A new Stargate RPG

I’m a Stargate fan. I could say more about that and watching Sci-Fi on TV, but it would be a whole new blog-post of its own. There’s a new Stargate RPG just out, at least the PDF is, but printed rule-books are meant to be available for pickup at Gen-Con mid Sept. Here, on the other side of the world, I’m just hoping they start mailing at the same time.

I’ll assume you know what Stargate is. If you are reading this, I’d say there’s a good chance you have either watched the movie, or one of the TV series that followed it later.

History: Here’s some background on the game. (There’s already heaps of websites that could give you background on Stargate itself.)

This isn’t the first Stargate RPG. Back in 2003, Alderac Entertainment Group produced “Stargate SG-1 RPG” based on d20 & their Spycraft game. (Licensed from MGM) They also came out with a bunch of supplements and overall I think it looks pretty good. I’d love a printed copy now, but I’m not interested in spending over $100 getting a second-hand book from the USA/UK.

In mid-2019, Wyvern Gaming announced they would be developing a “Stargate RPG” with MGM. A closed beta playtest began in Oct 2019, followed by a public beta started in March 2020. Covid pushed most of their plans back six months, and they’re Kickstarter ran in October 2020. This was very well supported. I’d noted what they were doing late 2019, but missed the Kickstarter itself and got in as a late backer at the start of 2021.

Development:

The original game sounds like it was intended to be set away from Earth with players representing alien races helping the SGC fight against the Goa’uld – with no Humans! People quickly raised the point that a game based on Stargate SG-1 should allow Tau’ri (Human) characters. Thankfully, they agreed and altered their plans.

The last set of Beta rules available was Jun 2020, and little appears to have changed between that and the newly released pre-printed rulebook PDF. This PDF seems to have most spelling/grammar errors fixed and some cosmetic changes, but little or no change to the rules. The Stargate forums (on Wyvern’s site) have had considerable debate on character classes, abilities, weapons (particularly ranges), but I feel most of it hasn’t been taken into account. (Maybe their Discord channel was better with feedback?)

We now have the “Stargate SG-1 RPG” (“based on Stargate SG-1” – Really, I’d never have worked that out myself!) The game is set during Series 6 of the SG-1 TV series, and centres on the SG-P, “Phoenix” site, based away from Earth to recruit, train and send out teams through a Stargate to essentially do what the SG teams did in the series, and fight the Goa’uld. The game rules only cover material from those first six SG-1 series. I feel there may not be anything further. There’s been a lot of fuss and delay to this point, though much of that could have been Covid related rather than difficulties with MGM approval. (Wyvern also seems to have gone annoyingly quiet on how things are going with the final stage of the kickstarter, but is heavily advertising pre-order retail sales. This has also coincided with Amazon buying MGM.) If the game sells well in retail, it’s possible Wyvern could release a supplement (or more than one) to cover later SG-1 series, or even Atlantis or Universe. There’s definitely interest in an expansion of PC races and equipment. Failing that, it’s pretty easy for a GM to create material that adds to the official book – there’s already house rules on classes, etc.

Game Rules:

Based on 5th Edition D&D, this looks pretty good! I’d been going over bits of the Beta rules and reading the forums and started feeling a bit let down – especially when I’d been reading over some of the d20 version. Last month I got the full release PDF and I’ve been getting happier the more I read. I decided to make up a single-session adventure with the characters from SG-1, plus a few extras to round out character choices. I haven’t played 5th edition, nor have my players. I looked over stuff when Wizards were developing it, and have a copy of the SRD, but never really read through a lot of it. So, mostly I’m learning how the system works by making characters and reading the Stargate rules. I’m certain we’ll have a lot of fun with this, partly because it’s somewhat different from our other games.

Five races/species – Tau’ri (Humans), Aturen, Jaffa, Tok’ra and Unas. Six classes – Diplomat, Engineer, Medic, Scientist, Scout, Soldier. Each race has a “base” version, and a second variant, except for Humans who get two variants (Abydonians, Tollans). You get two origins that offer stat increases, skill proficiencies or bonuses with certain skills/weapons/environments, etc.

You can only take 5 levels in one class (specialising), after that all your “Mission Points” go to buying feats. Essentially, even class abilities are feats, and all feats have a cost in Mission Points. After 5th, your level is determined by how many points you have spent. If you know what you are doing, you can be “classless” right from the beginning. They have an interesting system for ‘encounters’ that uses a blend of actual role-playing with skill checks for what they term: Convince, Diplomatic, Infiltration, Interrogation, R&D, and Traversal. The GM sets a DC and Threshold (the number of successes required) to succeed. Players describe their “approach” and use ‘Determination Points’ to make rolls. This occurs in rounds until the PC’s achieve threshold, or no one can (or does) contribute more DP, and fail. I’m still getting my head round how this works, but the DP’s are a bit like wagering with poker chips, and you can get them back during the process.

It comes together pretty well. Trying to put together specific characters from the TV series has been a challenge, but I think I’ve got PC’s who represent the characters reasonably well and will be fun to play.

The downsides to the game:

I haven’t finished reading everything, and I’m still learning the game (and 5th ed) but I am disappointed. Particularly, that with all the time spent on play testing and feedback, there isn’t MORE available in the game. Also I’m surprised that considering how this is all based on SG-1, they didn’t draw more from the series itself instead of defining their own ‘canon’.

Potential Improvements:

  1. Races/Species: Aturen are a pointy-eared non-violent species invented by Wyvern (on the forum someone called them ‘space-elves’). While the rules mention 7 planets that SG-1 contacted with humans, only two of them are given specific race traits to use as PC’s. I would have like more options for Humans, and a few more alien races – actually from the series. Serrikan (a reptilian race from Hebridan, Season 6) are mentioned as an NPC race, as are the near human Ilempri (Season 3). I’m sure I’ll write my own rules for Player race versions.
  2. Origins: Players choose two, each from a different category – Biome (16 options), Background (25) or Racial (6). It’s a pity that the racial set has only one possible choice for all but Jaffa (and you have to be a pacifist for the Aturen one). At least three choices each here would have been much better. The backgrounds list is great, and I’m tempted to house rule both choices can be made from here if you’re human.
  3. Equipment: There’s lots of different weapon types listed, and a nice set of weapon ‘upgrades’, but the list of weapons itself isn’t remarkable. Equipment is fairly basic, and probably enough, but the Goa’uld technology that they give rules for is buried in the last chapter with the Goa’uld/Jaffa and not in the Equipment chapter. Again, I’m sure there will be people drawing up lists of more equipment/weapons to use, or I can just go to D20 Modern for inspiration.

Overall, the Kickstarter isn’t much behind schedule (about 5 months) and has been better than almost every other Kickstarter I’ve been part of (in regards communication and delays) except Zombicide. I haven’t funded many projects, but thankfully none have fallen through, although one was much much worse than this… <cough… CurseoftheLostMemories… cough>. I’m looking forward to my book in October. <curses seafreight> Anyone else a backer, or been play testing the game?

This has also given me the idea of using these rules for a one-off Battlestar Galactic session!

Red Sonja Unconquered (Conan part 2)

RS1 “Red Sonja Unconquered” is a 1986 TSR AD&D module designed for 4 Characters 10th to 14th level.

I’m not going to give specific module detail, except where I’ve changed or left stuff out of my rewrite. The adventure’s best point is a great story idea. (Basically, being in the middle of a lot of bandit raids, and trying to locate a person/location to recover a item without being sure what the truth behind everything happening really is.) It starts really well, but is let down by being extremely linear (though it often suggests that its offering the players choices when it really isn’t) and the final scene is essentially two pages of text where nothing the players do (or have previously done) is likely to have any impact on the conclusion. Overall, I think it’s a good adventure module, with a bunch of potential problems. I’d have to actually play it as written to see if everything worked out or fell apart.

There’s lots of boxed text to be read to the players (too much), nearly always preceded by “read the following to the PCs”. (I think DM’s understand what boxed text is for!) A lot of the DM information is overblown – too much description or unnecessary background information. A lot could have been simplified or condensed without loss of anything important. For example, giving the GM the name, family background and accidental death of a corpse isn’t something the players are ever going to be able to know, so why mention it. The properties of some leaves (if you pick and brewed them) aren’t likely to be a concern for players searching a burial ground for a particular crypt either.

The module does a good job setting up the background of Hyboria for the DM and players, and has a lot to say about the possibility of extending the module into a campaign. 3-4 pages of useful info. It also has a fantastic eight-page fold-out map of Hyboria. (It’s such a pity I have a PDF.)

It’s designed to be run with the four characters included: Red Sonja (11th Fighter), Galon (14th Fighter, 4th Thief), Kynon (11th Fighter, 6th Thief) and Achmal (10th Magic-User, 4th Illusionist). Why is Red Sonja lower level than everyone else? She has a very high Dexterity, Intelligence and Charisma, and more HP’s than the others but lower Strength and Con.

Disappointingly, the character “sheets” provided only list Class Levels, Ability Scores and HPs, with a brief background description. The Magic-user has a list of memorised spells and two minor magic items, but only Sonja is actually given any equipment. One of the magic items can be used 5/day: Roll 1d6, on 1-2 causes 1 HP damage, 3-6 heals 1 HP. Apart from this, their only method of healing is 5-9 HP’s from a nights rest. (No Clerics in this world.) I think the biggest problem anyone actually playing these characters would have is staying alive. I’ve sure the lack of healing was forgotten when many of the encounters (that can’t be avoided) were written. They do all get a bunch of Luck Points that can be use to gain extra attacks, or automatically hit. I’m also amused to note that Red Sonja is pictured four times in her typical chain-mail bikini, but listed as wearing leather armour.

The adventure is broken into three main sections, the first being the best. It gives a little bit of background and throws the players straight into a fight. They then learn a bit more about what’s going on, and are led (or forced) to encounter the modules first main NPC, who can become an ally or enemy for the rest of the adventure. (He uses heaps of remarkable magical abilities during the module, and only one actually matches a spell he has memorised!) There are essentially three ways this section ends. These differences come up again in main parts of the adventure, but appear to have been overlooked in some encounters. The writer also seems to have missed the fact that one of these possibilities should mean the final events of the module should actually occur at least a day prior to the players themselves arriving at the relevant location, and finding that their actions in section two and three were completely irrelevant. This is something I’ve rewritten heavily.

The second part of the adventure has an encounter with a succubus who automatically drains 1 level from all three male characters. Combat can occur to drive it off on the second night, but it can’t be hit by non-magical weapons. (Here go the fate points.) The next major event is the players being captured by an army, which they can resist or try to escape. They are roped and chained, but somehow Sonja gets to keep her sword just so she can challenge one of the commanders soldiers to a duel when he has her escorted to his tent. They either get to escape or suddenly the army becomes their allies. If allies, the players get some more background to push them in the right direction. The army itself will not be a part of the final part of the adventure. Good ideas in much of this, but not well structured. Introducing some healing for making friends with the army would have been a good idea.

The final section is well detailed. It introduces a few minor NPC’s that are mostly irrelevant, and could have been simpler. There are a couple of encounters that serve only to weaken the players. Then you have the final encounter, where depending on how wounded everyone is, should either result in a total party kill, the sudden death of the magic-user/illusionist opponent (if players win initiative and save against his nastier spells) or rolls into the aforementioned set piece finish where the players win by default.

My rewrite simplifies all the text, drops some unimportant encounters and locations, and tries to focus dialogue on what’s important. I’m putting my adventure, PC character sheets and spell descriptions onto my resources page. You should be able to run my one session adventure with just a copy of the d20 Players Handbook. You shouldn’t need the d20 Conan Rulebook. If you have the original module you won’t have to improvise maps.

That’s my rant/semi-review of an old module. If you are one of my regular players, feel free to download the characters, but please don’t read the adventure!

Conan RPG (d20 Mongoose)

Conan, the Roleplaying Game‘ is a 2003 game based on the d20 Open Game License (WotC). Considering how much I’ve liked Conan stuff since high school (movies, books and occasional comics) I’m really surprised that I didn’t know this came out at the time, because I would have bought it.

In 2017, Modiphius released a 2d20 RPG called “(Robert E. Howard’s) Conan: Adventures in an Age Undreamed Of”. Last year during lock-down, I stumbled on some free Modiphius PDF’s – an adventure and a set of Quickstar Rules (also with an adventure). I read little more than the intro, then got sidetracked looking into earlier editions of Conan games – TSR (1985) and Mongoose. Of course, then I didn’t really read anything and forgot about them. (Like lots of other RPG stuff I collect!) With a new Covid lock-down here over the last few weeks, I started looking at the Conan material I had…

The TSR one looked interesting because it is skill based, not an AD&D version. (They did release some AD&D Conan modules.) Hmmm… compare your skill with the opposing skill/opponents skill on the “Resolution Table”, roll d% and if your result is in the red zone you are successful, other colours apply penalties, some things make column shifts… sorry I’ve lost interest.

Mongoose: I have an Atlantean edition (essentially a second print of 1st edition) rulebook PDF and I was hooked right from the initial part of the book. (I haven’t got to the Modiphius stuff at all.)

This is great… I started reading the intro, got into races, classes, etc and I’ve now spend almost all my free time in the last two weeks reading the rulebook, and playing around with characters and adventure ideas.

This came out about the same time as 3.5 but it makes a lot more of the system than I would have expected for the time. It’s both a setting and a game. There’s heaps of background straight from R.E. Howard’s books and notes (likely also influenced by the later writers who did Conan too) covering cultures, countries, religion, & history. They released lots of additional books that covered specific countries/cultures in more detail too, but what’s in the main rulebook is more than enough to set things up for a campaign. There are culture specific feats, a magic system based on Power Points (not “Vancian” like TSR/WotC), and a combat system that shifts away from the norm.

Cultures: Everyone is human, and there is no “Common” language. There are 14 ethnicities (with 12 variants) and they all have specific racial bonuses and penalties. This could be a Stat adjustment (Cimmerians get +2 Str, -2 Int), a racial bonus to certain skills, a bonus in certain terrain, attack or damage bonus with a particular weapon, etc. All have favoured classes (you gain bonus feats based on how many class levels), and many also have background skills that grant ranks.

Classes: There are eight main classes for PC’s – Barbarian, Borderer, Noble, Nomad, Pirate, Soldier, Scholar, Thief. There is no Cleric or Monk. Multi-classing is encouraged. Both Borderer and Nomad could be considered variant Rangers. The Noble is somewhere between Paladin and Bard – wealthy, combat skills, no magic but lots of influence styled abilities. Scholars can either gain bonus skill points/feats, or learn Sorcery. The different class abilities are quite varied from standard d20.

Combat: No touch/flat-footed AC. Most PC’s will have a Base AC of 10, and then you have Dodge and Parry Defence. All classes get slightly difference Defence bonuses as they level. Dodge Defence is AC 10 + Dexterity bonus, while Parry Defence uses your Strength bonus. Shields add to parry vs melee attacks, and dodge vs missiles. The players chooses which type of defence he is using against incoming attacks before the dice are rolled to determine a hit. Armour does not apply to Defence, it only grants Damage Reduction to lessen damage taken from blows. Most weapons have an armour penetration value (to which you usually add Str bonus) to see if you reduce the DR of your targets armour. There’s also a finesse fighting option where the player uses Dex not Str on the attack roll and tries to bypass DR entirely. There are extra Combat Manoeuvres (like Bulls Charge, Cats Parry, Devastating Sweep, Pantherish Twist, etc) that require a particular ability score, Base Attack value, or feat to be able to use them.

Magic: Conan is a very low-magic setting. Almost no potions, scrolls, wands, etc (so no cure light wounds for healing). There is magic around, but most comes with a cost, or is in the hands of people who won’t be sharing it with you. Power corrupts, literally. Contact with demons, evil deities and powerful sorcerers can grant corruption points that make you emotionally detached, and likely insane to varying degrees. There are Priests (of the uncaring Gods) but mostly they don’t use sorcery. I feel that Scholars using magic are a little under-powered, as they gain very few spells as they progress, even if they can choose what they cast and how often. They gain more skill points (8 + Int bonus) than a Sorcerer or Wizard, so they will have a heap of good skills.

The lack of easy healing makes the biggest difference to this type of D&D game. The affect of ‘rest’ and the Healing skill have been amplified, but finding ways to avoid combat is often preferable to actual fighting, unless PC’s have all invested in slow, heavy armour. Fate Points can help with this too (avoiding death, get maximum damage on a blow, defence bonus, etc), but most characters start with 3 and you only gain 1-2 each adventure.

 

I’ve spent just over a week making up 7 characters based on the Schwarzenegger movies and converting a AD&D Red Sonja module to use as a one-session adventure. The adventure is done; I just need to get a proper character sheet finalised for each PC. I’d be willing to run a short Conan campaign, but it’s hard enough getting the time now to run my Pathfinder campaign. We’ve already taken a break from a Gamma World campaign, and a mate’s Pathfinder game that I’m player in. It would be great to be able to get together twice a week and both run and play in a game, but I can’t see that happening unless I retire and/or find a new gaming group.

I’m going to put both the character sheets and adventure into my Gaming Resources page in case anyone is interested. The adventure would be easy to convert to standard d20 or Pathfinder.

Painting: Space Marines (Space Crusade)

Here’s my three squads of Space Marines from the Space Crusade board game finally completed. Blood Angels (red), Imperial Fist (yellow) and Ultramarines (blue). I started painting figures from the game about two years ago, getting onto the space marines in October last year.

Each squad has three marines with bolters, one marine with a heavy weapon and a commander. The heavy weapons (assault cannon, missile launcher or plasma gun) and commanders weapons (heavy bolter, bolt pistol & power axe, or power glove & power sword) are interchangeable and I’ve had to do some careful filing to make sure they are less likely to get stuck together and break. (The ones that aren’t already broken that is.) For the images, I’ve made sure that I picked something different for each squad.

The plasma gun is meant to have a bright coppery-gold muzzle, but it looks quite yellow in the image, so I’ll go over it again tomorrow with bright bronze.

The special weapons were very fiddly to paint, and I wasn’t as concerned with spending as much time on them as I did with the marines themselves. As board game pieces, they will all go back into the game box soon. Everything in the box except for the orcs and gretchen have now been painted, and I have no intention of painting them. I started this because some of the pieces I could use in my Gamma World game (and have) and the marines deserve to be done if my friends and I ever decide to play again.

Last, but not least, here’s an orc who should have been painted back in Sept 2018 when I did orcs and goblins. He’s a bit paler than his brethren because he’s apparently been hiding with my skaven for at least a decade. The marines and the orc all qualify for Ann’s March painting challenge – Neglected but not forgotten!

Here’s a group shot of all the Space Crusade pieces that I’ve now painted.

Painting – Hero Quest “Gargoyle”

This is the last of my Hero Quest figures to see paint, having taken about 30 years. This is the “Gargoyle”, who I’d say was second-rate Balrog given the pose, whip and sword. I think in Warhammer he’s now considered a Bloodthirster.

He hasn’t been touched for perhaps a decade, and now that he’s painted he might actually see use, but not as he was originally meant for. Being completely unlike any fantasy gargoyle, I decided he’d make a good statue. Now that he’s done, he’ll fit right in as a Stone Golem. He’s also an entrant to Ann’s “Neglected but not forgotten” Painting Challenge for March.

As a statue, he’d be a nice terrain piece, and potentially a construct (animated statue). I wanted the look of an old painted statue that hadn’t seen care for a long time, and I feel I’ve right sort of look. (Particularly with the thought that it just might step off the base and attack.)

I’d previously cut away the whip and undercoated the figure when spraying something else. Yesterday I started with a base coat of grey, then painted parts with gold, silver, red and black. After a light coat of brown ink, I stuck him together – breaking the wings in the process. (The head and wings were separate pieces.) I cleaned up the wings, and stuck them on, then took some time to chip, mark and scrape at the figure. Then some more grey to colour the exposed plastic, and fade the coloured detail. The weather has been quite cool this weekend, so there was plenty of time to make sure the paint dried at each step.

Today I’ve done highlighting and basing. Just after I’d sprayed the first coat of varnish, I had the thought that when I’d broken the wings, it would have been best if I’d cut/broken a large chuck of one wing, and positioned that on the base like it had fallen down. I could still do that, but now I’m happy to have it done and want to move on to something else. I could have ‘chipped’ and ‘cracked’ the statue further, and marked the base like stone blocks too, but it’s not a show-piece and I rarely spend that much time and effort on the figures that I really like!

I did try something new with the base today. Yesterday I’d been cutting out the foam insert for a small figure case to properly put away my DungeonQuest heroes, and had read an article on painting statue minis. They’d used bits of the foam as moss. I salvaged some of mine, and tore off a couple of tiny bits. Painted green they make great foliage/moss.

The finished mini is on a 40mm square base, and is 70mm high to the sword tip.

I’m determined to finish my Space Marines next. I’d like to clear the tray before I start filling it up with skaven.

DungeonQuest Heroes – Figure Painting #2

I finished the last couple of DungeonQuest figures this morning! The base characters don’t have any special abilities (except for the rangers being able to fire 4 arrows) and are played solely based on their characteristics. Most of these eight characters has at least one special ability, and generally that means lower characteristics. For those interested, these metal miniatures are by Bob Naismith.

Azoth the Faceless – Sorcerer. Minimal strength, can cast spells – Fear, Fireball, Invisibility, Stasis, etc.

Fhyll Madaxe – Dwarf Berserker. Likely to go berserk if hurt, doing more damage, but can’t search with raging. (Not pictured below)

Helena the Swift – Adventuress. Has a slingshot, can take an extra move on previously placed tiles.

Ironhand the Mighty – Gladiator. No special power, average stats, but has the highest life points.

Rildo the Crafty – Thief. Can throw daggers and take 2 cards when searching.

Serellia & Bright Flame – Elf Adventurer & Dragonette. Has a once-off heal & always-on light orb. BF may warn of danger and is good fighter.

Thargrim the Dark Lord – Warrior of Chaos. Can rest to regain LP’s, and his ‘Helm of Terror’ may scare off monsters.

Tori-Jima – Ninja. Has shuriken and can hide from monsters.

 

I’ve wanted to paint these since I got them, and I wouldn’t have done a good job of it at that time. They are all well detailed scuplts, that would be great for any other fantasy game too. (Ironhand was used regularly as a Pit Fighter in Warhammer Quest.)

Azoth is my favourite of these. I matched the character card almost 100%, and the colours and shading came out really well. Helena came with a plastic shield, that I don’t have any more. I found a shield from my bits, put a hole through the middle and tried something interesting for the front. The character card shows a very boring bronze or brass shield. This one, with the rim (and timber lined back, which you can’t see in the photos) is probably better than what the original was.

I really never liked the dwarf figure, which I haven’t painted. He’s been replaced with one of my GW metal troll-slayers painted in 2016. The pose of the actual figure makes him look like he has a beer gut, and its been sculpted in a way that makes basing difficult. Both weapons extend past the figures feet, so he can’t be placed in a standard slotta-base without bending the weapons (which wouldn’t look right) or some creative additional work. Here’s the painted GW figure from ‘Eavy Metal, with a modified base:

…and a group shot with all my sixteen game figures ready to head into Dragonfire Castle:

 

Final note: I’m not impressed by GW’s proof-readers, or whoever had over-sight. The “Heroes” characters cards say “Serellia” and “Bright Flame”, while the booklet states “Sarellia” and “Flame Bright” (repeatedly). The Catacombs booklet agrees with the character cards.

 

 

DungeonQuest Heroes – Figure Painting

Last night I played a four-player game of DungeonQuest, using an assortment of heroes. We used an optional rule (‘Torchlight’) that added to room tile placement. It don’t believe it made things any easier, but it did allow for a bit more choice of pathing. As is quite typical for the game, no-one got out alive!

Two of us found no treasure at all before we died. Congrats to my wife for getting Vikas Swordmaster to the Dragon’s treasure chamber, and making it back about four rooms away from the exit with 3,620 gold, before being killed by a scorpion.

I’ve nearly finished all of the game figures, and here are the original four that came with the base game, and their counterparts from the Heroes Expansion. The originals are plastic figures in simple poses and basic detail. The expansion provided metal slotta-base figures with more dynamic poses and better detail. I also think this set was the first time I saw slotta-base figures that came with a circular base. [I really grew to dislike the original 20 and 25mm square bases that seemed to be the norm on all my purchases in the 80’s and 90’s.]

All the heroes have a character card with an image, their characteristics, and a life point track. In each case I used the image to guide my painting. Vikas is the most notable change in colour choices – I’ve done green and white checks before (Zombicide BP) but not on a small hood, with so many curves and folds! With each pair, the figure on the left is the base game figure, and the one on the right the Heroes expansion figure.

These have been fun to paint. Most have been fairly easy to do. Sir Roland with his wolf pelt took more work than the others, with his mail, plate, and ‘dry-brushed’ fur. I chose not to green-tint his plate, since the Chaos Warrior in the group has the same colouring, I thought it more appropriate in his case.

The second set are El-Adoran & Farendil (Rangers), and Ulv Grimhand & Siegfried Goldenhair (Barbarians).

Interesting note: Online, I found a page from White Dwarf advertising the Heroes expansion, showing a set of painted figures (‘Eavy Metal, GW). This image has “Gunvor Greataxe” (A very Conan-like barbarian, with an oversized axe) while my set came with Siegfried. I much prefer the sculpt and pose of Siegfried. (Although what is meant to be two feathers on his necklace look more like unusual shells.)

Next up, the eight ‘unique’ heroes from the expansion.

DungeonQuest – Board Game Review

DungeonQuest is a game produced by Games Workshop in 1987, as an English translation of the Swedish board game DrakBorgen (“Dragon Fortress”, 1985). GW also released two expansions – “Heroes” and “Catacombs” in 1988, breaking the single Swedish expansion (1987) into two parts, presumably to make more money that way.

I got the base game and the expansions early in 1989. My friends and I played this quite a lot 1989-1990, again in 1996, and 2007 – evidenced by the “top scores” sheet that I’ve kept and updated on occasion.

A second edition was released only in Sweden, and then Fantasy Flight Games got the license and produced a Third edition (2010) with new combat mechanics and standardised cards, and then the Revised edition in 2014.

DungeonQuest GW, 1987

My interest in the game has been re-ignited because I’m currently painting all the figures for the game. (I’ve done ten of sixteen, so far.) The 3rd edition rules, and notes I’ve seen on the revised version made some minor rule changes to improve play, and included optional rules. I’m planning to write up all the original rules and incorporate some of the changes/additions and hopefully play the game a bit more.

The aim of the game: to enter the dungeons under Dragonfire Castle, find the dragon’s chamber and escape from the castle with treasure before the sun sets. (1-4 players, Ages 10+)

In each of the 26 turns, you pick a adjacent square on the board to move to, draw a random tile and move into that “chamber”. Each tile (in full colour) has a mark to show the entry location, and has from 0 to 3 exits. Tiles may be empty chambers, passages, have a cave in, chasm, bottomless pit, darkness, trap or even rotate. In most cases you draw a ‘room’ card to see if anything special happens. Most rooms are empty, but you might be attacked by a monster, find a trap, have your torch blow out, find a crypt/corpse, a potion or minor treasure. Instead of moving you can search – which is the only way you might get out of a dead end.

This isn’t an actual game, but tiles have been drawn and laid as if it was.

The base game comes with four characters – Adventurer, Barbarian, Knight and Ranger. Each has four characteristics: Strength, Agility, Armour & Luck, ranging from 1-10. In most cases you have to roll your stat or less on a d12 to lift a portcullis, move through a cave in, avoid a pit, etc.

Combat uses cards and is basically scissors-paper-rock. Heroes have 6-19 Life points, monsters have 1-8. There are options to escape and sometimes a monster will flee.

If you reach the treasure chamber in the middle of the board you get to take 2 treasure tokens, and then pick one of 6 cards to see if the dragon wakes. (5 show him asleep, 1 awake) The card chosen is NOT replaced until no-one is in that chamber, so the longer you stay to grab treasure the more likely he wakes. If he wakes, you lose all the treasure you picked up, take 1d12 damage and move out of the chamber!

Character card, Room and Corpse cards visible. Turn track on left edge of board.

Since tiles are random, it can be hard simply to get to the treasure chamber. Rotating rooms, doors, and portcullis may make it difficult, or impossible for you to return the way you came. The time limit, monsters and traps, in addition to the dragon, make it very hard to get out with treasure. In fact the game rules suggest you only have a 15% chance of surviving. You could choose to make this a bit easier, by taking out some monsters and traps.

No game is the same. Each character has different strengths and weaknesses. The base game has 115 room tiles, 68 counters, and 174 cards.

The first expansion “Heroes”, gives you 12 more heroes to use – four are “copies” of the original characters, but it also adds an Adventuress, Chaos Warrior, Dwarf Berserker, Elf (with baby dragon), Gladiator, Ninja, Sorcerer & Thief. “Catacombs” gives an alternate path under the dungeon. It’s a little bit safer, but you can’t control when you will find a way back up again. Both expansions also have extra tiles, room cards, etc. We use all the extra cards and tiles, but no-ones really been interested in actually going into the catacombs.

Overall, it’s a tough, but really fun game with a lot of replay-ability. If you do get out with treasure, it’s a great feeling. It can be played solo, but is much better with multiple players. It’s meant for a max of 4 players, but if you agree to “share” staring positions, you could have up to 8. A typical game takes an hour. Lots of fan produced content exists, with copies of cards, character sheets and alternate rules for combat and rooms.

My main complaint with the original is that the room cards are quite small (4 x 6.5cm, or 1.5×2.5″) and all the other cards (Corpse, Crypt, Door, Trap, Search, Rings, Amulets) each is a different size and shape. It looks like the FFG versions used a standard card size for all of these, with unique graphics on the card backs to tell them apart. Gameplay can become annoying with so much being random, but it’s easy to house-rule some changes to make the game a bit easier, or play more smoothly.

Suggestion: With 2-4 players, run through a number of games, and have each player add together treasure gained in each game for a final score.

RATING: I’d give this 5/5 for it’s replaybability and challenge, but only 3/5 overall because there’s a lot more luck than skill involved.

My Little Scythe #5 – Bears (Oh my!)

Painting of this pair was fairly basic. I picked colours close to those in the painting guide and steadily worked on them over the weekend.

The guide shows the lighter furred bear as being almost white – I’ve started with a very light brown, and then lighter again on the face. Both caps wear pictured as a dark grey, but I wanted more colour, so the caps became a similar colour as their pants.

 

I actually played ‘My Little Scythe’ on Saturday afternoon, for the first time. It’s a fun game, simple, but not basic or boring. You choose an action each turn – to move, look for diamonds/apples, or make something from the diamonds/apples already collected. To win the game you need to get four trophies, from eight possible categories. [Collect apples, collect diamonds, gain friendship points, win a pie fight, etc.] I only got two. My mate and my wife each achieved four trophies in the same turn, and she narrowly won by having more resources.

It was great seeing nearly all the figures in full colour, rather than the white and beige plastic they started with. We didn’t get to use the bears – or I’d have taken a group photo. (Maybe next week.)  The weather hasn’t been as good as other weekends, so while they were nearly done, I wasn’t rushing to finish them on Sat. I didn’t expect to get good weather to sit them outside, varnish and let them dry. I was asked to paint a white eye spot – which is meant to be a “light reflection”, not a pupil, based on the guide. This is the first figures that I’ve actually done that for. I could update the others if required at a later time.

I think I’ll touch up that yellow ear before they get varnished.

My Little Scythe #4 – Wolves

This pair I expected to be fairly easy to do, since at first glance, most of the figure is armour.

A closer look suggested they weren’t going to be quite so straight-forward. What they wear makes no sense (or is impossible) but it is a kids game, so whatever! Each wears a visor, but no helmet – it looks like it bolts straight into their head. They have elbow guards with no straps. The shoulder guards could join to the armour at the neck. The head plume would make sense if it was actually hair (or on a helmet), but it’s meant to be coloured and has a metal (?) ring that sticks on top of their heads.

 

The armour bits were pretty easy to paint, with a couple of careful bits of fur in between parts of it. Their pants were the hardest bit, with narrow gaps and awkward angles for a paint brush between shirt and boots, especially underneath. The painting guide had the armour in a dull grey, and a slightly orange-tinged yellow. I thought actual metallics would be much better and I think the silver and bronze came out well.

 

Only two bears to go… although they look rather more like mice to me.