Tuesday, May 03, 2016

No Oath, No Spell (Session 14)

This session was originally recorded 04.24.16.

April 24th, 6:18pm

From the Journal of Josephine Maxwell
January 26th, 1876

In the morning a stagecoach arrived in town.  Several people came from it to greet Ms. Holmes.  They went to the Yellow Rose for breakfast.  I caught their names - Christopher Harlan, Augustus Pikarion and Lady Coriander Barrister.

The mineral company had a meeting in the conference room later with the tribal governments.  They say that the tribal gov. says that they have mineral rights to the area.  They say they are going to view Smokefall as an incorporated township.

Ms. Holmes left her breakfast to go to the meeting.  She said, "Mr. Bloch, your services are no longer needed," and gave him a dossier.  This infuriated them, but sent the energy company away back to Washington.  The Federal Government said the area was "already spoken for".

Three more wagons come into town, two covered and a flat wagon.  Twenty men came asking for me.  Seamus Tolliver said they were there to finish the telegraph office.

Jakey Wales and Ms. Holmes announce that they will be married.

That night the Doc and Jakey Wales awoke us all to say they saw a triangle in the sky with lights on the corners.  They said it went north.

Jakey Wales wants us all to ride out to find the stones he thinks he sees.  We went east.  Jakey used Tohtra-Ohtra to take us there.  There was a group of people following us.

There is the cavern where the Ancient One went into the stone.  A big golden owl flew down and ssat on the stone, then flew to the ground and turned into a puff of smoke.  It was the shaman from the fire - Mongwau the Protector.

He asked why we had come.  He says he will meet with Ms. Holmes before the next moon "in between".

That night Lady Barrister and her group invited us to dinner.  The wine was very good and was particularly fancy.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Thaw of the Lich Lord Campaign Open!

We've been waiting a long time for this, and Season 2 hits this weekend!  The new season brings a ton of new games to the table, and we return fully to our Dungeons & Dragons roots for a while.  Even more exciting is the prospect of awesome miniature games!

Thaw of the Lich Lord is the latest supplement for Frostgrave, and we've decided to use both the published books for this year's campaign.  In addition, this season will be the first to incorporate "campaign days" for both our wargames.  These will be event days set aside for the entire club to participate in the new games, and will be a ton of fun for everyone.

We have situated the Frozen City of Frostgrave to the north of Citadel Adbar, somewhere beyond the Ice Mountains.  This should give us plenty of terrain to move around on, from mountainous forests to the rocky crags of the topmost spires.  It's a time of hobby elation as we begin to both paint our warbands and build a new set of stark, cold and rocky terrain!

Our wizards are already prepared for battle!  Join us in discovering what the depths of Frostgrave holds by checking out the campaign page, and tell us about your wizard and warband.  We love to hear from everyone!

See you on Game Day!

Saturday, April 23, 2016

No Oath, No Spell (Session 13)

April 17th, 6:30pm

From the Journal of Josephine Maxwell
January 24th, 1876

Further down into the cave, Juan and I find a man on collapsed in the white light of a glowing floor that was glassy smooth.  There was a floating cube that seemed to have changing lighted marks on its' faces.

Juan grabbed the cube, and the lights went off.  The man was able to get off the floor, and he wanted to go further into the cave.  He could barely walk, so we moved to take him.

On the way we find two of the shiny meta creatures, and they tried to stop us.  Juan shot them.

We headed further into the cave and the rest of the group came to join us and decided to help the man as well.

We followed the man down the cavern and found a silver disk that was very large.  The man went ito it after it opened into stairs.  We followed to see the white light inside the thing.  He turned the light red, and then signaled that we should go.

Jakey Wales, the Sheriff and John Skinner left the cave.  We followed the man further into the cave into a stream.  We follow him out, wading through the stream.  We find a lit grotto with a large, glowing stone.  The man turned into an orb and went into the stone.

The Red Band were there, all around the stone.  White Hawk as well.  He told us the little men were corrupted by the Snake Brothers, and made to follow their commands instead of those issued by the Ancient Ones.

White Hawk helped us find our way back to town.  It took over five hours.  We decided to have dinner, all together.  We had a rather uneventful night.


January 25th, 1876

A child came to tell me that Ms. Holmes wanted to talk with me.  She gave me a check for $10,000 and said she wanted to both renew my contact and make the paper more successful.

Later that morning, we ride out to check on the tree.  It was growing and green.

Late that evening a knock on the door at the sheriff's office brings Bass Reeves and two men he had captive.  He said that a band of men may be following.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

D&D Attack Wing and the Rise of Flightpath

Our 2nd year of D&D Attack Wing is coming around in a few weeks, and I wanted to take this opportunity to address a few things regarding the phenomenal success of the Flightpath games not only with our club, but the entire gaming community.  We've seen our schedule shift, through multiple votes and meetings, toward including more and more of these games since we got our feet wet early last year.  Why?  Let's discuss.

We used to be aghast at even using pre-painted miniatures, but a few years ago Pathfinder Miniatures began releasing a new standard of pre-paint.  Impressed with the new standard and how some previously unavailable miniatures were now featured, we looked into Attack Wing when it was announced, and decided that even if the game turned out to suck, we'd still have the miniatures.  Now, miniature gaming here at the Wargate has really been about RPG's for the last few years - still had a sour taste in our mouth from all the GW Kool-Aid.  While warband / army miniatures is on the rise in popularity again, Flightpath has fundamentally changed our scheduling, and consequently our gaming experience.

I think we can point to the fact that in our case, we could chuck out all the cards and cardboard chits and still have the minis for whatever game we want to play.  That's one reason, but I don't think it's the main reason we've decided to keep three Flightpath games on our schedule for this year (and going forward).  Last week's meeting determined that Star Wars:  Armada would win out over the more traditional (for us) Tomorrow's War in Season 3 this year.  No, good sirs and ladies, it's not just the pretty miniatures.  The main reason for this shift is far more basic.

Flightpath games are fun.  That's it - four words describing why we support this game.  Basic, to the point and (generally) self-contained, these games are very attractive for a sort of beer-n-pretzels game that's also competitive and not grossly unbalanced, despite some ill luck with the dice.

Real terrain makes the games even better!
Add to that the fact that now our players can control a Tyranny of Dragons as their force, and you've got a recipe for success.

D&D Attack Wing occupies a special place.  It's a great "party" game, and like the other Flightpath games lends itself well to team play.  This is what we needed, and these games provided a sense of community during our recent dark days.  The entire club loves these games and are instantly engaged, and new players can be engaged just as quickly.  This is the real power of Flightpath, and the secret to it's success.

 New Attack Wing stuff is set to arrive this year, along with the new D&D story arc from Wizards of the Coast.  The publication schedule really suits us, and now that D&D is the mainstay of the Wargate once more we're very comfortable with that.  Boardgame Geek gives us a great place to get familiar with the line, including the Organized Play packages and upcoming releases.  Don't worry about the line fizzling out for a while.  Hopefully, with our support, the release schedule will have a great success with each push.

See you on Game Day!

Monday, April 11, 2016

No Oath, No Spell (Session 12)

This session was recorded 4/10/2016.

From the Journal of Josephine Maxwell
January 21st, 1876

The shaman said we must earn the right the keep the land.  He said "all the oaths must be honored".  I fell asleep with my dog next to me.  I told them to tell me everything that happened.

January 22nd, 1876

The men said the shaman had pulled a spear out of a tree made of blue fire.  They had a spear.  Jakey said the tree "felt young, like it was about to be born".  He said it seemed like it needed to be buried someplace.  Jakey insisted that he had to take the spear to Ms. Holmes.

After a meeting with Ms. Holmes that didn't go well, Jakey agreed to take the spear to the tree in the mire.  He says he thinks the spear is a bomb of "good vibes".

January 23rd, 1876

Ben Alden says that he has seen long-eared little creatures scaring his children.

We decided to go out to the evil tree with the spear.  On the way we found the wagon of the snake oil salesman.  When we get near the swamp, we hear someone yell for help and see the salesman chasing something around the brush.

The men in the group, led by Jakey Wales, insist taht they will go on to the tree and refuse to help the man.

Jakey, Juan and Ignacio headed into the swamp.  They see crazy things.

The salesman walked up behind me and asked if I had seen his horses.  He watched the men in the swamp for a while, then screamed and flew into the air after them.  Shackleford shot at him, and he fell into the water.  I went toward the creature while the men continued to the tree.

Jakey climbed the tree to stab the spear into it.  Juan and Ignacio climb up to help.  Together, they drive the spear into the heart of the tree.  Suddenly, all the evil energy went into the tree while, seeming to be chased off by birds.

The water starts to swish around with the roots and the living tendrils spreading from the spear.  The men get back across the mire safely.

When we get back to town, I head out to Ben Alden's farm and check on them.  Ben said that he knew which way that the creatures came from.

January 24th, 1876

The next morning, Ben came to town and told us he found where the little creatures live.  We went with Ben to go find the creatures.  He said they live in a cave near his property.

We found a lot of footprints at the mouth of the cave that looked like the prints we saw before at Johnny Chu's house.  We went in the cave and through a narrow passageway into a large cavern.  We saw some odd creatures and they caused us to exhibit some weird behaviors.


After a huge ordeal with the creatures making us run around the cave, Jakey Wales ran away back out of the tunnel.  I threw a rock and hit one of the creatures, and it popped like a balloon.

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Wizard Fight!

Welcome, friends!

Today, we are going to talk about next season's structure, and especially the new game we've nested with Dungeons & Dragons.  We're excited about Frostgrave, and with good reason.  Now, this isn't a Rulebook Rumination for the book (though I will provide one next season after we put it through it's paces).  Instead, this is a look at the game and how we're making it fit what we want, rather than (for example) NOT making it into something we want.

The last few years we've introduced a fair number of new games, looking for the je ne sais quois that would land a game or setting (or even just a model line) a permanent place on the Wargate's schedule.  We found we enjoyed all of these games, but enthusiasm for many of them has waned off.  Either they don't have a project lead to run a nested RPG, they weren't quite robust enough to carry a season by themselves, or maybe it suffered a worse fate - it suddenly strikes as silly to be married to another IP after the GW fiasco a couple of years ago.

To this end we've managed to put the focus on three main setting milieu, and the move to a three season year to accommodate longer campaigns.  While Dungeons & Dragons has fine pedigree as an RPG, there really isn't a competitive system to allow us to fight the kinds of battles we want to.  D&D Attack Wing provides a great system for fantastic battles between all sorts of strange creatures, it fills a niche all it's own.

So, if D&D Attack Wing is "quick-play / high-magic"...what else do we want?  We want what we previously had, the "two-party" split we've been doing for years between small-scale skirmish games for warbands, and larger-scale battle game for armies.  In both cases, dragons and beholders need to be included (at some point).

We decided to forgo larger battles between armies (for now) until we find a rule system we want to double down on, and in order to decide that we'll probably have to have some group test games with Kings of War and Hail Caesar! before we really decide to go with one or the other.  Time will tell, and we're not too worried about this for the moment.  What was clear at the time we made this year's seasonal plans is that there was a obvious heavyweight contender for the skirmish game slot, and it was a brand new Osprey publication.

The plastic miniature sets helped convince us.
"We are here for the (adventure) party."

So, specifically, why Frostgrave?  With all the other games out there, what about this set us on the course we're on?  Well, as mentioned earlier this is not a Rulebook Rumination, so I won't discuss rules or the physical books themselves until later in Season 2.  All that jazz isn't so important right now, because the specific reason we decided on this game wasn't just the simple (yet wonderfully robust and elegant) ruleset.  Rather, it was the very obvious tone of the background material and units presented.  You see, although Frostgrave has a setting...it's not well described and exists mostly as flavor.  So, since we have hundreds of models for this sort of game we had no need to buy anything new but the rules.

I don't understand the mentality we used to have.  ONLY these models and ONLY these rules and ONLY this company and ONLY (blah blah blah).  I can only say we were young, and naive.  Chained to our own lack of imagination, we wound up with what basically amounts to hundreds of the same model and games that turned into PAY2WIN nightmares.  Those days are long gone (as we have been frequently saying of late).  With a fresh perspective and refined experience, we have set about making next season an exemplar of how our schedule will work and incorporate games.

Turn Dead for what?!
The strongest imagery that sets it apart is that it's cold.  So, we ditched that entirely and moved it to the Forgotten Realms.  Since Dungeons & Dragons 5e material is focusing on the Sword Coast, if we travel a little farther north we'll find a frozen land similar to the one in Frostgrave.  Not that your tabletop terrain needs to reflect that coldness, as there's not any "main" rules that govern, say...freezing to death.

With that in mind, there is almost unlimited room for expansion, even just to tackle the basics of a fantasy world - what with all the various elves and goblins and what-have-you's infesting what we might refer to as "places of adventure".  We've bandied around how this could be done so that it suits our collection and preferences...but Osprey is on the ball with the expansions.

In a few years, if this game gets continual support from the publisher...it could be very meaty indeed.  Already, there is one expansion book, Thaw of the Lich Lord, and it will feature prominently during this year's campaign.  We'll review that one with the rulebook next season, and it really sets the bar high.

Exciting times!

Obviously, one of the main things missing is a preponderance of monsters you can have in your warband.  There is a bestiary and monsters, sure...but (save for some spells) they are mostly NPC style hazards.  Our players want to be the monsters.  All kinds of monsters...to a point appropriate for a skirmish game.  Hopefully, Osprey will keep up their releases for this.  To that end, we hope you decide to check out the game,as there are PLENTY of reasons to do so.

"Those are NOT rats."
This June there will be a new expansion taking the game even further.  Titled Into the Breeding Pits, it promises us adventure in a dungeon style environment.  We've done this sort of thing with wargames before, but it may be interesting to see a competitive take on it.  I'm especially interested in how the dungeons will be set-up, both in terms of actual terrain pieces we may require AND in terms of how each scenario may be set up.

In any case, it will provide us with more tools and examples to use.  This year we won't be expanding the game with Wargate rules...but 2017 may see us looking into taking the game in unexpected directions.  Don't expect dragons on the battlefield (save for, perhaps, special occasions) but there are dozens of fantasy style monsters we can port as both wizards and their henchmen.

Sandgrave, anyone?  Adventure among the sandy ruins of a desert empire.  Watery Grave, where ships are involved.  I could go on with settings that could easily be attached, but let's not forget monsters, new magic and all the other sorts of material we are used to.  In fact, we may start porting our favorite material from other skirmish games to satisfy our need for an all-encompassing ruleset that we are free to use our collection with.

Did I mention plastic gnolls releasing with Into the Breeding Pits?  I love me some gnolls, so I'm interested to see how they fit into the current ruleset.  Maybe they'll give us a gnoll wizard.  Maybe I'll use a gnoll model and call it an Illusionist.  Either way, the current Frostgrave models are fantastic multi-part plastics and as far as I can tell this will be the first ever such box filled with gnolls.  Good ol' gnolls.  I love me some gnolls.

Gnolls - because Hyena Men under your city is worse than Rat Men.
If you're into this sort of game, you won't be doing yourself a disservice to pick up a copy of Frostgrave.  The price point is A NEW STANDARD for the industry.  The main hardback will cost about $20 USD at full retail, and the expansions seem to weigh in between $13 and $18.  The box sets are around $27 USD, and a two-pack of metal wizards (should you need them) will cost $10-14 USD depending on where you purchase them.  Of course, that's retail - we paid $17 for the main rulebook and a paltry $8 for Lich Lord.  That's serious value, and I think that will prove one of the best investments we've ever made during the inaugural season coming up.

So, the only thing left for a distinguished and accomplished Gatekeeper like yourself to do is pick a wizard school and build a warband from the hundreds of models we have in cases - or if you want something different just build a new model.  We're going to be painting our warbands for a feature next season as well on Project Days, and with a model count of less than 10 initially this should be an easy exercise for the group and let us show off the newer camera.

Get with the Project Coordinator to setup your warband any time before Season 2 begins on May 1st.  The campaign season is already planned, and the timeline of scenarios and special events is the most robust one that has been rolled out in a long while.  Frostgrave will also be the first game on the schedule to include a "campaign day" - a new style event where the focus will be on a special set of linked scenarios for the entire wargames session (prior to RPG's in the evening).

In addition, there are some more surprises we are developing that are going to return our campaign seasons to serious order, including bringing back some old Wargate traditions.  It's taken us a long time to work out this new plan, but compared to the old GW-centric model of our club, our new itinerary is superior in every way.  We're very pleased with how it's working out, and excitement over the new game and the implications it delivers is reaching a fever pitch.

So sharpen your dirk and carefully prepare your spells, Gatekeepers.  Frostgrave, the Frozen City, awaits.  It's time to get ready...

for the WIZARD FIGHT!!!