RogerBW's Blog

Summer Stabcon 2019 10 July 2019

This long-running games convention had another instance at the start of July, on a sweaty weekend but not as hot as the last few have been. With images; cc-by-sa on everything.

Friday

After an uneventful drive, I got stuck in with Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. It's an odd game: you dash around Europe turning Invitations into Introductions, and Introductions into Prestige, or keeping them back to play as magic. When you use those to fill up cards, you gain Magicianship, which is what you want to win the game (with a minimum value, without which the big scary enemy will win instead).

Well, you can put Mrs Radcliffe on a card all you like, but she's still only worth three points or a green magic symbol. The magic you can play, which theoretically has elemental associations but which we rapidly descended into calling pink, blue, grey, etc., is sharply restricted by the event cards each round; you can expand that slightly with your powers, but you also can only play cards that are in your hand… and you need specific colours to fill up your Feats too. It felt like trying to get a needle through a stack of gratings, more frustrating than fun; there's also no player interaction apart from "I took that card that you wanted" and "I have more prestige than you so I go first". Not a game I'll be rushing to play again, alas.

We went on to Evil High Priest, which arrived last December but which I hadn't yet played. It's clearly designed by and for Americans with big tables, but it's a fairly straightforward worker placement game in which you're building up multiple currencies (treasure, blood, magic, spellbooks) with the aim of smashing the Elder Signs that hold your preferred Great Old One in thrall.

It felt perhaps a bit bigger and more complicated than the mechanics could really justify, but once we got the hang of it it moved along fairly quickly. Good fun and I'll play again, though it may not end up staying in my collection. Definitely needs a better rulebook.

Then I got into a playtest of Phil Masters's current secret RPG project (not actually a secret but I won't bruit it about here, except to say that a Brown Bess was involved).

Saturday

Hotel Breakfast is a Good Thing.

Started the gaming day with Mag·Blast (Third Edition), in which I did entirely terribly. Last time it was a long game in which I slugged it out and won; this time it was over quickly, thanks to some effective and aggressive play.

Next, a post-apocalyptic role-playing session with Dr Bob, in the Summerland setting. It's a haunting world, though we didn't dig far into the "using your mental trauma to be more effective" side of things. Definitely good fun, and not the sort of game I'd have tried without knowing the GM.

Then we settled down for several sessions of Flash Point: Fire Rescue. First the garage, three players, where the Rescue Dog did a sterling job while the rest of us ran around squashing the fires. A relatively easy win, which set us up for what happened next.

The High Rise board, with four players, was more of a challenge, and things went quite badly.

Finally the Hotel board, with six players. We did manage to set up a conveyor to get the victims out, and had enough revealed to win; for a while we were holding at three remaining damage cubes, with a combination of Suppression Specialist to move the fire into the eastern half of the building, and Driver/Operator to put it out with the deck gun. But this couldn't last for ever, and it didn't.

Another cooperative game of things going horribly wrong, in Red November. Where Flash Point is a game in which you have lots of things you can try and have to choose between them, this felt sticky; there was almost always one obvious thing to do, but actually managing to do it was very hard work. I like the timekeeping system, though.

Finally for the night, Flamme Rouge, with hills but no supply zones or cobbles. A tough race, and a game that showed its subtlety in spite of some really quite simple rules.

Sunday

Chat with friends, then a couple of games of Red7 (no photos) before I set off early for home to meet friends there.

[Buy Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell at Amazon] [Buy Evil High Priest at Amazon] [Buy Mag-Blast at Amazon] [Buy Flash Point at Amazon] [Buy Red November at Amazon] [Buy Flamme Rouge at Amazon] [Buy Red 7 at Amazon] and help support the blog.


  1. Posted by Phil Masters at 01:22pm on 10 July 2019

    The current project really isn't any kind of secret -- I've not signed an NDA, and when I mentioned I was running a demo/playtest at cons, the publishers in question said "great" rather than "don't blab too much", so they're clearly not worried. (And I have signed a contract, so it's going ahead as certainly as any RPG project ever is before it's published.) Suffice to say Cthulhu Mythos, Gumshoe system, 18th century.

    So if Roger wishes to comment on the actual session, he's welcome to do so. As I recall, the Brown Bess was never fired, though one thing to be said for firearms of that period is that they make use of the Intimidation ability quite convincing...

  2. Posted by Dr Bob at 04:25pm on 10 July 2019

    I enjoyed Evil High Priest a lot, even despite missing the end of the game by having to rush off to GM. If you decide not to keep it, ping me an email to find out if I've bought my own copy yet.

  3. Posted by RogerBW at 09:25am on 11 July 2019

    Phil - fair enough. I was attracted in part because I'd heard of the Lunar Society before; conveniently for writers, their notes haven't survived, so one can't say they didn't employ people to look into tentacular problems in between their other activities.

    Miss Traine should probably have done more Intimidation and less Sweet Reason.

    Dr Bob - noted, thanks. But I'll definitely play it a few more times before I make that decision.

  4. Posted by Phil Masters at 04:22pm on 11 July 2019

    Roger - yes, that's one of the things that's explicitly noted in the current (incomplete) draft as making them excellent as patrons for PCs.

    In truth, of course, they were a bunch of friends who got together to talk about the Wonders of Modern Science, so I doubt that it ever occurred to them to keep minutes. But the Gumshoe/Trail of Cthulhu rules offer an occasional explicit incentive not to keep permanent records of events, so one can blame that.

    And I don't think that Miss Traine overdid the sweet reason, even by her standards. When you're trying to dissuade an entire village of generic Surly Cornish Peasants from being quite so Surly, pointing Brown Bess at them can only achieve so much. Even if the GM's habitual mummerset cracks under the strain.

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