21 June 2011

Shocking Tales of Madness & Mayhem vol.2 review

This is the second expansion book for the Lovecraftian ruleset "Strange Aeons" by Uncle Mike's Worldwide. If you're not familiar with Strange Aeons there will be a link at the bottom of this review leading to my Strange Aeons review.

The core rules and the first expansion book gave us scenarios and characters based upon classis Lovecraft archetypes, agents fighting freaks and monster in backwater towns where time stood still. The expansion still includes new agents, weapons and Lurkers as the "baddies" are called give us another meaning of "time stood still" with a completely crazy - but it takes a step away from Lovecraftian horror and one step closer to pure pulp adventure territory with the campaign revolving around a lost world - with dinosaurs!

As I had no idea of exactly what the book would include, it had hinted on some "lost world"/adventure setting. I did not however expect a Jurassic Park spin on the campaign. When the initial surprise had settled I started reading the rules and stuff related to this campaign. And it is a pretty damn good one. The story is one famous explorer gone missing, Threshold Agents are sent to retrieve him from the last known location he said he would be going to. So a search amidst the Brazilian rainforest begins. This campaign completely isolates the agents, you are allowed special conditions before entering the campaign. You may resupply before going into the campaign, meaning you will go in fully loaded on all kinds of weapons and agents. There is no limit to the BP here.

Once in the campaign however you are cut off from the world and won't be able to recruit replacements for killed agents, nor get any more modern weapons. The only way to get replacements is to find people from the missing expedition and resort to using primitive weapons. You will also be allowed to, once you've killed the appropriate beast, equip your agents with protective clothing made out of pelts and skins.

The people from the expedition, once found, will roll on a special table to see what skills (if any) they have. There are also special skills specific for this campaign such as "man tracker".
Lurkers are limited to 14 different units - of such type you would expect to find in the wild. For instance you won't have cultists and mummies but there are serpentmen, tcho-tcho, dinosaurs and primitive humanoids to select from.

The campaign includes 5 completely new scenarios besides using "Fight" in the scenario table.Scenarios include such things as protecting your supplies from attacking lurkers, finding missing members of the expedition and raiding dinosaur nests.

Another thing has been added to make the campaign interesting - starvation. And instead of looking for map pieces you search either for missing members of the expedition or food. You also have a camp chef among the special agents that should be hired before setting of into high adventure of this campaign. As time goes by your food supply is slowly eaten away by the members of your search party. Once your food supply starts running low your members start to slowly starve - death is not instant but slow and will reduce important stats over a couple of games to weaken your Threshold agents first. Should you find food the penalties are removed.

The dinosaurs cover the famous types, Velociraptors, Triceratops, Pterodactyl and T-rex. Each dinosaur has its own special rules that make them unique from the other "Lurkers" seen so far, and as you would expect they are both scary and dangerous as hell.

The campaign ends once the missing leader of the expedition has been found. What I think is that if you don't like the idea of dinosaurs this campaign can easily be translated into some other setting like "At the Mountains of Madness" or something like that. The ideas for this campaign are great and I hope that we will see more such campaigns from Uncle Mike's in the future. Be it in a Lovecraftian or some other Pulp setting. Because the Strange Aeons rules are not specifically written for a Lovecraft/Horror game, the rules are pretty generic. It is the setting, models and adventures you chose to play that make the game specific.

What remains of book, that has not been mentioned yet, you'll get a couple of new agents and weapons related to the campaign. Beside that the new additions include 4 types of ghosts/spirits which are perfect for scenarios where you might want to have a haunted location. There are also a few other Lurkers, Ghoul King, Degenerate, Zombie Dog and Ancient Warrior to add to your Lurker arsenal. Though I like the ghost additions the most because they include completely new rules and abilities such as being bound to an item on the table or able to possess a friendly agent.

Last couple of things, the book also includes something called "Mob rules", this is a simple enough game mechanic to allow you to group Lurkers and Agents of the same type into groups of 5. These mobs will then act as one, attack values are increased and the mob becomes more dangerous than having these units on their own. There is an entire page of rules and perks for the mob to use. Perfect for scenarios taking place in locations such as Innsmouth.

Finally the book also includes a superb FAQ, which I think should cover most if not all questions that might pop up playing this game. Five pages explaining everything from how Armor works to how Alert is affected by "Ready" weapons and lots of examples of combat and nominations, magic and resupply.

The inside of the cover also hints on the work in progress of two new books. One being the "Kulten" rulebook which is aimed at a Cult vs Cult gameplay. If you've been around on the Lead Adventure Forum you might have seen game reports from the beta testing on this particular book. The other thing being hinted at is a pure scenario book for Strange Aeons.

Sadly there is some sort of strike in Canada at the moment preventing shipping of Strange Aeons products directly from Uncle Mikes. But if you have a local supplier you should check with them if they had ordered in some copies of this book. If you live in Sweden then Kulturkommissariatet.se has a couple of each book for Strange Aeons.

You could always send Uncle Mikes an email and check on the situation with the postal service.

Review of Strange Aeons and Shocking Tales vol 1 books

Review of Strange Aeons gameplay and rules


  1. Sounds fun and the Mob rule sounms like a great little mechanic.

  2. Great review, thanks! I'm a fan of SA, but now there's a dinosaur option? That's icing on the cake! I also saw they have a two expansion book deal on their site as well.


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