Ring Side Report-Board Game Review of Duhr: the Lesser Houses

Product-Duhr: the Lesser Houses

Producer– Devious Weasel Games

Price– $25.00 here https://www.miniaturemarket.com/dwe4000.html?utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&adpos=1o1&scid=scplpDWE4000&sc_intid=DWE4000&gclid=CjwKCAjwkYDbBRB6EiwAR0T_-hBpzyMP4YvWog65j9suM5TGfDH83ZBpJP8u00fsGxLE0pZEMCN1UBoCfUoQAvD_BwE

Set-up/Play/Clean-up– 45 minutes to 1.5 hours (3-6 players)

Type- American

Depth-Medium

TL; DR-I don’t have to win for you to lose!  91%

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Basics- Why waste knives when words will do.  In Duhr: the Lesser houses, each player plays a minor, lesser house vying for power as the king will advance one, and only one, house to a major house, so it’s time to get dirty!  During set-up each player is dealt a secret goal that targets one or two players. Then, players take turns doing one or two actions. Houses that are favored (their house card upright) can take up to two actions, and disfavored or vilified houses can take only one.  The actions favored and disfavored houses can do are to put a card matching a house’s color onto the house face down, play a scandal face down on any house, discard a card of your color to use your house ability, play an event card, or discard two matching cards to do a masterstroke.  Masterstrokes are how you win the game. These reveal a card on any house, remove a scandal from any house, put scandals from the center on a favored house, or negate ANYTHING! This leads into house standing. When a house gets cards in front of it, it begins to lose reputation as unsavory things about the house come to light.  If a house has five cards in front of it it becomes disfavored. And when a disfavored house has three of the five card in front of it turned face up, it becomes vilified. Disfavored houses can only do one action per turn, have to shuffle their hands, draw two for the turn, and hope those cards let them do something good! After a disfavored house takes its one action, it draws cards, shuffles them with its other cards, draws two of that pile, and plays its next turn with two cards.  You now have less options but some effects can not target you. Vilified houses are hated by all, but they gain some awesome powers. A vilified house flips its house card over to a black and white side so everyone sees your status. Vilified houses no longer have a hand of cards. Villivied houses can just change a card in front of a house to a scandal, flip face up a card on a house, or play a scandal card face down on any favored house.

House powers radically change the game.  These powers range from moving cards between players, flipping cards face down, or even removing cards from in front of players.  This leads to people making friends quickly or you die even faster! Each player has an agent in another house. This person is a secret.  On your turn, you can flip this over, gain a card in front of you and can now play cards of that house’s color to use their power. But, if you ever become disfavored, you instantly reveal your agent, and that house gains a card in front of it.  That feels like it should as webs of secrets come to life and hit EVERYBODY!

Play continues like this until only one house or fewer remains favored, and then players add up points.  Favored houses start with 10, then lose one point for each face up card of their color and two for each face up scandal.  Disfavored houses start at nine and lose points like favored houses. Vilified houses start at 2 points and gain two points for each other vilified house!  Finally, players add points for their secret objective. Player with the most points wins!

Mechanics-I really like the mechanics of this one, but you need to know exactly what you are doing!  This game isn’t very forgiving, as social combat usually is. If you pick the wrong fight and do something stupid, you will lose quick!  The advice most people will give you is you need to play maybe three times to have the rules down. I don’t agree. I honestly think you can learn the rules in about five minutes, but that’s kind of like saying you can learn chess in about five minutes.  Now, you have to develop strategy. That takes time. But, I think that is time you will enjoy putting in. 4.75/5

Theme- This game does feel like noble houses knifing each other in the back.  You get agents in another player’s house, and sometimes getting that hated appointment causes him to flip his agent and screw you in the process.   That is a blast when it happens! I do feel like I am a Lord of a house fighting it out in the dark and in the streets to show that my house has its crap together and keeps our secrets safe.  Half the players in my games walk away exhausted because this game isn’t your standard DnD knife fight, but social combat. The other half want to reshuffle the cards and start up as soon as the winner is declared.  I’m in the reshuffle up and play again group! 5/5

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Instructions–  The instructions work, but you will need a few passes at it.  One major issue is you really need to pay attention to how cards are played.  Cards are played face down. That took me a few too many passes reading to get.  But, once you get the flow of the rules, you can easily play the game. 4/5

Execution-First things first, I HATE SMALL ¼ CARDS!  This game only has small cards, and I only have fat fingers!  That said, my only other complaint is the action guide cards. They are awesome!  They tell you what you can do what you can do on your turn, explain all the symbols, and are really well put together!  The bad part is they are rare. You get about ½ the player count. It’s not bad, but you often have to share. And, I don’t want to share with people I want want to die!  The other parts are great. I like nice chunky cardboard for the houses and secret agent cards. Even the dreaded ¼ cards are nice. I also like the symbols. There is no confusion on what each symbol is on the cards.  You can see our unboxing of the games here: https://youtu.be/3B7ECFtGU8I  4.5/5

Summary-I don’t own too many games where you play noble houses and knife each other in the back.  But, this game scratches an itch. It’s fun, it’s mean, and it’s quick. But it’s also not too mean.  I don’t have too many feel-bads. If several people vilify your house in a turn, then you just start wrecking other people with abandon!  Most games I’ve played, it’s not the favored house that wins! This game teaches you some fun lessons about politics. It’s not without its faults.  I’d like bigger cards, more pages to the rule book, and some extra explanation cards. But, overall, this is a blast to play, and one that when you finish, you’ll want to start up right away.  And, at its playtime, you can get this one back to the table easily. 91%

 

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Ring Side Report-Board Game Review of Bitten

Product-Bitten

Producer– Cat Dragon Games

Price– $14.00 here https://www.amazon.com/Redshift-Games-Bitten-Board-Game/dp/B071Y7MVCY/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1532962819&sr=8-3&keywords=Bitten+Card+Game

Set-up/Play/Clean-up– 30 minutes to 1 hour (3-6 players)

Type- American

Depth-Light

TL; DR-Three way monster mash! 92%

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Basics- There can only be one!  In Bitten, players take the roles of Zombies, Vampires, and Werewolves as they attempt to take over a city by working together and against each other.  Each player is handed a lair card. This is a secret role that indicates if you are a vampire, zombie, or werewolf. From here, players are given five cards, and then in turn order, each player will either choose to play a card from their lair or from their hand.  If they choose a card from their lair, the randomly discard a card from the hand of cards they were given. Then, a player chooses to play that card either to a location or to another player’s lair. This leads to the two ways players can win. Each card has one to three symbols indicating zombie, vampire, werewolf.  Locations have a card number on them as well as a possible power. When the number of cards on a location equals the number written on the location, then you count the number of symbols on each card, and the most symbols wins the location (ties are possible). If at the end of any turn, a player has control of three of the five locations, they win!  For lairs, a player may never look at the cards in their lair unless they spend their turn getting a card from their lair. But, after a player plays a card and they have at least three cards in their lair and they have the most symbols of their type in the lair, they alone win! If no one won the round, then players pass their hand to the left, and players continue to draft cards until they pass one card.  If a player only has one card to draft from, then they draw four more, and play continues until one creature has control of the city and the night!

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Mechanics-Overall, the mechanics of this game are really smooth!  It’s a mix of a hidden roll and drafting game that almost always give you something to do.  Have cards of your symbol? Play to locations! Don’t have cards of your symbol? Screw with players’ lairs, but be careful!  There are also other action cards that remove cards and destroy locations, so that is a good mix for the game as the start locations are not what the game boils down to.  That said, this game slightly suffers from a player balance issue as play is really great at 3 and 6, but 4 and 5 can get a bit lopsided for the person without a partner. Actions cards are maybe a bit overpowered as several turns can be blown away by one action card.  It’s not horrible as this is a lighter game, but something to keep in mind. That said, this is a great game to get to the table, teaches quickly (honestly the quick run down above is 90% of the rules), and is a blast to play. 4.75/5

Theme- I feel like I’m gathering territory in this game!  Do I sent my werewolf agents to take over the dance club or the park?  Should the Vampires fight in the sewers? I do feel like an underworld fight for dominance is emerging.  Zombies are a bit of a tougher sell as I’m wondering how hordes of zombies are not noticed in a city? But, that is me being pedantic.  I do like the three sided nature of this fight. Locations where the undead would be get things that help undead like free symbols, and each race gets a place where two would do well alongside other locations where the race does well by sites.  The lairs all have fun names for the different people using the monster from voodoo master to mad scientist for zombie and others for the other two sides of this midnight beatdown. There is not combat between the monsters, so that takes away a bit as the zombies basically wave at werewolves who move in next door.  But that doesn’t break the game. The art also fills the theme as this feels like Sin City with a black and white noir style that feels like midnight. It’s a grim and dirty monster mash. 4.5/5

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Instructions-The instructions to this game are short and easy to read.  However, the instructions need a few more examples. In my first game, we ended up with a three way tie for our first location.  You can tie, but can you triple tie? The rules did not cover that. We said yes and rolled with it. That said, the rules work. If you have an especially punctilious player, then you may end up going to board game geek to fight over rules clarifications, but honestly for about 90% of the players and games, the rules are fine.  They could use a few more pages to describe things, but as written, you can play this game in about 5 minutes. 4.25/5

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Execution-First things first, I HATE SMALL ¼ CARDS!  This game has them, so that always makes me mad.  But, once I learn to deal with my own, internal, mental issues, the rest of the game is really well put together.  Nice sturdy box that fits the cards. The little cards are there to help players see who controls each area, and I’ll admit, even grudgingly, they work well.  The art on the cards is really well done even for just being two tones. I can tell who is what from far away. The card stock feels great. It’s also a small game that you can play on a bar table with friends, and I think this is the place for it as this might not be a weekend killer.  But, Bitten is a great game that is a fun fill between your four hours games or at the end of the night when you don’t want the fun to end. Finally, this game is less than 15 bucks! You can’t go wrong at this price. 4.9/5

Summary-I usually don’t like hidden role games.  I’ve never gotten into bang, and Battlestar Galactica is still on my shelf in the shrink.  But, this game is fun. You can manipulate the others or you can just get work done. I don’t feel bored by this game.  I always have something to do, the cards feel great, and the art makes me happy. It’s just dark enough even though it’s mostly just black and white.  The mechanics flow well, and the theme fits, even if you dig too deep into this one. I also like the portable nature of this game. This isn’t a perfect game as randomness can absolutely screw you and the hidden roles might not be fair, but if you need a game that goes up to six, plays quick, and is fun, then Bitten is a great game to get to the table.  92%

Ring Side Report- RPG Review of Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes

Product– Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes

System-DnD 5e

Producer– Wizards of the Coast

Price– $33 here https://www.amazon.com/MORDENKAINENS-FOES-Accessory-Wizards-Team/dp/0786966246/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1531451731&sr=8-1&keywords=mordenkainen%27s+tome+of+foes

TL; DR-It’s not plagiarism if it’s from you!  83%%

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Basics-It’s not Monster Manual II, IT’S MONSTER MANUAL II!  Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes builds out the world of Dungeons and Dragons, focusing less on any one particular world and more on the higher and lower planes.  It provides players with some new options, race options, and even story to build out the characters they want to be. DMs get new monsters, focusing on higher power, extra planar monsters as well as building the universe around the normal material plane players are used to.

Theme or Fluff-This book is by the same people who made the planes in the first place, so its top notch.  The story is amazing, not just for a monster manual, but for any book honestly. You get a ton of options to really make well rounded characters from backstory to new hooks to get the characters really involved in the world.  There are multiple versions of tieflings depending on your devil parents. Those little touches really draw you in. DMs get monsters that have story as well as world-building that will really make higher level play much more interesting.  This is a great resource for any DnD 5e player that wants some planar spice in their game or character. .5/5

Mechanics or Crunch-Again, this book was written by the people who made the system, so they know their math.  The monsters feel right. There are new monsters as well as old favorites. Get ready for heavy hitters though.  This book has low level monsters, but it brings a ton of big boys to the fray. If you need high level monsters, then this is the book for you.  5/5

Execution– Is there a PDF since this book came out in 2018?  Nope, well we’re down to at most ⅘. Then, this is where I get personally angry.  This book copy/pastes the high level monsters from Out of the Abyss. I’m not just talking monsters, but art and even whole written backgrounds for monsters.  We’re talking about ⅕ of the monsters from the book, and almost all the high level monsters. And that is where I draw the line. Need big monsters to make the fight happen?  Great! Use some but not all. The highest level monsters are all the demon princes/princesses of the abyss. NO DEVIL LORDS ARE IN THIS BOOK. That means the DnD team decided to phone in ⅕ of this book by just copying another book they put out a few years ago.  So even though the book’s layout is good, art is good, and event tables of contents and appendices are great, you get a crap rating because you want me to pay full price for phoning in effort. 2.5/5

Summary– I want to like this book.  It’s got a ton of great qualities.  Players and DMs both get excellent resources to use to build up their stories with new characters options and monsters.  And honestly, the book is put together well. I like what they did here with all the different end tables and even the layout of the monsters.  However, this book breaks two important rules for me. First, I can’t get a digital version without have to buy it separately through an app. I already have a number of apps, and when that company folds, I will lose my purchase.  So the lack of PDFs really hurts this book. Second, large parts of this book are just copies of an earlier book. So, why should I reward any company for just selling the same thing to me twice? This is a great book, IF you can get past the fact that if you already own Out of the Abyss, you are buying the monsters again.  If that doesn’t bother you, or you don’t own that book, then this is going to be a great book for your DnD collection, both as a player and as a DM. 83%

 

Ring Side Report-Board Game Review of Cthulhu: The Horror in Dunwich

Product-Cthulhu: The Horror in Dunwich

Producer– Wyvern Gaming

Price– Kickstarter October 3rd

Set-up/Play/Clean-up– 45 minutes to 1.5 hours (1-6 players)

Type- American

Depth-Light

TL; DR– Not perfect, but really fun!  85%

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Basics-  Do you got the Moxie to take on Cthulhu?  Cthulhu: the Horror in Dunwich is a stand alone expansion to the Cthulhu: the Deck Building Game.  Players take the roles of different investigators fighting the old gods as they return. Each character has a different amount of health and sanity as well as a backstory, powers, and post death abilities. Characters choose what elder gods to fight, depending on the player count, choosing to fight one to two different gods.  In the Horror in Dunwich expansion, new elder gods are available as well as new Mythic Location cards. These random locations drastically alter the game by changing how much moxie you get, spawning new creatures, or putting other effects into the game. Players then receive seven cards giving them one resource called moxie and three cards that when played deal damage to the player.  With the god(s), mythic locations, and investigators chosen and the characters drawing five cards, you are ready to play.

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Each turn is broken down into roughly two phases: preparation and fighting.   During preparation, each player places cards on the table up to all the cards in their hand for Moxie.  Moxie is the generic resource in this game functioning for both attack and currency for cards. Players might also have some initial damage dealing cards in their hands.  You may choose to play those or just discard them at the end of turn, but some cards provide extra effects depending on the number of cards played. So, taking the extra damage might be beneficial to your characters depending on what you get!  After choosing to play as many cards as they wish, they spend their moxie to get new cards directly into their hands from the cards available in the library or central purchasing area. Once this is completed, all played cards are removed, and new cards are placed in the library to buy next turn signaling the end of the preparation phase.

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Fighting is straightforward.  First the elder god goes, doing whatever it says on the card.  Then a card is drawn from the mythos deck. The mythos cards are interesting effects that usually harm the players.  After the mythos card is drawn and its effects done, a monster(s) is drawn and then each monster attacks the players, doing whatever it says to players, from  attacking only one character to doing damage to all characters. Finally, the players can respond by playing cards to use more moxie to hurt the monsters, so moxie functions both as your money and as your attack power.  Players then discard all played cards, can discard library cards to draw more and cycle the deck, and lastly draw five new cards to start the next round. Play continues like this until the elder gods are dispatched or the players have all gone insane or been killed.

Mechanics– I like the mechanics on this one.  It’s simple enough to be quick, but not too simple to be dumbed down.  It’s an interesting mix of using the same currency for both attack and defense.  That might drive some players away as you can cast spells to buy stuff which feels strange, but the division of card types means you can focus your character in one way or another.  The library of cards feels like Ascension and Dominion had a baby. It does have it fault as it can get a little simple at times, but it doesn’t overstay its welcome. If you want a challenge at all, you NEED to play this on the hard difficulty.  The easy difficulty might be a bit too easy for some gamers who crave a little more pain in their games. 4.25/5

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Theme- Theme in deck building games is a tough one.  It’s hard to keep monsters in the right place and all kind of other issues that are just random in nature.  This game has the problem, but deals with it admirably. Mythos cards work regardless of the elder god involved, but each elder god has its own chosen set of monsters.  If you draw mythos cards related to the elder god in play, more bad things happen. If you draw creatures with no relation to the elder gods in play, then only slightly bad things happen.  It’s a simple way to focus on the gods in play. It’s still completely random, but it does add bits of story in to the game. I also appreciate the detail for each investigator as their story, power, and background will really bring you in at the start.  It’s an uphill batter to put story in a deck builder, but this game does it well. 4.25/5

Instructions– Overall, the instruction work well for this game, but they do have a few issues.  You will have to reread the instructions a few times. Overall, the rules are extremely simple, which is appreciated, but I feel they need a bit more polish in the final product.  The pieces are all there, but some things like how the mythic locations are placed are not as explained as well as they should be. Once you know the rules from the base game, then you know how to play the expansion easily.  But, the new elements need more explanation. Everything here works, but its something that will require a few passes for you to really work through to see how all the pieces work. That said, the rules are about three pages, so reading through the rules again won’t be a several hour endeavor.  4.25/5

Execution–  Oh execution … this game will drive you to one of two camps.  I was immediately drawn to the art, the card stock, text fonts, and even the box itself.  All those things feel like Hellboy or Darkest Dungeon. I loved everything I saw with this one and really enjoyed the life counters as little slide on the card indicators.  Really cool! I even love the box itself. It’s awesome thick cardboard that harkens back to the old Fantasy Flight coffin boxes. HOWEVER, my wife….she is an English an English as a Second Language teacher…she was IMMEDIATELY drawn to the errors in English grammar and spelling.  And THERE ARE A LOT OF THOSE SMALL ERRORS. So, if you just love to see awesome art on nice cards this game will be an amazing addition to your collection. If you can’t stand a card that has a few grammar and/or spelling errors on it, then this will drive you up a wall. I live and die by spellcheck, so this didn’t bother me, but your mileage will vary! You can check out our unboxing video of both the base and expansion here:https://youtu.be/3PvRMR7MwPo 4.25/5

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Summary–  This game reminds me of a B movie that you love, even though it has a few faults.  My family watches Flash Gordon each year. I watch Flash when it comes on TV when I’m looking to see what’s on.  I play the fight scenes in the background when I write random stuff for my blog. The music is on my youtube work mix cue, so I’ve graded quite a few student papers to Hawkmen fighting on Warship Ajax in the background.  Flash Gordon is not an Oscar worthy movie, but it’s fun, it’s campy, and it feels right. It has flaws, but that doesn’t make it bad. This game is the equivalent of that. Are there other Cthulhu games that might have more polish?  Yes. Will those get to my table as often? Probably not! This stand alone expansion plays shorter than the box time says. I have to sort fewer cards than other deckbuilders. My favorite mythos god is Yog-Sothoth. All the stars align for this one.  My wife and my favorite game to play together is Eldritch Horror. But, even the lightest set up for that game is 20 minutes if you are lucky, and play time can easily be three hours. This game gets an Eldritch Horror experience into about 20 minutes. Is it a perfect match?  NO! Is it enough that on a weeknight when we have half an hour and just want to fight some horrors from beyond time this is going to come out? Absolutely! 85%

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Ring Side Report-Board Game Review of Sojourn

Product-Sojourn

Producer– Wyvern Gaming

Price– $20 here https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/wyvrengaming/sojourn-a-journey-through-time on kickstarter

Set-up/Play/Clean-up– 5-10 minutes (1 player)

Type- American

Depth-Light

TL; DR– A great intro to solo gaming. 92.5%

Basics-  Our next leap might be home!  Sojourn is a single player adventure game where you’ve broken your time machine watch and need to randomly jump through time to find pieces to fix the machine.  You start out during dinosaur times. On your turn, you can play cards to heal, gain charges for your time machine, or jump to new locations in time to avoid others.  Aside from that, every time you jump to a location a new location opens ahead of you in the time stream. When you enter a location you have to discard charges from you time machine and cards.  Also when you arrive, you must roll a d100 die to see if you are hurt from the events of that time ranging from nothing bad happening during peaceful negotiations to taking four of your seven hit points at once dodging the bombing of Pearl Harbor, which damages you 90% of the time!  If you survive you can then jump to the next location. You can also spend charges from your watch to open another location in the same series above your current one, hoping for a better draw, but knowing that each charge means you could be stuck in the past! If you draw a piece of the time machine from the deck, then you draw a location in time where it is.  You can jump to that location as normal, and if you survive, you get to take the piece. Get all four pieces, not die, and have a charge to power the machine, you jump to the safety of your home in the future in the year 2020. Die, not have cards to discard, or not have enough charges, and you’re dead or stuck in the past. Good luck!IMG_20180521_212426890

Mechanics–  I do and don’t play a lot of single play a lot of single player games.  I don’t think it’s fun to pull out cardboard and play some game by myself because I feel why bother.  On the other hand, I play lots of Onirim and Star realms on my phone. Downtime at a line-rock a game of of Onirim.  This game feels like an Onirim. I get to make choices, but there is random factor that you have to figure out how to deal with.  You could jump from punishment to punishment and be absolutely wrecked based on the randomness, but it’s still fun. It’s amazingly simple, and that’s a good thing.  I don’t have tons of things to keep in mind. It’s just hit points, charges, and cards in my hand. It’s got enough pieces to keep me making choices, but not too many to make this a slog.  It’s 10 minutes of fun that hits the table fast and feels fun. It’s not too punishing, but it is not for the only hardcore. If every game must be a gut punch, then walk away. I’ve won more than I’ve lost, so some of the ubergamers might be turned off by difficulty.  I am not! 4.5/5

Theme-This game honestly feels like Sliders.  You jump to a place, try to survive, and look for the way home.  Do not expect a year long DnD game of story in this one, but for five minutes of game, I do feel like there is a story I make when I jump through time.  I feel like I’m the time traveler,and that’s the sweet spot! 5/5IMG_20180521_212639339.jpg

Instructions-The instructions are the weakest part of the game.  That said, these instructions are pre-release rules, and furthermore, they are not horrible, they could just use a bit more.  It just took me about two read throughs to make sure I had it down pat and wasn’t cheating by accident. Not as many pictures on the simple text document I got with my review copy, but the rules will be better going into a nicely polished book with real production.  The rules are not bad, but they could use another fresh coat of paint before it’s ready for prime time. 4/5

Execution– This game feels like Fantasy Flight made it.  It’s a simple card game, so we obviously need lots of different colored tokens, dice, and two different sized cards.  Again, I got a pre-production copy, so I expected some crappy cardboard, simple chits, and cards. Heart and soul went into this game!  The art looks great. It is way better than it has any reason to be, and it handles major events like September 11th with tact while still showing its importance.  Card layout is easy to pick up and well done. Once you’ve got the rules down, it plays in 5 minutes because you can easily see what each location needs and if you want to try a jump there.  It even has nice cubes to give the game a little extra bonus. It would be easy enough to have one cube for each thing, and have them act like a slider. But, it’s an extra little touch to have lots of cubes for each resources that even makes me forgive the cube being plastic and not wood (I have issues I need to deal with, and my compulsive need for only wood cubes is one!).  I like everything in this! 5/5

Summary-I was given the chance to review a pre-production single player game.  I honestly wasn’t expecting much from this pre-kickstarter game, but I’ve been won over.  It’s a fun, fast game that makes me feel like a time traveler. For a hardcore gamer, I don’t game as much as I should and single player games like this might just convince me to pull out physical solo games more often.  It’s 20 bucks, and that feels right. You get a lot in the little box from phenomenal arts to great components, and it’s something simple and a blast to pay but won’t overstay its welcome. The rules need a bit more work, but I expect a full color rule book with pictures is easily going to fix any problems I may have.  Hands down a fantastic game and something that you can pull out anywhere when you just want to get some gaming in on the fly. 92.5%

 

Ring Side Report- Black Void Quick Start Rules

Product– Black Void Quick Start Rules

System-Black Void

Producer– Christoffer Sevaldsen

Price– $12 here on kickstarter https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/68133405/black-void-rpg

TL; DR-The D12 DOESN’T cry itself to sleep! 90%

Basics-.Welcome to Llyhn the eternal!  In the Black Void, characters survive in a world where giant almost black holes, the Black Voids of the title, opened up around Babylon and swallowed the chunks of the world whole, dragging men and women off screaming into the darkness.  After some time and much loss of life, humans found themselves in Llyhn, the eternal city, where inhuman masters rule. Will you survive in this world where you are far from home as characters scrabble in the dirt in this fantasy Middle Eastern RPG?

Base Mechanics- This game uses a d12 as its primary die.  Characters add either their traits and/or abilities to the roll hoping to reach a 7, the normal success roll that can vary quite a bit depending on the complexity of the action.  It’s a pretty simple system that makes me think a bit of other roll to a set number games like Savage Worlds.

Stats-  Your stats in this game are called traits which are Agility, Awareness, Stamina, Strength, Intellect, Manipulation, Presence, and Willpower.  When you build a character, you get 24 points to buy your traits at a one for one basis. All of them start at one and none can be greater than six at character generation.  When you use your traits, you take the trait minus three to determine the modifier you get for your rolls. Also, for every three points in a trait, you can buy a talent for another three points.  Think of talents like feats in DnD-they give you bonuses and abilities that normally you would not have and you have to take them as you grow in power. This game is classless, so these are ways to build to something you want to be in the world.  You can also spend points on background abilities like your caste, the ability to access blood magic, or to even not be completely human. All of these things act like feats as well with character buying new ranks in blood magic, different background abilities, and new abilities if you are a half-breed.

Blood Magic- Magic in this game looks more ritual based than the snappy magic of DnD.  The quick start guide presents Blood Rituals where a character can sacrifice a creature to gain a bonus or a boon.  These boons provide different powers and abilities that a character can use in the next 12 hours ranging from a simple reroll to gaining different talents.  The skills for blood magic are gained during character generation and bought using a character’s trait pool.

Skills– Your skills in this game are called abilities.  You start the game with 24 ability points that you spend on a 1 for 1 basis.  Your skills start at below 0, then 0, and finally you can spend points up to 3, so 3 ranks in a skill costs you 4 ability points.  The modifier is -3 for no ranks, then 0 for 0, and up to +3 for 3 ranks. Unlike games like Pathfinder and DnD, some abilities are tied to multiple traits, so a character might be doing an Athletics roll, but use Stamina instead of Strength if the character was testing their endurance instead of testing their physical prowess.

Combat and Initiative-Combat runs how you would expect, with a few differences.  Players roll a d12 and add their agility talent as normal for rolling for initiative.  Then on a character’s turn, a character chooses one action that can range from attacks, reacting to attacks, or simply moving.  The standard value of 7 is used for attacks unless a character took an action to change it or react with a character adding their Strength or Agility trait and their weapon skill to the attack roll.  If the attacker hits, then the attacker rolls damage with damage dice ranging from a d4 to a d12, the hit character reduces the damage by their armor value, and then the turn moves to the next character.  Characters have conditions depending on their hit point total with the more banged up a character is, the character gains more penalties to their rolls.

Health and Sanity-  The game has some simple rules for character generation of hit points and sanity.  Characters have health points that are determined by rolling a d12 for each Stamina Trait.  This game also has some slight Lovecraft elements as characters will encounter horrors beyond time and space surviving in their new home.  A character’s sanity points are determined by rolling a d12 for each Willpower point their have. When a character encounters a horror they roll a d12 and add their Willpower modifier aiming for a number depending on the creature.  If they fail, they lose sanity points. Sanity point loss has penalties associated with it just like health point loss as the character will gain madness conditions. Sanity can be regained through time and rest just like health points.

Character Advancement-  Characters advance in a few ways.  First, the normal experience points are gained.  Characters spend these to advance traits and abilities according a table in the book.  Characters can also advance in Wastah and Enlightenment. Enlightenment is how a character understands the Void and the cosmos as a whole, kind of like getting the rule book to the universe.  As a character becomes more enlightened, they might gain new abilities, attributes, and talents. Wastah is much more simple-it’s a character’s social rank. As you adventure, you gain prestige that makes you more important.  The caste system in this world is rigid, but if you save the leadership of the city enough times, then even the lowliest street rat might become something impressive with ranks unlocking new patrons, facilities, funding, or a whole host of other options.

Ok, that’s how to play.  Now what do I think!

Theme or Fluff-This is honestly the high point of the book.  You feel like you’re in the City of Brass with powerful elemental lords using humans as playthings.  It’s pre-Islam middle eastern fantasy with bits of Lovecraft thrown in. I don’t see enough middle eastern themes in fantasy aside from fantasy Egypt, so this is a good welcome change!  I like the work this book builds as the characters scrabble to survive in a supernatural world full of horrors post magic apocalypse on Earth. That is all good! Better, none of this feels racist.  It’s easy to just make some stereotypes and run with that as a game. This book feels like it’s trying to make the world stand out and be much more than some simple stereotypes with new races and creatures that rule the eternal city.  That makes this an even better place to play instead of just a blatant copy of folklore. 5/5

Mechanics or Crunch-This game has novel mechanics that I like, but there are a few things that catch my attention.  The d12 based system is something unique that I really like. I don’t see that die used too much, and it takes center stage here.  The bonuses are something that catch my attention. They seem somewhat inconsistent with trait rolls being the trait minus three while ability rolls are -3 for no ranks but one rank is considered a zero in the skill and all other ranks result in continued bonuses, so four ranks is a +3.  That’s not horrible, it’s makes sense from a numbers perspective to make the math of a d12 only system work, but the flow feels off. If you play, it’s going to work. But, it’s a slight barrier to entry. My other major issue is the combat action economy. One day I will learn to just stop being angry about being able to move or attack in a turn, but not today!  Again, it makes sense from a system perspective, but I never feel right only being able to run up to take a hit to the face. It will emphasize the role ranged combat plays. The thing I do like is the amount of tables the game has. As you go crazy, critically hit an enemy, or simply screw up an attack, you roll on tables. Random event tables are always a great way to throw fun into a system and it takes pressure off the GM to always come up with fair, random events that the players experience when stuff goes really well or really badly.  Overall, it’s a good system that I personally have a few issues with, but you may absolutely enjoy. 4/5

Execution– The book is laid out well, but I have a few minor issues.  Tables interrupt the text, and that is good because it reduces eye strain, but the text begins above the table in the next column, instead of the same column below the text.  I don’t know why, but I kept trying to read below the column and getting mixed up. This isn’t always consistent and might be changed in the final book. It’s not a big thing, but it threw me.  I’d like the text a bit larger and maybe the gray background of the book doesn’t make the black text pop as much. Minor problems, but some things I noticed. But, the book does have nice art that interrupts the text to keep me engaged, and the rules are written well enough that I can easily read what is going on and get running the game quickly.  Also, as a guy who reads tables for a living, the tables are well laid out and make me not hate reading. 4.5/5

Summary-This looks like a fun game that I have a few minor reservations with.  I love the setting. This is fantasy middle east, but not simply a copy/paste of some folklore.  It has its own unique spin that I really want to see played out, and the world here is honestly the largest draw to this book.  The system works well, but I have a few minor gripes. I want to play the d12 based system some more, and once I get past my walk-or-attack aversion, I think I will enjoy this a lot more.  The book is done well, but a little more consistency in the layout and possibly a slight change in background color might help. Even with those slight issues, this book looks good. I know I’m in.  Its 400+ pages of a whole new novel RPG PDF for about $12 bucks. Thanks a great value for something that is whole cloth new. Some established RPG books charge that much for 30 page supplement. And this thing is scheduled to come out in September of this year, meaning this thing is probably done already.  So, I’m in! I can’t wait to read this new setting with a new system from a new creator. Go give this one a look. 90%