Tag Archives: gaming

Against the Dark Lord (Always)

I’m back. Because I could not be silent. I know that I put the blog to bed a while ago but recent events have upset my ability to let it go…

On this blog, I have been a huge supporter of Adventurer Conqueror King System. It is an amazing game and incredibly well-written, designed, and implemented. Unfortunately, it is also in bed with the notorious internet troll and alt-right hack, Vox Day.

Without belaboring the point, here is the outline.

  • Autarch has a new kickstarter for two books for the ACKS line.
  • Autarch worked out an agreement with Vox Day to provide a “bonus” reward to Day if his followers took up the battle cry to include content, “for the Dark Lord.” This also might or might not include adding money to their pledge specifically for this bonus reward.
  • Vox Day advertised this by mentioning that one of the pieces of art he’d commission for his reward was, a picture of vile minions eating SJWs.
  • A few – and I admit it was only a few – of us who are fans of Autarch spoke up about our concerns about this.
  • We were very politely told that Vox is a big supporter and paid his money so that is it. The company (and owner)’s stance is strictly apolitical.

Before I go on, one thing is important to clear up… Alexander Macris, the man at the heart of Autarch… has always been excellent in my dealings with him. I worked the Autarch booth at GenCon last year because I believe in the product and wanted to be a part of sharing it with the world and gaming community at large. Alex has always been extremely straightforward and professional in our dealings and until this incident, I would not have believed that I would ever be speaking against Autarch. It’s a shame.

But life and business are not, in fact, apolitical. Providing Vox Day with a new soapbox is not a move I can support. He is abhorrent and espouses openly hurtful views under the guise of “rationality” and “standing up against the intolerant left.” His crusade – specifically against John Scalzi – borders on obsession. (Though even I must acknowledge that there is one area where Vox Day and I agree — Scalzi is a terrible writer.) Saying that you are being apolitical is a way to wash your hands of the other guy’s sins while still taking his money.

Alex and I then engaged in private communication. I will not delve too much into what he said as it was between us and not in a public forum, but there are two issues in his response which I feel compelled to take up.

First, Alex listed off to me a history of his business decisions which led him to his current stand on the issue of Vox Day. I understand the list he provided and the decisions he discussed. I appreciate him taking the time to provide such a personal response. That said, there is a fundamental difference and misunderstanding between many of his previous decisions and this current one. In almost every previous case, his decisions involved parties that were doing no harm and were simply, “objectionable” to one group or another. There is a fundamental difference between that and the active anger, disdain, and hatred propagated through Vox Day’s community and his own writing. Day has taken an active stand to be a troll and an extremist. He does harm by his actions. Alex said that the protest is about “who Day is, not what is in the book.” That is a fair point. But unfortunately, you can claim to be apolitical but you cannot claim that working with Day is the same as previously employing someone that others claim to be objectionable when they are harming none. That is a false equivalence.

Second, just briefly, I am going to quote one very small part of Alex’s letter to me. It is in the interest of speaking to it directly.

private economic boycotts over differences of identity and politics are harmful to civil society...  I know that many disagree with me, and believe it is better to cause those who espouse unpopular views to suffer for them because they deserve it.

This is important. I do not believe that it is better to cause those who espouse unpopular views to suffer. No one deserves to suffer. What I do believe is that my private boycott of a product (also, not so private as I voiced my concerns in the Autarch forum before writing to Alex privately) is about not being willing to associate myself with the objectionable person or content specifically because of their actions. I don’t care about someone’s identity or politics in the abstract. I care about how they manifest those actions in the world. Vox Day is an internet troll who actively chooses to take a harmful road with his words and actions. His site and writing are not merely “words” they are calls to action. To say that you are apolitical but still associate with him because he has money and has said nice things about your work is not apolitical – it is willfully choosing to endorse, tacitly or not – the messages that he spreads.

Again – Alex Macris has always, always been excellent to me and I have a great respect for his hard work and the product he has created. Autarch’s ACKS is, really, the best D&D style game I have ever played and I’d rank it one of the best games in the market. And again, to be fair, Alex has repeatedly stated that he is in final control of the content and will be certain that it is appropriate to the tone and mechanics of ACKS. I believe him completely when he says that.

But the fundamental disagreement here is not about politics or identity. It’s not about whether Vox Day is a “good person” or not. I frankly don’t care. I’m not always a good person. The issue is that Vox Day actively creates a hostile atmosphere in our community and acts to sow discord, disdain, and spite while frequently patting himself on the back for same. And that is not something that I can associate myself with. If you have reservations, I hope you will express them as well.


The Not-So-Scary Carnival

Carnivals are terrifying, right? Something Wicked This Way Comes, is all about the dark things that carnivals bring to our towns… There are many adventures and sourcebooks for RPGs centered around the dark traveling carnival. Heck, the mighty Inquisitor Eisenhorn even faces one in a story set in the Warhammer 40K universe.

But what if the Carnival wasn’t so scary? Well, that is to say, what if, when you pull back the curtain, instead of being an even more twisted representation – it was something else? What if, when the layers of illusion are stripped away, you find a bunch of seemingly normal folk dealing with all the troubles of being itinerant entertainers in a dangerous world?

Continue reading →

A Quick Review of the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide

I am not the biggest fan of the Forgotten Realms and effectively ignored whatever was happening in the setting throughout 3rd edition and 4th edition. This book also snuck up on me because it was out before I’d even really read much about it or realized it was on the way. I didn’t even know that Green Ronin had a hand in developing it. But I’m a big fan of 5th Edition D&D and I gladly picked this book up despite the mixed reviews I’d been seeing for it. So here’ my attempt to add a positive review, with a few minor gripes.

Setting Material
As someone who hasn’t read FR fluff since the 1990’s, this was actually pretty fun to read. It was just enough information about the area and its changes to make me feel comfortable in the Princes of the Apocalypse game I’m currently playing in by introducing me to the Realms, 2015-style. I can’t say much more than that as I am not a Forgotten Realms expert. I found the writing to be decent, enjoyable, and concise enough that I didn’t get bored.

One gripe. The maps are terrible. My biggest pet peeve, something that drives me crazy in many fantasy supplements… why would you ever take the time to produce attractive and professional maps of your setting and then not add a distance scale? There is no excuse for this. How far is it from adventure site A to town B? I have no idea! Useful.

Mechanical Material
I am a big fan of the design and layout of the 5th edition rule books. The hardcover adventures are not well organized at all but the rule books are nicely done. This book does not continue that layout tradition quite as well as the core rulebooks, but it’s alright. I struggled with identifying different headers and the breaks in sections sometimes in a meaningful way, but not so much as to make the book a struggle to read.

Overall, I found the class material offered (and the fact that they didn’t feel compelled to offer new shinies to every class just because) to be well balanced and interesting. There are quite a few new class options – mainly centered around the idea of the Archetypes classes separate into at early levels. The new Arcana domain for clerics is just plain neat. The new monk options are cool, and the FR-specific content is handled very well because it is written with the idea in mind that players and DMs may want to use this mechanical material in their own home games, not just the Forgotten Realms. This is much appreciated and doesn’t really cost much word count.

The section of new backgrounds was very fun reading, I’ve wanted a few more options over what the PHB has to offer and these are all interesting and adaptable. The new spells on offer are welcome, though the lack of new cleric spells of any sort continues to be frustrating.

Nothing in this book seems likely to break a game, requiring using any options you aren’t comfortable with (feats, for example), and provides new PC options while not changing any fundamental tenants of 5E design.

I know this is a mighty short review, but overall, I’d give the SCAG a solid B+. This would have been an A if the maps had distances on them… at all.

Car Wars: the Card Game, A Quick Review

I’ve always been a periphery kind of Car Wars guy. I like the game, have the old Deluxe Box Set, and spent many hours pouring through Uncle Al’s catalogs. But I was never really a hardcore player and it was a game that dropped off my radar over the years. So when I saw the card game advertised, I was surprised to find out it was a third edition of a game that had previously been released in 1991 and 2001. My experience is only with the current version of the game, so I’m not sure how it stacks up or doesn’t with previous iterations…

First Impressions
Even if I didn’t know that Car Wars was a Steve Jackson Games property, I could probably have guessed it from the production values of the game. Steve Jackson stuff has a quality to it that really is unique. This is neither a good or bad thing, just an observation. The game doesn’t have the ultra-slick components of a Fantasy Flight game but everything is well-made, attractive, a little bit retro in style, and inviting in a kitschy sort of way. On a more personal note Creede and Sharleen Lambard wrote my favorite adventure of all time making this an easier purchase for me seeing their names on the box.

3rd Edition (2015)

Basically, all the things I think of when I think of SJG and Car Wars were front and center when I opened the box, so that’s a good thing. Regarding the “ultra-slick” components bit… I was also happy to see that the game consisted of cards and cars. No crazy bits for the sake of crazy bits. Simple straightforward rules. We were ready to go in five minutes. Perfect.

Awesome Stuff
Players get a car and a hand of cards. There is some drawing and then you attack. Then play proceeds to the left. You fight until only one car is left in the arena and then you play another round until one person wins by accumulating enough victory points.

It doesn’t get much more straightforward than that. It’s a game about shooting other cars with flamethrowers and autocannons. It has a good ratio of attack to defense with the randomness of drawing cards making for the possibility that some rounds are very offense heavy, some are defense heavy, and some are balanced out. This is definitely a plus.

If you don’t attack on your turn or play some kind of special card, you must discard at least one card which I think is a great mechanic because it forces the deck to keep churning and represents that “missed opportunity” for taking a shot or defending yourself and helps thematically with making the game feel like cars moving around the arena instead of just four people playing cards.

The game can get tense. Once your armor is breached, every turn is a moment of holding your breath to see if you’ll skate through another round or if it’s time to bail out. This is a byproduct of that relentless hand churn and even more relentless attacking that happens each turn. And the more players you have (the game takes up to 6) the more brutal it can get.

Overall, I love the flow of the game and how fast and loose it plays. The special cards have some slightly complicated interactions but nothing that disrupts play or overly confuses people. Looking back, I can see one place where I think we were playing something wrong but it’s an easy fix.

The Not So Awesome
A simple, straightforward card game about cars killing cars is hard to find fault with. But there is one thing that detracts from the experience a little. Because the game is played over multiple rounds, with players attempting to be the first to accumulate 60 Victory Points, there can be significant down time for players who are eliminated early in a duel. In our four player games, we often had at least one car eliminated quickly and usually, the last two cars would play cat and mouse for a long time before one could finish the other off. This left two players – at one point – with about 15 minutes of downtime while the remaining two cars attempted to end the round. This isn’t always the case but it can happen. It happened often enough for our group that it was noticeable.

A little lag is not a bad thing when players can sit at the table, watch the rest of the duel play out and enjoy the back-and-forth of the remaining cars but when it drags on for too long, players can lose interest and focus.

I really enjoy this game. Fast playing, hits good Car Wars notes, is exactly as complicated as it needs to be and no more, and it has a strong thematic feel during play. I can’t really ask for much more. During play we laughed, we groaned, we got excited, and we got crushed. Overall, I recommend giving this a try and just really letting yourself get into a car-killing mood. Just don’t let your opponents kill you too fast.

Thanks for reading.

RPGaDay 2015: Day 26

August 26th.

Favorite Inspiration for Your Games

First, it is hard to believe this is almost over. I’m going to have to find things to blog about on my own again! Well, I have a few saved up from my experiences lately with ACKS, D&D Attack Wing, and just some general thoughts I’m kicking around.

But hey, favorite inspirations? Well, this is actually going to be a pretty boring answer, but my primary inspiration over the years has been the books I read. Particularly fantasy books, but it can be anything.

I find that I’m not really a visual thinker/person so movies do less for me and I’m not much into art on the whole. Spectacle is lost on me. But books stay with me, influence my thinking for a long time after I’ve finished them.

Who do I go back to for inspiration? I’ve mentioned many names before but Peter S. Beagle, David Eddings, and Guy Gavriel Kay are big sources of inspiration for me. As is Tamora Pierce. The last three pretty much shaped how the gods behave in all my games. Amber, both the novels and the game book have been intensely inspiring over the years. James Blaylock’s Elfin Ship and Disappearing Dwarf are two of my all-time favorite “go back to” reads and may do more to refresh me than they do to inspire me but it’s a thin line. Tolkien, for the always surprising deftness of his touch and to remind me that small details matter.

I also tend to draw quite a bit of inspiration just from reviewing the “GM Guides” from different games. I find that reading the thoughts of designers on how they expect or hope that GMs will approach their games is fascinating and will often trigger an idea or shake loose something that has been bugging me. The Book of Mirrors: Mage Storytellers Handbook (for the original Mage game) is still a source of inspiration to me today and I love revisiting it like an old friend.

So, not sure if I have a favorite source of inspiration (okay, I do, it’s The Last Unicorn) but I hope this list was interesting to someone out there.

Thanks for reading. Seeing the end of the tunnel now.

RPGaDay 2015: Day 25

August 25th.

Favorite Revolutionary RPG Mechanic

What is revolutionary? I’m not asking to be difficult. It’s more a reaction to the idea that RPGs were “one thing” because D&D was the first and that somehow the creations of other RPGs in the early design space were innovations. It’s also a question about whether modern design is innovation/revolution as opposed to a continued tinkering with the form which suits certain niches of the larger hobby community. Most new games don’t “change gaming forever” they simply offer another choice in a very large field of choices.

Was AD&D revolutionary for all the changes it made to D&D? Was class/level revolutionary or Class as a separate characteristic from Race on the character sheet? I could find myself making the argument that class and level are one of the single most revolutionary aspects of gaming mechanics as they are fundamental to the some of the most popularly played games today just as they were originally.

How then to compare the innovation of a point-buy system for creating characters over the random rolling of dice to generate attributes? This certainly opened up whole new avenues of gaming and was exactly what a portion of the population was looking for in their experience of the hobby.

Even more interesting to me is the transition from systems built around the d20 and 3d6 dice rolls to systems using Dice Pools (check out Casting Shadows for a take on the dice pool as a favorite revolutionary RPG mechanic). Dice pools using d6s or d10s certainly changed things for a lot of gamers. Then, of course, you have the oddly self-congratulatory d20 system, which effectively refines the original D&D blueprint by emphasizing the d20’s role even more, and somehow ushered in an entire era of gaming in the early 2000s. (I recognize that the mechanic of the d20 was less important than the OGL but many games are still building on this d20 system foundation laid by 3rd edition D&D such as Mutants and Masterminds and Pathfinder).

Hit Points – much maligned, still used – are a heck of an innovation. They effectively deal with a means for tracking the ability of your character to keep pushing forward and emulate the heroic aspect of many mythical heroes in that they rarely suffer debilitating injuries (except when it serves the purposes of the narrative, something the emergent, player/DM controlled D&D steers away from). And even games which do not use hit points often use “hit points in disguise” and simply change the names and ranges of injury or split them into two (or more) pools of points for varying attempts to simulate other things. In the d20 arena, you can look at the Wounds/Vitality split of Star Wars d20, but it’s just as instructive to look at the Health Levels of the World of Darkness (along with Willpower), and the Health/Fatigue split of a game like GURPS. Sanity in Call of Cthulhu is just a special kind of hit points to emulate a special kind of damage your character takes. And Hit Points are a staple of the video game RPG industry even if the way they are tracked is “hidden” from the player in some games. Heck, the fighting game industry puts a health bar above your head, so it’s not just RPGs.

Compare this to the consequence-laden systems of some more modern games (such as FATE) which provide a much narrower window of functional character play and then broaden it by virtue of stacking modifiers on your character. This is certainly an innovative and clever answer to the problem of wanting a very different experience from Hit Points. I’m certainly a fan of the concept if not a fan of the execution… every time I try FATE I just end up disappointed. Obviously, this is not the typical fan experience as it is a very successful and well-loved game. I really want to try Fate Accelerated Edition (FAE) to see if my experience is any different.

This, of course, leads me to the “Story Game” revolution. So far, my experience with Story Games has been surprisingly flat. I read some of them and think they are brilliant (I have a serious unrequited love of Polaris. I need to play this game. I don’t want to run this game, I want to play it. It’s so beautiful). Unfortunately, I often find the end result of Story Games to feel more like they are trying to legislate game play to protect players from “naughty GMs” than to provide a better method for sitting at a table with your friends and playing a game that just so happens to also involve creating a cooperative story. Is this a fair review of story games? Probably not in all cases but it certainly is the impression I glean from many of the more popular ones I have encountered. My attitude about this has been evolving though, as some clever games have interpreted the GM-space in interesting ways (e.g., Lead Narrator in Cosmic Patrol) and I do love the shared power of narrative at the game table. I just find many attempts to legislate it to be bureaucratic and cold.

It occurs to me that I have strayed from my first endeavors point without talking about the dice. I have limited experience with early wargaming outside of playing a few Avalon Hill WWII games with my father (still a big fan of Afrika Korps) but the jump from wargaming to adding fantasy elements to “let’s use all these funky dice” seems to be a pretty revolutionary change. More than anything, I think that these wacky dice (see Dungeon Crawl Classics for a modern day revival of the funky dice debate) really could argue for being the most important revolution of the RPG hobby. It’s a hard one to argue with in my mind, especially considering how companies now are attempting to merge story gaming and heavy dice-pooling with games using “Narrative Dice” like Fantasy Flight’s Warhammer Fantasy and Star Wars lines, where the dice don’t even have numbers. Instead they bear icons which trigger specific outcomes in combination with a pile of charts. As an aside, I like the Fantasy Flight Star Wars games but I find the option paralysis and game churning slowness of interpreting dice pools, especially as characters gain more abilities to be a big drawback and it makes it difficult for me to get excited about the game.

There have been numerous attempts to get away from the tyranny of randomness in gaming from the beginning. Re-rolls, modifier points, using playing cards, etc. And as far as the eye can see, people are still coming up with new ways to play around with dice or with an alternative to dice. It’s pretty cool.

But as anyone who knows me will tell you, my favorite revolutionary game mechanic is one that is so rarely implemented well but so brilliant, so exciting, that I keep seeking the holy grail of capturing that magic… and that would be diceless play. I love reading diceless game systems. I love examining how they attempt to maneuver around the randomness space and the GM whim space. I love seeing how they handle combat. Diceless games are still rare beasts, and the pool that I consider “playable” rarer still. Diceless games, specifically those without a randomizing element at all, are like the Questing Beast for me. Playing without dice, without randomization, with only imagination, shared storytelling, and a thin veneer of well-written rules, is still my favorite way to play and the revolutionary idea that most captures my imagination.

Thanks for reading. This one was really fun to write.

Adventurer Conqueror King System is a Domain of Madness

So, first, a few disclaimers:

  1. I love ACKS. I’ve played every edition of D&D, AD&D, and D&D again along with Pathfinder, Castles and Crusades, and Dungeon Crawl Classics and nothing comes close to how much I enjoy ACKS. I’ve written about this before when I started my first ACKS campaign and I have to say that the Autarch team has built one heck of a game on the old school base.
  2. I’m not a math-oriented person. I mean, I’m not one of those people who can’t make change in my head or needs a calculator to do division… but I don’t “think in numbers” the way some people can.

Those two disclaimers were important because I want to follow them up by saying that for me, I find the domain creation system in ACKS (touted by many as its greatest strength/innovation) to be a nearly unworkable mess as written. It is clearly working for some players, so I’m happy to admit it might just be me, but as I embark on my second ACKS campaign, I am once again confronted by the fact that I can’t make heads or tails of how the domain system is supposed to work. The fundamental math is very confusing to me and the book provides scant and contradictory examples of the different parts leading to even more confusion.

I’m going to try and outline my issues and then we’ll see if anyone out there can help me tumble my way through them…

Continue reading →

D&D Attack Wing – Tournament Three (something about poisoning a well?)

The local comic shop (The Secret Lair) held the Month Three Organized Play event for D&D Attack Wing this past weekend. It was a decent turnout and everyone seemed to have a good time. I’m reminded at each of these events that no matter how often we play, there are still rules questions which come up infrequently enough that we should all consider ourselves, “still learning the game.”

That said, I feel like, as players, we are reaching the point where we have developed some tendencies, and we generally know what we like. I, for one, enjoy playing the good guys and I’ve recently been running a team with Nymmestra and two Angelic Paladins which I very much enjoy. The team has also proven surprisingly competent.

So for the tournament, I decided that I’d play a variation, using Nymmestra and Sarpiel – with each coming in at exactly 45 points, and then I’d just take whatever popped out of my booster. I pulled Dragonfly the Gray – the elf druid.

[As a brief aside here… I was deeply disappointed at pulling Dragonfly. Not only is his generic version one of the most worthless in the game – which limits his usefulness outside of the tournament scene – but in my consideration of using him, I’d never really found a reason to think he was worth much. Sure Control Weather is decent but most of my armies fly anyway. Call Lightning is an okay direct damage spell, but all in all, I just don’t like him. To end this aside, I’m just going to apologize to Mr. the Gray. He was a solid member of the team and did a great job. I will no longer malign the Druid (at least the named version).]

The day was a lot of fun. In both Round One and Round Two I squared off against generic versions of the Red Dracolich. I expected him to see play at the tournament, he’s a great looking figure, powerful, and I know several players who have just been waiting with baited breath for his arrival in the game.

My first round paired the Dracolich with a Jarl Horn, who (and his little brother the Frost Giant Fighter) is still a very popular character for play at my local venue. This was the only round where the druid died, getting sandwiched between Jarl Horn and the Dracolich one fateful turn. It was a rough round, exchanging heavy blows, but I pulled out a narrow win.


The second round, a Dracolich, and Malebolge, the deadly gargoyle. He had pulled Rath Modar for his booster figure – which scared me a little – but I knew I had a wizard too, so I felt good. The limited mobility of the Dracolich really worked against it in this game and I was able to position better – primarily due to my characters just having stronger maneuver dials. It was a good fight, but with one battle behind me and a good sense of what I could do, I was able to win this one and take full points.

My final opponent of the day was my wife, Jenny. Now, if you recall my last tournament report, I played Jenny in the first round and she stomped me. This time, I played her in the last round… and she stomped me anyway. She was playing a variation on her team from the previous month, bringing Claugyiliamatar, a generic Ballista, and Talon Everhale. She pulled Rezmir as her booster figure and used her primarily to gather antidote tokens. Which was fine as her remaining force was more than capable of stomping my angel and wizard into the ground.

A few observations from the day…

I really enjoy the Angel. I’m looking forward to the Solar joining the fray in a few months because I’m a big fan of the Angelic Host. Both Sarpiel and his Angelic Paladin generic have been excellent team players for me and I have had such success and fun with them that the challenge now is remembering to play other teams.

Nymmestra remains the star of spell casting glory. While Rath Modar is a great addition to the game, I feel we are overdue for another full caster with a variety of interesting options. I would also like to see a spell enter the game that makes Disintegrate not the automatic go-to choice for Nymmestra. I like Ice Storm and Phantasmal Killer but nothing compares to that six dice attack that penetrates armor for raw effectiveness.

The other armies at the game today included a Balagos sighting, an Elf Troop (right?), another Nymmestra, and no Ontharr Frume (no one pulled one). Though several of us own Arveiaturace, we all tend to shy away from using her (at least the named version) so you probably won’t see her pop up in my play reports too often.

If I have any gripe about the Organized Play so far it is this. The two scenarios, while interesting on paper, were not very well realized on the table. The Month Two game was decent and a few players made attempts to get out of the Vault with the Compass. The Month Three game though was overly complex and basically lent itself to, “eh, let’s just fight it out.” I think only one game in three rounds had anyone competing to poison/cure. I have not yet read the upcoming scenarios but I hope they add more to the game play.

Overall, I am still finding a great deal of enjoyment in this game. With five waves of figures and multiple organized play prizes all in circulation, I was worried that I’d reach a point where I felt the metagame start to bog down, but as of now I still find the balancing and range of effective possibilities inherent in the 120 Legion Point standard game to be exceptional. There are a few glitches (high armor is over-valued considering the myriad means to penetrate it, for example) but this game is solid. D&D Attack Wing continues to draw favorable comparisons to Battletech in my mind and I find that I’m continually excited to play as well as at the prospect of “what comes next.”

Hope you all are having fun and that your skies are full of dragons!

D&D Attack Wing: Unique vs. Generic Creatures

One of the more interesting aspects of the D&D Attack Wing game is the difference between the Unique and the Generic versions of the available figures. In my opinion, it was a very smart strategy with the game, as it encourages purchasing multiples of certain figures and it provides multiple play options right out of the box. I’m not really sure what the official name for these generic versions is (calling them generic seems to imply they are somehow boring options) but it fits and is less awkward than calling the versions Named and Unnamed (which makes them sound like Cthulhoid monstrosities – and we don’t have the mind flayer in the game yet). So I’ll be sticking with Unique and Generic as I discuss the game.

This is to be the first in a series of posts discussing the generic creature options in DDAW. I want to explore their differences from their Unique counterparts, but really, more importantly, I want to discuss how I see them fitting into the scheme of the game overall and where some strong options exist for the generic figures which might help flesh out a team. Before discussing specific creatures though, I thought it might be useful to just look at the state of the generic options as a whole – and maybe by category. I’m feeling my way through this as I go, in a game that is still evolving, so I’ll do my best to make it coherent. I encourage other players out there to chime in and let me know your experience with the generic versions of the figures and how they’ve played out for you.

General Notes
The generic creatures are always weaker than their unique counterparts. This usually shows up in four forms.
1. They lack the special power of the Unique Creature. Balagos, for example, gets an attack bonus when he is more wounded than his target. The Adult Red Dragon does not.
2. They have weaker stat lines. This can vary quite a bit, with some generic creatures very similar to their unique versions and some losing a little more of their punch.
3. They have fewer upgrade slots. The impact of this also varies. Some creatures, such as dragons, lose all options except Dragon slots as generics. Other creatures simply have less of the only type of slot they’d possess anyway (usually the case with Monster slots).
4. They are of lower level. Again, the range of difference varies. With some creatures the change can almost seem negligible when considering how play might go on the table.

While these changes are important, don’t forget that some aspects of the two versions of a creature stay the same.
1. Their type remains the same – so they are eligible for the same types of upgrades as before (though again, their options may be constricted).
2. They also – at least so far – maintain the same important designations such as “Shadow” and “Incorporeal” as their base creatures. These are usually fundamental to the type of creature it is so that certainly helps.
3. The most obvious similarity, of course, is that they share the same maneuver dial. This means that the transition from playing a unique to a generic version of the same creature still allows for the same understanding of positioning you have with the unique, so you don’t have to retrain your brain for each version.
4. A specific benefit of the generic version of creatures not related to their unique versions… You can play multiple of the same generic figure. This should not be underestimated for utility.

My plan is to go from here and explore the various generic versions of the creatures in the game but I’m still struggling with the best way to do that. When I consider them in my own head, I am constantly weighing them against other options, Unique and Generic, and thinking of them as creatures in their own right as opposed to the lesser version of a Unique. This makes it somewhat harder to review them in isolation. So I’ll probably try a middle road, if I can. For my first follow up to this, I’ll explore the generic options in the Starter set and then move out from there.

If any readers are into D&D Attack Wing, I’d love to hear about your experiences with the Generic options so far.

Thanks for reading.

D&D Attack Wing: OP2 Tournament

Played in the OP2 event for D&D Attack Wing this past weekend. (Then got sick which delayed this post.) My original plan – and the team I had playtested – was Lord Maximilian and a Cave Wyvern. I was going for a Witch King and his Fell Beast kind of thing. At the last minute, I bailed on it as too finesse and fiddly and went with something a little more beatstick with Balagos and Jarl Horn. They are both tough, have high damage potential, and can attack well close or at range. When I pulled Rezmir for my booster mini, this seemed like a very good choice.

Choosing my upgrades for Rezmir, I gave her Hazirawn and Hellish Rebuke. 4 Damage in melee and a reaction-style attack are great, but I came to realize that the heavy requirements to get Hellish Rebuke to actually hit made it a less desirable choice than it seems at first. I never actually used it throughout three rounds of play and would have benefited more from the breath weapon option. Here’s a little insight into how my day went down.

Round 1
In the first round, I was paired off against my wife. I have fought her team before, as we playtested teams for the tournament. My wife’s style is pretty straightforward. She likes strong base creatures who don’t need to juggle a lot of upgrades. She was also trying a strategy for this tournament of trying to get four creatures on the battlefield instead of just three (which would seem to be the norm). Thus, she was running Claugiyliamatar, a Frost Giant Fighter, Dwarven Ballista, and pulled Talon Everhale for her booster.

I would like to give a clear accounting of the battle but it’s difficult as it was such a blur. The round was started and we were off. After a little first turn positioning, we charged in for the second turn pass of death. She weathered that much better than I did. I was completely wiped by the fourth or fifth turn of play. My only consolation – minor as it was – is that I didn’t give her a chance to escape with the artifact because I was so incompetent that I was defeated before anyone even grabbed it.

My analysis of the game doesn’t really lead me to much insight. She positioned better than I did initially, and through the first two turns and for the most part, the rolls went her way. Don’t take that as an excuse though… She mopped the floor with me.

I had two issues in this first game. The biggest was switching teams at the last minute. That was a mistake. I should have stuck with the team I already knew better and felt more comfortable with. The second was the fact that I chose poorly for Rezmir. The beating I took in the first round helped me clarify my issues and do better in the second round.

Round 2
In the second round, my opponent brought a Blue Dragon (generic), a Frost Giant Fighter, and a Dwarven Ballista. He pulled Dragonfly the Grey as his booster. Staring across the table, I had a sinking feeling as I’d pretty much just faced the exact same team.

He set his team up with the Blue Dragon and the Frost Giant to one side and the Ballista and Druid to the other. This game was an oddity because we moved toward the middle quickly and after Dragonfly set off Control Weather, my Balagos trundled forward on the ground for a couple of turns. In a bit of luck, my opponent’s Blue Dragon was in the zone as well and ended up getting grounded right in front of my Jarl Horn. This was perfect as I was able to use Poison Blade to good effect, all but killing the Blue. Balagos took a hit from the Call Lightning that followed up the Control Weather. In true Balagos fashion though, he embraced the pain and then went on a killing spree, taking out the Ballista and the Druid in short order. The next few turns saw a few exchanges between the Blue Dragon, Balagos, and the two Frost Giants, but in the end, my team just had more power on its side with the loss of his other two pieces so early.

This was the only fight of the day where Rezmir actually scored any damage, making two attacks against the wounded blue dragon with Hazirawn. These were largely ineffective and left me further disappointed in the out-of-the-box Rezmir.

Round 3
My opponent this round was running Galadaeros, a Blue Dragon, and also pulled Rezmir as his booster figure. I was interested to see if he did more with his Rezmir than I did as they would at least be able to face off against each other. I’ve also played against him before and I know that he’s very capable with his Galadaeros. He’s the only person I’ve really seen so far who has had much luck with the little guy. But this player knows how to use him well.

We started out in typical fashion, maneuvering for that second turn clash, with Balagos facing off against the Blue and Jarl Horn facing Galadaeros. Both Rezmirs set up to make a run at the treasure. As we closed, the Blue took a good hit from Balagos, Galadaeros outmaneuvered the Jarl, and his Rezmir was better maneuvered than mine. His Rezmir had the advantage, able to take advantage of a third turn where mine was exhausted and she cut mine apart. It was the best showing I’d seen from Rezmir… and of course, it was at the expense of mine. My opponent this round is very good at maneuvering.

Which led to much surprise a few turns later when Galadaeros smashed into the wall of the Vault and was forced to land. This gave Balagos a clean shot with a breath weapon… which promptly did 1 damage. Oh, dice. Jarl Horn was there to bat clean up though and managed to drop the copper dragon a few turns later. It was a game that was more of a bloodbath than I expected it to be. I’m used to fights against this opponent – and Galadaeros – to be lots of acrobatic maneuvers and careful positioning but this one time, Balagos and Jarl Horn seemed able to force the issue and outmuscle the other team.

Overall Observations on the Day
There were a lot of generic blue dragons at the event. Out of 8 teams, 3 had a generic blue on the field. One army had it paired up with Sarpiel and they seemed to do well together. My own feeling is that the generic Blue Dragon is one of the best non-unique options in the game – something I want to address in a later blog post.) Two people brought Galadaeros, with one player trying to up the damage potential of the littlest dragon by giving him the Human Paladin upgrade from the Silver Dragon set. Only one Wyvern made an appearance, and was overall disappointing. No Lord Maximilian sightings (thanks to me), and very little in the way of spellcasters.

The addition of the booster figures was a great experiment and I really enjoyed playing against unknown enemies. These pieces are pretty good right out of the box but I have a feeling they will be amazing when they can mix and match freely with upgrades from other expansions. I’ve already fought against a flying, Soaring Assault-ing Rezmir in a game I played after the tournament and she was terrifying. Six dice melee attacks on flying charges. Ugh.

As this was my first chance to play and watch games against opponents I don’t normally play, my initial impressions hold true. Dice can be swingy but rarely decide the battle (it happens, but not as often as we like to believe). Positioning is vital and a mistake in positioning can doom a creature before it ever gets to do anything productive (this has happened to me a few times).

At the end of the day, my wife came in second, I came in fourth, and a lot of fun was had by all. For the core group I play with, I think we are still evolving our strategies and figuring out what works for us. This was only our second OP event and for some, their first. It was also a day when I think people experimented with figuring out how they might take the treasure – and a few people got it out – which was a pretty cool result. Having a scenario definitely changed the play experience.

I also walked away still believing in the strong balance of the game. Sure, there are better and worse options. Even so, it still feels like most pieces have a strong shot in any game. I think the original White Dragon OP prize is broken good, I think the Wyvern may be underpowered, and I think that everything in between is a matter of taste and finding your play style.

So that was my big day of D&D Attack Wing. Have fun, keep playing, and if anyone wants to tell me how their Month Two events went, I’m all ears!

As always, thanks for reading.