This week I finally got a chance to play Empire of the Dead, the Victorian-Steampunk-Fantasy Skirmish game from Westwind Games. I know it's not new or anything, but I thought I'd do a little bit of a review for your delectation.
It's Mordheim in disguise. Which makes it quite good really.
Not much more to say than that, there's really nothing new about any of the game mechanics, from a statline which clearly got at least 50% of its DNA from Games Workshop, to the whole gangs-scenarios-development shtick that Mordheim and Necromunda were pushing two decades ago, this is a game which I (being familiar with its forerunners) picked up immensely quickly.
There are obviously a few differences here and there, but there are only three that are really worth writing home about. Firstly, Empire of the Dead really has trimmed the fat. It's quicker and more streamlined than it's grandparents (no experience points to track, less tests, less exceptions, etc.) which makes it on first inspection, more fun. Secondly, the variable initiative is a nice step away from the predictability of IGO-UGO without over-complicating the turn sequence (something many card based skirmish games are guilty of). Thirdly, the setting (Victorian-Steampunk-Fantasy-Horror - think League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) is not only fairly fresh but it also means that you can raid your miniatures collection and probably find something usable. Which is not to say that the official miniatures aren't good, they are. However, you must know by now that that if I can play a new game without spending money, I will.
Which is how I ended up dusting off some Werewolves I converted many years ago to use as Ghouls in WFB (back when they were a small skirmishing unit) to use as a Lycaon (werewolf) pack. However, I could just as easily have used my VBCW shotgun-toting farmers as a Gentlemen's Club, or my WFB Vampires as the Nosferatu, or even selected Bretonnian models as a Holy Order.
Facing me were JP's Gentlemen's Club who looked suspiciously like some armed Policemen led by Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson (there are actually special rules for these two, but JP was using them just as his faction Heroes), and our mission was to find a lost artefact before the other. One element that I did like in this scenario was that although we could search the potential locations for the artefact (the yellow dice and in the buildings), there was the chance (which actually happened as it turned out) that there was no artefact.
My pack were all armed with close combat weapons, whilst the Baker Street Boys were packing repeating rifles and pistols, so tactics were going to be pretty obvious. I ran quickly to search objectives whilst JP cautiously took up firing positions before splitting up to search. Before long my Werewolves were assaulting police officers deep in the woods, whilst stray dogs were picked off from a distance.
The conflict culminated in my Beastlord (played on this occasion by a Confrontation Aberration, which usually masquerades as a Vargulf) getting the jump on Holmes and Watson, who quickly deduced that it was a big gribbly, and were promptly knocked out of the fight.
What followed was something akin to a scene from Zulu Dawn as I took out my frustration at not finding the artefact by charging the riflemen on the hill with my entire pack. The end wasn't pretty.
Overall, my initial experience of this game is that it's fast, fun and characterful. All ideal characteristics for a game I can't imagine playing all that often - complicated would be bad. However, it's big draw for me was the fact that it looks eminently convertible for my Batman games. Gotham has more in common with Victorian London than it first appears, and i can see ways to adapt these rules to really get the feel that I'm looking for. I'd previously been considering Necromunda, but Empire of the Dead looks to have great potential.
On that subject, I've sorted what's going on Batman's base. I've had a go at sculpting some roses at his feet. These are the roses he lays each year in Crime Alley in memory of his parents. I thought that not only would the red contrast well with the blacks and greys, but it would also be a nice change from the more action scenic bases I've been doing. I'm a little unhappy with how straight the stems are (I've got an idea to fix that) and I know the flowers look a little stodgy, but as a first attempt at this type of sculpting I'm quite please with myself.
Overall, I'm really happy with the progress I've made this month. I set myself three targets and have more than met two and was unable to do the other:
- The Supply Drop still haven't delivered (or even responded to my emails) the Killer Croc and Policemen, so I haven't got these done.
- I set a target of three Heroclix revamps and have actually done four and one complete paint of Nightwing.
- I said I'd begin my first piece of urban terrain and I've actually done a shed, a load of crates and almost finished a warehouse.
What's more I've actually fixed my focus on doing a Gotham City project. More details will follow on this, but essentially, all the urban terrain that I do will be based on locations that have featured in one of the iterations of Gotham City. The warehouse is the first step towards my approximation of Axis Chemicals, the Joker's hideout from the 1989 Tim Burton Batman.
My targets for next month link to this:
- At least three more Gotham characters
- Chainlink fences to surround the chemical plant along with some signs
- Either finish off the windows and roof on the warehouse, or re-base my chemical vat scenery piece, or begin my next Gotham location (not sure what I want to do yet)