Hall or Nothing Productions Ltd: June 2011

Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game, The Hunt For Gollum Review

Building Decks to Hunt For Gollum

Rant starts here:

The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game is ostensibly a brilliant game, but is does have its foibles.  I’m praying that they’re just teething issues from its inception as the first cooperative ‘living card game’, and that FFG are simply finding their feet with it.  And since I’ve already had tons of fun with it I’m not too bothered about being a guinea pig for FFG’s gaming experimentation either.  The fact that the art is arguably the best in any game yet released, and that it’s Tolkien-based, that it’s cooperative, that it’s entertaining, and that you get to play Aragorn battering orc heads in eases these aforementioned teething issues.

Quick run-down of my problems with the game:

The scaling is off - it’s just easier with more players, no doubt.
You don’t get any ‘legal’ 50 card mono sphere decks in the base game, and the dual deck options are very limited.
You have to buy multiple copies to get the ‘complete’ deck-building experience.

You can play around a bit to try and address these issues though – we certainly did.  First of all, I developed a bunch of quests that were aimed at scaling to the number of players which you can find on this blog.

With one core set you can start mixing decks up and get, say, a 30 card dual sphere deck going, but you won’t have that satisfaction that you’re playing by the rules as intended, even though the rules you are given tell you to start with 30 card mono sphere decks.  So you sort of have to feel your way through to the best style of play that suits you.  That this aspect is completely glossed over by FFG is a let-down, because by telling you that less than 50 cards is not a ‘proper’ deck, and then not supplying you with enough cards to really deck build in earnest, you end up feeling like you’re sandboxing the game to your own design rather than playing by FFG’s provided rules.

The learning curve from the easy first Mirkwood scenario, on to the second more difficult Anduin Journey scenario, right through to the rock hard Dol Guldur scenario is pretty steep.  And by Dol Guldur, solo play is out of the question - yes it is all you ‘choose your own prisoner’ types ;) - unless you plan on using two decks.  Luckily, using two decks still provides a satisfying solo playing experience, it can just feel a bit ‘off’ at first.

After playing the game to death in both multiplayer and solo play modes I burned out a bit on LOTR.  Then I came back to it and did a bit of deck building with ‘unofficial’ 30 card decks, and then deck-building by just combining two decks into one (which you kind of have to do) to get around 50 cards.  Then I got a bit tired of it again.  Created a couple more scenarios and came back to it again.  Basically I can’t seem to stay away from it.

I’m supposed to be trying to finish the design of Fantasy Quest in my free time but I keep getting caught up and telling the wife I’m ‘just playing through one more scenario of LOTR’ instead.  Even if it is 1pm.  On a week night.

After getting annoyed with FFG’s endless previews of mystical expansions that never seemed to materialise I started to feel like a stroppy teenager.  And then yesterday The Hunt For Gollum dropped through my letterbox courtesy of the lovely folks at Maelstrom Games.

Review starts here:

The first of this line’s sprawling breadth of expansions ‘Gollum brings a bunch of new cards to the game and a new scenario that delivers an interesting new angle to the actual gameplay.  Gandalf has sent you off looking for the slippery bugger himself and the new scenario charts your search for ‘Clues’ of Gollum’s trail which are represented by a series of Guarded cards hidden in the new Encounter deck.  The art carries on the high quality torch of the base game and is still top notch.

Initially I was disappointed at only receiving two new cards for each hero sphere deck (3 copies of each card), and my original opinion of the Bilbo hero card was that he would stay in Bag End for the rest of his days.  But you get a ton of new Encounter cards, and I think I actually prefer it this way, as they present the most interesting challenge, and if I really need more hero cards I can always – don’t say it out loud - buy another core set...

To get the best experience I thought I’d try to use as many of the new cards as possible but I still chucked out the fairly useless ‘search for eagle’ and ‘draw 1 card’ cards.  This also meant reluctantly getting Bilbo into action with Glorfindel and Legolas in a Lore/Tactics deck.  This was supported by a Spirit/Leadership deck led by Eowyn, Aragorn and Theodred.

The scenarios seem quite challenging, and pace you well with extra encounter cards sometimes coming at you before and after the questing phase too.  The Clues are a neat little mechanic and you have to really hang onto them or the deck will screw you over.  In fact, if you lose your clues during the third stage you will be sent screaming back to the start of the second stage.

There are a couple of really nasty orc enemies that grow in power with more players, and locations that emulate this effect as well.  In fact, location build up in this scenario can be crippling to deadly depending on how prepared you are to tackle them.

Surprisingly, after early reports at Gollum’s difficulty, I managed to beat the scenario twice through using two decks.  So I scaled back to just using each of the above decks alone in solo play.  First up was Spirit/Leadership, and I pulled off two wins in a row.  Then came solo Lore/Tactics, and again another win.  By this point it was nearly time to go to work so I headed off to bed for 40 winks.

So, 5 wins in 5 games.  Not sure what to think about that.  Seemed pretty challenging and a couple of those victories were close calls too.  Could be that I’ve finally learnt how to play the core set’s dual sphere decks well, or that I just got plain lucky.  But I’d say on balance it’s probably easier than the Anduin Journey, and victory or no – it was very enjoyable.  Furthermore: Bilbo Baggins = flipping hero, I take it all back!  That extra card is massively beneficial.  Especially when combined with the likes of Protector of Lorien to smash through an entire stage in one turn.

Could it be that FFG have actually managed to create a scenario that is EASIER with less players?  Possibly.  If so it’s an interesting reversal of the previous scaling issues of the core set, and means I genuinely don’t know what to expect from the next string of small box expansions.  Which is kind of cool.

It’s also moving you part way towards having those mythical legal 50 card decks mentioned in the rules too.

And of course, you don’t have to buy more than one of this particular expansion set.  So it actually goes a long way towards resolving the three main problems I listed at the top of this missive.  Given that it was also a lot of fun, I’d say this is an extremely promising early step forward in the potentially huge LOTR:LCG campaign.

I’m preaching to the converted here though – if you’ve got the core set and you’re reading this far, you’re already buying The Hunt for Gollum aren’t you!  :laugh:

And for anyone who’s interested you can rest assured that my next custom (6 stage) scenario ‘Branching Paths’ will include the new cards too...  :whistle:

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Rock, Paper, Shotgun LOTR Review

Rockpapershotgun's review of The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game...

Not Cardboard Children: Two’s Company | Rock, Paper, Shotgun: "The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game."

Skim's over the difficulty of finding the best way to play the game and misses the scaling issues, but all in all a good review. Recommended.

YOU! SHALL NOT! PASS! I THINK! Hang on let me do the maths

Friday, June 24, 2011

Fantasy Quest - A Brief Word on Titles

A Word on Titles

Titles are the rewards that your hero can gain for having explored the far reaches and climbs of the world of Fantasy Quest.  If you successfully overcome a ‘Place’ encounter (which usually requires a particularly Sneaky character to do so) you may either immediately cash it in for its gold value – if you’re in a hurry for a quick buck – or you may discreetly draw a Reward card from the Titles card deck.  In the competitive game you will keep this card a secret, in the cooperative game you may decide to tell your friends where you’re headed to go and claim the Title.  Or not.  After taking the card into your hand you will see that its first Keyword is its Home location.  Like all the other Reward cards the Home is the Location Tile that you must move to in order to claim the Title as your Reward, by using a Reward Action.

Because the Title will have a number of Keywords – including the fact that it is a Title – you may decide to hang onto it in your hand for safe-keeping and put it towards your Saga later on in the game.  Perhaps your Saga requires a ‘Steed’ Title to complete, and you have drawn a ‘Horse’ Title card.  You could head to the location where you need to go and claim your mighty stallion and thus run the risk of encounters that may eat your precious new horsey.  Or you could decide to hold back the info and use the card later on.  Carefully balancing bringing your cards into play to gain the benefits of them immediately - and possibly risk losing them at some stage – and holding them back to use for your Saga will be key to your victory in Fantasy Quest.

Titles themselves actually represent the fame and fortune that your hero has accrued for conquering the Places you have discovered.  Your discovery of the Lost Village may have impressed the King, who has decided to make you into a “Knight” of the Realm.  Maybe your prayers at the Consecrated Altar led the Barbarians to rediscover their faith and make you an honorary “Wild Claw” tribesman.

Their are 4 types of Title currently available: Steed (animals for you to ride who will grant numerous benefits such as extra movement), Order (trusted membership of a fraternity who count you as one of their number), Reputation (a status so strong that it will often allow you to automatically overcome certain encounters, as word travels before you of your deeds), and Rank (usually an official Title that will earn you Gold through a particular means).

However, whilst nearly all of the Titles provide interesting and varying benefits, just be careful you don’t ever earn yourself the dreaded Title of ‘Outcast’...

Finally, here’s a spoiler of just one of the Titles you might be able to claim whilst on your Fantasy Quest:

freourslc's pictorial session report for The Lord of the Rings LCG: NinjaDorg's Lost Road scenario

Sessions de Jeux et PNP: Lord of the Ring LCG: NinjaDorg's Lost Road Pictor...: "Let's start the adventure of this blog with a picturial session report on the solo additional quest to the Lord of the Ring LCG created for..."

The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game - Pictorial Session Report by Freoursls

The following is an awesome and in depth pictorial session report by the gallant freoursls detailing his adventures with my own "The Lost Road" scenario for The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game.  Enjoy!

Epic stuff!!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Finding The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game too easy?

Then try this one:

But seriously, I'll try and get round to designing some harder quests if I get the opportunity.  The main criticisms have been that my scenarios are too easy, especially from deck-building types who have more than one core set.  Since they play well for me and my group I doubt I’d play quests of much harder difficulty lest they become as frustrating as Dol Guldur can be.  But we shall see once Hunt for Gollum lands...

Friday, June 17, 2011

WOTC (Wrath of Ashardalon Bonus Adventures

Designer Peter Lee's own 3 adventure mini-campaign has been available for some time here:

Dungeons & Dragons Roleplaying Game Official Home Page - Article (Wrath of Ashardalon Bonus Adventures)

Fantasy Quest - A Word on Allies

A Word on Allies

At each location you travel to in Fantasy Quest, whether it’s the balmy pastures of the Green Meadows, or even the dangerous reaches of the Misty Fens, you will be faced with various trials.  Should you manage to overcome these challenges the rewards can be great.  For example, if you manage to find your way through the twisting passages of the labyrinthine Cave at the heart of Spire Tor, you might find yourself celebrating with the locals and perhaps even joining the Order of the Wild Eagle.

The people you meet in the game will have a dramatic impact on how you choose to develop your hero.  There are many Strangers throughout the land, who will each have their own agenda, and you will need to Influence them to come around to your way of thinking.  Some of them may be so opposed to your negotiations that you will end up having to Fight them.  If you defeat them with Martial prowess you will still be remunerated, but if your parley is resolved through non-violent and democratic means, Strangers will point you in the direction of a valuable Ally who can help you in your journey.

From a game-play perspective, as the player you will be able to gauge the value of your method of interaction with the Stranger.  If you defeat the Stranger by Fighting with them – and sometimes that might be your only choice - you will only be able to claim their Gold value as a reward.  And although Gold is incredibly useful, even essential, to building your hero’s Skills, the alternative incentive of discovering a new Ally is almost always preferable.  Since Strangers are ostensibly passive you might decide not to interact with them at all, especially if you are in a hurry to get somewhere else fast.  If you do manage to successfully Influence a Stranger into helping with your own quest, you discard the Stranger card from play and draw the top card into your hand from the ’Ally’ deck.  This represents the information that the Stranger has given you as to that Ally’s whereabouts.  It might be a friend or relative of the Stranger, or even the Stranger himself in another guise.

Every Ally card will have a location which is their home.  You will need to travel to this location to petition the Ally to join you.  By playing a REWARD Action in your Ally’s home location you can put that Ally card into play and benefit from their help.

In the case of the dashing Corsair below (you will note that he currently lives in, or at least likes to hang around, the Lush Jungle) he will provide a permanent bonus to your SNEAK.  If you’re playing a Shadow Class Hero, continuing SNEAK bonuses are essential to your advancement in the game.  And if you are any other Class the Corsair will still be able to lend his Sneaky abilities to you to help you avoid Enemies or explore Places.  He also has the unique and rather powerful one-off ability to automatically defeat any single Place you visit.  Some Places have very difficult barriers to entry and automatically overcoming any single one of them could prove exceptionally useful.

Once Allies are in play, if you’re not careful sometimes bad things can happen to them.  For this reason, if the Ally sports a valuable Keyword that ties into your Saga (more on Sagas in the future) you might actually find you want to hold the card back safely in your hand, where it has less chance – but not no chance – of being affected by events happening in the world.  This way you get to save it for a rainy day, or indeed the day that you storm the world with your incredible Saga and win the game!

Finally, if all else fails, you may just decide that the Corsair simply doesn’t fit in with your company.  Maybe your hero is a hoity-toity type and doesn’t like the cut of his jib?  Perhaps you don’t have the Influence to be able to take on any more Allies at this time?  Whatever the reason might be that you decide not to take the Ally onwards with you on your epic Saga, when you play their card as a Reward at their Home you may instead choose to discard the Ally card and immediately cash it in for its Gold value instead.  A very mercenary practice yes, but one that might just save your bacon, or net you that next precious Skill upgrade.

Design Note: originally I had planned for each encounter deck to have its own thematic reward (by all accounts much like the design of Word of Warcraft: The Adventure Game, which I haven’t yet played), so for instance if you overcame the Cave you would receive the Dragon who lived there as your Ally.  This would drastically cut down on the number of cards required for Fantasy Quest, which would be a bonus.  But I eventually decided that it was too limiting in terms of the stories that could develop, and would also make the game far more predictable and staid.  So now when you beat a challenge you will have an idea of what reward ‘type’ it will present to you (further narrowed down by the number of cards already played or in play), but that actual reward will still remain a mystery.  Coupled with the various options for claiming the reward I believe this delivers a much more interesting, varied and dynamic game experience.

Join us next week for a look at some of the Titles you might gain for exploring the many hazardous and exciting Places in the world of Fantasy Quest...

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Coming Soon - A Brief Word On Allies, for Fantasy Quest

Who's this guy?  What do those symbols mean?  Where did he get that hat?  Why should I care?

Well, you're not going to survive for long in Fantasy Quest by yourself, you're going to need some allies to help you along the way.  And for reasons that will become apparent, this guy could very well save your life.  Look out for the next 'Brief Word' on Fantasy Quest on Friday...  ;)

Monday, June 13, 2011

Lord of the Rings: NinjaDorg's Scenario print versions + prologues/epilogues

These have been requested a few times now so here they are in print format, 8 cards to a page:






Saturday, June 11, 2011

Elder Sign - Fantasy Flight Games [News]

Arkham Horror with just cards, playable in 1-2 hours and designed by Richard Launius and Kevin Wilson. Could be interesting. But then what would I do with my cupboard full of Arkham?? More here...

Fantasy Flight Games [News] - The Time Has Come to Seal the Portals, Quickly!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Fantasy Quest on BoardGameGeek

Fantasy Quest entry on BoardGameGeek:


Cross posting design articles there too, but most of the content will be posted on my blog.  Like this sneak peak of a Stranger:

Fantasy Quest - A Brief Word on Enemies

A Brief Word on Enemies

No fantasy game would be complete without a menagerie of baddies that threaten the heroes’ every waking moment.  Fantasy Quest is no exception.  There are a number of ways to tackle the enemies in this world, sometimes you’ll be using Skills to dispatch them, maybe Items or Allies will help you overcome them.  But there are two main ways of overcoming the threat of an adversary that’s just turned up to ruin your day.

The following example is a classic Zombie that will have a good time munching on your ignorant bones if you let it.  Since it’s ostensibly a shuffling sack of undead sinew you might have an easier time Sneaking away from a Zombie, hence it’s low Sneak rating of one.  Professional thieves and rogues will have no trouble testing their Sneak and nipping away before it can get the jump on them.  Usually, for a Sneak check you will simply roll a number of six sided dice equal to your Sneak character’s Sneak rating.  Each 5 or 6 denotes a success or ‘hit’.  With a Sneak rating of one you will only need to roll one success to Sneak past a Zombie.  If you’re successful, the Zombie stays put and you can carry on about your business.  But you’ll have to leave your current location this turn or face having to Sneak past or Fight the Zombie again on your next turn.

Sneaking past an enemy will often be crucial to your success, but sometimes that enemy might be blocking your approach to a pertinent Place or Stranger that will help you complete your Saga (more on Sagas soon).  On these occasions you will have to Fight the beastie in question, or use a Skill, Spell, Item, etc. to dispatch your foe.

The Zombie has a fairly meagre Fight rating of one.  Which means every Fight round it will roll only one six sided die against you, trying to roll a 5 or 6 to Hit you and inflict one Wound on your hero.  At the same time you will be rolling your own Fight dice check (with dice equal tor your Fight score) to try and inflict enough Hits on the Zombie to kill it.  With 4 Wounds the Zombie is a slow but tough customer.  You may have hacked off its arms and legs but that snapping mouth is still coming after you!  You may Fight for as many rounds as you like until you either kill your Enemy or you choose to Escape (by making a Sneak check), or until the Enemy kills you – and let’s hope it’s not the latter.

You may also notice from its text that the Zombie may be automatically be defeated by the keyword 'HOLY'.  So if you happen to have a Priest or a Holy item along with you you might just be in luck...

Once you’ve defeated an Enemy you can claim its Reward.  You may either cash it in immediately for its Gold value as shown on the card (here the Zombie is worth a modest 1 Gold), or you may discard the Zombie and draw a Reward card from the Reward deck, or you may take the card into your hand or ‘Pack’ and save it for later to use one of its Keywords “Zombie, Undead, Badlands” to aid you in defeating another challenge, e.g. your Saga.

Here’s a Sneaky peak at the nasty bugger:

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Fantasy Flight Games [News] - Thinking on Your Feet

Gears of War

Never really got into the X-box games but this looks kinda cool. Coop too...

Fantasy Flight Games [News] - Thinking on Your Feet

Fantasy Flight Games [News] - The Massing at Osgiliath

Resident Evil OUTBREAK - more details from Bandai

The RESIDENT EVIL DBG brings the story to life in a game of strategy where players 
construct their cards decks while they play. Choose to play as one of your favorite characters from RESIDENT EVIL and start with only the most basic of items and weapons. As the game progresses, players build their arsenal with additional Weapons, Ammunition, Action or Item cards to customize their deck and improve their ability in defeating “the Infected”! Your deck will be your lifeline to survival. How will you survive the zombie outbreak?

Still not released Alliance in the UK, but I can't resist the theme of these games...

Monday, June 06, 2011

Lord of the Rings: The Card Game Scenario 5 - Ungoliant's Lair

Courtesy of BGG user GeckoTH all of my scenarios are now available in hi res format and ready for download here:

Lord of the Rings: The Card Game Scenario 5 - Ungoliant's Lair

Links to my other scenarios:

Lord of the Rings: The Card Game Scenario 1 - The Old Forest

Lord of the Rings: The Card Game Scenario 2 - The Lost Road

Lord of the Rings: The Card Game Scenario 3 - Forgotten Ruins

Lord of the Rings: The Card Game Scenario 4 - The Elven Assembly:

Okay, I just couldn't resist designing another scenario.  And hopefully it's a lot harder than my previous efforts, which have occasionally been criticised as too easy...

Difficulty level = 6?
The orcs and spiders of Mirkwood have joined together, but for what nefarious purpose?  The Elven King has sent you to find out...

Friday, June 03, 2011

Fantasy Quest - A Brief Word on Actions

A Brief Word on Actions

I think Magic Realm was the first game to come up with the idea of Actions equalling the number of wounds your hero had remaining.  Thus, with an ingeniously simple mechanic, an injured hero is able to perform far less capably than an able-bodied hero.  This design element has been repeated in a number of different games, and I make no qualms about employing the same idea in Fantasy Quest.  Magic Realm is far more epic scale and, as anyone who has tried to tackle the rulebook will be acutely aware, very complex for what it is.  The narrative of a game can be easily lost if you’re busy consulting charts and looking up rules half the time, so I’m constantly trying to strip back the FQ (say it quick!) rules but maintain the cooler elements of the choices and thematic effects that semi-complex rulesets can provide.

To that end, there are currently 13 actions a Hero can choose from to perform in a turn, and he can perform as many actions as he has hit points remaining.  All the heroes in FQ begin with 4 Hit Points, so they begin their quest on even footing - although that number can change during the game through various effects.

The following is a brief breakdown of the kind of the activities that your hero can get up to in the world of Fantasy Quest...

1.     BUY/SELL 1 Item

Usually you can only do this in Sprawl City, although certain people and creatures you meet or Places you might visit will occasionally offer to trade with you too.  You can also sell an Item for half price (rounded down) if you find yourself overloaded with loot!

2.     CAST a Spell (requires STUDY check)

Although all heroes have the potential to accumulate Spells, some are far more suited to casting them than others.  A successful spell check will allow you to caste a spell from one of the four main groups of spells: Action, Aid, Combat and Healing.

3.     EXPLORE 1 Place (requires SNEAK check)

This is a dangerous world, and most Places you visit will require you to explore them thoroughly before being able to take advantage of what they have to offer.  Often you will need to perform a Sneak check to successfully scout a location, and failure may result in dangerous events, such as an ambush or trap.

4.     Fight 1 Enemy (requires FIGHT check)

When all else fails, you may find yourself backed into a corner and unable to escape, or perhaps you need to conquer an enemy to complete a Quest, or you may just be a bully, throwing your weight around on a band of hapless Goblins.  In any of these situations you’ll be using your Fight stat to get yourself through it unscathed.  Or scathed.

5.     HIDE – enables Surprise Attacks (requires SNEAK check)

Hiding will be an integral part of your adventure, and something that no hero should be afraid of!  Not only will it allow you to get the edge on any enemies you might be facing by prepping a Surprise Attack, it may save your life when said enemy proves to be powerful for you to take on.  Yet...

6.     INFLUENCE 1 Stranger (requires INFLUENCE check)

As your character grows in influence people across the land will become more and more inclined to come round to your way of thinking.  Although, the path you choose and the choices you make may mean that certain characters will not only be unwilling to talk to you, they may just attack you on sight!

7.     Move to 1 adjacent tile (not diagonally)

This is simply how you move around the map.  Obviously the more you Move, the less other interactive actions you’ll be able to perform.

8.     Quest (requires STUDY check)

Often you will be tasked with a Quest to perform to aid you in your journey.  Usually this will require intelligence and therefore careful ‘Study’ of the best method by which you can overcome the given Quest.  Although, sometimes you will just need to beat something or someone up!

9.     Rest in a SAFE tile (recover 1 Hit Point)

Initially, only Sprawl City will be a Safe place for your hero to recover from their wounds, but skills and other abilities may allow you to recuperate in other locations that may otherwise be considered dangerous.

10.  REWARD – play a card from your Pack/Hand that matches your current tile’s terrain

When you best an Enemy and take its loot, or plunder a Location, or even enlist the services of an Ally, you will usually have to travel to a different location to source the benefit of your new treasure.  The ally may offer to come with you, for example, but only if he can go home to say farewell to his family first.  Or the map you’ve found may chart the position of the powerful Gilded Sword, so now you have to go and collect it.  In game terms, this usually means that you take the reward card from your encounter into your hand.  Then, once you’re in the required location, you may spend an Action to play the Ally or Item or Spell card from your hand and put it into play.

11.  SHELTER – move Indoors by flipping your Outside token to the Indoors side

Shelter sometimes allows you to Hide from your enemies, but most often you will seek Shelter to avoid the adverse effects of events that occur within the kingdom.  These may range from terrible storms to searching winged demons.

12.  TRADE Items/Gold with another hero in your location

In the multiplayer game, whether playing cooperatively or competitively, you will be able to Trade with other players in your location by spending an Action on your turn, or you may be the recipient of a Trade Action if they spend an Action on their turn.

13.  TRAIN up a new SKILL (spend GOLD)

Training is how you will develop your character from humble adventurer to renowned Hero.  There are forty skills available to choose from, ten for each character Class.  But more on that another time...

DOTR - One Paladin (and all of his Companions) Against The World

I’d been told that a solo hero could not Defend the Realm, so I set out to prove this to be true.  One slightly cowardly Paladin set out on a one way mission into war and hell.  The following is from another play-test of the forthcoming Companions & Catacombs expansion using a single hero:

The sunlight glistened on the spears, polearms and helmets of the orc battalion as they scoured the forest for their elusive quarry.  The weight of their numbers was terrifying - the earth seemed to shake as they stormed about, grunting and barking at each other.  Amongst their number the gigantic, looming form of their feared General towered over them, pushing them about and urging them to hurry.  “He must be found”, Gorgutt snarled.  Redoubling their efforts in silence the green skinned beasts continued poking their weapons into the thickets of bushes which covered the area.

In the shadows of a nearby cluster of bushes the Paladin’s heartbeat quickened and he held his breath as the monsters approached his hiding place.  An orc sergeant spotted movement in the bush and grunted an order to his men.  They turned as one to regard the now obvious hiding spot.  From the depths of the bushes there came a long, loud fart of fear.

“Oh, screw it,” the Paladin murmured.  He leapt from the darkness, eyes closed and wildly swung his sword about him screaming, “Go away, leave me alone!”

Several minutes later, he reopened his eyes and glanced about at the carnage.  Here an orc’s head was hanging from a branch, there a pair of orc legs stood up still, blood pumping from the waist where a torso should have been.  Shaking, the Paladin lowered his weapon and breathed a curse of disbelief.  Thudding footsteps approached from behind him.

Turning on his heel the Paladin was suddenly faced with the heart-stopping vision of the giant Gorgutt charging towards him.  “You killed all my men!” Gorgutt roared in rage.

“I didn’t mean it!” the Paladin shouted back, raising his sword in front of him and bracing for impact.  Gorgutt tripped on a loose rock and tumbled into the pointed end of the raised sword, face-first.

The first ten cards I’d drawn were green – so clearly I had no choice but to go after Gorgutt.  This being the worst case of shuffling in my whole gaming life I quickly reshuffled the Hero Deck again for about five solid minutes and then carried on.

“A hero to save us at last!” the cries of the villagers seemed to come from everywhere.  Where had they been hiding?  Had they been watching all along?  The Paladin stepped back and withdrew his sword from Gorgutt’s eye and swallowed a mouthful of sick as orc brains slid in grisly lumps from the blade.  A mob of rapturous villagers piled towards him and swept him up onto their shoulders, cheering.  They carried him off to the nearest Inn and shared tales of his bravery with the local adventurers there, who eyed him dubiously.  A couple of brave souls even offered to join him.

“Well, to be honest I think my work here is done,” the Paladin started, “I was just looking to get a place in the country and settle-”

“But, Sir!” cried one of the more vociferous locals, to whom the Paladin had already taken a manifest disliking, “The Black Knight plots against us from his dungeons this very hour.  His revenge for the death of Gorgutt will be terrible and swift – you must stop him!”

“Yes, t’is said he possesses the Harp of the Gods,” blurted another do-gooder, “It must be found or he will rule the Realm!”

“Then together we shall find it!” declared one of the beleaguered Paladin’s newfound friends – Jack or something – with a heroic flourish of his blade.  Before he could even finish his mead the unfortunate Paladin was paraded all the way to the dungeon entrance by the enthusiastic peasants, and thrust into the darkness below, shouts of encouragement and praise echoing from behind him.

As he sauntered into the dungeon with his new Companions, the Corridors seemed Endless, but every time he stopped for a rest his companions dragged him ever onwards.  “What are your names anyway?” he sighed with resignation.

“My name is Balikk.  I’m a friend of the Duke, who was most impressed with your petition for his help.  Some say that the time you spent gathering signatures could have been better spent fighting the Dark Lord’s minions, but we like to do things by the book where I’m from, so your work was greatly appreciated.  And your penmanship is excellent.”

“And what can you do, Balikk?”

“I can create magical fire.”


“Alright, no need to shout...”

“SHOW ME!!!” cried the Paladin pointing at the Trolls charging down the corridor at them.

Balikk panicked and yelled an incantation.  In an instant the caves were awash with magical fire, leaping from Balikk’s outstretched hands.  “I can’t make it stop!” he yelled above the raging inferno.  The Paladin stood behind Balikk and manoeuvred him along the corridor and into the next room as the arcane flames continued firing out of the bemused wizard’s hands.  A coterie of demons crawled out of the shadows at the intrusion but they were obliterated instantaneously.

The fire from the Wayward Wizard’s hands sputtered and went out, just as the heroes staggered through a doorway onto a crumbling stone bridge.

“I bet this old thing falls to pieces if we try to cross it,” the Paladin mumbled.

It did.

Their feet beat the stone as they raced to the other side and stumbled to the floor, panting and heaving.  Whilst recovering their breath the Paladin looked around at his motley crew.  “Okay, so what do you guys do then?”

“My name’s Drake.  Jake Drake.”

“Cruel parents?”


“Where you from?”

“The amazons sent me after you envoyed them.  To make sure you don’t go back.”

“That’s one crazy land, that amazon place.  Chainmail must be very scarce around there,” the Paladin smiled wistfully.  Jake coughed and shook him from his reverie.  “Sorry, yes, what do you do, Jake Drake?”

“Things that you thought happened I can make not happen and then happen again in a different – or perhaps the same – way.  I call it, the Power of Rerolling.”

“Useful.  And how about you, lad?”

“I’m Ian Hawk and I brought my donkey.”

“I see.  And where is this donkey?”

“Um.  It’s outside.”

“You know that I have a trained war stallion outside, right?”

“Well, my donkey knows hidden paths through the mountains.”

“My stallion was trained by the mountainfolk to fight at their very peaks, and track foes through the great passes and ridges for days at a time.”

“My donkey’s called Herbert.”

“I’m just not seeing what exactly you’re bringing to the table here, Ian.”

“Hey, look – a magic pool, let’s go for a swim,” Ian enthused suddenly.

“Wait – listen,” hushed Balikk.

They could hear the sound of a strumming harp coming closer and someone chanting under their breath, “Dah, Dah, Dah, Der, da-DAH, Der, da-DAH!”

“What’s that?” whimpered Ian.

“T’is I, the Black Knight!” the voice shouted.  From around the corner a figure clad in black armour emerged.  “I shall teach you a grave lesson for trespassing in my domain.  Just let me put this harp down over here...”

The heroes watched as the Black Knight clumsily unswung his harp and, cursing, dropped it to the floor.  Recovering his composure he raised his sword and set his evil gaze on the Paladin, “Prepare to die, fool!”  He started at a canter towards the Paladin, who looked around for an exit.

“Hahaha, you’re going to die,” roared the Black Knight, increasing his pace.

The Paladin glanced behind him at the broken Stone Bridge.

“Hehehe, I’m going to run you through,” the Black Knight chortled, charging maniacally.

The Paladin quickly stepped aside and watched the Black Knight careen past him and off the Stone Bridge into the gaping abyss below.

There was a bewildered pause.

“Right, pass me that bloody Harp,” sighed the Paladin, “let’s go kill some Generals.”

“And lo, didst thine brave Paladin taketh the Harp of ye Gods, and, twixt his hardy companions, didst his Holy Quest taketh him to yon edges of ye worlde, whereupon with vexation didst yon Dark Lord’s Generals inter themselves to the ground after visitation with our hero Paladin’s sword,” whispered the old farmer to the gathered crowd at Gryphon Inn.  He took another long slurp of his ale, then continued, “And, yay, was the land of old restoredeth to our noble king, all thanks to our Illustrious Commander, the Conqueror Paladin of the great domain of Monarch City.”

In the corner of the tavern Jake Drake and Ian Hawk shared a look whilst Balikk rolled his eyes...

Actually pulled off a solo hero win! 3 Companions, 2 quests, took the harp of the gods from the black knight in the catacombs. And I was just one taint away from doom, which was the very next Darkness Spreads card...