- First time I would try out 221B Alliance
- Debut of my now 4x4 London Docks board
- Playtest of a new home brewed scenario The Hunt for Jack the Ripper
- Playtest of some house rules
So where to start? Well I am a massive Sherlock Holmes fan, so when Simon Quinton (Brummie Thug) put up his EotD minis for sale I took the opportunity to get the 221B Alliance. The figures are wonderful, full of character, but not all of them really suited for the game. Despite this I decided to include Mycroft in faction. His rules makes him rather bad, but I love the mini and he is just so much a part of this faction.
London Docks board
Some time last year I expanded my London Docks board so that it now measures the 4x4 board size that the rulebook recommends - and I must admit that this table size gives a better game. I managed to get some garden floor board which when cut up looks very much like piers. The board looks fantastic with the extra size and elements, and it more than ever looks like a dock.
I am always looking at new games and rulesets and in the Autumn I came across Pulp Alley. After reading the rules I was intrigued by the idea of plot point markers and how I could use them in Empire of the Dead, but until recently had not really put my thoughts down on paper. The output was a home brewed scenario where each faction is trying to hunt down Jack the Ripper via a series of clues (plot point markers) placed around the board. The clues can be small pieces of terrain or other minis. Once in base contact with the clue, the mini has to spend an action in order to make a Bravado check, if successful the mini has managed to secure the clue and can place another plot point marker on the board. When a faction has secured two clues Jack the Ripper (the major plot point marker) is placed on the board. Jack then has to be defeated in order to win the game. Securing plot point markers give 10 shilling for each, while defeating Jack the Ripper earns you 25 shillings.
It is no secret that the one major beef that people have with the Empire of the Dead rules is the combat/melee rules. So once again Chris and I had set ourselves the task of trying to make them better. In the end we ended up with the following:
- Some weapons have a Cbt bonus and/or Str bonus (taken from Broken Legions)
- You add your Cbt score to your roll - a modified roll of 10 is a hit
- Each opponent then sees how many hits he has and the opponent with the Initiative can match the die. Each hit you have rolled can be used to either negate a hit from your opponent or to stay as a hit. (taken from Pulp Alley)
WeaponsAll weapons have been adjusted, primarily the combat weapons but we have also removed the "Ignores armor" from all of the ranged weapons with the exception of the Crossbow. The Crossbow has also gotten a better range and higher Str - making an actually choice to take with a character.
Cover and Hide is simplified:
- Target in Soft Cover -1
- Target in Hard Cover* -1
- Target Hiding -1
- Target Prone -1
Influence is one the most underused aspects of the game, so we decided to make them more useful. You start the game with 2 Influence and further Influence can be purchased at the beginning of the first game.
- Invoke an Unusual Occurrence
- Negate a Wound
- Re-roll a die roll
- Roll an extra die for a single roll, keeping the best
We have also introduced 3 actions only usable by your faction's leader. These have been taken from Broken Legions and Across the Dead Earth, but we think the fit the game/setting. Each use of a leader action requires a successful Bravado check.
- Order; friendly subordinate model within 12” and los or 6” and no los gains an extra action.
- ”Take him down!”; A maximum of three friendly subordinate models within 6” gains +1 to their next Marksmanship roll at a specific target.
- ”Follow me!”; A maximum of three friendly subordinate models within 6” activate at the same time as the leader. Each model finishes before another model makes his actions.
The game: The Hunt for Jack the Ripper
Onto the game itself. As mentioned I fielded the 221B Alliance, while Chris wanted to try the melee heavy Lycaons.
Sir Henry Baskerville
3 x Police Constables
3 x Wolfskin
The game began with both of us placing a plot point marker on the table (there are specific rules for the placement), Chris chose a dunk civilian mini while a chose a small bench - the dunk was a witness and the bench held some physical evidence.
The first two round were spend moving from the piers and onto the mainland - the crazy move of 7" that Red has was a real advantage, while Watson's and Mycroft's move of 3" was a severe hindrance.
Red failed her Bravado check with the dunk and instead the Beastlord would provide the intimidation needed - another plot point marker in the form of another mini was placed. With two more minis than Chris I decided to split my forces and sent Watson and a PC out on the right flank, to try and secure that area and be in a good position for the new mini plot point marker.
Sir Henry and the Wolfskins exchanged bullets and bolts and managed to close down some alleys. One of my PCs got to the bench and secured the plot point - I placed a hansom cab this time. Mycroft despite his bad move ended up being the unlikely objective grabber.
Further shots were exchanged and I lost a PC, while Chris lost a Wolfskin. In one of the maintenance phases Red invoked her Unusual Occurrence "The Wild Hunt" and two wolves entered one of the board edges.
Another PC was lost in the maintenance phase and Red moved into base contact with the new civilian plot point marker. This prevented Holmes from shooting at her - I decided that this would be an unlikely action for Holmes to take. Instead he lined up for a charge in the next round.
Chris then used his Beastlord to give an Order to Red and managed to secure the plot point - he now had two and Jack the Ripper would appear. He cheekily placed him on a cart right next to Holmes meaning that they were engaged in combat. Red then activated normally and charged Holmes. So the Great Detective had his hands full.
I ended up playing on the defensive and used my melee hits to negate Red's and Jack the Ripper's hits, but still had to use Influence to negate wounds. Watson shot at the oncoming wolves while Sir Henry was proving rather efficient with his hunting rifle and put a Wolfskin on Down.
In the next round I tried to get the last of my PCs to help Holmes, but he ended up being charged by the Beastlord. Mycroft secured the last plot point marker on the table to earn my faction some extra shillings. When the Combat phase came around I decided to take a gamble - I had won the initiative so I knew I would do the dice matching. So I decided to fight Jack the Ripper first. Both Holmes and Jack hit twice and I decided that all hits would go through. The gamble paid off as Holmes killed Jack the Ripper, unfortunately Holmes sustained a Down and was swiftly Removed from Play by Red. The Beastlord made minced meat out of the PC, but no matter I had taken Jack the Ripper down and therefore scored an extra 25 shillings.
Scenario and house rule thoughts
The short version is that everything actually worked. The scenario is different from those in the rule book and with new plot point markers appearing the game changes several times which I like.
Influence is now something that is actually used in the game and swung the game in my favour as Holmes remained on the board. We only ended up using the Order special action, but it worked nicely, and I suspect that the other two options will also work.
Cover is so delightfully simple now - you either have cover or you don't and Hard Cover gives you +1 to Fortitude. Hide adds to your Cover and Chris used that successfully on many occasions.
Most importantly was the combat/melee rules, and they worked. The dice matching adds a tactical element to the game that it does not have now - do you play it safe and use your hits to negate incoming hits or do you go for the all out attack.
Both or us agreed that it had been a fun and exiting game, so we decided to start a campaign and rolled to see what had happened to our faction members.