Dungeons and Demons at the OK Corral

Trying to keep this one short, not much time today but I wanted to share a new gaming experience with you all. I had a chance to play Shadows of Brimstone for the first time last night, which is an… “interesting” game. It’s a fully cooperative dungeon crawl, set in an alternate Wild West with monsters straight out of the H. P. Lovecraft mythos.  Grab the loot, upgrade your boots, and try not to go insane.  Our adventuring crew sounded like a bad joke about a spaghetti western; a Saloon Girl, a U. S. Marshall, a Gunslinger, and a Bandita walk into a bar, realize they’re all broke, and head out on an adventure.
Synopsis: The group is in search of an easy score. So when a productive mine gets abandoned because the mining crew starts making up stories about some sort monsters down in the dark depths of the tunnel, the party sweeps in to gather up anything left behind. Easy score? Naah, the monsters are real.
Every adventure in Shadows of Brimstone is different. As your party moves throughout the mine, new dungeon tiles are randomly added to the map. Random items can be found on each new dungeon tile, and the larger rooms have the chance to spawn random encounters that aren’t directly tied to the tile, they can be anything from a collapsing mine shaft, to a horde of monsters attacking.
I love the concept. But the execution leaves a lot to be desired.
Granted, we were just learning the game and playing our first adventure. But it took FOREVER to do anything. With two regular gamers driving the action and our better halves playing along with us, exactly half the party was anywhere near awake by the time real action took place. We had to explore nine dungeon tiles before we found any monsters. This process consisted of rolling a d6 for movement points, and seeing if we had made it to the other side of that tile or not yet. Yay, fun! For bonus fun, we passed on those rolls and made small talk while waiting to see if party members who had rolled poorly on previous turns had caught up to us yet. Yay, more fun!
There’s a reason for the labored movement to remain in place though, you can’t just skip those die rolls and say that players can move freely without breaking designed game mechanics; each turn the party leader (holding the group’s only lantern) rolls to “hold back the darkness”. Failing this roll brings impending doom just a little bit closer to the surface, which is supposedly where the really nasty stuff starts happening; your characters REALLY don’t want to still be in the mines when that happens.
Even after exploring those nine dungeon tiles, we only encountered monsters because I convinced the party to try and dispose of an arcane summoning circle we found on the last one, knowing full and well that we would probably fail and that failing meant that monsters would attack.
So we failed that check, and the summoning circle spawns an encounter of 1 level higher than normal. Which in turn became 2 encounters of the level we would normally expect to fight. One of those ended up being two more smaller groups. And then for the weakest of the monsters, you roll a die to see how many show up. By the time we were ready to place the miniatures, we had run out of one particular type. There’s rules for how to handle that, but I stepped in and house-ruled that we just rolled less of them “because-holy-crap-we’re-about-to-die-in-our-first-fight”.
Thar’s demons in dem there hills!
The movement mechanics really bit us here. We were tightly packed at the end of this hallway, with the Saloon Girl up front, one of our weaker (but thankfully more agile) characters. Since the monsters couldn’t move through us, they pretty much all lined up to attack her. And perhaps we had a perfect storm situation going on, but this was a brutal fight. The spiders up front had really high initiative, moving before any of us could react and blocking our path forward, which prevented us from spreading out into the room and thus balancing the incoming attacks. We blasted a couple of the spiders, which only cleared room for the tentacle beasts to reach us and pin us in place (their specialty), leaving the Saloon Girl unable to pull back to a safer position. We had to kill those to try and get some mobility, which opened up gaps for the lumbering behemoths behind them to charge forward and hammer away at the poor Saloon Girl with their heavy damaging attacks.
We eventually won the fight, but the Saloon Girl was knocked out even after we used all the bandages that we had, and the encounter didn’t really feel fun. In particular, we were never actually able to move around in the fight, we never once succeeded in an escape roll that would let us reposition and cause the monsters to rechoose their target. So the board might as well have been a conga line leading up to a piñata, with monsters lined up to hit our closest party member. I’ll say this again in clearer terms – it’s a map based game where we couldn’t move around the map at all when it mattered.
On top of all that, the rulebook is laid out atrociously, even as a veteran of similar games I couldn’t figure out what some things did. We stopped mid-fight and searched for about 5 minutes looking for “what happens when a player gets KOed?” before ruling that we would go back in time a turn and use bandages to heal her, which in turn we assume is a free action but couldn’t find the rules for that either. Then she was knocked out again just before the end of the fight, and we just decided we would figure it out later.
A little over three hours in, we had figured out some of the rules, mostly survived one fight, and lost half our party to exhaustion. We’ll try it again another day after doing some more reading, but I can’t recommend the game yet. Maybe after another session or two. This time we’ll start at high noon.
– The Tabletop General

The Coruscant Landfill

With the newest Imperial Assault map rotation, Coruscant Landfill (from the Bantha Rider expansion) replaces Mos Eisley Cantina (Twin Shadows box set), joining Nelvanian Warzone (Leia Organa expansion, requires Return to Hoth box set) and Training Ground (Stormtrooper expansion) as the tournament legal skirmish maps. I’m sure people are going to play the Coruscant Landfill as much as possible over the next few weeks to prepare for GenCon or other local events. I’ve been looking over the map, and thought I should share my observations.
Credit to Ibsh, obtained from http://ibrahimshaath.co.uk/imperialassault/

Credit goes to Ibsh, who hosts these awesome maps at http://ibrahimshaath.co.uk/imperialassault/

Both missions:
Those terminals are REALLY exposed. The farthest terminal can be reached in 8 movement points on turn one, so it IS possible to take with the last move of the turn. But still, don’t plan on a lot of card draws here.
Mission A, Lair of the Diagona:
The Diagona does not deal damage to anyone behind a closed door (ref: Counting Spaces, Imperial Assault Rules Reference, page 9). This mission will be rewarding to players with burst damage in a single activation, pick the right moment and whack the beast for the bonus 5 points. But damaging it can be just as valuable, even if you don’t kill it. With that being said, overkill appears to count. If the Diagona is at 1 health and you deal 7 damage beyond its’ defenses with a single attack, you’ll get the kill, and 7 extra tokens that immediately turn into points.
The red deployment zone gets a slight advantage in positioning; a figure with speed 4 can open the door to the center and get out of the Diagona’s damage radius, the same is not possible for the blue deployment zone without some form of movement assistance.
Of particular note is the wonky way that this scenario interacts with its’ patron expansion, the Bantha Rider. Being Massive, the Bantha Rider can ignore the difficult terrain in the center area, and can easily tank the Diagona’s damage in addition to some fire from the enemy if it moves late in the turn. In the process, it can block your enemy’s line of sight to the Diagona by stopping on top of it and also occupying the next closest squares to the opponent. Assuming the door is open, it takes the Bantha 8 or 10 movement points from the edge of a deployment zone to reach this position; easily done, especially with Beast Tamer (Bantha Rider).
bantha-rider                           beast-tamer
Mission B, One Man’s Trash:
The terminal closest to the deployment zones is better protected (10 health 2 def door between you and the enemy), but you have to break down the same door to claim it yourself. Blue gets a positional advantage for reaching tokens, having 5 on their side of the room, 3 on the red side. But in a miracle of geometry, it’s an average of exactly 6 movement points from the corner of each deployment zone to capture range of all tokens.
If you’re planning on picking up a token that you’re adjacent to at the start of your activation, do your move action first before you get the speed penalty, that will get you another movement point. I don’t really see this mission getting a lot of tokens turned in on deployment zones; maybe builds with multiple Officers will shuttle one or two tokens, but not many. The big deal will be the terminal, which has relatively easy access to several of the tokens.
The figure of note for One Man’s Trash is Obi-Wan Kenobi, releasing this week alongside Greedo and The Grand Inquisitor.  Obi-Wan’s Alter Mind forces the enemy to remove him from the board, or the majority of their army will not be able to pick up the crate tokens at all while he is nearby!
The above is all theory-craft, while I’d been trying lots of the maps out lately in order to I’m really looking forward to going hands-on with this map, and trying it out. Do you think I missed something important about the map? What are you going to change about your tournament builds because of the change? Drop me a line and let me know!
– The Tabletop General