would be that you attack the villains in the middle with your X-Men and then in turn attack your opponent's X-Men with the villains. Each attack was assigned a different colour and to begin your turn you had to play a coloured Mission card. This would determine the colour of your attack, while Momentum cards could be used to augment your attack strength. The villain's strength would be subtracted from the total X-Men strength to determine how many dice to roll. The dice results could mean that you do damage, or perhaps yours or the villain's mutant powers would be activated.

Having written that down, it does sound like a pretty drawn out process, and it kind of is. Couple that with an ever-increasing Danger Room score which restricts the types of cards that can be played, it wasn't the most user-friendly game ever, but I enjoyed it a hell of a lot back in the day.

Despite having such a huge license, the X-Men TCG eventually fizzled into nothingness. There was a small amount of tie-in promotion around the movie itself, with Hugh Jackman Wolverine and Halle Berry promotional cards handed out at cinemas and hobby stores respectively, but marketing for the game was on the slim side. Other promotional cards were to be pitched as prizes for tournaments and events that never transpired.

Another big problem, and essentially the nail in the game's coffin was the delay between the release of the starter set and booster packs. For a card game to be collectable, you need some element of randomness, and for it to be competitive you need to be able to create your own decks off the back. But due to delays in Marvel's art department booster packs were release months after the starter set hit the shelves in the Summer of 2000, meaning players had to put up with just having the starter set.

To top it all, the art wasn't up to snuff. Artists' credits were simply left off many cards, replacing them with the words 'Marvel staff', which really just added insult to injury. People simply didn't want to put their names to this project. The result was the game falling into obscurity and becoming the favourites of bargain bins across comic stores worldwide.

While there were plans and mock-ups for a new set called 'Generations', the poor marketing and delays forced Wizards of the Coast to drop the game entirely.

The Kicker: Apocalypse Prevention, Inc Second Edition

Welcome to The Kicker, a new section where we look at the good, the bad, and the ugly of Kickstarters. 

Shadowy organisations that exist to defend humanity from otherworldy beings - that's a genre that really clicks with me. Men in Black did it for aliens and Hellboy did it for essentially everything folklore-related, and Apocalypse Prevention, Inc follows a similar theme for demonic entities.
Image copyright Third Eye Games

I've never had the opportunity to play the first edition of API, but it's always been on my peripheral, so Third Eye Games' latest Kickstarter for the second edition really intrigued me. It's been six years since the first game was published and the designers are promising a more 'streamlined and exciting experience' this time around, using a tweaked version of Third Eye's Dynamic Gaming System. This is a d20-based ruleset with a whopping 20 playable races, customisable magic, new cybernetics (that can now be subtle or hidden), and a new Reasons system which allows characters to give their own reason for joining the agency.

There will also be a rules update to the Savage Worlds edition of the game, which is probably as good a reason as any to fund the game because SW is just great.

So, what are you getting for your pledges? The minimum donation is a pretty steep $15, which will net you a PDF of the rules along with a PDF sourcebook of your choice. Ok, so that's actually not a bad deal. If you're looking for a treeware version then $25 will get you the softcover rules along with the PDF, all additional Savage Worlds material, and a PDF sourcebook. Again, that's a great deal. If you want to create your own agent as well as getting physical book copies then you'll have to front a cool $250, although this tier is looking pretty popular with 4 of 10 already gone.

If all this tickles your fancy, then you can head over and fund the Kickstarter here.

Friday, 24 October 2014

Enjoy Halloween with these Tunnels & Trolls adventures

Halloween and Tunnels & Trolls are two of the best things, so here is a selection of spooky dooky scenarios for your game.

Death at Grimwood Hall by Scott Malthouse

Yeah, let's lead with one written by a handsome designer, shall we? If you're into Hammer horror, the macabre and social commentary, then you should get a kick out of Death at Grimwood Hall. Inspired by Frankenstein, this is a love story from beyond the grave. What starts as a murder mystery turns into a frantic race to save the kingdom.

Price: £1.40
Buy it here.

Elder Tunnels Halloween Specials by Various

Ah, one of the best anthologies for T&T, Elder Tunnels has three Halloween editions chock full of frightful fun. Contributing authors include Ken St. Andre, Tom K Loney, Mike Larsen and many more.

Price: Varies - up to £3.74
Buy them here.

It Came From Beyond The Stars! by Scott Malthouse

Ok, so I happen to like writing horror adventures. This one has a big fat dose of Lovecraft in it. The players must investigate at mysterious object that has fallen from the sky and landed in Urook territory.

Price: £1.40
Buy it here.

Stay Alive! Lite Edition by Jerry Teleha

This isn't a scenario, but a full-fledged game of survival horror from Darkshade Publishing. This is a really nice twist on the T&T rules and perfect for running your own zombie apocalypse game this Halloween.

Price: £0.62
Buy it here.

Don't read this: tomes of doom in USR Mythos

I like the thought of a book so evil, so mind-shattering that it psychologically breaks the reader and sends them into a spiral of madness. What a great book. Of course, the daddy of them all is the Necronomicon. We all know it and its power to bring on the crazy wholesale. But what about other cult books? Let's run through some that could be making an appearance in USR Mythos:

Book of Ways

Thought to be written in the 13th century by an unnamed sorcerer, the Book of Ways would come to be known by Christians as a Satanic text, although this would be profoundly wrong. The Book of Ways had nothing to do with Judeo-Christian religion, but everything to do with spells to conjure cosmic entities from the vast reaches of the universe. The book describes the Four Ways that are required to summon such a creature, which include the Way of Flesh, the Way of Silence, the Way of the Mind and the Way of Death. For centuries the Book of Ways has been lost, although some antiquarians believe they have spotted it at night auctions among dealers of the cursed and corrupt.

Codex Incantum

An 11th century text written by a man called Edward Black, the Codex Incantum was found sealed in a vault beneath the surface of Castle Rising in Norfolk, England. The book details magic spells and curses, as well as instructions on enchanting and ensnaring through magical means. It is a book that is said to corrupt all who read it, although its current whereabouts is unknown, like so many of these tomes.

Livre de Gris 

A 17th century French book, the Livre de Gris is an account of one Pierre Durand, a scholar at the University of Strasbourg who stumbled across a tomb filled with dead creatures from another world. Durand spent two years writing about the strange beings - detailing their physiology, naming them, and, eventually, going mad from his discoveries.

Forbidden Lore

Stephanie Corrin, a 19th century witch, wrote what was considered to be one of the most blasphemous books in existence. When the book was published, the Mayor of London had Corrin arrested and copies of Forbidden Lore burnt on a pile. The book contains incantations, rites, songs, pictures and enchantments that were revealed to Corrin in a series of dreams over 10 years. Corrin would later be hanged for her sins and any remaining books were hunted down by the authorities. However, being so sought after, few remaining copies of Forbidden Lore have made their way into the hands of collectors, scholars and the criminally insane.

The effects of reading maddening tomes

The ideas and reports written in these rare books bring both power and psychological damage to those who read and comprehend their words. In game terms, their sanity score decreases by an amount that is dependant on the severity of contents in the book. However, in sacrificing sanity, the reader will gain a better understanding of the Mythos, offering a temporary bonus to relevant Wits checks.

Where to find these books

Books such as these are generally incredibly scarce, with many only existing as a sole copy. The easier-to-acquire ones can likely be found in university libraries or museums. Those that are more difficult to get your hands on will fall into the hands of collectors at auction, while incredibly rare and powerful books can only be found via discovery or on the black market. Generally the harder they are to get hold of, the more information can be gained and the higher the sanity loss.

Monday, 13 October 2014

The King in Yellow in USR Mythos

USR Mythos isn't all about Lovecraft. Oh sure, there's a tonne of cosmic dread in there - big ol' things with tentacles for eyes and eyes for knees or whatever, but Mythos will go beyond Lovecraft. I will definitely be including aspects of Chambers' The King in Yellow, which I suppose has found its way into Lovecraftian lore anyway, but I'm a big fan of the whole Carcosa thing. I think the notion of a world beyond this, like pulling back a veil and discovering something incredibly haunting, is one that really speaks to me, so I want this to be a part of Mythos.

If you're unfamiliar with The King in Yellow then I would describe it thusly: there is a play manuscript called The King in Yellow that sends people mad if they read after the first act. In Chambers' stories and other works in the Carcosa mythos, this madness tends to lead people to another world - dim Carcosa, the world within the play itself. It's all kinds of messed up, but I highly recommend you go and read it for free right here. You'll want to read the first four stories, which are the ones tied to the Carcosa mythos.

So with the eponymous King in Yellow be an actual creature in the game? Or will be be more symbolic? I'm thinking I have a completely separate section for Carcosa along with all the other locations. I'm rambling now, so I apologise.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Here's another reason why you should be watching Sleepy Hollow

Word to your mothers. Sleepy Hollow is back and it's giving me all kinds of great feelings. Last year I wrote a post explaining the reasons you should totally be watching Sleepy Hollow, which you should read if you're not into this awesome show.

Anyway, the image above is another example of why you should be setting your peepers on this televisual spectacle. Without spoiling too much (maybe a little), that there is war. Notice how it is a SUIT OF ARMOUR WITH A FLAMING SWORD RIDING ON THE BACK OF A HORSE WITH FLAMING EYES. It is also an avatar controlled by a powerful magic-user who CAN EAT SINS.

That. Is. Incredible.

Also, in one scene Abbie Mills is attacking this guy with a shotgun. I cannot express how cool a show is when there's a scene of this insane magnitude.

Also, Abbie Mills is the perfect woman. Oh my glob.
Guys, you should be watching the hell out of this. Pun intended.