June was a very good month, because I got to go to the UK Games Expo and hang with my favourite nerds! My last multi-day convention was before the pandemic, and before switching to full-time RPG work, so this was a long overdue opportunity to catch up with clients and freelancers who I’ve barely interacted with offline. Didn’t play that many games though! But I did get to try Calico, Chai, and Catapult Feud, play Star Trek Adventures again in the Games on the Hour space. All-in-all, a great bank holiday weekend, that’s whet my appetite for GenCon in a month or so.
What’s Been Released
Nothing new this month, but a couple of things on the horizon. The Wrath & Glory Starter Set is scheduled for release in July, and The One Ring‘s Ruins of the Lost Realm is hoping to reach Kickstarter backers in August. At least one unannounced project will hopefully be announced very soon. And if there’s time in my schedule, I’d like to enter DriveThruRPG’s Pocket Quest, and self-publish a new game next month!
(There probably won’t be time in my schedule.)
What I’m Playing
This month, we finally finished playing Band of Blades, Evil Hat’s Forged in the Dark, military fantasy game. This was a campaign in the traditional sense of the world: a strategic operation, following the long retreat of “the Legion” mercenary unit, from its defeat at Ettenmark Fields, to its final battle at Skydagger Keep. It’s a troupe system game, with dozens of playable characters, as the focus shifts from the Legion’s senior leadership, to six different squads operating in the field. My players ended up with a “Bittersweet” ending, holding the line at Skydagger Keep, but sacrificing beloved characters to do so.
The rulebook promises a dozen or so sessions to see the campaign from beginning to end – which is, in my experience, complete bollocks. We started our game in November 2020, fairly reliably playing every other week, which probably works out around 30-odd sessions. There’s a reason we kept playing for so long though, which is that Band of Blades is the most exciting new RPGs I’ve played in years.
I’d never run a troupe system campaign before, and wasn’t sure how I’d get on with it. Band of Blades absolutely makes the most of the format, presenting the Legion from many points of view to allow its own unique personality to emerge. It also means that every Legionnaire killed-in-action hurts like a punch to the gut. Like most Forged in the Dark games, Band of Blades can be absolutely punishing, and certainly isn’t something I could recommend to everyone. But I was lucky enough to play with a group who vibed with the game like I did, and it was a joy to share that experience. Perhaps the highest compliment I can offer is that I would play the same campaign again, even knowing in advance how great a time investment is required.
What I’m Reading
I was lucky enough to get a complimentary copy of Death Throes by Ex Stasis Games at the UK Games Expo, a Rooted in Trophy game set in the first few desperate hours of a zombie outbreak. I’ve never played Trophy, though I have played games like Cthulhu Dark and Blades in the Dark which inspired the system. Death Throes is the perfect on ramp for me to finally give the system a go: a familiar genre, perfectly suited to the downward-spiral, play-to-lose ethos of Trophy, itself a welcome relief from the empowerment fantasy so ubiquitous to RPGs generally. The combat system is especially brutal, a push-your-luck system, tempting players to expose themselves to more harm to get the edge over their adversary. Definitely one I need to get to the table!
I also picked up copies of Apparition (also by Ex Stasis) and Star Crossed (by Bully Pulpit Games) at the con, so those are next on my to-read list!
What I’m Looking Forward To
Is it too soon to say GenCon? At the opposite end of the scale, I’m planning to attend TwinCon on the 23rd, a small north London convention which this year coincides with Free RPG Day. Maybe I’ll see you there?