Saturday, October 4, 2014

Brimstone Playtest/Review: Both Core Sets!

Played a big game of Shadows of Brimstone with my local gaming crew this week, and this time I incorporated Both Core sets. So all monsters, dimensions, and items were on the table from both Alternate dimensions. I wanted to play a game where we had no idea where we were going before we stepped through any portals. It was quite an adventure (lots of pictures below all the intro text, I promise).

In this game I used the recently-discovered alternative Brimstone soundtrack, which was a hit and highly recommended for when you get tired of the regular one.

Mission: Swamps of Death/City of the Ancients
Brimstone has 'missions,' in each Core set book, and interestingly there isn't a specific mission that is meant to incorporate more than one "Other World" yet. Not by the rules-as-written, anyway. However there is one mission that is nearly identical between 'Swamps of Death' and 'City of the Ancients.' Its the Other World Mission #4 from each Core book. It basically narrates that the posse is out to explore what lies on the other side of a portal that's been appearing in a nearby mine. That could apply to either dimension, so off we went to find out which one.

Objective: Get to another World and explore it by finding two Clue tokens while inside an Other world.

- Mingo the Indian Scout (level 3)
- Brock Masters the Lawman (level 2)*
- Colt "Law Dog" Masters the Marshal (level 2)*
- Witherford "Gruff" Silvingstone the Gunslinger (level 2)
- Poncho the Bandito (level 1)

 *Side Note: For narrative purposes the two Law class players decided to play as brothers.

As you can see, some of the players are better at naming their characters than others.

Clue tokens are pretty rare (especially since I stupidly mixed all the Encounter Tokens together from both Core Sets -- which you probably shouldn't do since it dilutes the chance you'll find a rare Clue token, btw), so I realized this game could go on forever and have a ton of monsters spawn before we get all of the Clue Tokens. Still, when you're a Rootin'-Tootin' Monster-Hunting Cowboy Posse of Destruction(tm), you don't shy away from such a challenge. Plus by this time I had painted all the Hero minis, and as we all know a painted miniature never dies.

The mission also states that any Clue tokens you find in the mines automatically generate a Gate to another world, so at least any Clues found in the Mines won't be a total waste. (Note: Each Other World Core Book specifies which world you go to, but that is the one rule we decided to ignore and leave it up to the fates). Our first goal was to find a portal as quickly as possible.

"So get to the pictures already!"

Okay, okay! So, right in the entrance of the mine someone decided to do some scavenging, and we were immediately set upon by a hidden flock (swarm? gaggle?) of Hellbats!

I said I painted the Heros, no I haven't gotten to the monsters yet.
They were handily dispatched by bullet and Tomahawk. We continued deeper into the mine...

At which point Colt "Law Dog" Masters suggested that the game pics might look more authentic when taken with a particular filter...
Bam! Ready for Instagram.
Because nothing says "Authentic Old West" like sepia pictures of a board game.

We continued into the Mine. Note that we were also using the 'Advanced Rules' on the map tile cards, which adds an extra encounter to the room that is themed to the map tile (listed on the map card you drew), making the game even harder/more fun. When you get a 'named room,' you dig through the encounter cards to find that particular encounter card listed, then reshuffle the encounter cards to draw the remaining encounters randomly. Then you draw the number of encounters listed on the Encounter Token and add the named/themed one to the bottom of the little stack. You then must deal with all of the encounters (so if you drew a map tile with "Bloody Passage" on it and randomly drew an Encounter Token with "Encounter x2" on it, then you'd be facing three Encounters in total). ...anyway, I talk too much.

Deeper we go. Still no portals yet.
In this game one player carries the Lantern and that player has to "Roll Against the Darkness" at the beginning of each turn of the game. We gave it to the Gunslinger player to take care of since he always goes first anyway with his Initiative 6. More importantly, if you get more than one map tile away from the Lantern-bearer then you start to take Insanity Hits. I had a little plastic torch I had picked up a while ago which I used to mark where the Lantern was for everyone (its easy to forget who's carrying it). I do recommend using some kind of marker to show who's got it.

Marking the Torchbearer and moving single file.
One thing to remember in this game when you have more than two players is that you have to be careful about where you place your character on your initiative. Many of the passages in the Mines are only two spaces wide, and players can't move through each other. So if you're not careful with placement on your turn those poor initiative 3 players will constantly be passage-blocked and lag behind. We had to pay special attention not to get in each other's way.

Tentacles from Beyond!
At one point we were attacked by Tentacles. Tentacles are more nasty than you'd think, because they are a monster that has the ability to 'Crit' on a 6 and ignore your defense (like players can do to monsters).  Even so, [Guns + Tentacles] = [Guns].

We were lamenting the fact that we still hadn't found a Portal (and it was a work night, so it was getting late). I built Mingo as the 'tracker' type character, as he has a skill tree that allows him to spend grit to re-draw a Map tile once a turn if it doesn't look like it'll get us what we want. Even so, I was having no luck. We went five or six map tiles in without any Portals or Clue Tokens before I suddenly realized Mingo was carrying some "Void Crystals" he found from a previous adventure in the City of the Ancients (Void Crystals can be discarded to immediately 'generate' a Portal)!
Oh, uh, hey guys. I...suddenly found a Portal! ...Don't ask questions.
This was the moment of Truth. Where would we go? I took out the two different world cards, made a big show of shuffling both of them up, and let the Poncho the Bandito select the World From Beyond!

To the Swamps!
It was back to the Swamps for Mingo and Brock! However this would be the rest of the players first foray into the Dark Jungles of Jargono! Good news is we found our first Clue token right away on the other side of the Portal.

What mysteries might lie beyond the...hey, wait up guys!
Again the movement differences in this game can really split the party, especially when you are trying to move through a two-space-wide Portal to another dimension and like three people roll 2's for movement. And it really sucks when a Darkness card event happens right then and ambushing Slashers appear.

Ambushed by Swamp Slashers!
In this case we were actually excited about the Slashers because of the Bounty on them. In your Town visits after each adventure, you can go to the Frontier Post and roll to see whether there is a bounty on any monsters for your next adventure. In our case it had been a $200 bounty on Slashers, to be paid to each character! That's an unusual bounty, because usually the bounty only goes to the one who killed the monster, but in this case we rolled well. So each Slasher effectively amounted to a $1000 payoff for the party. That made dealing with their abhorrent Defense 4 a little less frustrating.

That reminds me. I also used plastic gold coins to count as money ($25 per coin) and colored glass beads to use as Darkstone. Yeah, I like props... maybe a little too much. The numbers got a little ridiculous though. Perhaps I'll see about getting some Brimstone Gold Certificates to use in the future.
Sweet, sweet gold.
After the battle, Brock Masters scavenged some ridiculous-looking lizard skin oven mits I just had to get a picture of.
Perfect for taking hot trays out of the oven. Also pretty good for combat.
Moving further into the jungles.
Soon after dealing with the Slashers, we quickly found the second Clue token in the Other World. I guess Mingo's tracking ability only seems to payoff in alternate dimensions.
Maybe Mingo shouldn't move so fast ahead of the party...
So what's the Mission procedure for pulling the second Clue Token? You guess it: EPIC THREAT!

However for the first time the Epic Threat card we pulled wasn't one of the big monsters. It was three pulls of High Threat monsters, one of which lead to a further pull of a Medium Threat monster card. In the end, we ended up with a large number of figs to place on the map:

That's a lot of baddies. Plus see those two little cardboard tokens? Corpse Piles. I hate these guys.
In an Ambush you place all the monsters immediately surrounding the party (evenly spread amongst the party, roll randomly for any odd numbers), and they get a +2 to initiative. In a non-ambush the monster placement rules in the game are also pretty clear and easy to follow. Starting with lowest initiative you place the monsters in a checkerboard pattern starting from the far edge of the room, and then in sequence of initiative place them further and further forward along the map. Though with this number of monsters it worked out to completely surround the party. It basically became an Ambush in all but name (and initiative)!

With initiative 0, Corpse piles always end up in the back of the room, where they can sit back and generate undead like the jerkwads they are.

The gunslinger, who normally goes first with initiative 6, decided to lower his initiative in order to get some extra shots in (one of his abilities is basically 'aiming'). That meant Mingo (initiative 5) got to go first. Now the rules say that when shooting you must kill any adjacent monsters before you can target farther-away monsters (like the F'ing Corpse Piles). But I can find no rule that says you can't chuck dynamite over the heads of monsters, so that's what he did. He didn't waste any time and started chucking dynamite right away at the corpse piles.

This ain't Gauntlet, get yer monster-generatin' ass outta here!
 With some excellent rolls he killed one Corpse Pile outright and seriously wounded the other, and it was killed shortly thereafter.
The gunslinger head-shots some Stranglers.
The gunslinger then went to town on the group of Stranglers. He decided to get them first since they have a similar 'Crit' ability as the tentacles. In their case on a roll of a '6' the Stranglers count as inflicting 3 Hits instead of 1, which can really add up. Using a few 'Deadeye' shots, the gunslinger quickly put them down. (Gunslinger starts the game with 6 'Deadeye' tokens, which he can use to inflict an extra +2 damage after hitting a target).
Divide and conquer.
Unfortunately on the monster's turns the ones that weren't already adjacent to a character randomly chose their next targets. In the Gunslinger's case a group of Tentacles came down to put the hurt on. Between them and the Night Terror old "Gruff" went down.

Oh no!
Fortunately we still had our one Revive token for him to use, so the Gunslinger was able to get back up next round. But once the Revive token is used, that means the next Hero to fall will have to roll for Injury (if they aren't killed outright - we play Hardcore mode).

The Bandito saw the danger of the Tentacles, and decided to toss a stick of dynamite to take care of a bunch of tentacles at once.

Targeting the dynamite...
But here's where the randomness of dynamite comes in. If you miss your ranged attack roll, then the dynamite bounces D3 times in random directions. In this case Poncho missed his initial ranged roll, then his grit-fueled re-roll, so the dynamite bounced...
Bouncing betty.

...well away from the tentacle group, injuring just one tentacle. This is one of the reasons you want to carry a lot of dynamite in your Side bag.

Eventually between Mingo finishing off the Undead, the Lawman stomping the Void Spiders, the Marshall shotgun-blasting Night Terrors, and the (revived) Gunslinger and Bandito clearing out the Tentacle infestation, we won the day. Bloodied and bruised.

Loot time!
Loot Time is a really good time. You get one loot card (to a max of 3) for each Threat card you faced. That meant each of us got three loot cards! Out of those, three of us then got to pull official Jargono Artifacts!

Unfortunately for Mingo, he pulled multiple Swamp Fungus cards in the Swamps. He even had to dump his whiskey to carry all the swamp fungus tokens.

Hooray. Fungus.
Whoops! Er, I mean...
Well gosh, a sachel full o' strange mushr'ums!
I mean, don't get me wrong. They're darn good items to have (each swamp fungus token basically counts as both a bandages and a whiskey token). However filling your bag full of fungus just doesn't have the same charm as finding a teleportation bracelet or a magic darkstone tomahawk or something. Suddenly I found myself actually being envious of Brock's dinosaur-skin oven mits.

As it was late, we decided to save playing through the trip back to town for the beginning of the next game. All in all, a great time, as usual. I can say that Shadows of Brimstone is truly the new Game of Kings.**

**Game of Kings formerly known as "Warhammer Quest."
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