Custom foamcore box insert for Arkham Horror: the Card Game

For a couple of games I have, especially card games, I’ve taken to making box inserts. With the right materials for construction it’s actually pretty easy to do and cost a fraction of commercial products. One thing that stood out for me regarding the Arkham Horror LCG box though was its reduced box height. My Netrunner box was a snap to whip up, mostly as I just had to match the height of the box. It was already large enough to store cards on their side. The Arkham Horror box is much thinner, making it a little more of a challenge to get assembled.

I ended up creating a square box frame that would keep cards stored in two main compartments laying on their side. I cut the sides so that it was about 4mm wider than a sleeved card. Keep that in mind as some sleeves can be significantly larger than the dimensions of the cards, so you want to take that account in any measurements. You don’t want to accidentally make the frame too small, crimping and bending up your sleeved cards. Another point, don’t bother with putting a base section for your insert. With enough center support sections you can create a frame that will hold up fine in the box and as an added bonus have more space to work with. My frame slipped snugly into the box.

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To support the box frame more, I separated each main card compartment into two using a single piece of foam board. I then carefully measured the two parallel, center boards and added another pair of sections so that each could hold a small number of cards, perpendicular in orientation to the cards in the main chambers. This center compartment was also kept hollow to store any odd little bits (more on that later). I ended up with a very sturdy foam insert with a well supported center to keep the box from buckling.

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A couple of points on construction, you want to use foamcore board that is about 2-3 mm in thickness. You can use thicker pieces of foamboard however I find that after lining up the sides and multiple sheets used to make compartments, you end up losing a lot of space in the box, so thinner is better. I also used a hot glue gun to assemble the pieces together initially. It will pretty much set immediately and give you a pretty strong bond. I can then go back and add PVA (i.e. white, or Elmer’s) glue to all of the joints and set it aside to dry overnight. To add even more strength with thicker foamcore, you can use sections of toothpicks as dowels along with PVA glue.

For ease of getting cards in and out, I cut a notch into the foamcore supports used to separate the compartment sections. This was so I could easily get a finger in to pull out cards, yet didn’t remove too much material to weaken the section of the card. You could try cutting a round notch but practice a few trial cuts before you do. I found cutting round edges a little difficult to do with foamcore board over straight edges.

As to the actual dividers for different cards I used sections of foamcore cut shorter than the width of the cards. I also kept them loose and didn’t secure them to the walls of the insert. Right now I am unsure how many expansions I will be getting and how the card types will expand, so I wanted to maintain some flexibility. However I certainly wanted lots of sections to properly divide many of the cards, especially the encounter card sets. Cut with a tight fit in the box they actually have enough resistance to stand up by themselves (although over time the edges will get worn). Once I get a feel for how I want to separate my cards, I can secure them using a little PVA glue.

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The center compartments I have for pre-made player decks. Currently I am using one to hold the encounter deck of the first scenario. Also you can make out the center section. I trimmed a few thin sections of foamboard and placed them in here. Some other scenarios can have many locations, so these thin sections can provide a better visual representation how locations are linked to each other. In the end I have a pretty nice little foam insert, with enough room to keep my tokens, investigator cards, and other bits secured in ziplock bags.

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By not using a single sheet as a base (and instead just relying on the box itself) I was also able to reduce the overall profile of the box allowing the lid to sit securely on it. My rules and campaign books lay on top of the insert and the cross design gives it plenty of support. The box is certainly thicker but not so thick that the lid won’t keep secure.

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You can certainly buy frame inserts that are great quality and reasonably priced. However with a little effort (I cranked mine out in an evening), you can make a similar insert at a fraction of the cost and be just as functional. Don’t be put off trying your own hand at making foamcore inserts. They actually are a pretty easy project to do.

Frostgrave in Summer: The Well of Dreams and Sorrows

Our summer Frostgrave campaign is in full swing and I managed to get another game in. This time I’d be going against another necromancer. Seriously, I think it’s just about everyone’s favorite school fluffwise with the pals I play with. Last time I fared okay but didn’t really get any treasure.

We were playing a good scenario to get early in the campaign, the Well of Dreams and Sorrows. Basically your regular Frostgrave game with a large well in the center of the board. If your wizard is able to drink from the well you get a whopping 100 XP. But you need to approach this with caution. You will face your demise instantly if pushed into the mysterious pool.

This was another game I got wrapped up in and forgot to take enough photos or get proper notes. Having my stomach full from a tasty brunch didn’t help either. Hee hee, the downside of playing at a restaurant can mean a lot of distractions. At least it was a bit to early in the day for a pint and I settled on having several cups of coffee instead.

My opponent went all out with his warband. A templar, knight, man-at-arms, two trackers, a few infantrymen, and a handful of thieves meant he had a lot of hard hitting troops. I had a pittance of roughly 100 gold in my coffers so I was pretty stretched thin. I picked up a warhound and an infantryman to get my warband up to capacity.

I decided to deploy clustered up behind a group of buildings. Fortunately I was able to cast Reveal Secrets and get a bonus treasure that I could plop down just outside my deployment zone. The other treasures were pretty far though and would take much more effort to reach. I decided to get my wizard to rush the center and bring up my apprentice along one side, with an archer and warhound centered on the left corner. My opponent also decided to have his wizards approach the center. That well was too tempting to drink from.

First turn I approached and a thug was able to scoop up some treasure scryed from Reveal Secrets. I had my archers clamber up into position to cover my advance. I decided to get cocky and have my warhound charge ahead and get up into the face of a knight, while my archer fired off a few shots. No hits and my warhound was dropped almost immediately, but I did get a chance to hold off my opponent for a turn.

That plan went pretty much to naught as my opponent turned around and cast Fleet Feet allowing all those soldiers in clunky armor a chance to get some extra inches in movement. My opponent was able to get within proximity of most of the treasures on his side of the board, meaning more and more creatures might wander in on the table. I ended up getting both a ghoul over on my right, as well as a pair of zombies move in on my left. Unfortunately due to line of sight issues, they decided my warband were the more tasty targets and shuffled towards my men!

Fearing some pop shots to take out my low armored thugs and thieves, I had my apprentice lay down some Fog to cover my advance up to the right. I had my main wizard try to supplement her defense with Enchant Armor which failed. I moved by men up towards the well as did my opponent, while both our wizards lingered some in the rear.

Honestly the game became a bit of a blur as we burned through turns. The approaching knight on my left was a hassle compounded by the zombies going after my archer. He was able to snag some treasure and get off the board while by archer was fighting zombies. Both my archers peppered a few men, shaving off some health but unable to kill any. Fortunately my opponent was in the same situation and I compounded his difficulty some landing Blinding Light a few times.

The right side became a bloodbath, with the ghoul tearing through my men. I scrambled my apprentice out of the way and out of sight to avoid any chance of it attacking her. I managed to finally kill it between shots from my archer and a pitched melee with my soldiers. My thief won out but was severely wounded in the process. The lone thief was easily picked off by a few enemy soldiers that were able to close in.

In the center of the board the necromancer stepped up and drank deeply from the well. I had my man-at-arms attack and bogged the wizard down in hand to hand. I decided the tempting offer to drink from the well was too much and spent a critical action sipping from the well myself. Another soldier entered the fray with my man-at-arms, won the combat, but did no damage to my soldier. I was a bit smug with my plans but forgot an important rule, the winner of the combat could break off or push their opponent away 1”. He promptly pushed my soldier into the well, instantly taking him out of the game!

Wanda was no slouch in combat however. I turned my attention to the necromancer and was able to land Blinding Light on him. Eventually he was able to dispel it but my opponent decided his wizard had enough and ran behind some cover. Between shots from my archer and her wielding a magical weapon, she was able to dispatch any remaining soldiers. Pretty much free and clear, my wizard and apprentice ran off to try and secure some treasure. They both were able to fend off any enemies and frantically tried to position themselves for casting spells.

In the end with quick movement and Leap spells my opponent was able to get 4 treasures off. I was able to get my wizard set to carry off some treasure. A swift cast from Push got her to the edge of the table, but there were no more turns and I was stuck holding it, just out of reach from getting back to base camp.

Another game where I managed to secure the board, but unable to seal the deal and get treasure off the table. Push helped get troops out, but it’s simply too difficult maneuvering them afterwards to get into a good position to get them off the table. I knew Transpose could not be counted on, but it’s really hurting not being able to shift troops around with that spell either. I can’t bitch too much as most of the game I was able to get initiative and finally able to cast a fair number of spells. Drinking from the well helped too, and from previous unused XP, Wanda was able to acquire 4 levels.

For my treasure, I got a little gold and couple of scrolls of Invisibility and Control Undead that will come in handy. My man-at-arms was wounded and both a thief and warhound ended up in a shallow grave out among the ruins. Essentially 3 soldiers down and only a measly 120 gold in my coffers. I’ll have to think some on how to fill out my warband. Being a man down for the next game will be difficult but I don’t think I can quite dump the wounded soldier being so low on cash. Gotta mull on that for a while what I’ll do for the next game.

Review: Terminal Directive

Terminal Directive, the new expansion for Fantasy Flight’s Netrunner LCG takes a different approach from past big box sets. It presents itself as a small, mini legacy campaign. For 2 players, each side takes control of either a mega-corporation or a cyber-hacking runner trying to unravel a mystery. Not to give too much away from the story, in this near future mankind has colonized the moon and other planets. Labor is mostly done by either genetically engineered clones or androids operated by sophisticated AI. Androids are particularly ubiquitous in the Netrunner world and adhere to something similar to Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics, they can’t kill a human….or so everyone thinks. Because that is just what Terminal Directive revolves around, an incident where an android has apparently murdered several humans.

The game incorporates a legacy element. Each player accesses a particular set of cards detailing the story. They are offered a choice between two major paths, a proactive stance taking the ‘predator ethos’, or a more reactive, defensive position as a ‘protector ethos’. These choices dictate what special cards might be added to the player’s deck. In addition special tasks and abilities are added to an individual playerboard. As the player completes certain actions during the game, they mark off their progress and eventually may attain permanent abilities and effects.

Some actions might be related to trashing a certain number of corp cards, or giving a player a certain number of tags. Some are conditions that the player wants to avoid (eg. the corp player cannot spend a click to draw a 2nd card during their turn). If they break these conditions they get some cards that are detrimental to their deck, hindering their actions during future games until they can remove them by completing certain in-game events.

As you play through the campaign, more story is revealed. Additionally as you achieve certain game conditions, you get new abilities, new cards, and an ever expanding number of ethos choices. Much of the game is hardwired in choices to try and allow the opponent to catch up some initially. This is either done by introducing handicaps to the other player, or allowing the player lagging behind access to more powerful cards. Eventually though after 9 or so games, you will come to the end of the campaign with a final winner.

You are free to use what is available in your card pool for your deck. Also in between games you can freely change the composition of your deck (aside from your ID). However I feel the game is really centered on working with just cards from the core set. If you throw in access to a bunch of cards from different expansions, you might get some wonky play from the legacy campaign.

Terminal Directive is an interesting take on the past expansions for Netrunner. Because in addition to the campaign specific cards, stickers, playmats, and legacy elements are 163 cards split between 4 factions. HB, Weyland, Criminal, and Shaper all get new cards and IDs, including some faction-specific agendas and a few neutral cards. Unlike the campaign specific cards, these are all tournament legal. The breakaway from the past focus on 2 specific runner/corp factions of past expansions is a pleasant addition to the game. You will want to add these cards too. This set has some solid cards that will supplement just about any faction deck.

The Good – It’s a departure from past Netrunner expansions that offers a minigame with a narrative mystery story. The legacy format and progressive decisions help make for a different experience from your typical Netrunner game. As the cards go, it is a solid expansion adding a lot more options to the core set. The components are typical for your Fantasy Flight card game offering quality cardstock and art.

The Bad – The legacy game is clunky. There are a lot of small conditions to keep track of. Overall the game does a decent effort of trying to reign in an early runaway victory, but momentum of several wins are hard to break, especially if your opponent fails to stave off their initial caution task (adding more hindering cards to their deck). Even for an experienced player, you need to slow down your gameplay making sure that each action doesn’t trigger any game conditions.

The legacy game also has points where you need to access specific cards and objectives once their conditions are met. While cards are added to your deck between games, you have to immediately update your PAD playerboard, breaking up the flow of the game. The narrative of the story is also clunky. It would be so much better having options of the story based on the ID you selected. Instead you get a story based on some unseen third persona that feels tagged on. Overall the story is rather underwhelming.

In addition, I wish more was also put into the packaging. You get a clump of cards broken up by being either corp or runner, rather than individual packs for each section of the story. Lastly there is a ton of empty box space. So much so that the actual contents are deceiving given the huge empty box.

The Verdict – The legacy game within the expansion is underwhelming. You do get a different player experience going through it and I dig FF trying to explore different play styles with Netrunner. Some parts of the legacy game work but others don’t. The biggest damning flaw is that the story progresses independently from the Terminal Directive IDs you choose. For such a supposed emphasis on the choices and evolving narration it’s sort of a let down that you have no real control over the major players of the plot. Nonetheless it’s a departure from the common Netrunner game and while it’s a mixed bag, overall I appreciate the different experience it provides.

However you can’t ignore that it is an expansion for people currently playing Netrunner. In that light it is a solid purchase. If you just have the core set and wondering what to get next, Terminal Directive is the expansion to buy. For the money spent you get solid cards that build on 4 different factions and also has a small legacy game to mess around with. Long time players are also going to enjoy the card selection and as it’s considered a big box expansion, the set is exempt from rotation. If looking to delve more into the world of Netrunner or currently a rabid player, this is a great purchase.

[TIP: If you want to stretch out the life of TD, scan all the stickers instead. You can cut and paste them onto a copy of the playboard. I also scanned copies of cards with updated text and kept them aside as a reference during play. If you read the story cards to yourself and work with copies of the provided stickers, you can play through both sides of the campaign with one box avoiding the legacy elements of ripping up cards and adding permanent abilities to the PAD sheet.]

Frostgrave in Summer: The Keep

Last time while I didn’t lose my wizard or get swept from the field, I only was able to gather one pile of treasure (my opponent hauled away five!). Further, my man-at-arms was killed and I had a wounded thug. Already I was down two men for the next game.

That put me in a pickle. I had decided to throw out any concept of maintaining a healthy, full warband, and opted not to make my home base an inn this campaign. I couldn’t have an extra slot for my warband, and had no means to let an injured soldier heal up. That meant my wounded thug would be thrown out on his posterior to make his cot available for any new hires. I settled on a man-at-arms and warhound, and essentially spent all the gold crowns in my treasury.

Instead of an inn for my home base I chose a high tower. This was an odd choice but I had Reveal Secrets and figured I could double down on the spell. Essentially my base choice gave me a +2 casting bonus making it far more possible for my apprentice to cast (giving me some out of game options). And with both my wizard and apprentice attempting to scry a location of treasure before the game, more likely I’d be able to place down an additional treasure. I figured over the campaign it would eventually pay off.

That idea completely went to pot as I failed to cast the spell both with my wizard (Wanda) and my apprentice (Marsha). So much for being clever with my selection of a home base. Not getting an extra treasure would be doubly difficult this game as I was playing the Keep scenario.

It’s an interesting one. Most of the treasure are on these stone platforms. When you end your move on them, you teleport randomly (or end up staying where you are). There is also a cluster of treasure at the center of the board. As I mentioned earlier, having another pile nearby off the teleportation disks, and away from the middle would have been helpful.

Honestly the game was pretty much a blur (and I forgot to take a lot of pics). We squared off with myself huddled behind a central ruined building. I wanted to push up through the middle and also along my left side, while my opponent had the same idea. And my opponent? Another Necromancer with some thugs, thieves, warhound, tracker, and a raging barbarian. He pretty much had the same idea and gameplan.

As I moved up my opponent put up a wall cutting me off from the central treasure. No worries as I had Dispel Magic prepared to take care of just such a situation. I cast it with my wizard and failed. Then I cast it with my apprentice, and failed. I moved up and the next turn tried again. My wizard cast and failed. Then my apprentice tried to cast Dispel Magic…and failed. Mind you I didn’t just barely fail my casts. I flubbed so hard I took damage for most of the attempts.

I finally had my soldiers just climb over the thing. And of course once they dropped down over the other side a new turn came up. My opponent rolled to see if the wall would stay around another turn and it disappointed. Just when I spent all that movement getting over the friggin wall of elemental energy. My opponent’s soldiers were just out of reach for combat, so he quickly got off Leap on the pair from his casters.

Things went pear shaped for my opponent some too though. Oddly my apprentice’s group of soldiers convened on the far right teleportation circle. It was a cluster of men (and hound) fighting where I came out on top. Only a wolf decided to enter the fray and I got bogged down even more for another turn.

I managed to cut down the wolf and clear the area of enemies. My thug to hauled the treasure away while my thief, man-at-arms, and hound ran off to make trouble. My opponent ended up having their barbarian step onto a platform and ended up on my side of the field. My archers promptly perforated him. However my opponent was still working his men off the table with Leap and making good progress at it.

I finally turned my attention to his pesky archer that was throwing pop shots. A cast of Push and I was able to knock him off his ruined building perch. He didn’t take any damage but I effectively put him out of the fight a turn while he scrambled to get into a firing position. I then managed to land Blinding Light both on his wizard and apprentice.

My fortune for getting Blinding Light on both casters was hampered some by the initiative. I acted second for the turn, meaning my opponent was able to get a wizard spell off and they were also able to get an opportunity to break its effects. I just was barely able to get the spell off and his necromancer dispelled it easily. His apprentice wasn’t so lucky. This was enough for him though and he decided to get his Necromancer scarce, but was successfully able to Leap his treasure burdened soldiers off the table with him.

In the end we both walked away with two piles of treasure. One of my thugs bit the dust but all of my other men recovered. I ended up with a paltry sum of coins (roughly 100 gold) but scored a couple of nice potions (Invisibility and Toughness). I also got a +1 hand weapon. I’m debating some whether to keep the weapon. It’s tempting to sell and get some needed cash for it. But we have Genie in a Bottle as a potential scenario, so having a magic weapon able to do damage to it would be helpful. I’ll have to mull over it some.

I only had gotten two levels and put that into improving my health and fighting. This stung a lot. My opponent was able to cast twice the spells I could that game. I was unengaged the entire time and was trying to cast lowish (8-12 casting) spells but just failed too many times. And worse, I really failed casting most of them to the point of not making it worthwhile to burn health to get it off. Another odd game. Not too bloodied and got a bit of treasure off, but lagged behind my opponent with earned experience.

Finally taking the plunge with 5E D&D

A long while back I swore off picking up RPGs I’d never play. I was buying rules pretty much to just have them, rather than buying stuff I’d run. So I decided to focus on picking up RPGs and books that would likely hit the table rather than take up space on the shelf.

Sadly 5E was one of those games that would fall to the wayside. I was (and still am) playing Savage Worlds regularly. My players like it as we can shift genres and still keep the core rules the same, making it an easier experience for everyone. I ended up just getting the 5E starter set. Honestly, for the price there’s no reason not to especially as the core rules are available as free PDFs too.

But after a while I started to get that itch. We’ve been at our sci-fi Savage Worlds game for a while now. I think everyone is ready to wrap it up and try something new. I had been reading through the Lost Mines of Phandelver and dangled the idea of playing DnD to them. Everyone took the bait.

They dug the Savage Worlds Dark Sun game we did. Most were really eager to get back into fantasy and the others were just keen to get out of sci-fi for a bit. We’ll likely be finishing up the current campaign and trade off between both systems for a while as we make that transition over to 5E.

We’ll be having our session 0 soon. Folks are excited to roll up their characters. I think I’ll just stick with published stuff for now in a generic setting. If things get moving and it really takes off, I’ll likely start another campaign and set it up properly in Forgotten Realms. Either way, it’ll be fun to finally give 5E a real shot around the table.

Life in Athas: Wages

As I ran my Savage Worlds Dark Sun game for a while, I really wanted to flesh out the world some. I opted to tinker with a lot of stuff including the notion of days, weeks, and months in a year. So I ended up changing quite a bit to fit what I wanted Athas to be.

One particular idea I enjoyed was that metal was rare and ceramic coins were used exclusively in city states. However if anyone follows my blog, they’ll realize I dumped keeping track of coins and stuck with abstract tallies of wealth being shares of treasure instead. It’s worked well for me, but I still needed some general yardstick of the value of currency for players.

If they found a haul of coins, how much would hirelings cost? If they needed to hire caravan guards or craftsmen to build something, what would be a fair price? So I decided to whip up some background information on typical wages in Athas.

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Wages in Dark Sun

Wages in Athas are loosely based on the piece standard (or silver standard for free folk outside the city states). For a 10 day week’s labor, a wage of one piece or one silver is earned. Most of that wage will go towards housing, meals, and water, allowing a laborer to have 2 or 3 bits (2-3 copper) pocket money for additional goods. While not earning a wage, slaves also would cost their owners approximately one piece per week.

Free citizens and craftsmen earn 2 to 10 pieces a week. Even though most laborers have wages twice that of a lowly slave, they still need to live somewhat frugally. Nonetheless they can eventually acquire some extra pieces each month, allowing for some luxuries. Most bodyguards and thugs will also take a wage of 5 pieces a week, while professional soldiers commonly get wages of 8 to 10 pieces per week. Although it might be expected these are low wages for such dangerous work, life is brutal and hard in Athas. Most able bodied warriors are willing to take a low wage if it avoids the alternative of toiling away as a day laborer (or even worse as a slave).

The more upper echelons of society ‘earn’ wages of 20 to 50 pieces weekly. This varies from wealthier merchants and low ranking nobles, up to more powerful merchant house leaders and highborn nobles. At this income, it is expected that even the most modest noble houses will have have at least 2 to 3 servants. However, commonly most of the upper society requires an income of roughly 15 pieces a week to keep up with household expenses. While they live quite comfortably, they likely do not have an exceedingly opulent lifestyle. The truly extravagant nobles would spend three to four times that amount weekly and be typical of a great lord or high ranking Templar.

Although Athas generally accepts a wage of one piece per week, this is commonly used as a yardstick for determining a fair wage for free citizens. Labor is cheap in Athas and most foremen will strive a hard bargain for that uncommon laborer being paid wages. Instead they will be offered 7 to 8 bits a week, as much as it would cost to have a slave to do the work instead.

In Tyr, this disparity in views on what is a fair wage has been coming to a head. As Tyr has thrown off the mantle of slavery, many of the newly freed citizens are calling for a two piece wage. This 2 pieces movement is exceedingly popular among the poor and low status populace. They feel this is a wage enjoyed by free citizens in the past and should be applied to all.

Many trade leaders and crafts guild leaders are countering with making one piece a true wage standard in Tyr, ensuring that all laborers and unskilled workers get this wage each week. The more shrewd merchants and nobles hope that this is popular enough among the third of Athas laborers now getting 7 or 8 bits per week, that they will agree with this compromise. Currently the 2 piece movement leaders and various head merchants and nobles are in fierce negotiations on what the wage standard in Tyr should be. Eventually, the rebellion King Tithian will have to make some official decree on the matter.

Frostgrave in Summer: First Expedition

We started up another league for the summer and my first match was against a necromancer. For this initial battle of the league we did a simple meeting engagement with no special rules. Just grab as much treasure as possible before the game ended. I got lucky and was able to cast Reveal Secrets, getting an extra treasure token that would be close to my deployment zone. My opponent tried to cast Create Scroll but was unable to muster up the magic to cast it successfully.

My opponent spent a bit of cash getting a pair of infantrymen and archers that he gathered around his necromancer. His apprentice lead another group of soldiers consisting of thugs and thieves (modeled as ghasts and ghouls).

I had a similar setup with my wizard, Wanda, having an archer, a few thugs, and a man-at-arms as a bodyguard on the right. While on the left side of the table I set up my apprentice, Marsha, with an archer, a few thugs, and thieves around her.

I got lucky with initiative and scurried forward. Successfully casting Enchant Armor on my wizard, Wanda with her defenses improved and flanked with several soldiers, was in a pretty secure position. My opponent was able to cast Leap thrusting one of his infantry forward towards some treasure.

During the apprentice phase, Marsha, fizzled her Enchant Armor spell and hustled in with one of the thieves from her group breaking off to gather a treasure token. Both my archers started to clamber up ruined buildings to get better vantage points.

The second turn my opponent demonstrated his breadth of spells which harried me the entire game. With both his wizard and apprentice he was able to cast Telekinesis on two treasures that were just within reach of my men. I tried to counter some with Transpose from my wizard but failed.

Marsha the apprentice however was able to get off another wicked spell I had chosen, Blinding Light. She managed to cast it on my opponent’s apprentice, utterly sapping them of any means to cast spells. My archers then were able to pepper some of this men with arrows. doing a bit of damage.

The following turn my opponent had his men gather up treasure and cast Leap, a spell that would be my bane during the whole battle. He was soon able to have his men rapidly make their way to the edge of the table. I was pretty much forced to have my men haul piles of treasure off by foot.

Fortunately my thief was chosen to do just that and that extra inch of movement helped (if slowed) in dragging off loot found on the battlefield.

With all the piles of treasure being discovered and being approached, rolls were made to see if any creatures would make their way onto the table. I ended up getting a zombie on my side of the board which shuffled towards Marsha the apprentice. I decided to play it safe and have one of my thugs linger so that he could intervene if the zombie came closer.

The following turns I was able to successfully cast Blinding Light on my opponent’s wizard, but they were able to break the effects of the spell resisting it soundly. My opponent cast Leap again, and positioned his his men within a charge distance of my wizard. Things began to get hairy on Wanda’s side of the field, as she was being threatened by an infantryman while my other soldiers were off fighting in combats of their own. I got my man-at-arms to engage with the enemy necromancer, forcing one of this thugs to drop treasure and try and help out with the fight.

Things began to get hectic on the apprentices’ side of the board also. His archer lined up a hefty shot on my apprentice. My men reciprocated charging and dispatching a thug and moving in to tangle with others. My archer missed their shot against the lone zombie. Not engaged the zombie closed in forcing my thug move to fight it. A bit of fortune for me was that an ice spider scuttled in from the side edge and made a quick run towards my opponent’s men. Quickly taking some cover, my apprentice was able to cast Heal and replenish her health some.

The latter turns of the game things began to slip away from me. My man-at-arms severely bloodied the necromancer but their accompanying thug was able to kill him. I managed to kill a thug and an infantryman. However my crafty opponent didn’t get swept up in any bloodlust and cast Leap instead, getting other men off the board with treasure. Others also dragged their loot off as all my men were tied up in combat, including Wanda, my warband’s wizard.

With my wizard tied up in combat, I was as a risky position. If I forced combat and lost, my opponent could dig into my health and have another opportunity to attack further during their activation, essentially doubling the chances of me getting a poor attack roll. Even if they couldn’t kill me outright, they could grind down my health and possibly get in a lucky blow. So I held off on my actions, hoping to roll well when they activated later during the turn. My opponent did eventually learn the pain of ranged attacks. Severely weakened in health due to earlier combats (and flubbed spells), my archer was finally able to get off a successful shot and drop the necromancer outright.

“For Wanda!”

On the apprentices’ side of the board, my men were tied up in combat. The opposing apprentice was finally able to shake off the effects of Blinding Light and cast Leap on treasure-burdened soldiers. I decided to try a goofy use of Push and get my own men into the scrum. Digging into the rules however, the spell did not resolve as I expected. I thought I’d be able to cast it without any resistance but the rules were pretty clear cut. I had to resolve it as an attack. So even on my own man they’d get a fighting roll to determine the result. I had my opponent roll for my thug. Sure enough despite getting the spell off and a +10 to the attack roll, my opponent rolled exceedingly well essentially cancelling the effects of the Push spell.

On the wizard’s side of the board, Wanda the Thaumaturgist was fighting for her life. My thug was also locked in combat, so my opponent seized the opportunity with his other men hauling treasure off the table. My archer fired parting shots and landed some hits but they were ineffective at bypassing his target’s armor.

Things soured on the apprentices’ side of the table too. The opposing warband made quick work of the ice spider and in turn cut down my thugs and thief. I had another thug get into the fray as I had Marsha retreat behind cover. My archer on the far side of the board did one last desperate shot to nab an enemy soldier carrying treasure, but failed to hit.

Wanda the wizard became wounded, as well as my thug near a pile of treasure. They both were in dire straits. My apprentice sped off towards my wizard and cast Blinding Light at the infantrymen engaged with Wanda. I hoped that for a few turns I could hold off fighting the soldier, and while they were under the effects of the spell, they couldn’t attack. Meanwhile the opposing apprentice lived up to the name of their chosen school of magic. While I had gained some in the battle of attrition near him, he walked forward and cast Raise Zombie on a fresh corpse, adding another body into the fight. Eventually my thugs were overcome.

My opponent wrapped up the game getting more of his soldiers carrying treasure off the board. My thug finally dropped his opponent and was able to grab the last treasure, but was unable to get it off the table, limping along with one action from being wounded. The soldier fighting Wanda broke the effects of Blinding Light, only to suffer from it again as Marsha, my apprentice, cast it again. However this meant that Wanda the wizard couldn’t effectively do anything. She couldn’t break off from the combat and couldn’t commit an action to fight (risking a flubbed attack roll was too risky).

My opponent successfully cast Leap with his apprentice getting even more treasure-laden soldiers off. In the end he claimed 5 treasure(!) to my one. We only had one treasure unclaimed that my thug was holding. I’d get a small bonus for possessing it and a little gold, but it would have been great if I could have gotten it off the board. To make matters worse, I had one thug out of action for the next game and my man-at-arms died. The most expensive soldier in my warband was lost (along with all the gold crowns I spent to hire him). My opponent had 2 men out of action and his downed wizard came out of the battle with an injury.

For treasure my opponent similarly cleaned up. He walked away with 6 grimoires and over 700 gold. This meant that spending some coin to heal his wizard was trivial. He also picked up over 400 XP and the grimoire of Bone Dart. I’m certain when we meet again he’ll have that incantation added to his repertoire of spells.

I cast and failed about the same number as my opponent. Just too many turns Wanda was entangled in hand to hand with that pesky infantryman. Not getting much treasure also killed my experience for the battle. I only limped away with 200 XP and 90 total gold in my treasury. I did get a bit of fortune however with the type of treasure I discovered. Aside from the gold crowns I got a Fate Stone to my wizardly equipment for Wanda. Having a clutch reroll might be helpful in future games.

It was risky not having an effective movement spell for the campaign and my opponent reinforced that, as being able to cast Telekinesis and Leap made for a potent combination. I was unable to cast Transpose (which I should have expected as the conditions for casting it are also difficult to meet). Push is also difficult to pull off if trying to move my units around. I simply have to be more mindful of positioning and attempt to set up situations where I can employ those spells more effectively. Blinding Light was pretty vicious however and with a string of bad saves, able to seriously hamper enemy units, especially casters.

It was a strange game. On paper you’d think I would have swept the field but my opponent got the right spells off and was able to capitalize on grabbing treasure when possible, while I was caught in too many combats. I really had wished I could have stolen away one more pile from my opponent. Time to lick my wounds and plan out for the next expedition.

Frostgrave in Summer: The wizard and warband.

The gang wrapped up our last league for Frostgrave a few months ago and everyone was eager to give it another go. I licked my wounds some from last time and pondered what to try out for this new league. We decided to change the point structure for the league some. Points would be awarded for hauling off treasure primarily and a point for every 250 XP earned. At the end of the league, treasure and crowns would award 1 point for every 500 gold (or sell value) as a final bonus to earned points. This time we’d also try for a longer league going for 7 games and might possibly increase the number even more.

Another twist was to jumpstart our wizards some. We’d start with 200 XP that could only be used to improve the casting value of two different spells. We’d also begin with a potion of Healing. Just a little means to improve spellcasting and some resources to get over a bad first outing if needed. We all still had to fill out our warband with 500 gold crowns though.

This time around I decided to mix it up and play a Thaumaturge. I selected Blinding Light, a surprisingly vicious spell (provided my opponent kept failing their resist rolls) as my offensive spell of choice. I also selected Dispel. Too many times I’ve seen Elemental Wall being used to wreak havoc on my advances and shunting off avenues to treasure, so I wanted a means to get rid of them. Lastly I was torn between Shield and Heal, but figured I’d be more likely to empower key spells if having a decent chance to recover on a later turn, so Heal rounded out my primary school of magic spell selection.

For my allied schools I went with Push and Transpose. Transpose would be that risky spell to cast but Push was a little easier (and one of the selected spells to focus on for my initial XP). Push isn’t much of an offensive spell, but a great means to shift a pesky archer out of an elevated position, or shoo away any wandering creature getting too close.

My last allied school spell was Reveal Secret. I figured I needed at least one out of game spell. The high casting cost would be a pickle some. However I decided to select a Tower as my base of operations. This would bump down the casting cost to a more reasonable 12. I figure being able to get one additional treasure close to my deployment zone would eventually help my warband earn some phat loot over the league.

For my neutral spells I went with Enchant Armor with a pretty risky casting cost of 12. Being able to bump up armor a little would be helpful and give my troops some lasting power. My final spell would be Fog from the Witch school. A little LOS denial and a means to provide some quick cover and possibly herd wandering creatures away from my warband was ideal. The biggest reason was also the low casting value. Having a +4 penalty for being in a neutral school meant anything higher would just be a spell taking up a slot in my book. Having a 12 casting value meant I had a better chance of getting it off (and lessen the chance of taking damage from a botched casing roll).

For my warband itself I kept things cheap. Mostly thugs and thieves were the bulk of my warband. I also picked up 2 archers as I was limited on direct damage spells and ranged attackers would be useful. I did choose a man-at-arms to serve as a bodyguard for my wizard. Of course I also had to get an apprentice, leaving me with a pittance of gold in my treasury.

I kept the same wizard model but decided on a different narrative for the warband. Hearing of the demise of Elvira, another talented wizard decided to make her own name in the crumbling ruins. Gaining Marsha, an aspiring apprentice, and a paltry sum of coin she managed to cobble up a warband of ne’er do wells. Taking the name “Wanda’s Wanderers“, she took up residence in an abandoned tower, eager to see what glory, power, and wealth to be discovered in the ruins of Verdantia.

Netrunner Counter Trackers

A while back I made some simple credit and click trackers for Netrunner. They weren’t going to win over anyone with how they looked but the cards were functional. I seem able to stretch my collection and get a few people playing but couldn’t say the same with tokens from one core set. I also wanted something a little more portable than lugging a bunch of cardboard counters around all the time.

One thing about netrunner is it uses a lot of tokens. I like keeping track of information using counters, but you can get an explosion of markers and tokens on the table with some decks. Because of this I wanted to expand the card trackers I made to try and also handle other card conditions.

I ended up making a universal counter tracker. You could use it for virus counters, tags, even advance tokens if needed. It is limited to being only able to track 12 counters however. Another smaller tracker I made was for recurring credits. Just a small card to slip under another indicating between 0 and 2 credits, helping keep track of what is spent during a turn.

The look and design are clunky, likely enough to make any serious graphic designer gag. However they are functional. You can find them in the downloads section. Hope folks get something out of them for their games.

Running the Game: a DM tutorial series

I’ve got a player eager to take the helm running a D&D game periodically. I’m super excited to see them flip to the other side of the screen and be a DM. They freely admitted struggling some with thinking up an appropriate way to kick off the game, and the decision to dabble in making up their own world or run something pre-made. They also wanted to know if I had any advice. So I pointed them over to Running the Game, a YouTube series about being a DM.

It’s done by Matthew Colville, a writer that also works in the video game industry. The videos he creates run between 15 to 30 minutes and commonly cover a specific RPG topic. Some address a specific issue most DMs will face at the table or when planning out their session. He also has a series that covers his own game more in detail and the problems he occasionally has when playing.

Now a big caveat with the advice is that what he will regularly state the tidbits he throws out are his opinions and how he likes to run his own games. Your mileage might vary with his advice, and he’ll freely admit his approach might not be for everyone. Another point is that much of the series is about running D&D. I think if you were a GM for other game systems a lot of his advice would still be great but you are going to get some chunks of content not quite applicable to a non-D&D game.

This last point touches on a few episodes. One is related to the Deck of Many things (which dragged some for me), and if not playing D&D or including that magic item in your campaign, much of the video will be not helpful. However you might pick up some interesting tips and ideas handling a similar powerful, legendary magical item in your own game. The concept of using a few props to spice up your game is great and I particularly like the idea of a little sleight of hand to make players think they have full agency (when in reality you are guiding events some).

Another ding with the video series is the speed that Matthew speaks. He talks fast. You might want to slow down the playback speed at little. I think especially if English wasn’t your mother tongue you’d have a hard time keeping up. I enjoy his rapid fire dialog and find it engaging and quippish, but keep in mind he speaks at a fair clip.

But these are quibbles. You’ll find his videos a great resource. I especially like that he also talks about things that fall flat at his table. We tend to just spout off the things that work in our sessions and not dwell on the times when things just didn’t work. I agree with his opinion that sharing stuff that failed can also serve as helpful advice.

In the end you have a fantastic introduction to being a DM. Seriously, for the uninitiated wanting to sit down and try their hand at running a game, this is a great series. The first four are especially solid tutorials for DMing your initial adventure. There really are some golden tips covered in them. It’s such a helpful and entertaining bunch of tutorials. I really can’t recommend it enough to new DMs, and if you’re a bit long in the tooth as a GM, give a few videos a watch. You’ll either be nodding your head in agreement or picking up a few good ideas for your own game.