Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Land of Eem

Land of Eem is an upcoming RPG that can best be described as the answer to the question, "What if the Muppets played D&D?" This is another one of my most anticipated RPGs of 2023, and my review here is based solely on the Quickstart Guide.

I love the Muppets. (My favorite is Beaker.) So, I was attracted to this RPG based on its theme, but I also approached the game with a healthy dose of guarded optimism. What I expected from the Land of Eem was an entertaining read, but not actually a game that I'd want to bring to my table. What I got was both, but surprisingly more of the later than the former.

Don't get me wrong. The Quickstart Guide is quite entertaining to read, but what was most engaging was how creative, interesting and ultimately playable the game mechanisms appear to be. If my instincts and experience from 40+ years of roleplaying tell me anything, it's that, "The Land of Eem is a good game." It's a really good game.

There are some of the things that I expected from a game that wants to "feel" like, "Muppets the Fantasy RPG." Like silly or quirky names for characters and locations such as, "The Drippy Downs" or "Scalawag Strand." But, this is tempered with some truly smart and playable advice for creating this genre of roleplay. Here is a quote from the Quickstart Guide that really spoke to me:

"The game is designed to value creativity, roleplaying and exploration over excessive combat. While getting into fights is still part of the game, players almost always have opportunities to talk their way out of conflict. This is because almost every creature or “monster” encountered in the Land of Eem is a person. They speak a language, have thoughts, feelings, desires and motivations, and players should be willing to parley before running headlong into a slugfest. True, some creatures are ultimately selfish, ruthless, evil or simply difficult to talk to, but it would be wrong to assume every manticore wants to eat you, just as it would be foolish to think every human you meet wants to kill you."

This paragraph really spoke to me. I thought about Muppet monsters and realized that every encounter with such things would likely begin with a verbal exchange. That's roleplaying. This is really smart advice for running a game like Eem. Heck, it's really smart advice for running any game. And, that's the thing that I kept thinking with every turn of the page, "smart." Land of Eem is smart.

While the tone of Eem is described as, "fantasy muppets," Eem is not actually based on Muppets at all. It is based on a graphic novel series by Ben Costa and James Parks called, "Rickety Stitch and the Gelatinous Goo." Consequently, the RPG is written and designed by the same team. The Land of Eem is set in the world of their graphic novel series.

The Quickstart Guide begins with a brief overview of a small section of the world known as the "Mucklands," describing key locations and a bit of its history. This is actually a pretty "dark" setting. Greedy goblin tycoons are pushing forward a fantasy industrial age destroying nature and magic, and devastating the landscape, while practically enslaving their workforce of downtrodden common folk.

There's a taste of "Fern Gully" here in the "evil goblins" technological advance, and the mix of fantasy magic and industrial age style "progress" makes me think, "gaslamp fantasy." This in turn makes me think of early SNES era Final Fantasy games - specifically, Final Fantasy III (or VI in Japan.) This for me is a very good thing. Eem isn't just silly fluff. There's a rich fully realized fantasy world here, and while it actually appears quite dark and foreboding, players are encouraged to keep game play lighter and more optimistic. But, that's only one option. Eem is far more versatile than what is implied by it's tagline.

Unsurprisingly, Eem's game mechanics are of the typical, "roll a die and add a modifier to arrive at an outcome" variety. What is surprising however, is that the die used here isn't a d20, but a d12. That tightens things up and makes each modifier added to the roll more potent. Smart!

Outcomes aren't just, "hit or miss" or "yes or no." Each roll provides an outcome in degrees that requires some roleplay to adjudicate. This can be tricky to master, but I think Eem handles it well, and the game text provides many useful examples.

When performing a task, you roll a d12 plus the appropriate modifier to arrive at a result as shown on the table below.

   1-2     Complete Failure
   3-5     Failure with a Plus
   6-8     Success with a Twist
   9-11    Success
   12      Complete Success

With "complete failure" something bad happens. "Failure with a plus" is a fail forward, you don't get what you want, but you get something. "Success with a Twist" means you get what you want, but with unexpected consequences. "Success" is just that, and "Complete Success" means that you did even better than expected, earning some kind of bonus in the process. Players are encouraged to brainstorm with the GM when adjudicating these results, which keeps everyone involved and doesn't lay everything in the GM's lap. What was it that I keep saying? Oh yeah ... "smart."

Opposed actions have the active player reduce their roll by the opposing character's skill bonus. This is how combat attacks are handled, with the degrees of success affecting damage. Damage in the game is called "Dread" and it reduces a character's "Courage" stat. The rules for conflict are designed to make actual combat a last resort. The order of operations goes: 1) chance to talk, trick, sneak or use some other skill, 2) chance to run, 3) forced to fight - with each round starting back at the top giving continuing opportunities to avoid combat or to end hostilities. 

Modifiers from skills, equipment, items and abilities can never exceed +3, but players have a pool of Quest Points that they can spend to increase their results after rolling the dice. That's right, I said, "after!" Finally, true dice roll mitigation that works! But, you only have so many Quest Points to spend each session, so you must use them wisely. The game also uses, "Advantage" and "Disadvantage" allowing players to roll two dice, but keep only the highest or lowest respectively.

There are four core attributes: Vim, Vigor, Knack, and Knowhow and each of these has exactly four Skills associated with them. There's a nice symmetry here, and all 16 skills appear to be useful. It's clear that a lot of thought went into this design. There are also four "Stats." These are each modified by one of the core attributes: Courage (modified by Vim), Attack (modified by Vigor), Defense (modified by Knack) and Quest Points (modified by Knowhow.) More symmetry. This kind of symmetry isn't necessary, but I like it.

Characters aren't just a collection of stats and numbers, players create relationships with all the other players' characters. They define personal quests and a backstory and are awarded XP for roleplaying these aspects. In fact, no XP is granted for combat. Players only get XP for roleplaying and for the discoveries inherent in exploring the game world.

Characters have an ancestry called their "Folk," and a character profession called their "Class." Each Folk gives a unique special ability. Each Class provides some unique perks and two special abilities per level. You must choose one of the two special abilities each level to keep, but not immediately. This is another one of those "smart" bits. With each new level including first, you gain both special abilities, but when you advance to the next level, you are able to keep only one of the two abilities from your former level. It's lose one to gain two. What this does is allow players to "try before you buy" playing a level with both choices before taking the plunge and customizing their characters.

The Quickstart Guide clocks in at 47 pages and that's without the game's 6 pregenerated characters. The pregenerated characters are in a separate PDF that's 18 pages, 3 for each character. There is one character for each of the six Classes in the game: the Bard, the Knight-Errant, the Dungeoneer, the Loyal Chum, the Rascal, and the Gnome. And, each of the pregenerated characters is of a different Folk: Boggart, Gelatinous Goo, Bogril, Shyrm, Human, and Gnome (Gnome is the only Folk that is also a Class.)

Each character includes the descriptions of Class Abilities up to level 5. That means that if players want to keep playing the game beyond the included sample adventure, they can. A play group can quite easily play any sort of adventure or campaign desired. The tone might be anything from: Fraggle Rock, to the Dark Crystal, to Lord of the Rings, to Final Fantasy. If you want a more serious game, change some of the class and folk names to something less, "muppety." Just remember: Place an emphasis on role play. Combat is not a goal. Treat monsters as though they are people. 

I absolutely love the Land of Eem Quickstart Guide. There's so much more here that I could talk about: innovative systems for money and encumbrance, rules for overland travel, random encounters, weapons and armor ... so much good. It's one of the best Quickstarts I've read. I recommend checking it out for yourself and joining the discussion on our Facebook group to let me know if the Land of Eem becomes one of your most anticipated games of 2023!

Sunday, March 26, 2023

Recovery Items (Royalty Economy)

As you adventure, you will inevitably replace some items of equipment with new and better Royalties. As this occurs, you can trade the equipment that you no longer need for recovery items. The Recovery Items table below tells you which item or items you gain each time you exchange an unwanted Royalty.

Recovery Items

Perform a Royalties $ Action and consult the table below for each item you exchange:

$ Effort Recovery Item(s)
  2-10   a Salve
 11-19   a Salve or a Potion (choose one)
 20-29   a Salve and a Potion (one of each)
 30-39   an Elixir
    40+  Book of Life

Using Recovery Items

Use a Recovery Item in place of a Countering or Attacking Action. Salves, Potions and the Book of Life are one use items and are consumed when used. Elixirs have two doses and can be used twice before being consumed.


If you have fewer than 3 face up cards in your tableau, flip any one face down card so that it is face up. If this card was exhausted, rotate it 90 degrees. (Face up cards are never exhausted.)


Choose one exhausted face down card and rotate it 90 degrees. This card is no longer exhausted.


Elixirs are special in that they can mimic the effects of either a Salve or a Potion. You choose which effect you want when you use the Elixir.

Book of Life

The Book of Life protects your character from death. When you lose an encounter that indicates your character has died, instead lose Book of Life and return to the Inn. You may only possess one Book of Life at a time. If your Recovery $ Action result indicates the Book of Life, and you already have one, gain an Elixir instead.

Wednesday, March 22, 2023


One of my most anticipated RPGs of 2023 is the new edition of the Swedish RPG, "Drakar och Demoner" or "Dragons and Demons." This new edition will be available in English for the first time in the game's more than 40 year history. The English language version of the game will be identical to the Swedish version, but its name is being changed to, "Dragonbane."

The original edition of Dragons and Demons published in 1982 was a straight up reprint in Swedish of "Magic World" from Chaosium. In 1982 Chaosium released a boxed set of three games called, "Worlds of Wonder." This boxed set included a 16 page pamphlet called, "Basic Role Playing" or BRP and three world books: Future World, Super World, and Magic World.

Drakar och Demoner reprinted the BRP pamphlet and the Magic World pamphlet (also 16 pages) in a box set with, if I am guessing at the text on the back of the box correctly, an introductory adventure and  some dice. (The Worlds of Wonder boxed set by Chaosium came with a 4, 8 and a 20 numbered 0-9 twice -- 10 siders weren't a thing yet, as well as 3 six-sided dice. I am betting that the 1st Edition of Drakar och Demoner was the same.)

Chaosium has revised and re-released the various "worlds" presented in Worlds of Wonder over the years. The last version of Basic Role Playing that I owned was a hefty yellow hardback printed in 2011. This version is more like GURPS and is all about spending character points. I don't like it. It's too much math. Fortunately, Drakar och Demoner follows its own evolutionary path. My hope is that Dragonbane isn't so mathy.

I am providing this little bit of history as I have been able to gather it in order to write this post. As stated, I did own the 2011 version of Basic Role Playing, but I had never heard of Dragonbane or Dragons and Demons until a few weeks ago. I saw an ad on EN World for late pledges to the Dragonbane Kickstarter. The artwork spoke to me and I clicked on the ad.

I am a comic book guy. I like art. I was originally drawn to comic books because I loved looking at the pretty pictures. Striking art sucks me right in, and the art on Dragonbane by artist Johan Egerkrans is stunning. It's gorgeous. It's the first thing that I noticed, and the reason I downloaded and read the Quickstart rules in the first place. The layout, graphic design and as mentioned, artwork presented in the Dragonbane Quickstart is very nice. So, I read the rules, and here we are.

The Quickstart opens with a bit of flavor text about the "world" of Dragonbane. It's a world where dragons and demons fought over the creation of the world, dragons as a force of order and demons as a force of chaos. I like this. I love the thought of dragons being an almost godlike presence, and them being the "good guys."

The next bit is the usual intro to RPG stuff, players, GM, ability scores. I was a little disappointed to see the six ability scores from 3-18, straight out of D&D, but maybe this kind of familiarity is good. I didn't need to worry anyway. The rules, while familiar in many ways, are very different from D&D. For one, damage bonuses, that are derived from either agility or strength depending on the weapon used, are expressed not as static bonuses, but as dice. So, ability score values aren't just numbers translated into other numbers.

Actions in Dragonbane are rolled on a d20 and low is better. This is a "roll under your skill" system. I like these kinds of systems. My own RPG: Five By Five uses a roll under system. The skill list is small and seems focused on combat, but it looks infinitely and easily expandable. There are no levels in Dragonbane. This is strictly a skill based system. Use your skills to improve them. Grow in any direction that you would like.

The system has "boons" and "banes" which work exactly like D&D's "advantage" and "disadvantage" but it takes this a step further by leveraging these rules with "conditions." Conditions work like this. There is a condition for each of the 6 core Abilities. If you suffer a condition, then all rolls and skill rolls related to that condition suffer a bane. Why is this cool? Well, anytime that you fail on a die roll you can voluntarily suffer a condition (one you don't already have) to re-roll the dice. Mechanically, that's cool-ish, but here's the rub, you need to explain how suffering the chosen condition would help you succeed when you might have otherwise failed. That's role-playing gold is what that is!

In combat you use playing cards to track initiative. I remember doing that in Savage Worlds, and I like it. When you attack, you use your weapon skills. Armor reduces a small amount of damage from every attack. Weapons and shields have durability, because you can choose to parry an attack, but if the damage done exceeds the weapon or shield's durability then the equipment is damaged. Further uses of damaged equipment suffer a bane.

Defensive actions like dodging or parrying can only be chosen if you haven't yet acted in a round because they do use up your action for your turn. This makes sense, but is very different from D&D. It's more brutal, and makes combat more dangerous. That combined with the fact that weapons inflict higher damage than D&D means that combats in Dragonbane will be quick and deadly.

Speaking of "quick and deadly" monsters don't roll to attack, they just roll damage. Monsters are big scary and deadly. When they attack, you will get hurt unless you actively do something to prevent it. That's cool. That's scary. Also cool about monsters is they all have a small array of attack options each with its own narrative description and damage potential. This is super cool. Battles aren't just a back and forth of rolling to hit over and over.

So, BRP on which Dragons and Demons originated is itself based on a game called Runequest, but with the setting of Glorantha removed. Glorantha includes, among many other quirky things, a player character race of anthropomorphic ducks. I mention this because this race has survived throughout the various editions of Dragons and Demons and a "Mallard" player character is included in the Dragonbane Quickstart. (I just think a race of ducks is cool.)

The Quickstart comes with six sample characters (including the Mallard.) The character sheets are clean and beautiful. I can tell a lot about a game from the character sheet and I like these very much. Each character has a Kin and a Profession. These provide unique special abilities on top of the shared list of skills already mentioned. These special abilities as well as magic are fueled by Will Power Points.

Will Power Points like Hit Points are an exhaustible resource and are recovered when you rest. The magic system looks clean and straight forward, casting spells requires the use of magic skill. If you roll your skill and fail, you lose the Will Power Points, but like other skill rolls these can be "pushed" by taking on a condition in order to roll again.

If you want to check out the Dragonbane Quickstart you can follow this link. The Quickstart PDF document can be accessed about half way down the campaign page. Take a look and see if Dragonbane becomes your most anticipated RPG of 2023.


After finishing my review of the Quickstart Guide for Dragonbane, I received a PDF of the full core rules. Here are my thoughts on some things that were not already covered above. 

The full Dragonbane box set will include the Core Rules which clock in at 116 pages. This is perfect for me. I really don't like the 400 page tomes that many RPG products seem to aspire to. (Writers are paid by the word, after all.) I believe that less is more when it comes to bringing this kind of thing to your gaming table. In addition to the core rules book, there's a multi-adventure campaign of roughly equal size that includes 11 separate adventures to get you started.

I mentioned in my review of the Quickstart that I hoped Dragonbane would have evolved to be less like GURPS than did it's predecessor BRP. I actually said that I hope it's "less mathy." It is. Also, there are a lot more skills available than shown in the Quickstart.    

During character creation, players will choose their Kin which gives them access to a unique special ability and their Profession which provides a list of profession approved skills. Players will have anywhere from 8-12 skills (this is affected by your chosen age) -- six of your chosen skills have to come from your profession list, additional skills are chosen freely. 

Next are Heroic Abilities, which are like Feats in D&D. There are no levels in Dragonbane. So, many Heroic Abilities have prerequisite skill levels. Skill levels have a base value determined by your attributes. Your starting skills get a huge boost here however as you double the starting values of each skill you choose to start with. It's quick and simple math. Just look up your starting values in all skills and double the ones that you have chosen to be trained in. Done! Easy-Peasy!

Interestingly, you can only have the "Magic School" Heroic Ability at the start if you choose the Mage profession, but this is only at the start. After you have played, when you get the chance to choose a new Heroic Ability you can choose a Magic School if you want. (But, I assume that the GM would want this to be role-played accordingly to justify it. I am cool with that!)

Instead of XP, you have advancement marks. You check a skill if you roll a 1 or 20 when using it, and then you also check additional skills of your choice based on your role-play during the session. You answer questions like: "Did you participate in the game session?" and "Did you explore a new location?" You get a mark each time you can answer, "yes" to a question. For each mark, you roll a d20. If you roll over the marked skill, it goes up +1. I have mixed feelings about the randomness here, but it is clean and easy.

The GM can award new Heroic Abilities. The rules state, "No more than once per adventure." Adventures can really vary. I'd probably just give one out once every other game session.

My review of the Quickstart above covers most of the rest of it. All in all - I am very impressed with Dragonbane. I hope that I can get it to my table soon.

Sunday, March 19, 2023

Royal Treasures Character Sheet

It's time that you had some way to track all of combined values of your various Royalties. This character sheet will give you a place to organize all your equipment based on the different Branches. You can get a form-fillable PDF version of this sheet in the files section of our Facebook Group! Come join the fun!

Here is what the hero in the tutorial adventure would look like with all current Royalties, including the Estate Ring [RF] +1♦, +1♣ that they just found!

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Top Ten Favorite Shirts

Julie jokes about my shirts. Early in our relationship she asked if I had any shirts that didn't have superheroes on them. (I didn't.) Since that time, I have expanded my fashion horizons a bit, and I thought that it might be fun to share my, "Top 10 Favorite Shirts."

At #10 we have: The Flash!

I bought this to be part of a Halloween costume one year. The costume was Sheldon Cooper from the Big Bang Theory and the shirt was worn over a long sleeve shirt the way that Sheldon does. The Flash is Sheldon's favorite superhero and one of my favorites too. The costume might have been better, but Julie wouldn't let me shave off my beard.

At #9 we have: Spider-Man!

Spider-Man is one of my favorite characters. This shirt has a pic of Spidey that's dynamic and bright, and I love it. I think this is the Todd McFarland Spider-man which is a bit after my time, but it's still really cool!

At #8 we have: Captain Michigan!

I got this one on our October vacation trip to Muskegon. This was our consolation vacation following a summer vacation trip that went sour. (That summer trip has become affectionately known as pneumonia vacation. It ended badly and abruptly.) Our consolation vacation on the other hand was awesome, and was pretty much when we decided that Muskegon was the place that we wanted to live. I got this Captain Michigan t-shirt to commemorate.

At #7 we have: Marvel Expressions!

This is a riff on those popular facial expression shirts but with all Marvel characters. I have another one that is all Spider-Man mask faces that I think I may like a little better, but it's older and has a few bleached out spots on it. So, I picked this one to showcase.

At # 6 we have: Where Snowman Has Gone Before!

A newer entry, and one of the few non-superhero shirts that shows just how much I've grown. This one is a clever pun on the famous Star Trek quote. I love Star Trek and these days, I get much more joy from the Trek franchise than from comics.

At #5 we have: Marvel Snowball Fight!

Another Marvel shirt, and like the previous entry, another shirt with a wintry theme. Shirts with winter themes that aren't ugly Christmas sweaters seem to be a little rare. So, that elevates this one. Also, the characters shown here and the amount of action and color all work together to make it a favorite.

At #4 we have: Superman!

Superman is my favorite superhero. This one is a classic, the royal blue with the shield logo. It's perfect in it's simplicity. It makes me feel super when I wear it, and I have two of them: one with long and one with short sleeves.

At #3 we have: Trek 1966

It's hard to believe that I was only a year old when Star Trek first debuted on September 8, 1966. As a kid, Star Trek played in syndication pretty much everywhere. It's one of the best things about my youth, Star Trek is an awesome show, and this shirt commemorates its birth. I still love Star Trek, and Julie and I watch the new shows judiciously. We are looking forward to the upcoming season of Star Trek: Picard in just a few weeks.

At #2 we have: The Incredible Meep!

Oh, my gosh! I love this shirt so much! A mash up of the Incredible Hulk and Beaker from the Muppets! Beaker is my favorite Muppet. He's a true intellectual who like many of us, has trouble communicating in social situations. I'm sure he reads comics and is a Trekkie.

Finally, at #1 we have: Flannel Over Shirt!

The shirt that I wear the most is this sherpa fleece lined flannel shirt-jacket. Michigan is cold, people! That's okay with me, because I love winter-wear. I also love my t-shirts. With this shirt, I can wear both! This thing is so warm and cozy. It's the perfect shirt to wear with everything!

Join the Facebook group to discuss this and other cool things! 

Or feel free to leave a comment below!

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Chronicles of Frost

This is it! My Number ONE favorite board game of all time!!

Chronicles of Frost

Back in 2020, I shared my board game Top 100. This time, I have decided to post just my Top 23, but I did rank and organize a Top 100, and I can use that for a quick comparison. Let's look back at my Top 10 games from 2020 to see where they rank now. 

2020 Top 10 Board Games and where they are now.

  1. Ethnos - It's #31 now.
  2. Quadropolis - It's #30 now.
  3. Cosmic Run - It's #19 now.
  4. Istanbul - It's #29 now.
  5. Red7 - It's #54 now.
  6. Chronicles of Frost - It's #1 now.
  7. The Quacks of Quedlinburg - It's #88 now.
  8. Century Spice Road - It's #48 now.
  9. Archaeology the New Expedition - It did not make it onto my top 100 this time.
  10. Sentient - It's #27 now.

With the exception of Chronicles of Frost, none of the games from my Top 10 of 2020 are in my Top 10 now. Only one game: Cosmic Run, made it in to my Top 20 this time. My number 9 game fell out of my Top 100 completely! That's a lot of change in just 3 years. Chronicles of Frost held on and moved up the list from number 6 to number 1!

Chronicles of Frost is just that AWESOME!

Chronicles of Frost is a fantasy adventure game with clean simple rules that plays in a few hours. Players get to select a unique character from a variety of traditional fantasy archetypes like warrior or mage. Each player also gets two randomly chosen personal quests that will give them goals to accomplish during play as they strike out to explore the world.

Chronicles of Frost is a deck builder. In a deck building game each player begins play with a small deck of cards. Each player then plays with only their personal deck of cards. In many deck building games each player begins play with an identical deck of cards. In Chronicles of Frost each player's deck is slightly different to reflect the uniqueness of their starting character.

Cards played from your hand provide you with resources. In Chronicles there are resources that you can use to obtain better cards for your deck. There are resources for fighting enemies that you encounter during the game. There are resources that facilitate movement and exploration.

Chronicles' board is made up of cards that are revealed one at a time as the world is explored. Each player is travelling the world, discovering new areas, defeating enemies, and completing quests. Players do not battle each other, but they do share the same world. So, what one player does during their journey and the lands that they discover will affect the other players.

Each location card gets a specific type of monster token placed on it. There is a discovery bonus for first revealing a location, and there is a camping benefit for resting at a location. Defeating monsters will give you resources and victory points, but the monster can also hurt you. Players can pass through or stop on a location with a monster, and don't have to fight it. Fighting is always optional, but players don't get the camping benefit for stopping on a location with a monster on it, and those benefits are really helpful.

The game has a shared market of cards where players can purchase items and skills to improve their personal decks. You can even recruit companions to travel with you for a short time. Doing this effectively is key to doing well in the game. Defeating enemies, adding cards to your deck, and completing quests all give a player points toward victory. Once any player has completed two personal quests the game is over and scores are tallied.

Chronicles has a lot of moving parts, but game play is intuitive and engaging and the theme is strong. Playing Chronicles of Frost feels like going on an adventure. I have played Dungeons and Dragons for the past 40 years of my life. To be able to experience a thematic fantasy adventure in board game form is a dream come true. There are actually a lot of games in this play space. If you are a fan of hobby board games, you have probably heard of Gloomhaven. Gloomhaven is one of many, many, many large monstrous campaign adventure games. Chronicles is special because it's small and not a campaign. This means that I can actually get it to my table.

Chronicles does everything with cards and some cardboard tokens. It takes 10 minutes to set up and plays in about an hour per player. It's an accessible, engaging, thematic, adventure, quest game that both Julie and I love. It plays in two hours and comes in a tiny package! It sounds like a pipe dream. It isn't. It's my NUMBER ONE BOARD GAME of all time: Chronicles of Frost!

Sunday, March 12, 2023

Claim Your Reward

It's time to put all those tables to use. Generate an item for your character. Gather your cards up and deal yourself a new tableau of 3 cards. Unlike other games full of random tables, you have some control here. Start with the Base Item Table - Royalties (Part 1).

You have three cards to choose from. Take a peek at what each choice might bring before you make a decision. In this way you should always be able to find just the royalty that you want.

The Base Item Table will send you off somewhere else. If you play a 2-6♣, you are off to check the head [HD] location tables. For a 7-K♣, it's a main hand item [MH]. This is almost always some kind of weapon, but spell books are also found here. For the A♣, and also the 2-5♦, you'll be checking the off hand [OH] tables. On a 6-9♦ you'll be getting a ring for one of your ring fingers [RF]. The 10-A♦, as well as the 2-3♥ finds you at the torso [TS] location for some kind of armor. The 4-8♥ is the waist [WT] (belts), and the 9-K♥ the hands [HA] (gloves). The A♥ joins the 2-5♠ to direct you to boots and shoes that are worn on the feet [FT]. The 6-9♠ is the neck [NK] where necklaces and amulets can hang, and finally the 10-A♠ takes you to the back [BK] for capes and cloaks and the like.

If you play a card for the Main Hand [MH] table, you will need to reference a second table to find your item. All other tables reference items directly. There are 136 base items of equipment all told. These tables will allow you to select one with the flip of a few cards.

The directory below contains links. 
Click on any line to go to the desired entry.

[HD] Head Branch Table..........Royalties Part 2
[MH] Main Hand Table............Royalties Part 2
     [MH-A] Knives..............Royalties Part 2
     [MH-B] Swords..............Royalties Part 2
     [MH-C] Bows................Royalties Part 3
     [MH-D] Staves..............Royalties Part 3
     [MH-E] Clubs...............Royalties Part 3
     [MH-F] Axes................Royalties Part 3
     [MH-G] Polearms............Royalties Part 3
     [MH-H] Spell Books.........Royalties Part 4
[OH] Off Hand Table.............Royalties Part 5
[RF] Ring Finger Table..........Royalties Part 5
[TS] Torso Table................Royalties Part 5
[WT] Waist Table................Royalties Part 5
[HA] Hands Table................Royalties Part 6
[FT] Feet Table.................Royalties Part 6
[NK] Neck Table.................Royalties Part 6
[BK] Back Table.................Royalties Part 6

Once you have generated your new Royalty, note the changes it makes to your character. The various values of all Royalties accumulate adding together for each piece of equipment that you find. Also, unless the item you found was an [MH] main hand or [TS] Torso item, your Repute $ will improve by +1 making it possible to find even better Royalties in the future.  -- See: Royalties (Part 1) for the rules concerning your Repute value and Royalty actions.

Example Royalty Creation:

I shuffle all cards and create a new tableau of 3 cards.

The cards in my tableau are a 6♦, a 6♣, and a J♥.

The first thing that I need to do is figure out what branch location my item will come from. That's an absolute action that doesn't have a trump suit. -- Royalties (Part 1)

Since the J♥ is trump for Royalty actions (because it's a royalty card,) I'd like to save it back. So, I will check the 6♦ and 6♣.

6♣ is a head location item. That will include helms and the like. 6♦ is a ring finger. I like the idea of finding a ring. I'm going with this one.

I play the 6♦ and draw a 10♣.

Ring Finger Royalties are located in the post: Royalties Part 5.

I have two items of equipment which give me +2 Repute. I will have to add that to whichever card I play for the Royalty action on this table.

The 6♣ +2 gives me an 8 - Ring [RF] +1♦.

The 10♣ +2 gives me a 12 - Estate Ring [RF] +1♦, +1♣.

The higher you go, the better it gets. I am playing the J♥. That's why I saved it back in the first place.

J♥ is trump so I flip a card from the top of the deck hoping for a high number.

I flip a 7♠. The J is worth 5. 5+7 +2 gives me a 14.

It's still - Estate Ring [RF] +1♦, +1♣. 

Ah, well ... Estate Ring is a really good basic item for a fledgling hero.


Thursday, March 09, 2023


My number 2 favorite game of all time is: Obsession!

Obsession says on the front of the box, "Pride, Intrigue, and Prejudice in Victorian England." And it very much lives up to that moniker. 

While Obsession's professed inspirations may be from "Pride And Prejudice" for me, it's very much, "Downton Abbey" the board game. Obsession is clearly a passion project by someone who knows the subject matter and understands how to implement it.

The theme in Obsession is perfectly realized and that means a lot. I always imagine my favorite scenes from Downton Abbey as I am having tea in the parlor or playing cricket in the yard. Obsession evokes these imaginings by infusing flavorful theme text on every card in the game, and then applying game mechanics to those cards that make sense.

Everything in Obsession just feels right. It also doesn't hurt that mechanically, Obsession is one of the tightest most engaging worker placement games that I have ever played. Yeah, it's an awesomely realized theme paired with an awesomely designed game. When I say Obsession is a great game, I mean it ... on every level.

In Obsession each player takes on the role of a family in a fictional "Victorian-ish Period" England. You aren't just any family. You are a well-to do family that has suffered a few set backs. You would like to put your family back on top. To achieve this aspiration, one of your most effective tactics is to obtain the favor of the very prestigious Fairchild family. If you can attract the attentions of the illustrious Charles and Elizabeth Fairchild your future among the most elite Gentry would be assured.

To gain said favor, you must hold events at your ailing estate. To do this you must court various gentry (wealth and/or prestigious upper class of the period)  to gain money and favor. Players invest the money that they earn back into their estate so that they can hold better and grander events. Each such event will earn you ever more money and reputation as you rise to prominence.

But, such events can't be undertaken lightly. There are protocols in place and every event requires the proper staff. Players are building up their estate to create worker placement locations that will then be populated by workers, your staff: butlers, maids, cooks, footman ... all the cast of Downton Abbey has a part to play.

After working, staff must be given time to rest. Players must plan events accordingly so that they have the staff that they need when they need it. There are also special festival events periodically during the game that if planned for can give a player a definite edge.

I can't say enough about Obsession. If you are a gamer, and a Downton Abbey fan, like I am. You owe it to yourself to get a copy of my number 2 favorite game of all time!

Coming up next ... My NUMBER ONE!!

Tuesday, March 07, 2023


My number 3 favorite game of all time is: Oltréé, a cooperative adventure game. In Oltréé players are knights protecting a keep and the surrounding lands and its peoples. 

Oltréé is based on a French RPG (role-playing game) that I know nothing about. The game designer is the accomplished Antoine Bauza, known for such games as: 7 Wonders, Takenoko, and Ghost Stories. And the art is by Vincent Dutrait, whose stunning work graces so many games.

The art here is incredible! Vincent has covered every card, every board, every token in striking, beautiful illustration. Even the player meeples (little mounted horsey knights) are graced with his art. Oltréé is gorgeous!

In Oltréé players work together to deal with events that happen in locations around the board. Each round begins by rolling a die and advancing a counter on the story track. At the head of this track is a master chronicle made up of large tarot sized story cards. As each card is turned over and added to the "discard" the image presented resembles an open book. Each face-up card provides new text even as each face-down card reveals more of that beautiful Vincent Dutrait artwork.

Past the chronicle there are various stops. There are mid sized story cards that are distributed randomly around to locations on the board face down that need to be visited and revealed, and then resolved. Past these are small challenge cards that go to locations face up and block the benefits of the locations where they land. You know what you need to clear these and can plan for them. At the end of the track are event cards that effect game play in various ways until replaced by the next event.

Handling the challenges presented by the game is down to dice rolls. These are mitigated by the skills of your knights which are in turn enhanced by the buildings in your keep. Locations provide resources that are used to construct buildings. This city building element gives Oltréé a bit of a Euro-game feel that I really enjoy.

All of these elements work together to create variety and make each game play differently. The story track makes distributing the cards easy and intuitive. The core of the narrative is handled by the chronicle cards and each chronicle holds some interesting twists and fun surprises. The chronicles don't feel very replayable. So, I am not sure where Oltréé might fall for me in the future, but we haven't yet played all the chronicles in the base game.


With some expansion chronicles Oltréé should manage to stay on top of my favorite games for quite some time. I really love this game, and I am anxious to get more of it. If you like adventure style games, you like cooperative games, and you like games that are just plain beautiful, Oltréé is the game for you. I know its the game for me. That's why it's my number 3 favorite board game of all time!!

Sunday, March 05, 2023

Royalties (Part 6)

[HA] Hands

Perform a Royalties $ Action and consult the table below:

$ Effort Base Item         [s]  [h]  [d]  [c]  Keywords
  2-6    Kumpur            +1   +1   +0   +0    ★+1
  7-11   Soft Gloves       +2   +0   +0   +0    ★+1
 12-16   Sturdy Gloves     +0   +1   +2   +0
 17-21   Leather Gloves    +2   +0   +1   +0
 22-27   Studded Gauntlets +0   +2   +2   +0
 28-33   Chain Gauntlets   +0   +2   +3   +0
 34-39   Fingerless Gloves +3   +0   +0   +0    ★+2
    40+  Plate Gauntlets   +0   +3   +3   +0

[FT] Feet

Perform a Royalties $ Action and consult the table below:

$ Effort Base Item         [s]  [h]  [d]  [c]  Keywords
  2-6    Sandals           +0   +0   +0   +1    ★+1
  7-11   Shoes             +0   +0   +0   +2
 12-16   Boots             +0   +0   +1   +2
 17-21   Banded Greaves    +0   +0   +2   +1
 22-27   Gaiters           +0   +1   +2   +2
 28-33   Plate Greaves     +0   +1   +3   +1
 34-39   Slippers          +0   +0   +0   +2    ★+2
    40+  Sabatons          +0   +2   +3   +1

[NK] Neck

Perform a Royalties $ Action and consult the table below:

$ Effort Base Item         [s]  [h]  [d]  [c]  Keywords
  2-6    Necklace          +0   +0   +0   +0   Healing
  7-11   Scarf             +0   +0   +0   +2
 12-16   Collar            +0   +0   +2   +0
 17-21   Gorget            +0   +0   +3   +0
 22-27   Amulet            +1   +1   +1   +1
 28-33   Pendant           +2   +2   +2   +2
 34-39   Talisman          +0   +0   +2   +0   Healing
    40+  Medallion         +3   +3   +3   +3

[BK] Back and Shoulders

Perform a Royalties $ Action and consult the table below:

$ Effort Base Item         [s]  [h]  [d]  [c]  Keywords
  2-6    Cowl              +0   +0   +0   +1
  7-11   Robe              +0   +0   +1   +0    ★+1
 12-16   Cape              +0   +0   +1   +1
 17-21   Tabard            +0   +1   +1   +0
 22-27   Cloak             +0   +0   +2   +2
 28-33   Surcoat           +0   +2   +2   +0
 34-39   Pauldrons         +0   +3   +3   +0 
    40+  Mantle            +0   +0   +3   +3


Spell Power (★+x) - While this item is equipped gain face down cards in your tableau equal to x. Face down cards are used for casting spells.

Healing - You must give up a Crossing or Attacking action to activate this ability. Before activating this ability, you must Exhaust 2 face down cards, if you cannot, then the ability does nothing. Otherwise, if you have fewer than 3 face up cards in your tableau, flip any one face down card so that it is face up. If this card was exhausted, rotate it 90 degrees. (Face up cards are never exhausted.)

Thursday, March 02, 2023

Maglev Metro

My number 4 favorite game of all time is Maglev Metro. Maglev Metro is a pick-up and deliver route building game.

Thematically, these rails are magnetic monorails of the future. There are seven kinds of passengers to pick-up and to deliver. There are silver, copper and gold meeples, representing robots of different utility, and pink, lilac, coral, and purple colored meeples, representing peoples from different walks of life.

Every player has a train in their player color and a set of hex tiles showing rails in their player color. These tiles are transparent, except where they show your track, and the arrangement of tracks is offset slightly from player to player. This is so track tiles can be stacked on top of each other allowing train routes to run parallel. It also looks really cool on the table.

The actions that you can perform are simple and defined on your player board. Your player board is double layered and has places for your meeples to be laid down into them. This is because as you deliver passengers, they go onto your player board. Robot meeples cover action spots on your player board making your actions stronger. People meeples cover spots that can unlock benefits allowing you to go to more locations or gain bonus actions, and they can cover spots to give you victory points.

Placing your delivered meeples on your player board is key to success, and the primary puzzle presented by Maglev Metro. The layered boards, transparent tiles, and extra thick destination tiles are fun to play with and make Maglev Metro a very satisfying tactile experience. Everything also looks awesome on the table. The meeples even sit inside your trains, much like they do in Explorers of the North Sea, and you know what a sucker I am for that!

The puzzle is thinky but intuitive. The presentation is stellar, and the theme and game play are perfectly integrated. These things blend flawlessly in Maglev Metro making it my number 4 favorite board game of all time!