Sunday, March 16, 2014

Monster of the Week and Conspiracy of Shadows: Apprentice

Haven't gamed much in a while, as I concentrate on Important Things. But I did recently have a chance to play Monster of the Week at my FLGS and Conspiracy of Shadows: Apprentice at Chicago Game Day.

Monster of the Week is a fun, easy game to play based on the Apocalypse World system, but much simplified. I recommend it if you are looking for a low-prep, easy-to-explain, insta-fun game that can be played at home, at a store, or at a bar.

Here's a link to the short campaign we played using MotW a while back:

It also has a fantastic price point:

For Chicago Game Day yesterday, held at the venerable and always-awesome Games Plus in Mount Prospect, Illinois, I had the chance to play something COMPLETELY DIFFERENT.  The game is called Conspiracy of Shadows: Apprentice and although heavy on narrative it is not mechanically light. Taking place in a mythical Nordic setting of Viking heroes, gods and magic it uses rune stones instead of dice and pits two teams of players against each other in a series of challenges culminating in a Final Trial.

This is not an easy game to understand quickly. The map, character sheets and rules, although beautiful and evocative, are challenging to read and understand. It took us a couple hours to really get into the swing of things, but we all worked together to decipher locations on the map and understand the rules as written. It was a great group of players, all very much into games and their mechanics, and pretty soon we were both rocking and rolling.

I played an ancient Viking warrior, Minion of a Master who ruled with a just but iron hand, seeking to preserve the ways of our people. There were two other Minions, great Vikings in their own right, and the Master himself. Our chief weakness was a disdain for teamwork, believing in individual rights, glory, and accomplishments.

Against us was the upstart Apprentice, a woman from the distant North who had broken away from the Master and tried to replace him. She had been punished and sent to her death, but had refused to die, instead allying herself with a warband of heroes on their way to defeat the Master. Although younger than the Master and his Minions, they had strength in numbers and worked as a team.  The Minion wanted to destroy the status quo and probably had a motto like, "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need" or something equally disturbing.

The unique and beautiful character sheet was unique and beautiful, but took a while to figure out.

Both sides started by moving around the beautiful map, exploring different locations and undertaking challenges in an effort to locate magical artifacts to help them in the Final Trial. The Master and his Minions sought the unbreakable Shield of Eternity which shone with the light of eternal fire.  The Apprentice and her warband sought the Dwarven Spear of the Northern Lights which could pierce anything and was generally made of Pure Awesome.

The Challenges that you face are described by the opposing team. You narrate how you plan to defeat this challenge, trying to bring in story elements that allow you to use your strengths and resources, possibly even twisting Destiny itself to generate the most rune stones that you can. The opposing team then narrates your obstacles in detail and generates an opposing number of rune stones. It's a fun process and gives you a mental workout, as well as making you very thirsty for mead and dark beer.

The Final Trial was truly epic and came down to a vicious battle between the Master and his former Apprentice, while we Minions fought the Warband outside the Master's Lair. Now that I've played it, I want to play it again.

Conspiracy of Shadows: Apprentice is available for purchase here: