Prepping for Issue #1 of Infinity Storm didn’t leave me with enough time to write a Game Day column last week. This week though, I’m back in the player’s seat for our ongoing Ravenloft campaign.
The campaign’s got a few new tricks up its sleeve, mainly a whole slew of deadly effects from Paizo’s GameMastery Critical Hit Deck. Meanwhile, a box was waiting for me when I got home from work, and in it was the gaming goodness I’ve been looking for: my review copies of Halo ActionClix.
I started the evening opening up the review boosters of Halo ActionClix, a task that brought back happy memories of my gaming group tearing through boosters of HeroClix back when we used to buy new releases by the case … and I still had time to play the game. My initial impressions are:
- The sculpts look good, though the Spartan battle armor figures tend to take on iconic poses from the game. This is in keeping with what WizKids did with HeroClix, but I really would like to see more action shots. Give me figures running across the battle field in dramatic poses, not standing there with their arms up, duel-wielding plasma pistols.
- The Covenant and Flood figs appear to have more diversity to their poses, and in general, I like them more than the human ones. Though the Spartan with the energy sword does kick ass.
- I’m disappointed by the lack of a true starter (and a good, full-size battlemap). The big maps were part of what made HeroClix so much fun, and I hope we see them as part of the supplemental ActionClix sets like the Warthog.
- As with the latest HeroClix and the recent HorrorClix line, ActionClix uses stat cards to explain the powers and abilities of specific units. Not sure how I feel about that.
- The battle maps that are included have the instructions on the other side. This admittedly is more efficient then a rule book, but its awfully hard to consult the rules when you’re playing on them. I suppose that’s what PDF downloads are for.
- Overall, my small army is impressive arrayed on the table top, and I’m eager to see how well the game plays. I’m definitely hoping for the complexity of HeroClix, rather than the simplicity of the Star Wars constructible ship/card game.
The Ravens of Death
The lethality of Ravenloft can’t be understated; it’s looking like it could rival parts of our infamously gory Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil campaign by the time things are all said and done. We’ve already lost two characters from the initial party, the paladin Nuru and the cleric Donegal.
Their replacements, the dwarven cleric Berigal (and his follower, the gnome Garwick) and the halfling mercenary Willard, seem to be settling into their combat and role-playing niches well.
Friday’s game saw us questing for and recovering the Tome of Strahd, which contains the vampire’s history and holds clues to weakening his power. I’ve got to say that finding the Tome, like the Amulet, was a fairly anti-climatic affair. There are the obligatory guardians, but hasn’t been much in the way of traps or subtle trickery that shield the items from the party once their protective monsters have been defeated. The random nature of these items’ location in the Ravenloft environment, determined by the reading of a deck of cards, no doubt plays a large role in this; it’s simply impossible to write detailed settings for every combination that the deck might throw out.
That said, I suspect this will change somewhat once we get into Castle Ravenloft, and start having to deal with its inhabitants and secrets.
Critical Hit Deck
Something that has the potential to make the campaign even more lethal is Erilar’s new Critical Hit Deck. Crafted by Paizo as part of their GameMastery line, the deck is about the size of a normal deck of playing cards. When a character scores a critical hit, a card is played from the deck.
The effect replaces the standard critical damage that the weapon would do; instead it has some other effect, like causing the target to bleed a certain number of hit points per turn, suffer penalties to mobility, or have some catastrophic wound to a body party. Each card has effects for the various kinds of attacks (slashing, piercing, bludgeoning, etc.) with each having a different effect.
It hasn’t had a huge effect on combat just yet — think we may have played three cards to date – but already I like it more than the Torn Asunder book we had been using. Torn Asunder was a great way to mix up the standard critical damage, but ultimately paging through its charts was just too cumbersome a task. Playing a card, however, is easy and I expect we’ll keep using the deck in our game.
The big question is how badly this will hurt us in the end; it’s the nature of things that player characters are on the receiving end of most critical attacks, and the potential is there for a truly catastrophic event. In Ravenloft at least, we’re willing to take that risk.