Play Test Journal #2 Shadow of the Dread

Juggernaut, Death Star, Unicron, whatever you call it you’ll have to fight a Dreadnought, more likely sooner rather than later.  I learned this playing against the second person I taught the game to, Chris Dijak.  Failing to best the mighty green titans he sent before me taught me several things.  Don’t count on your opponent rolling low, know what you can sacrifice, and  know your Resources.

As the months have gone by I’ve built my decks and have prepared strategies for dealing with the ubiquitous dreadnought.  First and most importantly is knowing that its a d20, its slow if your foe doesn’t have at least 2-3 engines in play it ain’t moving and even if they have more engines having cards to debuff there E rolls and terraforming out there gas giants works to halt them.  Second don’t fight it, avoid the monster, aim to kill off small ships forcing them to have nothing but high maintenance vessels then cut off there CP production.  But if you must fight the dread, try to prepare for it by having some ambiguous ships to sacrifice to slow its pace, then have sectors and events to boost your attack and take the fight to him, a well timed All Guns Blazing, while you have four or five D-ships Gunships will make the Dreadnought guarding New Terra question just how scary he really is.



“The meek shall inherit the Earth. And the rest of us will go to the stars.” -Omni Magazine

Tell Me About Your Character

Ever see those signs at the local gaming store that say “Don’t Tell Me About Your Character”?  There are lots of variations, with varying degrees of snarkiness. I understand the desire to protect store employees from endless one-sided conversations about how many green skins your character can exterminate in a single blow.  However, I do not need such protection. (Although the green skins do.  Poor little guys.) I routinely spend absurd lengths of time talking gaming with friends after spending the day gaming with those very friends, and I am not opposed to listening you either.

After re-reading my last rant, it occurred to me that I don’t have enough feedback from Luchador: Way of the Mask players. So write to me about the characters in your campaign.  I don’t really want to know how many black-masked minions they stomped into submission, but I would like to hear highlights from their careers.  Tell me their favorite move, best lines, and coolest costumes.  Keep it clean, as we might post some of this stuff.


Play Test Journal #1 The First Game

This last fall Casey asked me if I’d be interested learning to play Near Space.  He then handed me a couple decks and the rules and said have fun.  I was going to be the first person to learn to play without being taught from an already experienced player.  One more catch, I had to find another person that hasn’t ever played before and teach them to play as well.

Shortly thereafter I go into the local hobby store like most days and to my luck Cooper Livingston is behind the counter.  Cooper happens to be the Jack of all trades of the gaming community around these parts and seeing the opportunity to learn a new one agreed to a game.  I take a seat in the gaming area of the store and begin reading the rules.  An hour past as I flipped back and fourth checking the wordings in each section and when I found the Terminology section it all fell into place easily.  Then I put together a couple of legal sized decks and move over to Cooper.Time to play.

I get out my dice, Cooper uses the stores behind the counter dice, and we shuffle up and deal out our first game.  It begins how most games I’ve seen begins, we each built a couple of red or blue d4 to explore.  We quickly find the benefits of having green dice out holding sectors, this was before green was modified to count for more in the graveyard.  The most unbalanced thing i found in this game was Clear d4s.  Cooper having the vastness of a store counter full of dice was able to build about a dozen of these ships and load them into a carrier.  This one group of ships crushed everything I sent in fight it, his d4 rolls of 13, 11, 9, etc were far superior to my white d10s, 8s, and 6s.  Cooper defeated me in about an hour and a half by Conquest(putting 100 facets of ships into my graveyard).

I had a great time in the first match with minimum returning to the book for rules verification or wondering how this worked beyond checking the reference cards.  I later addresses my concern of the power of the D-Craft(clear) with Casey and suggested that they have a limit of one “explosion” added into their total, later play testing of this found it far more balanced and in the spirit of the game and eventually helped give pink its own unique ability.

Masked Men of Mexico Delayed!


For the first time since the release of our Luchador: Way of the Mask line, Spartacus Publishing will be going to Indy without a new book in the series!  Do not despair.  Even without the new book there will be plenty of Luchador action for attendees.  The new Chasing Chupacabras adventure debuts, as well as the return of The Phantom of the Folding Chair Factory, and They Stole Grandma’s Brain.  We also have special guest GM Chris Oliver joining the demo team to add to the excitement.

Why the delay?  We could blame it on our writer’s terrible wargaming addiction, or his general procrastination.  We could point to the time and effort directed into developing Nearspace which is rapidly approaching production (and is awesome).  We could say all of these things, and they would all be true but they wouldn’t be the whole truth.

Those of you who follow our Kickstarter projects may have read that Disciples of the North was the last book detailed in the original pitch for the game.  That is one of the reasons it got extra-sized.  With its completion we have covered and then recovered the rules for the game, added in the new stuff we wanted, and offered up a series of bizarre adventures that are unlikely to be confused with any other game.  The next step, if a next step was to be taken, required a return to Mexico and a book that focused less on rules revision and more on background.  In short, it needed to be a sourcebook!

Don’t get me wrong.  I love sourcebooks.  The problem with sourcebooks is they detail a world that does not include your characters.  Your PCs are the stars of your campaign.  They discover the strangeness that lurks in the darkness, and they thwart the schemes of villains who curse their names.  I don’t know who your characters are, so I can’t make the villains I create curse them.  This is a problem with any game world, but in the Luchiverse your characters’ adventures define what is out there.  The strangeness remains hidden until encountered and usually vanishes after the adventure.  If I write a sourcebook detailing the secret Vampire Wrestling League I have to do it in a way that encourages the GM to introduce it through the PCs in the campaign.  It can’t just be another league that the PCs know about and aspire to claim the VWL tag team titles someday.  As such, each entry has to be an adventure seed, and it is taking far longer than I had initially hoped.

Rest assured that Masked Men of Mexico is coming and it will be awesome.

Luchador on RPGNOW

Spartacus will begin listing our Luchador line of books on RPGNOW.

We will list the first three titles over the next few months and Disciples of the North the first of August. Moving forward I plan on releasing the e-book version of the hard copy one-year after the intial release. We might wind up changing this in the future but taking this step was itself pretty significant. Let us know what you think and any changes we should make going forward.

The Legacy of the luchador is alive in Lucha VaVOOM

Though the world of Luchador presents enmascaderos as adventurers, men of mystery, and globe-trotting super agents they are in their hearts Luchadors.Wrestlers, performers, and heroes to inspire the rest of us.  One of the great real-world promotions that still embody this ideal is Lucha VaVOOM.
lucha moves
WARNING: Don’t go anywhere by yourself without learning these moves first! Be prepared for anything!!
Mexican Masked Wrestling + Burlesque + Comedy = Lucha VaVOOMLucha VaVOOM is a non-stop, action-packed scream-a-thon, where Mexican Masked wrestlers flip and fly, performing breathtaking acrobatic feats while battling evil luchadores. Historically speaking, Lucha VaVOOM brings the bizarre world of 60’s Mexican Lucha Cinema to life. Brave, masked wrestling crime fighters save the world from evil brains, vampires, the Bermuda Triangle etc; always with an obligatory stop at the local go-go club.In-between matches, the finest, handpicked burlesque acts from around the world astound; at Lucha VaVOOM, we like a little sexo with our violencia. Raucous aerial acts, Pogo-stick peelers, hula-hoop hotties; we’ve got it all!

But wait there’s more! Our color commentary is handled by comedians Tom Kenny, Dana Gould and Blaine Capatch. Other guest commentators include Fred Armisen, Brian Poussein, Patton Oswalt, Greg Proops, Jeffrey Ross and Bobcat Goldthwait. Even Jack Black sat in, proclaiming “Lucha VaVOOM is the sh*t!

It all began in August 2003 as a one off event. The overwhelming crowd response convinced Rita & Liz to do it again, and as soon as possible.

Ever since, Lucha VaVOOM has played at the Mayan Theater in Los Angeles three times a year — Valentines Day, Mid-summer, and Halloween. From there, Lucha brought it’s circus to Toronto, where they did two nights at the Koolhaus and made every newspaper and TV news program, including Much Music.

In 2005, Lucha VaVOOM was asked to be a part of the first HBO Las Vegas Comedy Festival, where they performed alongside Jon Stewart, Lewis Black and Dave Chapelle. That same year they performed at the famous Sony E3 party at Dodger Stadium, where they took the spotlight away from the Pussycat Dolls.

Lucha VaVOOM has gone on to perform in Chicago, San Francisco and Amsterdam, with more cities on the way.

They’ve also appeared on Jimmy Kimmel, CBS National News, G4’s Attack of the Show, Channel X in Britain and A Current Affair just to name a few. Here’s what the press says about us:

Lucha VaVOOM has a big future.
TIME Magazine

..It’s enough to make even the most jaded Hollywood insider jump up and yell “Smackdown.”
Rolling Stone

Lucha VaVOOM is the most exciting, bonkers show I’ve seen in ages.

A madcap mix of Mexican wrestling, comedy, and vintage burlesque. I love, love, love it.
Vanity Fair

Far-out flamboyance always prevails at Lucha VaVOOM, a spectacle of Mexican freestyle wrestling with an L.A. twist.
Los Angeles Times

With this perfectly balanced evening of sex, comedy & comicbook violence, the populace of earth deserves nothing less than a global tour. Everyone needs a little Lucha VaVOOM in their life.

A Luchador’s Guide to Action and Adventure

At first glance, even at second glance, the world of Luchador: Way of the Mask looks a lot like our world. People go about the drudgery of their day-to-day lives, politicians lie to cover up their indiscretions, and there’s never anything good on TV. However, there are differences. Unscrupulous businessmen stoop to actual strong-arm tactics (rather than courtroom strong-arm tactics) to take over family owned shops. Mad scientists conduct bizarre experiments in remote laboratories. Masked armies rise from the criminal underworld to carry out convoluted schemes to overthrow world governments. Supernatural forces lurk in the shadows awaiting the unwary to fall under their spell. Throughout it all, the hopes of the common man hang on those masked masters of the mat, the luchadors.

The core concept of the game is that luchadors are the heroes of the modern world. Where others chase the empty promise of greed or struggle to survive the endless grind, the luchador fights on as a champion of honor and glory. Only those with no fear can afford to stand fast against the forces of evil. Only they are worthy of being called heroes.

The tone of Luchador: Way of the Mask is light-hearted but not comedic. It is not an easy thing to maintain. The vibe of the game is somewhere between 70’s action films and 80’s television series. It’s a world where government agents must turn to an unaffiliated martial arts master to infiltrate a madman’s island stronghold during a fighting tournament to uncover his plans, and nobody thinks it odd. Look to Bond films, A-team episodes, Kung-Fu, and the like for inspiration. Obviously, the classic El Santo movies are the best place to start. The luchadors are the ones that stand between the strangeness and the safety of normal life.

Don the Mask and Dive into Danger!
Luchador: Way of the Mask


The Hunt Begins…

Currently Spartacus Publishing is pursuing the development of a card game entitled Near Space. This game is set in a hard sci-fi universe focusing on exploration and combat. The vast majority of cards will focus on spacescapes, planetscapes, and other cosmic phenomenon.

We have been strongly influenced by the styles of John Berkey, Bob Eggleton, and Vincent DiFate. Thus we are looking for pieces that are evocative of these creators. Strong high contrast images with an inherent drama are preferred. Make sure that no matter where you draw your inspiration from that it is your work you are submitting. Using images from the NASA/JPL Galleries is fine but please make a note of accreditation if you do so.

We are looking for 60-80 individual pieces. Finished pieces should be full-color and formatted for a final print of 66 x 88 millimeters portrait layout. Final pieces should be delivered as a minimum 300dpi TIF.

Though the cards will likely be printed with a black border bright and eye-catching art is preferred. Our focus is on newly discovered colony worlds, gas giants, starbases, asteroid fields, and minefields. We will also need a variety of cards depicting various events and encounters that will be detailed as we progress with select artists.

Interested artists should submit rough drafts for approval. Be prepared to take a minimum of art direction before the piece is accepted. You will retain ownership and copyright of the physical piece. We are purchasing the rights for two printings; once in this initial release and again in a possible future compilation. We can offer $30 for each piece we use and will include a copy of the finished product. (You will be allowed to purchase additional copies of the game at wholesale price, 50% of SRP.)  Your payment will be made within 10 days of final draft approval with finished work delivered no more than 20 days after receipt. Payment can be made via Paypal or physical check. If your art is used on the packaging, or any subsequent merchandise, we will negotiate additional fees. Incidental use of the work in marketing or advertising will not be compensated.

If you are looking around for additional inspiration I would recommend the works of Frank Kelly Freas, Marcin Jakubowski, or Stephen Hickman.  Including ships and other technological elements is encouraged and we will be providing a description of the two main races, Terrans and Alpha Centaurians, and other races upon request.

Contact information:
Casey Clark
3906 Grace Ellen Drive
Columbia, MO 65202-1739

Lil’ dice, Big dice, and a New Color…

Lil’ Dice
As I noted earlier Near Space is a game that was designed to use every dice you may have in a game of strategic and tactical conflict. However, we have encountered an issue with d1, d2, and d3s. The bonuses and penalties based on color are +/- 1-2. Events and Sector Advantages may bump this an additional +/- 2-3. This means that the risk-reward ratio of these small dice are incredibly skewed. You are nearly guaranteed a certain result in a fight and even if you lose a a ship a couple of points in the Graveyard is minimal.

As I go back into another revision d1s are being removed from the game. They are not dice; there is no random chance attached to them. Right now d3s are safe as I consider them a fairly traditional die. The d2 is on the chopping block with the axe being swung. We will continue to playtest this and may bring the Kickstarter backers on board during the campaign for a quick poll.

Big Dice
We were also discussing the fate of the Dreadnought. We have allowed d20s since players love the idea of fielding the Death Star but the modifiers (except for green ships) were mooted by the ship size. During a demo/play-test session at the International Table-Top Game Day a new participant tried the game for the first time. A devoted Magic player, he was just expermenting with different games. As soon as he wrapped his head around Near Space as a wargame he had a handle on playing. He quickly questioned why anyone would ever build anything larger than a Gunship. The powers of the Battleship and Destroyer and the ships interaction with the gamestate made him realize their utility. He just as quickly pointed that this logic does not hold for a Dreadnought and it should never be built. Its inability to move in response to an opponent, maintenance, and risk of a bad roll vs a smaller ship makes it a bad investment. I agreed with him and pointed out that people love fielding the Death Star even if it is not smart…

A New Color
Though I had some issues with Protospiel Milwaukee we did get one piece of great feedback about Pink dice. Up to now Pink has not been a recognized color in Near Space. It is hard to judge between Red and Pink, it is  ahue not a color, etc. The trouble is some dice are Pink. They are not Red/Mauve/Purple/etc; they are Pink. Like obscenity, I can’t define it but I know it when I see it.
To that end I introduce a new color for Near Space…
Survivor: Pink: Veterans of war and untold tribulations often band together where their indomitable will sees them to victory against impossible odds. Whenever the ship attacks or defends and rolls a one, it may roll again and add the resulting numbers together. Should this subsequent roll also be a one it is not rolled again.

UnPub Preview…

In preparation for Protospiel I filled out UnPub’s Game Preview questionaire. It does offer some insight to where I am headed with Near Space.

What was your inspiration for Near Space?
The question “Can a gamer have too many dice?”. Thus we pulled together a game that uses every dice you may have in a game of startegic and tactical conflict.

What is your favorite part of Near Space?
The rush of engaging the enemy with the balance of the game on the line. Also, the give and take of responding to your opponent’s build and tactics.

To your knowledge, What do other people find most interesting about Near Space?
The simplicity and ease of play while providing a high level of depth and replay.

What has been the most challenging part of designing Near Space? 
Finding the balance between cards, dice both with passive and dynamic variables.

What advice would you give to players attempting Near Space for the first time?
Progress slowly establishing a good base of resources and then build into an offensive force. Never devote yourself to one tactic. Respond to the board and your opponent.

What has surprised you most in play-tests of Near Space?
Most play-testers after getting their feet wet want to immediately return to the game with an idea on how to break the game, or string together an unbeatable position.

People who like___________ will like Near Space. Why? 
Risk, Similarity of play but with a shifting play surface and far more variables in offense and defense.

What do you hope to accomplish at Protospiel-Milwaukee (and Mid-West Unpub)? 
Earnest feedback from other creators and devoted hobbyists outside of the local level.