“Champagne! In victory one deserves it, in defeat one needs it” - Napoleon
I suppose Middlehiem could be described as a underground "lost-world"(think Journey to the Centre of the Earth) where dinosaurs can be telepathically controlled by dino-knights - wearing plate armour. It has War of the Roses/late-Middle-Ages tech where gunpowder is in its infancy. Middleheim's core setting may or may not be expanded to include not-African-tribesman, not-Incas, and not-Japanese samurai as my budget permits.
I think the genre I am aiming for is "medieval pulp" - high middle ages swashbucking rather than the usual Iron/Bronze Age Conanesque sort...
Underpinning this is my magic system. This is just typical psychic abilities from modern and sci fi, transplanted back to the Middle Ages. I'm not a huge fan of wizards in pointy hats - borrowing psychic powers means I have a "established" magical framework that works in a consistent, coherent manner. Knights with psychic powers feels "new" but enables me to steal from established systems (cough Savage Worlds cough).
The ruling class are all psychics - the telepaths are the "dino knights"- they alone can control the giant beasts and tend to be the upper nobility of Middleheim. They have an array of mind-focussed psychic powers - focussed on mind control and illusion. Typical abilities would include confusing foes, creating illusionary doppelgangers, mind control and mental attacks, and buffing/debuffing morale, and obscuring (invisibility) as well as limited precognition. They can also shield themselves and nearby allies against mental attacks.
Perry medieval plastics have been wonderful for making random minis; they have a myriad combos and extra arms/legs/heads make them awesome for scratchbuilding/body swaps...
The second, lesser noble class are telekinetics. Typically fighting on foot, they tend toward physical powers - pushing, pulling, deflecting and directing projectiles, augmented blows, spraying fire, with some healing and limited levitation. Deadlier in direct combat, they are less effective at commanding both men, and the mighty dinos that decide most battles.
The rank and file are equipped with long pikes and powerful polearms; well-suited to taking down large reptiles as well as armoured knights. Half of most forces are equipped with either powerful crossbows and longbows. Lately primitive muskets have come onto the scene, capable of propelling a lead ball through even the toughest dino hide.
The smallest military unit is the "lance" - usually a telepathic dino-knight and his apprentice squire, both riding raptor-sized dinos. They are supported by several telekinetic men-at-arms, and up to half a dozen each of both bowmen and pike/halberdiers - usually over a dozen men total.
The models need a lot of polish but my aim was to give them a basic coat so I can playtest the rules...
I'm quite happy with the $1 dinos and I think they will paint up well with a bit of drybrushing and simple detailing...
Middleheim is made up of small duchies and city-states. Battles are fought on a small scale - with hundreds per side being common, and large battles being rare. The underworld is lit by luminescent plants and lava pools; the terrain can range from rocky desert to lush jungle. Dinosaurs and giant creatures roam the wilds, with spiders the size of horses amongst the horrors of the wilds.
In Middleheim, the gamer controls a lance of mercenary dino-knights. They can hire out to fight battles for local lords, escort caravans through dino-infested terrain, and hunt down rogue T-rexes. They can defend settlements against Aztec raids. The troopers in the lance can then "level up" in both psychic and physical abilities in a campaign.
Anyway, that might give those who are interested a background on my homebrew skirmish rules' setting. It started as I felt dinosaurs were vastly under-represented in wargaming (compared to say, zombies/undead: which I am heartily sick of) and I wondered how I could include them. I noticed some of my 2-year-old's cheap $1 plastic dino toys fit with some 28mm Perry knights... and the rest is history....
It's also a good game if you're more wargamer than PC gamer.
You manage your own ludus, with a stable of gladiators who rank up with training and successful fights. Besides choosing their training regime (modifying their stats) and equipment through your doctore, and allocating gladiators to fights, there's a lot to do between fights; keeping nice with the town magistrate and military commander, organizing exhibition matches and pit fights, as well as organising an array of specialists (doctors, augurs, architects, spies etc). It's a simple game with a lot to do. There are constant random events (usually with funny stories) that crop up in a RPG fashion. I like how you can turn your gladiators into specialists, so you have a tool for every fight.
You can upgrade your ludus significantly with baths to assist healing, practice dummies, etc.
Unlike football management games where no one watches the boring actual games, the "games" in Domina contain hilarious and unexpected pixel violence.
If you want to control a gladiator in fights you can; I personally let the AI control the hilariously bloody pixel violence. The bouts are varied; gladiators chained to the ground, lions, uneven numbers or gear. I haven't even explored the chariot racing yet.
Domina has a vaguely roguelike vibe (keep characters alive/fed/happy/permadeath) and I found myself trying to keep a few better gladiators alive while heartlessly feeding others to the meatgrinder. Everyone, though, is ultimately disposable, though (like X-COM) ending up with only rookies left late on would be punishing.
It's meant to be played in short bursts - there's no full-featured save; so you can't go back to an older save undo your mistakes - and wipe outs do occur (everyone starved to death in an early playthrough when I ran out of money...).
Why chariot race when you can fight instead?
Buy this game. You need no "gaming" skills. You don't need a good computer. You could download it on dial-up (it's 500MB). It's fun.
Do you like campaign or narrative wargames (Mordhiem etc)
Do you like gladiators?
Do you have a dark sense of humour?
If you answered yes to any of these, buy this game. The downsides are: I suspect it could get repetitive/would be easy to "cheese"/min-max. It's also more a casual game than mainstay of my gaming time.
Recommended? Yes. A blood-spattered thumbs up!
The "new Games Workshop" has returned with lots of new Specialist Games-style offerings. Too many for me to afford or test, that's for sure. Whilst the company policy apparently has changed,their pricing certainly hasn't - $70AUD ($55 USD/40 pounds) - for a softcover rulebook when Privateer is moving to free pdfs - I could buy a Malifaux or Warmachine starter box (with rules) for that price.
Since Shadespire is looking more like a CCG/boardgame hybrid than a miniatures game, my hopes of a "New Mordhiem" seem dashed. But what about the new Necromunda?
Well, it's out. But paying $250AUD for the box set... ...THEN having to folk over another $50 book to play the campaign (wtf?!)... that's the old mercenary GW at it's best. It's the equivalent of removing a faction in a PC game (like, say, Warhammer: Total War) so you can sell it later as a DLC.
The old Games Workshop style gouging at it's finest. About to walk away, I paused when I came across a copy of Shadow Wars.
Campaign skirmish in a hive world? ....sounds familiar.
That's because it is. Shadow War IS the old Necromunda, with standard 40K factions replacing the gangs, and a lot of interesting campaign options trimmed out/dumbed down. In fact, you can pretty much stop reading now, as that sentence pretty much summed up these rules.
Shadow War is simply the Necromunda rules (now feeling clunky and outdated) rebadged as an expensive softcover. They kept the worst bit (the rules themselves) whilst removing/simplifying much of the best bit (the campaign system.) There's probably some subtle differences (I'm sure there's detailed blow by blow details on some 40K fansite somewhere) but from what I can recall, it's the same game.
For those pining for Necromunda, Shadow Wars allows you to use your 40K models. Sadly, the rules are dated, and the campaign is simple and bland.
It's comparable to a $40 Warmachine softcover, but just $30 more expensive. It's pretty, but somewhat unintuitive to use. Unlike the New 2017 Necromunda, it has 15 kill teams AND the campaign rules included (like you'd expect) - so there's that, I suppose.
Activation & Stats
Remember this is Necromunda (aka modified 2nd ed), pretty much word for word. So typical IGOUGO (ignoring any advances in the last 20-odd years) - you do everything with all your dudes, before the opponent can respond. And my goodness, the nostalgia - I haven't seen a stat line as long as this: M WS BS S T W I A Ldr - outside of a RPG, for years.
Remember when charging was a double move, rather than a random dice amount added on? And - yay - not everyone moves 6"- some factions are faster or slower. Like the old Necromunda, there are rules for climbing, hiding, falling etc - and like the old Necromunda I'll still have to houserule what you can do if halfway up a ladder.
Yup, old-school tables which you need to consult before you can make rolls. And modifiers - lots of modifiers. I'd forgotten just how many. Shooting is very much old-school 40K - but models if hit are automatically pinned. Then there's the roll against toughness. Then a saving throw. It seems clunky - there's too many steps and modifiers. Tracking ammo is a pest, as is "flesh wounds"- that is a -1 to BS/WS for the rest of the game. There's good old-school overwatch. Models can usually fire 360d (wasn't the old Necromunda 180? not sure - if so it's the fist change I've noticed). Melee is a different mechanic - roll 1d6 per attack and add the best to the WS. Difference in score is the # of hits scored by the winner.
Again, a new mechanic (well, the same as the old one, but this is the third or fourth dice rolling mechanic so far - very inconsistent design) - 2d6 and must roll = or under Ldr to maintain nerve. If a friendly goes down close by, allies test morale to see if they break. Once 25% of the warband is downed or fled, a bottle test is made for the whole gang - if they fail the game ends.
The art and graphics are nice, but the rules are a bit unintuitive - nice to look at, not particularly handy for actually searching for rules...
Warbands & Campaign
You get up to 10 guys, (more if Orks) including a leader and 2-3 specialists. Different factions get access to different skill trees. You can use pretty much all the 40K factions - great! This is why I bought the rules - to reinvigorate many 40K dusty 40K models lying dormant since... 5th ed?
But Shadow Wars is disappointingly streamlined - as there's no XP, territories, or sending guys out to do odd jobs. You can choose between recruitment or new gear; and you can choose exactly what you want - no need to roll for availability etc. Even serious injuries are simplified to a d6 - I can see a lot of models will end up with Frenzy. You choose exactly which one character to get a new skill/advance each game. Sounds totally not open to being abused..... Even on the skill rolls, you choose the type of skill and then roll twice on the table, choosing your favourite - so you have a great chance of getting exactly what you want... No min-maxing opportunities here, no sir.
So basically, the best part of Necromunda got dumbed down and ever easier to min-max; though it is much less likely you'd get the "snowball" effect where a winning gang becomes an unstoppable juggernaut after a few games.
Finally, promethium replaces cash (it's kinda a mix of cash+VP) which you can use to win (once you accrue 15) or hire "free agents" to bolster your force. It feels odd. Also, when replacing losses you can spend up to 100 points on a new recruit; but many troops cost over 100... ...so you can't replace elite troops when you lose them? Again, feels a bit "off." The scenarios seem the same as the old Necromunda ones.
While I can finally get some use out of my dusty 40K models again, Shadow War leaves me feeling vaguely cheated.
Well, you could have stopped when I said "exactly the same as old Necromunda, with 40K instead of gangs, with the campaign dumbed down." The new GW hasn't got better at writing rules, that's for sure - and why would they, when they can lazily rehash the older ones? Worse yet, they streamlined the wrong thing - keeping old clunky game rules, whilst gutting many characterful campaign mechanics.
+ Does allow you to use 40K models to play a campaign game
- You could probably find fan-made 40K gangs on the net for old Necromunda and have the same experience (example links) if GW hasn't shut them down
- Same chaotic rule writing from original Necromunda; dated rules design
- Overpriced for what it is.
- Campaign overly dumbed down; easier to min-max... (seems more league rules than narrative campaign)
+ .....BUT less likely to get overpowered teams after a few wins
- I have to go looking for funky dice like scatter dice, artillery dice etc
- Quite a lot of token clutter for such a simple/old game
- It feels like it needs house rules (and after spending $70, I'm resentful)
Recommended: a guarded and resentful Yes merely as it allows you to re-purpose 40K models in an acceptable skirmish campaign; the small numbers needed to play make it affordable; even if the rulebook is a ripoff. But if you have old Necromunda you could probably find house rules on the net that do the same thing, for free. Worse: instead streamlining and modernizing the games rules themselves, GW mistakenly kept the old ones verbatim, but opted to trim the once characterful campaign system to be rather generic, McDonalds and bland.