All RPGs and Storygames by Tod Foley are now available at DrivethruRPG and RPGnow. Bring these games to your table!
Through Another's Eyes - How Different Players Perceive the Same Card Game - by Nicholas Kinstler
Last year at Gen Con, I was given a slew of things by Josh Wardrop at Arc Knight Publishing to review for the Stew. I was in the middle of a move, a new job, and closing out my old web development company. The Spell Templates, Maps, and Flat Plastic Miniatures got stuck in a box and only unearthed a few months ago. I’m finally getting around to reviewing the work, and apologize for the delay in getting this out there. On the plus side, Arc Knight gave us so much stuff we’re going to be giving away MULTIPLE things with this review, so there are multiple chances to win. So, check out this picture heavy review and go to the bottom for info on how to get in on the giveaway!What All We Are Reviewing
Arc Knight gave us 4 distinct things to review – 5e Spell Templates, Pathfinder Spell Templates, a selection of Flat Plastic Miniatures, and one of their Map Packs. I’ll break the review into 3 sections, detailing each separately but joining together the spell templates into one review. Arc Knight makes spell templates in both Pathfinder rules and 5e Rules variations, and they’ve got some unique elements to them.
(CLICK ON IMAGES TO VIEW AT LARGE SIZE)Spell Templates
Let’s talk about the spell templates. The first time I saw these spell templates was when a friend brought them along to a game to use for his wizard. They immediately caught the attention of everyone in the group and worked well for the crunchy style of game we were playing at the time. All of the Arc Knight stuff is made with high quality and fairly thick plastic. It’s certainly not flimsy and it holds up well.
Cut It Out – The templates come in a large size and all have to be cut out. I posted up with my wife and a friend of ours one night and we took scissors to the templates. They cut well, and the thickness wasn’t too tough to get through, unless we were using very small scissors. A box cutter or x-acto knife would have made the work more precise, and that is what we used for some of the smaller ones, but it wasn’t any major pain to cut them out of their overall sheets.
Use In Game – I used a set of these in my own games (5e D&D) and they really added some flavor and engagement. We would often count out the spaces to figure out if a spell would reach, but placing the template on the table around the miniatures gave that level of immersion and engagement I like to get out of miniature heavy games. One square elements like the familiars, arcane eye, magic weapon, and mirror image worked well when we had a lot of elements on the table at once. Since they were flat (in comparison to our 28mm miniatures) they stayed out of the way and didn’t make the field feel too cumbersome. The line spells were more often than not always long enough to reach whatever was being aimed for, so we didn’t need to pull those out except for the large scale battles. Having a visual, well drawn lightning bolt to lay down on the map as it worked its way through multiple enemies really made the players feel like part of the game world.
Really Useful Notations – One incredibly useful thing about these templates is they have the basics of the spells right on them. Can’t remember if it’s a DEX or a CON save? It’s right there. can’t remember how many dice, it’s on the template. The lettering is easy to read and this extra detail takes it from a cool game aide to an incredible addition to your gaming chest.
Pathfinder – The pathfinder spell templates worked a little differently from the 5e ones, because of the difference in how they do squares. Arc Knight accommodated for that, giving two ways to read each line template, whether you were going straight or diagonal. These templates line up with squares on each correct angel, so you always know exactly which “square” it hits. It takes a lot of the ambiguity out of the rules lawyering that can occur in a very crunchy game. The multiple line spell template was great for giving different lengths and effects for different spells. It was a great detail.
Minor Annoyances & Transport – There are some very minor annoyances with using spell templates like this, but they would hold for any non-hollow spell template. If we wanted to get the templates on the table under miniatures, we had to pick up and move all the miniatures. We could hold the templates above and gauge the general distance and know they would hit, but if we needed to do it exact (say in pathfinder to see which of the large group it hit) we’d have to do a little shuffling of the board to get them all synced up. If your play style is crunchy, you’re used to that though, as every step matters.
The other very minor annoyance was the length of the long line spells, again nothing to do with the actual product. 120 feet in 1 inch squares is going to be what it is. I like to try to keep my gaming materials so that they can fit inside of an 8.5 by 11 inch envelope or folder for transport, but that wasn’t quite doable with some of these spell effects due to their size. With one set I engaged in some experimentation and cut and taped the bigger templates to be “foldable”. It worked out adequately enough and made the spell templates a little more managable for my particular usage scenario.
Final Verdict – I really like the immersion these provide, and the art is fantastic. It really adds something to be able to look at a table and see the mage’s spell effects interacting with the map. These spell templates make a very invisible gaming effect shine in the gameplay environment and in the players’ imaginations. I think the templates are worth the money if you are playing casters in D&D or just want something for your group to be able to share.Update – Learn From My Mistakes, Remove The Film
Arcknight reached out to us to comment that the spell templates actually have an opaque white film layer that peels off. It’s a testament to the strength of the manufacturing that the film didn’t come off when we cut out multiple spell templates. Other pictures I’ve seen are completely clear, which is what I expected with the first review. Below you can see a mix of the original photos (with film on the templates) and some updated photos after I removed the film.
(CLICK ON IMAGES TO VIEW AT LARGE SIZE)Flat Plastic Miniatures
The spell templates were something I had encountered before, but the flat plastic miniatures were something new to me, and I instantly fell in love with them. At first look, they seem to be a bit bigger than other miniatures, but put side by side they are in line with other gaming miniatures, painted and unpainted. The art on these is FANTASTIC! It’s detailed, expressive, bright, and really shows off the subjects. Each of these sets is packed as well, offering multiple miniatures for a fairly cheap price.
They don’t have the physical feel of Reaper or other molded or lead miniatures, but they look beautiful on the gaming mat. The art is just beautiful and it really makes the table look great. The clear backgrounds also don’t interfere in the same way white backgrounds on cardboard ones do. It’s easy to just forget the plastic see-through areas and to focus on the drawings. The plastic is hearty and strong as well. They don’t feel flimsy and the front and backs of the miniatures are drawn, so you know which way they are facing.
I’m probably spending a decent chunk of my Gen Con budget on getting a few sets of these for my collection. The flat ones are great for travel and I run a lot of convention games.
(CLICK ON IMAGES TO VIEW AT LARGE SIZE)
The Arc Knight map pack we were given for the review was a robust set of 8 pages that had multiple sides. They had a 1 inch grid that was very light but easy to use and didn’t interfere with the art, although I’ve gotten used to seeing grids rather than points at the edges from my own games. The quality of the maps are good and sturdy and the art is in line with other digitally designed maps out there. The mix and match options connect together well, and one map page is large enough to comfortably handle a lot of dungeon crawl.
The maps aren’t 100% seamless, so one page may not sync up quite how you want it with another one, but that is easy enough to mitigate. They definitely beat the dry erase maps I pull out of thin air. These pages are dry erase friendly, so you can easily make modifications or add things as needed. Overall, a very nice map set that will work well for your games and stay strong for years to come.
(CLICK ON IMAGES TO VIEW AT LARGE SIZE)Giveaway
Okay, let’s give some stuff away! We’ll be splitting our review set up into multiple sets to spread the love as much as possible. There will be 5 prizes for this giveaway.
- A full uncut set of 5e Wizards spell templates
- A full uncut set of the Pathfinder Spell Templates (A few of these were cut out for the review, but most pages remain uncut.)
- Another full set of 5e Wizards spell templates (The one we used for the review.)
- The Grove’s Horde plastic miniatures & The Spider Queen’s Horde plastic miniatures
- The Winding Caverns Map Pack
To enter, all you have to do is leave a comment on this blog post with a valid email between 07/16/2018 and 07/23/2018. We’ll be randomly selecting (by die roll or random generator) 5 winners to take home one of these review copies.
- We can’t give you a choice of review item, unfortunately. We’ll pick an option, roll the die, and give that person the review item.
- If you live outside of the U.S. and the shipping is prohibitively expensive (over $15), we may ask you to cover shipping.
- These are LARGE items and we’ve paid 3 times in shipping what a product is worth in some of our giveaways. We think the flat nature of these will make them fairly cheap to ship, but we wanted to warn this might happen. We don’t want to prohibit our international readers from being eligible, and we’ll do our best to work out all the details and not have to ask you to cover shipping if we can afford it.
So, leave a comment, let us know what mapping options you like or if you’ve used spell templates like these, and best of luck in the giveaway!
An Endzeitgeist.com review
Ladies and gentlemen, I bid you once more welcome in my lounge! Please, do take a seat, as I want to show you a thing most intriguing; surely, you recall the little pieces of intangible ephemera that we tend to conjure to diversify the experience of engaging in the Great Game?
Well, this little booklet now, for the first time, compiles these ephemera, while, as I was told by my servants, also getting rid of some of the minor imperfections previously noted by astute dignitaries, personas and individuals of staunch character and stellar pedigree. At 48 pages, 4 less once you subtract covers and similar components, we have a rather hefty little tome.
Oh yes, I wholeheartedly concur, my dearest. As you can see after reading Tom Olam’s introductory text (which is situated, mind you, on the page denoting the contents), the entrepreneurs that so charmingly self-depreciatingly style themselves “Fat Goblins” have not simply stitched magically the contents of our beloved ephemera together; nay, I say! They, as befitting of the care and respect due our pastime, elected to redesign the formal presentation of materials within, employing a wide cornucopia of artistry, ranging from the thematically-suitable artworks (which, it should be added, could be at home in a proper salon such as this!) to the presentation of the pages themselves: Unobtrusive, yet gorgeous aesthetics render the book a balm for sore eyes, not unlike all those looking upon me and/or reading these lines right now.
But I digress; we begin our discussions within with a further look regarding specializations and their interactions with abilities; particularly useful for debutantes in the Great game would be the explanation of the lexicon employed by our most civilized of pastimes. It should also be explicitly mentioned that a previously slightly ambiguous component accompanying the implementations of specializations in the Great Game has been done away with: The booklet now explicitly notes that extraordinary abilities are exempt from specializations – a decision that rings as sensible to me, considering that they are already designated as extraordinary, n’est-ce pas?
A table of the most useful kind indeed is provided here, providing the tools to implement these in conjunction with all of our favorite elaborations and expansions of the Great game – criminally few though there may be.
Now, as all of you may well be aware, I am a staunch proponent of the notion that all ladies and gentlemen should be able to employ and use the specific implementation of the Great Game that best suits their respective taste, and as such, I am not opposed to seeing the notion of the Divorce Variation, a modification that removes the direct tie between suits and abilities – though I do have to say that the resulting potential bickering strikes me as unbecoming of a proper environment and something more suited to those newfangled, class-less new-money people babbling about FATE, as though shouting (most uncouth…)
More steeped in tradition, though not necessarily *our* tradition, but tradition nonetheless, would be the suggestion to employ “improvement points” to determine the growth of a dramatic character; as you all are well aware, this steeps the progress gained very much in a literary tradition regarding the journey and growth of a dramatic character. As the profane rabble would call it, “experience points” or some such nonsense, though they are still kept very much in service to the demands of proper etiquette and narrative sensibilities. As such, I have no qualms about recommending these to hosts to so inclined – there even are suggestions presented for various growth velocities.
Awareness of the, at times, almost incredulous feats accomplished in our Great Game, is expected at this point; but, as well all know, when paraphrasing an adage by Hardy, “there ought to be sympathy for the less fortunate.” Or at least, that’s what my maid used to tell me the other day. Anyways, as you are well aware, the experience of those less fortunate than ours, who are living a life less characterized by adventure and great deeds as providence foresaw for us, might well be intrigued to play when given the chance; heck, we might well want to step back ourselves and be immersed in a scenario or two where we are not as…impeccably extraordinary. As such, imposing a hard limit on cards played serves as a truly fantastic way to envision a world that is, at least slightly, more mundane than the at times tiringly wondrous lives we lead. What’s that, James? Ugh, tell the faerie I want the yard clean for the late afternoon tea.
Pardonnez-moi, mesdames et messieurs – good help is so hard to find these days. Now, when recalling, as individuals of such astute faculties undoubtedly can, the Half-Off variant is pretty self-explanatory, focusing on providing half the benefits when cards do not align…like that of my fate and that splendorous debutante last year…And yes, at this point, I should not be remiss to note that the variations presented within actually can be modified and tinkered with further. Think of them like the intricate wheels of a proper clock – they run just fine on their own, but depending on your joyous curiosity regarding experimentation, you’ll have different experiences.
Perhaps one of the most vital variations ever devised upon this wondrous world, though, would be the finer differentiation between Feats difficulties that one of these provides; this one, all on its own, should easily make the truly paltry price, respectfully asked, truly worth it, and it frees the host from the requirement to play cards to enhance difficulties – in short, it enhances the fair play at a table by taking a needlessly divisive burden off the host’s back, while also enhancing the gravity of the decisions made by dramatic characters.
Now…I’d ask those of faint dispositions, those of weak hearts, to leave the room. The fairer among us may want to take out there fans, for yes…it is my outraged duty to report that the most scandalous dice-based variation, devised by the mischievous, malignant Moriarty, is also included within this booklet! The criminal mastermind’s attempted subversion of our proper world order seems to be alive and kicking, and while obviously despicable and dastardly, one cannot help but find a sick genius in the implementation of these rules. While obviously worthy of shunning and prosecution, one must be able to look into the eye of savagery, even in the variations, imposed in this case, upon the Great Game. Now, unflinchingly, I have to concede that there is a well-based foundation underlying this, but now that I have determined this, none of you will have to. If I may, ladies and gentlemen – keep this variation out of the hands of savages, staff and similar beings of less firmly-grounded morals. We don’t want them to feel entitled to play in our grand pastime now, do we?
As you may know, this series of ephemera started with a humble little offering, highlighting how one of these decks, these Tarot cards, that are all the rage right now, may be employed with the Great Game; success bred…more success. Like our family trees, correct? We did, hence, get more than one of these ephemera, which have since been properly fitted with a more evocative nomenclature, namely that of the Fortunate and that of the Sorcerous Tarot Variation. If you, like me, love to regale your astute audiences as a host, then the following happenstance may well have occurred in your game as well: You have the Major Arcana…and its effects simply would not fit properly. Quel dommage!
Now, it seems like some distinguished individuals, who shall not be named for now, have observed this as well, and thus proceeded to alter the tables of the effects of these types of cards, making them more widely applicable. While it is my firm assertion that a host of the proper caliber would not require this modification, I couldn’t help but marvel at the simplicity of the modifications added to the material at hand. Speaking of which, this book does also note an option that can combine our classic deck with major arcana, and one that would allow for the discarding of a major arcana card to redraw – this one, ladies and gentlemen, obviously does vastly enhance the power and versatility of dramatic characters. If you want to weave a truly outlandish yarn, this may well be the way to go!
Now, as noted before, the aesthetics of this booklet do not leave anything to be desired; there are these little bookmarks included for ease of navigation in the ephemeral iteration of this booklet. The compilation and refinement exerted throughout combine to make sure that these variations, transcribed by the esteemed Mister J Gray, is a masterpiece, pure and simple; had it not been for the fact that I have already bestowed my highest accolades upon the components, this would have been a candidate for my list of best offerings of the year. Since this already has reached these heights, I am in the unfortunate position of not being able to bestow these honors once more.
This, however, should not be taken to mean that this is anything but a truly required purchase – this humble offering should be considered to be an EZG Essential, a required reading for any host of distinguished character and skill, a 5 star + seal of approval supplement.
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