Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Hill Giant Chief - Nosnra's Saga - Part 85

"Telenstil, I have a copy of that second map," said Talberth, "and this chain, I know what Harald thinks of it, but I am convinced that it will be of use. I studied that second map, as you studied the first, and it speaks of Grugnir's rift. It shows a place where I suspect the chain will take us, some room or cave, then a pathway, between guardposts, leading...."

"But where is this place?" interrupted Harald. "And how will we get back?"

"And," Ivo added, "will that chain of yours take us back to Nosnra's dungeon."

"I cannot answer," said Talberth, "who can?"

"Perhaps only Nosnra," Telenstil said. "I doubt he will tell us. But the chain is a great risk. I read the map and the scroll which told Nosnra how to use the chain, there was much there that it did not say, things that Nosnra would know and need not be explained to him."

"It could be a trap," said Harold. "Look at those blades which we found, you and Gytha say they overwhelmed our scouts. That they were cursed, and what happened to that cursed priest Henri," Harold thought for a moment and pulled loose a pouch of coins he had secured to his belt. He hefted it in one hand then threw it far, out among the rocks. "Everything taken from that room seems cursed, why should that chain be any different, or those coins."

"Cursed is perhaps not the word," said Telenstil. "Rather I would say that those blades were not meant for them, or for any who would be the giants' foes. Instead those blades were meant to be used by evil hands. Remember, both scouts heard the voices of the blades, they named themselves, the spirits that inhabited the steel were stronger than our companions, and so they were corrupted or driven mad."

"And the chain?" asked Harold.

"The chain," Telenstil said thoughtfully, "I would know more about it, but I feel it is what it seems. I doubt not that it was crafted with a dark magic, but a globe of light crafted by an evil hand will still cast away the dark."

"So what are you saying?" asked Harald. "You think we should use it?"

"Not yet, perhaps not at all," said Telenstil, "but it may prove to be..."

"If no one else, I will use it," said Talberth.

"If that is where your fate lies then we will see who joins you," Telenstil put his hand on the mage's shoulder. "But not yet. Talberth, we will take the chain, though it be a burden. "

"My burden you mean," spoke up the old ranger.

"Harold, my apologies, but your strength is great, and the orcs have our captive scout to carry," said Telenstil. "And Talberth, I swear that I will go with you wherever this chain may take us, after we have struck down these giants."

"I have made promises myself," Talberth said glumly. "I can wait before using the chain, but Telenstil, I think we waste our time here. If as you say Nosnra is just a finger on a hand, then this chain will lead us to that hand."

"Nosnra still lives," said Harald. "My work here is not done, I will not leave till either he is dead or I am." 

Castle 90

Friday, January 23, 2015

Finlay 1

Pandemic - Session 2 - Solo - 4 Characters - 4 Epidemics

Pandemic - Session 2 - Solo - 4 Characters - 4 Epidemics

Sadly, once again, We All Died.

Just the learning process, I say to myself, but still I thought it was going to go better. I learned a few things from the first game, but still lost. Next game the plan is to win.

Once again I tried a solo game using four characters randomly chosen from the deck and proceeded in draw order. First draw was the Operations Expert (Ops). His ability to spawn research stations and move from research station to any city is decidedly helpful. His abilities haven't helped me win yet but both losses would have been worse without him. Next came the Quarantine Specialist (Q). I didn't draw her character last game so I was pleased to get her this game. Her character abilities seem powerful especially when multiple cities have gone max disease and are just waiting to chain outbreak. My final two were the Dispatcher and Contingency Planner (Conti). The Dispatcher (Patch)is a great character and I'd choose her for any dream team. The Contingency Planner proved to be incredibly helpful in my first game. The ability to have a second go at event cards was much, much more useful than I'd imagined.

I shuffled the cards thoroughly but even so I had four Blue cards between the characters with the draw of the starting cards and the Airlift card going to Ops. The cities starting with max diseases were spread across the globe but none of the surrounding cities had any diseases so even if there were to be an outbreak there would be no immediate chain reaction. Things were looking good...

Ops burns his airlift card to send Q to Sydney where the city is at max disease. She is up next and can clean the city up before moving out. Things look very good...

...And then Ops draws an Epidemic for his first card. Saint Petersburg goes to max disease and then Santiago gets hit and outbreaks. First card drawn and the outbreak and epidemic markers have started moving already. I now have a bad feeling about this and only the first character has finished his turn.

This session moved much quicker than the first. Ops was a useful character but both and Conti were far less useful in this session than in the first. I realize I failed to exploit just how useful he can be and should have utilized his ability to both spawn research stations and jump around the globe by burning useless city cards. Curing a virus early on in the game seems essential to provide all characters with cards to burn while collecting disease colors for a cure.

In this session most of the event cards did not come into play till the very end of the game and in this way they really lowered the aid that Conti can provide. It was very much night and day between the two sessions. I'd original thought that Conti would be of very little utility and the card draw proved me wrong, but this time the card draw proved my doubts right.

Q was also not of great utility till later in the game when disease had spread. She was mostly a poor man's Medic and in the early turns the Medic would have been much more handy. I will have to see how she plays again but it seems like the Medic is a much more useful all around character.

Finally Patch proved to be a central character for both sessions. Her ability to move other characters on her turn is perhaps the most useful quality of any of the characters so far.

After a few hiccups, namely an untimely second epidemic, the Blue disease was cured but a third epidemic came and went before Black was also cured. There were more than enough cards of Yellow and Red in the characters hands but time, in the form of the dwindling stack of Player Cards, was passing quickly.

As the cards went down to the final three I couldn't even manage to cure one more disease and that really is the name of the game. In retrospect it is hard to accept that there will be outbreaks, but in the same way that the epidemics are inevitable it has been hard to get myself to concentrate on cures and not to try to squelch every potential outbreak that might arise.

We all died and I had a great second time at bat with Pandemic. Looking forward to session three and perhaps a victory.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Pandemic - Session 1 - Solo - 4 Characters

Pandemic - Session 1 - Solo - 4 Characters

To make this brief, We All Died, but I had a hell of a time doing it.

This was my first game of Pandemic (the 2013 edition) and I'm sure that even after watching youtube videos and reading through and consulting BoardGameGeek I made plenty of mistakes.

A couple of comments on this edition; the game components are very nice. The board lays flat and I'm glad it is a small gameboard and everything is in easy reach. The cards are standard deck of card size (or seem to be) and shuffle well. I'm not big on the oversized or undersized cards that most games seem to come with anymore or the thin cards that don't shuffle well and appear as if they will wear out quickly. I dislike sleeving cards as it has made them hard to stack and shuffle (at least for me). My one complaint is that, while they were thoughtful enough to include zip-locks, most of the zip-locks were tiny and all were hard to open. (A good zip-lock has one side of the opening higher than the other so that you can easily separate the two edges).  I rebagged them. Not a big deal, especially since I didn't bother resorting all the cubes back into individual colors in individual bags.

The 2013 edition comes with seven characters and I drew four randomly. I may have been mistaken but it seemed to me that four characters would have an easier time than just two. I'd looked them all over and would have chosen a different set of characters as my dream team and probably placed them in a different order but I enjoy a random draw and will be replaying this game frequently and I want to see how the various abilities work in conjunction.

The first character drawn was the Medic and I was very pleased to have him on the team. His first turn started out well very well. He drew a government grant in his starting pair of cards and I had him play it immediately and dropped a research station in Atlanta.  Since one of his teammates was the Contingency Planner I would be able to use it again.

Montreal and St. Petersburg both had drawn to max for infection and I was able to have the Medic sweep by and clear Montreal from turn one. I sent him on his merry way toward Europe, but his very first card draw is an epidemic. Initially I looked at this as a bad thing but with only four epidemics in the deck this would give the rest of the team an epidemic free ride for at least the next go round.

The epicenter of this first epidemic was Sydney and the Dispatcher was the next to go. I burnt a red card and flew the Contingency Planner to Manila and headed south to go after a disease in Miami. I was in luck because infection spread in Europe and Asia managing to leave Sydney alone for the time being. After finessing another government grant the Contingency Planner build another research station in Manila (and then discarded the event) before heading south and nipping the chance of any Sydney outbreak in the bud. By the end of the game the Contingency Planner had more than proven his worth.

The fourth member of the team was the Operations Expert. Several times his ability to build a research station anywhere was handy and he may in fact be crucial as winning factor in curing diseases, but he lacks the immediate usefulness of the Medic or Dispatcher.

At the start of the second go round things are looking very good. The Contingency Planner draws One Quiet Night and I am thinking I have the game beat but at the third time around the Medic draws another epidemic with Kinshara at its center. At the end of the Dispatcher's turn Kinshara is drawn again and an outbreak spreads the yellow death through Africa and crosses over to South America.

I'm not too concerned here because there just aren't any other cities which are maxed out on disease. It is the fourth time at bat for the Medic and he comes up with the Airlift. I have the Medic use it to drop the Dispatcher to Kinshara mainly because I didn't want to waste a city with mandatory discard but it was really a waste of the even more valuable Airlift. The Kinshara infection card had just come up and the chance of an outbreak from an Epidemic draw seemed slim. At this point the Medic had four red city cards and was sitting in Bangkok with the Contingency planner who'd just arrived and in his turn hands him the red Bangkok card. There is a research station in Manila and it looks like the first disease, red (Bird Flu), is about to be defeated. The Contingency Planner ends his turn by drawing both Forcast and Resilient Population and I can see a win coming.

Then comes the next epidemic. I'd been letting South America and Africa slide for the most part but now disease is building up and letting the Yellow Death grow may lose me the game. With luck alone Yellow stays contained. I cure Red and the Istanbul outbreak is halted by removing the Istanbul infection card from the deck.

The game is moving pretty fast. The last epidemic comes and goes without more than moving the infection marker another place up on the track. Black, the Zombie Plague, is cured; the Yellow Death follows, but the player card pile is mighty slim. Finally the world runs out time before the last disease, Blue, can be cured.

What a blast. Things really got exciting toward the end even though I had a handle on outbreaks I just couldn't get the diseases cured fast enough. This is not the end but I was happy to have come so close on my first try (whether I played correctly or not).

This a fantastic solo game. Not sure how it will play with a bunch of Alpha personalities I have gamed with in the past but it will be fun seeing how it works out. Definitely a game for many replays.

Witch 63

Friday, January 16, 2015

Castle 87

The Hill Giant Chief - Nosnra's Saga - Part 84

"We have very little water up here," said Talberth. "But I can use a small spell to remove this dirt."

"I will let it stay awhile," said Ghibelline.

"As will I," Harald said as well. "There is a clear stream below, I will enjoy a soak."

"I need to study. I will have to rid myself of this dirt before I touch my book." Talberth reflected for a moment then cast the spell. With a gesture he wiped the dirt from his hands and robe.

"This oerth is a most honorable covering," said Telenstil, "but I must consult my grimoire as well. Talberth if you will."

The young mage used his power once again and with it made the drying mud slide away from the elf's clothes and skin.

"Now, we had best break camp soon," Telenstil told them, "But before we do, we need to talk."

"What is there to say," the little thief said glumly.

"Hey! Hands! Hands! Use spell, clean hands!" cried out the young orc. Little Rat pranced about and held up his filthy hands for Talberth to see.

"Get away!" yelled Talberth.

"Come my friend," chided Telenstil, "It is a small spell. You still have it prepared, do you not?"

Talberth scowled then cast the spell. It fought against the grime already caked on in layers atop the orc's skin, but the magic proved the stronger of the two. Dirt both old and new fell from Little Rat and pattered around his feet in a small pile. Little Rat rubbed his hands together then wiped his palms across his face. He licked one hand then scrubbed at his arm."Look! Magic, all clean!"

"Powerful magic there," said Harald snidely.

They had no fire and few supplies, but what they had they shared among themselves. The orcs had raided the giants' kitchen and had taken what they could stuff within their belts, but they had eaten it all in one frenzied meal.

Gytha shook her head and then kneeled in prayer. "Sustain us, my Saint, we are in need, our enemies are near, bless us with your strength and the food to keep our own strength pure," she intoned, and the ledge before her shimmered. Upon the stones there was now a cloth and upon the cloth bread, fruit, meat, and skins of water and a few of wine.

"Thank you for this meal," said Ghibelline.

"Thank Saint Cuthbert," chided Gytha pleasantly, "This is his bounty."

"I thank you both," replied Ghibelline with a smile.

Murmured thanks went around the gathered company and they set to with gusto. Gytha put aside a portion for the orcs as well. Little Rat sat himself beside the halfling and ate heartily, while the other orcs accepted the food and water but offered no thanks themselves and sat several yards away.

"A waste of good food," Harald complained.

"Maybe it would be better to leave them here," Talberth suggested.

"Perhaps," Telenstil said then cleared his throat. "First though, we need to decide on our next step. My friends, we came here to discover, and to punish, as best as we were able. We all began this quest knowing something of what to expect, beyond that, beyond the depredations of Nosnra and his kind that brought us here, we possessed merely guesswork and rumors. Some of what we came to find has been found. That map, now I hope safely in the hands of my Queen, will be of help to those concerned, your leaders, your kindred or your patrons. I do not feel that the map alone has been enough. For myself I cannot return home till more has been done."

"Yes, I say yes. We must kill Nosnra and as many of his kindred as we can," said Harald.

"Wipe them out!" called out Harold.

"Yes, that would be well," said Telenstil. "Let me speak," he cut short any further replies. "Henri said to us that Nosnra was just the finger on a hand, I agree. Killing him and all his kin will not end this, delay it perhaps for a time, but cut down Nosnra and another will rise to take his place."

"Like a tree," said Ghibelline.

"No, more like a weed," Telenstil said. "These few score giants, they are powerful foes, but throughout the hills and mountains there are many more. What I saw on the map were names of chiefs, more clans than the number of giants that people Nonsra's hall. It showed these lands, and at their borders where the great mountain chain takes hold, it showed the route that their allies would take. It did not name them, but from what some of us have seen they are the giants of the frost and snow, their ambassadors and scouts have already arrived, and these cold monsters are greater beasts than any of their hill dwelling kind." 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Witch 62

Castle 86

The Hill Giant Chief - Nosnra's Saga - Part 83

"Harold, can't I leave you on your own for a minute?" the ranger said quietly, standing over the small sleeping thief.

"He will be fine," Gytha put her hand on the ranger's arm then leaned her head against his shoulder.

"He fell?" asked Harald.

"He has gained an apprentice it seems, the little orc. The orc fell and both tumbled from the rocks up there," Gytha pointed to the sheer wall of stone that rose up above their heads.

"Where is this orc?" Harald asked in a slow and dangerous voice.

"Now Harald, the little fellow meant no harm," Gytha said and held tightly to the ranger's arm. "He has become quite attached to our halfling friend. I talked with him, he feels very bad. He told me that Harold saved his life up there."

"I do not trust orcs," said Harald. "Even little ones."

* * *

Midday, the sun was bright overhead and the company found themselves still camped atop the hill. With the aid of the ranger's skills and the gnome's illusions they were safely hidden from all but arcane sight. The orcs slept, they hid their eyes from the sunlight laying themselves face-down on the stones and hard-packed oerth. The others were awake and all but the scout Derue were gathered about the body of Jalal.

"Will this work?" asked Gytha.

"Talberth and I have studied this spell, it will work," Telenstil replied.

"Ghibelline, it will provide a safe resting place for his body," she said to the elf.

"I wish I knew the customs of his kind," said Ghibelline sadly.

"His body will be safe, hidden and encased in stone," Telenstil said calmly.

"Will he rest, or will his spirit be trapped here as well?" asked Ghibelline.

"I think he will rest," said Gytha. "We all wish him peace."

"He died free," Harald said. "He escaped from that hole of Nosnra's. I think he will rest. It is a beautiful place this land, even the nearness of the giants cannot take that away."

"They are a blight," muttered the little thief, "they should be wiped out."

"Harold, I am glad to hear you speak," said Telenstil.

The halfling had been quiet and withdrawn since he had awakened. He had overjoyed his companions when his eyes first opened, but his words were dark and he had not smiled, a great change for the small thief.

"Be assured we are not finished with the giants yet."

"And they are not finished with us," said Ivo.

"Yes. We need to speak of this, but now let us put Jalal to rest," said Telenstil.

"I will carry him," the ranger said.

"No," Ghibelline spoke up. "No, I will."

"Let us help you," said Gytha. "The ground is rough, we will lend a hand."

Ghibelline and Gytha held the dead man's shoulders, while Harald lifted his legs. They carried him across the hilltop to a place near its center where a large patch of stone lay bare of oerth worn smooth by the wind and the passing years. Carefully they placed him near the stone. Ghibelline removed the cloak which he had taken from the steading and wrapped it around Jalal then Harald tied ropes around the legs and chest of the shrouded form. They stepped away, all bowed their heads and said silent prayers or words of farewell, then Talberth and Telenstil motioned for the others to step back.

"Sax-Am Va-Ere K-Am," Talberth intoned. He threw a thimble made of raw wet clay that held a clear drop of water, it struck and seemed to melt then the stone rippled like a pool of water in the rain. Ghibelline reached out and clasped Gytha's hand in his own.

With the clay that Talberth had used to form his thimble, Telenstil fashioned a miniature bucket and a tiny spade. He held these in his hand and spoke a single word. "Fo-Dere!" he commanded and the mud became a pit, the edges piled high with the wet oerth, thrown out evenly by the magic spell.

"Quickly now!" Talberth called out.

Gytha and Ghibelline lifted the rope tied about Jalal's chest while Harald and Talberth raised the body by the rope around the legs. They stumbled across the slick oerth and half carried, half dragged Jalal over to the muddy pit. Ghibelline swore beneath his breath at his awkwardness, while Gytha mouthed a prayer. The walls of the pit caved in and fell upon Jalal, the sudden weight pulled the rope from their hands almost dragging Talberth down beside the body of the dead man. Ghibelline stood ankle deep in mud. He looked down at the mire of Jalal's grave and said goodbye.

"Farewell my friend, rest now. I will find your kin one day and repay the debt I owe you, my freedom and my life," the elf knelt down in the mire and with his hands began to push the piled mud back down into the pit.

Gytha knelt as well, then Harald, then the other Harold, no longer grim but with eyes as wet as the muddy oerth.

"Come, it is only the fair oerth, no shame to have on your hands or your clothes," Ivo said to his fellow mages. The old gnome joined the others then both Talberth and Telenstil sank down on their knees and helped. A small figure looked on, and quietly crept beside the thief. Little Rat had no qualms about sinking his hands into the mud. They were a filthy mess when they backed away. Telenstil made sure that no one would be affected by his spell, then spoke the words and threw a piece of stone and a handful of water on the mud.

"K-Am Va-Ere Sax-Am," he said, and the mud froze to stone again. 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Happy Birthday CAS and Thanks!

Armor 1

Witch 61

Lords of Waterdeep - A 5-Player Solo Session Report - Failed

Lords of Waterdeep - A 5-Player Solo Session Report - Failed

First let me say that I find Lords of Waterdeep to play very well solo. It is definitely not the same experience as multi-player but the game-play is entertaining and intriguing even though nothing can be hidden which leaves many of the goals of the individual lord characters and the tactics of Intrigue Card use to fall by the wayside. What I mean by a failure of this session was a combination of insurmountable bookeeping errors near the end of the game and a series of missed turns do to the first turn marker changing hands and my placement of the taverns on my right and left hand sides.

From the beginning this game session was marked by some very interesting character and card combinations. The five characters in original turn order were Brianne, Larissa, Nymaras, Blackstaff, and Mirt.

Brianne drew some good quest cards that matched her arcana and skullduggery but her intrigue cards were both piety utility cards and fairly useless. She started first so lowest amount of starting gold. Even so the Ambassador building was one of the three face-up tiles and I began the game with her taking the builders and claiming it, but even though it was taken each turn the fortunes of chance were not with her and her competition had very powerful cards to begin with. By mid-game she was in a bad position. She'd drawn starting quests that required too many resources to be easily completed while her competitors did amazingly well in their combination of intrigue and quest cards. She continued to get good quest cards but nothing simple and all the while several of her opponents were establishing themselves exceptionally well.

Larissa the builder drew some middle of the road quest cards but her two intrigue cards gave her the gold she needed and the ability to use the builders hall even if she did not hold it with an agent. When Brianne took the hall on turn one and put the 'Ambassador' into play Larrisa sent her agent to claim him and assured herself the hall for the next turn. Since her main goal was simply to get money and buildings it worked out perfectly. By mid-game she had enough buildings to be a serious threat to the other leading players, but even then fortune was making this a very challenging game for some characters and burying others from the start.

Nymaras began with two amazing quests. The Lieutenant and Placate. Simple intrigue utility cards were a great aid to her and by round two she had her extra agent. Even with this advantage she was struggling by mid-game and as the end loomed near she just couldn't get the quests that had either the victory points or the intrigue cards that might have helped her. If I hadn't flubbed the end game I don't see how she could have hoped to pull ahead of either Larrisa or, as it turned out, Blackstaff.

Blackstaff with his arcana and warfare seemed to have drawn some poor cards; A seemingly resource heavy skullduggery card worth a whopping twenty-five victory points and a commerce plot-quest that would reward him with rogues when he received gold. The skullduggery needed eight rogues and other adventurers. The rogues seemed to favor Blackstaff as his intrigue card allows him to draw five quests and his choice is another skullduggery but this one allowing him to 'Recover the Magisters' orb which he uses to devastating effect. By mid-game Blackstaff has gathered four quests of twenty-five victory points each and is reeling in groups of three or four rogues or fighters at a time. While no builder he uses the buildings that Larissa has placed to fill his tavern with adventurers and complete weighty quest after weighty quest. As the game neared its conclusion he was in the lead with heavy victory point laden quests gathered and his opponents struggling to stop and overcome him.

Then comes poor Mirt. Mirt's hand was dirt from the beginning. He could not get near the decent piety or commerce quests or intrigue cards that could help in much if at all. His gold couldn't by him love or buildings and although he snatched the first turn it was snatched back from him before it could do him any good. By mid-game Mirt was in last place, by end-game he was clearly in last place. He just didn't have the numbers. Only my slip-ups saved him from a most ignoble defeat.

As round seven was underway with the ambassador and sixteen agents in motion at some point I missed several players and found the wrong number of agents unused and had no idea where the wrongness began. At that point I was too tired to back-track and too confused to call anyone a winner. A fun game, even solo, but it was time to put the pieces back in the box and consider a rematch some other night.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Hill Giant Chief - Nosnra's Saga - Part 82

They soared, but Harald did not feel like a bird, he just felt sick. Telenstil brought them over the hill, sweeping in from the south. If any watched from the steading they would see a strange sight indeed as the elf and the ranger crossed the sky.

The land below was bare atop the giant's hill, the trees cut down long ago to help build the steading's halls. They stripped the land around, but new growth had begun fill the slopes around their hill. At the top the giants had pulled the roots from the ground and hacked down anything taller than a man, but beyond the crown they did not care if the trees returned.

Harald scanned the slope; his eyes were old, but still sharp, sharper than an elves they used to say. He yelled out when he caught sight of the ledge where they had camped the night before. He waved to Telenstil and shouted over the rushing wind.

"There!!!" he cried. "Look!"

Telenstil waved back, then directed the orb down toward the ledge. They passed by their old camp then followed the trail, flying straight up the hill. The elf's head turned right then left. Beside him Harald did the same, searching for the friends they'd left behind. As they rose the mage felt a weight begin to drag at him, the orb had changed, no longer white, it dulled. No time to warn his friend he set them down, the power draining completely from the orb before they landed.

Harald was taken by surprise. He brought his feet up but skidded across the uneven trail on his knees. Telenstil nimbly stayed on his feet and ran to aid his friend.

"Harald, my apologies, are you injured?" asked Telenstil solicitously.

"I've skinned my knees," Harald gave a groan as he stood. "I had worse when I was boy falling down a tree, but I wish you could have told me we were going to land."

* * *

"We will have to walk from here," said Telenstil.

"The Oerth Mother be praised," smiled Harald. "No more flying for me, it's too hard on the knees."

The sun was climbing on toward noon when the pair crested the hill and left the crossbacked trail. Telenstil marveled at the ranger's strength. Harald seemed tireless while the elf needed to stop and rest more than once as they followed the steep path.

"Their trail is clear?" asked Telenstil.

Harald laughed, "On this hill, it is like footprints in new snow. There isn't really anyplace to go here except up or down." The ranger looked back the way they'd come. "It is all rock and cliff-face. Easy enough to climb, but it would be slow going for our lot. Besides, climbing up these rocks only takes you to a higher leg of the trail."

"Yes," Telenstil agreed. "This slope climbs the hill like it was the side of a Ziggurat."

"A what?" asked Harald.

"A vast structure of stone," Telenstil explained, "a building big as a hill, each segment is a huge square block with another smaller square of stones set on top till it ends with a small plateau, each side a set of stairs running from the summit to the ground."

"You're joking," laughed Harald. "Such things exist? What a waste of time."

"They do, at least such is recorded in the journals of the wise," said Telenstil. "One such building is said to tower over the jungle lands far to the south and east, a place of great power."

"They must be lowlanders who built the thing," mused Harald, "and have no hills of their own."


Ivo saw them first, though Talberth had the better view. The young mage was a poor watchman, his mind ruled his eyes. A blank look would fall across his face as he stared out over the hilltop, and he would become lost in thought.

"There they are!" Ivo gave Talberth a nudge and ran across the boulder they stood upon, surefooted as a mountain goat.

Talberth cried out for the gnome to wait, but his plea went unheeded. He took great care crossing the same length of stone that Ivo traveled with ease, he had to stoop and crawl, undignified but safe from falling off the boulders' smooth surface.

"Telenstil, Harald, thank goodness you two have returned unharmed," Ivo said with relief.

"What has happened?" asked Telenstil. "You sound concerned my friend."

"Harold has been injured, he took a fall..." began Ivo.

"What! How badly is he hurt?!" demanded the ranger.

"Gytha has tended to him," Ivo assured the man. "He sleeps. She says he will be fine, but he hurt his head..."

"Then he should not sleep!" Harald said angrily.

"Gytha knows..."

"Yes she does know!" it was Ivo's turn to interrupt. "She has done all she can, and she says he will be fine. Tut!" Ivo held up his hand and silenced the ranger before he could interrupt again. "Gytha knows more of the healing craft than you my friend, or do you doubt her?"

The ranger's shoulders sagged. He leaned against a rock. A great fatigue came over him.

"You are right master gnome. I am in the wrong, my apologies."

"No need," said Ivo.

"Where is our thief?" Harald asked subdued.

"He sleeps near to that rise," said Ivo, pointing to the east where the bare stones became a peak. "You can find him by his snores."

"My thanks," Harald answered him politely. He gave a deep and respectful bow.

Ivo bowed back then watched the ranger rush by.

"How did it go with you?" he asked Telenstil.

"I believe the results were worth the effort," the mage replied. He paused for a moment then looked down at Ivo with a serious expression on his face. "Would our presence have saved Harold from his fall?"

"Some would say it was his fate," Ivo shook his head. "Who can say? Each footstep takes us down a different path."

"Ah well," Telenstil sighed, "Our quest may lead us all into the endless sleep."

"If that is so..." the old gnome grimaced then brought the talk back to the here and now. "Tell me how your little side trip went."

"It went well enough," said Telenstil. "We ambushed two of Nosnra's messengers, killed them, but a third escaped. That will cost us later I am sure."

"No doubt," Ivo agreed.

"It went well, a third might have been too many for us to stop," admitted Telenstil.

"Fifty years ago you would not have believed that you could slay one giant let alone two," mused Ivo reflecting on the past.

"Our ranger is a mighty hand with his sword," said Telenstil. "It was his hand that slew the greater of the pair."

"Humans, fifty years ago he was a babe in swaddling," laughed Ivo. "They lead a may-fly life."

"They burn bright in the time they have," Telenstil smiled back. "As do you and your kind my friend."

"Elves," Ivo said dismissively. "You live a dragon's years. What a gnome could do with such a lifetime. You play more than you work."

"Life is worth enjoying," Telenstil laughed in reply. "It is worth thinking about as well. The hours pass as slowly for us as they do for you or for our human friends, but the years, Ivo, the years go quickly by."

"Speaking of time," said Ivo, "we had best get on the move, unless we are to camp here."

"I will need to rest a bit before we move on," said Telenstil. He sat down on a chair-sized rock and opened up his pack. "Here, I took these from the bodies of the giants. Messages sent from Nosnra I suspect."

Ivo eyed the huge rolls of skin that Telenstil drew out.

"One for you," said Telenstil handing a roll of hide to Ivo, "and one for me."

"We will be camping here then," Ivo bit his lip. "I am not sure that is for the best."

"There will be time enough," Telenstil said. "Time for me to rest and time enough to sort out Nosnra's letters."

Ivo raised a bushy brow as he looked over the scroll the size of a cloak. "A giant's scrawl, this may take some time to decipher. It is always like a code. Giants, they never manage to spell a word the same way twice."

"We will manage," Telenstil assured the gnome. 

Howard Pyle - 1 (Barsoom)

Friday, January 9, 2015

Flash Point - Session Report 1 Basic (Family) Rules

Flash Point - Session Report 1 Basic (Family) Rules

Played my first game of Flash Point today using the basic rules and it is an immediate hit. After the first run through using four firefighters I picked up on three errors due to misreading of cards. I read the one firefighter card correctly initially then throughout most of the game gave him an extra action point (AP).

My second mistake was with the Fire Chief's command points. I failed to note that his command points are only applied to movement. The third mistake was over the POI markers. Each mistake was in my favor and helped me to when the scenario. Next game I go back and rerun the same basic game and see if I missed anything else before playing the more advanced rules.

The components are nice. Thick board map, nice counters and the firefighter and specialty cards are attractively illustrated. The six firemen miniatures do their generic job but I would have preferred a less silly looking figure and instead have unique figures that went with each type of firefighter or specialist. Probably would have jumped the price up. My only complaint is with the thin color cards that match the six colors of the firefighter figures. They are delicate and I managed to damage one just opening the tight plastic that sealed them together. Doesn't affect gameplay, but I hate damaging a component right out of the box.

I began play with one of each of the firefighters at each entranceway. Two of the POI markers were right in the first rooms that my Imaging   Tech and CAFS Firefighter were poised to enter. My turn order was Fire Captain, Generalist, Imaging Technician, and CAFS.

I gave the command points to the Imaging Tech and he immediately finds the family dog. Then the Captain enters and puts out a fire. End of turn. I rolled a location for the Advance Fire and placed a smoke. I then rolled for another POI location. Rereading the rules it seems I should have left the two unknown and the revealed dog. Another error I made throughout the game was adding new unknown POIs to the board even with revealed victims (and pets) on the board. In retrospect this still makes sense to me as you could leave the pets revealed and only need to go after one unknown at a time. It definitely changes the game and I will have to see how this rule works next session.

I began working my way into the building. The Imaging Tech was very handy in revealing unknown POIs. The CAFS kept coming across victims and barely utilized their special extinguishing ability. While this was going on the center of the building became an inferno. Explosions and shockwaves began taking out doors and damaging walls. The basic game mechanics are incredibly simple but the growing fire and risk of explosions is great at creating tension.

In the end due to good fortune and fortuitous unintended errors in gameplay on my part I was able to remove the victims from the building, though the little kitty did not make it. Next session will be much more dangerous.

This is an excellent solitaire game. A quick and straightforward game that looks like it will be even more enjoyable as a multi-player. I could see where it could be overplayed but if kept in a rotation of games it should last very well and I already note several existing expansions.