Friday, 28 October 2016

Playing 'Fury of Dracula'

I'm slowly making some progress on my current projects, but it's all desperately slow. On the other hand, in the meantime I'm managing to have a decent gaming rate! Well, at least higher than usual. My latest experience has been the Fury of Dracula boardgame, which has proved quite a pleasant surprise. I guess this is the closest I can get for the incoming Halloween...

Don't judge a game by its cover. Seriously
This is the third edition of the game. I honestly didn't know of the previous two, so I came with no expectations. OK, first of all, the minis. My pal (the owner of the game and regular gameboard adversary), knowing of my usual rantings about playing with unpainted pieces of plastic, acted in a gentlemany way and provided me the minis in advance so I could have them painted for the game. Ahhh, much better...

20mm bendy plastic
From left to right, Abraham Van Helsing, Mina Harker, Count Dracula, Lord Godalming and John Seward. They of course aren't wargame quality standard, but more than pretty decent for this kind of board game. Easy to paint with no fuss to be made. OK, now we're good, we have met some minimum requirements. Now we can play.

Let's start with the basics. One player plays Dracula, trying to spread terror all over old Europe while avoiding to get caught. The daring hunters (up to four players) will have to follow his track and discover where the vampire hides, in order to fight and defeat him for good. This is the display:

Beers and stuff not included
We were two hunter players, so we had two characters each. Dracula starts the game on an unknown location. Each turn the characters will be able to perform different actions, like moving from a town to another by road, purchasing a train ticket, travelling by train if they have such ticket (covering larger distances), resting to recover harm points, supplying or searching for useful hints of the vampire's whereabouts.
The turn is divided into day and night shift. During the night the hunters cannot travel (for the night is dark and full of terrors). So we start monday morning and will conduct the hunt during the whole week. Time runs and it's for Dracula's profit. His goal will be spreading terror and avoiding the hunters. He can get 'influence points' by the Encounter cards (we'll get to that later) or defeating the hunters... if they ever get to catch him!

Each hunter starts in a different city. Dracula is hidden
Each turn Dracula moves. He places a card of the town in which he is and then an Encounter card on top of that. The town cards will be displaced accordingly through the trail as he moves.

Mistery!
The hunters of course don't know where Dracula is. But if any of them ends their turn in a town in which Dracula has been (of course, if the town card is in the trail), the vampire player will have to reveal it. From that, the hunters would have to wonder where can he be now ('He was there three turns ago, so now he can be here, there or there...' That kind of stuff). So this is some kind of elaborate cat and mouse game. Only that the mouse is an evil being from beyond the grave that can end your life and eventually turn you into the unlife of vampires. You know.

John Seward travels to Spain, mina Harker takes a ship to Britain, Van Helsing wanders through central Europe and Arthur Holmwood tries it in the vicinity of Castle Dracula
At the beginning they find nothing. No tracks of the vampire. Mina gets delayed as misterious winds refrain the ship for arriving to Scotland. The others don't have much better luck on their routes through Europe. But on Wednesday, John Seward finds something! Count Dracula begun his misdeeds in Alicante, in the Spanish Mediterranean coast!

Seriously, Dracula? Spain? Haven't you heard about the garlic and the sun?
The strategy becomes clear. Everyone must travel as fast as they can and entrap the vampire. As that was two days ago, he cannot be beyond southern France. The hunters must block all the ways!

Bottleneck!
In fact, Dr. Seward has an unpleasant encounter at Toulouse:

Boo
Finally! A combat! Combats are resolved by using cards. Each hunter has three actions (punch, dodge, escape) and any weapons he is equipped with (if the hunter has performed a supply action and succeeded).

'Punch', 'Dodge', 'Escape' and 'Rifle' in Spanish. Yup, we fought in Spanish. You should try it one day
Anyway, instead of fighting, Seward uses a special card he got when supplying.

Instead of solving the combat, the vampire gets 5 damage points. So does the hunter
Dracula escapes as mist! Wooosh!
The hunters win if they inflict the vampire 15 damage points. Dr. Seward is injured, but he can recover faster than the other huntes (as per his own special rules), so in the end it was worth of it.

Now all the roads are blocked. We know Dracula is entrapped with the garlic
Oh but he sails!
You see, the sea card is different. We know that Dracula has slipped into a ship in a port town. We get to assume that he went to Barcelona and now he is somewhere in the Mediterranean. From that he can get to a number of ports, or keep travelling to another sea area. Anyway, each turn he spends at sea, he will suffer additional damage.
In the meantime, a week comes to an end. Monday again. A Despair token is placed:

If three tokens are placed, the Fury of Dracula will be unleashed. Bad shit, you know. Besides, Dracula's 'influence track' is now set on 4. If it gets to 13, the vampire will win
OK, so... where can Dracula possibly be? We all hunters assume he'll travel to a port...
But he doesn't! He's still on a ship, on a different sea area!
Either he's gone through Gibraltar to the Atlantic Ocean, either he's moving through the Tyrrhenian Sea towards Italy
 The hunters assume that Dracula will try to make an escape through Italy, where his track can be more easily lost, so they all begin to travel. Only Mina stays at Santander, just in case.

In fact...

Surprise!
Time for another fight! As said earlier, the hunter cards are 'punch', 'dodge' and 'escape'. All the cards have certain icons, those will be the ones deciding the fight.

Mina tries to dodge Dracula, but he mesmerizes her!
John Seward comes to the rescue, while the others run!
Van Helsing triggers a trap! Dracula left a vampire in Barcelona
The next couple of turns were just a desperate fight. Cards flew all over, acting and counteracting. Dracula finally escaped, overwhelmed by the hunters and badly injured.

Agh, lost his track again!
Both hunters are injured too, but they cannot afford to lose the track. Inquiring, the vampire is spotted in Nantes.

On the run! He's revealed again
Lord Godalming arrives by train and attacks at Le Havre
Count Dracula tries to mesmerize him, but he uses a heavenly host, which denies the vampire's attack and inflicts the creature four damage points

14 out of 15 damage points!!
The fight goes on. Finally, Lord Godalming prevails:

Dracula is defeated!!
Pretty sure the novel didn't go this way at all
Well, it was quite a tense game! The hunt dynamics are superb. The hunters have to wander all over Europe to find the trail, and then they have to work out where can Dracula be, based on where he was some days ago. It's totally cool. In our game Dracula was unlucky to have been discovered so early, that put the hunters on the track. Had he not been spotted, he could have been travelling all over the board confusing the hunters for days and days. The encounter cards system is quite interesting too, as you can trigger a trap any moment, but that's the price to locate the vampire! Thrill, thrill everywhere!


I haven't said it yet, but the characters are well designed, with traits taken from the novel, so they all add quite an unique approach to the game. The cooperative aspect between them is also a great win of the game, the players having to compensate each other. The supply cards also add some depth. For gaming purposes it's not the same supplying by day or by night, from time to time you can get a nasty surprise. The time counter is amazingly designed too, quite atmospherical.


Combat is also different. No dice, just strategy, trying to guess what card your opponent will play, what has he discarded, what weapons do the hunters have... Pretty interesting, yet simple.


On the whole it's an enormously exciting game, a must for anyone fond of Dracula and the gothic terror theme. There is much more apart from what I've told here, but I suggest you to discover and give the game a try, totally recommended. You may dare to hunt Dracula for the incoming Halloween...

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

The Battle of Benny Hill (formerly 'To catch a thief'). A Rogue Trader scenario

Here you have the report as promised :) Mastering this game has been as fun as it was writing the scenario, I can tell you. You'll see that some things went out of control, but some others went pretty cinematic. Just a situation point as a quick reminder:

Ten minutes alone with my photoshop...
Infamous outlaw Brent Beronis is having a drink at the Sparklin' Pulsar when the Administratum bailiffs and the Adeptus Arbites make quite an entrance, surrounding the bar. He has to run all over the area, try to get to the docks and get on a boat. The idea is running a movie-like police chase scene, so we can put as much scenery as we can to an use. No shortcuts! The board is 4x4' (120x120 cm).
Remember, you can read the specifics of the scenario in the previous post. GM information involved, so proceed at your own risk.
So... Hey! Ho! Let's go!

This should be more or less the general direction of the game. Longest run we can provide

The bar is totally surrounded. The sirens and light flares are evident now. A frontal confrontation is gonna end badly. Brent better run for his life.

'Run for my life'. Easy to say!
 The most obvious and short route to the docks (just going straightforward downstairs) is totally blocked, so he'll have to do it the rough, long way!

This could have been sooo easy...
Well, this is where first things begun to escape out of control. Yup, I know what I'm saying. We haven't started yet, right. But something unexpected happened just in the first turn, in the very first movement of the game. You could think Brent had quite a fair chance of making his way through the Administratum Bailiffs and get rid of one or two of them in doing so. He could escape through the bridge and the Arbites then would follow him. OK.

Hell no.

Qvo vadis?!
The ruffled law enforcement officers didn't know how to handle this situation, so they made the only thing they could do...

Follow him!!
Onto the roof, now what?
You kiddin' me?
I must say one thing, if this is not following the RT spirit, then I don't know what it is. Free and absolute interaction with scenery. This is not the first time these things happen, of course. The most recent case I can recall is the last time I played a WH40K2 scenario (using the crane and stuff). As per 2nd Ed rules, you may use either Initiative or Leadership values depending on the kind of action you are trying to perform (more daring/physical or more wits/arguing, you know). Though RT presents many more attributes (Intelligence, Cool and Willpower), I'm OK keeping it simple and attaching to the Initiative or Leadership attributes.
As a GM, I firmly believe you have not only to allow, but encourage this kind of actions. So here we are, Brent jumping over the bridge. The perplex pursuers decide to shoot him...

...but they are too perplex to be effective
Brent gets down. The Arbites run, they are almost onto him!
Brent enters the residential area
But the Arbites see their movement impeded by the people on the streets
Brent puts some distance between him and his pursuers, so the Judge gives the order to open fire. The fugitive must not escape.

Unfortunately, they kill a bystander!
Brent runs and gets lost among the streets
As per scenario rules, at the moment the Arbites Squad has no line of sight to Brent, so he decides to use his 'Playing home' event card.

He succeeds! He runs through alleys the Arbites don't even suspect that exist
The Arbites get one one turn delayed trying to find out where this dirtbag is running towards.

He's trying to make them lose the track in the maze of streets of the underhive
But then suddenly...

Reinforcements have arrived! Block his escape way!
GM note: This seemed to be a proper moment to allow Arbites Squad B get into game; otherwise, the distance between fugitive and chasers would begin to become unachievable. However, you may want to keep the reinforcements rule in secret for both sides. The faces on both players when you give one of them another squad (which can enter the board by any side at will) will be worth of it.

Brent is caged! Arbites behind. Arbites unexpectedly ahead. Then he makes the only thing he can think of. He gets into the building and goes out through the elevated corridor on the first floor.
OK, I see no reason why this couldn't happen. The door on the street is open, I think it's quite a legit movement. Interacting creatively with the scenery was one of the major points of this urban scenario.

The Arbites, fooled, climb up to the platform to follow him
The first squad and the bailiffs are still on the chase
Things are warming up again!!
Don't let him escape!!
Oooops, didn't expect to find such a distinguished company here at the viewpoint!
Trapped again! What can Brent do now? Perhaps the wisest move would be... Wise? We didn't come here to be wise, we came to be bold!

To boldly go where no man has gone before!
Another careless jump, another Initative roll passed. I must confess that a hostage situation at the viewpoint would have been intriguing, though I suspect the Arbites wouldn't have minded much whoever was the victim, not even a high-rank noble. Anyway, fortunately it didn't happen, I wasn't ready for that! The high-speed chase seems like a better option.

But...

What are those lights up there?...
The Metro is coming!

The Arbites run and take firing positions
Brent was most certainly pushing his luck. The pillar is too high to simply jump down (I considered it would deliver an automatic wound). Jumping onto the building (which I honestly thought was the safest move for the previous turn) is now out of the table, as the Arbites are way too close. Gasp.
Apparently this was all part of a reckless plan...

Brent runs directly towards the Metro! He jumps in the very last second!

By the skin of the teeth!
We didn't need to roll for this jump, the platform was a large enough place to make this action safe.

But wow, this is stressful.
The Arbites take firing positions and (finally!) shoot
This was the epic fail dice roll. For the record, the one that impacted didn't cause any wound
However, an innocent bystander was slain as a collateral damage
New reinforcements! [Vooosh, foooom, hsshhhh]
Now, gentlemen, you have to run if you wanna get that guy!
Brent fires back, with no effect. The Arbites fire again, killing another civilian!

Blamm, blamm, aaargh!
Relentless Squad A still on the chase!
Brent tries to get to the streets again
He plays the 'Snitch' event card. Hauer Ruttger makes his appearance!
The Snitch card is a tricky one, anything can happen. Depending on the roll, the Arbites can get an additional move (1), nothing happens (2-3), they can get delayed (4-5) or even mislead (6). Randomness!
Die roll...

Ruttger's chitchattery is really effective!
He leads the Arbites in the opposite direction, through the crowd of children, who ask for candy and a few coins
(I like to envision this whole thing as a kind of Indiana Jones scene. Just for the sake of it. Adds more fun)
The other squads are still on the chase
Once again they are dangerously close to Brent
He's on the verge of reaching the lower bridge
Administratum bailiffs, Squad A, Squad C, Squad B. Aaaaall of them on the chase
Close-up of Squad B getting out of the building
Hmm. This was becoming quite an unexpected outcome, the fugitive ahead (if slightly, but still ahead) and all the almost twenty chasers running behind. The Benny Hill theme was beginning to sound in my head...

So time to add some more thrill. The chase of Brent Beronis has attracted the attention of a bounty hunter...

I am Batman
On the top of the dock crane, Orpheus Khaled ponders the situation. The cockroaches are way too close to the prey. If they reach him, goodbye to the reward. But attacking the cockroaches would only work in benefit of the prey, who may escape. Difficult conundrum. The only logical situation is getting a kill. If he manages to shot the prey down in front of witnesses, not even the cockroaches can dispute it. The money for Beronis dead is good enough to give it a try.

He descends from the crane to get a clean shot before Brent escapes
Brent crosses the bridge, followed by the Administratum clerk and the bailiffs, and then two squads of Arbites. The freshly arrived squad take positions on the roof of the warehouse.

Brent arrives to the dock area!
You are not the only one who can act awesome, man! Look at me!
Khaled misses the shot and kills another civilian
The chase goes on, though we are in the very last turns...
Everyone gets privileged firing positions
Come on! Get the engines warm!!
Bullets and ricochets fly all over. Brent gets on board and the wary boat sails slowly towards the wide estuary. A shot hits him despite being trying to cover himself behind the cargo crates. However, it is not enough to take him down.

The ship escapes under heavy fire and takes Brent to freedom
Phew! This is it! Brent finally escaped. Maybe only temporarily, but he can call it a victory today!

The game resulted much better than I anticipated, though the final turns were quite a clumsy Benny Hill chase, one guy running and all the constabulary running behind (Yes, I've begun to envision it in fast motion with music; still unsure if that makes it still better!). However, the parts in which Brent begins to jump over bridges and rails were totally epic.
It's been quite a strange game, one side with just one mini and with strange dynamics. It's been all about running. Very few gunshots (I expected more 'hard action', though I was fearing about Brent having just two wounds; in the end it didn't turn that bad). The event cards made their role and I'm quite satisfied of how they worked. Maybe more interaction between the fugitive and the bounty hunter would have been fun too, will need to try. A shame that the local population didn't revolt in the end. That would most probably have avoided the Benny Hill situation, the Arbites engaged with rioters, but luckily it all turned out for good and was more balanced than it should may look at first sight.

So on the whole I'm quite happy with the result! I think I'm totally in for writing some more RT scenarios and stuff. Just remember that 2017 makes the 30th anniversary for Rogue Trader. I guess something will have to be done about it...