Witch of Salem : Fun for 4 with a great theme [Board Game Review]

Mykal discusses one of his go to Horror tabletop games with Halloween coming up, maybe your group would enjoy Witch of Salem.

I first came across Witch of Salem (Mayfair Games ) designed by Michael Reineck (Pillars of Earth, Cuba: El Presidente) whilst watching a Dice Tower Top 10 with Tom Vassel and his buddies. I was searching for a coop board game with a good theme that did not take too long to set up and play yet still was interesting enough to my group that we play it again. Off the rip I liked the Cthulhu mythos with the it being the early 20th Century New England involving ancient ones, demons and intrigue.

My initial fears after playing Arkham Horror and Eldritch Horror (Fantasy Flight) was that I would pay a lot of money for a game that the group would not play enough to warrant its price. An issue for many people entering the hobby of board games especially those who intend to collect is the price on some of the best games are pretty steep, add in postage you are looking at a hefty some of cash for something you won’t get to use that offten. I have paid for games that I only ever got to play once and wished I could have got another honest opinion on the game before buying it. Board Game Geek did not have it scored too high (6.6) yet what I could read the game seemed straight forward, challenging and did have a tone of play that matched the theme.

The game’s designer Michael Reineck is a German designer who was nominated in 2008 for Designer of the Year, the year Witch of Salem was released along with some of his other projects. I could not find a website or social media page to dig up some more info but he has worked on more than 6 published board games and the list is nothing to sneeze at. The artwork (Franz Vohwinkel) even when looking at reviews seemed interesting as it did in Dragons Lair when I went to purchase it.The artwork looks great from the box to the cards to the map you play on with the right dark tones to bring the setting to life.

witch of salem spread 2

The box contains all your standard board game pieces, tokens, cards and a board with a manual to read which could have been streamlined a little more but was easy enough to comprehend. The game is limited to 4 players max and is a cooperative game involving strategy and combat. Not really a mystery game despite the description on the front of the box but the horror theme and the the progression mechanics are easy to use and build tension as time passes in the game.

This is a fun game and is pretty simple to learn after one playthrough. That being said, Witch of Salem is not an easy game and scales well for a maximum of 4 players. There are a variety of ancient ones you can find yourself grappling with as the time mechanics don’t seem to stress the players more rather keep the tension and pace consistent. Towards the end you and your players will have to come together to seal the gates and prevent the demons from entering our world. This is something you can play for a while as games seldom feel the same and it is great for a halloween board game before the movies or after dinner. I recommend this over Eldrith and Arkham as it plays faster, is taught easier and the price is fair considering what you get out of it. If you want something that will have you on the edge of your seat for most of the game and don’t want a million things to set up Witch of Salem is the horror coop game for you.

 

Rating: 8 out 10

I gave it a lower score because I feel that the game could be fun with more players and there were no expansions released. The rules are not as straight forward and all of the characters are the same with no significant diffirences in skills and abilities.

What are TRPGs and why do we quest? Why we think you might like them too.

By Mykal K Grimm

If you are new to role playing games then I hope this piece will shed some light on the hobby and help further your interest in this truly enjoyable form of social entertainment. Table Top Role Playing Games are not like other games the majority of your friends might play when they hangout in their free time as it has a heavy reliance on the players imagination and it is narrative driven, a story is unfolding throughout play and you can change the course of events by decisions taken by the player. The dice have more than 6 sides or less depending on which ones are needed to be rolled and the game is not competitive in the sense that there is a winner and looser at the end. The game also lasts longer than most traditional board or card games and is played in a way that most people have not encountered as it is vastly different to Uno, Chess or Poker. We will go deeper into the mechanics at another time but it is a very different game that offers a truly unique and fun experience for the players and game masters. I will do my best to help explain what it is we do around the table and why I enjoy it and think more people would if they tried to play TRPGs.

Role Playing Games are games in which the player takes on the role of a character of a certain class and race in often a fictional setting where they are given a quest to resolve. When generating this character you roll or calculate Points for your ability score and distribute them among your skills and attributes which is done during the character creation phase. Different classes possess different talents and abilities as do races which can include dim light vision if you were an Elf or resistance to poison if you were an Orc shaman. Classes can range from the combat focused Fighter to the versatile Wizard and Elves, Dwarves and Halflings are but some of the playable races and classes in some of these systems.  These tabletop games are not merely restricted to medieval fantasy settings but those are the ones I prefer and will use them for most of my examples.

Games can be set in any era, in any environment and classes and powers vary from system to system as do the rules of play.  Mutants and Masterminds is an RPG system which sees you take on the role of a super hero or villain and battle it out Marvel style while Call of Cthulhu has the players play as Investigators trying to solve a murder before dying or loosing their collective s##t in the process. Some RPGs require a  gaming surface and miniature figurines for staging combat, others may use index cards to tell a story while some do not require anything but a piece of paper and is entirely spoken. RPGs come in many forms , levels of complexity and have actually been around since the 70’s with  Dungeons & Dragons being the first leading name in the industry and remains so until today.

Gary Gyax and Dave Arneson were enthusiastic war gamers who wanted to create a game in which you controlled a single soldier opposed to an entire unit or platoon. They would eventually brainstorm a very basic Dungeons & Dragons system and later Gary Gygax would publish it through his company TSR. D&D would change the face of gaming forever as many video game developers would use the character stats from their game to develop and design their own games with them serving as a template. In time their brand would have bestsellers popularizing the genre of fantasy further and familiarizing the reader with their RPG settings and lore. They would push the envelope for the entire industry while creating it at the same time. Fantasy was the first setting but later they would release futuristic science fiction settings in Gamma World  and other books including D20 Modern where players could use SMGs and helicopters. The whole idea was to give players a chance to enter their imaginations and with their guidelines play out epic adventures all from the safety of their own home and in the company of their friends.

Me and my guild first really got into RPGing because we all enjoyed similar things and for most of us, none of us had a chance to really play an TRPG. We would come together and after long discussions about D&D we decided to give it a shot and start playing. At first most of us were brand new to Dungeons & Dragons TRPG games but we enjoyed reading the books, seeing the great artwork. We did start with a more complex system (3.5 Edition which later evolved into Pathfinder) that did have many stats, numbers, reading and may not have been the best choice for newbies in hindsight. The learning curve is not as steep as it may appear at first glance but it does require reading the material in order to have a basic grasp of how it the game is played. Coming to the gaming table without reading anything is a mistake. With the resources available online today a new player can get a decent idea of what the game is about and a basic comprehension of stages of play and how a turn goes. We ourselves plan to put out tutorial videos down the line.

In the beginning your eyes will be overwhelmed with many of the Character sheets but after a few gaming sessions you will know what to look for and where what goes. With every session we ran we would feel more comfortable with the rules, questions would get addressed and answered and the deeper we delved into this imaginary world. My first character was Marcus Marvella, a Half Elf Ranger with a cliche backstory and I remember how much I like attributes of the class. My brother player a more advanced class of a War Mage, Boris of the Bash Bros was a Human Barbarian and Medeni played a dwarven cleric. All of us enjoyed figuring out which skills and weapons to use depending on the situation they found themselves. We learned very fast that there was a big coop component to playing the game, communication and teamwork is the only way to survive an attack or escape a potentially fatal argument. We also grew closer as friends and before long we are snapping D&D puns and jokes and it was something we all would continue to look forward to until this day.

When you quest you are playing a character other than yourself in a fictional setting where you are not bound by our current reality and norms. Want to slay dragons and rescue the princess, you can do it from the safety of your home with your friends as your allies. Ever wanted to be part of a story as it was written? Solve mysteries in a Victorian city or escape the Death Star with you friends, yes and yes guys. Questing is always going to have more options than any video game because there is no limit to your imagination. Many have described the RPG experience as the players are characters in movie and are playing it out as the Game Master is the director responsible for crafting the obstacles and supporting cast. I cannot describe the laughs had at the table and the tension when the Health Points were low and nobody had any potions and our Cleric was out of heals! The immersion is a big part of why I enjoy playing and running the game. No one session is the same and if done right a session involves just as much role playing as combat encounters.

The community of tabletop RPG players is diverse and the passion for the hobby is very real. There are dozens of groups and pages on social media and websites (cough) including Nerd Dimension who seek to make this hobby more accessible and make it easier for those wishing to pursue it as a hobby. RPGing can be a truly liberating experience, being able to break away from the problems in the real world and it can also be very social if you schedule games with new players once in a while. I hope that this post can help motivate readers to consider playing or maybe return to it now as there are so much more options now. Reach out to members in local gaming groups or go to game shops and see if there other players who need an extra player. The experience can be rewarding and it is better than solitary gaming in my opinion. At the end of every session I feel I did not waste my time, I was socializing while playing a game by telling a story. I do not have the same feeling after playing 4 hours of a PC game or console and my eyes get tired.

If you love playing RPG PC or video games, this is something you should at least look into to get some insight into how your pass time originated. I have noticed it seems harsher for video game players crossing over but there are systems that let you do awesome stuff in the early levels so don’t worry about being bored.

If you love fantasy fiction then I cannot recommend this enough for it is the closest I have gotten to playing a character from one of my favorite novels and immersing myself into a setting. It could also serve as a helpful tool to flush out your own settings and characters if you group are open to trying it out.

If you are looking for something different that could sharpen your writing, voice acting or social skills in general than this is something that could be beneficial to you.

 

Game Systems I can recommend for new players:

GURPS : A very basic system which is good for a first session as there is less attributes and a basic rule system. A great way to introduce basic character creation and principles of play found in the more complex systems especially for younger players. There are many itirations of the system with loads of settings to choose from and is the cheapest to get price ways compared to the bigger systems.

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (2nd Edition): A step up in complexity but still easier than the later editions and other RPGs on the market. Despite having more rules than GURPS the AD&D system allows for more options in play and character creation. Good starting point if you have a group thinking of playing D&D the amount of materials and campaigns online to me make this the most fun to run and play for new players from teens to adults. Our very own DM Pat still runs the system until this day and you can catch him on Roll20 running sessions.

Shadowrun: A science-fiction / cyber punkish game which is more focused on skills opposed to class for solving problems and resolving combat. It is a more modern setting and is rich in theme and flavor and serves an interesting alternative to players not looking for Swords and Sorcery. The weapons and races are just as diverse as you can find in most fantasy and the twist of entery this ‘Matrix’ like cyber dimension makes for a unique experience. You have hackers to tanks and working together while one of your runners is disabling a security program is pretty cool. If you want to get a feel for the general idea of the game you can get the Shadowrun PC games for fair prices on GOG and I recommend them.

Call of Cthulhu: A horror science-fiction RPG based on the HP Lovecraft’s Mythos in which you investigate mysterious events and have to maintain your sanity and safety as the Ancient Ones hurl every demonic thing it can at your party. The basic role playing rules make it easy to get into for new players and the horror setting will have players on the edge of their seats until the very end where everyone dies…because it is very very very hard to survive in COC. A must play for all horror and Lovecraft fans thinking of entering the RPG realm.

Star Wars Roleplaying Game: What more can I say. This game was designed to be easy for those taking their first steps into roleplaying games and the theme is there in buckets. It is new and you can buy beginner boxes for cheap and I think this goes over well with younger players the most. Unleash the force with your buddies while recapturing some of the magic of the movies.

Vampire: The Masquerade :  A system unlike the others which is more story orientated opposed to combat. The system has a strong community and following is designed with those looking for more storytelling in the game and the setting and theme of vampires is very well done. Take on the curse of the night in the form of unique vampires as you and your party have to decide how to operate in this hidden world. There is a great PC game developed by Troika of this system which I recommend.

There is something for everybody in the world of tabletop RPGs and maybe this post helps somebody choose to give them a shot. Until your eyes gaze upon my humble writing once more please let us know what you think of our content in the comments section below. If you like what you read so far we welcome you to subscribe and follow our social media pages and podcast.

*Nerd Dimension also have started recruiting members and players for our Sci Fi Fantasy Club in Kungsbacka, all you need is the app Meet Up to find and get in touch with the group.

Hero Con Göteborg 2019

Mike & Erik attend the Göteborg Comic-Con, highlights and their thoughts on the event

After the changes here at Nerd Dimension, one being my music career taking off just as creative differences and moving left us with no studio or staff to continue. Upon my return to the snowy north I found myself with some time on my hands between meetings I learned about the con in Göteborg that was coming up. I reached out to my new friend Erik and we decided that we would attend the con. It was my first con in Sweden and I was looking forward to checking out some of the stalls and hopefully re up on some books and gifts for loved ones back home.

What seemed interesting was that Gaten Matarazzo (Dustin from Stranger Things)  and Alexander Ludvig (Bjorn from Vikings) would be there and I almost took my Stranger Things poster, but I didn’t in the end which I was glad about after the fact. Seeing such big names did make me wonder if the con manage to get some support from the big companies perhaps merch and giveaways. The comic artists who were there did get published by the big names but they were not any we were familiar with and when I arrived they did not seem too keen on talking as no one was cuing for them. Regardless of the lineup my seconday motive for attending was also checking what the stalls full of preloved goodness had to offer as I had realized there was not much in the form of gaming or tabletop sessions that was organized.

Me and Erik grabbed burgers en route to the con and got sufficiently psyched about attending and the weather was very nice for Sweden in May. After finding the parking lot we walked past a decent amount of cosplayers, so many that I started thinking it would be packed wall to wall with fellow nerds. As we approached the entrance we hear country music and a van plugging a band while Spider-Man and some obscure Anime character are striking poses. Immediately I was thrown off by that and a pony dressed up as Batman brought up a question mark. Yes, you read that right. There was a pony in costume to the side of the convention center which also is next to the horse track. I guess it could be fun for the wee ones to have something else to do but I figured maybe Knights or Cowboys might have gone over better for a stead.

When we entered we did not see such a huge turn out, surprinsingly as I figured the one con of the year might have drawn a few more like minded folks. We purchased our day passes and entered the convention area. First thing I notice are some stalls with sharply dressed people who looked like they worked at an electronics chain but none of them seemed to be pushing any hardware. A few animantion companies, but nothing that drew our attention or stood out as something interesting. We get to the center of the convention hall, noticing that the space was not really used up to its fullest with corners walled off flimsly. It looked pretty vacant other than a long cue of cosplayers waiting for the contest which really was the majority of the attendees we would later find out.

Me and Erik continue deeper into the convention center and find the gold we were searching for. We find a few comic book vendors and obviously I hit big so expect more comic reviews. Nostalgic Comics had a great selection and had fair pricing on certain books so after getting a few I slid over to the next stall and found shelves of anime DVDs and BluRays. I found a few DVDs that looked interesting but the prices were were pretty high even for the regular DVD collections so unfortunately I had to pass on those purchases.

Concerning gaming we managed to find a second game store operation working mostly online and at conventions which had interesting items including memory cards and other smaller console accessories which were fairly priced. I am considering getting a retro console to catpture some game footage and did buy a Gamecube game for 10$ which seemed OK considering you can’t find too many of them out here in Sweden. Erik purchased some Playstation 2 games and a memory card along with some comics.

I was disappointed with the lack of vendors present at the con and there was no big Sony, Microsoft or Nintendo stalls plugging any games and HBO sent a few promotional models and props but other than that I felt the content was lacking and we were done in 4 hours and that was with us taking our time. There were some interesting exihbits for Swedish authors which I felt was nice to see, always promising seeing independent authors get some shine. I found classic Dylan Dog collection prints but they did not have them in English so I passed.

Before leaving we wanted to check out the cues for the actors and saw that the price was north of 50$ so I was really glad I did not bring my poster. Moving forward we decided to make our way back to Kungsbacka all the while discussing some of the shortcomings of the con and the potential it had.

I would have to give them credit for continuing to keep the event going but I feel they should get more content including workshops, displays and even performances. The lack of content just disappointed me, I mean why could they not have at least held a few tournaments in Street Fighter or have Marvel vs Capcom etc. Maybe schedule a screening of something perhaps but it seemed like the con fell short of giving us enough selection in how to spend our money. There was one vendor selling consoles and games and there was no other real gaming presence. The kids seemed to have a good time but there was definitely more that could have been done to keep them entertained. I mean why not have had some tables to play Marvel Legendary and other comic related board games. Just a few ideas should the organizers find this article. Seeing as we only attended the one day I can only give an impression but seeing as we were there for what looked like the big day it is safe to say I did not miss anything ‘big’ so my grading will not be too harsh.

I give the con a grade of 5 out of 10 if for nothing the facilities were clean, parking large enough etc. and there were enough vendors for people looking for deals and hard to find comics could make off like bandits.

We hope that Hero Con tries to integrate more gamers and nerd culture into the next Con, perhaps reaching out to gaming clubs and groups to GM sessions on day or host board games. When I was organizing a Con in Croatia which was the first Con in Dalmatia of its kind we managed to sell board games, have people playing board games and even getting a movie screening. You do not want your con goers to leave unhappy or feel bored. The price was not too expensive but if I was to be honest I did not get much out of it and Im deep into the culture so I can only imagine the disappointment on some of the visitors who may have left without anything memorable including the experience.

 

Hope that you enjoyed this post and look forward to reading some of your comments. Were you present at Hero Con? Which Cons do you recommend in Europe? Let us know and until next time, Quest Strong and enjoy your roles.