Shadows of Brimstone
I’ve been a gamer for the majority of my life. And when I say that I don’t just mean video games (though you have probably realized that by now). Which isn’t to say that video games are new to me either. I grew up with actual arcade games. I played Alien Invaders and Pac Man when they were new in the arcade. So really, if it is a game, an amusement, I have either played it or something similar to it. Which makes this next bit a little different… sorta… kinda… Yeah…
Flying Frog Productions set a system in place and they are doing some interesting things with it. They essentially created an rpg in a box where you don’t need a dungeon master to control the experience. This isn’t a new concept and there are a number of games out now and still coming out that create a similar experience. But I am going into the Flying Frog stuff because this is where I settled in the game space. And I imagine if you don’t play games, you have no clue what I am talking about.
So, what I am going to do is take you back far too many years to talk about where a need for something like this came from. See, when I was a teenager and had been playing Dungeons and Dragons with various family members and friends for a bit, I had an urge to play but there wasn’t always a group available. It’s a bit like now. You want to set a game night and get a regular group going and it just never seems to materialize. Basically, the moons need to align just right to find everyone available and have the gumption to get into it all.
Where was I?
Oh yeah, so finding people to play with has gone hand in hand with gaming since as far back as I can remember. Now, there are a number of games that have made the dungeon crawl experience possible without resorting to video games. Which brings us back to Flying Frog. I picked up Shadows of Brimstone: City of the Ancients recently. This particular box set is a cowboy themed dungeon crawl game. You can either play solo or with others in a cooperative environment. This isn’t like the college group papers other than you might still be doing all the work yourself. The kicker though, is instead of a dungeon master, the game is designed to maintain a random environment that handles the aspects of the game that aren’t your character. You never really play the same game twice but you also can fight crazy monsters and loot the country side. This is every murder hobo’s dream.
Now if you remember, I did mention that there are other options to achieve a similar end to what this particular game offers (a dungeon crawl experience without needing a DM or even other players). But of the games I have been looking at recently, this one had a few things that others were lacking. The first is availability. Some of the games I have seen are only available on Kickstarter for more money than I am willing to put into a game without playing it first. And another item that drew me in was the miniatures. If I am going to be spending a decent amount of cash on the base game, I want it to have actual miniatures instead of card board standees.
And of course, one last thing that really mattered to me. The replay ability of a game is incredibly important. I want to be able to open the box again and replay a mission or maybe even do something just completely random. The characters can grow over time through campaign play while at the same time, I am not doing anything that might be permanent to the board and change the base components. If you happen to know some of the games in this category, you would know a specific one I am referencing here. It falls into a couple of the problems I didn’t want to deal with, especially for the price you pay for it. The number of expansions for this game, as well as starter sets that can be added into the mix, really ups what you can build on to create a gaming world with tons of possibilities. That was a big draw for me as well.
The thing is, I have been debating on this purchase for a long time, probably over the past year or so. The advantage of YouTube and gaming videos where you can see reviews and play throughs of games really has changed the way we add games to our collections.
Before we get to far into this now, let me give you a bit of an idea of what we are looking at with this. Shadows is essentially an old west horror game (at least in the first couple of starter sets). The horror aspect is a running theme that fits into all of starters. We are talking about cosmic horror (think Cthulhu), so it fits in with quite a bit of what I like to dig into. The basic premise is a gold rush but for something other than gold.
The discovery of Dark Stone and its magical properties have created a craze for power and glory. The energies of the stuff has opened up all manner of doorways into other realms and brought in a myriad of vile creatures that seek it out as well. So we have a world that seems like our own but there strange things afoot. And it only gets stranger the deeper you go into the mines.
Anyway, I read through the rule book and explored the adventure book. I assembled the minis and at least got a primer coat on them so they are no longer stock grey. I felt like I was ready to explore my first time in the mines. There’s learning steps. Things like this can have a bit of a learning curve. So, I stumbled and spent quite a bit of time turning back to the book to see how things should go.
And then there was the search for space. I started on the dining room table, then moved to our card table. Yeah, no, those didn’t give me enough room to start laying down dungeon tiles. I ended up on my game table in the war room. And I feel a little crowded even in there. But I think that might be more a matter of figuring out where things should be placed to have ready and such. Mind you, the gaming table has a play surface of 6×4. So there should be more than enough room for this. For some games it’s way too much room.
After all that I am wandering through, doing a bit of exploring. I have things set up to give me a chance to learn how things work a little bit before I start branching into more complex play throughs. This was all well and good, till I got to my first battle.
I have a single character on the board (never delve into the mines alone), the marshal. I ended up going up against four tentacle creatures. I mean just these random tentacles grasping at me from the ground, that pop up all around the room I found them in. I nearly died. Yeah, just a couple hits from the baddies and my character was about ready to fall over and never see the light of day again.
We could say it was just bad luck. But really, I think it is my dice curse. It felt like any time I rolled for the monster attacks the dice made sure I felt it. But for the hero, the dice magic was gone. How I warded off the evils I faced I do not know. All I can say to that is, it is important to travel with a friend. So I reset everything and will be going back in with two characters on this next attempt. Maybe I will have a chance this time.
The funny part of all that, I am playing on a super easy mode right now. I nearly lost to the first battle I attempted. Sometimes it just doesn’t pay to chuck dice across a table…
So at this point, I think I have told you absolutely nothing. And I’m ok with that. Take it in stride and play some games. Maybe you will find something you have been looking for for years. Or maybe you will find something you never thought you needed in your life.
If you enjoy these stories, consider leaving some coffee money in the jar or you could buy a book or two. Either way helps keep the stories flowing.