Friday, 27 February 2015

East of the Sun and West of the Moon, or Fifty Shades of White

Today is National Tell a Fairy Tale Day, so despite technically being in the wrong nation I am in the mood to be telling a fairy tale.


Once there was a poor man, who lived with his wife and three daughters in a state of perpetual penury. The eldest daughter was hard-working, the second daughter was clever and the youngest was the looker, which should in no way be taken to imply that any of them were defined by a single character trait. That would be pretty shallow.
Husband material?

One day, a great White Bear appeared at the man's front door and told him that he would make him rich, if the man would give him his youngest daughter, which is the kind of entitlement that one doesn't usually expect from the larger carnivores, but they do say that money changes you.

The daughter was naturally reluctant to be sold off like a side of meat to a wealthy apex predator, but her parents sat her down and reminded her that her eldest sister needed treatment for her crook knees and they were hoping to get the middle daughter into University, and that there were much worse fates for a girl like her than being a WAG, and the White Bear seemed to have much better manners than a Premier League footballer at least.

Eventually, the daughter was persuaded, and before Philip Larkin could say 'I told you!' she had climbed onto the White Bear's back and was whisked away into the night, because in case we'd forgotten, fairy tales are creepy, yo.

The White Bear took the girl to a fabulous castle in the mountains, where she was waited on by dancing tableware and given all that she could possibly desire (aside from her freedom, of course, because what would she do with that?) At this point in the cultural milieu we should probably just be glad that the Bear didn't show her the playroom and ask her to sign a D&S agreement. He does come to her bed every night, in the dark, and when he does so he turns into a man, although she can't see what he looks like.


So, assuming a degree of consensuality for the sake of my own sanity - maybe before they start sleeping together there are some touching getting to know you scenes; maybe they dance while a teapot sings to them - this goes on for some time, with the Bride - which is a crappy name, but slightly snappier at least than 'youngest daughter' - never once asking to see her husband, or even ask in any way what gives with this whole deal. You know what, I may have to retract that disclaimer; I'm not sure this girl does have much going for her besides looks.

Eventually, however, she got a little homesick, and asked if she could visit her family. The bear agreed, but on the condition that she never talked to her mother alone. She agreed to this readily enough, which is understandable since her parents did pimp her out across the taxonomic orders, and the White Bear dropped her off at the gate, apparently having no interest in taking tea with the in-laws.

The family were delighted to see the Bride, and told her how well they were all doing with the money they got for her. After several attempts, the mother managed to get the Bride on her own - promise notwithstanding, although I'm not going to be too critical of the Bride for not keeping a promise to the bear who bought her like a chattel without so much as a by-your-leave - and persuaded her to tell her whole story.

The whole story. Including how the bear comes to bed every night and turns into a man. Who talks to their mother about this sort of thing? Is it really that different for girls?

Well, the mother listened to the whole story and said to her daughter: "My poor child; I fear that your husband is a troll." Because it's okay to sell your youngest daughter to a bear, but heaven forefend that that bear turn out to be a troll.

Okay, so this isn't just fairy tale racism; trolls are bad. They get inside people's heads, control their thoughts and actions and eventually eat away at everything that makes them human. They're like the Goblin King from Labyrinth and by their big eighties hair and makeup shall ye know them, so the mother gave the Bride a candle and told her to light it when her husband was asleep and make sure that she wasn't sharing her bed with a troll. Just a bear. Which is way safer.

The White Bear swung by in the evening to pick up the Bride and he asked her if she spoke with her mother on her own. The Bride swore that she didn't and the Bear whisked them back to his castle.

Joshua Reynolds' Cupid and Psyche, with a creepily young-
looking Cupid and the apparently obligatory Psyche side-
boob. The Bride could have learned from this story, and not
just an important lesson about covering up around Rococo
That night, when the White Bear was asleep, the Bride lit the candle and held it up, and saw that her husband was in fact the most handsome man she had ever seen, dark and beautiful, without a trace of big hair or glittery guyliner. Unfortunately, having never heard the story of Eros and Psyche, she leaned forward and dropped three drops of tallow onto his chest, which woke him with a start.

Angrily he explained that he was the prince of the land East of the Sun and West of the Moon. He was enchanted by his wicked stepmother into the shape of a bear, and could only be free if he found a woman who could be constant for a year without giving in to curiosity, which is a bit like the whole Pandora's Box bit, but even more unfair since she didn't have any kind of warning to ignore. Now, however, the second part of the curse would fall and he would be forced go back to his own land and marry his stepsister, which would be creepy enough if she wasn't also a monstrous trollop (by which we mean here a female troll, rather than her just being a bit of a slapper,) which she was.

In the morning, the prince and the castle were gone and the Bride set out to search for them, Stockholm Syndrome having set in irrevocably by now.

After walking for a whole day, she came to the slope of a mountain. At the foot of the mountain was a cave and in front of the cave there sat an old woman, passing a golden apple from hand to hand.

"Good mother," said the Bride, "please help me. I have lost my husband and must find him before he is wed to another. Do you know the way to the land East of the Sun and West of the Moon?"

Beware of Greeks bearing apples. Fortunately, this old
woman is Norwegian. Norse golden apples are the good shit.
Just ask Idun.
"I do not," the old woman replied, "but my neighbour might. She lives many leagues hence, but I will lend you a horse, and for fortune take this golden apple, which might serve you in your hour of need."

The Bride thanked the old woman and rode off, the horse running hard and sure to another mountain, and another cave, where an even older woman sat carding wool with a golden comb.

"Good grandmother," said the Bride, "please help me. My husband is enchanted and I must find him. Do you know the way to the land East of the Sun and West of the Moon?"

"I do not," the old woman replied, "but my neighbour might. She lives many leagues hence, but I will lend you a horse, and for fortune take this golden comb, which might serve you in your hour of need."

The Bride thanked the old woman and rode off, the horse running hard and sure to a third and even taller mountain, and another even darker cave, where an even older woman sat spinning with a golden wheel.

"Good great-grandmother," said the Bride, "please help me. My husband has been taken from me by a trollop and I must find him. Do you know the way to the land East of the Sun and West of the Moon?"

"I do not," the old woman replied, "but the East Wind might know, if ever he has blown there. He lives many leagues hence, but I will lend you a horse, and for fortune take this golden wheel, which might serve you in your hour of need."

So, loaded down with golden treasures, the Bride rode off to visit the East Wind, because by now she just wasn't questioning anything anymore. She'd married a bear who turned out to be a prince enchanted by a trollop and now forced to marry another trollop, so talking to the Wind didn't seem that odd.

Unfortunately the East Wind proved no more able to help than the old women, and was apparently all out of golden plot devices as well, but he did carry her to visit his sister the West Wind. "Because she is stronger than I am, and blows in more places."

Alas, the West Wind didn't know the land East of the Sun and West of the Moon, so she carried the Bride to visit the South Wind, who in turn took her to visit the North Wind, where finally the Bride was able to ask her question and be told: "Yes; I blew there once. I blew a leaf there, and it almost killed me, but I'll take you there as a favour to someone in love." Because the Winds at least are romantics.

And so the North Wind blew his best and carried the Bride to the edge of the land East of the Sun and West of the Moon. She thanked him and left him to recover his strength, while she walked on into the eerily still land until she came to a dark castle with closed gates. There she sat to think. As she did so, she took out the golden apple and began passing it from hand to hand.

A Trollope
Suddenly, a harsh voice rang out above her: "What's that! I want it, I wantit, IWANTIT!" In the window over the gate was a hideous figure, whom the Bride knew must be the trollop daughter. She smiled and called up:

"What would you give me for it?"

"What do you want?"

"How about your Prince?" the Bride asked, because turn about is fair play and since she'd been bought and sold why couldn't he.

"No! He's mine!"

"Then how about just one night with him?" the Bride suggested, playing with the apple a little more ostentatiously.

"Sold!" the trollop snapped. She disappeared from the window and appeared at a doorway below, ushering the Bride in and snatching the apple from her hand. "One night!" she insisted. "Wait in here until nightfall."

So the Bride waited, and at nightfall a servant showed her into the prince's bedchamber. She ran to his side, but he was fast asleep and would not wake, not even when she dripped candle tallow on him. All she could do was sit by him all night, crying and shaking him and hoping against hope that he wasn't as Stockholmy as she was, especially with the trollop getting inside his head and all.

The next morning she left the room, but before the trollop could throw her out she took out the golden comb and began to draw it through the air, carding wool out of nothing.

"IWANTIT!" the Trollop cried, and again they agreed to trade, the comb for a night with the prince. Again the Bride waited and again she was taken in to find the price practically comatose. She wailed in despair and drained the last of a cup of wine beside the prince's bed to try to numb the pain, and boy howdy did it ever work. She was out like a light and the next thing she knew the servant was all-but carrying her out of the room.

"Oh, that cheat!" the Bride cried out. "She drugged his drink."

The trollop came to throw her out again, but again the Bride whipped out another golden gift from... wherever a largely unprepared girl travelling alone and, for all we've been told, in her nightshirt, carries her golden spinning wheel, and began spinning thread out of the air.

Naturally, the trollop wanted the wheel and again she agreed to the deal, and the Bride set about thinking how she could possibly wake her drugged husband. Luckily, while he cries had not roused the prince, they had touched the heart of the servant. That day, while the prince was walking in the gardens, the servant sidled up to him and whispered: "Let your drink go untouched tonight, sire; you won't regret it."

So it was that when the Bride went in that night, she found her husband awake, and at the sight of her he knew her and embraced her.

"But what can we do now?" the Bride asked. "I only have you for the night and then you have to go back to the trollop."

The prince shivered, for as soon as he had seen his Bride the spells that the trollop had cast on him melted away and he saw her as she was and felt the emptiness in his soul where she had already begun to gnaw at his humanity.

"I will set her a challenge," he declared. "Wait outside the castle; you will know what to do when the time comes."

In the morning, the Bride left, wailing and weeping, and the trollop cast her out of the castle. Then the trollop went to her husband-to-be, who pretended to still be under her spell.

"Did you sleep well?" she asked.
My Bowie/Labyrinth bit means that the trollop and her
mother look more like this. The third one is probably an aunt
visiting for the wedding.

"I did not," the prince replied. "I had a nightmare. I dreamed that at our wedding my shirt burst into flames from the three drops of tallow that stain it, and I heard a voice saying 'woe and thrice woe should you wed she who can not wash this stain away.' I can not marry anyone but the woman who can wash these three stains off my shirt, which I wear in bed and must also get married in, being a prince and therefore only having the one shirt."

Amazingly, the trollop fell for this and she took the shirt away. But trolls can not abide water, and so the trollop had no luck cleaning the shirt. Finally, in desperation, she called out to the girl outside the walls: "You! I'll trade you another night with my prince if you'll wash his shirt clean for me."

The Bride agreed, and she washed the shirt until the tallow was gone, because another of the dodgy morals of this story is that girls who can do housework deserve husbands.

The trollop took the shirt to the prince and told him she'd cleaned it, and he called her a liar and demanded that the woman who had actually cleaned the shirt be brought in. This the trollop and her mother reluctantly did, and the prince declared that this was his bride who had shown true and unquestioning constancy, and with that his stepmother's curse was broken and the two trollops exploded. As they do.

And the prince and his Bride lived happily ever after.


For those of a less cynical bent, I highly recommend North Child (or East, in the US) by Edith Pattou for a retelling of the same tale with a much more modern sensibility. Many of the same elements are also used in the Storyteller episodes 'The True Bride' and 'Hans My Hedgehog'.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Sentinels of the Multiverse - Cowboy Golem Hunters

Because nothing says mechanic like a bright pink sweater.
Just a quick update, having played around with the new options available in the first Sentinels of the Multiverse mini-expansion pack, consisting of one hero deck, one villain deck and one environment.

The hero is Unity, a maker of mechanical golems, who is either amazing or completely useless depending on how her cards come out, making her most effective paired with a deck controller like Visionary or Tachyon. About half of her deck is made up of 'Mechanical Golem' cards, which can only be played from her hand using her power or those on her other cards. Each of these little metal chaps is based on a card from another deck (there are versions of many of the original set heroes, Baron Blade's floating platforms, the raptors from Insula Primaris) and they each have a power that triggers automatically each round, meaning that if you get the right balance of golems and cards to activate them, Unity quickly becomes very powerful. On the other hand, the bots are relatively fragile, and it is also possible to end up with a hand full of unplayable golems or useless equipment.

The villain is Haka's nemesis, Ambuscade, a masked big game hunter who uses tech devices (and in particular a stealth field) to hunt superheroes. Fighting him is all about device control, and as a number of his gizmos explode if destroyed, scatter damage (for example, Tempest's innate power) is best avoided. He mostly uses projectile or energy damage, so heroes with a damage type nullifier can be very effective (Tempest once KOd is his worst nightmare.)

Finally, the environment is 19th century Silver Gulch, a mining town in the old west, packed full of cards representing a) time portals, b) bandits and c) cover for the bandits to use during gunfights.

It's well called a mini-expansion, but as part and parcel of my season pass is a welcome expansion to the game.

Monday, 9 February 2015

Early Thoughts on Thief (2014)

I am the night! This is my thieving corset!
Thief: The Dark Project pioneered the concept of a stealth computer game; in particular a first-person stealth computer game. It wasn't the only game using stealth, but it was just about the only one where being forced to actually fight was a fast-track to a hole in the dirt. It brought us the light gem (a wonderful addition to a stealth game because it means that concealment is not reliant on your estimation of depth of shadow and at the mercy of your brightness settings), pickpocketing, lock picking and of course the sneaky blackjack to the brainpan. It brought us also Garrett, the master thief, a snarky loner in a city full of snarky loners. Finally, it brought us two sequels: The Metal Age and Deadly Shadows.

After a decade long hiatus, the franchise was revivied with Thief, and by many estimations immediately shove back into the grave again and the headstone defaced. Thief did not receive a standing ovation. I have only picked it up because it was cheap, and came with the original games for me to take another swing at.

My immediate impression was 'holy shit, did the franchise that Dishonoured knocked off come back with a serious intention to return the favour?' It's as if they took the basics of Thief and Dishonoured them up, from the illuminated stealable items (essentially there seems to be a particular lustre to items that are not nailed down) to the grittier incapacitation move (instead of a swift conk to the noggin, you move in for a choke before smacking them in some kind of nerve cluster.

The backstory adds some pointless emo (your disappointingly bloodthirsty student was apparently killed when some old dudes summoned a ball of energy bigger than their heads and you have some guilt for nicking her homemade climbing/murdering tool*) and the supporitng characters homage spit on the original game. In The Dark Project one of your missions is to spring Basso the Boxman, supposedly so you can get friendly with his sister; in a call back in The Metal Age you then have to help Basso spring his fiancee Jenivere from indentured servitude. In Thief, Basso is at best a seedy serial monogamist and at worst some sort of rapacious Bluebeard and Jenivere is his pet magpie.

The new Garrett has also been dressed by Man at image Comics.

The game also has a lot of supernatural gubbins, and yet drops the Keepers, the pre-existing explanation for Garrett's preternatural skills, in place of an as-yet unexplained 'focus vision' which makes enemies, travel routes and stealables glow blue and allows a degree of Matrix-y time dilation. The fact that this ability is fuelled by opium should be a warning.

The world of Thief is a gothic-industrial hellhole with elements of Steampunk. It's not a million miles from the original, but post-Dishonoured it seems a little derivative, especially with the original antagonists (the pseudo-Catholic Order of the Hammer) replaced by some bad aristocrats ruling with an iron hand (and admittedly some wizardry.) Remakes are difficult beasts, but all in all this Thief feels like it has less invention and innovation than the original, and that isn't a good way to go.

Still, I've got the originals now.

* Also, apparently Garrett the 'Master Thief' can't climb shit without 'the Claw'.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Are you sitting comfortably?

Much thought has been given to the importance of correct seating while playing computer and console games, but my friend James's review of a DM's screen got me thinking about how we sit to play roleplaying games.

These days it's pretty pointless for me to use a DM's screen of any kind. I only ever GM games via Google Hangouts or similar, so no-one could see anything on my desk, even if most of my notes weren't actually typed into the GM overlay of the virtual tabletop or the GM-only section of the game wiki. These latter two may deserve more discussion at a later date, but for now I will simply note that the roll20 virtual desktop is a massive time saver simply by cutting out all the tedious 'the orcs are there?' 'Well I would have done X if I'd realised.' 'No, wait; I was over by the water tanks.' that otherwise bogs down combat, and that Obsidian Portal's player/GM info split is ideal for book keeping, even if the layout is a little bit 'strip of text down the middle of the screen' for my ideal.

What I actually want to consider is the seating positions we adopt for in-person tabletop roleplaying.

The classic is of course to sit around a large table, but this is an increasingly rare luxury as people are forced into smaller spaces and frankly hold fewer dinner parties. There are doubtless many essays on the shift of family focus from the dining table to the TV, but even though we have a table and eat our meals there as a family, I know that I only unfold both sides of the gateleg on very special occasions because it means moving the sofa; and I just don't have enough chairs.

And it's a shame, because let's look at the classic setup:

On a good size, to-scale table (not like this one) you have space for character sheets and notepads, snacks and drinks, reference rulebooks and a GM's private zone, with a shared rolling space in the centre. Everyone is together and thus everyone is engaged. It's easy to pass notes if you need to, and easy to spot when someone is disengaging. It's an ideal gaming set-up, which is probably why board games have evolved the way that they have.

Compare that to the alternative 'distributed' model, which I of necessity used for a while before going all digital. Players are not consistently in each other's eyeline, they are often at different levels and may be disengaged at various times without being immediately noticeable. Dice tend to be rolled awkwardly on books or the floor beside chairs. Anything being passed is immediately and painfully obvious. Although mostly happy with my most recent TT games, the absence of a properly set-up table was always an issue for me. I felt that I lost player involvement (as well as dice.)

I find that virtual gaming returns to many of the advantages of a proper table, especially coupled with a good VTT. Everyone is in front of their cameras, I can see them, they can see me; we're all there together. And I can pass notes!

In conclusion, if it can be said to be such a thing, if I ever run another one-location TT game, I'm moving the sofa and getting the chairs out.

Left 4 Dead 2

"Lookin' back on the track, for a little green bag..."*
"Son; we just crossed the street."

Last night I went back and played a bit of Left 4 Dead 2 with my quarter (that's my other half's other half.) It's been a while since I dipped into this particular zombie infected pool, and it's still a lot of fun.

For the uninitiated, Left 4 Dead (both the original and the sequel) are set in a world where the US at least is overrun with 'infected' in the wake of some sort of mutated flu epidemic. The 4 in the title refers to the four naturally immune survivors who make up your party and the 4-player co-op which this allows. The name of the game is escape, and not just once, as each main title is broken into several mini-campaigns, each describing the survivors' escape from one deadly situation, only to get landed in another at the start of the next installment.

The opening movie of the first game pretty much encapsulates the gameplay, as well as showcasing the 'special' infected (although the Boomer is only really there in gunk.)

I keep wanting to call it Dead Centre...

To set the mood just right, each campaign has a movie poster and tagline which shows in the loading screen, along with PSA posters warning you to wash your hands and notifying you that possession of firearms is now illegal as a matter of public safety. This is a game that knows what irony is and isn't ashamed of that fact.

The first game mostly plays out in Pennsylvania, and mostly in the midst of an urban sprawl. Left 4 Dead 2 brings the action south, kicking off in Savannah, Georgia and making its way through New Orleans. In addition to southern accents and an equal black/white balance (I think Zoe is probably meant to be Latina, so the representation isn't too terrible either way, although both have 3:1 male to female ratios and there aren't any Asian-Americans,) the game introduces new varieties of zombies - including the sad-making zombie clowns - and weapons, not just variant guns but the much requested melee arsenal, including axes, crowbars, electric guitars, katanas and the fuel-limited delight of the chainsaw.
Okay; mostly the name of the game is survival.

We played the opening chapter of Left 4 Dead 2, 'Dead Center', in which the four survivors - Coach, Ellis, Nick and Rochelle - are left behind by the last chopper out of town and have to make their way to a shopping mall to steal a stock car. One of the defining traits of the sequel was that it got much more inventive with its campaign finales. In Left 4 Dead mostly you were holding off the horde while waiting for rescue. Dead Centre borrows from the exception, Dead Air, in which the survivors have to refuel a plane as the horde attacks. In this case, you're gassing up a stock car in the middle of the mall and feeling more than a little bit Dawn of the Dead while you're doing it. It's not as good as later levels, like the one where you have to try to attract rescue by setting off a heavy metal band's stage fireworks, but it's pretty damn good.

The campaign manages some solid set pieces. A desperate rush through a burning building is impressively tense for all that the flames are mostly a route map, and the crying of the Witch and the Tank's distinctive brass theme are still enough to fill me with terror.
This image was clearly chosen to represent the gestures that I
wound up making as my buddies drove off into the sunset in an
APC without me. AGAIN.

I found that Andrew has a tendency to rush ahead, which I suspect would have stood us in poor stead on a higher difficulty, but I dialed it back since it's been a while. Notably, he got about twice as many kills as I did, but took roughly three times as much damage. He was also completely not there for me when I was pummeled half to death by a Charger, and don't think that that will be forgotten any time soon.

I'd forgotten how personal this game could feel, although in the final analysis we did all get away, whereas back in the day I got left behind a lot. The story of my early L4D experience is summed up by a picture of a dude standing on a jetty, clutching a pipe bomb as the boat pulls out and the horde charges in.

* Because I did the Monkees joke already.

Monday, 2 February 2015

Early thoughts on Eldritch Horror

Not all components shown.
On Saturday night, we had a bash at Fantasy Flight's Eldritch Horror, a game of Lovecraftian terror, futile co-op struggle and occasional triumph.

Eldritch Horror is the international expansion of Arkham Horror, with a world map in place of Arkham and notable cities and expedition locations in place of major civic landmarks, but the same - literally; most of the characters are stalwarts of AH, and some also of Elder Sign - bunch of (mostly or) all-American heroes rambling about and taking care of business, Mythos stylee.

The game is pretty straightforward. Each turn you can move and act a certain amount as a matter of choice, then you have an encounter based on where you are, and finally Mythos shit happens and some people get hurt. Players take turns as lead investigator, but I never managed to check whether the token passed to represent this was really called 'the blame' or if that was just local patois, as it were.

Our saviour.
Some early observations:

Each character has a card with their stats and their special abilities, as well as any starting gear and spells. Compared to the sheet for the Outer Gods and Old Ones, it's a respectable size, but depressingly short on meat compared to the comparable card for the antagonist. In a twist, the basic level enemy is the witless, all-devouring force that is the Demon Sultan Azathoth.

The primary mechanic is roll N dice, 5 and 6 are successes. Based on the ability scores of the characters - 1 to 4 in each field - and the stats for the monsters - almost all force a 1 or 2 die penalty to the investigator's attack roll and require 3-4 successes to be accumulated to defeat them - successfully assaulting a monster, let alone bringing one down, is beyond the scope of even the hardiest adventurer without collaboration or serious hardware. As a consequence, Influence, the stat used to acquire weapons and other gear, is somewhat overpowered. Our social monkey quickly outstripped the martial artist in hitting power due to her ability to buy guns.
I'm just saying, my money isn't on the beardy-
weirdy up there.

Gate encounters are fiendishly complicated and may or may not require you to have certain items or a number of clues in han to successfully complete them. You have no way of knowing in advance what you might need and once drawn, an encounter does not persist until defeated; it's blind chance every time, making it hard to strategise to close gates even before the monsters come pouring through them.

The highlight of the game was when Hanna's martial artist got to blow
up a vampire with dynamite. Some things just never get old (both
vampires and blowing up vampires with dynamite count.)
There is a lot to be said for collaboration. There is a lot to be said for splitting up. The game supports 1-8 players, and I suspect that more is better. The Mythos takes one turn when all of the players are done, and only half at most of the encounters involve a risk of bad shit happening. I think that if I were to play this again with three players, my inclination would be to run two characters each.

There are a lot of pieces in this game, even for a Fantasy Flight game. Hearts and brains to track health and sanity; clue tokens; eldritch tokens; gate counters, monster counters and player pawns; mystery and rumour markers; the expedition token (I never even found out what this one was for, I presume it had a special encounter type linked to it); train or ferry tickets; and that's just the punch-out cardboard counters. The cards are a whole other kettle of evil, soul-eating fish! 

There are about nine different types of encounter, each with their own card decks, plus gear, artefacts and conditions, cards representing shitty things happen to you. I think during our initial half-a-game (time and tiredness got the better of us about midnight) we ran up something like four debts, two hallucinations, two curses, two detentions, an injured leg and a miscellaneous dark pact, as well as the occasional delay, which leaves your pawn lying on its side all turn, trying to stand up, and surprisingly doesn't have its own token*.
Hitmen is actually a pretty good thing to find when your debt condition comes
due. At least you can punch a human leg-breaker.

Curses are especially horrible. They reduce your success chance to 6s only and rely on random chance to shake off. At least Arkham Horror had a location where you could get blessed.

The meat of the game is yet another set of cards; the Mysteries, which vary according to the Old One/Outer God in play and must be resolved to win the game. These come out one at a time and stay out, which means it it is at least possible to work out what you plan to do about them.

I am sure that we screwed up at least some of the rules - on top of the ones that I know we screwed up because Andrew spotted it in game - and in particular the 'monster surges' seemed slightly half-arsed and I suspect that gate encounters are intended to persist until resolved.

It's a long game, but plays pretty fast, and would play faster with a greater familiarity with the rules. Well worth a play, if not a must by.

* I constantly expect FF games to include markers to indicate when a player has gone on a snack run, put the kettle on, or is using the facilities.