Rats in yer Tunnels & Bats in yer Towers.
I simply had to write a small review of a couple of the latest Chibi dungeon minis soon to be released by Impact Miniatures. Tom Anders kindly sent me a small parcel with some new "critters" for my games. Tom informs me that these pieces will not be available to anyone before July 1st so this really is a rare sneak peek at some of what’s to come from Impact Miniatures and their current Chibi Dungeon Kickstarter campaign.
Let’s start with the Chibi rats. The first thing I noticed about the rats, much to my delight, was that they are one piece castings (two pieces if you count the bases of course). I wasn’t especially happy with the slottabases each miniatures came with. At a few pennies shy of a couple of pounds per miniature (again I'm presuming, but maybe £8.28 for 6, like the Chibi Wormies or Chibi Baggies are currently priced at:) decent bases really should have been included. To my mind there is no real excuse nowadays for cheap plastic bases being sold to go with really nicely sculpted game pieces: and these rats really are very lovely. For me personally, it’s not a problem anyway, as I rarely use the bases that come with most miniatures any more; preferring instead to use ones which my partner (Hilary) makes for me out of polymer clay... much nicer and of course unique.
But, this aside, the Chibi rats are simply gorgeous, and a real boost to any Chibi dungeon crawl game. I know they will get a lot of use in my Chibi World rules (which were originally written for the current Kickstarter campaign in any case).
There was a little bit of annoying flash around the ears and tails of the rats but nothing major. 30 seconds with a sharp modelling knife on each one, was all it took to remove the offending mould marks and make them ready for undercoating and painting. Once painted, they really are adorable; with plenty of scope for individuality within the eyes. Chibis are really all about the eyes, right?
The bat miniatures themselves come in one piece, just like the rats do. Which again, is really nice to see. But then, included with each miniature is a rather nice two piece plastic base and pole. I have not seen these bases before from Impact; and are very different and far nicer than the ordinary slot bases I have grown to hate so much over the years. No, these are a different kettle of fish altogether and I was rather impressed by the overall look of them.
There was no discernible flash or mould marks on the miniatures. These are clean and ready to work with straight out of the packet.
The bat miniatures themselves are beautiful. Again, they will grace the table of any anime or Chibi dungeon, and will be a nice touch to include to your games, either as swarm of wandering monsters or as a backup to your unfriendly resident vampire!
Like all Chibi miniatures. Bringing them to life in your own collections will be very dependent on how you paint the eyes. Get this part of your modelling right, and you can`t really go far wrong.
Combined, these Impact Miniatures Chibi Rats and the Chibi Bats are an epic bonus to swell the ranks of your typical iconic fantasy dungeon dweller collection. I know I shall be putting mine to good use, annoying the Heroes where ever possible and nibbling away at their devious plans.
Musings of a Lady Gamer
Is it that part of the week again already? How time flies: Tempus Fugit. So what will I write about I wonder. Aaah, I know. I have a subject in mind which is really appropriate to the theme of the blog, and which I think I shall call:
“The Ecology of the Living Dungeon.”
I was walking through my local city the other day, meandering the streets of Cork, and taking in the shop fronts of St. Patrick's Street. Naturally I found myself drawn to the street markets of St. Paul`s Street, the jewellery stands and fine silk and cotton dresses, infused as they always are with the scented burner smoke of jasmine, rose and, petuli oil incense. From here it was only a short walk, up the steps and into Other Realms, with its shelves brimming with the alluring attraction of new (and older) games and sets of rules. The cabinets proudly display the latest painted models, and the chorus of hushed yet excited voices fills the air. Gamers at play on the three "club" tables: all of which are groaning under the weight of fabulously made terrain and baseboards. Not one of the gamers looks over thirty years of age, and yet not a man of them is without some sort of facial hair, light downy stubble or a full flow curly beard. Motorhead or Metallica is displayed proudly on the backs of leather jackets draped over easy chairs, smelling of Sandalwood (to impress the ladies) or spillage of old coke and Pepsi.
And in turn, not wanting to be roped into a game “hey Hil, come join us, pull up a chair sweetie, there`s room for one more, we`re about to play Pandemic !!” instead I allow my eyes to take in the shelves, loosing myself on the contents of the shelves as I quickly absorb the lovely shiny, cellophane wrapped boxes, in all their new loveliness. They call to me like living things. “Addictive beasts” I think to myself. Maintaining a calm steadfast determination not to purchase the one which looks at me the most: “Zombicide, Prison Outbreak.”
After a while looking at the stuff on the shelves I start to notice something, and my mind drifts away, pondering about the nature of dungeons and dungeon crawling in general. I see on the shelves “Descent: Journeys in the Dark 2nd edition” and I see “Dungeon Twister,” plain old “Dungeon” (a classic that one), “Dungeons and Dragons Adventure System” and a whole host of similar titles, all of roughly the same theme. 20 minutes later, and a plastic cup of coffee warming my tummy (thrust into my hands earlier by a thoughtful shop keeper), I have read the backs of several of these dungeon type miniatures based boardgames, and something suddenly struck me.
All look beautiful. All are crammed full of lovely components , map tiles, and miniatures. All seem to be offering something new or unique.... and all are totally games of “hack and slash!”
It all got me wondering about the ecology of the dungeon. Where is the role playing, the conversations as the party come face to face with that band of 8 wandering Orcs coming up the passage towards them: “Desist, now! Retire humanoids, and we shall not harm thee.” The Paladin would shout loudly in is his righteous indignation at having to share the path with these disgusting creatures. The more peace loving female Healer, her voice thick with the exotic accent of the east, might add: “We do not wish to harm you. Maybe we can parley, and we can trade some items? See, we have food. Maybe you have water to share with us?” But looking at the backs of these lovely boxes, I just know there will be no room for any actual role playing within the board game sets.
I spy a Troll on the back of one of the boxes, and think about the ramifications of that, in regard to being within a dungeon complex. A Troll would have a mate, maybe a baby troll or two. Let`s say a modest family of four. Trolls are hunters, that means (thinking in terms of Dinosaurs now, and the T Rex comes to mind) being frugal and conservative to the extreme, this family will need a good half to three quarters of a mile to call their hunting ground. Within this space there will be no other indigenous hunter gathers; not with lairs anyway. Yes there will be those who pass through, of course: like those pesky Orcs, but the Trolls will dominate this part of the dungeons for sure.
Looking back at the box in my hand I think it looks lovely and it sure is attractive, and is enticing enough to want to open it all up and have a look inside. But I just know it won’t allow me to do what I want, it won’t allow me to do any proper role playing with voices and accents and there will be no dungeon ecology allowed for in the game. Most likely there will be a Troll in room 1, a Basilisk in room 2, and Beholder in room 3. All within the space of about fifty feet of each other. I`m sure the game in my hand would be most exciting, challenging, and full of adventure, but it will never the less just be endless hack and slash dice rolling to see who hits what, and the heroes of the game (assuming they don`t get eaten by the Troll) will simply gather loot, gain some power ups, better weapons, better armour, and come out of the dungeon tougher and stronger, ready to enter the next game session and do the same thing all over again, against another endless batch of deadly but predictable monsters.
Where is the story? Where is the suspense of an exciting and mature plot? Where is the opportunity to feel like you are a hero in a living fantasy novel? There is none of that, it is, end of the day, just hack the monsters and slash the monsters in an endless droll parody.
And so my eyes roam to the shelves where the real role playing rules rest upon the stands; and my heart goes out to them, making me want to fondle and caress the covers of these mighty tomes. I flick open a book, breath in as the scent of thick sheaves of paper wafts into my nose, rules: mmm rules; lovely rules. Within these magnificent tomes lie the mysteries, secrets untold, and magics unknown, of how to make a dungeon live and breathe. How to make a dungeon ecology become real and vibrant. How to make your players believe they are really there, looking over their shoulders and licking their lips nervously: they know those bloody Trolls are about here somewhere, this is, after all, their terrible hunting ground. Rules are the gateways to the imagination. Ah, rules, oh beautiful rules.
Looking up from these lovely rules books, enticing me to buy them and make my OWN adventures using the secrets contained within, I look up for a moment at the boxed games on the shelves, full of lovely components... but lacking depth. And I look back at the D&D rules in my hand, and I think to myself: “no board type game will ever diminish your glory.”
Silently, I sidle out of the store and head back up the street; enthusiastically planning my next RPG adventure in my head as I daydream my way along the pavement.
Two Hour Dungeon Crawl - a Review
Deciding upon what product that I wanted to review first for the blog was a no-brainer for me. It had to be 2 Hour Dungeon Crawl (2HDC) produced by Two Hour Wargames (THW), a company I'm very familiar with. The name very neatly ties in with the name of our blog. 2HDC is a very simple dungeon crawl game that can be played solo, co-operatively or competitively. You can play one-off games or keep your characters and play a series of inter-related adventures to form an on-going campaign.
Let us start by listing what the game contains -
- Characters from 15 different races to choose from - Beastman, Demon (Major), Demon (Petty), Dwarf, Elf, Feral Vampire, Ghoul, Goblin, Human, Ogre, Orc, Ratman, Skeleton, Troll or Zombie. As you can see, you can play monsters as well as the usual good guys. That's a nice touch.
- 8 different professions - Caster, Healer, Knight, Paladin, Shooter, Soldier, Thief or Warrior. You can also choose dual professions, the most common being Warrior/Thief.
- Rules for your characters to grow in skills and abilities, as they succeed.
- Over 30 Attributes to make your characters unique.
- A variety of Melee and Missile Weapons, as well as different Armour types to help customise your characters.
- Over 30 Spells and Magical Items for your use.
- A system that generates your Dungeon as you play in it; from how big it is, to who is the Big Bad - the Monster in charge.
Those familiar with other THW games will have no trouble in learning the rules for 2HDC, whilst those coming to the game anew will find this set of rules far simpler and easier to learn than other THW games.
When creating your dungeon you can use whatever works best for you. It could be as simple as a pen and paper dungeon mapped out on graph paper, card dungeon tiles (the ones that come with the AD&D Board Games work particularly well) or you could use 3D terrain like, for example, the Hirst Arts resin dungeon sets or Battle Systems Dungeon sets. As for figures, again, use whatever you have - 15mm or 28mm, metal, paper, plastic or resin, it doesn't matter.
So, what is my verdict on the game? I have mixed feelings about it. It certainly does what it sets out to do, which is to provide a simple dungeon crawl adventure that can be played in roughly two hours. If this is what you're looking for then I can highly recommend it to you. The races you can choose from for your characters cover the most common types found in fantasy gaming but I'm sure some of you will be wondering why Halflings, for example, have been left out. Likewise with the professions - they cover the most common types but many others have been left out. To some, this lack of choice might be a bad thing. Another potential problem could be the lack of wandering monsters that populate many a dungeon. In 2HDC your choices are limited to either one of the 15 Races listed or Dungeon Vermin (Bats, Rats or Spiders). One thing I found odd is that when generating your dungeon, all corridors measure six squares long by two squares wide and all rooms measure six squares long by four squares wide. That's rather limiting and would be one of the first things I'd change. By the way, Ed Teixeira, who wrote the book actively encourages gamers to come up with house rules, so don't feel bad about it if there's something you want to change. The reason for the lack of choices in the points I've just raised is down to keeping the game simple without getting bogged down with too many options. Too much can be just as bad as too little.
My personal opinion is that 2HDC is just too simple for my tastes. I like a game with more depth to it than this. 2HDC is not a bad game at all but I think I'd much rather play AD&D, Chibi World or Super Dungeon Explore. You can buy a print copy of the game for $15.00 or download a PDF copy for $14.00 from the THW webstore.