18 June 2013

Strange Aeons demo game AAR

Anders at our club asked me to demo the game since he was thinking about making a companion thing out of it for his Trail of Cthulhu RPG games - or something like that. So I dusted off some of my old demo game notes and profiles from a few years back at a convention here in Sweden.

It's a custom scenario with two objectives. The main objectives is for the Threshold agents to destroy a weird cult stirring up some problems in the outback. The secondary objective was for the character of professor Armitage to enter the nearby crypt and dungeon crawl through it to find the Necronomicon - a book that only he can recognize. It was played on the usual 2x3' area that is standard for Strange Aeons

The Threshold team was made up of:

Hunter Wylie (Command, Animal Handler, Inspire)
.45 handgun with hollow point bullets, bowie knife.

Professor Henry Armitage (Speak languages)
.22 handgun, bowie knife, tight boots

Ike Madison
Bowie knife,  Hunting rifle, Lucky hat

Rufus (Attack dog)

Lurkers were made up of:

Cultist leader (Improved command)
Sacrificial blade

3x Cultists (2 with Axes, 1 with Crossbow)

1x Fishman

Additional lurkers ( 1D6 of zombies populated the crypt, and 1 random monster was guarding the final room with the Necronomicon). These would be spawned only if the Threshold team entered the crypt.
....

With only one single cultist armed with a ranged weapon it looked hard on the outset, but it didn't take long for both sides to clash in close combat. Only a couple of shots were fire before the Lurkers began charging the Threshold agents.

The first charge made by the Fishman failed to kill or scare agent Ike Madison, but unfortunately for the Threshold team Professor Henry Armitage was injured and removed from the game almost immediately due to a lunatic cultist leaping at him with an axe. With Armitage out of the game there was no reason for the heroes to even consider going down the crypt and risk their necks, so they focused on their main objective - killing the cultist leader.

This proved to be easier said than done, Ike Madison was fighting off both a Fishman and a cultist at the same time. Finally the cultist perished from a mortal blow, at the same time Hunter Wylie was fighting the assailant who had injured Armitage - that cultist too was defeated. Things then became more difficult fighting the Fishman.

Wylie was trashed badly and ended up face up on the ground, the Cultist Leader now charged to help out the Fishman in the fight against the heroes just as Rufus the attack dog made a charge of his own to protect his master from the Fishman. Through sheer ferocity the little dog managed to bite the Fishman to death by first knocking him face down and then finishing him off! Sadly for Rufus his master was removed as a casualty thanks to the Cultist leader, who proceeded to defeat Ike Madison and then in a final fight the attack dog which was the last remaining member of the Threshold team.

The cult had prevailed and the Threshold team had failed both their objectives.

...

I talked at great length with Anders prior to and after the game about what I thought were the strong and weak points of Strange Aeons and threw around some ideas for how you could perhaps add "Sanity" to the profile of characters to make it similar to the Arkham Horror themed boardgames. Anders who is going to play this game with people who doesn't normally play miniature wargames appreciated the relative simplicity of the combat, and I did point out that the strongest aspect of the game are the profiles for agents and monsters as well as the scenarios which are great.

I did however say that my main gripe with the game nowadays after having played it a lot earlier, is mainly the points cost of things that I find causes a difficult balance situation. Even though the game perhaps should be tilted in the favor of the heroes to progress the campaign and so on I still find it that many specialized characters such as Lurker wizards, cult leaders etc aren't worth the points since they are too fragile and limited in use. Spells being "one use/attempt to use" only  and the way the "command" can be very powerful for the agents can and do imo cause some friction. Some games can also be over within minutes due to really good/bad die rolls.

I could not come up with any quick or easy "fix" to reshape some parts of the rules, but I would probably start with the points cost. The second thing I would rework is most likely unit activation, to make it a bit more equal and to give large mobs without command a fighting chance. At the moment the Lurker player has to upgrade his units to a "mob" for additional points in order to move larger amount of figures during a single activation, I have found this to make Lurker lists that aren't very strong to begin with - to lose points and become weaker.

There is a lot of good stuff in Strange Aeons and it can be played straight "out of the box" as it is, but after having played it for a long time I wanted something a bit more advanced in terms of rule mechanics.

7 comments:

  1. I like the use of the dungeon crawl style templates for the bits in the crypt. Is that something you added or a normal game component?

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    1. That is my own idea, use the templates from D&D:Wrath of Ashardalon to create underground/indoor locations "on the side" so to speak.

      So on the regular board, if you would have entered the small stone building and passed a search test the hidden door down to the catacombs would have appeared and investigators would be able to move between the gaming table and the underground space freely using a single action to climb the staris between the areas.

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  2. Nice layout and game it seems!

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  3. Thanks for the walk through the action. And I'm especially pleased to see the dog back in the thick-of-things! Well done, Sir.

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  4. I've always liked your Strange Aeons battle reports. I think I'll have to try this game out.

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  5. Very cool battle report. Gives a good insight into the game. I'm looking forward your possible changes towards making the game more detailed :)

    Thibo

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  6. Great AAR and a beautiful looking game - well done. I too find the point values too loose and sometimes plainly unbalanced. Now we almost always play scenario-driven games instead of matches purely based on matching point totals. I find we have better games when using the points values only as a loose guide to create a narrative (and we typically stack the odds against the Heroes). Ignoring the necessity of having 'sides' that are 'equal' really liberates the whole process - and really, when you think on it, the whole concept of fairness seems oddly out of place in a doom-filled Lovecraftian world!

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