Monday, June 21, 2021

Review: Dracula's America Supplements- Osprey Games


I was lucky enough to pick-up the Core Rules for Dracula's America as well as all the supplements in one go.  I was able to read through and review the core rules a few months ago, but had not been able to look into the supplements too extensively.  I liked what I saw in the Core Rules and am eager to look at the next two soft cover books.  

The supplements are called: 

  • Hunting Grounds
  • Forbidden Powers  
I believe Hunting Grounds came out first, but if I recall correctly there was not a big gap between publications.  They probably had them all done around the same time, but needed to stagger the print dates.  

On the back cover of Hunting Grounds has the following additions: 

  • Two new Factions: Tong and Forsaken
  • New Weapons
  • New Powers
  • New rules for the Hunting Grounds
  • A Narrative Campaign
Forbidden Powers claims to cover the following: 

  • Two new factions: Church of Dagon and Salem Sisterhood
  • Stealth rules
  • Expanded Arcane Powers and Insanity
  • New Scenarios
  • Hired Guns
  • Monsters
  • Skills
  • Gear
Seems like a lot of good content.  I am not sure my usual process of reviews will work, but we will see what I can do.....

The Manitou! 

The Hunting Grounds
The Hunting Grounds are a spirit realm that can over lay the board.  Scenarios and locations impacted by the Hunting Grounds allow models to move between the physical and the spiritual realms.  This reminds me of the Astral plane in Shadowrun, the Warp in 40K, or even the Grid in Reality's Edge

Models can move into this realm and access objectives there.  When in the Hunting Grounds, models can only be impacted by others in the Hunting Grounds.  However, using magic and summoning while in the Hunting Grounds is much more dangerous and prone to summon abyssal beasties.  In addition, these creatures could also follow you OUT of the Hunting Grounds while you depart!  I was very pleased to see some classic American critters like Manitou, Wendigo, Thunderbirds, and Mothman on the new Bestiary related to the Hunting Grounds.  Some of these creatures are VERY lethal.  

Some new weapons are also added that probably should have been in the original rules.  Weapons like a Musket, Tomahawk (Thrown weapon), sword, and spear.  The original book had a Native American faction and a Confederate Faction so I am surprised these did not make the first cut.  Must have been space limitations.  However, when adding the 7th Cavalry you must have swords (sabres), and Tongs often make use of melee weapons.  

New arcane powers also come into play.  Each seems to get some form of teleportation, which I am not a huge fan.  Those caused some balance issues in Frostgrave so I am not sure how they will play out here.  There is less of a focus on "Treasure gathering" even though it is a component of some scenarios.  Including ones in the Hunting Grounds.  

The game comes with two new factions, the 7th Cavalry Forsaken, and the Shadow Dragon Tong.  In addition, there are rules to further personalize a Skinwalker tribe as well.  Finally, there are some rules for Outlaw gangs for the campaign.  The Forsaken have beast-mode members, while the Tong have Shadow-walkers.  Both add some flavor and additional muscle to the gang.  The Skinwalker Tribes allow some customization of the Tribe to better fit what "tribe" they are from and some limited benefits such as access to horses, different totem animals, and other features.  The Outlaw rules remind me a lot of the ones from the old Necromunda.  

Half of the book is new campaign rules.  This includes adding Riding and Leadership skills.  Then, there is also new gear including the Gatling Gun!  There are more Hired Guns, like the Medium that can help with gangs not set-up for the Hunting Grounds. There are also new territories and events for game set in the Indian Territories and Deadwood City where the Hunting Grounds are most prevalent.  The rules also add Hide-out upgrades which were not in the first book.  Finally, the added rules include adding some additional ways to acquire money in the campaign stage of the game via Bounty Hunting.  

There are 7 new scenarios in the game.  These revolve around the Hunting Grounds and making use of the special abilities of the campaign setting.  However, they are structured as part of a narrative campaign.  Therefore, you can play them in order or use them as stand-alones.  This section also has some rules for how to incorporate the Hunting Grounds into other scenarios from the main book.  

I always appreciate a Tong faction!

Forbidden Powers
This book moves the action away from the Wild West and Indian Territory and to the Deep South.  In addition, the new Eldritch Horrors have begun to stir.  The story links the Salem Witch trials, Benedict Arnold, the Necronomicon, Betsy Ross, George Washington, and the Masons, Cyclopean Ruins in the Bayou, Vodoo, and the Confederacy all into a tale.  Wow!  That is a big lift, and it does a great job setting the scene in a few short paragraphs.  

Since we are now in the Swamps, the book adds some rules for the new environment.  This includes swimming, deep water, treacherous conditions, and Swamp events.  There is also a new bestiary for the region.  These creatures include regional favorites such as the Dire Gator, Ragman, and Skunk-Apes.  
To add to the Deep South setting, they unleash new equipment, Eldritch Relics, and Swamp encounter tables.    

From there, the rules for Stealth Missions are unveiled.  These cover sentries and how to raise the alarm.  When a sentry is activated, there is an opposed roll to see if the Attacker or Defender moves the model.  In addition, the Stealth section has 4 scenarios for use with the rules.  

Since this supplement is adding the Mythos to the game, it must add rules for Madness!  This takes the form of a token pool on the side of the table, I would imagine poker chips would do nicely and fit the theme of the game.  There is a new phase where the Madness pool can go up or down.  As the pool gets too high, various Eldritch events may occur.  An entity may be manifested, a Model might need to check for insanity, or other factors.  The rules add a new Insanity table for individual models who lose their minds as well.  

Of course, when dealing with the Mythos, that means there needs to be new Eldritch Horrors in a bestiary.  There is also Eldritch magic that is added to the game.  Both are tied to the Madness pool.  Eldritch entities increase it, while spells can only be cast up to the Madness Level at that point in the game.  Also, if you Miscast an Eldritch spell, guess who gets to roll on the insanity table? They also add some Vodoo and Necromancy powers to fit the theme of the Deep South.  

Two new Factions join the ranks of Dracula's America.  The first is the Church of Dagon.  Naturally, this one allows you to use Eldritch magic, and also gives you two hybrids with random mutations in your posse.  The second is the Salem Sisterhood, who are a group of white witches trying to protect the arcane balance.  Interestingly, this group allows access to 3 Arcanists and they grant benefits to each other when they are within 3 inches.  They also get a Bodyguard type model.  This one seems like it would be tough to play since there is a huge incentive to keep most of the group in a big "clump".  

New hired guns are also present to tie into the Mythos, add to the Dark Confederacy, and provide benefits in Stealth missions.  One interesting one is the Hog Tamer who is basically a beast master of a wild boar.  They also introduce some named Mercenary's for the setting.    

The book is wrapped up with a 7 scenario narrative campaign.  There are also some rules for running more generic encounters in the Swamps and having Eldritch encounters.  Oddly enough, none of the Narrative scenarios appear to be "Stealth" missions that I could see.  

What is that distant call?

Final Thoughts
These two books contain about what you would expect from a good supplement.  There are new factions, gear, powers, and beasts.  They introduce new "settings" and how to use the settings in your games.  They seem to deliver the goods on expanding your Dracula's America experience.  

That said, it feels a bit bloated if you included everything from all three books in one game, you would have the core rules, Bystanders, the Spirit realms, and Madness Tokens all in play!  That is a lot going on in a skirmish game.  It seems like a group might best move through a specific location or time period at a time, or tailor their local campaign in a particular part of Dracula's America instead of trying to take it all in at once.      

These books do not cover solo-play.  However, the author came out with some options for that in a supplement online called: Rough Night at Red Rock (Which is a clever play at the classic Western Bad Day at Black Rock that may or may not feature a vampire) Perhaps it is a sign that a 3rd supplement maybe on the horizon?  Only Dracula may know. 

Salem Sisterhood artwork



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