From Rogue Blades: It’s a Time for Heroes

Friday, April 3rd, 2020 | Posted by Ty Johnston

the-lost-empire-of-sol-front-cover-smallIn a matter of weeks, months, it has become a different world. Even within the confines of speculative literature and what’s oft referred to as nerd or geek culture, there have been big changes. For instance, disappointing to those of us who had planned to attend this year, Howard Days in Cross Plains, Texas, has been canceled, as have hundreds of conventions and gatherings across the globe. Closer to home for me, a board member of Rogue Blades Foundation, a nonprofit publisher focusing on all things heroic, we have had to push back to 2021 publication of the book Robert E. Howard Changed My Life (though The Lost Empire of Sol is still expected to be published next month).

Now don’t think this is grousing, complaining. I’m merely pointing out how some of the world has changed of late. For that matter, some of the changes aren’t all bad.

As a writer and editor, I normally work from home, so all this isolation most of us are having to contend with of late isn’t new to me. What is new for me is that everybody else is home. Including all my online gaming buddies. And most of them don’t seem to be working at home. Which means they have lots of time for Dungeons & Dragons. Which means I have lots of time for Dungeons & Dragons. And other games. Which means I’m getting less work done than usual.

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The Awesome Villainy of the Kafers

Tuesday, March 31st, 2020 | Posted by Patrick Kanouse

Kafer Sourcebook-small

Kafer Sourcebook by William H. Keith (GDW 1988)

A common science fiction trope is the terrifying alien. The one determined to destroy humanity… or whatever… is in its path. The xenomorph from the Alien franchise is probably the first that comes to mind for many, but others include the unnamed Force from Event Horizon, the Bugs from Starship Troopers, the Taurans from The Forever War, the Predator, and the Thing. These aliens serve as vehicles to terrify and challenge humanity in many ways. In science fiction tabletop role-playing games, aliens abound. Many ruthless enemies like the Sathar of Star Frontiers, the Jinsuls from Starfinder, along with the Alien xenomorph exist in the pages of role-playing games. In my opinion, the Kafers from the 2300AD game are the best of the lot.

Bold statement.

2300AD was released by GDW in 1986. Set in the near-ish future and part of an extended timeline from GDW’s Twilight 2000 game, the people of Earth have recovered for a nuclear war in the late 2000s, discovered the stutterwarp drive, and colonized many worlds in the near-earth vicinity. The game pitched itself as hard science fiction — the stutterwarp drive, one of the concessions. Many of the materials focus on realistic orbital mechanics and lifeforms. Planets are often hostile. The book is about humanity’s struggle and challenges in colonizing the stars.

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Gloomhaven, or How We Spent 2018 (and Wish We’d Spent 2019)

Friday, March 27th, 2020 | Posted by Jeff Stehman


For a year, the only board game my wife and I played was Gloomhaven. We completed 33 scenarios, which is about half what it typically takes to complete the campaign. We were looking forward to playing little else for the next year, but alas, life interfered.

That’s doubly disappointing, as the Kickstarter for Frosthaven, a stand-alone follow-up to Gloomhaven, with all new characters and setting, is scheduled to launch March 31, 2020. (We’ll back it, even though we might not open it until 2022.)

Gloomhaven is a fantasy RPG board game, designed by Isaac Childres, for one to four players. We picked it up at a steal for $75 on its second Kickstarter. It’s big (22 pounds), it’s long, and we don’t know what’s coming. Gloomhaven fits neatly into the cooperative tactical combat legacy fantasy RPG double-deck-builder hand-management storytelling category of board games….

Yeah, I should unpack that, but first let me say that, although this game is number one on Board Game Geek, it’s not for everyone. The initial learning curve is steep, and it’s got a lot of moving parts that someone has to remember to move. I strongly recommend having a meticulous player at the table. (Alternatively, there’s an early access computer version on Steam that looks pretty close to the board game.)

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Running Networks in the World of Android: Shadow of the Beanstalk

Monday, March 23rd, 2020 | Posted by Patrick Kanouse

Android Shadow of The Beanstalk

Shadow of the Beanstalk is a near future campaign setting book released by Fantasy Flight Games in 2019. This book is intended to be used with Fantasy Flight Games’ Genesys role-playing rules. Shadow of the Beanstalk uses the Android setting as its background setting. Android was a board game originally published in 2008, having several such games released over the years. Perhaps more well known is that Android was used as the basis for a popular collectible card game, Android: Netrunner.

Android, and by extension, Shadow of the Beanstalk is a cyberpunk, science fiction universe, set primarily on Earth in a mega city called New Angeles, though extensive populations live on the Moon and Mars. Dark and gritty, Android features many of the tropes of cyberpunk literature and film: flying cars, extremes of poverty and wealth, barrages of consumer-focused media. As with any cyberpunk setting worth its salt, hacking, or running in Android lingo, is a common activity. While the Genesys core rules cover hacking, given the more complex and embedded nature of running in Android, supplementing the rules for the setting made sense. The result is one of this writer’s favorite ways of conducting computer hacking encounters in a tabletop role-playing game.

The principle is straightforward: the runner wants to get into a network for some reason — steal information, wreak havoc, whatever. The owner of the network wants to keep keep the runner out — the opposition to the runner is the sysop, short for systems operator. One of the challenges around running in RPGs has been that the encounter is either disassociated from the remainder of the party or it becomes a solo encounter occupying a lot of time as the other players lose interest, look at Facebook, or buy things off the Internet. Shadow of the Beanstalk aims to solve this by allowing the encounter to be embedded seamlessly with other social (rest of the party is at a night club attempting distract a group of corporate execs while the runner steals their money) or combat encounters (the party is attempting to infiltrate a building and the runner is turning off cameras and defenses).

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Tabletop Looting in Riot Quest

Tuesday, March 17th, 2020 | Posted by Andrew Zimmerman Jones


The current storyline in Privateer Press’ Iron Kingdoms setting is leading toward the apocalypse, as otherworldly Infernals swarm across the nations of Immoren. Characters familiar from the Warmachine/Hordes game setting will (and already have) died, but others may escape Immoren to become the progenitors of the upcoming Warcaster science fantasy wargame (with 3 days left on its Kickstarter).

But what of those who survive, left behind on the Immoren after the Infernals have harvested souls, and broken the nations that make up the Iron Kingdoms? When the swan of Cygnar has fallen, and even the undead cannot remain safe within the land of Cryx? Well, at that point … might as well start some looting.

That is the theme of Riot Quest, released at GenCon 2019. It is a miniature arena game, where players field teams of models to go up against each other to collect treasure and cool equipment. As your team appears on the field, randomly located near one of 6 spawn gates, players try to make it to treasure chests located at randomly-determined treasure points. Once a treasure is obtained, another treasure spawns, and the race is on again. As you gain treasure, and defeat opponents, you gain loot tokens that can be used to buy special Riot Gear cards to boost your characters’ abilities.

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Now This is Good News!

Tuesday, March 10th, 2020 | Posted by S.M. Carrière

Last of Us banner

Good morning, Readers!

I’m deliriously excited at last week’s HBO announcement that The Last of Us will be getting a television series on HBO. I have a deep, abiding love of this story, and this game. Strangely, the news made me far more excited than hesitant. as similar news of other properties I have enjoyed have made me (The Witcher, for example).

Part of why I’m not so hesitant this time around is that the production will be working directly with Neil Druckmann, the game’s creator. That tells me that the show is not likely to go off in crazy directions that utterly negate or disrespect the source material.

This is truly important to me. The story and the characters left such a lasting effect on me.

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Telling Your Star Wars Story with Dice Rolls

Monday, March 9th, 2020 | Posted by Patrick Kanouse

Star Wars Edge of the Empire

In 2012 Fantasy Flight Games published Edge of the Empire, a roleplaying game set in the Star Wars universe. The game focused on smugglers, bounty hunters, and others outside the main story line of Rebellion and Empire. Two additional core rulebooks, Age of Rebellion and Force and Destiny, followed in succeeding years, both focusing on different aspects of the Star Wars setting. All three, however, are interchangeable and rely on what Fantasy Flight Games called the Narrative Dice System (NDS).

Most role-playing games rely on dice where the player must achieve a certain numerical threshold for success. Far Future Enterprises’ version of Traveller requires players to roll under a target number using two six-sided dice for an average difficulty task. Dungeons & Dragons, Fifth Edition, requires rolling higher than a specified number on a twenty-sided die — either an monster’s armor class or a number set by the dungeon master based on the difficulty. These are straightforward success or failure rolls (Mongoose’s rules do account for the degree of success, and Dungeons & Dragons, of course, has the critical failure or success that contributes additional effects to the results).

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Adventures in Gaming Discovery: The Games Plus 2020 Spring Auction

Sunday, March 8th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

Spring 2020 Games Plus Auction-small

Yesterday I attended the 2020 Spring Auction at Games Plus in Mount Prospect, Illinois. I exhibited more self control than I usually do, but that’s not saying much. My budget was $700, and after seven hours I reluctantly put away my bidding card, when my purchases finally tipped the scales at $1,000. That’s considerably less than I spent in 2019 or 2018, but it still filled eight boxes, and it took the combined skills of three gaming professionals to Tetris them into my tiny Juke before my satisfied road trip back to St. Charles.

It was good to bring so many great bargains home. But truth to tell, I’d attend the biannual Games Plus auctions even if I couldn’t buy a thing. It’s been said that we live in a Golden Age of board gaming, and it’s almost impossible to keep up with the tsunami of exciting new releases every month. The Games Plus auctions are a fun way to do that — not just to see the panorama of new titles as the auctioneers rattle through hundreds of games every hour, but to experience the sudden surge of interest from the crowd as rare or highly desirable items make their way to the auction block. It’s a crash course in what’s new, what’s hot, and what’s really hot.

The attendees at the Games Plus auctions are a friendly and courteous bunch, quick with gamer humor and rounds of laughter, and in those rare moments when prices shot up past $100, $200, or even $300 for truly hot items, there was always a round of appreciative applause. When I saw two determined collectors engage in a spirited bidding war for a trio of Rogue Trader supplements, and watched the loser drop his card at $155 and then good naturedly join in the applause for the winner, I knew I was in the right crowd.

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Privateer Press’ Warcaster on Kickstarter

Saturday, March 7th, 2020 | Posted by Andrew Zimmerman Jones


I recently covered some of the new storyline that is coming out for the main product line of Privateer Press, the Iron Kingdoms fantasy setting that is used for their Warmachine and Hordes miniature war games. Part of the impact of that storyline (unrolling through microfiction at the @HengeHoldScroll Twitter feed) is that some denizens from the Iron Kingdoms are escaping, guided by the clockwork god Cyriss, through a portal into another universe.

Fast forward five thousand years, and the Cyriss universe is populated by humans, who have gained dominance over the native Architect and Guardians of the Cyriss galaxy. The overwhelming governmental and military power in the universe is the draconian Iron Star Alliance, who constantly finds themselves in conflict with the independent Marcher Worlds and the shadowy cult-dominated Aeternus Continuum, through a new miniature science fantasy wargame, Warcaster: Neo-Mechanika, now available on Kickstarter and fully backed within just a few hours.

Warmachine has warcasters, as the main leader model in an army, who commands the giant mechanized warjacks, and channels magical focus to empower them. One major difference in Warcaster is that the warcaster isn’t a model on a table, but a distant commander, jacked into a command ship (called a rack) in orbit over the battle. You, in other words, are the warcaster, and you can wield the power of Arcanessence, or Arc, to empower not only the warjacks on the battlefield, but any of the units under your command, through their augmented neo-mechanika armor and weapons.

In other words, in Warcaster you can’t obtain victory by killing one uniquely-important model on the battlefield. And that isn’t the only difference …

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It’s a Dog Eat Dog World in Racoon Tycoon

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

Racoon Tycoon game-small

Different games appeal to me for different reasons. Coriolis and Cold and Dark interest me because I like dark science fiction adventure; I enjoy Starfinder because I like a richly inventive settings. Sometimes, though, it’s a little harder to quantify.

Take Raccoon Tycoon, for example. I’ve wanted to play this game since the instant I laid eyes on it. Why? Who knows! Maybe it’s the evocative and colorful cover scene. Maybe it’s the name. Whatever the case, I ordered this game as soon as I learned it existed at Gen Con this summer, and I’m glad I did.

Raccoon Tycoon is a family game for 2-5 players that simulates an economic boom in the bustling woodland town of Astoria, which is populated by a diverse range of ambitious critters. Players are enterprising investors and business folk ready to cash in on this new era of opportunity, all making money the old-fashioned way: exploiting production of the goods, playing a fluctuating market, and profiting off growth. To aid players with all this imaginative play the game’s creators have commissioned top-notch artwork that brings the various personalities to life in compelling ways. Just have a look at the board and the playing pieces, and see if you can resist the unique charm of this game.

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