Merry Christmas everybody!
Hope you’ve all been having an excellent Sunday, no matter what you’ve been up to!
It’s game day once again here at spalanz.com, and today marks an extra-special game day blog as it’s Christmas week! Whether you’re celebrating with presents and food, or if it’s just time off work – or even if it’s just another week – I hope you’re all having a grand old time! Personally, I find there’s nothing so magical as spending a couple of hours with some supernatural horror, so it’s time once again to take a look at the always-excellent A Touch of Evil, and the second “holiday villain”, as we fight against the demonic Krampus!
You may recall, of course, this was a web villain exclusive from Flying Frog Productions last Christmas – which got me very excited at the time, as I love the amount of elaborate work that often goes into these web villains. While I didn’t get to try him out last year, I have now had the pleasure, and I want to give some brief impressions today!
First of all, I liked this villain a lot. While not as wonderful as the Volgovian Nutcracker, he is nevertheless an interesting villain to go up against. For those unfamiliar with the folklore, Krampus is a devil who runs around at Christmastime punishing bad children by whipping them with birch rods, like a reverse St Nicholas. Indeed, Krampus punishes these children on the night before St Nicholas’ Day (6 December). For the town of Shadowbrook, many of the original immigrants brought the Germanic tradition of Krampus with them, and regularly celebrate with parades and feasting. And this is where the fun begins!
At the start of the game, Reveler tokens are placed on the dangerous locations, and a pool of townsfolk tokens is created by all the town elders and allies, whose cards are removed from their respective decks. One townsfolk token is placed in each corner location, and the stage is set for the festivities to begin!
Over the course of the game, heroes can search the crowd of revelers for clues by rolling a d6; if you roll a 5 or 6, you’ve found the real Krampus and he attacks you! On the roll of 1-4, however, you can either collect investigation tokens equal to the number rolled, or gain one Egg Grog token, which prevents up to two wounds being done to you or an ally with you. The band of revelers then moves on to a random location, but if they ever enter a space with a townsfolk token, that townsfolk is taken by Krampus and placed in his sack!
While there are of course a multitude of other things going on in the game, which I’ll get to shortly, this is the core of the new villain and how he changes the gameplay. I must admit, it took me a while to “get” this, and for a number of turns I wasn’t interacting with the revelers, which meant they were just nothing on the board, and the game didn’t feel that exciting or different. Reveler tokens don’t stop movement – instead, you search the crowd as an elective action. However, the potential benefits of the Egg Grog tokens (or even the bonus investigation) should get you searching the crowd as often as you’d search a corner location!
The other big new mechanic here is Naughty and Nice. At the start of your turn, you choose whether your hero is naughty or nice, taking the corresponding token. If you were nice, then nothing immediately happens, and the token is returned to the bank. If you were naughty, however, you keep the token, you gain one investigation for each naughty token you have, then you roll a d6; if you equal or less than the number of tokens you have, you take as many wounds as naughty tokens you have, then return them all to the bank. In addition, if you roll a 5 you get a free event, and if you roll a 6 you get a free town item. Having multiple Egg Grog tokens really helps if you’re planning to push your luck here!
Naughty and Nice also has an interaction with the Minion Chart, which only includes one such minion – the faun – and two Events. Perchta is a follower of Krampus in the folklore, and the result of a roll of 3-4 on the Minion chart. Rewarding the virtuous and good, while punishing the wicked by ripping our their intestines and replacing them with straw, this event gives each nice hero d6 investigation, while forcing d3 hits on each naughty hero. Another event on the chart, Birkenrute, similarly punishes naughty heroes by forcing the discard of d6 investigation, items or allies (the chart also says “wounds”, but I’m guessing it doesn’t mean heal yourself…) Both of these events are very thematic for the villain, and while events seem to so rarely come up in games, they were nevertheless fun when they did!
But what about Krampus’ sack?
Well, folklore describes how Krampus roams the neighbourhood abducting particularly bad children, carrying them back to his lair in a sack, whereupon he eats them. In the game, any townsfolk in Krampus’ sack will be eaten on the roll of 4+ whenever the shadow track moves into a new stage. Hilariously, however, during a fight with the villain, you can target the sack and potentially rescue anyone trapped inside if you score a successful hit. The townsfolk rescued in this way immediately join you, which is nice! You can also attempt to team up with townsfolk still on the board by paying 3 investigation and rolling a 4+ when you encounter them.
I really enjoyed this villain. The extent to which allies matter is really amazing – and can be increased if you have The Allies supplement for the game, of course! I always like to try to get a couple of extra folks whenever I’m playing, so you feel like you really have a posse going on there, and this has never been easier with this addition. While the potential is obviously there to ignore the revelers and see very little happen with regard the sack, and always choose to be nice, effectively rendering the large part of the game pointless, I can’t actually imagine anyone would elect to play in this manner.
It’s no Volgovian Nutcracker, which remains one of my all-time favourite villains for the game, (and I’m looking forward to going up against him again in my now-traditional game on Christmas Eve), but Krampus is still a really cool villain for the game, and one that I feel is well-implemented and enjoyably different. Variety is always great, and having a huge cast of villains to go up against is awesome.
He’s also free, so what are you waiting for?!
It’s Christmas week! I’m not sure if you’re celebrating the season – personally, I’m not religious at all, but embrace the food and candles like there’s no tomorrow! It’s always an exciting time of year because of the stuff on offer, as well – being a shameless consumer, I love getting the big game releases and whatnot. This year, it’s another expansion for Eldritch Horror, Under the Pyramids, which I’m looking forward to immensely! Oh, yes, there’ll be a blog incoming once I’ve taken that through for a couple of plays!
It’s a game that I really love, I must say. Last Christmas we got Mountains of Madness, which I realised I hadn’t played all year, so got round to a game yesterday. Something I particularly like is how well the sideboard is integrated in this game. With Arkham Horror, there’s always something a little off about travelling to the new boards. Of course, it’s exciting and whatnot to see the differences, but I don’t know… There’s something a little more interesting about the new board here in Eldritch Horror.
I’ve actually not played as much Eldritch Horror as I’d like, and I’m working on playing more in the future. For now, at least, I’m really excited to get more Horror for Christmas!
I’ve been spending a lot of time over the last week painting these chaps up – Genesis Chapter terminators! I’ve been sorta working on painting Space Marines for a fair number of weeks now, going for the Ultramarines – eventually, I’m going to get round to a blog on these guys. Anyhow. Lots of blue made me investigate alternative options and, after getting some Deathwing Terminators in the Black Friday deal, decided to investigate a third option with the successor chapter to the Ultramarines – mainly because of the red colour scheme. Every so often I get in a bit of a painting rut, so when stuff inspires me like that I tend to go along with it. Recently I’ve been struggling to stay focused enough to finish models, but at least these guys are going well for now!
I’ve not really been keeping up with the advent calendar stuff this month, but did make the effort to check out the short story Godless, dealing with the ongoing search for Slaanesh following the End Times. It was pretty good, I have to say, easily worth the couple of pounds I paid for it.
While we’re on the subject of Warhammer, have you guys noticed the latest round of Age of Sigmar stuff coming out of Nottingham? Stuff seems to be getting bigger and bigger lately. I do like these new models, I have to say, even though some of them are a little too crazy to look at, such as the Varanguard, with all the armour banding going on there. Archaon is apparently the biggest model produced for the game, and does look splendid, but my goodness, I thought this was a miniature war game! The Everchosen releases do look nice – while I’m not really a Khorne guy, I like the rainbow colours of Tzeentch, and the Gaunt Summoner thing looks interesting. I’ve been thinking about buying the battletome, if nothing else, as I love the background for these things, and feel like I need to get more into the Age of Sigmar fluff, but for now I’m staying my hand!
I’m really hoping they produce some sort of cavalry for the Stormcast Eternals – talking with the manager of my local store recently, he reckons more is to come for the Stormcast to flesh out the other Chambers in the warband. That’d be nice, I think – perhaps more dracoth-like beasts with warriors on top…
I guess we’ll see what the new year brings!
Happy Boxing Day, to all those who partake of the season!
Following on from my earlier blog, Flying Frog have put up a new web villain for A Touch of Evil – Krampus, the Holiday Devil! From German folklore, Krampus is the demon that punishes naughty children at Christmas. How wonderful!
The first new content for this game in just over two years, I’m going to try this chap out shortly – have an awesome day!
The big day is almost here, so I want to share with you one of my all-time favourite Christmas games – it’s a small web expansion for that old favourite, A Touch of Evil: it’s the Volgovian Nutcracker!
Ah, Christmas! It’s a time of fun and frivolity, lively laughter, good spirits – and evil nutcrackers. Of course it is! Tchaikovsky couldn’t have been further from the truth. When Christmas comes to Shadowbrook, only bad stuff entails…
I thought I’d share some rambling musings on this, my favourite of the pdf villains for A Touch of Evil (and, incidentally, my second-favourite villain of the entire game series so far), so that you can curl up with a cup of chocolate in the twinkling light of the tree and be terrified beyond your wildest dreams. Because there are evil nutcrackers out there…
Yes, my favourite of the web exclusives. FFP deserves so much credit for doing this. When game companies are willing to give you free stuff, it’s always good, but when said company is willing to give you free stuff that is just as good – if not better – than the product that has a price tag, I feel a massive rush of affection for them that usually leads to me spending more money on them. While I appreciate that FFP are of course widening their base with more games and supporting those, not to mention the resources that must go into these things, I still have all of my extremities crossed that there will be more pdfs appearing in due course.
But for now, I’ll uncross some of them to continue with this blog…
The Volgovian Nutcracker is like nothing we’ve seen before, entirely unique, with his own unique minions and mechanics. The first thing that I noticed when glancing through his sheets is that he never actually attacks you, until you get to the Showdown. Whereas you would expect the D6 roll of a 6 on the minion chart to be a villain attack event, instead there is a really nice effect that I’ll describe shortly. While it’s still possible to encounter the Nutcracker himself through Deadly Encounters, you otherwise won’t see the little wooden guy until the end.
There is something quite whimsical about this villain that has such undercurrents of darkness that it strongly reminds me of the circus folks in Batman Returns. The villain himself is a nutcracker, after all, and his minions are toys! Where’s the harm?! Well, have you seen how sinister those Stuffed Bears look?! The Christmas cheer is there, but it has such a wonderfully dangerous edge that it is the perfect marrying of theme in this game. (I’ll come back to this point later.)
First off, then, let’s have a look at the Basic Game. With Toy Soldiers and Toy Cannons, the Nutcracker seeks to strike. These Toy Soldiers have the nasty ability of being able to repair themselves at the end of each fight round on the roll of 4+, which makes them just that extra bit annoying. The Toy Cannons also do double damage on rolls of 6, so even though they’re only rolling 2 fight dice, they have the potential to knock you out in one round. The event that replaces the usual Villain Attack is called “Holiday Ball”, where you roll a die and consult a chart. Rolls of 2-5 are benign, in fact they’re quite helpful; roll a 6 and you might be getting some investigation, but you’re also spawning some Toy Soldiers. Rolls of 1 move the Shadow Track. The Nutcracker himself, sporting a 5 combat rating and 6 wounds, has a wonderful ability called ‘Crushing Bite’ where his rolls of 6 force you to discard an item or ally, or take an additional hit. Those powerful jaws, capable of crushing through the hardest of shells, or the closest of bonds between hero and ally…
But as usual, it’s the Advanced Game that I’m more interested in.
To start with, the Advanced Game adds two more movable bits to the game experience – the aforementioned creepy Stuffed Bears, and the delightfully whimsical Christmas Caravan – more on the latter in a minute! First of all, all these toys become a lot more deadly. The Soldiers still heal, but they also inch closer to the nearest hero at the beginning of the Mystery phase. The Cannons – well, watch out if they’re in any named space! If they’re at a corner location, they bombard that location’s deck, discarding D6 cards from the pile until there’s nothing left. If they run it down, that location is considered to be destroyed and it is treated like an unstable location instead, much like the Sunken mechanic did in Something Wicked, released a few months before the pdf went up. If the Cannons are left in Town spaces, they discard a random Town Item and move the Shadow Track each Mystery Phase. Combined with The Hour is Late, that can be a killer!
Ever thought Stuffed Bears were cute and cuddly? Well, think again! These little horrors are as dangerous as the Vampire’s Wolves, or the Werewolf’s Feral Kin, hitting on 4, 5 or 6! The good thing is they can only take two wounds. The Holiday Ball event is now transformed into something that I really like, too. If rolled, the heroes with a Party Invitation Event card move immediately to the Manor and gain D6 investigation – very handy! You then roll a die for each living Town Elder, the roll compared to each of their three attributes, triggering a different effect for whichever it matches. So, if it equals the Elder’s Honor, that Elder gains a Resolve Token (from the Something Wicked expansion – if you aren’t using this (gasp!), you can use this effect to remove a Mystery card that remains in play on the roll of 5 or 6); if it equals their Spirit, they gain a Secret card, and if it matches their Cunning you can place 2 Investigation at The Manor.
The Christmas Caravan also flits around the board, dropping investigation tokens wherever it goes, which can be very handy. The Caravan also takes on the little chart that the Basic Game used for the Holiday Ball event, so that if a hero encounters the Caravan during the course of the game he will roll on this chart to see what happens. There are some minor changes – rolls of 1 draw a Mystery Card instead of moving the Shadow Track, and you’ll place 2 Toy Soldier minions on the roll of a 6, but in essence it’s the same. Heroes encountering the Caravan can also buy Town Items here.
Collecting investigation from the board is made so much more difficult now, however, due to the Exploding Gifts ability. Yes, any tokens dropped by the Caravan, or otherwise placed through card effects, aren’t just clues lying around to be discovered to aid the heroes, but exploding presents from the Soulless Nutcracker! Muwahahaha! Heroes must pass the Cunning 5+ test to pick these tokens up, or else they blow up in your face and are removed from the board, leaving you with D3 wounds. Ouch!
The Nutcracker has a simply excellent ability that works off the “Murder!” Mystery card, too. ‘Tis the Season…for Murder! makes you roll a die and, on the roll of 4+, you place a Stuffed Bear minion at the same location as the 3 investigation. If you roll a 1, the Town Elder with the lowest Cunning is killed. The Villain’s rules sheet just cracks me up on this point, though – the Elder is considered to be “the victim of a deadly present”! I just love it! Those sinister Stuffed Bears have a lot to answer for…
Another really great, atmospheric ability the Nutcracker has is Winter Snowfall. When rolling for Lingering, you roll 2 dice and take the lower result. The effect is considered to be a permanent Weather card, any other such cards are merely discarded, which forces the Shadow Track to move one more inexorable step towards darkness. So if you’ve got Cannons in the Town, and haven’t yet managed to shift The Hour is Late, you’re in real trouble! Especially so, because the Nutcracker has yet another ability that kicks off from the Shadow Track crossing through stages closer to darkness. Assault of Darkness will place a random minion at 2 Random Locations whenever the Track moves into a new stage closer to darkness.
The Nutcracker also has some new keywords that work off existing cards from the core set, as well as not being forgotten by further expansions. So Magistrate Kroft will be able to lend his +2 fight dice ability against this demonic Construct, as will Sara the Bright Witch. However, the devious Nutcracker will have +1 Combat against you unless your Cunning is 4 or higher, so get ye to the Magistrate’s Office!
I just love this guy! he is definitely not the sort of Nutcracker that would transport you to a magical kingdom of sweets and sugarplum fairies, but instead will crush you betwixt his evil jaws and transport you to hell! The whimsy of fighting against toys like some demented child’s nightmare aside, I think the whole package is highly atmospheric and, through all of these little rules twists, creates an almost-entirely new game, moreso perhaps than any other villain. I also feel that, more than the other two web villains, his abilities feed off the Mystery card deck really very neatly, particularly with moving the Shadow Track. In a very unlucky game, you may only have as many as four rounds before you lose!
I cannot gush enough at just how much work must have gone into this creation. The other two web villains have always re-used previously-released content in their own way, but the Nutcracker has his own unique minions, to say nothing of the Christmas Caravan that is roaming the town dropping off sinister gifts. However, this does pose its own problem. If, like me, you don’t have access to the kind of thick cardstock that the regular FFP stuff is printed on, the Nutcracker experience does become a little fiddly, as minion counters are slid with care across Shadowbrook because of the card available. There is also the issue of how the minions are printed, the intention being that the six Cannons and the six Bears have Soldiers on the reverse. It isn’t exactly difficult to arrange the game so that, when you place a Cannon or a Bear, you remove a Soldier from play until that minion is defeated, but it can become a little bit fiddly. I’m not so craftsy that I can overcome this with ease (heck, I can’t even operate a laminator consistently!) However, these are less than minor quibbles – I’m just thrilled to have more content for the game that I love so much!
The Christmas Caravan is also a really great addition. All its abilities aside, I really like the fact that it doesn’t automatically move every turn, but only on the roll of 4+, so if you want to encounter it but find yourself on the other side of the board, you have a chance at least of getting there. It does tend to be tweaked when I play, though, so that you can’t buy Town Items there. I feel that, had this villain been released as part of a more mainstream expansion (Sinister Celebrations, perhaps, where we see a daemonic Thanksgiving Turkey, or somesuch?) the Christmas Caravan should have had its own deck of cards that you could buy from when you encounter it – candy canes that allow you to discard for +1 fight dice, as you jab them into the eyes of the Stuffed Bears, perhaps? Wrapping paper that you can discard to automatically defeat a Toy enemy, as you wrap it up. Or a massive walnut, which allows you to go first in the Showdown because you jam the jaws of the Nutcracker? Well, maybe that would be a step too whimsy. Anyway, I’m fine with encountering the Caravan and rolling on its little chart before it trots along to its next location, leaving those exploding gifts in its wake. I just feel that it’s a little bit weird that you can buy these items in town as well as out on the Crossroads. The town is the haven of the game, where you can go for good stuff and stuff that can help you – if the Caravan really has brought ‘a host of dark secrets and despair’, it’s enough for me that it drops investigation in its wake.
I said before that he was my second-favourite villain to play against, and the only thing keeping him from the top spot is the fact that I find him so Christmas-themed that it seems almost perverse to play against him at any other time of year. If you haven’t tried this villain yet, what the devil are you waiting for?!