Otherworld Fantasy Skirmish

Last month I received my pre-ordered bundle from Otherworld Miniatures. Production values are excellent, the book is full colour throughout with great photos of Otherworld’s range of miniatures. The cards and tokens are great and while you can download and print your own I would highly recommend the pre-printed ones, much less hassle. 

Otherworld Fantasy Skirmish cover

But what about the game and what is it all about?

If, like me, you’re in your 40’s and have fond memories of delving deep into underground complex’s to rob treasure and kill beasties then Otherworld Fantasy Skirmish has a lot to offer. From the cover to the 10’ pole on the equipment list it is steeped in nostalgia for classic AD&D. Sure you could actually play AD&D or any of it’s myriad variants; but that would mean rolling up characters, finding a DM or being one, and setting off on an adventure. But what if you just wanted to go into the dungeon kill some orcs and grab their treasure and still have time tell tales of when you entered Acererak’s tomb.

This is where Otherworld Fantasy Skirmish steps in. It uses the really simple Action:Engine rules to recreate many of the fun elements of early days dungeoneering without too much effort. And what’s more, as it’s a war-game and not an RPG it doesn’t need a DM. Otherworld is not a team effort, it is a two player game with each player controlling a cast of characters, and it still captures much of the flavour and humour of an old style RPG.

How does it work?

Over at Otherworld’s Facebook page you can view a set of short video clips that cover the basics, but to recap. The core of the game is essentially the same as Crooked Dice’s stop-motion miniatures game 7th Voyage, which in turn uses their Action:Engine system that CD have been developing for sometime now. The Action:Engine system works very well to recreate TV or action film style games. The core of the game involves star players, their co-stars and hoards of extras; Otherworld follows this with Legends (your high-level PC and major bad guys), Companions (followers, henchmen and midlevel characters) and Minions (those unnamed 1HD creatures that fill up the dungeon, village or hidden temple). All characters possess some special abilities, with the higher ranked characters possessing significantly more skills. To build your cast or Faction you agree to a Gold Piece (GP) budget and buy your characters accordingly, Legends cost about 50GP each, Companions 25GP with Minions ranging from 5GP upwards. The rulebook has a fantastic Minion Manual covering Orcs and Goblins to  Dragons, Demons, Zombies and all the usual suspects from the original MM.

Additional extras such as magical items, mundane but really useful equipment and spells can all be purchased before play to round your cast. The size of your cast is only set by your agreed budget but the game works well within 100 - 300 GP range per faction. 

Adventure Tokens

Once you have your opposing factions, which could be any reasonable mix from a bunch of heroic adventurers, an orc raiding party, drow slavers or a vampire lord; players decide who is attacking and who is defending. The defender gets to place about six or so Adventure Tokens about the table, these represent any sort of gaming opportunity that would normally have been handled by the DM such as traps, wandering monsters or treasure. Once placed they can only be activated by the attacking player - but can affect all characters in range. This allows for a light touch random element to the game that really captures the old style RPG but without tipping the balance required in a typical two-player game. One of the charms of Otherworld is that players can field any group, so apart form the typical PC v dungeon monster scenarios you could expect rival Orc tribes or a zombie plague in the underdark, anything really that matches your figure collection.

Activations

One of the carry-over features from the Action:Engine is the method of activating your cast. Each turn you will only receive a limited number of model activations, usually far less than the number of models you possess, though some abilities enable additional free activations. Part of the strategy of the game therefore is allocating which of your cast will get to act each turn. Careful deployments will maximise your efforts but that could limit your options. Only when you’ve decided what models will see action this turn will you activate each model, completing that characters actions before moving on to the next. This really captures the strategic combat feel of RPGs, the focus is on individuals - even unnamed minions can sometime become very important, Those familiar with 7th Voyage will know how this works and I can see why Otherworld chose the Action:Engine and 7th Voyage in particular to base their game on. 

But what if you already own 7th Voyage?

Otherworld Fantasy Skirmish and 7th Voyage are essentially the same game but in different settings, more like Forgotten Realms/Greyhawk rather than AD&D/RuneQuest. With very little effort creatures and/or characters could be transported to either setting. But it’s the chrome added to the core system that makes Otherworld Fantasy Skirmish what it is; the Adventure Deck, Equipment and the Minion Manual that really stand out as a separate game and a great addition to the Action:Engine stable.

Gaps or missed opportunities?

With it’s focus on the single encounter the game does not currently have any scope for progressing characters from one game to the next. These do exist from some of the other games in the 7th Voyage line and could easily be adapted to Otherworld. Personally I’m not bothered by this omission as for me the game is about one-offs rather than campaign play and I’d expect TPK’s would be fairly common.

The rules, accessories and miniatures are available from Otherworld or Crooked Dice, digital copies are offered through Gumroad.

Quick reference sheets, news & videos are all available on the Otherworld Facebook page.

Beyond the Seven Seas