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THE Gazebo Issue3

Taking the pulse of the Gaming Scene

GM: You see a well groomed garden. In the middle, on a small hill, you see a gazebo. Player: A gazebo? What colour is it? GM: It’s white, Eric. Player: I use my sword to detect good on it. GM: It’s not good, Eric. It’s a gazebo. Player: (Pause) I call out to it. GM: It won’t answer. It’s a gazebo. Player: I shoot it with my bow (roll to hit). What happened? GM: There is now a gazebo with an arrow sticking out of it. Player: (Pause) Wasn’t it wounded? GM: OF COURSE NOT, ERIC! IT’S A GAZEBO! Player: (Whimper) But that was a +3 arrow! GM: It’s a gazebo, Eric, a GAZEBO! If you really want to try to destroy it, you could try to chop it with an axe, I suppose, or you could try to burn it, but I don’t know why anybody would even try. It’s a @#$%!! gazebo! Player: (Long pause.) I run away. GM: (Thoroughly frustrated) It’s too late. You’ve awakened the gazebo. It catches you and eats you. During this time of year, with Halloween just behind us, what could be more appropriate than a small tribute to the survival horror genre? In Issue 3, we give you a countdown of some of the best survival horror RPGs to be found, in our Top Five Survival Horror RPGs, a discussion on running survival horror games and wonderful material for you to take inspiration from when it comes to building a survival horror setting. We also have some interesting articles that are non-survival horror related; a discussion on testing out custom systems for the first time, the third installment in our History of Gaming series, and a discussion on card advantage and sideboarding in Magic: The Gathering.

We’re also really pleased to announce that Angus Abranson will be taking over the News section. You may remember him from his interview with Brian Nisbet in Issue 1. Oh, and from Leisure Games, Cubicle 7 and CHRONICLE CITY. So, expect some interesting reading about what’s going on and being released in the industry. We’re excited. As always we’ve tried to include something which will be of interest to all flavours of gamer: Games News, RPGs, LARPs, Cardgames, Wargames, Boardgames and Video Games Reviews, Interviews, and some General Interest pieces. Here’s hoping that there’s something here that you’ll enjoy, but if not, if we happen to have missed out on writing about your very favourite game, then maybe you’re just the person to write about it for The Gazebo: Issue 4! Please feel free to get in touch with us about potential articles, gaming events and any other gaming-related thing which takes your fancy. And finally, we are hoping to provide a platform for debate and expression; opinions expressed by contributors are not necessarily ours but perspectives we find interesting. Happy Gaming, Anita Murray & Noirin Curran Editors-in-chief You can follow us in between issues @Gazebo_ezine, on Facebook or on G+.




Anita Murray Nick has written LARP, written about LARP, lectured about LARP and translated LARP written by non-English speakers. He runs the ongoing post-apocalyptic LARP “Midway” in Dublin, Ireland and ran the ongoing sci-fi LARP “JumpTech” at Irish conventions. He doesn’t recommend running two ongoing LARPs at the same time.

Don’t Rest Your Head Review Page 25 Hard as Nails Page 28 Insylum Review Page 30 My Kingdom for a Map Page 20 Primeval Review Page 23 Survival Horror (Setting Mining) Page 18 Top Five Survival Horror RPGs Page 15 Zombies on the Eastern Front Page 32

Noirin Curran Noirin is a gamer, a writer and a wanderer, currently studying the psychology of immersion in games. Someday she’d like to run away with the circus. She’s not sure whether she should be writing this in the third person, or not, but she thanks you not to give out about it.



Custom Systems and Customary Mishaps Page 37






Battlegroup Kursk Review Page 44 Broadside: World Building Page 42 Inspiring This Gazebo Hunter 3 Page 40 Warwick Kinrade Interview Page 09 CGS

Interview with Croatian Magic player, Grgur Petrić Maretić Page 49 MTG: Common Improvements 2 Page 54 Netrunner Review Page 52



Anike Review Page 59 Formula One Review Page 63 Trans Europa Review Page 57 Pandemic Review Page 61

ideo Games

Mini Reviews 2012 Page 79 Resident Unbelievable Page 77 Shinkicking Giants Page 74 UFO Retrospective Page 71 eneral Interest

Cabin in the Woods Review Page 67 Clubs and Conventions Page 05 Dredd 3D Review Page 65 History of Gaming, Part 3 Page 12 News Page 06 No More Stores Page 69



The Cost of Being a Wizard Page 82



Also Backpage, Dont Rest your Head As for bio, will keep it short and sweet: Adam “Kimded” Howie - Geek, gamer, and a freelance artist/designer. You can find me across the web usually under the nickname Kimded. twitter: @Kimded web: & DITORIAL BACKDROP: MARY LILLIS


Also Formula, Inspiring this Gazebo Hunter, Full Time graphic Designer, Part time t shirt designer and Art Dabbler. Find her on twitter @marvfortytwo THER ARTICLE ARTWORK:


WAYNE O CONNOR Antike Review, The Cost of being a Wizard, History of Gaming, Netrunner Wayne works as a freelance illustrator and has contributed to a variety of projects. He is also a keen Gamer and Musician. ANDREW JUDGE Shinkicking Giants Article Andrew Judge makes comics in his Spare time. Occassionally they are humourous. :) BAAL ALTMAN Pandemic, Transeuropa “Varying influences play a part in my ‘work’, cult caricature, horror comic gothic, unorthodox spirituality, sinister sociology, and the beauty of gargoyles, plus a decomposing tongue in a freshly stitched cheek.. Which I like to call Dada Macabre” PS. You may be interested in my web site (needs updating)

Who GMS Magazine Games Gazette RPG.Net IrishGaming.Com The Adventuring Party Cam Midway LT Profound Decisions Isles of Darkness Age of Essence Hp Lovecraft Live


Club Name





FanSci WARPS WAC Other Realms IGA Games Night @ The Dark Horse QUB Dragonslayers UCD Games Soc

UK Roleplayers Club List London Indie RPG Meetup

Conventions & Events Brocon Conspiracy Gaelcon Dominicon Warpcon Leprecon Itzacon Vaticon Q-con Continuum Congenial Grand Tribunal 2013 Concrete Cow 13 Furnace Fabulous Consequences Dragonmeet Conception Concrete Cow 13 Con-Quest UK Games Expo Conpulsion

NEWS Angus Abranson takes us through some of the most exciting news in the RPG industry

ARC DREAM PUBLISHING Arc Dream Publishing are known for producing some of the best looking and interesting games over the years. From Delta Green (US government agency investigating the Cthulhu Mythos) and Monsters & Other Childish Things (think Calvin & Hobbes meets Call of Cthulhu!) to Wild Talents (a hard hitting superhero game with a wealth of setting choices), they have established themselves as a company to keep an eye on. Alongside working on a revision of their World War 2 superhero game Godlike, they are also in the closing stages of Better Angels – a game of reluctant supervillany.

In Better Angels you were an ordinary person who’s been possessed by a demon and granted superpowers. Sounds great? Sure, but there’s a catch. The demon demands that you perform acts of evil and if you refuse it might leave you and go and haunt someone else… someone who might not mind about committing atrocities as much as

you. So you find a compromise by acting like a supervillain – coming up with over the top ridiculous plots to rule the world and become rich and powerful (exactly what the demon wants you to do) – whilst trying to make sure it’s so over the top that the superheroes in the world will almost certainly stop you and no one actually gets hurt. Well, that’s the plan… CHAOSIUM INC Atomic-Age Cthulhu hasn’t been given a firm release date as yet (‘coming 2012’ but more likely ‘2013’) but it sounds ace! Set in 1950s America, everything looks rosy and peaceful but underneath the skin lurks fear. The Red Menace, Atomic weapons, The Korean War, The Space Race, the birth of TV and Rock n’ Roll – all contribute to a potent mix to be explored, but remember to duck and cover! CHRONICLE CITY New publishing house Chronicle City is working with a bunch of designers and studios to help bring their games to a wider audience, as well as having some in-house games they are developing themselves. They have a very active release schedule for the remain-

Angus Abranson Angus started off as a Saturday boy at Leisure Games back in the mid-80s and rose to the ranks of Supreme Tea Maiden before he left in 2009 to concentrate fulltime on his publishing company Cubicle 7 Entertainment. He has since left Cubicle 7 and has launched a new company called Chronicle City, where he is still making his own tea. He currently lives in Wiltshire near ancient stone circles.

der of 2012 including some really choice titles such as Achtung! Cthulhu – Zero Point Part 1 (a Call of Cthulhu World War 2 campaign with Modiphius), Dungeonslayers (an old school fantasy game – the PDF of which is actually com-

The Warring States before it) went back to historic/mythic periods Kuro takes us to Japan in 2048, when something dark has awoken and returned to the world. Kuro is a near future horror game, and has been described as The Ring meets Bladerunner.

pletely free (you can download it here http://www.dungeonslayers. com/?page_id=228), 43AD (a dark horror game set in Britain as the Romans invade by Zozer Games), Eldritch Skies (a science-fiction Cthuloid game using the Unisystem and written by John Snead and Battlefield Press) and Maelsteom (the classic 1980s Elizabethan/ Tudor RPG written by Alexander Scott and originally published by Puffin Books in the UK).

Cubicle 7 are also keeping our wallets open over the next few months with the launch of a new edition of its steampunk-fantasy RPG Victoriana 3rd Edition - alongside an adventure book ,The Concert in Flame. Defending the Earth: UNIT Sourcebook should finally be seeing the light of day and now in a full colour book format as opposed to a boxed set! Primeval RPG sees its first supplement, The Primeval Companion, whilst Cultists Under the Bed and God Game Black are bound to give Agents a lot more headaches for The Laundry. KOBOLD PRESS


Hot on the heels of Yggdrasil, Cubicle 7 is launching another RPG that it has translated from prolific French Company 7eme Cercle. Whilst Yggdrasil (and Qin:

Legendary game designers Wolfgang Baur and Jeff Grubb have released the Midgard Campaign Setting. Along with Brandon Hodge, the team have brought to

life this new dark fantasy Pathfinder setting which is drawn from many great European traditions, and is the culmination of five years of adventures and sourcebooks from Kobold Quarterly and Open Design. Magic-blasted landscapes, diabolical gnomes, wind-riding elves, swashbuckling minotaur corsairs and dragon-haunted icy crags await! ONYX PATH PUBLISHING

Onyx Path announced they had licensed the World of Darkness settings (old and new) off CCP/ White Wolf this summer and also brought outright some of the other games previously published by WW (Scion,/Adventure/Trinity/Aberrant). The company is run by Richard Thomas, who has been with White Wolf ever since the Wieck brothers started White Wolf as a high school games fanzine back in the 80s, so he certainly knows his stuff. Along side some big Kickstarters (Werewolf: The Apocalypse 20th Anniversary Edition is running now) the company has a wealth of other releases coming through on PDF and print-on-demand such as Anarchs Unbound (Vampire: The Masquerade), Convention Book: New World Order (Mage: The Ascension) and a brand new product line Mummy: The Curse which will see not only a core 264 page book but a string of supplements including Guildhalls of the Deathless and Book of the Deceived.


Robin D. Laws new game Hillfolk: A Game of Iron Age Drama has performed brilliantly on Kickstarter and is being published by Pelgrane Press. Hillfolk is a game of Iron Age conflict and introduces the DramaSystem rules engine – a much more story driven focus of collective play. Whilst Hillfolk is the core setting the Dramasystem can be played in any number of ways and several of these ‘series pitches’ are also going to be explored in the main book, written by some of the best talent in the industry. Ken Hite (Moscow Station – cold war espionage), Jason Morningstar (Hollywoodland – the founding of the American film industry), Chris Pramas (Brigades for the Spanish Civil War), Emily Care Boss (Colony Wars which takes us to Jupiter and Mars) and many more are all involved! 13th Age is a massive new fantasy RPG by Jonathan Tweet (lead designer of D&D 3rd Edition) and Rob Heinsoo (lead designer of D&D 4th Edition) and is being released by Pelgrane Press this December. With the names attached to this project it’s been drawing a lot of attention. In the 13th Age of the world, adventurers seek their fortunes in the Dragon Empire while powerful individuals known as Icons pursue goals that may preserve the empire from chaos, or send it over the edge. The players decide which Icons their characters ally with, and which they oppose. These relationships,

along with a personal history and a unique trait chosen during character creation, help define an adventurer’s place in the world of 13th Age and lay the groundwork for epic stories that emerge through play. There are also fun new rules for hitting orcs and making them go splat.


VOID STAR GAMES Nova Praxis is the third book by Void Star Games (Strands of Fate and Strands of Power being their first two) and once again using a version of the flexible FATE system to power the game. Set in a universe where the Earth has been lost to us and the ‘Exodus’ gave mankind a chance to start with a clean sheet. But as with all visions of utopia, they rarely mean the same thing to everyone. Nova Praxis is a post-singularity sci-fi setting that explores Transhumanism and post-scarcity societies against a backdrop of action, adventure, conspiracy and intrigue.

Swedish design studio, Wicked World Games, have been teasing us with video trailers, fiction and art teasers for their new dark science fiction game Cold & Dark which should be released this winter. The sci-fi universe of Cold & Dark is a frightening and violent place. In the reaches of space the protagonists have to face known, as well as unknown, horrors as the endless expansion of corporate greed and relenting strip-mining of resources and stirred something terrible best left buried and forgotten…

WARWICK KINRADE Warwick Kinrade, the author of Battle Group Kursk (BGK) which is reviewed elsewhere in this issue, is interviewed by Donogh McCarthy

Donogh McCarthy

DMC: Can you tell us a little bit about your background as a gamer? What early wargames influenced you or even inspired you to write your own rules?

WK: Early gaming for me was World War II and Napoleonics using Airfix and Matchbox kits, mostly on the bedroom floor. They were the first games with toy soldiers we had rules and dice for, before that we rolled marbles at each other’s men. Like many back in the 70s, most of my boyhood

toys were army related, like Action Man, and mostly WWII too. As I got a bit older I bought the first Warhammer rules, and we started playing them. Collecting actual armies developed from there, and I was pretty much a fantasy only player throughout the late 80’s. I rediscovered World War II in the mid-nineties, with the first Rapid Fire, and we played them a lot. I started really collecting seriously then, boards, terrain, models, tonnes of stuff. That led me back into the wider world of historical

Donogh has been gaming in some shape or form since school. Though he’ll happily engage in a quick pick-up boardgame or indie roleplaying game, you’ll usually find him running participation wargames at conventions. Read his latest wargaming exploits at Land War in Asia:

gaming again, back to my youth, and I started collecting for other periods too, but WW2 always remained my main passion. I don’t think I’d call it inspiration, but it was dissatisfaction with most

of the WW2 rules available (and I tried most of them), that led me to write my own. Like many people, I figured it was the only way to get the game I wanted to play.

DMC: Before Kampfgruppe Normandy I think it’s fair to say not many historical wargamers would have heard your name – can you give us an idea of how you got into writing gaming material professionally?

WK: Well of course not, if you work for GW for 15 years then that is bound to be the case. I was also a games writer, in my teens I wrote many role-playing games, boardgames and house rules for everything. In some ways I think I preferred it to actually playing. I was taken on by GW after I left university (you know, when you suddenly have to get a job), so I applied with some of my own material, got an interview, did it and got a job as a trainee. After that I worked for GW in all sorts of writing and book production related roles, on White Dwarf, for the Black Library, etc. In the end I was Forgeworld’s main writer for 10 years. I guess there something inside that just needs to get out, given free time I often start noting down ideas of new games, I have hundreds of them. Some may someday see the light of day.

DMC: Is there any aspect or mechanic that you find yourself returning to across different games? Is there a common thread running through Warwick Kinrade material?

WK: Despite writing for 15 years, I haven’t actually designed many game systems. GW doesn’t do many anymore, so the opportunities were rare, but I do have certain things which I always consider when designing a game. After 30 years’ experience my ideas of what

makes for a fun tabletop miniatures game don’t change much these days. One important element, often overlooked, is that priority has to go to a gamer’s miniatures collection. Playing games is just part of the hobby, collecting is another big one, and I want to write games that encourage collecting, and give a reason and direction to it. For example, noncombat units like ambulances or radio teams. I wanted one (not loads just one of each) in my WW2 armies, and I also want them to do something in the game too, other than just look pretty. It doesn’t have to be much, just a little something useful. I’m not interested in making stuff powerful on the tabletop which, in my experience, is usually a fairly cynical attempt to boost miniatures sales and shows no respect to the players. Believe me it happens a lot, and there is a lot of ‘sales’ pressure, especially in the corporate world. I believe in the end, if the game plays well and is fun, people will want to buy the models anyway, you won’t need to twist their arms (by twisting the game). But you need to design a game from the ground up with collecting in mind, not shoehorn it in afterwards. Another important aspect of wargames which I’ve come to love more and more is unpredictability and ‘chaos’ (not the spiky men). Games that roll ‘buckets of dice’ are quite predictable, because the more die you roll the closer you’ll get to the predictably average result. In my opinion, rolling 1 or 2 D6 is inherently more exciting than rolling 20, because the result is so much more random. There is nothing better than needing a 6 and getting it!

DMC: Looking at BGK, it’s clear that you’ve put a lot of thought into both points

systems and scenarios. There seems to be great dispute between those two camps in gaming – what’s your take on the debate?

WK: My take is that both are valuable and valid. I do both. For years I was a purist, no points, only historical scenarios, I wanted a backstory and unbalanced but ‘correct’ forces, but I think this was because the points systems were overly simplistic and in striving for balance made the games dull. BGK points system exists to facilitate quick, evening gaming (because that’s what many players can do – including me), and the game doesn’t balance solely on points. More important is the Battle Rating system which works alongside it, it’s this system on which the game really balances. I also think the introduction of better, more historical-based and characterful army lists helps a lot to improve points-based games. You can have it both ways!

DMC: If all new sets of rules fulfil a need, what will BattleGroup Kursk (BGK) provide that other rules do not?

WK: A tenser, more dramatic and ultimately more fun game, which retains a good feel for the theatre or period! Subjective opinion I know, but I really think it provides a better feel for WW2 battles, and the character of the fighting in that theatre (here Kursk), than generic rules which provide effectively the same battles but with different model tanks. Of course, you can play like that, but I strive to give the games a characterful edge, a feel for the theatre and period, so battles in 1943 at Kursk feel different to those, say, during the invasion of Germany in 1945. Not just the equipment has moved on, but the tactics, and the strategic situation too, I like to get a little of that

influence into the army lists too. Subtle changes sometimes result in a very different feel and approach by players. It’s gentle encouragement though, not brow-beating.

DMC: Can you give us an example of how the German and Russian forces work differently?

WK: Well, the Germans are the all-rounders, a forgiving army to play, they don’t really lack for anything. Their infantry is good to very good, their artillery likewise, their tanks are good to superb, they have descent air support. All the elements are in place, and with good command and control they are a formidable outfit. Really, they were the easy part to deal with. It won’t be so in the 1945 supplement. The Russians were the headache - how to make the Russian army fight more like a Russian army with its very different tactical doctrines? Obviously their equipment is cheaper, and their infantry is generally poor (but again very cheap). They have a lot of artillery, but it is inflexible, lots of guns, but can you get them in the right place at the right time. But it is in command and control that they suffer most. Finding the balance took a while, but I think we cracked it. Historically the Germans achieved about an 8-1 tank kill ratio at Kursk, and lost! But I don’t think you can write that game, who wants to lose that badly every game. But you can write a game were a 2-1 or 3-1 is the norm, it feels right, and yet the Russians can still win despite those heavy losses.

DMC: How do you handle the challenge of maintaining historical accuracy and playability at the same time?

WK: Basically, playability is always the priority, without it you have nothing. All the accuracy in the world doesn’t make for a better game. When designing you can take a few licences sometimes, as long as it improves the game play and retains the right feel. So, if a vehicle doesn’t have exactly the right move distance it won’t matter too much, as long as it still feels fast or slow. That said, I try to get things right, and do a lot of reading and research. I’ve read everything I could get my hands on about Kursk. Most of it isn’t much use in games design, but it all feeds in on one level or another. Mostly, I want the tanks to have the right guns and armour.

DMC: I’ve described as ‘striking gold’ situations where rules reward historical tactics with success – do you have any good examples of this from playtests of BGK?

WK: Many. Too many to list. I’d like to think the entire reason for creating the game was to get closer to this, and I think we have succeeded (but that’s probably for others to judge). The number of reckless Russian T-34 charges that have had the German players cursing and sweating, only for a single Tiger to reap havoc and save what looked like a lost cause, or for a swirling melee to come out in the German favour, I’ve lost count of. Such asymmetry in a game is a tough one to balance; most games don’t even try and fudge it instead. The game is inheritently unpredictable, but it does encourage ‘realistic’ play. Note ‘encourages’, it doesn’t dictate it, I hate that, games and army lists with only one plan, based on what units you take, rather than how you fight with what you have.

DMC: I understand that you’re planning on doing Normandy ’44 and the Fall of the Reich ’45 next. What plans do you have for 2014 and beyond?

WK: Vague. The whole war (and beyond it too) are up for grabs. Obviously North Africa looms large, and there are many early war gamers I’d love to get something out there for. Blitzkrieg 39-40 isn’t my personal bag, but it will be high on the list. Best not to get too far ahead of yourself though, I try to stay focussed on the project in hand, pour all my efforts into that. I can say we won’t be dealing with the niche theatres and conflicts before we’ve covered the big ones. So there will be no Battlegroup ‘Norway’ or Battlegroup ‘Greece’, before I have covered early, mid and late war on the east and west fronts, North Africa and the Pacific. That’s a lot of work already. Spreading beyond WW2 is also on the cards, eventually.

DMC: Will these theatrelevel books have the rules in them? How do you deal with comments about obliging people to buy the Kursk book to play with entirely different armies?

WK: The rules won’t be in every book, only the lists, scenarios, special rules etc. In effect, when you buy Battle Group Kursk you are buying the core rulebook and the Eastern Front 1943 supplement in one volume (which is not bad for £30). Soon(ish) (but don’t hold me too it), I’ll look at getting a smaller core rulebook available. But for now it’s Kursk, and I choose it because, as far as I’m concerned, the appeal of WWII wargaming is playing battles with the tanks (at its heart). So where else to start, but at the largest tank battle ever?

History of Gaming: Part 3 Brian Nisbet takes us further back in time In writing any history one must be careful of falling into easy traps and over-simplifying that which requires complexity to be properly treated and explained. I am far from a perfect historian (a fact to which those I studied under many years ago will freely attest), but I know the temptations of the Great Man theory all too well and it would be very, very easy indeed to fall into that trap where Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) is concerned. Part 2 of this series ended with the publication of the first recognisable edition of the game and it still weighs heavy on so many facets of the gaming hobby today. Most people in Europe and North America have heard of it, as well as many, many others around the world. It is the easy touchstone when people try to explain the games we play, or to mock them. It has influence, of course, it was the game I started with in 1983, but it was not the first role playing game and, subjectively, it has never been the best. So we will talk about it and other games that came out in the years following D&Ds publication. D&D is a fantasy game and, as with so many expressions of genre, where there is fantasy, sci-fi is usually lurking somewhere nearby. In the 70s the big hitting SF game

was Marc Miller’s Traveller. GDW first printed the game in 1977 and the comparisons with D&D are not only easy to see, but have been publicly stated by Miller.

However this was all about space, garnering wealth and power in the Third Imperium and was less about killing the monsters and taking their treasure.”

However, this was all about space, garnering wealth and power in the Third Imperium and was less about killing the monsters and taking their treasure. The game also broke from the system used by D&D and its many imitators, pushing skill advancement, rather than levels. Traveller has stood the test of time very well and while it’s never been quite as popular as D&D or some other games we’ll

Brian Nisbet Brian Nisbet has been gaming since the early 80s and because just doing is never enough for him, he’s been writing about it and organising events since the early 90s. He is more than willing to discuss almost anything to do with gaming, politics, history or networking and you can find him on twitter as @natural20 or in the bar.

mention, the brief story of the Free Trader Beowulf has stuck with me since the first time I read the quote on the back of the iconic little black book. It also has a direct connection to the Gazebo as Issue 2’s guest editor Gar Hanrahan is

responsible for Mongoose’s edition of the game. Chaosium’s RuneQuest from 1978 was a fantasy game set in Glorantha, a world that Greg Stafford had been playing about with since the 60s. The rules system followed Traveller’s lead, rather than D&D’s, and has been constantly reprinted, most recently by The Design Mechanism. However I want to draw a little more attention to Chaosium’s 1981 game, Call of Cthulhu (CoC), not because it needs the attention, more because of how different it was to the other mainstays of the time. At Irish conventions in the 90s and early 2000s three games were head and shoulders above everything else in terms of popularity, D&D, Vampire: The Masquerade (more on that in a later article) and Call of Cthulhu. Using the Basic Role-Playing system, CoC put the players into HP Lovecraft’s chilling version of the 1920s where the question wasn’t if your character would go insane and/ or die, it was when! Traveller had been a pretty dark world in many ways, but D&D was largely based on the notion that you were the hero and you’d probably win in the end. Sandy Petersen’s non-euclidian game was based on the notion that you poked into the dark corners of the earth and you probably wouldn’t survive what you found there. The game took Lovecraft’s work and translated it likely as well as humanly possible into an RPG that’s still as popular and scary today as it was when it first came out. Another game from the 80s that made it very clear RPGs weren’t all about swords and sorcery was West End Games’ Paranoia, first published in 1984. Written by Greg Costikyan, Dan Gelber and Eric Goldberg, it thrust players into Alpha Complex, a world where

everyone has something to hide, the Computer is your friend and the game assumes that you will die several times per session. I struggle to think of any other game that’s “like” Paranoia, although some of the more surreal indie games of recent times likely come close. It would be very easy to look back at the early history of RPGs and see only games like D&D, Traveller or CoC, but the ongoing popularity of Paranoia (the 25th edition came out in 2009, with Gar Hanrahan very much involved once again, he gets about...) shows just how wide the scope of RPGs has always been.

Sandy Petersen’s non-euclidian game was based on the notion that you poked into the dark corners of the earth and you probably wouldn’t survive what you found there.”

The other major thing to come out of the 1980s RPGs was the idea of a “generic” system, first pioneered by Chaosium with their book Basic Role-Playing in 1981. The Hero System (with a book that is useable in home defence) was used in Champions the same year and in 1985 Steve Jackson Games published the Generic Universal Role Playing System (GURPS), a game that wanted you to be under no illusions as to its purpose. Over the fifteen years since the

publication of D&D, RPG systems had changed and evolved, the games had been translated and the hobby had spread far, far further than North America. The early 90s were to be a period of further change, but in part four we will take a look at what was happening in other areas of the hobby in the 70s and 80s, concentrating more on toy soldiers and the rise of Games Workshop.

HUNTERS OF DRAGONS THE ORIGINAL DUNGEONS & DRAGONS COLLECTING GUIDE More than 35 years ago, a bunch of friends from the small city of Lake Geneva (Wisconsin) joined forces to publish their game. They decided to call it Dungeons and Dragons. Today, the game is so popular that people actually collects older editions!


Game Line: Dungeons & Dragons classic Category: Essay Retail Price: $34.99 / £23.99 Size: 226 pages, softcover, 5.5” x 8.5” Interior Art: Black & White Author: Ciro A. Sacco Stock Code: CHC52601 ISBN: 978-1-909126-12-1

Hunters of Dragons is the first professionally produced, designed and published book entirely devoted to Original D&D collecting. The book has a complete history of the Original Dungeons & Dragons game, a complete listing of every Original D&D product released (including non-English versions and original non-English language items!) with a lot of images, rare and very rarely seen photos and advertising for the game, a chapter (written by Mark R. Shipley with advice from Shane Glodoski) about Judges Guild (a company that got a license for Original D&D products that had a big impact on the game and tabletop role playing games in general) and three interviews: one with each of Gary Gygax and David Arneson (authors of the game) and Larry Elmore (the great artist that revolutionized the style of the game with his amazing artistic skills).

Ph: +44 (0) 7834 281383 Email:

Chronicle City – The New Capital of Gaming

TOP FIVE SURVIVAL HORROR RPGS Mike Brennan breaks down the Top Five Survival Horror RPGs Survival horror is a tricky genre to pin down. The horror part is easy enough, you just need an unsettling atmosphere, and the threat of catastrophe. It can be anything from “The villagers are a little too nice”, or “These angles shouldn’t exist in normal spacetime”, to There’s a giant blob eating everybody....RUN!!!”

Survival horror is a tricky genre to pin down.”

It’s the survival part that’s the hard one to capture. A good test for survival horror is to remove the horror part. If after all the weird stuff packs up and leaves, you still have players in a potentially life threatening situation it’s a fair bet your running a survival horror game. 5. The Farm - Jared Sorenson (Inspectres) You are a ‘resident’ on the Farm, a small city located on a remote island run by the Headmasters. If you manage to survive for 6 ses-

sions, you will be rewarded by being killed and eaten. The object is to escape. The Farm has a group character creation system, there’s a pool of dice to be allocated to stats that the whole group draws from, and no real insistence on a fair distribution. The game revolves around the idea that what benefits the group may hurt an individual and vice versa. The system supports this idea well, without interfering in the flow of the game. Tasks are made easier if you elect a Leader, who rolls dice for the whole group, but the Leader has no responsibility to actually help you succeed. During group rolls one player can claim the roll of the “Pig” securing their chance of success, but potentially causing others in the group to fail catastrophically. You can aid other players but doing so puts you into Skill debt, making it impossible to succeed at that skill

Mike Brennan Mike has been gaming since before he was old enough to know better. Now he is old enough to know better and still hasn’t stopped. He lives in London with his boyfriend and a cat. You can follow him on Twitter @ohcrapzombies if you’re prone to that sort of thing.

until you’ve paid it back. Helping other players potentially puts your life on the line. 4. Shotgun Diaries - John Wick product/64667/The-Shotgun-Diaries After the zombies came, society crumbled. All that’s left is a scattered collection of notes, diaries of the survivors. Players are given diaries, they record the sessions in these diaries, and each session they can underline a few sentences and make them true. Eg. Explored the old firehouse, I found a fireman’s axe. Their PC now has a fire axe. The diaries are also a method of keeping your Survivor’s fear in check.

A good test for survival horror is to remove the horror part. If after all the weird stuff packs up and leaves, you still have players in a potentially life threatening situation it’s a fair bet your running

a survival horror game.”

On a side note, I would watch the crap out of the sample “movie” Sky Burial.

The system is a simple d6 based system, which lends itself to fast resolution. When zombies are pounding on the barn door the last thing you need to be doing is adding traits and skills and trying to figure out situational modifiers. One neat idea is the Zombie clock, a d12 that slowly ticks up as the players fail at tasks, or spend too much time faffing about. It’s a physical reminder of the inevitability of conflict. The question isn’t if the zombies break down your Sanctuary’s defences, but rather when. 3. Geiger Counter - Bleeding Play http://bleedingplay.wordpress. com/geiger/ (free, available from the website) Geiger Counter aims to recreate the kind of movies in which almost all of the main characters die. They have drawn on movies such as Alien, Scream and Jaws, and have been fairly successful in recreating this atmosphere. It’s a cooperative system, meaning no GM to overrule decisions, so it might not be suitable for every gaming group. There’s a lot of fun to be had if your group is up to the challenge. There’s a few example “movies” included, to give you an idea of the breadth of possibility. Your characters explore a situation, or location as the menace slowly builds, until one meets their grisly fate. The death of a PC actually helps the surviving players, based on their relationship to the PC or if they were involved in causing the PC’s death.

2. Call of Cthulhu (done right) - Chaosium Seasoned gamers should need no introduction to Call of Cthulhu. For everyone else here’s a quick summary: The world you know is a lie, outside the boundaries of human perception Gods lie in hibernation, awaiting their return to this world. To call them malevolent would be unfair, they barely notice humanity, let alone care about them. When they return it’s game over for humanity and pretty much all life everywhere. Call of Cthulhu is often overlooked when discussing Survival Horror, as many players deem it to be “just” a horror game. These people are wrong. You’re not just fighting for your own survival, but for the continuance of your species. Weapons are next to useless against the creatures you will face; your only hope is knowledge. Yet this knowledge comes at a price,

the more you know about the true nature of reality the harder it is to maintain a grip on your sanity. Call of Cthulhu places ordinary people in the path of ruthless cultists, terrifying half-monsters and the limitless powers of the Great Old ones. Compared to this facing down a hoard of zombies seems like a day in the park. (Side note: Call of Cthulhu also has zombies) 1. All Flesh Must - Eden Studios

be eaten All Flesh Must Be Eaten (AFMBE) provides everything you need to run a zombie game in just about any setting imaginable. There’s Nazi-zombies, Plant-Zombies, Cowboy-Zombies, even Necromantically-enhanced-STDinfected-zombies. AFMBE uses Eden’s Unisystem to allow players to create a tailor made character, with a multitude of options available to them. The system uses a d10 + modifiers, with the players aiming for 9 or better total. It’s a fairly simple system, but manages the job well. It does a good job of tracking things like exertion/sleep deprivation and their effects on the PCs. Investing energy in character creation may seem like an odd thing for a zombie survival horror game to insist upon, but if you’ve invested time and thought into a character, you’re damn well going to fight to keep them alive. AFMBE also emphasises the old maxim, in a Zombie apocalypse the greatest danger comes from other Survivors. A good GM will track supplies such as ammo, food and water, and watch the inevitable tension build as the stockpiles dwindle.

While not as dark as some of the other offerings in the genre, survival is a possibility in most AFMBE games; AFMBE offers a level of customisation for both PCs and Zombies that just isn’t available elsewhere.


AFMBE is my top pick for one main reason. While other games in the genre allude to the tough situation that the characters find themselves in, AFMBE is the only one that really insists on resource tracking. PCs have a separate ammo sheet for their guns, so there’s no spraying like a madman. Each bullet has

to count. The same applies to food and water, along with your character’s fatigue (used to track exertion). A clever GM will leverage this, and create scenarios where the players have found sanctuary, but need to venture out for basic supplies, or starve to death. It’s this emphasis on the survival part of survival horror that wins it the top place.

Survival Horror Baz Nugent dissects the genre

That’s zombies and post-apocalyptic biker gangs, men covered in shotguns and turning supermarkets into fortresses, right? Or getting stuck in an abandoned hospital with a murderous being with a polygon for a head? Wrong. And your error cost you your life. That’s what survival horror is. The set dressing may vary, but the root of the setting is that you make one bad choice, and you’re a goner. The modern Survival Horror genre generally focuses on Horror over Survival. But Horror is a short term thing. The human response to fear is fight or flight; presented with the monstrous or horrific, we either run or attack. That’s why recent horror movies are a constant parade of shock, of jack-inthe-box monsters appearing out of nowhere. On the other hand, Survival Horror isn’t about killing the monster or winning against the villain. Often there is neither. It’s about getting there in the end, being the last one standing, escaping with as much of yourself alive as possible. The driving emotion is not fear but lassitude - weariness from an oppressive environment,

worn down by the hopelessness of the situation. The term “Survival Horror” was coined for Resident Evil. Yet, in a way, Resident Evil doesn’t fit within the genre that it named.

Every act of survival is a major victory, not an excuse for a pithy comeback”

Cleanup in Isle Z

No-one really cares if Arnie is dropped into South America with only a plastic butter knife. We all know he will Jingle All Da Vayy into the Warlord’s compound with his butterknife on a makeshift spear, steal some machine guns and make awful kill jokes. Even the so called “everyman action hero” John McClaine is coming back to face off the Russian Government in A Good Day to Die Hard. Honestly, who cares about a Special Forces soldier on his own? They spend years training in exactly those sorts of circumstances, and more than likely they have all the equipment they need

Baz Nugent Baz Nugent is a semi-professional game writer as well as graphic designer, theatre technician and general scatterbrain. He’s been involved in organising many cons, having directed Gaelcon 2010 and Leprecon 29, and done graphic design work for many more. He is also a former NST of Camarilla Ireland, and a founding member of Ireland’s newest gaming convention, Hobocon.

on hand anyway. What’s interesting is the unprepared guy. The mook who can barely balance his bank account, works a dead end job and mostly uses kitchen bleach for cleaning

his floor, not cooking homemade explosives. Every act of survival is a major victory, not an excuse for a pithy comeback.

Zombies = Hurricane

The monster is the force of nature. Be it zombies, degenerate bikers, cannibals, Tea Party gun-toting rednecks, it doesn’t matter. In regular horror, you may not have picked the fight but quite often you plan to finish it. Survival Horror on the other hand is rarely about killing the monster. Run and hide, hide some more. Get out and never look back.

Carry the Load

Limited resources and limited choices. Every bullet is a lifesaver, a game-changer. Do you risk effective headshots or hope your centre mass shot will puncture something vulnerable? Another factor is weight. The action hero can carry 2000 rounds of ammo and all the rope he needs, but ammunition in real life is heavy. How much do you leave behind in order to carry an extra coil of rope, or a spare crowbar or lump hammer? And if trapped in a tight space, what do you abandon?

when they were so close to escape.

What Survival Horror isn’t

It skirts close to post-apocalyptica, but mostly that genre features shotgun wielding ex cops, Furyian super soldiers or time travelling robots. What distinguishes the two is focus. Post-apocalyptica focuses on the event and the immediate aftermath, whereas Survival Horror is often months after the fact,

Limited resources and limited choices. “

Action Horror is where there are bugs and monsters and vampires, but you’re armed to the teeth in silver and flamethrowers. Whereas the hero may start as an everyman, they quickly take levels in Badass and become no different from a generic action hero. The Survival Horror hero is a more subtle, challenged character who fights more against the urge to just give in than fanged beasties of the night.

That which we leave behind Survival Guide Speaking of abandoning, a big part of Survival Horror is body horror and dehumanisation. What we do to get through the night, the desert, the winter. Do you cut out the infection? Do you drink your own urine? Do you shoot the slow member of your party to throw your pursuers off? These are all questions you have to make when every choice could be your last. Survival horror tests the protagonists, but some are found wanting. Instead of bringing out the best, it brings out the worst. Petty rivalry over leadership, power, food, who gets to go first up the ladder to daylight, all these can rend a party


I Am Alive: A post-catastrophe American city as the backdrop, a driven survivor as the protagonist. Arguably close to post-apocalyptic horror, but really it’s about survival, plain and simple. Most playthroughs are four to five hours before a bullet is seen, and your character gets tired as he tries to get about the skyline, a constant cloud of poisonous dust that keeps you off the ground level providing a creepy yet believable threat. Giving a random character a slice of bread early on can be a life-saver down the line; Humanity is as

much a tool of survival as archery and climbing. Silent Hill: Weapon of choice is a plank with some nails. The protagonist is tormented as much mentally as physically, and in the end it’s not solving a mystery or slaying a beast, but getting out of that damned fog that drives you on. TV: Bear Grylls: Yes. Survivorman may be more accurate representation of a man trapped in isolation, but its dreadful viewing. Grylls is showing you in simple terms how you would survive each individual situation, not the actual act of survival. Also notice his persistent positive mind-set; Misery has no room for the survivor. Grylls may come across as smug but he has the mind-set of a man who will make it out regardless of the obstacle. The Walking Dead: The first show with the budget, balls and timeframe to make the apocalypse seem like it’s going to be a going concern for some time to come. Film: Dawn of the Dead: Realistically, making for a shopping mall is a terrible idea in an apocalypse. It’s designed to entice people in and rarely has good layout for defensive purposes. But the character’s long game plan, of waiting out the apocalypse, is sound. Bear in mind the film is set over at least five or six months, not just one night. The Road: Dismal, grey, and depressing. A man, his son and a shopping trolley of stuff as the world sputters and dies. 127 Hours: Arm cutting to escape being trapped in a ravine. That is all.

MY KINGDOM FOR A MAP! Podge Murphy guides us through designing maps …


aving a map for your fantasy game is practically essentially, even if only for the GM’s book keeping. Eventually, players are going to call shenanigans if the journey to the capital takes four days one session and three months the next! However, a well prepared regional map can help in other ways as well; from inspiring adventure ideas and helping to immerse your players into your world, to helping the world creator conceptualise what may or may not exist in various regions. That said, where to start? A simple hand drawn map is fine for most purposes, but depending on your needs a more professional looking map can vary from a perk to a must-have. If you’re like me, and not terribly artistically talented in the traditional sense, a computer with a cheap or free graphics package can help immensely. Even if you are skilled enough to produce a great looking hand drawn map, a few minutes with a graphics program can help make a good map look even better. In this article I’m going to take a look at using a computer to touch up and colour a hand drawn map. At a bare minimum, you’re going to need a computer capable of running some kind of graphics software. While Photoshop is

something of a gold standard in computer graphics, you can grab GimpShop for free online, which uses the open source GIMP as a base with an interface much closer to Photoshop, which should make understanding what I’m going on about much easier! A scanner is also a plus, but taking a well lit photograph will work in a pinch.

...a well prepared regional map can help in other ways as well; from inspiring adventure ideas and helping to immerse your players into your world, to helping the world creator conceptualise what may or may not exist in various regions.”

Podge Murphy Podge has an avid interest in far too many things, but gaming remains a pillar of his free time. He enjoys writing, running and playing RPG’s equally, though most often finds himself behind the GM’s screen or regional equivalent. He works as a graphic designer in order to eat, but would probably do it for free anyway. He is most proud of having once grown his own tomatoes. You can find him online here: @Malboury.

To begin, let’s stop and take a look at some actual maps. How big is a city with a population of 20,000 anyway? If a mountain is a 3,000 feet tall, how wide is it likely to be? If you want it to take a week to travel across a desert by horse,

look up the travel speed of a horse in the system you’re using and plan your desert accordingly. Once I know what scale I want to work at I like to head to an online map, such as Google Maps (I like its terrain view), and zoom in appropriately. This should give you an idea of what features such as mountains, rivers and coastlines look like at your intended scale. Have some ideas? Great! Now, sketch your map out on paper.

Here’s my masterpiece, scanned at 300dpi and cleaned up a little to remove some lines I wasn’t happy with. (You might like to do the same - click on Image>Adjustments>Levels and move the sliders until you’re satisfied.) It’s a bit bare looking. However, let’s add some colour. Many people at this stage would grab the brush tool and start trying to colour in between the lines, but that’s too much like hard work. Instead, let’s use layers. Layers are like transparencies laid one atop the other, and by putting our sketch on the top layer we’ll be able to colour under the lines - you’ll see what I mean in a moment. First, take a look at the layer window (click on Window>Layers if it’s not cur-

rently visible). There should be one layer called background at the moment - right click on that and duplicate it, calling your new layer ‘Lines’. Click the eye next to the old background layer to hide it - we probably won’t be needing it again unless we make a mess later on. Now make a new layer by clicking on Layer>New>Layer, and call it ‘Colour’. By clicking and dragging on a layer, you can move it up and down in your ‘stack’. Do this now

by putting the layer called ‘Lines’ above ‘Colour’. Now see the little box that says ‘Normal’? With the ‘Lines’ layer selected, change that to multiply. If you’ve managed to follow all that, your layers window should now look like this:

So, that was a bit technical, but now we can have some fun! Grab

the brush tool, and right click anywhere on your image to access the brush properties. Change the Hardness to 0%, and the size to something you feel comfortable using (around the size of your thumbnail works well for me.) At the top of the screen you should also see a setting for brush opacity. Set this to 50%. This allows you to build up colour in layers, making a much more natural looking texture than by painting at 100%. All set? Select your ‘Colour’ layer, a nice colour from the palette in the top right, and get painting! You’ll notice that it’s impossible to colour over the lines - this is due to the ‘Multiply’ setting we set earlier on the ‘Lines’ layer. After a few minutes, this is where I’m at (Image 3) You might notice I used some darker shades of grey here and there to give the mountains a little depth, but otherwise this was quite straightforward. By using the 50% opacity brush, we’ve given some texture to the colours as well, which has come out well. Be sure to save your work as a .psd (or .xcf if you’re using GimpShop) - this will preserve those layers, something saving as a jpeg or similar wouldn’t do.

While Photoshop is something of a gold standard in computer graphics, you can grab GimpShop for free online.”

As it stands, our map doesn’t look too bad at all, but how about a few

Image>Adjustments>Hue/Saturation to create, for example, a more autumnal or wintery look.. You can also go back later on to add in new locations, or fill in place names as the PC’s discover other regions. You might also like white out areas of the map that are not yet known to the PC’s, and simply fill them in later on, or even have another GM only layer which you can simply hide when printing or emailing your map for your players, but which could hold information on encounters, enemy armies, bandit hideouts and the like. finishing touches? You’ll probably want to name your cities, landmarks and so on. Head to dafont. com and search for some nice free fantasy-ish fonts. Happy with one? Great - you can use the text tool to drop these wherever you might need. I actually prefer to use a vector based editor such as Illustrator (expensive!) or Inkscape (free!) for this, as I find their handling of fonts to be more intuitive, so play around and see what works best for you. I also grabbed a little compass rosetta from the internet to drop in - if it has a white background remember you can set the blending mode of that layer to multiply, as we did for the ‘Lines’ layer, and only the black parts of the image will appear, saving you a lot of time erasing white backgrounds! I also grabbed some parchment paper to use as a background. The finished piece? For something that shouldn’t take more than an 45 minutes, once you’re familiar with the tools, I’m quite happy with this. While discussing all the finishing techniques I applied here in detail is beyond the scope of this article brief summary follows: I faded the edges of the original map by feathering the edges of a border selection, and frayed the edges of the parchment

using the lasso selection tool. I also changed the opacity of the map layer to 75% to allow some of the parchment to show through - you can change this to taste. You may also notice that I added a drop shadow to some of the coastal lines to add some further depth to the landmasses.

So, why bother with all this when a sketch and some colouring pencils would probably do? There are several benefits, not least of which is having an undo button! Another benefit of having your map on a computer is flexibility - you can later change the hue of the colour layer by clicking

In any case, I hope that you have found this tutorial useful, and that it was easy enough to follow for a beginner. There is an absolute wealth of further information available online, and if nothing else I hope I may have inspired some of you to dabble in this area, as I have always found it a useful and extremely rewarding experience.

The Primeval RPG Kieran Turley reviews the RPG based on the TV Show


The Primeval RPG is based on the English TV series of the same name. The TV show follows a group of characters investigating and covering up time portals called Anomalies that spring up at random throughout the British Isles. The lives of the characters are further complicated by the monsters that wander through the portals into the present day, and by conspiracies (government and otherwise) that have their own ideas about how the Anomalies and creatures should be handled. The series begins in a kind of monsterof-the-week format but quickly we realise that there is much more at stake than the lives of a handful of people. The show combines a few key elements: monsters from other times rampaging through the present day, strong characterisation, the previously mentioned monster-of-the-week format, and a number of long-term plotlines that span the entire series. The Primeval RPG does an excellent job of recreating the TV series. The game features a similar system to Doctor Who: Adventures in Time in Space, so if you’ve played that game then picking up Primeval is child’s play. The system itself is very straightforward and allows players and the GM to focus on the

story rather than have to spend 20 minutes figuring out 157 different combat modifiers. I’d probably classify the system as medium to light in crunch. Character creation is a straightforward points-buy system where the player chooses attributes, skills, and traits. Traits are advantages and disadvantages that usually give your character a bonus or penalty in a particular situation. Most of these have been tailored to Primeval, so you have traits like Fresh Meat which means that you smell like a pepper steak to most predators. Once you are used to character creation you can throw together a character in under 10-15 minutes.

The Primeval RPG does an excellent job of recreating the TV series.”

The game includes two nice concepts - Campaign Frameworks and Conspiracies - which are worth a deeper look. A Campaign Framework is the group that your players

Kieran Turley Kieran lives under a desk in a mouldy attic surrounded by so many dice that the combination of angles they produce has been known to birth Hounds of Tindalos. Well, no, he doesn’t live in such a place but he would like to. Gief attic plx, also more dice.

belong to. The framework serves to drive the adventure forward and to give the PCs a reason to stick together. The ARC from the TV series is an excellent example of a framework. The secrets surrounding the Anomalies lend themselves

This idea is something that I’m tempted to port into other games just to see how it works.


The book is a rather lavish affair jammed with full colour photographs from the TV series. No real “art” in the book per se outside of the digital shots but the entire thing is packed with images from the TV show. I’m guessing around 150 pictures in total, which is pretty impressive for a 288 page book.

Final Verdict

to conspiracies, and in the Primeval RPG a conspiracy is the villain version of a framework. Conspiracies are, at their most basic level, groups determined to do something bad with the anomalies or the monsters that venture through them.

The monsters are also handled very well with a threat mechanic used to determine their reactions to the PCs and to give them extra abilities.”

Another idea I liked was temporal damage, which reflects the events of TV series quite well. The player’s actions or lack thereof can damage time in different ways. Killing creatures from the past or leaving things behind can change the present, people that you knew can vanish and organisations change beyond recognition. These changes are only obvious if you happen to be in the past at the time they occur. This gives players a reason not to just shoot every monster they find, after all, that ravening creature could be their ancestor. The monsters are also handled very well with a threat mechanic used to determine their reactions to the PCs and to give them extra abilities. I liked this mechanic as it meant that players were given a visible and quantifiable way to “talk down” a creature without resorting to combat all the time.

If you were a fan of the TV series then this book is for you. If you’ve never watched Primeval and are looking for a cool game featuring monsters and time travel then this game is also a perfect fit. The rules really reinforce the original setting material and the use of images from the show means that the “artwork” is top notch. I found the book good reading in general and if you were thinking of running a time travel game it’s worth a look just to mine for new ideas.

DON’T REST YOUR HEAD Charles Dunne Gives his opinion on this game from Evil Hat Productions


ight, first things first. I’ve been reviewing rather mental Indie games for the past couple of issues of The Gazebo, Lacuna in Issue #1 and Dead Inside in Issue #2, so, on a similar theme, I wandered on to Don’t Rest Your Head, a game which conflicts me no end. I’ll explain why in a moment, but first, the basic blurb or set up. You are an insomniac, unable to sleep, the reasons for which are entirely your own from the mundane to the profound. Then, you went beyond the limits of normal insomnia and something clicked. You found yourself able to see the Mad City, the one that lies beneath and around the everyday metropolis you live in. But that clicking wasn’t a final puzzle piece snapping into place as you became one of the Awake, but rather the Mad City sitting up and noticing a new arrival. Nightmares exist and they are on to you. Don’t Rest Your Head, don’t fall asleep because you can’t turn it off and you can’t go back. They WILL find you. Can you do what needs to be done before they do? So far so Neverwhere-esque, really. The main factors of this little game are the wacked out setting, echoes of Lacuna here but less medically

derived, and the focus, the absolute focus on the characters. The setting is a blend of the nightmarish aspects of every city you could imagine, from the tales of the Scissormen to the weirdness of “Dark City”. Shell Beach would easily fit into this milieu. You can take the characters and situations given, such as Officer Tock, the head policeman with a clock face (literally) and Mother When (who runs a reform school but is probably Death) and the Paper Boys (again, literally) and substitute them for your own horrors and twisted realisations to achieve the same ends as the author, and perhaps you should. Personally, I’d choose different ones, but to each their own.

...don’t fall asleep... They WILL find you.”

The focus on the players’ characters is of major importance in this game since each character is unique, truly unique, and having a player design a different character will completely change the nature and style of the stories told and the lives explored. My alcoholic who can’t sleep because he lost his

Charles Dunne Charles Dunne has been frequently described as insane, immortal, invincible and sleepless. He is none of these things, preferring as he does a nice snooze of an evening with a copy of The Strand magazine and a slipper of good tobacco. The other slipper he wears as an odd type of shoulder ornament.

daughter in a car crash where he was driving will generate a different story and dynamic from my architect who can’t sleep because he has over committed himself on too many projects and keeps awake using pills. Their focus,

their very being, is essential to the story. In my opinion, that is also a major flaw in the game but more on that later. System wise this isn’t a stat-heavy, number-cruncher of a game. Characters have a few boxes to tick, the top two are fight or flee, others can be customised and then there are the Exhaustion and Madness stats. Both of these latter two, when used, usually give a success but they also have consequences. Read them again. Those ARE the consequences. Well, the immediate ones at least, but when you stack those into a running fight against the evils of the Mad City they soon escalate into much worse than tiredness and being twitchy, much worse. The dice pool, for want of a better word, is variable, depending on how much you want to succeed, or how much you NEED to succeed. Back to those Exhaustion and Madness stats again. Exhaustion is particularly dangerous because if you fall asleep in the Mad City, as I said earlier, you don’t pop back home to your lovely little bedroom and have a rest, no. You just become a beacon for the crazed denizens of the City. What fun. There are also pain dice and despair dice that the GM can add to flavour the game further though one has to be absolutely fair in their usage since misuse can annihilate a group playing “Don’t Rest Your Head”. Ultimately the game feels like a dream analogue of the core “Wraith: The Oblivion” premise. You must resolve the issues that haunt and follow your character without falling to death and/ or nightmare yourself. Not sure exactly how that works but there you go.

Great ideas, about as user friendly as having no thumbs.”

Right, I said earlier this game conflicts me and it does. There is a lot to admire in “Don’t Rest Your Head”, a cool mechanic and some fun storytelling and the descent into tired madness seems a blast however, the book itself is badly put together. I haven’t seen this much “see page 63” style nonsense since SJ Games brought out In Nomine (and I love that game). It jumps around too much and references things in examples of play that do not clarify that example of play until you skip ahead and read the example. Now, you may think that is perfectly fine but I don’t. Examples of play should be self contained lessons, not jumping off points for a three line paragraph forty pages on. I also mentioned that the characters are essential to the story, how that made the game but I also see it as a flaw. The characters and their story are essential to the game but to the detriment of the setting, so much so that the setting (what there is of it) is huddled halfway down the book and riddled with more “see page number 7” style sentences than one would like. I like this game, I really do, but a second edition would do it the world of good. Indie games are giving stodgy rules lawyer laden tomes and whatnot a good kick up the arse but they have to remember that rulebooks, however interesting, are still textbooks for a game and have to function as such. Admittedly this book does claim to be an “expert” role playing game because it doesn’t go into what such games are or how to play

them. But that is just lazy writing. I’ve been running games for many years now and writing games for convention play and I don’t consider myself to be a stupid person but I had to go through the rulebook with a pad of post-its to keep track of where everything was. Great ideas, about as user friendly as having no thumbs. End verdict? This is still worth buying. So buy it and encourage the author to do a second edition.

Hard as Nails Paddy Delaney talks about your Survival


o, you are hoping to run a new role-playing game or LARP for your friends but want to avoid the usual “So, you guys are in a bar right, when suddenly the door is kicked in...” start to your adventure? Well, how about using the theme of Survival as the vehicle for cementing lasting bonds and loyalties between characters? Survival is a well explored trope in fantasy and sci-fi literature. You don’t have to look far to find a group of unlikely characters thrown together in desperate circumstances. Many of your favourite fantasy books and movies are prime examples e.g; The fellowship in Lord of the Rings, The Bonehunters in the Malazan Book of the Fallen or the Skin Eaters in Scott R. Bakker’s Aspect Emperor books. First of all, what are they surviving and is it survival for its own sake or survival as a means to move to some other plot device or story arc? It could be dramatic, such as the hordes of orcs The Fellowship encounter in the Mines of Moria, or even more dramatic, an alien invasion or post apocalyptic scenario. It could be simpler, harsher,

perhaps just surviving a murderous, harsh environment with dehydration, lack of food, lack of sleep or murderously hot sun as the main enemies (incidentally a siege encompasses a lot of these quite nicely). You need only read any account of a soldier from nearly any war to get some real life inspiration.

is it survival for its own sake or survival as a means to move to some other plot device or story arc?”

In the former scenario the overall theme to the game is also the thing that you are surviving but in the latter type, the characters are mostly concerned with the necessities of clean water, shelter and food as a means to some other end. Reducing the narrative to such stark storytelling can be a very powerful role-playing experience, focused more directly on the characters and their interactions. It takes only slight tweaking to add

Paddy Delaney Paddy lives in Galway where he originally started playing RPGs and other assorted madness in the now infamous No. 57. Since then he has moved on to writing and running RPG games. He has written and run games for several cons across Ireland but Itzacon is his home con.

layers of horror to such a situation, after all if a soldier hasn’t slept in days because of constant shelling and then he runs out of clean water his nerves will be frayed, imagine how horrified he will be if he then turns to find a creature

about to chew his comrade’s face off? The slow pace of these survival situations, coupled with their often very isolated locations, can make for perfect horror stories if you then opt to add a horror element to your story. As long as your players can make up a reason why they might be there to begin with, they don’t even have to like each other very much. In fact, that’s even better, as it makes for interesting role-playing opportunities and can result in a “You weren’t there man, you don’t understand what we saw and did” bond between the survivors (assuming all the original player characters survive). Perhaps the characters have good reason to dislike each other but in the end get along famously, for example Legolas and Gimli, who conquer their traditional racial dislike for each other and become long time friends. Maybe they will loathe each other but have to stick together to survive or because it’s simply all they know how to do. The isolated environment associated with survival games allows you to focus more on character development and creating a common history between characters that makes it harder for them to ignore each other when you move into a new plot arc. The players in your game will enjoy the ‘tough as nails’ edge to their characters but survivors have very different mentalities in a game. Some will find it difficult to settle back into everyday life, after all, for these sorts, how could they be a bodyguard or gardener for very long after facing down a murderous horde of orcs howling for their innards and surviving to not tell the tale because, hey, you had to be there to get it, right?

On the other hand, survivors may not be suited to certain styles of games, so it isn’t always the best way to start your game (although you could slot survival in further along in your campaign). Such characters may resort to violence faster than other characters and may not be the kind of characters the Thelosian Ambassador needs to help him at the Imperial Concord with his delicate problem concerning recent Pelonossian incursions on sea-lanes.

As long as your players can make up a reason why they might be there to begin with, they don’t even have to like each other very much. “

You might also find that a focus on the harsh realities of daily survival detracts attention from the fact that your leaders are actually devil spawn who have infiltrated your world and need their asses kicked. If this is the case, then you could always focus the lens of survival on a grander level – the wholesale property destruction, genocide or degradation of your character’s way of life and all of the attendant moral dilemmas that crop up once there is time to think about them. Having said that, if you want a tense start to your game that will result in a tight knit, co-operative group who know how to act well in concert and who are bad-ass veterans and who have earned the scars on their character sheets, then this

is the style to open your RPG or LARP.

INSYLUM REVIEW James ‘Grey’ Lloyd-Jones reviews this challenging Chthonic RPG


nsylum is a great idea. A terrible idea. An idea that revolves quite a bit around what the players do not and cannot know, that casts the GM almost as a player themselves, and has the emphasis on co-operative storytelling I’ve come to expect from indie games. If you’re not the GM of your local group, you may wish to avert your eyes and protect your sanity, for ahead there lies squamous and trembling spoilers. Insylum takes place in the Carlsbad County Schizophrenia Annex (I’ll give you a moment for that one), specifically Ward 23. The players are Patients, institutionalized here for... reasons. What reasons? They don’t know. Something awful, something traumatic, something that they are here to remember and confront. As far as the book is concerned, the GM, or Facilitator doesn’t know the details either, but they do know the catalyst; The King In Yellow. Yes, every Patient has been exposed to Hastur and his influence, and their traumas – and the terrible things they may have done – originate here. The part where it gets a little weird is that it casts the Facilitator as an eldritch entity in their own right, a human exposed to and changed by the Play. They have absolute control over the facility and its

staff, and they want to know how they got here. What they lost, what was changed, what the play is. The Patients are their tool. So, we have the players trying to unravel their character back stories which have not been written, while the GM is trying to use the players to unravel the plot of the game itself. We... may have a small problem here.

An idea that revolves quite a bit around what the players do not and cannot know, that casts the GM almost as a player themselves, and has the emphasis on co-operative storytelling I’ve come to expect from indie games.”

James “Grey” Lloyd-Jones

Grey is a writer and gamer living in Cork. He enjoys cats, imported beer, long walks on the Plateau of Leng, and inventing terrible monsters to inflict on his players. You can follow the rickety progress of his RPG Crucible: Dark Age at @@@@@@@@

You might be wondering how a single asylum makes for much mystery or adventure here. In fairness, it would, with sometimes brutal orderlies and baroque, old architecture. But Ward 23 is different. During the daytime, the

non-interactive freakshow. Fun to read about and consider, but you really have to work at it. The system for all of this is light and feels ill-tested. It is built around three Codes: Fatigue, your physical trait; Lucidity, your mental trait; and Memory, your ‘winning’ trait. Reaching 20 Memory means your character is ‘cured’ and free to go. But doing that is difficult. Very difficult.

Patients have their arts & crafts, recreation, and Group Therapy. Here the GM asks leading questions that the patients can use to piece together their memories. I can see this making for a very interesting session, but you’ve got to talk limits with your players first. At night, at midnight, the doors of Ward 23 open. A new door appears on the ward, either huge and ominous or little more than a chalk outline. Beyond is The Night World. The Night World, it seems, is a sort of collective dream world, while still very real. It can be shaped by the whims of the Patients, but some Sets (sticking to a theatrical theme) are so old and powerful they have a life of their own, like the Whisper Labyrinth, like the Broadalbin, like Carcosa. Out here, the Patients are expected to learn about the Play without becoming lost forever, and they may learn of their own past in the process. The Night World and its inhabitants are wonderfully textured, with great atmosphere and some Delta Green references, but it demands a quite a lot from the GM to keep it all from becoming a

The Night World, it seems, is a sort of collective dream world, while still very real.”

In order to take an action, and almost any action detailed in the book was opposed, the two characters ‘blind bid’ up to their max Fatigue and the higher bid wins. You lose the bid Fatigue, and since Fatigue also forms your health you can leave yourself vulnerable. The problem here is that your starting Fatigue is 5, while some enemies go as high as 20 (and there are no rules for teamwork). In order to gain higher max Fatigue, you need to convert one of your starting Lucidity points downward, leaving your sanity at risk. To raise Lucidity, you convert a point of Memory down. Going back up the chain costs five points for one; five Fatigue for Lucidity, five Lucidity for one Memory. While you can gain memory from the Night World, you’re also expected to spend a point of Memory in Group Therapy to remember details. Insylum is definitely an interesting read and intriguing concept,

but getting a good game out of it looks to me like it needs a good and dedicated GM. It doesn’t really add anything new to the existing Hastur canon, but it uses what it has well and does have some very compelling imagery. The system I am iffy on and intend to test soon, so you may expect an update on that. Otherwise one might be better served by pulling out a copy of nWoD: Asylum to splice in. All in all, a game with a great deal of potential hobbled by its own ambition and short length, suitable for a single campaign if you want to try it. I’d try it. You never know what you mind find.

ZOMBIES ON THE EASTERN FRONT Conrad Kinch Talks about Horror on the Front

Conrad Kinch Unexpected attack by enemy, from one of the Resident Evil games, I believe


know very little about survival horror, which a thirty second scan of the Wikipedia article tells me is a genre of video game where the player controls a character that is substantially less powerful than in a traditional video game. The game will also feature strong horror themes and unexpected attacks by enemies. I think it’s something about zombies; I hate zombies. They’re crude, reductionist and, worst of all, boring. If I want to read a story about a man dealing with an unstoppable force, I’ll read one of Joseph Conrad’s sea stories or “The

Plague.” There’s been a fad for Weird World War Two, recently, which I find equally baffling. What aspect of the Second World War can you make more horrifying by the addition of the walking dead?

This is horrifying (Still from Come and See (1985) by Elem Klimov) So, I may not know much about zombies, but I know quite a bit

Conrad Kinch is late of the Dutch Colonial Service and was last year elected to the Kingstown town council on a platform of legalised Badger baiting. He works well under constant supervision and when cornered like a rat. Excerpts from his memoirs, “I shouldn’t do that, if I were you: A journey in consequences,” can be read at http://joyandforgetfulness.

about the Eastern Front and I’ve set a number of games there. It is not commonly known, but the Eastern Front has beaten some very strong contenders to take the award for “Most barbarism per square inch in a Global conflict” for the last 67

years running, though the “Gazebo Writers Christmas Party & Sunday School Treat” has a good feeling about 2012. But, for the sake of argument, let us assume that you wish to play your survival horror game. Let us also assume that Donogh McCarthy isn’t going to let me out of these restraints until I’ve written something for you. Why should you be interested in the Eastern Front? Well, from a survival horror perspective it has it all, an extreme environment, constant threat of death, scarce resources and four years of unending human tragedy. What’s not to like?

was achievable. If you’re unlucky enough not to have a closeted accountant in your group, try to focus on two or three key resources and manage those. Food, ammunition and fuel are all likely candidates. If you don’t want to get bogged down in accountancy, raid a board game for counters or those little glass gem things that card gamers use, and use those to represent resources. I’ve found players are often more concerned about “spending” resources when that resource is represented by a physical thing that they have to hand over or worse still that they can have taken away from them.

1. The drama of scarcity

One of the pillars of the survival horror genre is scarcity of resources. The players should never be able to quite rely on having sufficient ammunition, food, fuel or whathaveyou to accomplish what they need to do. Limited resources means that the players have to prioritise and make choices about what they need to achieve their goals. Keeping resources scarce is trickier than it sounds. The characters should have sufficient means to accomplish what they set out to do, if they’re clever, but they shouldn’t be in such a state of beggary that they might as well just go home. During my Eastern Front game, I was lucky that I had two players who were particularly interested in this aspect of the game and designed spreadsheets to keep track of ammunition and food supplies. They then used this information to project their consumption over time and then used that information to set themselves goals. It sounds like accountancy (which it was), but it put the players in charge of working out what

“When You Go Home, Tell Them Of Us And Say, For Their Tomorrow, We Gave Our Today” - Kohima Epitaph

2. The need for mortality

To refer back to my previous point, “...the characters should have sufficient means to accomplish what they set out to do, if they’re clever...” And if they’re not clever, you should kill them. Actually, that’s not exactly true but you shouldn’t prevent them from dying. Poker is a game that is only fun when played for money,

without the investment of money play becomes distorted and boring because there is nothing at risk. In a roleplaying game, the players aren’t playing for money - but they do have an investment in the game; their character. In a game of horror, the threat becomes diluted if the players feel that there is nothing at stake and their investment (their character) is in no danger. Roll dice in the open so that the players can see what’s happening and see that everything is above board. Real combat entails real risk, but to win when the deck is unfairly stacked in your favour is to rob victory of its savour. In my Eastern Front game, the players got involved in a combat in the third session and finished with one character on death’s door, another badly injured, and the major NPC dead. They didn’t get involved in another fight for a month and even then made sure that their enemy was asleep when they blew up the building. One of the players nearly left the game because he had to spend six weeks real time recovering from his injuries, but he recovered and never wandered blithely into a fight again. [

*Which is not to say that one should not off a character now and then pour encourager les autres and so forth. See point 3.

4. Single serving malice

A GM in a roleplaying game is rather like God in some ways. He must generate and engage the players in the world he creates around them. However, as this is survival horror, unlike God, he must be cruel, uncaring and utterly indifferent to the characters suffering. Baby, it’s cold outside...

3. Deadly environment

Roleplaying games grew out of the wargaming hobby. Therefore, it’s unsurprising that many of them feature very complex combat rules and fighting is one of the main sources of drama in most roleplaying games. Cheap violence is the besetting sin of most roleplaying games. When I was running my Eastern Front game, this presented me with a great deal of problems. Firstly, real soldiers don’t fight all the time. Secondly, people die in fights, and if you’re not distorting the rules of the game in order to favour the characters, attrition will set in very quickly and you can’t very well frighten and horrify the party if they are all dead*. This left me vainly scrabbling for a means of providing dramatic tension that didn’t revolve around having some Schubert loving swine walk through the door with an MP40 every week. Using environmental threats is an excellent way of doing this, but they don’t necessarily have to be physical. Close shaves that the chaps had in my game included. •

Being interrogated by the

NKVD (little fellows who grew up to become the KGB) after one of their missions failed. This was extremely fraught. • A miniatures based minigame where they had to sneak through a line of German outposts without being seen. • One of the characters had to salvage what he could from a compromised supply dump. The player was brought into a room with a number of business cards. On the top side of the business card was a description of the container and a weight. Written on the bottom, was what the container contained. The player could grab as many cards as he could carry in four minutes, but each card he turned over incurred a twenty second penalty. • Making their way across a minefield, which was represented by cloth thrown over some metal washers, the players had to “walk” their character figures (which had a magnet on the base) across the field, but could only search for mines by extending a single finger in front of their figure.

Gaze into the face of EVIL

This is useful up to a point, but it does lack a certain something, in short, the sort of malice you only get when a human is given free will and sent out into the world. I’ve always found outsourcing to be the best answer to this particular conundrum. For most of my Eastern Front campaign, the characters lived a hand to mouth existence as partisans pitched against one or two German garrisons. I usually gave a brief to a friend of mine over coffee and put him in the role of garrison commander. He would then respond to what the players were trying to

do (as well the demands of HQ), the result was far a more nuanced approach than what was produced by the poor overworked GM. I used a similar trick during another campaign. The campaign had reached its finale and the final battle was at hand. The characters had lined up their troops and had been generally talking rather high about their chances. We were playing in a club that had its own bar and all was relaxed and good

with an enemy who was not out to provide a challenge or serve the interests of the narrative, but who was genuinely invested in killing you. It was a great session.

5. Player agency and the necessity for free will

In a high fantasyland there are orks and dragons but there are no steam trains and, consequently, you can railroad the players quite a bit. In high fantasyland, the players are playing half-game, half-communally-told-saga. The unspoken contract of the game is that the GM won’t starve your character to death (point 1), kill you for being unlucky (point 2), routinely torture you with deadly environmental hazards (point 3) or hire mercenary gamers to murder your character in his sleep (point 4). But, as part of that unspoken contract, the player will often be willing to cede some control of his character to the GM for the good of the communally told story. This cannot happen in a survival horror game.

fellowship. The mood changed, somewhat, when I drafted in some of the local wargamers to command the bad guys and put a two pint bounty on each of the players. Not only had the responsibility for commanding the bad guys been taken out of the hands of the overworked GM, but the NPCs had just been given real motivation to go for the PCs. What the players had happily expected to be a walkover became a hard fought, gritty battle

Free will, baby, it’s all about choices

The players are matched against the enemy, who are powerful and overwhelming, the environment, which is deadly. Their resources are limited and they can only rely on themselves. The characters may be limited by resources and circumstances, but within those limitations the players must have complete freedom to choose what to do and how to do it. I think of no other genre of RPG that is so suited to player-driven and sandbox style play. When I first began to write scenarios and run a regular weekly game, I often sketched out a couple of scenes, likely avenues that the players might explore or solutions that they might pursue. The problem was that after a while, I found myself unconsciously trying to steer the players towards what I thought they ought to do rather than letting them muddle through on their own. Eventually I stopped

trying to work out how the players were going to solve the problem and focused on making sure I was giving them interesting problems to solve. This meant that I had more mental energy to focus on my task and didn’t bother wasting my time trying to accomplish theirs. In survival horror, everything is against you, defeat and death are possible, even likely and you will most probably be defeated by being slow, stupid or unlucky. However, if you’re clever, cautious when you need to be and bold when it’s called for, you will triumph and a victory earned like that is sweet indeed. Save the last bullet for yourself.


I hope these few words of advice have been of use and that you will enjoy facing the grim darkness of the survival horror genre with the stiff-upper-lip and pluck that I expect of all of you. I do believe I hear McCarthy in the hall, rattling his keys, so it appears that my release may be at hand. Good night, God bless and remember, save the last bullet for yourself.

Custom Systems and Customary Mishaps Ray O’Mahony talks about the joys and fears of running custom systems

Ray O’Mahony There may well come a time in the life of many a Games Master, when the thought occurs….“I could create a better game than this”. It doesn’t matter so much what “this” happens to be at the given time, only that it has become constricting. Maybe there are character or story concepts that excite you, but they don’t quite fit the gameworlds on the bookshelves. Whatever the case, the game you want to make doesn’t fit the moulds you’re used to, and you set out to make your own. Nothing can possibly go wrong. I’m lucky enough to have some experience from both sides of the fence. I’m sure we’ve all arrived on a Saturday morning of a convention, perhaps bleary eyed and pos-

sessed of an inexplicable headache, to gaze upon a timetable. “Hmmm, will I buy a ticket for Pathfinder? Spirit of the Century? What else is in this slot? Oh, a custom system, eh? Dunno what it is, or who wrote it. Dunno if he’s a good GM. What if he’s super precious about his fan-made world? Not gonna risk it. One ticket for Spirit thanks.” It might seem harsh, but life’s too short to buy into bad games. Con games can be a bit of a gamble to be sure, but players will regularly stack odds in their favour by going for something they know they like already. That’s totally true if we take the view of tabletop RPGs, but the other option is LARPs. If you look at a LARP timetable, you won’t be

Ray lives in the abandoned insane asylum, at the top of a steep and distant hill. He emerges to advise would be adventurers of Azeroth on matters of accounts and tech wizardry. Otherwise he writes, runs, and plays in all manner of traditional games.

hung up too much on the system. I mean it’s not like you’ll be around a table rolling dice, right? Most LARPs you’ll see are stand-alone scenarios that only need a situational structure. The only rules that matter deal with what hap-

pens in this one story. Players are prepared for that on the way in.

There may well come a time in the life of many a Games Master, when the thought occurs….“I could create a better game than this.”

Of course, I did mention that I’ve been fortunate. Myself and Fergal (my partner in crime) have been building a system over the past few years. This has been done over a series of LARPs and then RPGs at conventions. I won’t lie, there’ve been problems, but there’s also been fantastic fun times. Now, let me tell you, hosting a completely untried, untested system and world for the first time in the public eye is nerve-wracking, especially if the treatment of the system is integral to the success of the session. If you have three hours to run the scenario how many rules do you burden your players with before they lose track (and interest) with what you’re running? It’s not easy to judge. When we ran “Fog of War: The Phantom Directive” at Gaelcon last year, I certainly faced that dilemma. The concept revolved around a submarine crew working together to keep the vessel from sinking, while evading a myriad of threats. One room made the big command decisions like navigation and what systems were needed, while the other kept the necessary systems

functioning. A game of two rooms working together by passing scribbled orders on sheets of paper back and forth. Which seems simple, except it needs quite concrete rules to work. About ten minutes before the game opened a set of familiar jitters started. The fear suddenly crept in that I have created a needlessly complicated jumble of rules that would be sure to confuse the nerdiest of attendees. I started pacing the length of the room as I went over the explanations in my head, trying to find the key way of illustrating how it all worked. While I was spiraling into a state of panic I was acutely aware of players gathering just on the other side of the door. It was time to dive in regardless.

hosting a completely untried, untested system and world for the first time in the public eye is nervewracking”

About ten or twenty minutes of setting and rules explanation followed. There was some polite confusion, a few glazed expressions, but also a general sense of expectation from the players that things would all soon become clear. So, they congregated around their respective tables, which were a wondrous mess of maps, character sheets and order forms. After returning from one of my earlier trips between rooms, I

noticed something I hadn’t factored in. The players had taken it upon themselves to read the little rulebook I made for myself to reference. You know, the out of character information they weren’t supposed to get. Thanks goodness I didn’t staple the actual plot to the same document, that would have been a tad awkward. The thing is though, I’d planned for the worst, and didn’t expect the best. My players quickly gained an understanding of the rules themselves. Aside from me dispensing plot and challenges the game ran itself. The point I’m making here is that you shouldn’t underestimate your target audience. Oh yes, I’m sure we all have the stories about “that player” who, oh I don’t know, destroyed the Mcguffin, kept silent on all their key information, or simply attacked a Gazebo. You should keep in mind though, that these aren’t the majority. Most gamers you’ll meet are fairly intelligent people who’ll continue to surprise you with their wit and ingenuity. That makes games writing a rewarding experience for me. If you are designing a custom game, be it via convention, with gamers you know and trust, or a healthy combination of both, make sure they’re having fun. The game is no good if it’s just your cerebral playground. If you say it’s your way or the highway then you better believe the players will hit the highway and have fun elsewhere. The key is not just to value your players, but let them know they’re valued. If folks know your system is an imperfect work in progress and you take their advice on board, that’s great. Letting them know they helped will help them feel like they’re a part of something, and that’s wonderful to have on your side.

INSPIRING THIS GAZEBO HUNTER #3 Seek out some Inspiration with Donogh McCarthy


Wargaming Zorro in Black & White is an absolute gem of a site – you have to see it to believe it. The first time I happened upon photos of the miniatures, I just assumed it was a black and white image effect. Have a look. If you’re still dubious, take a look at the picture in the first post to see the setup with a full-colour miniature.

your 28mm sci-fi urban projects. Still on my modern gaming drive, S&S Models have released another batch of 20mm vehicles. Have a look at Shaun’s post on The Guild. I’m particularly interested in the M-ATVs (the Humvee’s replacement) as there are loads of different options along with oodles of stowage available.

If the prospect of painting miniatures in black and white piques your interest, have a look at this post showcasing mobsters on Carmen’s Fun Painty Time.

Donagh McCarthy

Non-Fiction Book


I saw a nice review on The Shell Case a couple of weeks back, bringing WarMill to my attention. They’ve recently begun releasing laser-cut MDF terrain, which snap together in a modular fashion for the enterprising gamer. Perfect for

We take a voyage into Horatio Hornblower territory this issue - Nelson and the Nile by Brian Lavery doesn’t just address the battle which took place in Aboukir Bay, but places it in its strategic context, with military and political factors at play. Lavery has a deep understanding of the maritime world and the culture of both navies and his narrative integrates the daily lives of the sailors aboard with the loneliness of the admirals in command. The finely crafted books of Pat-

Donogh has been gaming in some shape or form since school. Though he’ll happily engage in a quick pick-up boardgame or indie roleplaying game, you’ll usually find him running participation wargames at conventions. Read his latest wargaming exploits at Land War in Asia:

rick O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin series are a great place to continue this train of thought. The Mauritius Command (the fourth book) follows the pair as Aubrey takes command of a squadron sent to the Indian Ocean to conquer the

French-controlled islands there. Seeds for a joint naval/land campaign will surely be planted as Jack Aubrey struggles with his mission.

Although there’s a lot of highoctane machismo and the situations seem a little contrived, there’s not much wrong with the tactics shown.

Fiction Book

Day by Day Armageddon by J.L. Bourne is a fast-paced journal of a US naval officer’s attempts to make sense of, and survive, a zombie apocalypse. Layout-wise, the book is interesting: as well as the dayby-day entry aspect of it, there are photos and diagrams ‘taped’ into the book along with a few handwritten notes in the margin and the odd stain. I’m probably preaching to the choir on this one (unless you’re a comic-book purist), but if not see if you can catch season three of The Walking Dead (starting this side of the Atlantic on October 19th). After the Comic Con panel in July, I can’t wait to see all the new faces…

Going to have to break out the D12s and the ‘Hard to Kill’ rule to make this work in Force on Force…

Random Site


Guilty pleasure alert! Strike Back: Vengeance has started on Sky1 and though it seems unlikely to win anything at the Emmys (though it did get nominated this year!) this Special Forces romp might just tempt you into a military/espionage-themed roleplaying game.

The Wargames Holiday Centre in Hampshire seems like a wonderful idea. A huge gaming area with custom made terrain and beautifully painted figures from just about any era you can think of. I’m seriously considering organising a visit with a few friends – bed & breakfast, refreshments, some great gaming and a few pints afterwards. All I need is the brownie points for the weekend away!

Broadside: World Building Mike Brown Returns to discuss Situating a Game


ey all, welcome back to the wonderful world of ‘Broadside’.


Wow, three months have flown by and plenty has happened. I’m starting to collect a project team of people interested in contributing to this project. We’ve had our first playtest session and, as a result, we are currently in the middle of a rules rewrite. But the focus of this issue is World Building, that is, creating the universe in which a game is played.

Telling the Tale

There are a million and one ways to make a world. Personally, I see three vital elements to any world: the Setting, the Tales and the Protagonists.

The Setting

The “Setting” is the grand background or universe surrounding a game. While the specific details of the universe may not really come up during gameplay, a game without a universe will soon feel flat and lifeless. Of course, the scale of a game world depends on the game itself. Some are based in reality, making this part of the development easy, but others are based in fictional lands, worlds or even in entire galaxies.

The Shattering of the World: abstract from the Broadside setting text

a game without a universe will soon feel flat and lifeless”

A thousand years ago, Oceania was a peaceful place and the mysterious King Magnus ruled all the peoples as one. He reigned for over a hundred years. Some rumoured that he had found some secret to eternal life, as he never aged a day from the time he first sat on the high throne. Then the Titans came, sailing down the river Styx, a massive river cutting through the great southern desert. Nearly ten feet tall and powerfully built, it is still much debated if they are men or something else entirely. They came in their huge warships and laid waste to Oceania, first raiding small settlements, then, as their number grew, attacking cities and even entire continents at a time. The first invasion was beaten back eventually by a combined force of all the people of Oceania, lead by King Magnus. However, a heavy

Mike Brown A geek for all seasons, Mike has been involved in gaming of every type over the years. He is a wargamer a heart and has been playing with little plastic men since you could get a whole army of them for £10, but don’t let that put you off.

price was paid...

The Tales

The next stage of detail needed is the tales and stories that happen in this setting. Some games tell a single tale, following the actions of

a significant battle or encounter. Others are more expansive, providing rules and backgrounds for a wide variety of events. Either way, telling tales within your game setting gives it depth and helps to immerse players. Firaxian Expansion: abstract setting the scene for a range of Broadside tales. A Firaxian expedition will primarily consist of one of two types. The first is based on expansion and exploitation. When new land is discovered, the Firaxians first land heavily armoured troops that construct a fortress close to shore. From here, expeditions are sent inland to look for resources or enemies on the surface. Sorcerers call upon their Titan backers to find seams of ore underground. Mining can begin within a quarter of the moons turning. Great trees are felled and rendered into timber for the city state docks. Locals are enslaved to further speed up the exploitations. Soon, the expedition leader can expect to bask in the wealth of his dominion and the laurels of his Conclave.

Words are important, but artwork can really bring a world to life. “

The second expedition is altogether more dastardly and is especially favoured by the smaller city states, although all are guilty. These are the buccaneer squadrons. Travelling off the major trade routes, these flotillas raid the minor settlements of others for resources, ships and crew. They trade their goods to anyone with

coin and usually at the end of a musket barrel to foster advantageous exchanges. If they come across other vessels then battle is joined. The enemy ship will have its masts and top decks blasted by disciplined volleys of shot and shell before the Firaxians close and board. Heavily armoured marines make short work of any resistance. The ship is picked clean of anything of use, her crew is enslaved and her very hull reworked. Most are sent back to a friendly dock to be converted into a ship worthy of their patron Duke. If too far from home or if the vessel is not fit for further use then it will be cut down, dragged behind those ships in the fleet that have boiler rooms, slowly reduced to splinters as she feeds the engines of the Firaxian flag ships

any weaknesses in the enemy fleet. Striking only when he fully has their measure and feels victory is assured.

A Picture Paints a Thousand Words

Words are important, but artwork can really bring a world to life. I’m not an artist, but there are other ways to use images that don’t require quite the same flare. For example, collecting inspirational pictures and producing crude maps can help share your vision with those comfortable with a digital pen in hand.

The Protagonists

The core of all great tales, and subsequently the heart of a great setting, are the heroes and villains that make it all happen. Lovable and hateable characters with depth and the potential for drama will keep players engaged with your game. Admiral Artimus Reginald of the Eastern Fleet, Commander of HRHS Victorious If one was to describe Admiral Reginald in one word, it would be ‘serious’. His aging features are set as if stone as he barks orders to those under his command. His tactical genius and the loyalty of his Crew are renowned across the realm. He commands HRHS Victorious, flag ship of the Eastern Fleet and the Largest Geologion vessel to be commissioned in living memory. In battle, his actions are well thought out and perfectly timed. He will happily command his ships to engage in numerous feigns and harrying runs to expose

Prototype Map of Oceania

Until Next Time

We’ve had a whistle stop tour around the art of world building that will hopefully bring some inspiration. Next issue will see us delve into an area in which I am much more comfortable, the wonders of Game Mechanics and creating engaging balanced play...

BATTLEGROUP KURSK Donagh McCarthy gives us a review of this wargaming rule set

The Plastic Soldier Company (in association with Iron Fist Publishing) has released a new games system for re-creating battles around Kursk in 1943 on the Eastern Front. They are written by veteran games designer Warwick Kinrade (see our interview with Warwick elsewhere in this issue).


The book – well over 200 pages of colour – is split up into five broad sections: • 50 pages of rules with an example of a turn, and then detailed sections on movement, combat, artillery, morale and some special rules. • 25 pages of well-researched historical background (including information on the orders of battle and an in-depth timeline). • Four detailed army lists including German panzer and infantry divisions facing Russian tank corps and rifle divisions, with full rules for all their equipment. • There follows 10 pages or so of generic scenarios and then a short seven-part campaign, ‘The Inglorious 12th July’, set during the savage tank battles at Prokhorovka.

• A well-balanced modelling and painting guide. The tutorial shows three stages of painting, Basic, Gaming and ‘Master’, so while useful for novices, there’s plenty for the more experienced gamers too. First off, we get some guiding principles from the author: on style of play (friendly cooperation), measuring distances and line of sight. A few more pointers on what you’ll need to play are included (this one is solely for the novices) along with a very nice view of a battlefield. I think this is the first ‘wow’ moment in the rulebook: most wargamers would travel quite a way to play on a board like that, and tips on how to make such terrain are promised for later.

Donagh Donogh has been gaming in some shape or form since school. Though he’ll happily engage in a quick pick-up boardgame or indie roleplaying game, you’ll usually find him running participation wargames at conventions. Read his latest wargaming exploits at Land War in Asia:

Then we start to get some idea of the structure of the game: army lists, points and battle rating (a factor which will be very important later), a discussion of infantry basing (single or multiple are fine, so long as individual casualties can be recorded), and a brief note on game size (minimum, maximum and typical points for games from platoon to battalion along with the recommended table size for each).

crossing dangerous terrain (like barbed wire or minefields). Other units move further on the road, but most will lose D6” if they cross any obstacle or enter terrain.

The Rules

I’m going to give a brief summary of the main parts of the rules along with a bit of analysis of the most important aspects. Pinning and morale play pivotal roles in the game. Supply and communications are also important considerations.

Command and Control

Each turn a commander can issue a certain number of orders (from 1D6 for a squad-level game to 4D6 for a battalion-level game, modified by the number of officers in play). A unit can take one action a turn, a list of orders is available, from straight-forward options like moving and firing, moving at double-rate and so on; to more specialised ones, like resupplying or requesting artillery fire.


Units can also be given a reaction order, which allows them to move or fire during a future turn in response to an opponent’s action.

• Area Fire (for infantry and high explosive shells) – good for pinning the enemy without causing any casualties; it’s even possible at short ranges for a large amount of infantry fire to pin an armoured vehicle. Depending on the amount of cover the unit is in, it might not be pinned.

Senior officers can also attempt to remove a pinned marker from a unit. If a player wants to un-pin multiple units he must draw a battle counter, which allows him to remove D6 pinned markers at the end of the turn.


Movement is fairly simple; infantry move 5” whether off-road or on one, only reducing this when

Weapons have a maximum range, varying from 30” for infantry units with rifles to 70” for long-barrelled guns. All fire is made with D6s, and generally speaking a ‘6’ is an effective hit, a ‘1’ an outright miss and anything else a pin.

rolling to hit. After that the target unit can roll for its cover and then makes a morale test if it’s taken any damage. • There are rules to differentiate high explosive and armour piercing rounds (weapons have a penetration value and armour a rating – there’s a simple chart for cross-referencing). One oldschool curiosity is the necessity to specify what ammunition load each of your tanks has at the start of the game; every time your fire you choose what type of round is being used – once you run out you have to be resupplied from a supply truck. • There are some further specialised rules for infantry falling back under attack, close assault and even anti-tank grenades. I really like the rules for these, rather than shoe-horn the normal shooting rules into this unique situation, there is a D6 table to determine the effectiveness of the attack.


There are two main choices in the type of fire along with a few special rules:

• Aimed Fire – represents the unit spotting the target and actually hitting them for effect; an observation roll must be made (easier to spot vehicles than infantry, and easier to spot units in the open and firing than those obscured) before

Artillery fire is a little bit more complicated in terms of mechanics, but I think how to treat the big guns is always a problematic aspect of wargaming rules. Because artillery is such a big part of the second world war (causing a majority of ground combat fatalities and

wounds), balancing dominance with power is a tough task. Scheduled artillery arrive on a specified turn and location with no roll, but otherwise artillery from the ‘Additional Fire Support’ section of the list (representing armylevel assets behind the lines) then a priority check must be made. If the roll fails, then HQ has refused your request; if the assets are directly under your battle group’s command you skip this part and go straight to the communications check. If that check is passed, deviation is accounted for and then we roll to see what the artillery effect is. The rules escape one of the most common pitfalls by inflicting direct hits and pinning hits separately, moving from the centre of the blast area outwards, so that units closest to the epicentre will most likely feel worst off. Hit are applied until there no units or hits left (units can be subjected to multiple hits if there is an excess) so again there’s a decent chance that a significant number of units will be affected. We get some additional rules for pre-registered target points, timed barrages and counter-battery fire missions, as well as a couple of good examples of artillery in action. We also see a detailed note on Soviet artillery, specifically picking out areas in the army lists where the Soviet flavour is (some are limiting, and some are definite pluses).

objective. The extra battle counters include air attack, mine strike and others which allow you to strike back against your enemy. So it’s not all bad!


Morale is an important factor in the rules, with two aspects: unit (whether it will stand and fight) and battle group (who wins the battle). Infantry units test whenever they take losses, but vehicles will take a morale test whenever they’re hit. There’s a chance that crew will abandon their vehicle if they were already pinned, immobilised or near an enemy unit without support. If the unit aces their test, they have a chance to go ‘Beyond the Call of Duty’ and immediately be given an order, even un-pinning them if they are already pinned. The battle group system is more complex. Each unit in your battle group has a battle rating (abbreviated br.). This represents how important and/or effective it is in the battle group. You can calculate your battle group’s break point by counting up your units’ total battle rating. There is a mix of battle counters, most numerical (from 1 to 5, but clustering in the middle) but some with special effects. Each time your opponent destroys one of your unit you must draw a battle counter. More counters are drawn the first time your force comes under flame or air attack, whenever a senior officer is destroyed or when your enemy captured an

One really interesting feature of the rule (hinted at earlier) is the rally option at the end of each turn. You decide if you want to unpin (1D) unit in return for drawing a battle counter. This forces the player to make an assessment of the danger of his battle group breaking, and how important the currently pinned units are. There’s also an element of risk involved. When the number (hidden from your opponent) on your drawn battle counters exceeds your side’s battle rating, the game is over.

Special Rules

There are a slew of rules for specialised units, from the mundane (medics, artillery spotters, supply trucks) to the peculiar (bomb dogs). A few piqued my interest immediately. Radio trucks, wire teams and dispatch riders help you make those communications check to call in artillery, some give you a simple re-roll, but the dispatch rider gives you an automatic success as he rides off! Some units

I’m especially impressed with the battle group rating mechanic and trust that we’ll be seeing a lot more radiomen, supply trucks and other oddities on the battlefield due to the rules encouraging their use.

are classified as ‘scouts’ whether they be a foot patrol, armoured car or spotter plane. Scouts help you win the initiative during the first turn of the battle and whoever has less scouting units than his opponent takes one battle counter in the first turn.

accuracy and player style. Every possible option would seem to be available, from assault pioneers with flamethrowers and panzer aces to mass Katyusha batteries and motorcycle & sidecar combinations.

Also incorporated are rules specifically modelling mass Russian infantry wave attacks and tank assaults, as well as the strict authority of the NKVD.

I’m not going to cover the painting guide or scenarios (I haven’t played them) except to say that they seem to be well chosen. The setups and forces involved varies in terms of size and style so I imagine most gamers interested in the period will be able to pick out one to try straight away.

The Army Lists

On first look the four army lists present a bewildering array of choices, but they are carefully structured so that you must purchase some basic units before going on to pick up the more specialist options. For instance, in the German Panzer Division list each standard tank option you pick allows one from the specialist support units; and given that a single Tiger I represents one such specialist unit, you may hobble yourself if you concentrate on non-standard units. Within these constraints, it is possible to pick a highly individual list, so I think this represents a good balance between historical


While some don’t believe it should be a factor in choosing a wargames set, this book is definitely pushing the needle on the eye candy scale – while there are some historical images, the miniature photographs stand out for me, it seems like just about every unit you can field is represented in miniature form in the book. I have to give these rules a solid thumbs-up: while I’m not crazy about keeping track of ammunition for each tank on the battlefield, the design principles are clear and implementation well-applied.

INTERVIEW: GRGUR PETRIĆ MARETIĆ Lee Murphy interviews a member of the Croation Magic team


he Magic: The Gathering World Magic Cup took place at GenCon, Indianapolis, during the month of August, and while our own teams were indeed there all the headlines were stolen by some unusual names. Unusual in the sense that they aren’t necessarily Magic: The Gathering strongholds, rather than they’re hard to pronounce or even spell. Based as I am, in the Western Balkans, I found myself able to talk briefly with the Croatian Magic team - Goran Elez, Toni Portolan, Grgur Petrić Maretić, and Stjepan Sučić, and it was Grgur with whom I managed to speak in detail. Some background information might be useful to the readers – any long time Magic player will know that we once had Worlds (some of us recall Euros as well). Teams of 4 (3 and the alternate) would jet off to destinations myriad and exotic and duke it out to take home a trophy and a pocket full of green. That team was chosen through a country’s National Championships, with the Top 4 chosen as you would expect, by being the Top 4. Recently all of that has changed. The World Cup Qualifiers have replaced the National Championships and now return 3 distinct winners, who are joined by a notable pro from that country. This

ensures that the best player gets to go, and that’s an adequate reward one would suspect, but make no mistake, there are opponents to this format. However, this is not intended to be political, but rather celebratory.

We started by asking Grgur how Magic came to be in Croatia, and how he himself got playing, and whatever else it was that occupied his time, when not applying beatdowns… Of course there are shops which stock the game, and many have done so for some time now, but the game arrived (or so we’re told anecdotally) around 1995, with US soldiers stationed in the area (in Bosnia & Herzegovina mostly). They brought the game with them and taught our own soldiers how to play. This might not actually be the case but it’s an interesting story to tell people at the very worst. As for me, well it’s a game I knew about, and wanted to play when I was a kid but there was no one available to teach me. About 5 years later, when I was in High School, I made some new friends and one of them was already playing a lot of Magic. This was just

Lee Murphy Lee Murphy is Croatia’s foremost Irish journalist. The fact that he is also Croatia’s only Irish journalist does not weigh heavily on his mind; his fragile, fragile mind. When not reporting from the Croatian parliament, or being mistaken for Grammy award winning rappers, he can be found chasing cats around Dubrovnik.

shortly after Invasion debuted so you can imagine I was hooked. It was a fantastic set and really only matched by the Ravnica sets. I do play other games, like most gamers I suppose: Final Fantasy,

any turn based strategy games and plenty of other card and board games like Ascension, Race for the Galaxy, Agricola, Battlestar Galactica, Uskoci, and Dominion. There are others but I’d be here all night if I tried to list them.

Q: So, what about the Magic community in Croatia? Is it very close? Are there, or were there, any rivalries between the cities? Will Zagreb share deck tech with Split for instance? Or does each group try and eke out any advantage over the others? Back during the days of the National Championships there was certainly a concerted effort to keep secret tech hidden from players in other cities, even if this was difficult due the fact that everyone was always loaning cards out to everyone else. From that alone a player could figure out what sort of decks were being played in Split, or Osijek, or Dubrovnik. The community here is great and is incredibly helpful in two ways - we have Legacy tournaments in Bjelovar on a semi regular basis, and we have quite a few players who qualify for the Pro Tour; all the players rally round and make sure any player travelling for a major event has the cards they need to build the deck they want. Some of our senior players (Tomislav, David and Valent) have done so much to keep the scene going here but they also lend us an insane amount of cards. There are so many decks in the format that you can’t just travel with one deck. You need as many as possible, and the cards to build them.

Q: Having loaned Conor Harding the bones

of a foiled, Chinese, Enchantress deck for PT New Orleans I know how that feels. Yet Croatia didn’t exactly take ALL the decks in the format to the World Cup, you took a number of rogue decks. How closely did you look at the metagame or was it simply a matter of finding a deck which suited? I know I played Battle of Wits in Standard for a season, but that was only because it was so much fun, regardless of the outcome. We picked up a decklist from a clan-mate of Stjepan, on Magic Online and while it seemed a bit sketchy on paper we decided to build it and see how it played. It wasn’t long before we realised that it performed really well against all the Tier 1 decks in the format and didn’t seem to have any auto-loss match-ups. The deck itself could be built for around $50 and we figured it was worth it, especially since we were so confident in it. I like to think our faith was repaid.

Q: What of the team itself? Who are they, where are they from, how experienced are they, did you know each other prior to the team being selected, and did anyone bring some unusual ideas with them? Well, I’m a Zagreb man myself. I’ve played in about 15 pro tours and had pretty good finishes. Toni is from Split and he’d be a better player than I, if only because I tend to dawdle when it comes to practise and research. Stjepan is from Sisak and I think I only recently realised that he is much better than I had

previously thought! The three of us have performed well on the pro tour, and we’ve all been Croatian National Champion in the past. Goran is also from Zagreb and would have been the least accomplished player on our team and once we progressed to Day Two he was our voice of reason. He tried to make sure that we didn’t lose our heads, or make foolish decisions. Such help cannot be underestimated. Everyone knows everyone – that’s normal in a community of this size, and all of us have played on the National team in the past, in some combination: Stjepan and Toni; Goran and Stjepan; Toni and I.”

Q: It’s WotC policy to reward countries who excel in such events with Grand Prix, and Pro Tours. If they made an announcement in the morning that GP Zagreb was being pencilled in for 2013 would it be possible? Is there the infrastructure here for something like this, and what of numbers? I only see 20 players or so at the drafts and constructed events I attend… Zagreb could definitely host a GP, probably at the Velesajam Pavilions (south of the River Sava and, thankfully, on a well serviced bus and tram line). Attendance would be really good. We would see a few hundred players from Croatia as everyone would come to support the event. Then we would see a lot of players from Hungary, Austria, Italy, Serbia, southern Germany, and from further away no doubt. The city has an International Airport which is connected to all the main airports in Europe. We’re on

the route for the Orient Express as well so people could come by train if they wanted. The more I think on it the more I think it would go a long way to making up for the shortage of GPs in South East Europe.

Q: Well. you’ve helped put Croatia on the Magic map (let’s hope the Phyrexians don’t invade) so what final words might you have for us? Train hard, go pro. Simple.

Grgur Petrić-Maretić’s Black, Green, Red deck

Land: 4 Evolving Wilds. 9 Forest. 1 Kessig Wolf Run. 3 Mountain. 3 Swamp. 4 Woodland Cemetery.

il’s Play, 2 Sever the Bloodline, 4 Tragic Slip Planeswalkers: Relentless



Sideboard: 1 Appetite for Brains, 2 Blasphemous Act, 1 Garruk Relentless, 2 Grafdigger’s Cage, 4 Pillar of Flame, 1 Sever the Bloodline, 1 Tree of Redemption, 2 Tribute to Hunger, 1 Zealous Conscripts

Toni Portolans Blue/Red Delver deck

Land: 1 Breeding Pool, 1 Forest, 7 Island, 4 Misty Rainforest, 1 Mountain, 4 Scalding Tarn, 2 Steam Vents, 1 Stomping Ground Creatures: 4 Delver of Secrets, 4 Snapcaster Mage, 4 Tarmogoyf, 2 Vendilion Clique,

Creatures: 4 Avacyn’s Pilgrim, 4 Borderland Ranger, 4 Falkenrath Aristocrat, 3 Huntmaster of the Fells, 2 Scorned Villager, 4 Wolfir Silverheart

Spells: 2 Burst Lightning, 2 Cryptic Command, 1 Deprive, 2 Dismember, 4 Lightning Bolt, 4 Remand, 4 Serum Visions, 2 Spell Pierce, 2 Spell Snare, 2 Vedalken Shackles

Spells: 3 Abundant Growth, 4 Bonfire of the Damned, 1 Dev-

Sideboard: 3 Ancient Grudge, 2 Blood Moon, 2 Combust, 1 Dis-

member, 2 Firespout, 2 Grafdigger’s Cage, 1 Negate, 2 Threads of Disloyalty

Stjepan Sučić Green infest deck card list

Mono Green Infest proved to be very powerful in the World Magic Cup and helped bring Croatia into the Quater Finals and on Top 8 at the event. This is a breakdown of the magic deck build and played by Croatian Stjepan Sucic. Creatures: Glistener elf x 4, Ichorclaw Myr x 4, Blight Mamba x 1, Viridian Corrupter x 1 Spells: Green Sun’s Zenith x 2, Mutagenic Growth x 4, Titanic Growth x 4, Wild Defiance x 4, Rancor x 4, Apostle’s Blessing x 4, Gut Shot x 4, Mental Misstep x 3 Land: Forest x 13, Cathedral of War x 4, Inkmoth Nexus x 4 Sideboard: Mental Misstep x 1, Spellskite x 3, Viridian Corrupter x 3, Blight mamba x 1, Dismember x 4, Melira, Sylvok Outcast x 1, Beast within x 2

NETRUNNER Wayne O Connor reviews the New Edition


etrunner casts its players in the opposing roles of a Futuristic Hacker and the Corporation who they oppose. The game was originally designed by Richard Garfield, the creator of Magic and released in the CCG format. But the new version has been released by Fantasy Flight Games as part of their LCG line. Unlike the random boosters and card-sets of CCGs, the LCG format is released in regular instalments of set cards. Firstly, I was huge fan of the original Netrunner game, so like many was keen to see this reimagining. The first thing that’s clear from the new set is that FFG didn’t change much of the core

mechanics; why fix it if it ain’t broken? With an update to the Tracing mechanic being the prominent rule change, the game remains the Netrunner I loved. But prettier! FFG has pulled out all the stops, and the art and token components are a high standard throughout. The core game-play sees two players selecting to play either a Runner or the Corporation and utilising a deck of cards built specifically to those roles. Within that, FFG have introduced new Identities, essentially character cards that help define the decks a little further. Each of these new identities/factions have inherent strengths and weaknesses that can be explored in

Wayne O Connor @druakim Music, art, theatre, games. I Try. · http://pyramidlagota.

play. The players have a number of actions each turn, from Drawing a Card to Drawing a Credit (the games currency) to building ICE (the Computer’s defences a Runner needs get around) to Going on a Run. This last is the core Runner

action, when he elects to attack the Corp’s defences in an effort to score Agenda Cards. These Agenda cards have a value and the Corp is trying to advance them also. Whoever steals or advances to a score of seven Agenda Points first is the winner.

Why fix it if it ai’nt broken?”

Whereas the Runner plays with his cards face up, the Corp has an element of Bluff to support him as many of his are played facedown. This keeps the game tense as the Runner doesn’t know if it’s an Agenda or a nasty ambush he’s accessing or if the Corp is going to reveal a particularly nasty ICE card that might End his run, Destroy (thrash) his cards or Hurt him (Damage is rendered by taking cards from the Runner’s hand, if he has insufficient cards, he is Flatlined and the Corp wins!). Players must also balance the amount of credits they have to play cards and activate abilities. The core set provides a nice mix of strategy and options to explore. I also noticed a lot more interplay between the decks and the new Identities and Factions really do help define a theme to the decks. Overall FFG have done a great job, and with the game selling very well, it looks like a healthy future ahead for this new iteration. The core set provides plenty of replay and FFG have already announced and begun releasing the first LCG booster packs to freshen up the game even further. Overall, it’s a worthwhile purchase and the LCG format can lessen the hit on your pocket money!

MTG: Common Improvements #2 Sam Costello discusses Card Advantage and Sideboarding


o, hopefully you all had a good time at your local FNM (Friday Night Magic), and you’re all starting to see some improvement in your play skill. This time around, I’d like to talk about two important aspects to tournament Magic; card advantage and sideboards (including tips on how to build them, and how to use them). The first (fairly abstract) aspect I’d like to talk about is “Card Advantage”. What is card advantage? Put in simple terms, if you spend one card to get rid of (or “answer”) two or more of my cards, you’ve gained card advantage. Let’s put it another way. If you and I play a game against each other, but during each draw step, you draw two cards instead of one, who is more likely to win that game? Well, you of course! You’ll have more options. You’ll have more cards that answer my cards, you’ll be able to play ahead better, and you’ll be able to draw out of bad situations like too many – or too few - lands much easier than me. You’ll also find your most powerful cards more often than I do. These are all good things. So, we’ve established that card advantage is a good thing. Now,

how do we generate it in a real game? Well, first of all, we can play card-draw cards, like Divination and Inspiration. These cards are all natural “+1s” (they give you two cards, but make you spend one, 2-1=1, hence, “+1”). Second, we can play cards that look symmetrical, but create game states where they aren’t. Consider Day of Judgement. It destroys all creatures, right? But what if I have five creatures, and you have none? Your Day of Judgement answers five of my cards, but you only spent one card, so your Day of Judgement is actually a +4 in this situation (since 5-1=4).

Card advantage is not some magical bar that will win you the game when it’s full.”

Third, you can use your creatures to generate card advantage. If your 3/3 creature kills my 2/2 creature, that’s technically card advantage, and you didn’t even have to spend any cards to generate it, since you still have your creature! Essen-

Sam Costello I live in Northern Ireland, playing a children’s card game and taking it far too seriously. When I’m not playing Magic, I’m thinking about playing Magic, reading about Magic or playing some sort of RPG or video game. I could stand to be a lot better at this game. I have no right telling people how to get better, and yet here I am!

tially, any time one of your cards removes two or more of my cards, or any time one of your cards gives you two or more cards, you’re generating card advantage. Also, certain creatures, like Strangleroot Geist are natural card advantage.

This is a very short introduction to a very complex and much-talked about concept, there’s no way I could convey everything about card advantage in 1,000 words. The point here is simply to introduce you to the concept in a basic way, and for you to start thinking about it during games. There are two important things you should remember about card advantage. First, card advantage does not win the game on its own. You can draw as many cards as you like, but if all your cards do is draw more cards, you can’t win. You need to be doing something productive with your advantage eventually. Card advantage is not some magical bar that will win you the game when it’s full. Secondly, card advantage is not the only kind of advantage in the game, and sometimes, it’s okay to build a deck that can’t generate any card advantage outside of combat (because, remember, creatures can generate card advantage!), because you can generate huge advantage in other places.


You might have noticed at your local FNM that, during each round, you actually played three games of Magic. And, you may also have noticed that, after your first (and possibly second game, some players would switch cards from their decks for cards from a smaller pile. This pile is called the Sideboard, and it’s a very important part of deck building in tournaments. After the first and second game in a match, you are able to exchange cards from your deck with cards from your sideboard on a one for one basis. This allows you to adjust your deck slightly, and you should take full advantage of it, especially if you have a weaker matchup

against a certain deck. Now, sideboards can be tricky to build properly. It’s not just about throwing hate cards together, it’s about understanding how their deck wins, and being able to attack that angle more effectively after boarding. It’s also about understanding how they will sideboard, and trying to minimise the impact their new cards will have against your deck.

it’s about understanding how their deck wins, and being able to attack that angle more effectively after boarding.”

This ties back into my last article, where I advised you to learn the broad archetypes, but in this instance, you actually need to have a much firmer grasp of specific decks and archetypes in the format, so that you can understand how they win and how you can beat them. One good trick to remember when trying to build a strong sideboard is to find cards which can fill multiple roles in multiple matchups. A card like Tormod’s Crypt might be a good card against Zombies, or a graveyard based strategy, and Smelt is a great card against artefacts, but Rakdos Charm combines both of those effects (exiling a graveyard and destroying an artefact) into the same card. This allows you to save space and that’s very important; if you try to run 3 Crypt, and

3 Smelt, you’ve just used 6 out of 15 slots, but you could also just run 3 Rakdos Charm. In addition, Rakdos Charm is much better against graveyard based decks that also contain powerful artefacts! Of course, sometimes you’ll just want a card that’s really powerful against one deck. That’s okay too, but make sure that your sideboard can, in general, cover a wide range of situations and has multiple answers. Also, when you’re building your sideboard, start thinking about which cards you want in against which decks, and what cards you’ll take out of your main deck. Building a good sideboard can be tough, but it’s an important skill to learn, since at least half your games will be sideboard games! These concepts are more advanced than last time, and many pros have written a ton on both subjects. Try not to worry about getting them right 100% of the time, and instead just start applying them to your games.

TRANS-EUROPA/ AMERICA (RIO GRANDE GAMES) Richard Hensman reviews this tactical game damage-limit if this just isn’t your round. There’s no frustration of getting caught out by a bad roll at the last hurdle as in so many other games. That’s not to say you don’t get caught by last minute surprises, just that they’re due to other players’ actions, not luck.

“ Type: Casual Board Game Genre: Tile placement By the box: Age: 8+ Players: 2-6 Time: 20 minutes In the box: Board, track pieces, scoring pawns, starting tokens I really enjoyed playing this game. It is simple to play, taking only seconds to explain to a new player. However, the game play is engaging, tactical, and interesting enough to keep you engaged for several rounds. The only luck factor is in the cards you are dealt at the beginning of a round, meaning that you know up front how well you are likely to do, and can

It is simple to play, taking only seconds to explain to a new player. However, the game play is engaging, tactical, and interesting enough to keep you engaged for several rounds.”

Each round takes only a few minutes to play, and a game should consist of four or five rounds. Ours went by a lot quicker than that, finishing in just two, but I

Richard Hensman Rich is a long time role-player, card and boardgame collector and all-round games enthusiast. Other than gaming he is a SCUBA diver, a ski instructor, an airsoft player and generally much more active than a geek usually has any right to be.

would say twenty minutes isn’t unreasonable for a ‘normal’ play. Age and skill difference between players shouldn’t be insurmountable, as the game-play is fairly straightforward, with only minor advantage to be gained from tacti-

cal manipulation. We played with a group of four, but I can see the game being easily playable all the way from two to six. Trans-Europa also has a sibling - Trans-America. I’ve not played Trans-America, but the owner of the set I played tells me that the map makes for a more challenging game, and more extreme results, but has identical game-play. If you’re looking to buy one or the other, keep this in mind. LITERACY: None. CHALLENGE: 3/5 - easy game to play, luck factor is present, but not overpowering RULES: 5/5- Exceptionally simple. SPACE NEEDED: 2/5 (1 being smallest, 5 largest)- board space only REPLAYABILITY: 4/5- simple strategies, cards make the game near-infinitely re-playable PORTABILITY: 3/5- while not big, the board wouldn’t stand up to moving (or bumping) well. PACKAGING: 3/5- standard sized box, no wasted space QUALITY: 3/5- simple board, cards, and playing pieces. OVERALL RATING: 9/10- great game, lots of fun, easy to play, quick to pickup

ANTIKE Another Recommendation for your Boardgames from The Boardgames Lady

boardgames lady Antike is a game played on your choice of two maps, with each player controlling a civilisation. It’s not about owning more territory than, or fighting with, the other civilisations. It’s about collecting awesome people. There are five different categories, each earned by fulfilling a different condition, and each one is worth a victory point. The number of victory points required to win varies with the number of players, as does the strength of certain strategies. Since the size of the map doesn’t vary, the more players there are, the more likely combat is to occur. One of the most interesting things about the game is the rondel. It has production spaces, utilization spaces, and manoeuvre spaces.

Small moves around the rondel are free and price increases with distance. Each turn, you take only the action appropriate to the space you move onto, which makes for short, fast turns. Each is a small step in a larger plan, rather than a standalone unit of play. This can really add to the enjoyment of the game, as even against slower players it is rare to wait long for your turn. And because each utilization square is opposite its corresponding production square, it also encourages having at least two interwoven strategies. The only random element is where you start on the board, everything else depends only on what players do. Although the civilisation strengths are very well balanced,

Boardgames Lady plays boardgames whenever she can and has done for as long as she can remember. She owns more than is probably reasonable and prides herself on matching games to players. She’s also been known to dabble in CCGs, RPGs, LRPs, LARPS, and computer games and organise things so other people can play boardgames.

location on the map can have a large effect on the game. Seeing another player on the far side of the board approaching victory and not being able to intervene can be frustrating.

Another strength of the game is the simplicity of the combat mechanic. An attack costs a movement, similar units cancel, and superior numbers always win. Games usually last somewhere between one and two hours. It is a game that will get you thinking, but it’s not too heavy or too deep. It gives a great return on time and thought invested. Heartily recommended by Boardgames Lady

PANDEMIC The Boardgames Lady reviews this tense boardgame

boardgames lady


he Pandemic board is a world map, starting with cities already infected with disease. Each player takes on a role with different special abilities. You need to work together to cure for all four diseases before you all lose in one of several unpleasant ways. Aside from the obvious novelty of playing together rather than against each other, this game has a lot going for it. It’s very quick to play, sometimes playing in under half an hour. It is very well balanced, with both victories and losses generally very close. The difficulty can be increased, so you don’t get bored when you get good.

You need to work together to cure for all four diseases before you all lose in one of several unpleasant ways.”

On each player’s turn they take four actions, draw two cards, and turn infection cards to spread the diseases. Everyone discusses the current player’s actions, although they have the final word them-

Boardgames Lady plays boardgames whenever she can and has done for as long as she can remember. She owns more than is probably reasonable and prides herself on matching games to players. She’s also been known to dabble in CCGs, RPGs, LRPs, LARPS, and computer games and organise things so other people can play boardgames.

selves. Hands are not open, but you can share information, and you will probably lose if you don’t. There are five different roles. Each role is essentially a specialist in one of the basic actions. Since the

game only plays up to four, there will always be at least one role missing. The roles aren’t quite as well balanced as they could be. Certain roles are definitely more fun to play than others, and certain combinations greatly weaken some roles. The draw pile is mostly city cards, which can be used for travel, but are better used for discovering cures. The draw pile also contains epidemic cards, which are the generally the ultimate cause of a player loss. Among other things, an epidemic shuffles the infection card discard pile and puts it back on top of the deck. This causes the same cities to be infected again. Each time you infect a city, you add a disease cube. If you try to add a disease cube, but there are none of the appropriate colour left? Game over, everybody loses. Each city can contain only three cubes of any colour. If you need to add a fourth, you add one cube to each adjacent city instead. You do so, even if the fourth cube came from an overflowing city. If that happens eight times? Game over, everybody loses. If you manage to avoid doing either of those things, but you don’t cure all the diseases before the cards run out? Game over, everybody loses. The rules booklet is excellent, with an in depth setup page for new players, and a graphical reminder set up page for those familiar with the game. The rules book is short, with no unnecessary fluff, and all the answers exactly where you’d expect them to be. An excellent game for playing with your friends, instead of against them.

Heartily recommended by Boardgames Lady

FORMULA (GIBSON GAMES) Richard Hensman reviews this casual game that has unexpected depth

burned at the end of the game, so card-counters don’t get an immediate advantage, and although some players will be forced to play cards that advantage their opposition, there always seems to be a way to minimise that advantage, or gain something from the exchange. There is also, of course, the balance between getting ahead, and not making enemies too early on. Even when you have forced your opposition to the back of the pack, they can still cripple your race.

TYPE: CASUAL BOARD GAME GENRE: RACING BY THE BOX: AGE: 8+ PLAYERS: 3-6 TIME: 20 MINUTES IN THE BOX:BOARD, CAR PAWNS, DIE, CARDS For a casual game, this one has a lot to it. The little plastic car pieces are placed on the board, and cards played on them move them forwards and backwards in the racing order to create the finishing result. It sounds simplistic to the point of boredom, but it is actually a very engaging game. Some cards get

It sounds simplistic to the point of boredom, but it is actually a very engaging game.”

One of the nicest features of the game is that the car-pawns that aren’t played by players still get on the board and take part in the race. So, although fewer people play cards on the race, the other cars still get in the way, and occasionally stop any player from doing very well. This makes the game very flexible, and I think although

Richard Hensman Rich is a long time role-player, card and boardgame collector and all-round games enthusiast. Other than gaming he is a SCUBA diver, a ski instructor, an airsoft player and generally much more active than a geek usually has any right to be.

the box says 3-6 players, I can see it being quite playable with 2 as well. Age and skill differentials shouldn’t make too much difference in this game, but extreme differences will make this one-sided.

LITERACY: Very little. - cards have one-word titles that are easy to remember, and images to back that up. CHALLENGE: 2/5 - easy game to play, luck factor is present, but not overpowering RULES: 4/5- Straightforward, easy to understand

SPACE NEEDED: 4/5 (1 being smallest, 5 largest)- board space, cards, and die-rolling space REPLAYABILITY: 5/5- the ruthlessness of your fellow players is the only limiting factor PORTABILITY: 1/5- the board will not stand up to moving at all, keep this one to a static game.

PACKAGING: 4/5- small box, everything in its place QUALITY: 5/5- good board and card stock, and well-molded plastic cars. OVERALL RATING: 9/10- fantastic little game, easy to pickup and doesn’t take too long to play.

DREDD 3D review Charles Dunne gives us the lowdown on the recent film


ell, first of all I have a couple of things I need to get out of the way. I’ve been reading Dredd in 2000 AD since 1977 so you may say that I am au fait with the character. From his first issue in Prog 2 right up to where we are now, which is Prog 1801 as I write this, including Annuals, Yearbooks, Specials, crossovers and the Megazine. That’s 35 years. Grud on a greenie, as Mega-City parlance would have it. So I’m (a) obviously biased when it comes to this character and (b) was nervous as hell considering the atrocity inflicted upon us in 1995 via Sly Stallone’s “Judge Dredd” movie. Now, there will be some spoilers so if you continue reading on your own head be it. I had expectations, high hopes, and a fear of one of my favourite characters biting the dust in another bloated actioner. Thankfully only the first two were fulfilled. Dredd 3D is quite frankly an incredible little movie. Don’t let that last sentence confuse you. Dredd 3D IS a small film but only insofar as it is very controlled in terms of its central scope and theme. One day in the life of Judge Dredd as he takes a rookie judge on a make or break street assessment wherein they must seize control of a Mega-City tower block from an insane drug

lord. That is it. They are on their own and seemingly the odds are against them. It will be compared to The Raid inevitably so I’ll just get that out of the way first. Dredd has being doing this type of thing in the comics since 1980, with Prog 182’s “Block War”. That kind of puts the kibosh on that. You may as well compare Battle Royale to The Hunger Games and have done with it. Oh, you did. Right then.

I had expectations, high hopes, and a fear of one of my favourite characters biting the dust in another bloated actioner.”

Karl Urban’s casting as Dredd is a marvel. The amount of acting a man can do with only his mouth and chin visible throughout an entire film is astounding. The iconic helmet is never removed once it goes on and everything is telegraphed into his voice and

Charles Dunne Charles Dunne has been frequently described as insane, immortal, invincible and sleepless. He is none of these things, preferring as he does a nice snooze of an evening with a copy of The Strand magazine and a slipper of good tobacco. The other slipper he wears as an odd type of shoulder ornament.

body language, with a few choice grimaces and scowls thrown in for good measure. His every action is based on a predatory stalk, a coiled spring being unwound and then rewound. The action pulses in waves rather than hitting you

frenetically and leaving you rather numb as it never ceases. Paul Leonard-Morgan’s biting , scuzzy industrial score follows the lead of the action and pulses around you, never swamping the scene but emphasising it brilliantly. (Rather bizarrely there is ANOTHER soundtrack which could have been used but the makers felt it didn’t quite gel with the visuals, even so it too is astounding for giving a feel of the Judge’s world. Check out “Drokk” by Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury http://www.invada. Olivia Thirlby, best known for her role as Leah in “Juno”, steps up to the mark and is believable as Cadet Judge Anderson, Dredd’s rookie. This is her first action movie and she handles herself well. Indeed to a certain extent this is HER movie more so than Dredd’s. She is the one who has the true story arc, whose character develops over the course of the film from nervous rookie on the verge of failing to full Judge capable of standing beside Dredd and dispensing justice to those that deserve it. She doesn’t ever achieve, or attempt, Old Stoneyface’s grim demeanour but then she doesn’t have to. Standing back from the film we can see that this is her trial by fire but for him, this is just another day at the office. He sums that up quite succinctly at the end. When asked by an arriving support judge what had just occurred he answers that it was a drug bust and the perps (perpetrators) were uncooperative. Back to the station, fill the reports and then out again for more.

The 3D in use here is primarily aimed at showing the effects of

a particular drug on the perceptions of those using it.” Now, some other reviews have concentrated initially on the 3D aspect of the film, and I usually don’t care for it since it mostly gets used as a gimmick rather than an aid to the story. Not so here .The 3D in use here is primarily aimed at showing the effects of a particular drug on the perceptions of those using it. Slo-Mo, as it is imaginatively named, slows down the perceptions of its users, so we see bullets tearing slowly through flesh in an almost balletic manner, similar to that seen of a slowed down rain splash. Then the POV will whip to someone not under the influence and the action ramps to the speed it is ACTUALLY taking place at, which is a pulsing wave of violence. Dredd 3D doesn’t pull its punches. This isn’t a kid friendly Batman or Avengers. People die quite horribly and painfully. That is the truth of the character and his world. No Spiderman style soap opera histrionics here. The second use of 3D involves Anderson herself, since she is a psychic and her visions and intimations, and in some cases mind control, are very deftly handled by the technology. To say more would spoiler some of the plot. Finally we come to Lena Headey, fresh from her turn as Cersei Lannister in HBO’s adaptation of “A Game of Thrones”, she slips into the scarred skin of Ma-Ma, the ex prostitute turned drug lord (lady?) who controls the tower block that Dredd and Anderson have to seize. She too holds her own, doling out controlled mania and cold brilliance that makes her character more than a cipheresque end boss

to defeat. And already I’ve said too much. Go see it. When it comes out on DVD/Blu-Ray buy it. It is a great movie and deserves to do better than it has. It topped the UK box office but slumped in the US. That is primarily due to two things, an unfamiliarity with the character and a retarded belief that rather than a reboot it is a remake of the 1995 film. So, if like me you end up liking this film you’ll want more. So spread the word, punks! Here’s the trailer and here’s an online comic book prequel doc/104439907/DREDD-MAMA.

CABIN IN THE WOODS Tom White reviews the recent Joss Whedon and Drew goddard horror

Alright first off, I geek out pretty hard on Cabin in the Woods in this article, so if you haven’t seen it yet, I wouldn’t recommend reading any further. Hang on, you haven’t seen Cabin in the Woods? What are you doing!? Go watch it, I’ll wait right here..........................Done? Okay., let’s do this. While the Horror genre doesn’t have a set era of greatness like the Action genre (the 80s if you are wondering), every couple of years we get a concept that is fantastically realised and plays to the strengths of the genre, but it is

then made stale and useless by an endless stream of knockoffs and unwanted sequels. Cast your mind back to when Scream was released. While it was a great film, and a commentary on the state of the genre, it gave rise to a wave of rip off ’s, Urban Legend, I Know What You Did Last Summer, Cherry Falls, etc. It just became what it was parodying. The same thing is happening at the moment with ‘torture porn’ and ‘found footage’ movies blotting the Horror landscape. But thankfully there are people out there, better connected and with better resources than me, who saw what was happening and decided to do something about it. Those people were Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard. And what they did was make Cabin in the Woods.

What co-writers Whedon and Goddard are planning is a commentary on the genre on a scale that Scream could only dream.”

Tom White

Living comfortably in a bubble of popular culture, Tom is a blogger and aspiring script writer. His poison of choice is comic books, much to the distress of his bank account.

On paper, Cabin in the Woods sounds like your normal Horror flick: a group of college students go to a foreboding cabin for a weekend of partying and soon find themselves picked off one by one by a mysterious force. Hell, if

I hadn’t told you, you would have probably thought this was the synopsis for The Evil Dead. But there is a lot more going on beneath the surface. Of both the cabin, and the movie. You get your first indication that this isn’t your normal horror movie with the opening scene. Most movies of this genre open with an introduction to the killer. And in a way it is, but watching two office workers talking about baby-proofing in a vast, bustling, vaguely futuristic complex certainly throws you when you are expecting the usual opening ten minutes of gore. The next scene, and the introduction of the kids we’ll see being dismembered over the next hour and half, seems more familiar. But even then something is amiss. All the usual suspects are there: The Jock, The Virgin, The Nerd, The Whore, The Stoner: the core group of characters used in one way or another in every horror and slasher flick. And Scooby Doo. But something’s different. The Jock reads Russian literature. The Nerd is on the football team. The Virgin has had sex. You get the picture. Unlike most movies from this genre, their characters aren’t ruled by the role they play. What cowriters Whedon and Goddard are planning is a commentary of the genre on a scale that Scream could only dream of. They are taking everything we know about horror movies and turning it on its head. Before the first act is even over, the secret of the cabin is laid out us [SPOILER!]: the entire area is rigged by a secret organisation so the group follows the path of a preplanned scenario. The outcome: their grisly deaths. The scenario plays out like your typical horror movie, overseen by the office worker technicians from before, Sitterson and Hadley. I’ll get into the why later. Right now, let’s talk

about the how. Using everything from surveillance cameras, to force-fields, to mood-altering drugs that make them act more and more like their stereotypes, the kids are controlled and prodded towards their death. But first they have to pick it. That’s right. In a wonderfully sadistic twist, the group of soon-to-becorpses, unknowingly, decide how they will die, and there is a whole array of well known monsters and killers to choose from. We’ve got zombies, werewolves, witches, sexy witches, killer clowns, out of control robots, angry molesting trees, a unicorn (for some strange reason), the list goes on. But ultimately what comes after this group are The Buckners, a family of undead hillbillies that are basically a zombified version of the family from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It’s the familiar, repetitive horror antagonist that studios tend to go with because that’s what puts bums on seats in the cinemas. As Sitterson puts it, “They have a 100% clearance rating”. The film maker’s and audience’s frustration with this thinking is voiced by Hadley, who really wanted to see a Mer-Man, something new and different. So, the killing starts, and the movie stops commenting on the state of horror movies and becomes one itself. Because at the end of the day, it is still a movie. But Goddard, as director, employs every trick in the book to make

this the most well-made horror film ever, echoing the greats such as Halloween. But then he throws out the book with the brilliantly insane third act. So the group have been whittled down to The Stoner and The Virgin, and they have discovered the secret of the cabin, but that’s not what have the technicians worried. All through the movie, it has been apparent that the kids must die, that failure is not an option. The scenario isn’t going according to plan, and after being treated to a massacre of the entire complex by the ghouls and beasties they harbour, we find out what that plan is. A race of ancient gods reside below the planet, demanding a sacrifice or else they will destroy the planet. So, the entire action of the movie itself was being shown as a movie for these omnipotent beings, and if these guys are not happy, instead of taking to the internet and lambasting everybody involved with the production, from the director to the guy who gets the coffee, they rise up and negate all existence. It’s at this point that the movie grabs you by the collar, and starts smacking you around the face, shouting “Look!!! Do You See, it’s meta!! Meta!!” It’s an incredibly smart idea and totally unique. But haven’t we seen ideas like this beaten into the ground before? Well, it’s to this point that is the main reason I love Cabin in the Woods so much: it makes the idea of a sequel absolutely impossible. The survivors decide not to play by the rules, that The Stoner dies, thus leaving The Virgin alive, as we have seen so many times before. They both survive, and the world ends. Kind of hard to do a sequel with the world destroyed, isn’t it? So there you have it.

NO MORE STORES Gerry McEvoy looks at the Shift from Physical to Digital sales


hysical media stores are on their way out. All those big name chain stores, which have legal departments so I won’t name them, are, to quote Dog Soldiers, boned.

Don’t get me wrong here. Those big chains have got at least a decade of slow death left in them before they are replaced by specialist collector stores, similar to the vinyl stores of today.

Digital distribution is swiftly devouring the physical retail market. Year on year more consumers are moving to digital products. Year on year more of the media production companies are moving to solely digital distribution.

How shall we get our fix of xenophobic massacres? How shall we slice our fictional fruit? How shall we hurl young fowl against objects with all our might?

Everything from films to our beloved tabletop RPGs have become more focused around internet sales than physical sales. Check out sometime and you’ll see the massive amount of games companies that have gone digital rather than try to break into the physical retail market.

Digital distribution.

How shall we get our fix of xenophobic massacres? “

Making a modern media product, be it a movie, an album or a game is not cheap. Even when completed there are still a lot of costs to be considered; shipping& handling, disc manufacture, printing etc. Digital distribution costs are comparatively negligible.

Apple managed to ingrain, into the public consciousness, the usefulness of digital distribution with iTunes and their app stores for their various devices. Services like Netflix and the many television network streaming services have gotten the notion that you no longer need a television to watch your favourite shows out there too.

It is simply cheaper and more profitable.

Game streaming services are growing rapidly; Onlive and Gaikai are

Gerry McEvoy “I am made of victory with a slight tinge of epic and a twist of pure rock and roll” Gerry is currently setting up a new business yet still finds time to be a keyboard warrior, gamer and writer on all things tech. Prone to doing crazy things for charity. @Legendgerry on twitter

currently the two biggest names in the industry and the console industry has taken notice. Gamestop are moving into the streaming market with a service likely to be debuted later this year and it looks to be a smart move for any business plan-

ning a future in the games retail trade. The price of streaming services in comparison to actual continuous purchasing of physical media is cheaper too. Our media technologies are converging, our phones are becoming mobile PCs, our PCs are becoming our televisions and our consoles are becoming all round home entertainment centres. Try to find an MP3 player the next time you’re shopping, and not a device that also plays MP3s, just a bog standard MP3 player. You’ll find that it’s hard to do because everything has to sync with everything else these days. Any internet connection comes with access to free (Youtube) or cheap (Netflix) streaming services and now most media devices in the western world are internet capable. Free- to-use Wi-Fi networks are spreading across the western world, even my own rain-soaked corner of the world is getting one. The cultural shift to gaming through devices such as smart phones is also having a massive effect. Nintendo recently released figures suggesting that smart phones have as much as halved the potential market for dedicated mobile gaming hardware. The convergence of media distribution is by no means a recent development; I can already stream media through most of the devices I own, although there is still a gap between their capabilities. The near future is going to see people not buying games at all but subscribing to them through a streaming service, most likely bundled with a phone package and a cable TV package, routed through

their phone or tablet devices. The hardware capabilities of these devices are increasing rapidly to allow bigger and better games to be played. Some are already ahead of the current crop of consoles component wise. The OUYA console, due to be released next year, is a massive step towards that future, a tiny console that sits beside your television and lets you access thousands of free-to-play products currently only available to PC users as well as many media services and some products designed specifically for the console, sort of a set top box for gamers. (See the “Shinkicking Giants” article elsewhere in this issue of The Gazebo for more details.)

The near future is going to see people not buying games at all but subscribing to them through a streaming service.”

Media retail chains who want a future have two options, move digital or move east, there are 125 million Arabs under 25 eager to get their hands on the latest consoles and accessories with no brand history, the infrastructure there is not ready for full online services. There are also much fewer restrictions than the largest potential market China has on businesses coming in. Eventually, however, they will

inevitably catch up technologically and the media retail sector will have to move on, a nomadic industry moving to where poverty is most rife, constantly displaced by digital distribution until it has nowhere left to go.

UFO RETROSPECTIVE Sarky Takes on the Alien Hordes!

20 years ago, I was introduced to UFO: Enemy Unknown (in the US, it was called X-COM: UFO Defence. You don’t defend a single UFO in the game. What the hell, America?). It wasn’t terribly pretty, and it certainly wasn’t easy. All the same it blew me away, and I was still playing it until I got my hands on the new X-COM: Enemy Unknown a couple of weeks ago. The game had a simple premise: UFO sightings and alien attacks have become prevalent. World governments are taking action. X-COM (Extraterrestrial Combat) is formed: A global initiative funded by a council of nations, comprised of the very best humanity could offer; scientists, engineers, pilots, weapons and soldiers. The player is the commander of the project, your mission: counter these alien attacks, recover their technology, learn who they are and why they’re attacking Earth, and eventually stop them. There were two core phases to the game. The 3D globe and its menu system was the first. From this rotating, day/night cycling world map you could build bases in any country, build research and manufacture facilities to understand and reproduce alien technology, hire scientists, engineers and sol-

diers and track UFO activity. Once a UFO was spotted, you could scramble interceptors to try and shoot it down. If you shot it down, you could send a transport craft full of soldiers out to secure the wreckage.

The aliens’ leaders ... were the most terrifying force you’ve never met.”

And this is where the game shines: When the transport touches down the game becomes turn based strategy, where you move your soldiers, wait for the movement of the aliens and any civilians present, and so on until everyone on one side is incapacitated. This part of the series remains thrilling and scary to this day. Each soldier had time units to spend on movement or using weapons, so if you moved too far you couldn’t shoot anything. It became a tense game of hide and seek, trying desperately to make sure you were covering every possible angle before ending your turn, and pray-

sarky Ciarán “Sarky” O’Brien is originally from Galway, where he spent long nights in front of a computer screen ranting about how amazing Baldur’s Gate was before he first got bitten by the tabletop gaming bug. After a brief fling with wargaming he settled down into an relationship with tabletop RPGs and video games. He writes for any convention willing to pay him in single malt, hugs and baked goods.

ing your soldiers had enough time units remaining to shoot any gribblies that leapt out during theirs. The aliens were usually tougher and better equipped, so it was always dangerous; a successful mission where every soldier sur-

vived was rare indeed. The sequel, Terror From The Deep, was almost exactly more of the same, but set underwater. Same globe (only now you could only build in the sea), same base building mechanics, same isometric turn based strategy when you shot down an alien sub. Maps were a little bigger and more varied (albeit with a constant nautical theme), the aliens were more Cthuloid and tougher (Oh sweet Jesus the Lobster Men) but nothing crucial had changed. And it didn’t have to, because it was clearly a winning formula. The most important change was the improved lighting effects, as that made the missions even creepier. TFTD is still a wonderful blend of strategy/horror that can make the most hardcore gamer jump. People still play these games obsessively. I, myself, have never finished them, such is their difficulty and re-playability. These are true legends of the video game world. What I loved most about the games though was the faceless horror of the alien masterminds. You only ever meet the foot-soldiers of the invasion force, and you

only learn who they are and what they’re doing through bits and pieces of autopsies, interrogation and research reports. The game left it up to you to connect the pieces and realise just what the aliens were up to. Their reaction to your success was only seen through their changed tactics: After shooting down a few UFOs, they’d direct their foot-soldiers to human cities to terrorise the population, forcing you to up your game and respond to these attacks as well as maintaining your previous efforts. Then the aliens brought out the BIG guns. The aliens’ leaders, whoever they are, were the most terrifying force you’ve never met. This was indirect storytelling at its absolute finest. No cheesy heroes with corny one-liners, no over-the-top cut scenes to cover for a lack of substance, just a mystery to solve, piece by piece, and the worrying implications of solving it.

old-school gameplay and two decades of nostalgia combined? And it was coming out on consoles too! The subtle nuances of turn based strategy could never translate to a joypad held by someone who usually played Halo, right?

So when Firaxis announced Enemy Unknown I was sceptical. One only has to look at the attempted reboots of Syndicate or Prince of Persia to realise how badly it can turn out. And UFO was a classic of the ages. Surely nothing could measure up to the combination of

But then I saw how they’d balanced all of this out. You can deploy satellites over every country, increasing their funding, reducing panic levels, and improving UFO monitoring. The limited transport forces you to make tough decisions in a difficult game of balancing your

Oh man, am I ever glad to be wrong. I was at first disappointed by things that were stripped out of the originals. You can only build one base, in only a handful of locations. You only get one transport craft, ever. You get a maximum squad size of six. You don’t hire scientists and engineers, instead you get x amount each month along with funding after your report to the council of funding nations. The UFO spotting seems to be scripted now, instead of a near random occurrence, leading to far fewer encounters.

needs with the needs of the countries attacked. The soldiers have perk trees which give them handy benefits, like rocket launchers, extra movement, bonuses against multiple enemies etc. Hiring and firing and buying equipment is done away with (except for the soldiers. You’ll be going through a LOT of soldiers), and I like that because it frees you from worrying about having enough living and work space for them all. The limited UFO encounters are now Very Big Deals, each one a huge and dangerous undertaking, with something new almost guaranteed every time. Everything missing has been countered by some clever mechanic. Firaxis have actually streamlined things, when to most developers streamlining simply means removing features and dumbing things down. The plot of the game is also the same. I won’t spoil it for anyone who missed the originals, but it’s still this unseen alien force directing its foot-soldiers on Earth, and it’s up to you to piece their motives together. There are still surprises for fans of the original, however. While most of the old favour-

ite enemies are still there, they’ve been given excellent makeovers and they all have access to special abilities you never saw before. New mission types (VIP escorts, find the alien bomb) keep things varied. The sound has received major attention too. Assault rifles are loud rattlers, heavy machine guns have that meaty growl, and plasma rifles make a delightful pew-pewpew. The soundtrack is by Michael McCann, who you may remember did the excellent Deus Ex 3 music too, and he’s done well again here, especially the otherworldly synth vibes when inside an alien UFO or base. And in a rare turn of events, Enemy Unknown doesn’t hold your hand. The tutorial gives you the bare basics, and the rest is up to you: How to expand your base efficiently? How best to keep your soldiers alive? Which research to pursue? How to set up optimum satellite coverage? There’s a steep learning curve unless you play on easy or normal mode. There is also an Impossible mode, which in my nasty, brutish and short experience

is aptly named indeed. And if that wasn’t hard enough, there’s Ironman mode: You are confined to one save game file, which updates EVERY time you do something, so you live with every wasted resource, every dead soldier, no going back. Overall, Enemy Unknown is a worthy successor to the UFO series. It recaptures the charm and atmosphere of the original and enhances it with today’s technology, and it tightens up the pacing and storyline so that you don’t spend a month of game time without anything happening. It retains the crazy difficulty levels for those who want them. It’s a bit like the Lord of the Rings movies, really: They capture the spirit and magic of the original, without all the boring faffing about poetry and waffling on about the intricate leaf design painted onto a door Frodo only ever sees once. X-COM: Enemy Unknown is distilled excellence. Get it. In fact, get the whole series (they’re dirt cheap on Steam and/ or GOG), and learn why 20 years later UFO is still the best strategy game out there, hands down.

SHINKICKING GIANTS Gerry McEvoy gives us a look at OUYA


fter the last issue, I had planned to write an article decrying the lack of Bedroom developers. I would have written that Innovation of both software and hardware by creative, freelance, individuals was being suffocated by rising costs and big companies being over-sensitive about their products which has led to a situation where people who buy a console don’t actually own it. I had planned to hark back to the halcyon days of the Commodore 64, a time where all you needed was ability, imagination and access to a computer to have a shot at creating the next big game. In contrast, today, big studios employ hundreds of people to produce a single game. Then the OUYA kickstarter launched and made all of that redundant: Target $950,000, raised: $8,596,474). Fixing the above problems is a big part of the ethos of the project, which is why it is Android based and 100% hackable. (Android is the software which most of the phones and tablets without that fruit logo on them run.) Don’t panic! Nobody is getting free reign to do whatever they please

with your data, it simply means that the root kit and all other pertinent details are available free of charge to any developer, so if you want to make a light gun and bring a new version of Duck Hunt to the console, you can do it without having to pay license fees to the OUYA people or pay through the nose for a proprietary SDK (That’s a Software Development Kit for the uninitiated) as you would have to do with certain other companies. The Duck Hunt and light gun people would probably have words though.

Don’t panic!”

A standard screwdriver is all you need to get into the guts of the machine, and with standardised USB and Bluetooth, making your own peripherals will be a doddle in comparison to what is already on the market. As the console is Android based, this means a number of things, including the fact that any monkey who has familiarised themselves with the Android SDK (which is

Gerry McEvoy “I am made of victory with a slight tinge of epic and a twist of pure rock and roll” Gerry is currently setting up a new business yet still finds time to be a keyboard warrior, gamer and writer on all things tech. Prone to doing crazy things for charity. @Legendgerry on twitter

free to download and use) can develop games for the console. Any of those big mobile games can now be transferred from your tiny phone onto your big screen TV, and as long as the developers are willing to meet OUYAs primary

condition they can get it published on the consoles marketplace. So, having made access to a console market possible for lone developers, the primary condition for access takes a hefty swipe at one of the foundations of the current gaming market. They are changing the way games are bought. Every game must have a free to play element, be it a limited-time trial or totally free to play with micro transactions. The free to play model means that the games will have to be good enough to make people who are playing for free want to spend money. This could be considered a quality control measure in itself. No more paying out €50 or more for a game, only to discover it sucks! Games are also only distributed digitally. No more stores. There has been some concern about the quality of the games that will be available, due mainly to a jaundiced perspective of the free to play system. However Onlive will be distributing their substantial catalogue through it, as will many other media streaming sites such as e-sports specialists Twitch. Square Enix are giving Final Fantasy 3 a makeover for release on the OUYA and Robert Bowling of Call of Duty fame has confirmed an exclusive title for the console, Human Element, due: 2015. That’s just a tiny sampling of the prelaunch line up so far. So, not satisfied with merely changing the way the whole console gaming market works, the console has a price point of just $99. That’s cheaper than every other console on the market and is what has really stuck in the craw of many pundits, some of whom claim it was simply impossible and spread rumours that it was a big scam. I’d like to see the

employment records of some of those people, if you know what I mean. (Turnabout is fair play after all) The people behind OUYA did address all of the reasonable concerns raised in short order. All of the current consoles use customised chip sets which raises production costs, the OUYA uses a generic, mass manufactured one. They use a Tegra 3 graphics card which is going to be one behind by the time it launches in March, but it can do all it is needed to. It has a small hard drive but any generic USB hard drive can be attached to it if you need more memory room, instead of paying through the nose for proprietary hardware that does exactly the same thing!

The free to play model means that the games will have to be good enough to make people who are playing for free want to spend money.”

The full specifications are: • sor

Tegra 3 quad-core proces-


• age

8GB of internal flash stor-

• HDMI connection to the TV, with support for up to 1080p HD •

WiFi 802.11 b/g/n

Bluetooth LE 4.0

USB 2.0 (one)

• Wireless controller with standard controls (two analog sticks, d-pad, eight action buttons, a system button), a touchpad •

Android 4.0


Aside from the reasonable responses to concerns, there is another reason that I don’t believe that the OUYA is an elaborate scam. In the Kickstarter article, last issue, I said that in the end, backing any project was a judgement call. What has sold me on the OUYA isn’t the fact that it’s a solution to a lot of the problems I have with the industry, but instead it’s the people involved. This isn’t a team of fresh-out-of-college kids with more ambition than sense. The team behind the OUYA are well known in the industry and have a track record of delivering on their promises. Take a look at the top three names attached. Muffi Ghadial: Just prior to joining the OUYA project, he worked on a little thing called the Kindle, you may have heard of it. He has established a reputation for delivering the goods over the last 15 years, on everything from set-top boxes to hand-held devices. Yves Behar: Designer and entrepreneur, his work with Fuseproject has garnered over 50 industry awards, he has designed everything from condom vending machines in New York to JAMBOX, a completely wireless, Bluetooth compact audio speaker. He has chaired the Industrial Design Department at California College of the Arts

since 2005.


Julie Uhrman: To my knowledge, the first female CEO of a console company and an industry veteran. Over the last decade she has worked with companies such as GameFly, IGN, Vivendi Universal. She developed a strong reputation for handling digital distribution and it is her vision that has lead to the creation of the OUYA.

With all OF that behind it, this tiny little box could well take the legs out from under the industry giants, Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo, in much the same way the original Playstation swept the world back in the Nineties.

Not only does it have that superb team working on it, it also has backing from people like Minecraft developers Mojang and Jordan Mechner, creator of Prince of Persia. It has the approval of gaming industry leading lights, it has an amazing team, it has a retail model for games that could turn the console industry on its head, and a price point that makes it more accessible to the public than any of the other consoles on the

Resident Unbelievable Sarky casts a critical eye on the Resident Evil series


like a dose of Survival Horror, me. I adored the bleak, creepy atmosphere of STALKER. I squealed equally in fear and delight over the Shalebridge Cradle from Thief: Deadly Shadows. I do not, however, like the Resident Evil series. Well, let me clarify; as games, I like them well enough. But they’re bloody awful Survival Horror, and they should stop claiming otherwise. Ok, fair’s fair, Resi 4 was pretty good survival horror, at least if you ignore Midget Napoleon and his silly accent, but the rest were terrible at it. There are several reasons why. And yes, I’ll expound on a few of them. Let’s start off with the very first game. Now they got a few things right survival-horror-wise with Resi 1; The zombies were creepy; the scarce resources added a nice sense of desperation as you tried to run from as many fights as you could so you’d have enough bullets and health to survive the fights you were stuck in; I’ll even (mostly) forgive the arbitrary camera angles, because it was in the Long Long Ago when consoles had little power, and it can be an effective tool sometimes. But now, let me remind you about the absolutely terrible voice acting,

which turned every line into comedy gold (“master of unlocking”, anyone?). Survival Horror requires getting the atmosphere right, and when it sounds like you’ve hired a bunch of hobos who can barely read, never mind infusing their readings with even a glimmer of emotion, then that atmosphere is just not going to happen.

The scripts had to have been written by a pack of chimpanzees with a glue-sniffing problem.”

On that note, and this has remained true of every Resi game since, the scripts had to have been written by a pack of chimpanzees with a glue-sniffing problem. The best voice talent in the world won’t save bad dialogue. And of course there’s the plot. Umbrella are the most incompetent megacorporation ever; how do they expect to make money by turning the world into zombies? Their security is woeful. What’s the first thing their

sarky Ciarán “Sarky” O’Brien is originally from Galway, where he spent long nights in front of a computer screen ranting about how amazing Baldur’s Gate was before he first got bitten by the tabletop gaming bug. After a brief fling with wargaming he settled down into an relationship with tabletop RPGs and video games. He writes for any convention willing to pay him in single malt, hugs and baked goods.

genetically engineered monsters do after being created? That’s right, they BREAK OUT. All it takes to penetrate their super-secret labs is a protagonist so thick that it takes a dozen encounters with zombie hordes and grotesque monsters for

them to begin thinking that something strange is going on. Effective horror needs good writing. People need to react realistically when faced with something terrible, and quite frankly the only characters the writers got right were the sodding zombies.

Wesker was the sort of ridiculous comicbook villain you see in Powerpuff Girls, not a survival horror.”

Then, there’s the level design. What kind of police station requires you to go to the basement to find a heart key so you can get into the canteen to find the diamond key which lets you get into the closet to find the spade key to get into the reception booth back at the entrance? This is bad level design, the only horror it evokes being that it passed quality control. Too often the arbitrary camera angles were used to conceal cheap scares (and more poor level design) instead of adding an unsettling atmosphere. I’m not even scratching the surface with the silliness of this series that detracts from all the scares. We’re at Resi 6 now (with loads of spinoffs), and the plot has grown so convoluted and nonsensical it makes Dallas’ “LOL Billy’s in the shower, it was all a dream” seem like the height of dramatic genius.

Resi 5 provides too much ammo and actually puts you in a swamp surrounded by mud-covered, spear-chucking tribals in gigantic wooden masks screaming “OOGABOOGABOOGA”. And Wesker was the sort of ridiculous comicbook villain you see in Powerpuff Girls, not in Survival Horror. Face it, Resident Evil might be an entertaining series, but it sure as hell isn’t scary.

MINI-REVIEWS! Our console jockey, Gerry Mc Evoy, and keyboard warrior, Ciarán “Sarky” O’Brien, have compiled their views of some of the better game releases since Issue 2 of The Gazebo.

MOUNT & BLADE: WARBAND Publisher: Paradox Interactive Developer: Tale Worlds Rating: 16 (PEGI), T (ESRB) Platform: PC

tion and fight to become emperor! Woo ladies with poetry, challenge rival suitors, get married, get divorced! Start businesses! Raid villages and caravans! Hire and train companions! Manage your fiefs and cities!

DARKSIDERS 2 Publisher: THQ Developer: Vigil Rating: 15 Platform: PS3, Xbox360, Wii U, PC.

BAD POINTS: Very little depth to the characters, visuals are a bit dated. Combat can be hard to avoid, so peaceful characters can expect a very difficult time of it. It can take forever to recover from a bad decision or unlucky turn.

PLOT: You play Death, one of the Four Horsemen, on a quest to find the Tree of Life and save your fellow Horseman, War, from execution, by unmurdering [sic] Humanity, whom he wiped out in the previous game. Yes, this makes as little sense as you think it does.

Verdict: Surprisingly addictive game full of options. It’s cheap, it’s different, and you’ll keep coming back to it. Well worth a try. PLOT: Generate a character by answering a few questions about your past, and then get dumped into a medieval land wracked by war with nothing but a sword, the clothes on your back and a horse. What happens next is entirely up to you. GOOD POINTS: Huge map, extremely satisfying combat, loads of quests to keep you busy, tonnes of mods freely available to transform the game. Become a trader, a mercenary, a vassal to one of the six kingdoms or form your own fac-


GOOD POINTS: This is an old school adventure game, incorporating elements of both Zelda and Prince of Persia. You hack and slash your way through groups of a very odd assortment of bad guys, work your way through dungeons laden with puzzles and treasures to find items to aid you on your quest and take on gigantic bosses in epic battles. It is also a good long game well worth the money unlike a lot of modern games. BAD POINTS: The game is very determined to hold your hand with constant tutorial messages and an in built hint butting in the form of your pet bird. Its style of play has so many similarities to other old school adventure games

it makes it kind of predictable.

outrun the Rebel Fleet and deliver crucial information to a Federation base at the end of a webway of space sectors. You tell your crew to man weapons, shields, engines or helm, direct them to repair damage, fight off invaders or put out fires, and you reroute power between the ship’s systems to keep everything running. You can pick up scrap, weapons and new ship systems to fit to your ship, and find new companions to add their skills to the crew.

VERDICT: It will probably rock the world of some young person who never played Zelda Ocarina of Time but for a jaded veteran like me it’s just another adventure game. 3/5 TEKKEN TAG TOURNAMENT 2 Publisher/Developer: Namco Bandai Rating 16 Platform: PS3, Xbox360, Wii U. PLOT: The sequel to the highest rated Tekken game of all time sees the player compete in a fighting tournament as part of a tag team of characters as opposed to the standard lone warrior format. During the fights you can swap one character out for another at any time to let them recover health and use them to deal extra damage during special moves (though some may call that cheating.) GOOD POINTS: You begin with 50+ characters, (You start with 46, you have to unlock some) all the characters from every edition and even some alternates have become characters in their own right. Characters are all unique and have definite individual play styles to them. A button basher will not have a chance against a practised player which is a major change for this franchise. Breakable terrain has been worked in; you can smash characters through certain walls, break through floors or boot your opponent off balconies. One of my favourite “Tag” combos is that whenever you kick someone off a balcony your view switches to that of your other character, which is lying in wait for them as they fall through the air.

BAD POINTS: There are flaws with this game, you can get trapped up against some non breakable terrain, and the story mode is just an enhanced tutorial. The mini games that I enjoyed on the previous games are gone, but they did keep the horrible buy-clothes-for-yourcharacter function from Tekken 6 that just destroyed the game experience. My character should only lose in the rare circumstance the other guy is better, not because he is wearing a stupid looking hat! Also the boss character on the arcade mode is ridiculously hard, beatable but hard. VERDICT: There is a lot to enjoy in this, but the lack of a cohesive story, the idiotic costuming and the techno may put some people off. It simply doesn’t have as many play options as Mortal Kombat but if you’re not an MK fan or you just want a bog standard fighting game to play when your mates drop by, this will do nicely. 3/5 FTL (FASTER THAN LIGHT) Publisher/Developer: Subset Games Rating: None (Probably G) Platform: PC, Mac, Linux. PLOT: You’re the captain of a Federation ship, with a vital mission to

GOOD POINTS: Retro charm, lovely music, strangely addictive, “just one more hyperjump” feel, fun and challenging battles and resource management. Each game is randomly generated so you never know where the next jump will take you. BAD POINTS: Bloody difficult or downright unfair sometimes, the retro style will turn a lot of people off it. It’s not a hugely deep game, there’s no real plot beyond “Get to the exit and avoid dying”. VERDICT: While it’s no epic space opera, it is very fun, very easy to learn and as the sectors are randomly generated each time, it has a lot of replay value. At about €10 you can’t go wrong. 4/5

BORDERLANDS 2 Publisher: 2K Developer: Gearbox. Platform: PS3, Xbox360, PC. PLOT: Gearbox return to their shoot and loot format with four new tuned up heroes out to save the borderland planet Pandora from an irritating menace called Handsome Jack and of course to find a Vault to score some loot GOOD POINTS: It has a rich game world full of beautifully crazy characters and loathsome evildoers for you to help or trade with or shoot in the face, (mainly, shoot in the face). If you like shooting things and looting their corpses to buy bigger guns to go shoot more things, then this here is the game for you! The simplicity of the game coupled with some great characterisation draws you into the insane world of where stereotypical American rednecks mix with high concept science fiction easily and more importantly amusingly FACTOID: Borderlands 2 holds the world record for the most individual guns in a computer game. The four individual classes come with for different types of awesome, the rampaging Gunzerker, the silent and truly deadly Assassin, the turret wielding Commando and the godlike Siren all come together to form an awesome experience. Challenging battles wait around every corner as do laughs. The co-op mode has been greatly enhanced too, allowing you to form squads to play through the game and gain better loot or do battle with other squads, for loot and fun. I like loot. BAD POINTS: Having to constantly play the slots for bonus ammo slots and the like does

become a pain. I’m kind of surprised there haven’t been complaints from the moral minority about forcing people to gamble. The character sound effects can start to wear on the nerves after a while also there are a lot of grinding missions (Kill twelve of this type of creature, ten of that etc.) and the timed missions are a frustrating. The fact that the vehicles still handle like a barely conscious, post colonoscopy donkey does not help. VERDICT: If the Shoot and Loot format appeals to you this is one of those games that you will sit down with the intention of playing for a half hour of an evening and the next thing you know its dawn. There are some people out there who don’t like shooting things, in the face, repeatedly. Those people need to be brought to a Hyperion re-education centre immediately! 4/5



ones (5th day) of Nalmenus)

My Son I write to you, after spending many wakeful nights pondering your future. After much consideration upon the nature of what you are fit for I have finally reached a conclusion which I hope befits your disposition and temperament. Perhaps you will forgive an old man’s rambling if I explain to you my reasoning first without sounding apologetic? Your eldest sibling – Gottfried - of course will be my natural heir and successor, and has for some time laboured for us all to improve the standing of the family. Emily has been happily married these many years to the son of the late, Ser Distant Falls, who so tragically passed from this world. Their standing is also improving in decent society. Your brother Aaron, always a wild one, has finally settled and

I’m delighted to say has recently been accepted to the Church. The position comes with a not ungenerous stipend of seven pence per day, a tidy sum indeed when one considers that his accommodations in every particular will be seen to by his church and indeed his flock. Vergnar has taken up a new position as aide de camp to the Sherrif of the Prince and will be aiding him on the up-coming crusade on the vile ‘Free market Merchants’ of Norak-Mil, those upstart enemies of our Glorious Prince Nalmen. That leaves you and your youngest sister (whom I have already designed to be married to a young man with a handsome income). For a time, I pondered sending you to be a soldier in the Prince’s army, perhaps purchasing a commission there for you but since the war has broken out with a wealthy enemy, every man jack in the world wants to join the army and so the cost of obtaining a commission has risen alarm-

Paddy Delaney Paddy lives in Galway where he originally started playing RPGs and other assorted madness in the now infamous No. 57. Since then he has moved on to writing and running RPG games. He has written and run games for several cons across Ireland but Itzacon is his home con.

ingly and in fact prohibitively so. Besides I don’t think that a life of marching would ingratiate itself upon a son who won’t even walk up the stairs to the bathroom. Your penchant for drunken revelry, questionable hygiene and a dark tendency for perverted acts have forced me to send you quite far away, if for no other reason than for your poor mother’s health. Further to your personal qualities, I believe I have found a suitable career for you. The Prince’s own vizier oversees a Collegium of Wizards (I believe they refer to themselves colloquially as “mages”) far from here. In fact suitably far from here as to allow the expeditious convalescence of your beset mother after your last debacle with that young woman and the goose. The buildings themselves are suitable isolated and secluded for reasons that the Master of Submissions didn’t deign to go into but he seems a reasonable and gentlemanly chap so I believe that there could be hope for you. The bearer of this letter is Manfrey, a trusted servant who will see to your needs and have you escorted safely to the College. He also has suitable funds as to cover your tuition fees, lodgings and other expenses. I hear that the set up costs for a “mage” are not inconsiderable. However, after considering the benefits, geographical and otherwise I believe it is a sound investment. Write frequently but do not feel under any impingement or obligation to visit us.

Your father

20th Day of Nalmenus Lord Bottykaeck

I fervently hope that this letter finds you in good stead and that your good lady wife is on her way to a whole and speedy recovery. I must report with some regret (and indeed shame on my own part) that the task of escorting Master Bertrum to the Collegiate Veneficus did not start out well. I attended the master at the prescribed place. The institute was a hive of debauchery and villainy, where young women and younger men cavort in acts so shameful were I to put them to ink the ink would surely slough from the parchment. Forthwith, I removed the young master from the establishment and made haste to the lodgings I had previously engaged, to make ready rooms for us both. I had also engaged a tailor of some repute to attend us, so that the young Master might be suitable attired for his new career and his first semester. The task of measuring the Master was made more arduous because for the duration of the tailor’s visit he was passed out. I at least managed to clean the vile extrusions from his lapels before the tailor and his boy arrived. Such was the disgust of the tailor that I was forced to give a pseudonym, lest such a farce reflect upon you my Lord. After much heaving and to-ing and fro-ing, we measured young

Master Bertrum and I paid the tailor in advance for eight sets of good attire, suited to a man of good station. He agreed to have them sent along to the Collegium, for I understand that the only tailor in proximity to the Collegium makes good his monopoly of the area in hard coin. The following day we made our way to the coach -house. Alas, the Master had procured a bottle of something the locals use to polish breastplates and had consumed the lot before I had realised he had even revived from his comatose state. A local man was bribed into lending me his wheel barrow and we made good our time to the coach house. In the coach, the Master turned an alarming shade of blue around the gills but recovered before I could find a physician. He seems to be fine now and indeed in high spirits. The Collegiums’ edifices themselves are magnificent. I settled the Master in and took care of his lodgings and enrolment – a not inconsiderable sum as you can ascertain from the chits enclosed within. I have parcelled out the Master’s allowance for the month as instructed. Tomorrow we shall visit the local shops to purchase the necessaries for his new career. Please find within, the start up prices for your son’s new career. Please know that I am doing my utmost to secure the best value for your penny as I am able: Cauldron -Trupence, Laboratory set (including burn kit, heavy apron and eyewear) – 4 pence, Utensils -2pence, Glass ware – 2 Silver pennies, Parchments and writing utensils -1p Text books (various arcane topics) – 1sp and last but not least the ‘Spell Book’ cost five pence.

Begging your forgiveness for my complacency I remain your humble and obedient servant.

wud hop for me, I was very dilgent and drank in every detail. Get it? Drank in every detail! Ha.


Then cam basic conjoring, wher pon, I did, with great skill and daring perfom my first ‘Kantrip’ ‘Conjoring of the Celestial Shpere’. There was only the slightest hiccup with it but the tutor said I was a natural. I might bring Manny to the klass next time to hang me coat on eh!

Kalandae (1st) Septimus Dear Manfrey Two whole silver pennies for glass? Outrageous! Why Vergnar’s sword I had specially commissioned for him when he was promoted hardly cost as much. This is too much sir! Do not misread me, I do not admonish your efforts which have been admirable and regrettably – necessary. I would thank you if no such word of my son’s loutish behaviour were to reach the ears of my Lady wife – I fear such tidings would be too much for her.

Tell mother I’ve ben wearing my coat buttoned up all the tim and that I’m making more friends than “she could shake a stick at”. Wondrous turn of word from these filthy freemen types. I love it

Will Write soon in fact a. Bertie Diary Entry of Magus Conrad Stelherm: Magus of the 5th Circle and Wielder of Astraleum

At such costs, I can but look forward to Bertrum’s impending erudition. An expectant Lord BottyKaeck

1st of Septimus ? Dear Father Today was stellar. I begaen classes. We did basic alkhemy. Wondrous stuff. I met a chap from the lower classes who show’d me to use the eqipment to brew a beverage that is a rather handsome sort of purple color. Kicks like a hungover mule, whatto! Never knew such fell’ows cud be so useful. As I expect yuo

1st Septimus, 1256 by Eslandic Reckoning, First years again today.As usual, started with the ‘Conjuring of the Celestial Sphere’. Never in my considerably long years have I seen such a class of wanton ignoramuses. The class started with the usual guffawing and back slapping; ill-founded self confidence of youth, from ill begotten brats. After citing the necessary incantations, I showed them the arcane gestures. The phrase ‘arcane gesture’ was taken too far by a one Betrum BottyKaeck – or some

such. His leering antics, hanging from the window, huge black coat open and displaying himself, making his own “arcane Gestures” at the scullion maids below, are something I never wish to see again. I reprimanded him and demanded he climb down from the window but as the fool turned to stick his tongue out at me, we were cursed with a view of his nether regions.

In his haste to look away, Nigel Upthorne, yelped and spun, unfortunately sending his spell awry and flying into the gesticulating idiot sending him plummeting into the classroom below and the hapless - now prostrate - Nigel. So soaked in spirits were Bertrum’s clothes that Upthorne’s quasi-successful incantation set the buffoon alight.

I must say that for all his drunken loutishness, young BottyKaeck moves like a Churnish panther with its arse on fire when he needs to. Tearing at his ludicrous coat he spun it off in a deft manoeuvre before I could even recite a spell and with a flourish, spun it over his head and let fly. For one obscene moment it sallied forth above the expectant heads of the students like some burning fae, will-o-thewisp, before descending into the milling masses of magicians, who, alas, were also half way through their own incantations. A series of explosions knocked out the wall and I was forced to re-prioritise my spell to contain the damage, dropping the former spell which now leaked out in noxious fluids and petrified some young chap whose name

I didn’t catch, in order to place a containment field around the falling chunks of masonry, which luckily, only killed one novice gardener. I berated him for being a natural disaster, he grinned maniacally at me. Some young accomplice patted him loudly on the back and declared with false authority that it was the single greatest ‘conjuring of the celestial sphere’ he has seen, enough to blow out the wall. Whilst in one way, I could not disagree with his assessment and the result, the method was appalling and worse than the vandalised wall, four students with burns, dead gardener and

single petrified student, was the class’ attitude towards their new hero. It seemed a celebration of idiocy over skill and talent. Further to all the aforementioned and possibly the worst news of all is that part of my Falaxian oak desk is ruined! Hopefully the petrified novice can be restored to his previous fleshly status as right now, he is taking up space in my lectures and proving to be a great distraction. Reports from other classes about this particular group do not bode well. I shudder when I think that the class of ’47 started out in a similar fashion.

I am no Soothsayer but I predict this is not the end of the misfortunes, idiocy, scurrilous behaviour and ignorance that has thus far marked every dogged step of this class

Issue #4 will be out FEBRUARY 2013 If you’re interested in contributing email:

The Gazebo - Issue #3  

The Gazebo is a free, quarterly e-zine dedicated to gaming in the UK and Ireland.

The Gazebo - Issue #3  

The Gazebo is a free, quarterly e-zine dedicated to gaming in the UK and Ireland.