Winter is Coming… And a change to how we game

Winter is coming… And it’s bringing a change to competitive  gaming.

From my point of view, things have recently really started due to the recent lawsuit by Judges of ‘Magic: The Gathering’ against Wizards of the Coast (WOTC), and Privateer Press’s (PP) recent announcement regarding their Press Ganger program.

A breakdown of the Wizards of the Coast ‘Magic: The Gathering’ case is Here.

Basically, Judges of their (WOTC) tournaments, feel they are treated as employees, and should be due recompense, due to WOTC controlling the Judge program, and are in overall control of the tournaments and Judges duties during those tournaments. WOTC, of course, feel differently.

And given Privateer press’s recent announcement regarding their winding down of their Press Ganger program, which can be found Here.

So the way I see things is on one hand we have a company who expect a group of loyal fans and supporters to act as employees and to run big tournaments, without them benefitting from the rights and entitlements of employees.*

And on the other hand, (it looks like at least to me), that we have a company, that’s (A) trying to avoid a similar situation with their Press Gangers, and (B)  partially using it as part of a cost cutting program. As they’re also planning on no longer releasing cards with their models, instead relying on digital downloads and a print on demand program.

So given what’s happening with these two game systems/ companies, what’s in store from other companies. 

I’m looking at Paizo’s Pathfinder Society and WOTC Dungeons & Dragons organised play, to see how things play out. Both rely on fans and volunteers to run and promote their systems. 

Are we entering a period of gaming where more and more game companies will be leaving it up to the game stores to promote and run their systems. Instead of their previous fan base/ volunteers. I’m aware some systems already have an organised play system in place with game stores, such as X-wing by Fantasy Flight Games and Friday Night Magic  by WOTC, as in my local meta. 

But what about others such as Privateer Press, who relied on their Press Gangers for promoting and organising tournaments (big and small), and who’ll now be leaving things up to the brick and mortar stores. 
It’ll be interesting to see how things develop further.
Until next time, I’ll see you at the table.

– from The Man Cave 

* I’m aware previously WOTC have rewarded judges and volunteers, with limited edition cards, playmats, and other such merchandise, for their contributions and effort during and after tournaments.

Frostgrave by Osprey Publishing

A lot of us know and have even grown up with the term ‘Wizard’. For some it’s due to Harry Potter, for others it was Dungeons & Dragons. For some of us it was the reason why we first started gaming. To be able to smote your enemies with a fire ball or to call down heavens fury in a flurry of lightning. Many a childhood day I spent wishing I could…

… and now I can on the tabletop in Frostgrave.

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Firstly, lets talk about the fluff of the game. In a nut shell, once there was a city of magic. One day something went terribly wrong which turned the kingdom into a frozen waste ground. As centuries passed by, the city turned to myth and legend. Now a thousand years latter the snow and ice has begun to recced, bands of adventurers have begun to enter the ruins of this once great city to plunder it of treasure and magical items.

In Frostgrave you play as a Wizard from any number of schools of magic. Together with your apprentice and a warband (of your typical fantasy stereotyphes of warriors, archers, thiefs, and thugs)…

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You attempt to plunder the frozen city of treasures.

Frostgrave by Osprey Publishing is a tabletop skirmish level game (meaning your warband would typically comprise of only about 10 models). You compete against an opposing player to find treasure and glory. The game uses a D20 (a 20 sided dice) system. At the start of a game you would choose a Wizard from a selection of magic schools, you would then build a warband based on a set amount of gold you start with. In Frostgrave your opponent isn’t the only danger you’ll encounter. Games can have roving animals, beasts, and sometimes something darker just waiting to make a meal of you.

The rules of Frostgrave are quite easy to learn as the D20 does most of the hard work and the rulebook takes you thru things in a nice easy way.

Frostgrave can be played as one off games or as part of a campaign. It is in campaign play that Frostgrave really shines. Games link up to form a narrative and between games Wizards can ‘Level Up’, learning new more powerful spells.

The Frostgrave Rulebook is hard back and clocks in at only 136 pages. It is full colour and full of artwork. The artwork in the Frostgrave rulebook is top notch, with many powerful fantasy scenes.

Recently Frostgrave was nominated in a number of catergories in The Beasts of War 2015 Gaming Awards, from artwork, to model kit, to best miniature game. For such a new game to get so many nominations and 1 big win (Best Miniature Game) is a testiment to how good this game is.

I had a chance to ask Joseph McCullough, the author of Frostgrave a couple of questions.

What was your inspiration for Frostgrave?

I think Frostgrave is the product of a lifetime immersed in Fantasy and Games. There are so many influences, it is hard to know where to start. I suppose Dungeons and Dragons would be the largest influence, but Lord of the Rings, Magic: The Gathering, Harry Potter, and Silent Death al left their mark while I was working on it.

How did you feel about your nominations and your wins on Beasts of War’s 2015 Gaming Awards?

Amazing. Really Amazing. To get nominated in so many categories, up against such big time competition, was a real honour. Especially since all of the nominations were done by public vote. To get the win in the ‘Best New Miniatures Game’ category was just the icing on the cake. There aren’t a lot of awards in this industry, so any time you get such recognition it really gives you a boost!

Frostgrave has a very narritive feel to it, rather than just pitched battles of opposing war bands, was this the intention from the start?

Absolutely. People wargame for a lot of different reasons; for me, it has always been an extension of storytelling. I wanted to create a system and a setting where people could really indulge in their creativity to invent the kind of wizard they wanted, and tell the stories that they wanted to tell. I suppose, more than most wargames, Frostgrave is less about winning and losing, and more about seeing how the story plays out. That said – he who gets the most treasure wins!

So far we have had a number of expansions for Frostgrave, any chance you could tell us anything about future expansions?

Sure, there are lots of things coming up this year. The Next expansion is a small, ebook only supplement called Dark Alchemy. This has new and expanded rules for potions, and includes a three-scenario campaign designed to be played either solo, or by two players working together. After that, in July, comes Into the Breeding Pits. This print supplement gives a bunch of new rules for running games set underground including traps and secret passages, some new spells, including some of the magic of the secretive ‘Beastcrafters’, and bunch of new monsters, scenarios, and treasures. Sometime after that will be another ebook only mini-supplement called Arcane Locations. Finally, in November, comes Forgotten Pacts, another print supplement focusing on demons. So lots to come this year!

I’m amazed at the options available to players in how they can build a war band, how much of a nightmare was it trying to balance all of the different options for players.

The biggest challenge was trying to balance out the different wizard schools. Different schools have such wildly differing capabilities it is extremely hard to see how they balance out. Mainly, it was a matter of making sure that anything one wizard could do could potentially be undone by another. Then, you just play a lot of games! I don’t think I got it 100% perfect, but it seems to be working pretty well. Now that there are thousands of playtesters out there, I am watching the talk constantly to make sure that nothing is too imbalanced. It’s an ongoing process and I will tinker with it when I think it is necessary. For the most part, the errata so far is just clarifications.

Can we expect a new box set of figures for Frostgrave?

Absolutely. With the release of Into the Breeding Pits in July there will be a plastic set of Gnolls released. There will be another box set with Forgotten Pacts in November. We aren’t saying what this will be at the moment, but the clues are out there!

Well that’s all for now, I’ll see you at the table.

– from The Man Cave

RPG Review – Fantasy AGE by Green Ronin Press

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So, what is it?

Fantasy AGE is a new roleplaying system published by Green Ronin Press, and designed by Chris Pramas.

Some might recognize the name. He’s the man that Electronic Arts (EA) turned to for their roleplaying game based on their popular console game ‘Dragon Age’.

The Fantasy AGE Rulebook has been designed as an entry point and a stepping stone to tabletop roleplaying (at least to me).

By using the Fantasy AGE Rulebook, you can be the hero in your own sword and sorcery adventure or campaign.

So, what’s the book like?

First of all, we have to talk about the size of the Rulebook. The Fantasy AGE Rulebook, is smaller than you might expect for a Roleplaying (RPG) Core Rulebook. At only 140 odd pages, it’s alot smaller than other RPG Core Rulebooks I’ve owned. This is great for new people coming to RPG’s, as you don’t feel that your drowning in rules.

Nine steps. It only takes nine steps to create a character. Believe me when I say it’s actually quite easy to create your Hero.

Three classes to choose from, a Warrior (your classic melee fighter), a Mage (your classic spell caster), and a Rogue (your classic thief like character).

What? Only three classes?, I hear you say. Do Not Be Fooled. The amount of customization in these rules for characters is amazing. I might be showing my age but I keep being reminded of the character options in Eldar Scrolls 3: Morrowind, it’s that customizable.

So, what does it play like?

Ok, so in the Fantasy AGE Rulebook you get your typical fantasy races to choose from. There’s Humans, Elf’s, Orc’s, Dwarfs, Halflings and Gnomes. Want a half- breed, no problem. You can have your typical half Human- half Elf character, hell, you can have a bearded female Dwarf- Orc if you want. All the races have their own innate abilities and a chart that you roll on for additional benefits.

You’ld pick a class (warrior, mage or rogue), and then you’ld start to customize your character thru abilities, talents, weapons and backgrounds.

During character creation for determining attributes you have 2 options. The first option is simply to roll dice for each attribute and then your able to swap around 2 of your rolls. The second option (and the one I prefer) is a point buy system, where you’ld have 10 points to put into any of your attributes (with a max of 3 points in any attribute).

Part of characater creation is ‘Backgrounds’. Backgrounds are a nice addition to character building. There’s 4 tiers of backgrounds (outsider, lower caste, middle caste and upper caste). Depending on your caste your background can range from a soldier, to an artist, to a trader, to an aristocrat. These backgrounds grant your character additional benefits from the likes of gambling, to drnking, to a lore bonus, to a batering bonus and so on.

The game uses 3 six sided dice (3D6) for dice rolls. Two of the dice would be the same colour, and the third would be a different colour (think 2 black dice and a red dice). The red dice would be your ‘Stunt’ dice. When you roll your 3D6 and get doubles on any of your dice, you have just got a ‘Stunt’. Think of ‘Stunts’ as Critical Hits that other game systems use. The number on your Red dice shows how many ‘Stunt’ points you have. You can spend your ‘Stunt’ points what ever way you want. There are 3 ‘Stunt’ tables to spend your points on, they are Combat, Magic and Roleplaying. For example, say during Combat you get 5 ‘Stunt’ points. You can use five 1 point ‘Stunts’, a 2 + a 3 point ‘Stunt’ or even a 5 point ‘Stunt’, it’s up to you how you spend your ‘Stunt’ points.

Another nice addition to the game is ‘Black Powder’ weapons. No more going around with bows and arrows, you can take guns instead. Black Powder weapons come in 2 types, Pistols and Rifles (or Long Arms, as they’re called in the book).

For you spell casters out there, they have a new take on Magic. A Mage has a starting ranged attack. At character creation you select 2 spells from 2 different magic arcana’s (so a Mage starting at level 1 will have a magic ranged attack and 4 spells at their disposal), there’s about a dozen different magic arcana’s to choose from. Spell casting is based on a magic/ mana pool (think spell casting from the Final Fantasy games).

The Rulebook offers a level guide for levels 1 to 20 for the 3 classes and specializations for the classes. It offers advice for players + GM’s, and a small adventure. You also get a small beastiary of adversaries to get you started.

Verdict

I have to say that I actually like the system. Although the Rulebook comes across as ‘basic’ in regards to content, there’s everything you need to play a game and that’s a strength to this system.

The ‘AGE‘ in Fantasy AGE stands for Adventure Game Engine and that’s exactly what it is, a highly versitile game engine. You can use Fantasy AGE to run adventures in a Fantasy setting of your choice or a world of your own creation.

The Fantasy Age Core Rulebook was the first book in the AGE line from Green Ronin Press. They have since released a number of PDF’s, available thru their website and Drivethru RPG, to expand their Beastiary and to offer idea’s for your own adventures or campaigns.

There has also been an expansion released that adds a new race, a Sci- Fi setting and a new adventure to the AGE system. You might have heard about it? It’s called Titansgrave: The Ashes of Valkana, it has something to do with Will Wheaton (Wesley Crusher from Star Trek: TNG, Thundercats Superfan, and one of the airplane passenger eaten in Sharknado 2) and Geek + Sundry 😛

We’ll talk about Titansgrave in a later post.

The AGE system is definitely one to keep an eye on, and even try out.

– from The Man Cave