Ring Side Report-RPG Review of Ghoul Island Act 1: Voyage to Farzeen

Product– Ghoul Island Act 1: Voyage to Farzeen

System-DnD 5e

Producer– Petersen Games

Price– $15.00  here  https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/308667/Ghoul-Island-Act-1-Voyage-to-Farzeen?affiliate_id=658618

TL; DR-Solid book that tells you what it is.  95%

Basics– What horrors lurk under Farzeen?  This is the first part of an epic heroic fantasy campaign from Sandy Petersen.  This adventure starts off with mutiny aboard a ship, involves the crew being battered by horrible dreams, losing the crew, finding the city of Farzeen, and eventually finding the crew after they flee to a temple below the island.  Along the way the players meet monstrous deep ones, less monstrous ghouls, and an ancient evil long forgotten below this island.

Mechanics or Crunch-This is a solid adventure.  The math checks out as  it’s just applying the basic 5e rules for the crunch.  It uses Sandy Petersen’s dread rules, so you will need the Cthulhu Mythos book for that.  Overall, a solidly put together adventure full of fun fights and exploration for low level characters.  5/5

Theme or Fluff-This part is where expectations have to be set early.  I honestly think the best way to play Call of Cthulhu is a one shot.  People in a normal world, thrown into a crazy situation, damaged beyond repair, then left to deal with the horror for the rest of their lives.  That’s good cosmic horror.  This isn’t that, and the book is VERY up front with that.  This is heroic fantasy with horror thrown in.  This adventure isn’t written to be 20 levels of just sheer cosmic horror.  You get to be awesome stomping a deep one.  Also, some of the main characters are ghouls.  Some players are going to miss this, but Lovecraft ghouls are not DnD ghouls.  They are more dog men really.  It’s things like that that will require your players and you to adjust expectations.  Nothing is bad, but you have to read this and see exactly what the author intends.  4.5/5

Execution–  PDF?  YEP!  Hyperlinked?  no…That’s honestly my only gripe here.  The layout is good.  Text size is good.  Art is well done.   There is even a separate book that is the Farzeen Gazetteer that gives you background on the town and island.  That’s an amazing value for 15 bucks considering this is a full length adventure and a whole small book on the island itself!  Just hyperlink and this would be one of the best products this year.   4.75/5

Summary-Sandy Petersen’s team put out another top notch product here.  It has solid crunch for the adventure.  The story is good, but you HAVE to read what it is and what it is not.  I also love the pieces of this thing.  My gripes are small-I always want PDFs with hyperlinks now, and I went in expecting only cosmic horror all day long.  If you can get past those small issues, then you have an incredible start to what is shaping up to be an amazing campaign with the resources you need to make a fun, in depth game for your players.  95%

Ring Side Report-RPG Review of Sandy Petersen’s Cthulhu Mythos for 5e

Product– Sandy Petersen’s Cthulhu Mythos for 5e

System-DnD 5e

Producer– Petersen Games

Price– $19.99  here  https://www.dmsguild.com/product/286002/Sandy-Petersens-Cthulhu-Mythos-for-5e?affiliate_id=658618

TL; DR-How the mythos is meant to be played in 5e!  99%

Basics–  Ia Ia Cthulhu Fhtagn!  The grand cleric of the elder gods is writing for DnD 5e!  Sandy Pertersen’s Cthulhu Mythos for 5e is a MASSIVE book with new races, class options, feats, spells, monsters, and mechanics that you can throw into your 5e game.  Let’s break down the pieces to see what’s in here.

The tcho-tcho in the room-Ah Lovecraft…I love his work, but MAN he would not fly today.  From mental illness to racism, Lovecraft in his original form isn’t post #METOO or #BLM friendly.  So, how do you handle the insanity and cosmic horror with the subtext or just text of Lovecraft? Sandy Peterson walks this line extremely well with sidebars dealing with handling mental illness to just dropping the racist parts of the mythos monsters and human acolytes.  We can go mad with terror from learning the true history of the universe without having to go to HR!

New Eldritch Toys-  This book is a BEAST of content.  This book features THREE new races with race specific class options.  The old standards of 5e all get some toys as well with feats for everyone, class options for all the core classes, books of unholy lore,  and a boat load of new spells.  There are also several new items that all cover the fan favorites of star mead to things I haven’t heard of before.

New Mythos Monsters-A hero is only as good as the monster is bad.  Then let’s make your heroes LEGENDARY!  This book has everything from simple monsters you can throw into your game just because you want something weird to freak out the power gamer who memorized the monster manual to GAME ENDING TITANS who would be the final bad guy in your campaign.  Again, you have the fan favorites here like cthulhu to some of the more esoteric, even for the Lovecraft alicionadio, like Byatis.  This book also adds in new options for you to throw onto worshipers so your bland cultists into true harbingers of the mythos even at low levels.

New Mythology Mechanics-This book isn’t just a highlight reel of Lovecraft’s old toys.  This book adds new crunch to 5e.  There is a whole revamped madness and dread system.  All characters can now learn how to cast some spells called formulas.  There is even a whole new skill dedicated to understanding the cthulhu mythos.  The final boss of a campaign now has a solid progression system where the fight becomes epic tales you will tell for years to come.

Ok, now my thoughts.

Mechanics or Crunch–  Sandy Peterson is one of the foremost game developers in the Lovecraft mythos, and it shows.  This book isn’t just a reskin book where you take a scary monster and now it’s cthulhu.  The crunch here is truly Lovecraftian.  Monsters feel like they are beyond human ken.  There are DEEP dives into the mythos, and not just into the new stuff from people writing in Lovecraft’s shadow.  Stuff that gets a small mention that even I forgot like the gnorri get a full race write up.  The stuff that is in the base DnD 5e book gets revamped well.  I don’t like the madness system in DnD 5e, but this book provides an amazing system that has a great write up that you can drop into a non-cthulhu campaign.  I like most of what’s here, but there are a couple of things I have some minor quibbles with.  The new mythos skill is called yog-sothothery.  I just want it called mythos lore or even to borrow from Call of Cthulhu- cthulhu mythos.  Also, I want stat bonuses you get from eldritch tomes to be permanent.  But honestly, those are pretty small issues.  This book is a solid addition to the Dungeons and Dragons 5e crunch regardless of if you want to run a Cthulhu based campaign or not. 4.9/5

Theme or Fluff-Sandy Peterson is one of the foremost Lovecraft scholars today, and it shows here too.  This isn’t just a pile of reskins with tentacles so Lovecraft.  This is a well crafted library of Lovecraft eldritch lore.  I MYSELF learned stuff about the Lovecraft world from this book.  This will teach you not only how to run a solid horror game but also about the world of Lovecraft.  But, let’s say you just want a splat book to draw some scary stuff from?  This has you covered too.  This book is a solid addition to my collection as both a DnD DM and a someone who love the mythos.  5/5

Execution–  PDF?  YEP!  Hyperlinked?  YEP!  AND IT NEEDS IT!  This is a BEAST for 20 bucks.  It’s over 400 pages.  The base DnD books are not that long and cost twice as much!  It’s easy to read but still feels familiar with the font and backgrounds looking like the base books with a decidedly eldritch flare.  Monsters have TONS of pictures, so I can throw pictures to my players quickly without having to do a google image search.  This book is a solid example of how to produce a 3rd party book.  5/5

Summary– I love Lovecraft.  Any idiot can stab me, so that’s not scary.  Any punk rogue can sneak attack my character and kill him-not scary.  But learning the horrible history of my family and what cost I too have to pay to keep the thing in the basement “pleased” so my family prospers?  That’s horror.  This book will help you do that.  I can’t heap enough praise on this book.  I have my minor issues, but those are so minor it almost doesn’t matter.  For the amount of content alone for 20 bucks, you can’t go wrong.  If you want some monsters to throw at your bored players?  Done.  You want a book that will be the key and the gate to a world of horror you might never have known existed?  This is that book! 99%

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%

pic3780977.png

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.

character.jpg

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.

Start Cards.jpg

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

locations.jpg

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

monsters.jpg

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%

Basic Monster.jpg