Northern Crown: Stronghold of the Stag Lord

This past week in Northern Crown, the Sophian colonial militia — aka the heroes, plus some interlopers to the nascent colony that no one important[1] would mind losing to the crossfire, like Ethan Allen — decided it was time to cement their claim to the territory of Vermont by removing the other apparent power: the Stag Lord, in his own home, no less.

Foxglove led Ethan and the other expendables on a frontal approach, while the remainder of the group, including our pudwudgie ally, scaled the rear of the stockade.

We all knew there was a good reason the rear approach looked so unguarded. Turns out it was a burial ground teeming with restless dead.


[1] Families and loved ones excluded.

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Northern Crown: Defending the Trading Post

One of my bucket list role-playing games has been Northern Crown ever since the setting was first published in the mid-aughts. In a fantasy-infused version of North American in 1650, the Republic of Sophia has sent an expedition in support of a lonely trading post on the western shore of a long lake named after the French explorer de Champlain, charged with exploring and claiming the lands there for the republic.[1] And so the heroes arrived at Ira and Jerusha Allen’s trading post, just in time to fend off marauding bandits who have come to raid the storehouse.

The layout that our GM, Tom, came up with to represent the trading post was pretty damn impressive — especially because he had it hidden under the surface of his game table. We started thinking we were just going to be using a Lego canal ship, then Tom broke out the Heroscape terrain for the interlude where we freed the sasquatch from cruel portagers, and then he said, “We need to move all this,” and started pulling up the table surface to reveal the diorama pictured above.


[1] I’m told it’s loosely the plot of Pathfinder‘s Kingmaker adventure path, reconfigured for the lands and peoples of Northern Crown, using a loose renditiong of Pathfinder rules, with elements from Dungeon Crawl Classics and FATE.

Arkham Horror LCG: The Gathering

Wendy and Roland's marker cards cluster around the Attic location, teeming with clue tokens.

Wendy and her friend Roland explore the attic of the nightmarish Escher monstrosity her home has become.

At the risk of excess melodrama, the Arkham Horror card game has been a bit of a light at the end of the tunnel for me. Fall’s traditionally a busy time of year for me, with both Carnage in the offing and my professional commitments. Once it was pretty clear that the game would be available November 10th, I wanted to make a point to get the first game in as soon as possible. Usually, I get a game and it takes two or more months to get some people together to play it, especially in November as we’re all wiped from Carnage and the holidays are ramping up. So I was pretty happy that my friend Tom was free last night and interested enough to give the game a try. Three and a half hours from purchase to play is probably a new record for me.

The first session is always a learning experience. Fantasy Flight’s new model of a short rulebook and a longer, encyclopedia-style volume of rules concepts worked pretty well. The short Learn to Play rulebook basically walks you through setting up and playing the introductory scenario. I noticed what seemed to be some discrepancies in card names and numbers when assembling the encounter deck, so I think that may have affected this particular session, since not every ghoul made it into the encounter deck.

Like Netrunner, Arkham has an action economy. Each investigator can do three things on their turn, selected from a list of choices, including things like draw a card, gain a resource, investigate a location and so on. Figuring out the efficiencies of the game — when and how is it best to gain resources, for instance — is going to be one of the first steps to being a better player.

In this first session, Tom and I took the approach of pushing through the investigators’ act cards as quickly as we could, reasoning that the advancement of the agenda would only make ours lives more difficult. In retrospect and without divulging spoilers, that may not have been the best choice, as it meant we didn’t spend time exploring every location or drawing useful cards from our decks.

On first blush, I like the way the game plays. It has an elegance that comes from how both Netrunner and Eldritch Horror mapped mechanics to their respective themes. It’s very role-playing game-like, with unexpected developments built into a scenario and not necessarily loss conditions, but “worst result” situations.

I’m a little concerned that there’s not a lot of meaningful replay value in an individual scenario, unless one enjoys taking every possible character configuration — now Wendy armed for combat, and then Roland as a hyper-investigator, and how about Daisy with guns! — through the story line, which reminds me an awful lot of grinding characters through certain entries in the Final Fantasy console franchise, or playing against progressively higher difficulty settings. The flip side of that is Fantasy Flight has a steady stream of expansion products planned that I may never have time or inclination to go back to the core box scenarios, unless I’m teaching the game to newcomers.

Netrunner certainly taught me that one new product every month will challenge my ability to squeeze in both modifying decks to take advantage of new investigator cards and carving out times with friends to play through the new scenarios. Deckbuilding in Arkham is less onerous than Netrunner, happily, as it’s a single 30 card deck and players don’t develop a new list for league night every week.

And I’m curious to see how deckbuilding works out over the course of a campaign. If people play the scenarios as they’re released, rather than waiting until the full cycle’s worth of cards are available, how many of them are going to utilize the rules for paying to swap cards in and out?

Paying the Price of Freedom

A screencap showing the pop-up notification for unlocking the Wraith: Price of Freedom. The Wraith, a female superhero dressed in black, takes a defensive stance, holding a knife and club in her hands.

Price of Freedom Wraith was the last of the Freedom Six variants I had to unlock in Sentinels of the Multiverse: The Video Game. I left her until the end because frankly, playing against the Chairman is a pain even when you’re not playing to a particular win condition. So on this occasion, Ray and I played together over Steam

It took two games to make the unlock happen. The first crashed and burned because Prison Break unleashed a torrent of underbosses and thugs. By the time they were done, the Fence had restored Chairman and Operative both to their starting HP, thanks to all the constructs getting wiped out.

The second game, we subbed the Visionary is for the Scholar, in order to get some more control over the Chairman’s deck and trash. The final line-up was Wraith, Tachyon, Haka, Captain Cosmic and the Visionary. Playing Brain Burn on the first turn removed a lot of the Chairman’s bite, as suddenly there were no thugs to pull from the trash and we could focus on underbosses. Savage Mana appeared almost immediately, and we stashed all the underbosses underneath it until we got the Operative out of the way. And Captain Cosmic granting out of turn power uses is always helpful. In fact, Wraith dealt the final blow to the Chairman on the Visionary’s turn, after she dinged a Dynamic Siphon with a Mind Spike.

At this point, it won’t surprise anyone that I took the opportunity to experiment more with OBS. This time was more a stress test, seeing how well it could record the gameplay and stream to YouTube at the same time. While it worked pretty well — OBS’ CPU usage hovered around 15% and the bandwidth stayed on target — there was one major hiccup: there was a network traffic issue that caused YouTube to report it wasn’t getting any data at all for a couple minutes. I wasn’t able to monitor what that would look like to live viewers, but apparently the data kept flowing, as YouTube’s recording plays back without interruption, after it had some time to process. I would like to see what that kind of interruption looks like to viewers. Does the player pick the stream back up as soon as it can, or do they need to press play again?

The local recording looks good throughout, though, so that’s a plus. The one thing to keep in mind is that when OBS is set to use the stream encoder settings for a recording, that also means video resolution, which is scaled from 1920×1080 to 1280×720 for YouTube. D’oh.

I also want to tinker with the audio settings. There are instances of peaking and crackling in the recording. I’m curious whether that’s to do with levels — which never hit the red in OBS, from what I saw[1] — or sampling, because OBS defaults to sampling everything at 44.1 kHz.


[1]Harkening back to

Boarding Man’s Promise

 Skull & Shackles convened this week for what turned out to be the taking of Man’s Promise. We did a bang-up job of securing the sterncastle, as well as repelling a band of grindylows. Dealing with the goons Plugg sent down into the bilges proved more troublesome, but ultimately soluble.

Our GM Mike did a bang-up job with the miniatures, right? He built both the Wormwood and Man’s Promise and painted most of the figures you see — excepting Usidore the Blue, of course.

Decked!: Servants of the Black Goat vs. The Diva and Her Boys

The dark mistress of the wood’s fecund legions tangle with the entranced lunatics of the King in Yellow in this Call of Cthulhu match. Servants of the Black Goat is a deck I built that started out as “feed 0-cost Miskatonic weenies to the Three Bells,” but over rounds of testing — we have enough local players to make non-tournament get-togethers way more feasible! — it transformed into a strictly Shub-Niggurath deck, using Negotium Perambulans in Tenebris to slow down rush characters and enable Savio Corvi’s general awesomeness. The heavy Dark Young contingent was chosen mainly as the subtype to resurrect with Dark Rebirth, rather than their abilities which really didn’t come into play. Additional candidates for Dark Rebirth in this deck included Servitor and Cultist.

This is the first in a series of games recorded at a Cthulhu LCG tournament hosted by Brap’s Magic in Burlington, Vermont. In the coming weeks, we’ll have two more tourney match-ups, and a casual game played between rounds.

Visit Decked! on YouTube, and hit the subscribe button to keep up to date with the latest videos.

Decked!: The Professor vs. Tennin Institute

That digital pack rat of a hacker, the Professor (Alex) brings to bear almost every program and piece of crufty old hardware he can against Director Roy’s Tennin Institute as it furtively advances agendas, assets, ICE and anything else on the board.

Fast forward icon made by Daniel Bruce from www.flaticon.com, and is licensed under CC BY 3.0.

Decked!: Custom Biotics vs. Nasir Meidan

Decked! returns with a Netrunner match-up between the cyber explorer Nasir Meidan, with Roy scrounging credits from thin air to pay for his probes into the developing agendas of Haas Bioroid’s Custom Biotics, headed up by Alex, eager to prove not only his division’s ability to produce marketable products, but also their offensive defensive techniques against virtual intruders.

Click through the video to visit the official Decked! YouTube channel, where you can subscribe to get updates as new episodes post, and browse the archives as they grow. Decked! is produced with facilities provided by Vermont Community Access Media in Burlington, Vermont. You can also watch it on VCAM 15, or on VCAM’s web player.

In this episode, and the one to come, I made a back-up recording of the overhead angle of the table. This way, in post-production, I could either cover up switching mistakes I made during the recording, and skip over the longer pauses in play.

Decked!: Tennin Institute vs. Ken “Express” Tenma

Decked! returns with the follow-up Netrunner match between Roy and Alex. This time, the tables have flipped as Alex’s runner, Ken “Express” Tenma, takes on the Tennin Institute, headed up by Roy.

Click through the video to visit the official Decked! YouTube channel, where you can subscribe to get updates as new episodes post, and browse the archives as they grow. Decked! is produced with facilities provided by Vermont Community Access Media in Burlington, Vermont. You can also watch it on VCAM 15, or on VCAM’s web player.

Decked!: Whizzard vs. Jinteki

We’re kicking off something new today. Embedded above is the first episode of Decked!, a web series of people playing board games, in homage to shows like Magic Matchups, Team Covenant‘s living card game coverage and Tabletop. We kick off with a round of Android: Netrunner, in which my friends Alex and Roy pit the relentless trashing might of the anarch Whizzard against the Jinteki corporation’s layers of traps and misdirection.

Click through the video to visit the official Decked! YouTube channel, where you can subscribe to get updates as new episodes post, and browse the archives as they grow.  Decked! is produced with facilities provided by Vermont Community Access Media in Burlington, Vermont. You can also watch it on VCAM 15, or on VCAM’s web player.