Saturday, October 27, 2012

Knights of Pen & Paper

In this post I'll leave paper minis and tabletop games to write a little about this recently released game called Knights of Pen & Paper. There are two reasons for this:

- It is a digital game that, in the end, reminds me of solo tabletop gaming;
- It is made by a brazilian game studio and I'm always happy to see new games released here.

In this game the player controls both the game master and the party of players/characters. Dialogue happens both in and out of character. As the GM you build encounters and quests for the party to overcome. If you never had the heart to cause a "total party kill" you might play that in the game. The goal, however, is to create challenging encounters that allow your party to evolve. It is in this sense that the game feels like running a solo RPG session.

Each character is composed by a cliché (e.g. nerd, hipster, small brother -- I only wish there was a rules lawyer) that grants an advantage, and a class (mage, cleric, warrior...) with a set of powers. Battles are played in turns like old console RPGs -- although a lot of menu navigation is replaced by a simpler touch interface.

Besides having fun with the game itself, this made me want to revisit solo "hack'n'slash" RPG setups, like Carsten's Solo D&D delves.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Pirate Raiders in Orc Lands

This weekend I played my first solo game of Firebrand.  It is based on the Song of Blades and Heroes engine with some modifications and additions, such as rules for siege weapons, an expanded magic system and an interesting territory-based campaign system. The game I played was based on the "Barbarian Horde" solo scenario provided in the book.

In my game, a group of pirates lands on an island only to be greeted by a party wild orcs. My force consisted of two musketeers, two halberdiers, a standard bearer and a sergeant. The enemy force was composed by six orc berserkers (I didn't apply any modifiers due to them being orcs instead of humans.)

I simply spread some grass patches counting as light cover around the center of the board, then deployed the forces according to scenario specifications.

The orcs started with the initiative and two of them moved forward. I activated the sergeant, move ahead and gave a group move order for the rest of the company.

On the next activation, the first orc rolled three dice getting only on success, so he moved ahead and the turn was over. I just waited in position, as moving closer to the grass patches wouldn't be advantageous for my shooters. This continued on for the next turns, with the orcs advancing slowly.

Eventually, one of the orcs got in range with two others close behind. I activated one musketeer with three dice, getting three successes. I took an aimed shot and knocked out the closest orc. I activated the other musketeer, again rolling three dice but this time getting only one success. He missed his shot and my turn was over.

The orcs kept advancing. Both musketeers missed their shots, and one of them even fell due to the gun's recoil. The sergeant ordered the two halberdiers to charge the closest orc. They attacked, causing the orc to fall.

The fallen orc activated to get up but rolled a turnover. One halberdier attacked and knocked out the fallen orc. The fallen musketeer stood up, and the other halberdier moved a little to his right, to better protect the rest of the soldeirs.

On the next turn of the orcs, the closest one activated and moved very close to a halberdier, but got a turnover. Once again, the sergeant ordered a charge. The halberdiers attacked the incoming orc and knocked him out. This prompted a morale test for the remaining orcs, scattering them towards the board edges.

The next turns saw the pirates regrouping and moving towards the remaining orcs, while they advanced slowly due to failed activations and turnovers. Eventually another orc was knocked out and considering that the other two orcs were still scattered, I decided that they simply ran away and thus the pirates won.


As expected, Firebrand shares a lot with Song of Blades and Heroes but it also has its own "flavor." Group actions are very effective in this game. I imagine that games with a dozen or so figures per side and multiple group actions must be very interesting tactically. Similarly to what happens in Song of Drums and Shakos, having standard profiles leaning towards quality 4 and combat 2 makes the game very interesting because activations are risky and every attack has a good chance of taking out a soldier. Thus, every advantage (range, positioning, leaders, aimed shots) can make a big difference.

Particularly in the case of this solo scenario, the combination of ranged and melee against the horde of berserkers was a little too efficient as they could be picked one by one. Berserkers in Firebrand can be very powerful as they may make multiple attacks but they cannot take group actions (even if they had some sort of leader, which is not included in the scenario.) To make matters worse, I found while writing this post that my second charge was actually illegal according to the game rules as one of the halberdiers was very close to the orc.