Empire of the Dead is set in a darkly gothic Victorian England populated by heroic Gentlemen and ghastly fiends of unmentionable evil.
So here we have a 28mm skirmish game from West Wind Productions, I have yet to have a few real turns against someone other than myself, so yes I have one every dice roll. Needless to say when I play against someone who doesn’t do exactly what I want and dumbly leave a model randomly out in the open I will get back to you and let you know how it plays in real life. For now though I would like to share my thoughts on the rule set and the general game theme.
Firstly I have to say I have never read a more ‘flavoured’ rule book, every rule book comes with a certain amount of back story to bring you up to speed on the world you are about to plunge into, but EotD it just oozes it from every page, the ‘diary’ entries through to loads of well laid out pictures. In a way its a shame its a rulebook and by definition going to take a bit off abuse over the gaming table, as it is without a doubt a tomb of back story and inspiration.
So lets take a closer lookat Empire of the Dead, its a skirmish game for two or more players, running with D10 dice, looks like I am going to have to pick up some more of them from Diceni this year, the stat lines will all look familiar to anyone who has played a tabletop game before, a few extra ones like Bravado (Brv) and Arcane (ARC) but these are all briefly explained very early in the rulebook before being expanded later.
The make up of each side, or faction, is conventional a few higher up leader types with there mass of underlings to bulk out the force, a few extras such as ‘Supernatural’ appear which adds to the flavour of the game and starts to set EotD apart, for example Vampires are ‘Supernatural’ whilst a Lycoan faction can take Wolves.
Pre-measuring is back in which is good if you have a terrible judging eye, and bucking the current trend players take in turn to activate thier entire faction in one hit. Although there is a rather cool ‘Banish’ ability which I just think is hilariously cool and really fitting with the theme of the game, although I will warn you now for free, your opponent may not see the funny side of that effect.
A lot of the normal gaming conventions are unchanged so it is a fairly easy game to get into, even the turn sequence is pretty standard. The shooting ‘to-hit’ sequence is a new one for me and I am sure I can see similarities from many other games all rolled into the sequence, personally I like it but I will run you through an example.
I roll a D10, to this roll I adjust by any modifiers so my Knight Marshal with a Marksmanship of four takes an aimed shot (+2) at a Wolfskin (no modifier) rolls a three, this gives me a result of nine, so I would miss. Even with out rolling dice i still manage to miss! There are other modifiers but the Knight Marshal is off to do penance now so I shall move on.
To form a faction, you start with a predetermined amount of shillings, it’s Victorian England what did you expect, and buy your faction members and equipment. The amount can be changed but both players have to agree. But even 150 shillings should allow a good four to six members to be recruited so again back to my Holy Order my useless Knight Marshal cost me 25 shillings 5 brothers takes me to 75 shillings. My Knight Marshall shall have a Sword, a Holy Relic Armour and a torch the brothers shall just have a crossbow this would take me up to 132 shillings.
The rule book contains all the information to create factions from The Holy Order, Lycaon and Nosferatum as well as the five other main Factions, with nice background and easily found stats even the first few games where everyone needs to look up bits of rules or stats, is relitively simple process.
Six very different scenarios almost rounds of the rulebook, but quite possibly my favourite piece of any rulebook is the campaign section, allowing your faction to grow, in Empire of the Dead your normal run of the mill charactor can over the course of a campaign, elevate himself to be a Heroic charactor. This element of role platying seems to be making a good comeback the last few years, and will always be a favourite of mine, after all you have invested time and money into your collection, so why not enjoy the highs that a solid win can bring.
All in a very well laid out rulebook that is full of charactor and more importantly easy to follow, every games aims to be easy to learn and hard to master. Empire of the Dead is definitely beginner friendly only a few good campaign games will tell if its hard to master.