Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Impact Bats & Rats, The Ecology of the Living Dungeon and 2 Hour Dungeon Crawl

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.

Stephen Gilbert.

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.

Hil x

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.

Bryan Scott.


  1. This is fast becoming one of my favourite blogs. It's like one of those gaming mags that sadly no longer exist; exclusive previews, insights and reviews, all in one place.
    I think Hill makes a valid point (as always). I always thought of the differences between board games and RPGs as similar to the differences between watching a movie and reading the book it's based on. Both similar in content, but different beasts. Boardgames are like movies, in which image is important and the gratification is relatively quick, whereas RPGs allow you to savour the build up of background, like a good book. I always thought of RPGs as cooperative narrative fiction - that's right, kiddies, it's more than silly names and funny dice!
    Look forward to the next "issue"

    1. Fantastic to hear that you like our blog so much, Jez. We're back to the magazine format this week and I must admit, the quality of the writing remains high. Hopefully, there is something for everyone to enjoy. Once again, Hil hits the nail on the head with her insightful article and Steve has me green with envy - I want those Chibi bats and rats!

    2. Thank you Jez. I sometimes feel a real kill joy with my cryptic insights and "Bah Humbug" approach to many things. Its good to know there`s hope for me yet lol.

  2. Nice review Bryan, as you know I love Ed's games but I do like a bit more depth to my dungeon crawls preferring, like Hil the rpg aspect to this type of gaming to the more board game styles.

    Hil what a lovely writing style you have and a great way of looking at these games.

    Stephen - still not sold on Chibis despite your lovely rendition on their eyes!

    1. Many thanks, Andy. I guess I'm not the only one who expected a bit more from 2HDC, even though, like you, I love the THW games. Hil is a real asset to the blog. As for not liking Chibis, we'll keep working away at your defences, LOL!

    2. Thank you so much Andy, that's kind of you to say. I tend to write as I talk hehe, handy when running a game and being the dungeon master. Stevie says half the time, I`m airy fairy and tweet tweet garden poppies and leprechauns in the summer meadows lol.

    3. No I really do understand mate. I really love my chibis... or anime characters as I`ve turnd lately more and more to calling them (thanks to enlightenment from people like Taarot, thanks hun). But there are times I want more `guts` than *cough* chibis provide, for which I tend still to turn to more standard miniature types, like D&D minis and so on.

    4. Good luck Bryan, you normally chip away with your other excellent models, esp the 7TV2e stuff you've been reviewing but I'm holding out on these ones just

      Hil I would love to sit in on one of your games, they sound just up my rpg street!

      I'll persevere Stephen, the blog itself is lure enough :-)

  3. Thanks guys, its gratifying to know were getting it right. We set out to try and make something with a bit of `guts` to it, as opposed to just fluff and puff. Bit of luck (touches some wood) we`ll continue to keep it up. But for that also, you guys can help. Have a cool article, or a neat battle report you want to share? hell yeah.. bring it on! We`d love it. Think of this blog as a resource for enjoying and enhancing your pleasure within the hobby. What you share with us only enriches everyone else's fun too. What is it they say, what goes around comes around :))) Applied here I think means: share, share, share. The more the merrier and the happier we all are.

  4. Hmmmm, nice review of the rules Bryan, and very well considered and accurate throughout.

    I`m actually rather annoyed with Two Hour Dungeon Crawl. I wanted to like these rules so much, I really did, but straight away they just kept on rubbing me the wrong way. I don`t mind the limitations on stats and abilities and things, that`s easy to fix: just add your own stuff into the rules (as any good game should allow you to do anyway). No, it’s the restricting size of the dungeon that really gets to me, and the way your characters have to act, kind of `shoulder to shoulder` everywhere they go, like being joined at the waist by superglue or something. And lining up neatly in rows against monsters feels like playing on a parade ground uuugh!!! Its far too contrived, and sadly the whole things feels this way throughout. As the author steers you in directions the rules have to go for everything to work, rather than truly giving you open ended possibilities (which is what fantasy role playing rules are meant to be all about, right?). The final straw for me was the feeling that I was `being given permission` to alter the rules if you wanted to (thank you very much). I DO like being shown by a set of rules guidelines for HOW you might change this or ADD that: but one thing I`ve always found insulting when reading a rpg book, is that assumption that they are giving you permission to alter things if you really want to. Uuugh!! its so insulting to the reader. Helpful advice yes, permission, no.

    No, sadly these rules aim well left of the bulls eye mark for me, in almost all aspects. It is a terrible shame, when you consider that there are other totally free sets of PDF roles playing rules out there (and others for a mere fraction of the price) on sites like Drivethrurpg, which offer much better playing systems – like Scarlet Heroes, and Stars Without Number.

    I wish I could like these rules. I was so excited when I first heard of them and really REALLY wanted to love them. But I just don’t I`m afraid. What worries me is, I don’t know who COULD like Two Hour Dungeon Crawl, as they are written: they`re just too limiting, and in this day and age, there are simply so many other more usefully written sets of rules out there which do the same thing , only cheaper, or free, and in all cases.. better.

    1. Well said, Tarot, and much as it saddens me to say this, I totally agree with you. The rules are very limiting in your choices, unlike, say for example, All Things Zombie or Six Gun Sound, also by THW. I didn't mention how opposing characters line up in combat but you are correct - that is how it works - and it sucks! I doubt very much if we'll be seeing a 2HDC batrep on the blog! Ah well, live and learn, eh?

    2. sadly, you may be right there Bryan. :(

  5. Love your Living Ecology Dungeon article Hil, it made me want to go play a dungeon crawl right now (ecology included). Nicely thematic and I found myself agreeing with you all the way through as I read, with your usual calm collected logic. Top notch stuff.

    LOVE the review Mr Steve. I`m jealous and want those rats for myself.

  6. Great team effort, and, as Jez points out, this site is now becoming a mid-week stopping off point for some Chibi-related entertainment. Thanks to Bryan, I do own quite a few chibi minis but have yet to put brush to mini, so wondered, especially having seen those rat/bat eyes whether a wee painting tutorial could be arranged pretty please? As Steve says, it really is all about the eyes, so any top tips would be gratefully accepted; and tbh that is one of the main reasons I've been reluctant to start painting them.

    1. Good to hear you're enjoying our blog, Simon. Your request for a Chibi painting tutorial is something I'd be only too happy to do. My painting of Chibi figures had taken a back seat this year but only recently I have rediscovered my Chibi painting mojo and I'm back to working on them once again. I don't know if you'll see any of them on my Vampifan blog but I certainly plan on reviewing them here. Although I have been mainly concentrating on painting my figures for Super Dungeon Explore I have just finished painting my first batch of figures for Ninja All Stars. They were fun to do, but I must admit, I do find all Chibi figures fun to paint. With their oversized heads you can add a lot of detail to them if you so want. My method of painting may be too complex for some. If you just want your figures painted to tabletop gaming standards I'm sure Steve, Hil or Tarot could show you how. Painting tutorials was not something we had considered doing when we launched this blog but it is an idea with a lot of merit and I'm sure one of us will end up writing such an article or series of articles.

    2. yo Simon, its always REALLY good to see you here.

  7. I`m sure Tarot could do something to help out. She did win the all Ireland arts and miniatures painting competition two years running.

  8. Yeah, but your stuff`s been in many old issues of White Dwarf Mr Steve, and I wont even mention your achievements in the field Hil, or you`d kill me for spilling the beans hehe.

    But yes it is very true, all three of us just paint for fun now, you especially Steve, which is a shame because you could put us all to shame if you wanted to, and not just by a nose or an ear. Your work (which you hide away at the your home) is simply staggering, but you never show it off.. why why why???

  9. *chuckles* dear dear T girl..... because as you get older, and the more skilled you get at anything on the journey of life`s miles stones and transitory achievements, the less necessary it becomes to announce your talents, as ego recedes - along with the hair line lol.

    You will find hun, only the young or the insecure ever need to tell everyone how wonderful they are at anything they do lol.

    1. This is so true, Steve. Well said!

    2. I just wanted to publicly thank Bryan for his very kind gift of three Rattlebones and confess that you've now got me. Having these figures in my hands, all thoughts of using them for My ongoing Ghostbusters project fled, to be replaced by the feverish need to have more...
      In my mind's eye, I imagined the look on my Kings of War opponent's face when he was faced with my undead Chibi horde...
      So, now I'm eyeing up SDE expansions online..."Stilt Town Zombies for £17.99? We wants it, my preciousssss. ..."

    3. I was only too happy to help you out, Jez. The Chibi undead figures for Super Dungeon Explore are easily my favourite of all the races, which isn't surprising when you see my Vampifan blog.
      Stilt Town Zombies is a superb expansion. I have one set of it already but I wouldn't mind getting a few more to use the figures in Zombicide: Black Plague.

  10. then of course, there is "Von Drakks Manor", which is stuffed full of even MORE zombies, skeletons, witches, vampires and so on hehe.

    Check it out below - woot!!!*Version*=1&*entries*=0

    1. I did see that expansion, Tarot, but it's little out of my price range at present. I do need some more rattle bones though - they're soooooo cute! Might have to see if I can find a suitable knight figure, so I can do Chibi "Ghosts 'n' Goblins"...

  11. Oh MY, I`m so sorry I only just spotted the price. That's CRAZY money. uuugh and grrrr makes me mad how sellers (on amazon and ebay) cash is and make a killing once something becomes harder to get a hold of. That's almost two and a half times its real value.

    Try this for rattle bones:

  12. Thanks Tarot. Of course, if my funds don't meet my cravings, I may have to make my own, like I did with my Ithaqua.

  13. OoooO!! me likes this.

    1. Thank you very much *tips hat in the lady's direction* Having a limited gaming budget does encourage me to be rather ingenious. Last month's Clownmobile, which was effectively built from scratch, is another good example of low cost/free materials turning out rather well. However, I'd avoid the post where I mount jelly babies on flight stands as proxy ghosts, as that was just silly...

  14. LOL

    hehe I love it.... especially the jelly babies. Epic that :-))))

    But seriously, I dig this. Most my life I have had to sit back and watch (hobby wise) what other people have, never actually owning many of the `nice shiny precious things` myself; and instead of allowing myself to fall victim to jealousy or covetousness: I, like you, turned fixedly to DIY.

    Its only now in my life that I have `relatively' enough money to buy most the things I want for my games if I want to, but half a lifetime of learning to be frugal has set me in good stead. I expect less, yet work hard to achieve my aims, usually on a shoe-string haha.

  15. Thank you one and all for another great post. As you say, Steve, Hilary does have a knack for making you view things differently. I will never approach dungeon design in the same way.

    Really love the bats and rats. Going to have to get some of them (after the current project is finished, of course!). The bats in particular would look great swarming around Von Drakk.

    Shame about Two Hour Dungeon Crawl, Bryan. Sounds like a potentially decent set of rules for a beginner, but needs a fair bit of tinkering to satisfy the veteran gamer?

  16. Hi Jon, thanks for the nice comments, always really appreciated. Yeah that old dungeon ecology really is worth taking a bit of time over when designing your `worlds` and will make you think that l-i-t-t-l-e bit more deeply about the infrastructure of it all, and the end result.... really cool dungeons which the players will notice are that much more fun and thematically intense to adventure in.

    I love those rats, and the bats well, you know... I don't think they wouldn't look too out of place alongside normal D&D minis even would they.

  17. Thank you Jon. I`m glad my article helped you. May your own games always be an adventuring wonder for you and your players.