I really enjoy the locally-developed miniature game Strange Aeons, which is probably no secret by now. I was able to play a 4-player game at last week's club night with the "Old Man" scenario. We had two players on each side and the lurkers were able to get away with the information they pried from the old man, before mercilessly killing him.
Seeing how much fun the lurker players were having I decided to download the beta test rules for Uncle Mike's in-development game Von Unaussprechlichen Kulten. Don't worry, I can't pronounce it either, even though I am 99.9% sure it's German. According to the text on the front of the book it means "Of Unspeakable Cults".
After returning home from work I sat down to read through the rules and make up two starting cult lists to give things a try. I'll give some details of the game here, then follow it up with my thoughts afterward.
I rolled the "Fight" scenario and set up the table with the Death Cult on one side and the Arcane Seekers on the other. Some bushes, trees, small hills and a single stone wall dotted the landscape. The Arcane Seekers won initiative first, moving several of their members up to firing positions. The Death Cult answered by moving up a few troopers, while their mad scientist Dr. Kroene experimented on their zombies. His efforts killed a zombified young boy, but added extra movement to another wielding a hatchet.
The arcane high priest and his cult leader order more ranged weapons forward. A tommy-gun toting red robe takes the first shot, narrowly missing Trooper Finster on the other side of the stone wall. Replying in kind, Finster takes aim, but suddenly then swings his rifle toward the cult leader...who ducks the blast. Dr. Kroene tries to enhance the other two of his zombie minions, causing the tall female one to turn to dust at his feet, but achieving an enhancement on the fat zombie. If you call faster drooling while moving further an enhancement.
In the effort to avoid being shot the Arcanists cult leader distanced himself too much from the high priest. The high priest tries to remedy the situation by sending forward the tommy gun and dynamite carrying minions. Finster is gunned down in a hail of gunfire and coughs his last into the dry dirt, a major injury.
Kommandant Hemler has also made the mistake of moving too far away from the Doctor and must rely solely on his own troopers. He orders up Trooper Umlaut and Trooper Halten. Halten exacts revenge for Trooper Finster's death on his killer, decimating him completely while Trooper Umlaut moves into firing position. Kommandant Hemler positions himself to more effectively relay orders from the Doctor.
Another cultist charges in and guns down Trooper Umlaut with his .45 pistol. On the west side, an Arcanist carrying a bolt-action rifle joins one of his fellows in some cover. They both shrink back a little bit as Doctor Kroene and his hatchet zombie move up to confer with Trooper Shiesten under cover of a large elm tree. Kommandant Hemler and Trooper Schnauzer move up to support Trooper Halten, who fires in vain at the dynamite-carrying Arcanist.
In response Halten is forced to duck under some mis-thrown explosives...showering him with dirt, but causing no harm. The high priest moves up behind the cover of the stone wall and warns his minion with the .45 pistol to be alert for movement while the cultist with the rifle takes aim at the oncoming zombie. As slow as that thing is, it turns out it's surprisingly difficult to hit! Seeing an opportunity his companion fires two shots from his shotgun at Trooper Shiesten, but the tree provides ample cover.
Trooper Halten catches a glimpse of the high priest's ostentatious head gear and fires of two rounds of fire, nearly hitting, but the stone wall just provides the priest with a little too much cover. Trooper Shiesten follows Halten's line of fire and moves around to the west, drawing a direct line of site and obliterating the high priest, but jamming his weapon in the process! The bloody pulp on the Arcanist minion's robes don't seem to phase him. The cultist looks down at the dying high priest's body as he gurgles his final words..."get those bastards!" As the breath rattles from his corpse Kommandant Hemler moves into view. Following his leader's dying wish the cultist alertly cracks off an unsuccessful shot at the Death Trooper. Smiling under his steel helm the Kommandant guns down the minion without a second thought.
With their numbers growing thin the cult leader orders his two western gunmen to open fire. While nervous and afraid they are able to a critical hit on Trooper Shiesten, downing him with a major injury. The cult leader sprints towards the cover of the stone wall in the confusion, hoping to garner the protection of his other remaining cultist. Trooper Schnauzer is alerted by his movement but misses his shot as the cult leader dives behind the protection of the stones.
Taking matters into his own hands Kommandant Hemler takes aim and guns down the cowering cult leader. The spray of grey matter looking quite severe, it's doubtful any recovery is possible there. The fellow with the rifle turns pale and faints at the carnage. Turning around Hemler fires again, but this time at the shotgun-carrying Arcanist, who dives to the ground, saved by the sound of his attacker's jammed weapon. Unfortunately, his relief is short-lived, as his life is terminated by a hatchet through the brain. Even though he was already dead, he would have sworn he could hear a hollow chuckling before the blackness claimed him. The red-robed cultist to the east of the stone wall is struck a glancing blow from Trooper Halten and falls onto the ground.
With both members of the Arcanist cult down, the Death cultists move in swiftly to mop up and claim their victory.
Ok so I fully admit that my pictures suck. I wasn't trying to make a nice pretty report or anything like that. I did take a few more, but they're all as less-than-awesome as the two above. But what did I think of the game you say?
Well, it's essentially a game of Strange Aeons with two groups of Lurkers...but I knew that before I played it.
For the post-game sequence here's what happened:
1. The Arcane Seekers had their entire group removed from play through major injuries:
- the High Priest suffered a Chest Wound
- Tommy Gun died
- Double-barrelled shotgun guy made a full recovery
- .45 pistol cultist died
- Rifle cultist died
- Dynamite cultist died
- Cult leader now suffers from claustrophobia. Weird...
The Death Cultist got off a little lighter, suffering only three major injuries:
- Trooper Shiesten suffered a leg wound which will hinder his mobility.
- Sniper Finster now suffers from ballistophobia
- Trooper Umlaut died.
The Arcanists are in rough shape at this point. They've lost four of their members, putting them down to only three total. Having only banked 1RP after starting up, they can't recruit any new members. That single RP will have to go toward paying their operation fees. Things are looking pretty grim as they now have a Total Cult Rating (TCR) of only 28.
2. For the victorious Death Cult, they would have been able to roll for 7 skills. I rolled a single 6, meaning I can add one new skill to a model of my choice.
3. The Death Cultists gain a favour from the god they worship. Victory does have its benefits.
4. The Death Cultists will also gain 6RP to help manage the operations of their cult, which is enough to pay the 2RP required and replace Trooper Umlaut. They now have a balance of 2RP in the bank to add to their first victory. After paying all their costs, their re-totalled TCR is 43.
I missed rolling the cult unity tests for the Arcane Seekers once their numbers we equal to or below half of their starting number. I think the outcome would likely have been the same though. The cult management rules seem good, and different enough from the Threshold upgrade rules to make it interesting. Of course, getting to play as the bad guys is always fun, and being able to upgrade them is even better. In a single play through I didn't find anything that struck me as glaringly over-powerful or out of place.
I did remember to use some of the special gear rules for the Arcane Seekers leader, but they certainly didn't help. I was also saving his evil magic just in case the Doctor was able to transform any of the zombies. But that lucky shot taking all of his wounds was simply amazing. These rules will definitely be more appealing to some players over Strange Aeons, simply because both players get to advance (sort of) their groups after the game. I'll happily play either one though, because the rules are great either way.