04 November 2010

First look at Strange Aeons

If you have followed this blog or any of my other project threads scattered around the internet you may know my Lovecraftian project "Journey into Madness". It started out as a urge to create a smallscale skirmish game where a little band of humans had to fight against eldritch horrors, inbred mutant villagers, monsters and trying to survive and keep their sanity. I've been painting models for that project for the past couple of months meanwhile gathering notes and ideas for a set of rules.

Then one day I run across a thread on the SteveDeanPainting forum by member EinarOlofson ( check it out because the painting is SUPERB  http://www.sdean-forum.co.uk/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=24560 ). And there I learned about the existence of a game called Strange Aeons.

Extremely excited both because something like this already existed, it looked pretty much like something I had in mind, and it would save me a lot of time and energy to write a set of rules by myself!

So I contacted "Uncle Mike's" and asked a couple of questions about the game ordered both the main rulebook and the first expansionbook. Mike over at Uncle Mikes was extremely generous enough to throw in a few sample miniatures as well.

I received the package yesterday, (in my childish excitement I cut my left thumb with my  model knife trying to open the padded envelope) and have studied the contents and read the rules. I also contacted "Uncle Mikes" again and asked for permission to take pictures of the rulebooks for a review since I find it that there is very little information on how the books look, and the quality of the material etc.

Strange Aeons - the main rulebook.
- Binding. I have actually never seen a rulebook bound in this particular way, the books I've had were either glued softback or bound hardback. This book however is bound like a pad with a thick plastic spiral holding it all together. It also features a transparent plastic page which protects the face cover of the book. This makes the book unique in that you are never afraid to "manhandle" it while flipping pages as the back won't break. And the pages will not fall apart, ever.

- Cover pages are hard cardboard.

- Content pages while the content pages are made out of a thick sort of paper, twice as thick as the paper of any of the rulebooks I currently have for other games. They feel very durable and the material will not tear be torn apart by accident. Even at the binding, you would have to pull with great force on purpose to tear out a page from this book.

- Print, full color, dominated by sepia tones and black and white artwork filling the pages. Each pages also has the background artwork of a wrinkled sheet of paper to make this look like an field investigators journal more than a normal book. The font and size of the text is also just right and never feels cluttered, or hard to read.

- Layout, having read the book twice I feel that it is written in a good order, the order of rules, characters, special tables etc all seem to be in the logical place. You have all the basic rules at the very beginning, very clearly written and easy to learn. After that it adds additional rules and advanced rules of play. The rules are followed by character profiles for both "Treshold Agents" and "Lurkers", followed by weapons, gear and spells

- Content. You get all the rules, quite a few good guys (11)/villain profiles(21) so there sure is a lot of variation within the core rules. All the gear, insanity and injury charts, special skills are all adding a LOT to this game. For instance the game is cleverly constructed so that you have to have a character with a certain skill to be able to translate scrolls, evil tomes etc that you find before you can decipher and use a Spell, in order to do that you need specific skills - or hire a character who knows these things from the start. I'll tell more about this in a proper review of the rules around this weekend.

The book also features scenarios that are always available (basic scenarios), scenarios that can be unlocked by items you find during your missions (Quest scenarios) and something I've never seen in any rulebook before - a small battle report  depicting how the game works and it goes through all the steps like movement, fighting in hand to hand, firing weapons , using special rles etc. So after reading that, you will pretty much exactly how to play this game. At the end of the book there are a couple of Log Sheet pages for the Treshold Agents and the Lurkers which can/probably should be photocopied to make it easier for the players to keep track of their gear, skills and characters in a long term campaign which this game is clearly meant for. We also have a quick reference sheet containing weapons, injuries and insanity on one single page so you won't have to flip through the rulebook to find them all.

The product breathes quality, care and professionalism. It is only 80 pages long, but at the same time – the way the rules are written there is no real need to make the book thicker. Pieces of the various stories are stuck in between rules, each unit has a quote or segment taken from a Lovecraft novel or horror story to give the player an idea of what it is and build atmosphere around it all.











Shocking Tales of Madness and Mayhem “Issue 1”

This is the first expansion book for the Strange Aeons rules, and by the name of it and from hints at the very end I think this is the first out of a line of books that might be released to bring more content into the Strange Aeons universe.

This is a much slimmer volume, it looks a little like a comic book in size and binding (stamped together). A stiff cardboard cover holds pages of the same thickness and quality as the main rulebook. It follows the color and art direction of the main rulebook and as you would expect it brings more rules, weapons, monsters and characters into the game.

I should be a bit more clear about the rules part, the basic mechanics of Strange Aeons remain untouched, there is no errata or FAQ inside this volume either which probably means that the main rules are not broken. The rules inside this volume are more like additions, extra skills, new gear/weapons and they come with explanatory notes and rules of their own. For instance there is a promotion system which allows a character to handle a guard dog or ride a horse, prototype weapons like a Heat Ray and other pulp weapons/gear. It also has a few more “Quest Scenarios”  11 new monsters/evil characters which will boost and enhance the “Lurker” player. The book also ends with a short story by Mike Atkinson, the guy who wrote the rules and runs “Uncle Mikes”. We also get a small teaser “Next Issue – Lost Worlds” which looks like emphasis has been put on exploration of distant places and whatever freak monsters may inhabit those locations.

This book is 32 pages long, it has good enough content to warrant a purchase, especially if you are ordering the main rulebook at the same time because there is a deal on Uncle Mikes website for a bundle containing both books as well as both books and a blister. I also got a sheet of markers printed on glossy thick paper with the Shocking Tales expansion. 

The dimensions of both books are 19x25cm /7.5"/10"


The miniatures
They are apparently cast in white resin, I was a bit surprised by this –don’t know if it is mentioned anywhere on the site. Thought they were metal, but it does not really matter. At least they won’t chip their paint if they fall over. The book says that you can use any miniatures you want for this game, so there is no fascist requirement of using original models. Most of the human models could probably be found in other places – I myself already had quite a collection which judging by the rules will work perfectly well. However some of the monsters in the rulebook might be hard or impossible to find anywhere else so it might be a good idea to get them from Uncle Mikes. I’ll have to come back to reviewing the models once I get some of them painted – but there are a few very cool miniatures in their range, like the Fishmen and the big flying chunk of meat monster, the sample miniatures I got included a "formless thing" which will be fun to paint in a grotesque way as well as the “Srawny one’s” – some sort of monster that can devour humans with one of the models having been sculpted in the act of swallowing a human body haha.

So that’s my first look at Strange Aeons, stay tuned for the review and rundown of the rules themselves as well as some painted Strange Aeons miniatures.



Additional information!
If you cannot wait for my review of the rules there is a PDF file for download containing some of the basic rules of play which you can try out.

Demo rules can be found here
http://www.strange-aeons.ca/doc/SA_Demopack.pdf

And make sure to check out "Uncle Mike's" if you found this article interesting and have been looking for a small scale skirmish game set in a Lovecraftian universe. If you have more questions about the products don't be afraid to drop them an email, they answer your questions quite fast - though have the time difference in mind as they are located in Canada.
http://unclemikesworldwide.com/shop/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=1&zenid=sria9k0oda14mc5l8ftjoli8d5

8 comments:

  1. I've been following your posts about the 'Journey into Madness', thinking to myself 'I wonder why he doesnt use the Strange Aeons rules' - it never occurred to me that you weren't aware of them :-)

    Next time I'll comment sooner. Good luck with it, and I'm looking forward to your review, as I have been comtemplating this ruleset for a while.

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  2. Haha yeah it was like fumbling in the dark and having someone switch on the light when I learned about Strange Aeons :D

    Feel free to comment on stuff anytime, I read and answer all comments :-)

    I was also made aware of the other new project through TMP but they also have a thread about this on the Lead Adventure Forum http://www.unclemikesworldwide.com/dev/Kulten_Beta.pdf

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  3. 'in my childish excitement I cut my left thumb with my model knife trying to open the padded envelope' - what an excuse for blood sacrifices :-)

    Thanks for the overview though.

    Andrew
    Main blog: www.blog.kings-sleep.me.uk

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi Anatoli,

    Be carefull!! The blood reveals the true nature of the book!!

    Very nice blog. I have read some post and you are making a great work. You can see some Scrawny Ones that I have painted in the Lead Aventures Forum: http://www.lead-adventure.de/index.php?topic=21744.0

    I enjoyed painting them. I hope you like them.

    Regards,

    Einar Olafson.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thanks guys.

    Haha, what I did was I tried to be gentle with the padded envelope so I held it between index finger and thumb and started sawing along one edge to open it - felt a sting and suddenly realized I had sliced into my thumb. Good thing I instantly stopped sawing - the cut was not that deep. Good thing it was my left thumb and not the right or else it would have been difficult to paint that day...

    Einar, those are some great looking Scrawny ones, have not decided how to paint mine yet. I might experiment and try to paint them like I painted my "Cthulhu high pries"/Reaper Bathalian miniature. Figure I'll try to enter the painting competition with that blister :-)

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  6. "Good thing it was my left thumb and not the right or else it would have been difficult to paint that day..."
    Haha, I did NOT see that setence ending that way...anyway thanks for a great review looking forward to giving it a go ASAP!

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  7. Good write up and sum pictures with very will painted miniatures to add flavour to it.

    ReplyDelete

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