Dan Arndt’s review “Petersen Games Summons New Horrors To The Tabletop” gives an overview of our offerings from Gen Con. He praises Planet Apocalypse, Glorantha: the Gods War, Startropolis, and our new “family” game: The Tooth Fairy!
Hannah Hazard is an Israeli-trained sniper:
Hannah’s start attack is 1d6, with a toughness of 2, starting Luck of 6 (!), and a mere 4 health. That health is bad, and keeps her out of the front lines, but her extra Luck means she is encouraged to take Luck-using Gifts, with the extra power and oomph they offer.
Hannah starts with the Sighted-In ability, which lets her attack demons in adjacent areas. This is even better than it sounds, because as always in Planet Apocalypse, a hero rolls their dice before assigning targets. This means that she rolls her attack, then chooses which area she’s going to kill demons in. If she is rolling 2 or more dice, she can kill demons in two different areas with a single attack!
Her earned abilities are Head Shot and Zeroed In. Head Shot lets her add two dice together into a single total – this basically makes her super-effective against demons who have high toughness, such as Fiends and certain lords and fourth circle demons. Zeroed In lets her increase ALL her attack dice by a step if she doesn’t move. So this is super-handy as well, but does tend to make her a sitting duck for enemies.
Her weakness is that she cannot have more than a single patrol trooper with her at a time. This means she can’t make up for her low Health by bulking up on troopers. She has to be careful about hand-to-hand combat. Like a sniper I suppose. So she is kind of an eggshell with a hammer. She can dish it out, but she can’t take it.
What’s Up With Her Weird Sighting Technique?
Some observant fans have noticed that Hannah appears to be sighting with the “wrong” eye in using her scope. The fact is, during the demon uprising, she lost one of her eyes, so she is forced to take this measure.
Some other fans may have noticed that Naomi Joslyn, another hero, is wearing an eyepatch. “What’s this obsession of Sandy with one-eyed girls?” you wonder. Well actually Naomi’s eye, under the eyepatch is operational. Too much so, actually. Read her corner to find out the truth!
How Hannah works
Hannah is one of the most popular heroes in the game (judging from my playtesters’ experience). She tends to station herself somewhere interesting, and then start gunning down the enemies until she is finally forced to shift her position due to an encroaching horde.
Her ability (with Head Shot) to KO Fiends almost at will, makes her incredibly useful in the late game. However, she needs protection, and her best positioning is in an area that has a large ambush, so if she is attacked, she can use the ambush troopers to absorb her hits. She can’t set up a good ambush on her own, not only because she has to recruit her troopers one at a time, but also because she tends to sit immobile in an area, instead of running around and trying to recruit. This means she has to rely on the rest of the team to set up a good “sniper perch” for her.
Hannah’s tech tree only adds 1d4 to her attack (every tech tree adds 1 die to the hero, but it’s different dice for different heroes), but it has two options that boost an attack die by a level. Of course, her Head Shot ability means she doesn’t necessarily need huge dice anyway, plus her high starting Luck means she is a good candidate for a great Luck-using Gift such as Frag Grenades or Wizard Eye. (In fact, Frag Grenades almost seems custom-made for Hannah. If it shows up, get it!)
Doc Hunter is an MD who has been living on the road since the apocalypse. When he saw the horrors advancing towards his hospital, he went to the pharmacy, grabbed all the drugs and medical gear he could cram onto a gurney, and headed for the hills. Since then he has been helping people the best he can, but the sights he has seen have tragically led him to seek solace in his own drugs.
Now he has decided to step out of the pure support role, and start taking on the demons directly.
Doc Hunter’s Abilities
His start attack is 1d6, toughness is 2, health 5, all average. He is the only hero who starts with 0 Luck which makes sense as an addict.
His start ability is useful, but perhaps not a surprise – he is a healer, so his First Aid restores 1 extra health to the target. There are several healing-oriented gifts in the gift deck, and in my opinion (though not everyone’s), it is wiser NOT to give these to Doc Hunter. For example, one such card is Medikit, which also gives +1 health per First Aid. If you give this to Doc Hunter, then of course he will heal 3 points each time. BUT if you give it to someone else instead, then they can heal 2 points as well as Doc Hunter, which is a total of 4 health! Of course, if you expect to be paying courage when you use First Aid (because of an enemy’s presence), then the good doctor is a bargain. Still, I think it’s usually better to spread the wealth. At least inasmuch as healing goes. Again, not everyone agrees, and I’ve seen the rival theory (i.e., give it all to the Doc) put into action.
One of the doctor’s earned abilities is Stimpacks, which lets him spend 1 Luck to instantly heal 1 damage on another hero, or add +1 to that hero’s move. This is obviously an expensive price for the healing, so why is it so great? Well, because he can use it at practically any time. This includes while fighting the Lord, so he is just about the only way you can heal up a point or two while facing Baphomet. That’s not trivial. The +1 Move is less common, but sometimes it is really critical, when a hero absolutely has to get to the exit area, or to a particular demon, or to launch a Lord attack.
His other ability is Autopsy – it lets him give up his First Aid during the team phase to kill a Limbo minion (automatically) instead. Remember that if a Limbo minion is in his area, it would cost him 1 courage to First Aid. This way, he can GAIN a courage instead, which is nice.
The Doctor’s flaw is the aforementioned Addiction. Basically, if he has 2 or more courage at the start of his hero turn, he has to discard one. This means he has trouble saving up for a big purchase, and tends to look for ways to spend it all before his turn (during the team phase, or when helping other players). It’s also an incentive for him to use first aid even when it costs courage. Example – imagine he has 2 courage in the team phase. He can use First Aid, spending 1 courage (we’re assuming demons are in his area, which is often the case), and drop his courage to 1. Now he won’t lose it, plus someone (possibly himself) got healed 2 points.
How Doc Hunter works
Obviously he can keep the other player’s health up, but there are more subtleties to his nature.
First, every single gift on his tech tree gives him 1 Luck, except one. That one gives him 3 Luck. So though he starts with none, it builds up rapidly over time (in my head when I designed him, this represented him overcoming his addiction). He generally doesn’t want to buy Luck-using gifts though, because Stimpacks is his main way to apply that Luck.
He gains 1d6 attack on the tech tree, plus 1 die boost, so his final total (not counting possible gifts that boost his combat) is 1d8+1d6, which is quite respectable. He can also gain 1 toughness – with such a good attack and toughness (and his Autopsy power), this means you want him right in the front lines. Of course he can heal you there too, but you want and need his battle oomph! So he is not a boring healer sitting in the rear like my former World of Warcraft healer – he is a real combat asset. The healing is a nice perk, though.
He is a good example of my design theory that there is no reason support characters have to be dull. I want to put them right into the firing line!
All About Dice
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 playtested this game for the last 18 months, we obviously didn’t have the official PA dice, so I just used dice from my collection. Naturally, they came in all the colors of the rainbow. Some were even multi-colored.
Now, if you recall, almost every time someone rolls dice in PA, 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.
Now you know. Also, for those who are unaware, the dice included in the core game are identical in color and number to those in the blue dice pack. Which is why it’s the default.
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.
Yes we have something more coming. Another 4 crown demon suzerain.
It’s a secret to everybody.
The Spider Mastermind
That’s right – we are doing a Keith Thompson version (assuming he’s willing – he has yet to respond!) of the humongous cyborg arachnid from when Sandy worked at id Software. If Keith is unable, we will find a good solution for the concept.
This was my favorite of all the enemies, frankly, which is why I placed it as the final boss (where, probably, it didn’t deserve to be. Cyberdemon should have been there.) I also pushed to get the mini-spiders in Doom 2 because of my love for this dude.
Anyway, we are doing our version of a spider cyborg brain thing and it will be in our game. No it won’t look exactly like the one in Doom, and not just for legal reasons. It will be our own original design and will blow you all away.
And yes it’s 4 crowns just like Cthulhu!
How the Spider Mastermind Works
MENACE – when you enter Hell Time, the Spider Mastermind gets a Royal token (the same that Orobas uses – if you don’t have Lord Orobas, who is in the Pack of the Pit, then you can substitute any convenient token).
The Spider Mastermind’s toughness is 3+3, one less than a Cacodemon, and its attack is 6d8. He has more health than any other lord, including even Geryon, and has 35 health in a 4 player game. So far he is not that impressive.
Here are his two threats.
ENRAGE – First, the Spider Mastermind attacks once PER ROYAL TOKEN. Since he earns one every time you attack him, this can build up if you attack him too many times. But since he has a lot of health, you’ll probably need to assault him several times over the course of the game, each time giving him another Royal Token … which never go away.
PANIC – Second, if at least one of the Spider Mastermind’s attack dice misses (and with an attack of 6d8, it’s not unlikely), then the targeted hero gets a choice, He must EITHER automatically retreat, right then (after taking any remaining damage), OR he must choose to allow the Mastermind to heal 1 per missed attack die. So if a lot of dice miss, it’s bittersweet – you don’t take much damage, but you may need to run away or let the Spider Lord heal a bunch.
Your reward is unusual – if you retreat voluntarily (i.e., not via the Panic power), then you get to immediately roll 1d4 and recruit. So this usually means you want to use up your patrol troopers in the battle, so you can take advantage of this bonus.
What does this mean in practice?
His doubled toughness means you can’t attack him too early. His ever-growing Enrage attack power means you need to make as few invasions of his area as possible. His Panic power means you don’t really want to have a lot of toughness against him – it’s better for you to take damage than to let him heal.
Really his threat isn’t so much that he’s going to kill the players – and in fact, he is not particularly lethal. The problem is that he is really hard to kill, and he keeps healing, and eventually he CAN kill you, or heal heaps. In the meantime, the invasion tokens keep growing and growing and scoring Doom.
Unlike some lords, when you face the Spider Mastermind, usually you lose because of Doom accumulated by the minions, not because the Lord wiped you out. This makes sense, because he is a Mastermind, after all.
Good luck. This is after all a four crown demon.
The Philtre is of course named after healing potions and the like. I originally called it the Catholicon, which is an old term for a universal medicine, but I feared folks would misunderstand and think I was somehow slamming the Church. Which I’m not. I did keep the term “Catholicon” in use for its ability though.
While the Philtre is in play, all the enemies have 1 extra toughness. Thus, the Limbo minions are 2 instead of 1. The first circles are 4 instead of 3, and so forth. This adds a little more grit to the battle, and it can be pretty bad at times. For example, say you are attacking a 2nd circle minion with a 1d8 attack (not uncommon). With the Philtre in play, you move from a 25% chance of killing the fiend to a mere 12.5% chance. Half as much!
The Philtre itself isn’t very dangerous, with a doubled toughness of 2+2 and a meager 4d6 attack. The doubled toughness means it is going probably take a couple of turns to kill him, which means you won’t be able to stop the other demons on the map while he’s around – at least not too effectively.
Once you kill him, the other demons are that much closer to the exit, and you are under the gun for time and effort.
Argus is another demon lord who is based on a Greek legend – the fabled herdsman with a thousand eyes. In the sculpt, the eyes are arranged around him in a sort of pattern, but it’s not an attractive one!
Lord Argus’s menace is to immediately place a Fiend in his area when the heroes enter. Usually there is already an invasion token, so this is really an extra Fiend, beyond whatever is rolled. It does mean you don’t want to hit him for a small attack (this makes sense for some of the other lords) – you want to stick it out a bit and get some real whacks in.
Argus is Toughness 6 and rolls 6d10 which are tough, but he is a demon Lord after all. His real threat is his Decree ability. This means that all minions in Argus’s room combine their attacks into one big attack along with Argus, rolling all their dice in one humongous attack.
Consider this – say that it’s fairly early in the game, and the despair dice are up to 6. When you enter Argus’s area, first he spawns a Fiend, then you have to roll the despair dice. The BEST possible result you could get with 6 dice is two 1st circles plus 2 limbo minions, which is 4 enemies, plus that Fiend. If you don’t trim back the herd before Argus attacks, someone on your team will be facing 6d10 (argus) +2d10 (the fiend) + 2d10 (the first circles) +2d6 (the limbo minions) for the attack. That’s potentially 12 damage, though admittedly 2-3 of the dice will probably miss. Still, that’s a lethal attack in a game where most heroes are at around 4-7 health.
Of course, realistically some players will roll too low to hurt Argus, but will be able to kill a Limbo minion or a Gryllus (first circle), so that will reduce the backfire. But not much. Also let’s remember that this is if you get the best possible spawn roll, and there are only 6 despair dice.
Based on my experience, your final battle with Argus will probably be when he is rolling more like 10 despair dice, which means the minimum number of enemies you can face are 8, plus that damned Fiend (damned literally as well as figuratively). You won’t be able to trim that herd back, and will need to either sacrifice a hero killed when Argus strikes, or have someone who is beefed up with lots of troopers – who will all be destroyed in Argus’s attack.
More than any other lord you have to start off trying to kill his minions instead of him, so that his counter attack can’t simply eliminate a player straight away. This is also a tough choice, because Argus has a lot of hit points, in addition to a high toughness. In a 4 player game, he has 20 health (compare to Baphomet’s 15 or Jabootu’s 18).
There is a reason Argus has 2 crowns. He is mean, and if you defeat him (as I admittedly have done) you have cause to crow.