DESIGN CORNER: New Lord

DESIGN CORNER: New Lord

The Return to Planet Apocalypse Kickstarter will have some great new expansions for our much-praised board game while the RPG supplement will show you how to turn any fantasy world into a post-apocalyptic landscape where the heroes fight alongside surviving remnants to merely stymie the fiendish hordes.
Each week we are releasing a Design Corner from Sandy that gives you a sneak peek of art from these new projects.

 

 

Herne the Hunter

Herne is the Wild Hunter of Celtic and German myth. In the stories he flies through the sky or over the ground with his pack of demon hounds. His menace is prodigious — if the Hellhound is not in play, place it in Herne’s area!

He has Pack tokens and starts with tokens equal to the heroes. If his Pack drops below 3, he adds more in his Menace, up to a maximum of 6. If he has run out of Pack tokens, he places Fiends instead, so no matter what he has a sizable contingent accompanying him.

His Toughness is equal to 3 +1 per Pack.

So in a 5 player game, he’d start with a Toughness 8 which is pretty much unthinkably horrible. In addition, each Pack adds 1d12 to his attack (base 6d8). A Lord with Toughness 8 and 6d8+5d12 attack is lethal. Fortunately you can kill the Pack independently of Herne. Each Pack only has Toughness 1+1 and gives the killer 1 Courage.

While Herne also inflicts 1 damage on the hero with the highest Health when he attacks, his main threat is the Pack, so early on during the fight you are forced to kill his hounds, and only later do you target him directly. Of course you may also need to deal with a Hellhound and some Fiends.

DESIGN CORNER: New Hero

DESIGN CORNER: New Hero

Bruno Dawn

The idea behind Bruno is that I wanted to have a hero who was driven mad by the horrors of the apocalypse. He is a fun hero, because he’s crazy. His flaw is pretty bad — when he’s Captain no one else can use the Courage Pool.

But his start ability is highly entertaining — since he’s delusional, at game start he chooses any unused trooper type and places them by the others. Only Bruno can recruit these troopers. He gets to add 1 to his recruit die roll when getting his delusional troopers. This recruitment advantage of +1 to his die roll isn’t quite as good as it seems, because only he can take those troopers; i.e no one else can help set up these ambushes.

His certifiable ability lets him gain 1 Luck as team captain (so he can be a useful counterweight to Ashley’s Luck drain, but beware the Killakee). His Megalomania ability means he gains 3 Courage if he ends his turn in a 4th circle demon’s area, meaning he preferentially seeks out these horrors.

His advancement track moves from both ends towards the middle — I was trying to make it seem kind of schizoid. Anyway, like the other new heroes he works better if you plan a team strategy that uses him.

Still, it does let you get a few Texas Rangers or Hooligans in any region.

Return to Planet Apocalypse: Campaign Begins September 21!

Return to Planet Apocalypse: Campaign Begins September 21!

The rumors are TRUE! September 21 we will be not only releasing Planet Apocalypse 2, the board game, but also Planet Apocalypse the 5e sourcebook on Kickstarter!

The Return to Planet Apocalypse Kickstarter will have some great new expansions for our much-praised board game while the RPG supplement will show you how turn any fantasy world into a post-apocalyptic landscape where the heroes fight alongside surviving remnants to merely stymie the fiendish hordes.

Each week we are releasing a Design Corner from Sandy that gives you a sneak peek of art from these new projects.

Stay tuned! In a departure from our normal campaigns we will be offering a special gift for those who pledge in the first 48 hours. Stay tuned – we will release the details next week!

Using Game Elements to your Advantage in 8-Bit Attack

Using Game Elements to your Advantage in 8-Bit Attack

8-Bit Attack by Petersen Games is a game of manic cooperative battle, inspired by the old side-scrolling console games we all loved. Each player controls a gallant 8-bit hero who, with his friends, must take out a series of mini-bosses.

Power-up your heroes until they’re tough enough to take on the final boss- none other than Cthulhu himself! The five expansions to 8-Bit Attack add new final bosses in their own way as tough as Cthulhu.

You’ll need to apply both tactics and strategy as you work with your friends to defeat the fearsome foes. Three of the many game elements to assist with this are Ascension, Potions, and Runes.

A single Ascension is huge – you get an extra combat die, a new active ability, and a new passive ability. It’s terrific. Of course, it costs 2 medals. My son Lincoln always goes for Ascensions first. I’m not sure agree with his theory here.

I really like getting the potion sets. With a full set of potions, a hero can survive 2-3 extra rounds with the health potion, fire off 1-2 extra abilities with the energy potion, and then survive another 4-5 rounds PLUS fire off more abilities with the resurrection potion.

I think it’s better than an Ascension any day. Of course, it’s just one-use, as opposed to the Ascension’s permanent boost. Who’s right, me or Link? Hard to say. I think my plan of getting the potions is better if you then use those potions to take on a significantly higher Assault. In effect you’ve then paid 1 medal (for the potions) to earn perhaps 3 more. Well worth it, if you can pull it off.

But let’s talk Runes. Unlike an Ascension or set of potions, a single Rune won’t change everything, but it certainly makes a difference. It’s like an always-on buff in a sense. For example, look at this randomly drawn hero: Ava the Adventurous.

Her first Rune is HP+5. An extra 5 Hit Points typically lets her survive 2 more rounds of combat without needing a heal, depending on her enemies. She might last even longer against some foes. Two extra rounds mean two extra attacks for her, possibly enough to finish off an enemy or to get enough energy for another ability. 

Her second Rune is two slow armor. This is even better than the extra Hit Points, but only if she is being targeted by the right enemy. The King in Yellow champion for instance, only inflicts fast hits, so her armor is useless. But the Hellhound champion inflicts 2 slow hits in a counterattack, which means she can attack the Hellhound with impunity. That’s priceless. So, this Rune is situationally valuable. 

Her third Rune is an extra fast damage for every attack. It’s like rolling a whole extra die every turn – a predictable one! Most characters seem to manage to last 3-4 rounds in combat. This means the damage rune lets her inflict 3-4 extra damage, about half the hit points of a minion.

So, if she rolls into action without the damage rune, she’ll probably be able to kill 1 Minion in her 3-4 rounds of life. But with the damage rune, she can kill her own enemy quicker, and then kill off half of another player’s Minion. This has a snowball effect, letting all the players take less damage and finish their foes faster. Is it better than her two protective runes of Hit Points or Armor? It kind of depends on your play style. 

If you like precision, I’d go for the hit points. They’re reliable. If you’re a gambler, I’d go for the slow armor – it can be great vs. the right enemy. If you fall somewhere between these extremes, I’d say go for the fast attack. 

Or even more sensibly you could look and see what your fellows have for their abilities and boosts? If they are able to give everyone slow armor, you probably don’t need bonus slow armor on top of that. If they give everyone fast attacks, you may want your fast attack to add to it and make it even more effective. If they suck at healing, you may want the extra Hit Points for survival purposes.

The take home message is that you must craft your hero over the series of battles to get him or her tough enough to take on that final boss, and you have lots of choices in how to do this.

About Sandy Petersen

Sandy got his start in the game industry at Chaosium in 1980, working on tabletop roleplaying games. His best-known work from that time is the cult game Call of Cthulhu, which has been translated into many languages and is still played worldwide.

He also worked on many other published projects, such as Runequest, Stormbringer, Elfquest and even the Ghostbusters RPG, and was instrumental in the creation of dozens of scenario packs and expansions. He also acted as developer on the original Arkham Horror board game. In 2013 he founded Petersen Games which has released a series of highly successful boardgame projects, including The Gods War, Evil High Priest, and the much-admired Cthulhu Wars. His games have sold tens of millions of copies worldwide, and he has received dozens of awards from the game industry.

Why doesn’t Sandy play Call of Cthulhu in the 1920s setting

Why doesn’t Sandy play Call of Cthulhu in the 1920s setting

Call of Cthulhu (the RPG) was the first ever game based on H.P. Lovecraft’s works, and it’s considered the most successful horror game of all time. Since its release in 1981, a popular way to enhance the role playing experience has been the introduction of miniatures, used to represent the characters in the game.

Petersen Games has now released our own line of Cthulhu mythos miniatures, previously only available by ordering our board games. While you are considering adding them to your role-playing activities, here is some background behind Lovecraft’s popularity, how I came to design CoC, and why I don’t play it using a 1920s setting.

How did Lovecraft become so Popular?

Lovecraft was a forgotten author – except among authors and a tiny loyal group of fans. He was reviled by critics, those few who read him, and the assumption was that his stories were terrible. His popularity started in 1981, when Call of Cthulhu the RPG came out. Then, starting in 1985, some good films also started coming out, based on Lovecraft’s works.

Also, in the 1980s S. T. Joshi, a literary critic, started the re-evaluation of Lovecraft as an author. He more-or-less singlehandedly redeemed Lovecraft in the eyes of arrogant academics.

These three factors combined. My game moved through the roleplaying audience – even people who hadn’t played it had heard of it. Stuart Gordon’s movies moved through the horror geek audience. And S.T. Joshi influenced the intellectuals– he also successfully edited new editions of Lovecraft’s books, with HPL’s original language.

All these things happening simultaneously popularized Lovecraft in a way that had never happened before. I’m not sure which was the most important – probably Joshi had less effect than either me or Stuart Gordon, but all of us spread the news. Today, Lovecraft is well known. Games, books, films, toys, all thrive thanks to this.

I am proud to be the person who started this renaissance, so let’s discuss how my games did this, and why I don’t play in the 1920s, as the game seems to prefer.

How I Came to Write Call of Cthulhu

In 1980, I had started writing a few supplements for Chaosium. The biggest one was Gateway Bestiary, which actually misspelled the name Runequest on the cover. In this product, I introduced some Lovecraft monsters – shoggoths, deep ones, and so forth. I loved Runequest and played it plenty.

The difficulty was that Chaosium had the rights to publish a Lovecraft game, but they had no respect for Lovecraft’s writing. They realized if they wrote it, they would not do the game justice. Simply because they had contempt for Lovecraft, they realized this contempt would seep through the game, and taint it. You’ve seen this happen in other genres, such as movies, when a director doesn’t respect what he’s doing.

That’s why they hired me to write the Call of Cthulhu. They didn’t tell me of their lack of respect for Lovecraft. But they knew I loved it and would do the best job I could. That’s what they wanted. The best job.

But … Chaosium also knew that to do a full roleplaying game would require them to put in lots of work into it anyway. How could they somehow get a love for the topic? How could they find interest in the work of this so-called hack?

Why I don’t Play Call of Cthulhu in the 1920s

Chaosium’s genius was that they said, “The stories mostly take place in the 1920s. The 1920s are cool. Let’s set the game then!” and thus the 1920s era for Call of Cthulhu was born. They did a whole great big sourcebook for the 1920s and put it in the box. Folks loved it. Not just horror, but the 1920s.

Because they’d hung their hat on the 1920s, they were able to love the topic and get into it. Because they had a Lovecraft fan write the rules, I was unfettered and able to make it as creepy and horrifying as I liked.

Now, you must understand that Lovecraft wasn’t writing in the 1920s. He was not creating nostalgia – he was creating horror and science fiction and incorporating the latest discoveries. His tales feature airplane exploration of Antarctica, submarines, ultraviolet light, the discovery of Pluto, and so forth. He was cutting-edge. So, to me it was natural to set Lovecraft’s stories in the modern world. And I’ve usually played with that assumption.

So, when I played a game of Call of Cthulhu, mostly I ignored the 1920s setting. Sure, it was ostensibly 1920s, but the players drove cars, and carried guns, and there were police. It was close enough to the modern time that usually it made no difference. It gave me an excuse to force the players to travel overseas by boat, which was cool, and occasionally in dark corners of the earth there were groups or tribes no longer in existence.

But generally, I played it without reference to the time period. Not so the rest of the Chaosium team. They exulted in talking about the quaint old cars, flapper costumes, zeppelins and so forth. But the important thing is we all had fun, and so did the gamers.

Making Horror Horrific

In short – horror to be most effective has to be brought home to the players. In general, it’s harder to imagine yourself in the 1920s, because we never lived then. That becomes an additional obstacle to feeling terrified.

If you can set the horror in the same time as the players themselves live, it’s that little bit easier to scare them. It just gives you an edge, and I want all the advantages I can use.

But in reality, you can set horror in any era you choose. Just remember that if it is not set in the here-and-now, you may have to do a little extra work.

But that little extra work may be worth it!

About Sandy Petersen

Sandy got his start in the game industry at Chaosium in 1980, working on tabletop roleplaying games. His best-known work from that time is the cult game Call of Cthulhu, which has been translated into many languages and is still played worldwide.

He also worked on many other published projects, such as Runequest, Stormbringer, Elfquest and even the Ghostbusters RPG, and was instrumental in the creation of dozens of scenario packs and expansions. He also acted as developer on the original Arkham Horror board game.

In 2013 he founded Petersen Games which has released a series of highly successful boardgame projects, including The Gods War, Evil High Priest, and the much-admired Cthulhu Wars. His games have sold tens of millions of copies worldwide, and he has received dozens of awards from the game industry.

Planet Apocalypse: All About Dice

Planet Apocalypse: All About Dice

Planet apocalypse is an exciting cooperative game for 1–5 players. You are post-apocalypse heroes confronting the hordes of hell! Every game is different, and every game is tense, as you battle demons from the circles of hell, and in the end, strive to take down their demon lord.

This game features an upending variety of game play, with strategies and tactics changing every time. The demon figures in this game are huge, with miniatures a true 28mm scale, and demons up to 104mm.

Why are the dice so plain?

The dice are simple solid colors. Nothing fancy, like Q-Workshop’s tribal dice, or SJG’s Cthulhu dice. Why? Because we are going for functionality here. 

This is not just theory either. You see, when I play tested this game for the last 18 months, we obviously didn’t have the official dice, so I just used dice from my collection. Naturally, they came in all the colors of the rainbow. Some were even multi-colored. 

Almost every time someone rolls dice, there are adjustments. Someone helps you, so your d6 grows into a d8. Every time you roll for a demon attack it’s a different number and often type of dice. So, you can’t just grab your hero’s dice and plop them in front of yourself and use them. You need to swap them out.

This meant in our playtests every time dice were rolled, someone had to poke through the dice pile looking for one last d10, and the less experienced players had trouble telling the difference between d8s, d10s, and d12s (d4s & d6s were easy though). 

By making the dice flat easy-to-read colors it’s super-simple to grab the dice you need. If you need a d8 and a d10 for your attack, it’s super-easy just to grab a green & a blue die from the pile that Gilberto selfishly amassed in front of his seat.

We also didn’t pick the colors arbitrarily. They are assembled in such a way that colors that COULD be confused are on physically distinct dice. For example, if you have green-red colorblindness, blue and purple are sometimes difficult to distinguish. Well the blue & purple dice are the d10 and d6 which are really easy to tell apart via shape. And of course the d12 is almost black, making it really easy to tell apart from the d10, which is a sort-of-similar shape. The d10 & d8 are similar in shape to the untrained eye, but their colors, green & blue, are easily distinguished by almost all color-blind types. 

How Many Dice Do I Need?

Let’s break this down. You have I am sure noticed that there are 6 dice of each type in the dice pack. No doubt part of your brain is thinking, “Those lazy bastards. Why didn’t they carefully parse how many we’ll need instead of just dumping 6 per type.”

Well, let’s look at the individual cases. 

THE FOUR-SIDED DIE – only humans (and Chthon) roll the d4s. Sometimes a human might roll 2d4 (Chthon frequently rolls 4). Every human needs a d4 by his seat all the time for Recruiting anyway, so we give you 6. This way, a human who rolls 2d4 for his attack can have the extra die available, even in a 5 player game. 

THE SIX-SIDED DIE – the Larvae roll these. While in theory 10 Larvae could be in one area all rolling dice, this never happens in practice. They are divided among several areas, and by the time they get to attack, 1-2 have always been killed off. So really 6 is the upper-level of what you’d ever need. I’m trying really hard to think of a time we needed more than 6d6 for a Larvae attack, and cannot remember it happening in all 18 months of prototyping and playtest. 

THE EIGHT-SIDED DIE – these are rolled by humans (who never need more than a few), some 4th circle demons, and some demon lords. The demon lords roll six, so we give you 6d8 to handle this situation. 

THE TEN-SIDED DIE – most of the lesser demons roll these. However, more than 6 doesn’t really happen. You might have 2 cacodemons in an area, who would roll 6d10. Rarely (or with the Gehenna legion) you might find 3 fiends, who again roll 6d10. The theoretical maximum of Grylluses in an area is 6, so they won’t bust the limit. And of course a number of demon lords roll 6d10. Really, the only way to need more than six d10s is if you somehow get all four fiends in the same area. In that case you have bigger problems. Or if you have a really big Argus attack with a ton of minions. 

THE TWELVE-SIDED DIE – Plenty of demon lords roll d12s and of course they “only” ever need 6. It’s theoretically possible to need more with Chthon, but I doubt it.

What Do I Do With The Red Dice Pack?

As I see it, the red dice pack has two prime functions.

  1. As game owner, you can bogart the red (or blue) dice pack and tell your gaming buddies, “Okay, you parasites. THESE dice are mine. You guys get the other color.” Then you always have all the dice you need and they are easily distinguished. 
  2. You can set aside the red dice and say “We use these for the demons. The blue dice are for us.” There are enough blue dice that everyone will have enough most of the time. After all, humans don’t roll as many dice as the demons. You still may have to swap dice (or borrow a demon die) from time to time. 

Why can’t I buy more Despair Dice?

Because the number of Despair Dice (12) is a hard game limit. It’s integral to the late-game that 12 is the cap. “But Sandy!” I hear you plaintively, “What if I lose a die?” Well, heaven forbid, but if you do, just use a normal d6 in its place, reading a 1-3 as the First Circle icon, 4-5 as the Second Circle icon, and 6 as the Third Circle icon. It works fine. How do I know? We did just that for many months on end. 

Another solution, if you own the Cthulhu Wars custom dice, is to grab a custom Cthulhu battle die and use it as a replacement. You don’t REALLY need 20 of them in Cthulhu Wars, after all, and it has the same numbers of faces as the Despair Dice (3, 2, 1). I guess I’m in a rut design-wise. Either that or I’ve struck gold and am still mining it. You be the judge. 

About Sandy Petersen

Sandy got his start in the game industry at Chaosium in 1980, working on tabletop roleplaying games. His best-known work from that time is the cult game Call of Cthulhu, which has been translated into many languages and is still played worldwide.

He also worked on many other published projects, such as Runequest, Stormbringer, Elfquest and even the Ghostbusters RPG, and was instrumental in the creation of dozens of scenario packs and expansions. He also acted as developer on the original Arkham Horror board game.

In 2013 he founded Petersen Games which has released a series of highly successful boardgame projects, including The Gods War, Evil High Priest, and the much-admired Cthulhu Wars. His games have sold tens of millions of copies worldwide, and he has received dozens of awards from the game industry.