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Friday, February 24, 2006

Fresh from my FLGS

So, inspired after my game Sunday last, I headed into town the other day to visit Static Games, my FLGS, with the thought that I might get myself a copy of Doom the Boardgame. In the end I was distracted by some other stuff, so my own copy of DtB will have to wait.

Forges of Nuln
I knew this was due out in February so had a notion that it might be in stock, although thoughts of Doom the Boardgame had pushed it from my mind. But the cry of "the new WFRP book is in" as I walked into Static soon reminded me of this latest book from Black Industries. Forges of Nuln is the third and concluding part of BI's 'Paths of the Damned' campaign. As regular readers will know I am currently GM'ing Ashes of Middenheim, the first part of this trilogy. As such I just had to get my hands on this volume: the more time I have to get it ready the better I figured.

I've only had time to skim the book so far so I can't comment in detail. But it is certainly up to BI/Green Ronin's usual standards for the WFRP line (will that include the notorious typos I wonder?). The format follows that of Ashes of Middenheim and Spires of Altdorf, namely a short introduction to the city itself followed by the adventure.

In FoN this first section includes a couple of new careers, one of which is the illustrious Dung Collector, whose trappings include the instantly memorable 'Bag of Maggots' and 'Dung'. Some dozen or so pages are devoted to describing Nuln itself. This might not seem much, but I do have to say that, in my experience of running AoM it is adequate for a GM's purposes: there's enough there to give you something to work with, while the text's brevity means that it's easy to review material and scan sections for reminders. I guess a lengthier and more detailed account might be nice, but there's always the chance that it might become too unwieldy I feel.

One thing I like about this section is that- unlike AoM and SoA- it includes adventure hooks for all the specific locations mentioned in each district. Opinions on plot hooks vary, but mine is that a GM can never have too many plot ideas to hand. One nice touch is the listing of Otto Jaeger's house, in the Kaufmann district. Otto is of course the brother of Felix Jaeger, from the Gotrek and Felix novels by Bill King. The entry includes an adventure hook referring to the events in Skavenslayer, the novel set in Nuln in which readers were introduced to Otto. I suspect that more than a few players might want to walk in the footsteps of their favourite psychotic dwarf, and end up paying Mr. Otto Jaeger a visit.

There's not a lot I can add on the subject of the adventure itself. But I can say that it includes some nicely mapped locations, as well what looks to me like shedloads of NPC's. This leads me to expect that the adventure will be less linear than AoM has been, and a bit harder to run as a result. Still, it should prove entertaining if the high points of AoM have been anything to go by.

Memoir'44 Terrain Pack
So, I finally got my hands on the first of the long-awaited M44 expansion sets; and I do mean long-awaited: they were first announced last July, were expected to be available in August, and finally hit the shelves in December. The M44 Terrain Pack delivers exactly what it says on the box: a host of new terrain tiles and counters for use in games of M44, plus 4 new scenarios featuring the new elements of the game.

The new terrain tiles fall into 3 types: desert tiles; new terrain types for the regular boards; and what are called 'landmarks'.

The desert tiles include new towns/villages and forest tiles with artwork appropriate to the desert setting. There are 2 completely new terrain types introduced for the desert: the oasis and the wadi. The new tiles expanding the temperate terrain set are: high ground and flooded fields; marshes; mountains; railroad tracks, including a station; roads; and lakes and river forks.

In contrast to the generic and typical geographical features represented by standard terrain tiles, the landmarks provide special locations of the sort that might feature as an objective in a scenario. With 12 different landmark types there really are too many to list, but they include dams, airfields, cemeteries, factory complexes, lighthouses(?!) and prison camps.

All of the tiles are as attractive as fans of the original M44 would expect, with the landmarks looking particularly neat to my eye. The desert tiles are also on a sandy background which would look nice on the new winter/desert board.

The rules for the new terrain tiles are straightforward and logical modulations of the terrain effects on movement and combat rules from the basic set, with nice additions to reflect the unique characteristics of the new terrain features represented. Oases, for example, allow ordered units to recover lost figures after the fashion of the Medics and Mechanics tactics card. Dams can be sabotaged (although the rules don't mention players getting a bonus if they hum the 'Dambusters March' while rolling their dice). Lighthouses and churches provide spotting locations for calling in artillery barrages or airstrikes. Airfields can be used to bring in reinforcements. These kinds of rules should bring a lot of flavour to scenarios in which they feature.

The new counters include more obstacles, information markers for new rules, and more unit ID badges.

The unit ID badges cover a wide variety of new nationalties- eg. British Commonwealth troops- which are largely decorative, but they include badges for combat engineers. Combat engineers are a new special unit type with abilities that tabletop generals will prize. The obstacles are: field bunkers- bunkers that both sides can use; river fords, pontoon and railroad bridges; road blocks; and a train. All of these are nice, but the train looks really neat: it is 2 counters long, and can be a supply train- carrying reinforcements, or an armoured train- carrying artillery. Either of these look like being a lot of fun in play.

The remaining counters are largely associated with new rules. We now have rules for minefields. These are represented by counters laid unseen by the owning player which can represent anything from 0 to 4 attack dice. There are targetting markers for the new big guns rules. Big guns have a longer range than regular artillery, and enjoy the ability to bring down heavier fire on a target they have already zeroed-in on. I suspect that these will bring a new dimension of teeth-grinding frustration to your enemy's long range harassing fire.

The final new addition are the battle star tokens. These are generic tokens used to represent special rules. These are only limited by scenario writers' imaginations, but the examples given in the rules are interesting enough: blowing up bridges, collapsible rafts and boats, and heroic leaders, to name just a few examples.

And that's it for the contents of the M44 Terrain Pack. All in all I have to say that it looks like a great expansion to the basic game. A few desert terrain tiles and the nationality counters aside, everything in the box should add exciting and entertaining new dimensions to an already great game. With dozens and dozens of official and unofficial new scenarios featuring elements from the M44 Terrain Pack already available online I hope to be trying out some of this new stuff as soon as possible. I just have to get hold of a certain Badger again.
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