Sunday, June 2, 2013


+Jonathan Reiter was awesome enough to do a playtest of AMW's current alpha rules. Feedback was good. It was very cool because I'm extremely into seeing what people do with the game when I'm not there. I know how I run the game and I know how to explain it. Those two things can cover a lot of holes. So it's always nice to see what happens when I'm not there.
Anyway, I've excised some of the specific feedback for readability, interest, and because I prefer to keep feedback notes (good and bad) in the design talk vault while it's in development. But the play report is below.

I GM'd a one-shot of +Ian Williams' Action Movie World: First Blood for five willing-ish test subjects. Here's what happened.

Brandt Sterling as AGENT JONAH STAIN
Jason Stacy as OFFICER ISAAC

Premise: Jonah Stain is an Irish INTERPOL cop on the case of a transatlantic human trafficking ring. Officer Ford Abrams is the NYPD wunderkind who is mere inches from finding Shadowsmith Sanderson, the head of the ring. Can Stain drive out the snakes on a St. Paddies' weekend in NYC?

Some key moments:
1. The Musclehead (Tila) is undercover with her partner in Vice, The Gunfighter (Isaac). They are infiltrating a strip club that is the front for the ring. Tila is the working girl to Isaac's pimp, and they are decked out in green sequined bikini and crushed velvet jacket respectively. They decide to bring in their informant, and a gunfight breaks out. Tila uses her boiled ham thighs to drag the informant out while Isaac provides slo-mo covering fire. "Next time," Tila says exasperated, "you get to wear the bikini."

2. Our Op (Jonah) is the lead. The Smartass (Ford), is driving. They are hot on the tail of Isaac and Tila's car, which is currently being flanked by two black Hayabusas, riders armed with TEC-9s. They shoot ahead of the chase via shortcut. While Ford t-bones one of the cycles into flames, Jonah throws his cane at the other rider. The riders falls roughly into a heap of garbage. Jonah stands over, uses the cane to flip open the visor, exposing his love interest, Katya, and her gorgeous flowing auburn locks. Smoldering looks are inevitably exchanged.

3. After Ford is kidnapped by the smugglers, everyone at his precinct falls apart a little bit. At the bodyless funeral, The Thesbian (Drake) tries to deliver a lifting soliloquy over Ford's presumed death. Unfortunately, despite the best effort of his NA sponsor, Jonah, Drake has fallen off the wagon. He harangues about how the department is filled with bastards and lectures the shocked crowd about the inevitability of violent death.

4. Isaac drives a shamrock diesel truck into a vacant party supply warehouse in Queens, burning tons and tons of goons and himself in the process. Pathos for Jonah who comes crashing in to the third floor through a skylight, assaulting goons with his cane. "And now you know why they call me Jonah Stain," he says economically, leaving behind a heap of bloodied bodies. Jonah tangles with Sanderson, and they both go out a window, leading to broken bones and Pulp Fiction limp chase. Meanwhile, Tila convinces Katya to get out of the ring through a released captive daughter, an emotional high for the flick.

5. A tank chase in the middle of the St. Patrick's Day parade, as Sanderson threatens the city with a dirty bomb strapped to Miss Delaware's chest.

It was super fun and people had a ton of fun. I initially thought it was going to be very hard work, because 5 players is a bit much for an AW game. But, it turned out fine.

Frirek I (930-962) round two

A time of troubles came to Novgorod, to all Slavs and Norse
Brother battled brother for years
Weakling Frirek was determined, with respect on his mind
Brother Hrodalfr began war anew

Black Suzdal became new brother to Hrodalfr, Yarsolavl joined
Finally Borkvard fought Frirek, too
Frirek jarl again, jarl removed again
To Novgorod and Torzhok, Frirek retired

Love bloomed late for Frirek, lust-cunning Pora captured his heart
Frirek's senses fled him and he took her name
Af Odense as their children were called, a curse on Rurikovich
But Frirek believed naught but his heart

Brother Borkvard remembered Rurik, the promise of Rus anewed
To Setyamka to Rus a demand
"Restore Rurik's throne to me, Rus by right is mine!"
The Muromids met Rurikovich in battle

Blood proved bonding for brothers, thicker than Muromid oaths
Save for Frirek and Pora
Remained in Novgorod rutting, replacing Rurikovich blood with af Odense
Barid died in battle while Borkvard was cast in a pit

Rus-king reigned ruinously, Frirek did not care
His eyes halted upon Pora
Rich as he remained, richer still he became
Lagoda left to Frirek with Narva not far behind

Finally an heir, finally a Rurikovich son!
Concubine-born castoff
Eleven years of life altogether, young Rikulfr yearned for a throne
But Pora believed only in the others and had him killed

Years and years wore on, young af Odenses swarmed Novgorod
Frirek was fraught with terror at what he'd wrought
His love halted years prior, hatred consumed his heart
Too late his loins had stirred

Peace turned pillage again, past foes invaded once more
Sweden came swimming from the west
A Norseman on the throne again, no rejoicing aloud
With Denmark came danger not six years later

Frirek's fate was not happy, rebellions followed again
Damned Frirek's dungeon was not pleasing
Pora's face turned from Frirek, he fainted from stress
Never to stir to awakening again

So the Sons of Rurik were no more

Out of Character

So this is the first game of CK2 I've ever lost. I've played counts, dukes, kings, republics, everything.

Some of it has to do with a possible bug. Frirek got married and it was apparently matrilineal. I'm not discounting the possibility that I might have clicked on matrilineal marriage at all, but this is the second time this has happened with the expansion pack, though the first one was with my female heir in a different game trying to have a matrilineal marriage which just didn't get recognized.

I decided to work it into my story. Frirek was so entranced by his prospective bride that he rashly took her name, meaning no Rurikovich babies. From a game standpoint, once I realized that all of the kids were from the af Odense dynasty, I went nuts trying to get some concubine kids going. And I did! Twins! A boy and a girl. Except Frirek's wife promptly murdered the only Rurikovich son and that was it. My fate was sealed.

The brothers might have hung in there, but they all died in a dumb rebellion after Borkvard took the Novgorod ducal title from me. Two in prison, one in battle. That left just me. I had tons of land, since I inherited all of their titles save the ducal one (the king stripped that one from Borkvard and wouldn't give it back). I decided to wait things out, hopefully overthrowing the new king once the rapidly aging Setyamka kicked the bucket.

Well, Sweden put a stop to that. They invaded in force to subjugate Rus, which they did. That left me with only Narva to my name Then the Swedish king died and gavelkind kicked in, leaving his six year old on an unstable throne. Then the Danes invaded to subjugate the Finnish portions of the kingdom (ie me) and that was basically it.

I ended up in prison in 961, where I died in 962. An af Odense took the throne. There were other Rurikovich folks out there, but none of them had land, meaning they weren't playable. So that was it for the game.

I like this expansion, but it's hectic. The Norse, as I mentioned, can be incredibly powerful. By default, they are. All the pagans are. But the gavelkind inheritance and the massive cliff to climb to get out from underneath it can really, really screw you over. Wars are nearly constant. The more or less permanent casus belli from your other pagan neighbors means that they can swoop in for the leftovers after whatever dynastic struggle du jour wraps up. There's a real sense of chaos to things, particularly when you're over in Russia, which makes for an active game.


Saturday, June 1, 2013

Barid I (928-930)

From temple flew Barid, full of wrath and desire
True Norse to the tips of his bones
Whispers filled whole speak-chambers, where Novgorod stood
Blood from blessed Rurik's veins seemed clear

But Frirek, damned Frirek, to fight was his cause
Brother Oleg became his victim
Smothered in sleep, sixth son of his father
Tis how Torzhok came to damned Frirek

Subtlety was scarce, the duchy saw it all
Frirek cared for nothing save the throne
Justice's demanded Barid's deeds, for Frirek had fled
Raising flag in rebellion against brother-liege

Frirek was faster, cunning-fox
Brother fought brothers
Luki and Lagoda, helped lay Frirek's trap
Barid bid farewell and to Scotland sailed

Out of Character

I have a feeling this pattern is going to hold for a bit. Things seemed good! My vassals actually sort of liked me! I could kind of hang in there with Barid. His stats were sort of stinky, but that's okay! He wasn't Frirek.

So here's what happened. Frirek, as eldest surviving Rurikovich brother, stood to inherit whatever titles his other four brothers left behind. Barid had no kids and the other three were 15, 12, and 11, so they weren't even married. So, from way far away in Norway, he offs Oleg of Torzhok. Now, he's Count of Torzhok.

But Frirek is still bad at all of this, so the whole kingdom knows. This is my chance. I have a 71% chance to capture him, strip his titles, and let him rot in prison forever. So I send out the guard to go get him. And fail. Frirek rebels, but all of my vassals join him! Yes, the same vassals who all hated him, including the kid brothers.

Once again, I have a rebellion I can't put down. I relent and Barid is banished to his wife's former court in Moray, Scotland, where Ivar the Boneless' kin rule. Frirek is once again Jarl of Novgorod. I fully expect things to remain incredibly cutthroat and messy.

Frirek I 927-928

While war raged without cease, young Frirek went to Novgorod
Ill-favored, ill-mannered, weak
His favored father's sins forgotten not, for a year Frirek reigned
Young Frirek yet strove to be king

Novgorod's councils never kept near poor Frirek, nearer his brother they were
To Barid's temple blew the message
"Novgorod, oh Novgorod, come newly to Frirek, Barid rescue us!"
So Frirek sought shelter so far from home

Out of Character

Well, this didn't take long. Frirek took the ducal throne while the wars were still raging. He was reduced to a whopping one county for his personal demesne, his brothers taking over the rest of Rurik's former holdings, and everyone hating him. This meant that, once the already raised troops were spent in one of the four(!) ongoing wars, that was it.

Things looked reasonably bright at the start, despite all this. Two of the wars were resolved quickly and the 700 men still left to me tore through the Danish invaders on my west. Unfortunately, they were decimated by a returning stack. I couldn't raise more than 74 troops after that.

Hot on the heels of that, my Spymaster and Steward, both counts, came to me and delivered an ultimatum: my brother Barid was going on the throne whether I liked it or not. Barid, it should be noted, was one of the brothers shunted off to the Norse priesthood in order to remove him from the line of succession. A quick glance of the factions in Novgorod showed that they had ca 200% of my troops. I gave up the throne and Frirek headed west. He'll be okay; I had him betrothed to a young Norse duchess in Norway. Maybe in another 100 years it'll come back to me, the player.