Monday, January 20, 2014

Orcs of the High Mountains

The next random board game from my collection that I will write about isn't really a board game in the traditional sense, but more of a tabletop role-playing game crossed with a miniatures skirmish game crossed with a choose-your-own-adventure book.  This would be Orcs of the High Mountains, part of the Legends of the Ancient World game series by Dark City Games.

The game can be played from one to five players.  One of the players can "run" the adventure, controlling all of the opposition forces and reading through the game book, or all of the players can be the good guys, and one of them is designated to read the book and they all figure out what the opposition forces will do together.  I played it solitaire, which also works.  In Orcs of the High Mountains, the players have a total of four characters, built per the Legends of the Ancient World rules to be a little bit tougher than your standard new character.  This is a swords-and-sorcery fantasy game, so your characters can either be fighters or magic users.  Fighters get a specific number of skills to pick from a fairly comprehensive list, while magic users select spells from a separate list.

Characters have three attributes, which are used for specific skills.  They way a skill check works is you roll three six-sided dice and total them up.  If that is equal to or less than the attribute, then you succeed.  For example, if my character has the Climbing skill and a Strength of 11, then I need to roll 11 or less on the three dice to succeed, otherwise my character fails.  Combat works the same way, with Dexterity being the attribute tested against.  Strength also acts as your hit points and fatigue points.  Intelligence is the attribute checked against for magic using characters who cast spells.

The adventure itself is governed through the use of a booklet with a bunch of numbered sections.  You start at section 1 and read the description.  You may then have to fight some orcs, and after that is done you can select from a series of listed options to choose your next action.  The game does come with a small map with lettered hexes.  This is used for all combat encounters.  You will need counters or wargaming figures to represent the orcs and your characters.  Most gamers will have plenty of those laying around somewhere, but if you don't you should be able to find free counters on the internet (and see below...).

In fact, this entire game is free!  Yes, Orcs of the High Mountains is available free from the company's website as a teaser for the Legends of the Ancient World game series, of which there are many different games for sale.  The company also sells some sci-fi games, and a Wild West game.  You can get files you need from the following links:
Overall, the game is all right.  The rules work well enough, but I found the game slightly boring.  That could easily be because this is an introductory game and rather short, and I can't fault the price of FREE.  Because the rules state that they are compatible with GURPS, I am tempted to try the rules with the old Orcslayer module from Steve Jackson Games to see if I like that experience better.  Or, I could just buy one of the Legends of the Ancient World modules and try that out directly, I guess.  Bottom line, the system has some promise as a light RPG/skirmish game system, but this sample adventure felt kind of sparse.

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