Cirsova Magazine (Update & Sticky)

Just wanted to let everyone know, Cirsova is still taking and reading submission for the semi-pro Sword & Planet/Heroic Fantasy zine.

FAQ for writers considering submissions can be found here.

There’s still no “hard deadline” but I am anticipating having enough materials (fingers crossed!) to go forward to phase 2 by the end of October.

I’m going to take a brief break on making offers to give folks who have expressed interest time to get submissions in. This should give people who are still working on their stories a better shot than if I were just taking stories as they come.  (Sorry for not having a better process in place to begin with.  Hi!  I’m new at this!)

Fortress Europa (cont) – Allied Fail

I think my Dad may finally break my streak.  Despite having a phenomenal start following D-Day, some unfortunate rolls (retreating Nazis & bad weather) and poor strategic choices have been costly.  The US armor getting bogged down by trying to cut around the south of the Massif Central to get behind the German lines only to get bottled up in the Rhone & Saone Valleys has probably hurt me the worst.  I should’ve launched my second invasion against Marseilles rather than La Rochelle, but I wanted to mix it up a bit. There were also some minor mistakes that proved major, like having an HQ just one hex shy of being able to land paratroopers in Antwerp; if I’d been able to do that, I could have landed several armor divisions behind the fleeing Wehrmacht.  Instead, I’m having to fight for every inch of ground, and my dad has made the best of the terrain in eastern France.

I don’t know if I’m “losing” or if I’m going to lose the game, but I’m faring much poorer than the Allies did historically.  This map is shows operations from late August to mid-September.  The green is about how far I’ve managed to push and the purple is where my Dad’s line is holding.  It’s the end of October and I haven’t reached the Siegfried line.

Fortress Europa

We’re going to try to wrap things up this weekend.

It’s October 1st, Time to Shill!

I’m very very slowly getting these out of my spare room.  At this rate, I will have gotten rid of all of them by the time I’m 50.


Yes, that is art by Christopher Hastings of Dr. McNinja fame!

Featuring 12 tracks of weird, wild and woolly Halloween tracks!

Peek-a-boo Magazine says “If this is the worst music Dracula ever heard I would certainly like to own his record collection.

All Music says it has “a surprising amount of credibility.”

Still available on Amazon!

All money I make off this will go towards buying content for issue 1 of the Cirsova zine.

The Egyptian

I finished The Egyptian by Mika Waltari, and while it was a beautiful journey, it was an emotionally draining one.  It should be noted that the book itself is a product of WWII, so delves into some pretty dark territory.

While the 1954 Hollywood epic made the story of Akhnaton and his god Aton into a proto-Christian morality play in which Akhnaton was perhaps a prophet of the one true god before his time, Akhnaton and the monotheism he attempts to impose on Egypt are portrayed in a much less black and white fashion in the book.  Akhnaton is a benevolent tyrant who seeks to impose his utopia on Egypt for the good of its people though he himself is shielded from any consequences of his policies.  The love of peace and hatred of war makes Egypt weak before its devious enemies, seriously compromising its national security through appeasement and belief in the goodness of one’s foreign foes.  The equality preached by Akhnaton in Aton’s name becomes the rallying cry of class warfare, as the poor and the slaves rise up to punish the rich and bring every man down to their level, and Egypt is turned into a land of thieves and ruffians.  The Pharaoh’s plan to redistribute the wealth of Egypt is a miserable failure, for akin to the seizures of farmland in 20th century Africa, the productive farmers are driven off their lands and replaced by ignorant neophytes whose early crop failures plunge Egypt into famine.  Worship of Aton and the war between the gods Aton and Ammon seem less of a metaphor for any sort of proto-Christianity but a conflict between the corruption of state capitalism and national socialism or Bolshevism.

Sinuhe loves Akhnaton and loves the vision he offers of a world of love, peace and equality, but Akhnaton’s way is awash in blood and costs Sinuhe all he holds dear.  The recurring motif is the failure of the human character which dooms (or at least taints) great enterprise.  It also leaves one with the bleak impression that there is nothing for man but what he leaves behind and that is far from guaranteed, whether it is Akhnaton, who is struck from history, Aziru the Amorite King, who is executed with his family and fed to wild beasts, or Sinuhe, who believes his account will be destroyed upon his death in his house of exile. Though it’s a beautifully told story, imagine if Ben-Hur ended with his family still presumed dead and they never met Jesus.  While I did mention that the themes of the Egyptian are more political than religious, there lurks in Sinuhe’s longing something of a note of tragedy about a pre-Christian world in which all the gods are false and corrupt, demanding endless blood and sacrifice; Sinuhe does cling to hope for the Aton that is a god with and within all men and before whom all are equal.

Of interesting note, the one Karma Houdini ended up being Nefernefernefer, the courtesan to whom Sinuhe gave all of his (and his parents) property leading to his original exile.  Despite ending the book with wealth beyond measure, even Kaptah, Sinuhe’s loyal servant and comic side-kick has gone through his fair share of torment and anguish. In the film, Nefernefernefer returns afflicted with a disfiguring disease (strongly implied to be syphilis) and Sinuhe mercifully treats and forgives her in a grand redemptive gesture.  In the book, during the riots in Thebes where the supporters of Aton are destroying the temples of Ammon, Sinuhe hands her over to the embalmers in the House of Death to have their way with her, only for her to charm all of them and con all of them out of their ill-gotten treasures stolen from the wealthy dead, and that’s the last we hear of her.

As much as I enjoyed The Egyptian, I’m looking forward to decompressing with something a bit lighter.

The Challenge

Circumstances have prevented the Dungeon Crawl Classics group I’m in from having enough folks to run anything, so we’ve been playing various other games during our regularly scheduled nights.  Last time we got together, I decided to bring over “The Challenge”, an obscure card game whose perforated cardstock I’d not even gotten around to separating yet.

the challenge

Hey… hey, wait… spells don’t use the numbered cards, there are no 6s and even Axes only go up to 7!

“The Challenge” is a game of quasi-D&D-like PVP action.  Players take turns having their party members fight it out with weapons and magic until one party is eliminated and the player with the most remaining HP + Magic item value + HP of enemy characters killed is the winner.  Instead of the BS backstabbing and indirect conflict of Munchkin, The Challenge is all about straight head to head combat.  As its name implies, a challenge is issued and characters slug it out until one is killed or both players have exhausted their actions.

Each player starts with 5 characters that can be sorted into one or two ranks.  The races of the character (Orc, Human, Dwarf, Elf, Halfling) aren’t particularly relevant unless you choose to let players pick parties by race rather than randomly to get a more balanced party.  More important are the classes and their abilities.  Each character card has three abilities, meaning those are the cards that can be played when they are in combat: Fighters will have three of the four weapon types, Clerics and Wizards will generally have one weapon and two spells or no weapons & three spells, and Thieves will have two weapons + Backstab.

So, you draw a fist full of cards from the Melee and Mystic Action decks.  The Melee Action deck is mostly full of weapon cards, Daggers, Staffs, Axes, Bows, and Swords, but also has a few “Parry” and “Dodge” cards.  The Mystic Actions deck has spells, equipable magic items, some special thief actions (Spy and Hide in Shadow), and some general defensive items/actions.  These cards can be played based on what abilities are listed on the character card.  If you have a fist-full of Axes, chances are, you don’t want to attack with a wizard that turn, but if you’ve got that shiny human paladin, you’re good to go.

One of the neat aspects is the “ranks”; most characters can only attack one rank away (i.e. a fighter on the first rank can only challenge a fighter on another player’s first rank), but characters with bows can attack two ranks away, wizards can attack any rank(or two ranks, I forget), and if you play a “hide in shadows” card on a thief, they exist in special thiefspace and cannot be attacked but can attack either rank (though doing so will cause them to leave thiefspace).  Once we actually figured out how the thief worked, we realized they were pretty badass.  Since hide in shadows can be played as a response, it meant that they could attack with impunity so long as you had an extra hide in shadows card.

We had a lot of fun with it, but we will definitely need to create our own set of explicit rules and clarifications.  For one thing, the rules pertaining to cards were neither entirely on the card nor in the rules’ description of the card, so you had to read both the card and the rules to figure out how something worked, and even then it could be vague.  Dispel Magic was a point of contention because it was so varied in what it did: on a defensive turn, Dispel Magic could be played to neutralize a negative effect, such as Hold Person, on your own party, but on an attack turn, it could be used to destroy an enemy’s magic item (initiating a challenge against that character), remove a Charm Person (initiating and then instantly ending the challenge if the dispel resolves and you regain control of your character), or counter a spell targeting your caster.  The jury is still out as to whether it can negate an Orb of Protection (because Orb of Protection is party-wide and normally targeting an enchantment/equipment initiates a challenge against whomever is enchanted/equipped), but we agreed that it could not negate the Shield Wall action.  And here is where things are confusing: there are things which are actions which common sense tells you is an item.  Healing Potion is not an item; it’s an action that can be played in response to taking damage or to remove accumulated damage.  Similarly, an Orb of Protection is a “Special Defensive Action” which can only be played during a defensive turn.  Note that the categorization of Mystic Action Cards is listed not on the cards themselves, but in the manual’s description of each card.

This is a game that if you have the patience to figure it out and don’t mind having to piece together your own errata will make a great addition to your gaming parties.  It would feel right at home among something like Bang! or King of Tokyo for folks who like their party games a bit more cut-throat but don’t like the more passive aggressive styles of play.  Though the box’s disclaimer “Warning: Don’t Play This Game With Your Friends” is silly and childish, it could just as well read “Warning: Don’t Play This Game With Eurogamers.”  The only way you’re going to win at this is to be unafraid to throw an axe in someone’s face.  Just make sure you’ve feigned with a Sword-3 or something to draw out that Parry before you drop the Axe-7 on them.

I found this game cheap several years ago and regret waiting so long to play it.  Old as it is, this one is still going for under $20 in a lot of places, and I highly recommend it.


From Boardgame Geeks; not my copy.