Wednesday, November 18, 2015

PolderCon 2016 is open for registration!

PolderCon is a unique wargame event almost completely about playing - and being busy with war games: trying out new rules, re-experiencing old ones, painting, building and of course catching up with old friends, making new ones, getting inspired and most of all enjoying our fantastic hobby!  

On Sunday february 7th 2016 dozens of games and workshops will take place at the Nederland Denksportcentrum in Utrecht, NL.

The entry fee is € 18,50. For this you can participate in a maximum of 4 activities. Lunch is included in the fee.
If and when you register and pay in time, upon confirmation your place in games and/or workshops of your choice will be certain. But seats are limited and full is full!

If your choice proves no longer possible because it has already been fully booked we will of course notify you so you can alter your preferences.

So no wandering around full tables looking for something to do!

Your confirmation email is also your entry ticket for the day. 
Can't imagine it yet? See here what PolderCon 2015 had to offer:
The complete program for PolderCon 2016 can be found here: :
 How does it work? 
Send an email to containing your name and the games and/or workshops you want to participate in.

You can make up to 4 choices, one for every time slot in the program.
Emailing to is the ONLY way to subscribe!!!!!
We will send you a confirmation email. This will mention the entree fee, payment info and the games and workshops of your choice.
As soon as your payment has been received your subscription will be final and you will be booked for the games and/or workshops of your choice. Don't wait too long, because there are only so many places available!!

Would you like to remain informed through our newsletter? 

Subscribe via and don't forget to click on the link in the confoirmation mail. 
See you at PolderCon! 

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Need to know basis: Black Ops reviewed

The best thing that can happen to a wargaming fanboy is to get hold of a new ruleset prior to publication. This happened to me with Black Ops, the coming new release by Osprey Publishing. Unfortunately it took me several weeks to find the time to play it, as I eventually did at Crisis in Antwerp. So I completely blew my scoop! Despite of that, the game is defintely worth a review.

Black Ops is, as its name implies, about military commando actions and has its roots firmly in historical background. The Iranian Embassy in London and the attack on bin Laden's mansion; this set can handle it. It could even extend to the near future, because the latest technologies have been included.
There are also rules for Morale, hidden units (duh), all kinds of terrain and a multitude of weapons, troops and vehicles.

Ruleswriter Guy Bowers demonstrating his rules at Crisis 2015
Osprey used to be known mainly for its historic pocket books but over the last few years has released some impressive little gamesets. All published in the well known Osprey rules format: slightly larger than A5, full color and 65 pages long with beautiful photos and ditto illustrations. And always a complete game: the book will get you everything you need ruleswise. 

Cards on the table ...
The basic rules have a card driven turn system, using ordinary playing cards, in which the Ace figures have more options than common soldiers (a minor nod to Hollywood). These Aces move on (you guessed it) the Aces, heavy weapons on Kings, soldiers on Jacks and so on. On top of that Aces get an additional action on a Joker. Each character has an individual stat line ​​for skills and such. Players  handle units of 4-10 figures.

One thing that stands out is the use of militaresque abbreviations. For someone abbreviationally challenged like me this can be tough, but it does add athmosphere. So man-to-man combat skill is not called Combat, but CQC (Close Quarter Combat). 
The system uses D6 and employs the usual method for shooting and fighting by throwing against a minimum value (the skill) plus or minus modifiers for things like cover, darkness, distance et cetera. Once hit by a bullet the target may roll a Save. CQC (heh) uses opposed die rolls and a result table to determine the outcome.

Combat is often about waiting and reacting to your opponent. The Reserve rule enables figures to occasionally act in their opponents Action phase in response to something they see like shooting or moving. The game has a unique Suppressing rule (at least I have never seen it before) in that Suppressing counters accumulate around the target but only cause damage if the target decides to do something aggressive. Unlike most games you don't roll for Suppression effects; you are allowed to take your chances and face the consequences ....

What you don't see...
The best part of the rules are the Stealth rules. Because let's face it: Black Ops is supposed to be about elite commandos sneaking into heavily guarded bases to do something bloodcurdingly difficult. And that requires a lot of crawling around among unsuspecting sentries who are there to say "arrgh" at the right time when you stab them in the back or -failing that- are there to raise the alarm at an inconvenient moment.

As a major selling point of Black Ops these rules are well fleshed out. Sentries have a (very) limited freedom of movement which increases as the attackers get more visibility and/or make more noise. Which ultimately will always be necessary of course.
Tables and a D6 regulate what a unsuspecting sentry can do. At worst, they can only move randomly. But as the defender gets luckier with his die rolls and/or the attacker needs to take more actions (he needs to make noise and make himself visible), the defender gets the opportunity to move with more purpose ("Did you hear that?").

Being the attacker you know that despite all your sneaking at some point bullets will go flying. That's often when the defender's Aces wake up, sound the alarm and all hell breaks loose. The defender then gets complete control over his figures and can even call up reinforcements. The game will turn into a "normal" wargame and for the attacker life will get very interesting very fast from then on!

While this may sound a bit passive from the defender's point of view, trying to discover the attackers and sounding the alarm is actually very tense! Aside from the fact that this is an inspiring ruleset on its own, for me the Stealth rules alone make it worthwhile, even for use alongside other rulesets.

The book contains three ordinary and six Stealth missions. It also gives suggestions for a six tabletops which can be used for missions and also serve as a basis for a campaign. The system is written for 28mm scale, but is easily adaptable to different scales. Especially in 1/72, there is an abundance of figures, vehicles and terrain which is a very cost-effective alternative.

How did I get hold of this so early? I can tell you, old chap. But then I'd have to kill you.....

By the way, I played this game for the first time at Crisis Antwerp. After the game I set out to buy a copy. And damned if it wasn't sold out EVERYWHERE!

It's a sign....

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Sword And The Flame

Walk wide o' the Widow at Windsor
         For 'alf o' Creation she owns 

We 'ave bought 'er the same with the sword an' the flame

         An' we've salted it down with our bones

A friend making an inquiry prompted me to write a review about this lovely and venerable ruleset. Written by Larry Brom and first published in 1979 The Sword And The Flame has been played by thousands of people for 36 years now. It’s about time I wrote a review! After all, it is this set that heralded my return to wargaming some fifteen years ago after getting infected with the bug by the great, late (because the site has been down for years now) Major-General Tremorden Rederring, an alias of American gamer David Helber.

The ruleset derives its name from the lines of the Kipling poem cited above and not surprisingly is placed firmly in the Golden Age of the British Empire, starting around 1830 and ending with the First World War. Players assume the roles of British or other European colonial forces, their native auxiliaries and of course their native opponents: Zulus, Dervishes, Pathans but also quite sophisticated enemies like the Boers or the Egyptian army of 1882. Given the period this set might (and almost certainly will) offend those of political sensibility. After all, the colonial era undeniably has a lot going against it. While realizing this, I will not go into it. I will confine myself to its colorful backgrounds and interesting asymmetrical gameplay, which were the reasons I was so charmed by the game.

TSATF has been released in a number of editions over the years. This review will address the last one; the 20th anniversary edition from 1999. TSATF is sort of a skirmish set in that figures have individual statistics  and are removed (or laid down) as casualties individually. So it is either single basing (and movement trays) or counters to indicate casualties. Nevertheless the smallest organizational unit of TSATF is the unit: 20 infantry figures (or 12 cavalry) with at least one leader (and an NCO in case of Europeans). There is a marked difference in play between Europeans and Natives. Europeans or European trained troops may fight in several formations: column, line, open or closed formations and squares. Formation effects are enhanced or reduced vulnerability to enemy fire, close combat ability and speed. The game is designed around 25mm scale (this alone shows its age J ) but I played it in 20mm scale without any modification. Surely 15mm would work equally well and below that single based figures seem to fiddly to be pleasant.

Turn sequence was innovative for the time and indeed is still some cause for controversy. Normal playing cards are used for initiative sequence as well as fire effects. The cards colors indicate that either a European (red) or Native (black) unit may move. Movement is (not to everyone’s taste but deliciously fickle) by rolling D6s and moving the number of inches rolled, emulating those excruciating moments that Sergeant O’Malley swallows a fly and catches a cough while bellowing an order or something. Faster troops roll more dice.

When determining hit effects more cards are drawn where numbered cards indicate a random hit, pictures indicate a key figure like a gunner, ensign or machine gunner and Aces indicate a leader hit. Hearts kill and other colours wound. Shooting is done simply by rolling a D20 for every figure firing, consulting the Fire Table for the required score for range, cover and target formation and reaching the desired number. Hit results can be a wound or a kill in case of Europeans or a kill for natives (who are not supposed to pay any special attention to their wounded; one of those points of sensitivity I was talking about). European troops will care for their wounded or suffer consequences on their Morale rolls. So you either Leave No Man Behind (but be slower) or be more vulnerable to The Shakes….

Morale is another 2D6 roll on the Morale Table. Calamities like a killed leader and abandoned wounded will make the Morale test harder to make. Morale rolls are required for a number of events besides reacting to casualties. Things like charging or receiving a charge require another, Morale/like roll on another table. Here too the differences between the armies are present, just as in the scores and modifiers used in Close Combat. As you will notice TSATF alternately uses D6s and D20s, a specific quirk of the game, as well as a number of tables (printed on a QRS) to be consulted when Moving, Shooting, Rallying, making Morale Rolls or engaging in Close Combat. While this sounds a bit clunky, my experience is that you memorize most scores quickly enough and after all, they all fit in two sides of an A4 QRS: a feat not equaled by a lot of modern games!

The rules manage the usual weaponry available to European and native troops of the time. Breech-loading rifles, jezails (muzzle-loading muskets), cannon and primitive machine guns like the Gardner and the Gatling are featured, as are the traditional native weapons like spears, swords and clubs. Where the natives will often find it tough going to weather the European fire power they should either employ terrain and ambush tactics wisely or bring a huge mass of warriors to the fray. As a matter of fact, the rules feature rather creative use of numbered rocks indicating possible sites for an ambush (neatly integrated into the terrain!) and encourage scenario play as opponents are usually mismatched as far as firepower is concerned. But make no mistake: masses of natives may still wittle down a European force with sporadic musket fire until a charge seems feasible. Time is usually not on the European’s side as they will need to force a victory or be outmaneuvered.

All the colorful troop types of the 19th century colonial world can be fielded, including cavalry armed with sword and lance and mounted on horse, camel or elephant. Some of the native opponents can be quite sophisticated opponents, like the Sikh Khalsa Army of the Punjab (trained and armed by Europeans) and of course the Boers with their (for the time) ultra-modern repeater rifles and artillery. Profiles are included for the standard British trooper (a rolemodel for all kinds of other European troops), native auxiliaries (usually Indian) and various native forces. It is not hard to see that these profiles will translate easily into other troop types as the British trooper becomes the template for Foreign Legionaires, German Schutztruppen or US Marines.

The rulebook includes a tutorial scenario of a hapless British unit getting ambushed by sneaky Pathans, a painting guide and some nifty tips for terrain building, like roads made from (unused) strewn kitty litter which I have employed on occasion.

An almost mythical aspect of TSATF is its capacity to generate outright cinematographic outcomes. I cannot explain this, but have witnessed it on numerous occasions. A British colonel getting killed on the threshold of victory, panicking his troops into total defeat, a lone Pathan swordsman surviving every bullet and bayonet thrown or stabbed at him and decimating a British unit, a dastardly German Uhlan spearing a hapless archeologist and losing the game by exactly that amount of penalty points: I have witnessed them all. Gameplay is exiting and on occasion dramatic and movies may well be the inspiration for scenarios, as they have been for the rules themselves.

The rules are well suited to adapting for all kinds of pulpy stuff, like steam contraptions, primitive flying machines, trains and ships.  So if you miss those steam ornithopters and combat-trained Tyrannosaurs, it  is relatively easy to include them, although the rules do not “officially” include them. The mechanics are as simple as they are flexible so inventing rules for Pulp aspects is a breeze. 

TSATF has spawned a number of expansions over the years, either commercially available of fan-based and published on various websites and blogs. These are usually limited to army lists dedicated to specific periods not included in the core book. The multinational troops during the Boxer Rebellion and the French foreign legion are among those, but also the white adventurers like James Brooke that conquered the Borneo region of Serawak. Not all expansions are colonial per se. Examples of exotic periods include a fantasy version, a classical version of the Roman conquest of Gaul and a Wild West version.

Over the decades that TSATF has been used it has also caused a multitude of house rules, far too many to mention here, to suit the tastes of its players. Two worth mentioning however are the foregoing of the rules for wounded (a wound is always lethal) as this speeds up play and the opportunity for European troops to split themselves up into smaller units led by either the CO or the NCO. This gives greater flexibility to the usually not very numerous British and other Europeans.

The TSATF core rules book is a black and white softcover A4 of 55 pages, illustrated with explanatory diagrams and the beautiful contemporary illustrations of Caton Woodville. It includes two hardcopy QRS and The Sword in Africa, an expansion for smaller units venturing into the heart of the Dark Continent. Besides the terrain building and painting tips mentioned above it contains brief info on the various troops and natives, short histories of the Egyptian, Sudan, Boer War and Zululand campaigns and an entire page of Bibliography. There is a lot to be read about the colonial period. Nowadays the book and its expansions can still be had at for $33 for the corebook, This site also features errata and addenda.

Heartily recommended, as it will provide endless gaming fun as well as inspiration.

TSATF has its own Wiki, by the way. Cool, innit? 

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Tomorrow's War: are you ready for it?

Is there life after Warhammer 40K? Are there  any other relevant SF rulesets for the forward-looking wargamer? |Actually: there are quite a few. Let's put the spot on my favorite: Tomorrow's War by Ambush Alley Games.

TW is a "hard" science fiction ruleset wherein players control several 6-10 man squads and/or vehicles. The "science" is the result of extrapolating known scientific data. That makes the weapons, tactics, vehicles and terrain resemble what we might encounter on the modern battlefield, but without the boring constraints of reality. This offers the opportunity to work with robots, AI drones, Mechs, anti-grav vehicles, spacesuits and the like.

"Oh, just more fluff." I hear you say. Well, no. TW does offer a lot more than that. Of course there is fluff. TW offers a complete timeline where humankind is inventing exciting things, travels through space and forms new factions to start all sorts of interesting wars on distant planets. But you need neither fluff nor "official" figures to play TW. Anything goes as a matter of fact. These rules will carry a multitude of backgrounds and provide some real surprises.

Because TW does away with a whole range of wargame traditions. The traditional order of turns is the first to go. Instead of IGO/UGO we have the Reaction System. A dice roll determines the Active player, who is the first to Activate a unit. As soon as the first unit is Activated and its Action is announced the opponent, the Passive player, however, turns out not to be so passive at all!

As soon as the Passive player can observe an enemy unit, he may react. Reaction Tests determine whether the Active or the Passive player may act first. These (re)actions in turn may provoke reactions by other Active or Passive units, until there is no one left to respond to someone and the Active player resumes the normal order. This gives a smooth and dynamic string of events in which players constantly interact with each other. No more waiting until your opponent is ready. Keep your eyes peeled and jump him!

 Have you always disliked measuring weapon ranges? No more, since in the future, what you see is usually what you (can) hit. And now that speed and firing range are no longer connected, you can play with figures of any scale. Only throwing things (grenades), Spotting Ranges and movement require measuring. Of course I went completely 1/72, which shouldn't surprise anybody that knows me.

Tired of all those D6s? TW uses all kinds of dice from D4 to D12. They are also indicative of the quality of the units. Delta Force commandos roll D12s, green militias just D6s. Since they have to roll the same results for shooting, Reaction Tests and moral tests you can imagine that elite troops are deadly and tough compared to green troops. Rolls are made against a minimum score and opposed to opponents's rolls that can be made for cover, range, troop quality and so on. It seems complicated at first glance but during demo games even the very young players picked it up easily.

This, obviously, does not sound very balanced. Nevertheless TW does not have a point system. The intention is to create and play scenarios with either equal amounts of the same force, or -a lot more interesting and therefore fun! - very unequal amounts of very unequal forces. The rules offer several tutorial scenarios as well as full blown game scenarios that offer both great challenge and inspiration for writing new ones. These tutorials are a nice touch. While reading through the rules you will encounter some that address specific parts of the rules, like fighting with tanks, fortified positions of Battle Armour.

The main game mechanism translates easily from man-to-man combat and firefights to vehicle combat and indeed the set encompasses all these aspects of ground combat, including close air support, off board artillery, drop ships et cetera. A nice touch are the Fog Of War cards that can be used to mess up your battle plan some more by introducing random (dis)advantages to the battle after preparation but before the game starts. Besides the 4 tutorial scenarios the book contains 5 full blown scenarios that can be played as a campaign or separately. There are army lists for several factions described in the game's fluff and a lot of troop types, equipment and OOB's are provided for immediate use or inspiration to create your own. 

All this is beautifully wrapped up in an attractive full-color hardback of some 200 pages.

Is this a perfect ruleset then? Well, no. There are some minor gripes. The rules occasionally refer to other rules that haven't been explained yet. This can be confusing. There is no Quick Reference Sheet  (but this can be downloaded). 

The Reaction Rules take some VERY careful reading and trying-out to fully get your head around them, as seems to be other's experience as well. However, once having done that, they are actually quite simple and very rewarding! 

Due to the fact that you are supposed to learn the rules by playing the tutorials in sequence the rules are distributed throughout the book to facilitate that.  That does not always seem very logical and makes them hard to find sometimes. Fortunately there is an index! 

And especially annoying for my 50-year-old eyes; the entire book is printed in dark grey font on grey pages. Not a happy choice as far as readability is concerned. The Future of War may be dim, but damn you need some good light to read about it!

There is only one race of Aliens mentioned in the TW core book (which feels a bit "bolted on" to be honest), but you will encounter a lot more of them in the nice expansion book titled "By Dagger or Talon" covering the invasion of the Darghaur (more fluff) and containing generic rules to create your own aliens in all shapes and sizes. As well as cool stuff like bionically or genetically enhanced human soldiers, alien allies for the human race and scenarios depicting the battle for Glory, the first human colony to be hit by an Alien Invasion!  

Despite its quirks, this game is strongly recommended for those looking for a modern/Sci-Fi game of tense and dynamic ground combat! 

Tomorrow's War
Hardback, full color, 241 pages
Publisher: Ambush Alley Games in collaboration with Osprey Publishing

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Frostgrave Review

Recently I sank a lot of money in the Kickstarters for Monolith Games Conan and CMON Zombicide: Black Plague. The two games combined will give me an instant collection of fantasy figures (some 500 in fact) so one can imagine me, pondering the consequences of these decisions, getting slightly worried what to do with them all...

And then Osprey released Frostgrave; a 65-page ruleset for Fantasy skirmish wargaming and I knew the Stars Had Been Right. I read numerous good reviews and gaming reports about it and eventually ordered the booklet.

What’s this then? 
While appearances may be deceiving, this book’s are very pleasant. It is the standard Osprey format (a large A5) but hardcover and full color. It also follows the standard format for Osprey rulesets being 64 pages long and all-inclusive. Everything you’ll need to play is in the book or can be downloaded from the Osprey site or the numerous fan sites and Facebook pages that have sprung up. Lead Adventure Forum has adopted the game in an official Child Board and has a permanently updated errata stuck on top of it.

Frostgrave is a skirmish game with some interesting fluff. The game gets its name from the mythical frozen city of Felstad, former capital of a magical Empire and known as Frostgrave to the inhabitants of the area since it was frozen in permanent winter a thousand years ago. Becoming gradually warmer (although no one knows why) fortune seekers are drawn to its material an magical treasures that are supposedly up for grabs. As the city’s nickname should suggest, this is hardly the case. Frostgrave is far from uninhabited. Apart from competing bands of treasure seekers wild animals, undead, ghosts and other monsters roam the ruins and are out for your blood. Or your brains. Or your soul. This forms the background of the game.

Join the Frostgrave Treasure Hunters, travel all over Frostgrave and meet all kinds of strange shit! 

You will play a small band of treasure hunters. The center of this band is always a wizard. He will usually have an apprentice (a slightly less competent version of your wizard) with him alongside a number of mundane mercenaries. Apart from the monsters, you will usually need about 10 figures to play. Although there is an “official” miniatures line made by Northstar you can enlist all kinds of fantasy or historical figures in this game. Almost all my figures came out of my hoard of old lead and plastic and I only had to buy a handful, mostly some extra monsters.

Frostgrave enables you to enlist just about any kind of miniatures

Turns are based on alternative sequences, started with the winner of the Initiative roll. As befits the center of the band, the wizard takes action first in the turn. He may activate for two Actions (one of which must be a Move) along with any mercenaries near him. As soon as all wizards in the game (it supports multi-player games) have had their actions, it is the Apprentice’s turn along with “his” or “her” mercenaries. Then the remaining mercenaries take their turns before the Creatures take Action.

The Magic wielders in your band are the big guns. They have a wide array of magic at their disposal. 
The magic in Frostgrave is divided into 10 “schools” each supporting a different outlook. There are the familiar Elementalism and Necromancy but also the more exotic ones like Chronomancy (time magic) and Sigilism (rune magic). Each wizard has his own school, can master spells from most schools, but uses those of his own school easiest. This gives you the opportunity to learn spells to suit your playing style, be it offensive, defensive, illusive et cetera.

The Magic wielders form the firebase around which your band operates. Although the mercenaries wield powerful combat skills, these usually are non-magical and none of them will last long against a wizard. Mercenaries are for grabbing and carrying treasure first and for fighting second.
There are several classes of mercenaries to choose from, paid for from a point pool at the start of the game or your gold stash during the campaigns that the game also supports. Simple thugs, fast thieves, archers for ranged combat and hulking barbarians or armored knights for close combat. More opportunity to plunder your lead pile!

The system uses 20-sided dice (D20s) for all rolls. Fighting and magic and a few other actions require a D20 roll making at least a minimum score or overcoming opponent’s rolls and/or stats. This makes for a quick and bloody mechanism.

Frostgrave’ s terrain deserves special attention. As a lot of spells as well as bows and crossbows offer ranged effects, cover is crucial. You will need a lot of ruined buildings. Treasure is placed on the table by all players before the game starts and is the objective for the game.

A typical Frostgrave table: lots and lots of terrain. 

The book contains a large Bestiary which sums up lots of animals and monsters in the Random Encounter table, to be used each time treasure is found or when the scenario dictates so.

Feeling blue? In Frostgrave this is how you keep your cool.

The cherry on the icecream are 10 scenarios in the back of the book for anyone who looks for more than a pitched battle. The scenarios really reinforce the narrative and offer inspiration for writing your own or inventing background. There is one for example with a temple and six reanimated statues that attack your band. How nice would it be to play a prequel to that one explaining how the situation came to be?

So how does it play?
Frostgrave is a strongly narrative game. Especially when played in Campaign mode. The individual characters, even the rather generic mercenaries, add real flavor to the game and their development, misfortune and occasional deaths really matter in the course of the game.

The combined opposed die rolls make for a quick and bloody game. Your wizard may be a big gun, but an arrow kills him just as quickly. So tactics are paramount. Maneuver. Time well. Use cover and outflank and isolate your opponents before you kill them. Keep your wizards alive, because without them you not only lose firepower, but Initiative as well. 

The wide array of spells create enormous possibilities and depth in gaming style options. The game really shines in that respect. The monsters add flavour to the game, but do not dominate it. They're more like moving and extremely dangerous terrain. The most effective spells are also the hardest to cast (and the riskiest, due to the backfire effect) so you have to choose wisely before using them. Or enhancing them in exchange for your health. 2 Health points don't seem much in turn 2, but when you're down to 3 points in turn 5 and that werewolf is coming for you....

The game will easily accommodate 2-4 players. Just upsize the table a little for more than 4 players. And maybe add a turn or two. Playing time for a normal game is about an hour, maybe an hour and a half. 

More weird shit trying to eat my adventurers. 

What’s wrong with it?
Well, not much. This is a really good game. There are the usual typos and vaguaries tackled by the errata. The only really structural failures I was able to find only occur in campaigns, are twofold and are easily fixed.

"Let's get outta here! This place is dangerous!"

First, the game has no time limit. Since the last man standing on the table gets all the remaining treasure this tends to encourage people to kill all their opponents instead of going for the treasure. This is not so bad in stand-alone games but especially disastrous in campaigns and can quickly derail one completely. It is far too easy for one player to get the upper hand much too quickly and there is no balancing mechanism to favor underdogs. The simple solution is to limit the number of game turns. 

My take is to limit them to 5, then roll an increasing number from 4+ upwards at the start of each subsequent turn. When failed, the turn is NOT played, the game ends and all treasure remaining on the table is lost. This should encourage players to get their loot off the table a.s.a.p.

"A four-armed gorilla! Are you kidding?
What kind of a shitty game is this anyway?"
Second, killing opponents gets you Experience points. As does casting spells. It is easy to see how this is advantageous to wizards who cast killing spells: double points! Because of this, these wizards tend to advance much faster than their more humane brethren, will quickly outgun them and just as quickly derail the campaign. This problem is compounded by the fact that obtaining killing spells is easier for some schools than it is for others.

Not awarding EXP for killing to wizards is the easiest way to fix this. Let’s face it: it is all about the magic and the fact that it kills is vulgar anyway!

"Let's back away slowly... They get aggressive when you run."
"Do you smell something weird too?"

What’s in store?
We already have a fluff expansion (Tales from the Frozen City) containing Frostgrave fiction and an “official” Campaign (Hunt for the Golem). Osprey offers several online forms of support like a Quick Reference Sheet, an Errata list and Stat sheets.
In November the “Thaw of the Lich Lord” campaign expansion will be released. Dungeon expansion “Into the pits” has already been announced for next year so I am hopeful that this game will spawn add-ons for some years to come!

Frostgrave is a splendid little game. It takes me back to precious RPG experiences from long ago and seems to be just as immersing. The fact that it can be played with a few handfuls of figures combined with the book’s pleasant price lowers the threshold. Games are quick, bloody but captivating without becoming complex. The wide array of spells gives a lot of room for individual playing styles. The few structural faults are easily fixed (or left alone, if you do not find them disturbing).
It does require some investment in terrain, although this gives the opportunity for interesting projects with friends and/or club mates.


Celebrating the victory. Or our survival. Or just beer. 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

We were ein Berliner

My wife and me have been married for 25 years this year, so we decided to treat ourselves and our children to a citytrip. The choice fell on Berlin. Coincidentally –as we discovered about two weeks before- it was also the 25th anniversary of the German unity. It being “only” a 600 kilometer drive we decided on the car as a means of transport. It would save the five of us a lot of spending money in Berlin. We had some traffic jams due to trucks breaking down in the middle of the highway (a German tradition as it would turn out) but still arrived in time on the 2nd to do some grocery shopping as all of Berlin would be celebrating the German Union and therefore be closed.

We stayed in an apartment near the Potsdamer Platz in what used to be East Berlin. It was a roomy place with a balcony and a little walled park inside the city block. Imposing gates warned passers-by to keep out of this private property, a message that had apparently lost its potency since the Wende  as lots of people used the park as a shortcut and to let out their dogs. It had all the trappings of a former Party member apartment block, even including the toilet with a (too) narrow outlet to prevent any shit from escaping to the West.

So the next morning we took off into a festive city crammed with happily united Germans, pop concerts and lots of opportunities to consume copious amounts of food and drink. We stopped at the Potsdamer Platz to look at the strangely moving Wall Memorial, standing in the place where once the Wall divided the Platz in two. Cobblestones set into the asphalt indicate where the Wall used to be. Modern skyscrapers and wide avenues now dominate this square.

We stopped for a while at the Holocaust Mounument. A strangely sober monument of grey basalt blocks that stretch across the square. The monument’s impact only becomes clear once you walk into it. The terrain sinks into the ground while the blocks rise high above you. Sight is minimal and even though you know that dozens of people walk around you, usually you see no one. It is an eerily claustrophobic and lonely experience.

The Brandenburger Tor was largely masked with pop podia and Festival stuff so we handed over all our lethal deodorants to the security guards and entered Unter den Linden for coffee, donuts and icecream. 

And of course shopping, for it turned out a lot of shops had chosen to give in to the capitalist impulse and sell stuff to us tourists. The broad avenue was bustling with people, horse-and-carriages, cars, buses and roadworks. Luxureous shops line the sidewalks and various works obstruct the old walking path in the middle of the avenue, where one once could walk unter den Linden.

Slipping in and out of shops we reached the statue of Frederick The Great at the Friedrichstrasse and visited the German Historical Museum, which had an impressive collection of historical pictures, weapons, books and other objects through the ages. We followed the exhibition up until we reached the 18th century and our heads were full of images. On we went to the Museum Island where huge museum buildings housed art and historical collections. One could tell that whenever something was built in Berlin in the 19th Century, it should at least be bigger than the one in Paris… 

My son and I went for the Greeks and the Romans, my daughter went a-photographing in the Lustgarten in front (the drunk playing Deutschland uber alles on a dilapidated saxophone formed a nice contrast with the Peruvian fluteplayers) and my wife and daughter-in-law went for the modern art. Stopping to eat steak outside near the Potsdamer Platz we staggered home and crashed on the couch.

The next day we aimed for a more alternative athmosphere and took the U-Bahn to the Prezlauer Berg quarter. Here each Sunday a huge floh-markt (garage-sale) is staged in the Mauerpark (Wallpark). Hundreds of stalls sell the most diverse second-hand items, antiques or weird items. Lego puppets, USSR militaria (Jet pilot pressure suit anyone?) toys, tools, cloths (used and handmade) and a zillion of other things are sold between food- and drink stalls. On the lawn next to the park bands play music and children play. The sun shone and but for the language spoken one might have been in San Francisco in the 70ies. 

The whole quarter has a definite hippie vibe about it. Pastel houses line wide streets and since the World War has been kind to the Prezlauer Berg, here you will find a picture of the Berlin from before the war, eradicated almost everywhere else.

The kids went shopping in the Berlin Mall, we went for coffee and walks and all of us finished in style (and by contrast to the morning program) in the futuristic Sony Center with diner at Corroboree’s and a movie at the CineMax; a theater that plays exclusively English spoken movies but curiously will not accept any foreign credit card (the only place in Berlin where I had to pay with cash). Here my son found the LEGO Discovery Center. It was closed. He couldn't LEGO....

The morning of the last day I used for personal purposes and took the U-Bahn to the Gneisenau strasse to visit Battlefield Berlin: a specialized wargaming store. Whenever you visit Berlin: see that you get to this place! The shop has kind and helpful staff, an enormous stock in SF, Fantasy and even Historical miniatures and yards and yards of materials and tools. I stocked up on Reaper Bones (they have ALL OF THEM PEOPLE!) and some AWI militia. And then our time in the city was up and we had to leave.

On the way back it turned out Germany had saved almost all roadworks for the route to the West. For about 400 kilometers westward from Berlin we encountered them with depressing regularity. They usually consisted of all but one lane blocked with those red-and-white poles you learn to hate and apart from that absolutely no clue at all as to why the road was blocked. No works, machines or workmen to be seen for miles and miles as we gently crawled past. Except at the time when we stood still for three and half hours because of another accident with a truck…  But the weather was nice, my son built a LEGO Wall-E (hee hee. A Berlin Wall-E. Ahem. Sorry.) and we amused ourselves with our neighbors to find out why the hell everything stood still.

Conclusion: this was a good first taste of Berlin, but we must (and will!!) return for seconds. And thirds! Also, we will take train or plane. The 12-hour return drive was not an experience I care to repeat. But what a place.….