Fresh off my trip to the Barrage gaming convention yesterday, I thought I would write up a brief after report of the game. I'll just lead in by saying that I thought the game went extremely well, and it was so much fun that I ended up only remembering to take 3 pictures, even though we played for about 3 hours.
There were a total of 6 players, my maximum, with three of the players being gamers that I already knew pretty well, Chris, Mark, and George. These three tend to be more inclined for historical miniature gaming, but they are also very adventurous fellows who will play and enjoy pretty much any genre of game. There were three new players to me, Benjamin, who clearly loves fantasy gaming, and Ellen and her husband whose name I can't remember now, but I believe it was Michael. These three all seemed to have fun as well as those three I knew already who knew what they were getting into with one of my games.
The players chose the following heroes: Knight (Chris), Elf Ranger (Mark), Human Wizard (Benjamin), Halfling Burglar (Ellen), Dwarf Engineer (Michael), and Human Warrior Priest (George). It was a nice mix of melee heroes, arcane heroes, specialists, and a ranged weapon hero (the elf obviously). As part of the game the heroes begin in the town where they can visit different locations that can provide them with help (if they have a good interaction roll!) on their upcoming quest. They all had very hot dice at this point and every single hero I believe had a successful visit. The Knight visited the college and the historians there informed him of the location of a hidden door, the Elf Ranger visited the Hirelings Guild where he pooled the party's remaining funds and purchased the services of a Sell Sword to give some more melee potential to the group, the Human Wizard visited the Wizards Guild and acquired a potion of strength that he immediately gave to the Knight. The Halfling Burglar visited the Thieves Guild who informed her of the location of a valuable hidden gem in the dungeon. The Dwarf Engineer went to the Tavern and overheard a rumor about a secret trail that would provide the party safe passage to the dungeon (so they can avoid any nasty surprises on the way!). And finally the Human Warrior Priest went to the Monastery where they granted him the use of a talisman that would provide the wearer a bonus to one attribute. Interestingly, I think George forgot about the talisman because it never came into play during the game.
At this point the heroes set out to the dungeon and, because of the information acquired by the Dwarf Engineer, were able to arrive without incident. The first picture below is of the early stages of the dungeon crawl part of the game. Everything is randomly generated (as the "guide" in the game, I don't even know what the dungeon is going to look like or what is in each of the locations). I actually allow the players to put the tiles down as they are revealed (through random card draws) and also put any objects in the room rather than doing it myself (sometimes I will place the objects but not always). In games that I design, I'm big into providing players with lots of decisions to make, and also increasing as much as possible their physical interaction with the game pieces (figures, dice, and in this case the dungeon environment tiles).
I was very pleased with several things during the game. At this point in play testing the rules, I am just making a semi-educated guess about difficulty. I want the game to be challenging without being too deadly (those of you who have played the old Warhammer Quest know what I'm talking about in terms of a game being too deadly). The way the dungeon layout works is that you take the number of players and multiply this number by 4 and this is how many cards make up the dungeon deck. So for this game there were 24 cards in the dungeon deck, which means possibly 24 different environments (hallways, turns, intersections, and rooms). Somehwere in the last few cards is the card for the "goal room." When the players uncover this room if they defeat the monsters in the goal room they have beaten the dungeon. So they know that they are going to have to explore a lot of the dungeon before getting to the goal room as it is always going to be one of the last few rooms in the dungeon. But they do not know exactly how many environments that is going to be, and no one, including me, knows what is going to be in those environments when the card is turned over.
For this game, by the time the players had made it to the goal room both the wizard and the priest were out of magical abilities, a couple of heroes had used at least one of their two hero cards, and two heroes were in danger of dying due to low hit points. So, that's pretty good, a sense of being able to lose the game I think was felt by all, but not to the point of creating a sense of hopelessness about winning, which is not what I'm after (thank you very much Warhammer Quest). I think I might be able to increase it to 5 cards per hero, which might put it up a little higher in difficulty. The party is allowed to make a camp once during a dungeon to recover some lost hit points and lost spell points, and this party did not make camp so that would suggest that it may have been a little too easy. They were getting ready to camp, but stumbled upon the goal room and had to fight it out with the monsters there before camping (you can't camp if there are monsters on the board). So increasing the difficulty just a little might be good, and increasing the cards from 4 to 5 per hero should do that. It means having to visit more locations before getting to the goal room and each location has the potential to have a monster, trap, or other nastiness that will cause the heroes to use hero cards, spells, blessings, and hit points. On the other hand, this particular group of players were very skilled and quite smart about this, so I'm not so sure that they are average in terms of how a typical group would play this game. For example, they really did very little splitting of the party, which is often death in a game like this. So 6 cards might be needed to raise the difficulty a little. But next time I play this, I'll try 5 cards and see what happens.
The funniest part of the game was the end. The entire party except for the Halfling Burglar stuck together and finally found the goal room. The Halfling Burglar wandered off to another part of the dungeon that hadn't been explored but contained a room that had three objects in it that had not been searched yet (each object can have a treasure). While the rest of the heroes battled a group of zombies (half of which were banished to an adjacent room by the Warrior Priest) and a carrion crawler (the boss monster for this dungeon) in the dungeon's goal room, the Halfling Burglar searched the three objects, finding treasure in two of them. There was also a door in the room that was locked. Being a Burglar, she picked the lock and opened the door ... revealing a large room with a chest in it (oh goody!) guarded by two very large bugbears (oh @#$%!). Being smart, she decided to run and, luckily for her, rolled a "6" on one of her movement dice. In the game when the Halfling Burglar does this the hero is considered to be moving "stealthily" and cannot be seen by monsters, and therefore cannot be targeted or even pursued. She was able to make her way back to the party safe and sound. Honestly, halflings move slow in this game and had she not made that roll of a "6" and become stealthy, the bugbears would have seen her and likely caught her eventually. She could not have stood up to a fight with them. Chris correctly pointed out how many times in a D&D game that the halfling thief of the party wanders off on his or her own and gets into trouble. Funny how that happened here too.
The heroes defeated the zombies and the carrion crawler, defeated the dungeon, and because they had the Elf Ranger in the party were able to find safe passage back to the town, so no nastiness occurred on their trip back to the town.
In terms of the reception of my little wooden fellows, I only received positive comments. I think especially because they are fantasy miniatures, there is less concern about the "realism" of them and this allows people to just appreciate them for what they are, not what they are not. I have run games at Barrage before with my historical ancients armies, and the nature of this particularly gaming club is very inclusive in every sense of the word, so although many of their members are historical miniature gamers, they always offer fantasy, sci-fi, and other "non-historical" games. So I also think that this crowd in general is already predisposed to be positive towards these wooden miniatures. Also, my historical ancients games that I ran at previous Barrage conventions had pictures that made it to the photos page that the convention organizers in the Hawks gaming club (the ones who put the convention on in the first place) put up as a post convention report in the past. So I'm guessing that pictures of my fantasy guys and game will also show up on their page whenever they get around to doing an after action report. I've included a link to the Barrage Convention page below so that you can see those pictures if and when they are posted:
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