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Blog [CS] – Dark Portents

Greetings. This week, I wanted to use this blog to go into a few of my motivations for my current project, partly kicked off by Marcin’s previous blog post regarding PMC 2640. I have always been more of a science fiction gamer, but historical and fantasy games have not been ignored. However I always felt that fantasy games had a different emphasis to what I was looking for, and that’s mostly where my decision to write Dark Portents came from. I spent a fair amount of time collecting rules sets. Most gamers have a number of rules but I started to gather a bit of a library. In most of these rules I found elements that I really liked, but the system as a whole wasn’t really what I was looking for. What I was looking for, was a fantasy game that played like a historical game. I wanted wizards and elves and dwarves, but what if they existed on the real battlefield? I wanted a game where heroes were powerful, but more they were inspirational, and spurred their troops on more than tackling impossible odds alone. I wanted to see wizards dueling on the battlefield, units reforming before a charge, and weapons being key to how a unit of troops was used on the field. My personal experience in a lot of fantasy games was that unit became blunt tools, meat grinders, while the decisive actions fell to either cavalry and monsters, or heroes. This felt wrong to me, and counter to most of the historical records that we have.

Dark Portents is my attempt to write a ‘historically viable fantasy game’. It takes inspiration from a number of places, but it is something that I have had forming in my mind and on countless scraps of paper for numerous years, and only recently have I decided to document it all down in a single place. The problem with doing that, is that you can then see all gaps, and that’s the leg work in rules design.

So, what stage am I at right now? Well, the first draft of the rules is a work in progress. The rules themselves currently exist as half a document and the rest a set of notes and bullet points. But, all of the core concepts are in place and sketched out. The initial playtest rules will include only infantry units and heroes – commanders and spellcasters. Later drafts will include everything from cavalry to monsters and war engines, but its important to me to get the core rules engine working well for simple infantry units and a couple of characters.

For the playtesting, I have gathered two armies. A simple Orc horde has been purchased from Mantic, and they will be facing off against humans, drawn from a mix of Warmachine and Perry historicals. Both forces chosen for their ‘standard’ troop types and they will allow me to test the core mechanics without heavy use of special rules and odd situations. Miniatures for playtesting is a double edged sword for me. On the one hand, who doesnt like cherry picking the best minis that you like and wouldn’t otherwise be able to justify buying? On the other hand, there is nothing worse than looking at your assembled unit and realising that you need to change the rules and now they can’t actually be armed with the weapon that you have already glued in 20 sets of hands!

I hope to bring further details of the progress, rules, playtesting and background to Dark Portents in future blogs.

See you in 7!
CS

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