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"A Darkestorme is Coming"

An in depth look at Alternative Armies' two-scale high fantasy game system by Gavin Syme

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The powder smoke has cleared and instead of bodies punctured by shotte and shelle, dead Elves in blue and deceased Orcs in red, I can see something else all around me. Its the Third Age of Valon and that means its time for something of sword and sorcery instead of musket and cannon. That's right its the Darke Age and this time we are talking about Alternative Armies character driven skirmish high fantasy game DarkeStorme.

The Darke Age is Here

DarkeStorme is set in the Darke Age, a time of Wylde Magicke for the World of Valon. Before the secret of black powder and the Flintloque was given to the then Crown Prince Mordred who would go on to become the world conquering tyrant emperor known to all who play Flintloque and Slaughterloo. The Darke Age is also known as the Third Age of Valon to separate it from the Mordredian Wars of the Forth Age of Valon which follow it. Though the Darke Age is sometimes mentioned in already published works from Alternative Armies perhaps I should tell you a bit more about the setting so that you can see where the DarkeStorme game fits in to it.

While the new DarkeStorme book contains an account of the Darke Age in far more detail the core thing to say is that this time is one of sorrow, death and loss which sees betrayal and horror visit ruination upon Valon. An age of prosperity and progress was lost to Valon when the Darke Age began. The golden globes of the Star Creatures crashed down from the skies and laid waste to entire countries, blotting out the sun for years.

Though the remaining armies of Valon marched to defeat the strange armoured Star Creatures they fought to no avail as the weapons wielded by these beings were capable of killing from huge distance and often dispatched dozens at a time. As it turned out the Star Creatures were not around for long. The now scarred and burned peoples of Valon last saw the Star Creatures as they all went to the far north and vanished never to be seen again. Though as they went they unleashed the long dormant Necromancers and their hordes of Undead back into the world. The Elves of the Crystal Empire along with others manned the vast fortress bridge of Scarsiamort, the only defence and crossing point of the foul tide of numberless dead who wished to cross into the warmed realms of Valon. Mighty battles followed and a stalemate developed but the arrogance of the Crystal Empire forced their needed Dwarven and Wood Elvish allies to abandon the bridge and for the fate of Valon to rest with the Empire alone.

Growing cruel and vain the Crystal Empire tightened its grip on its provinces and when the lights in the northern sky heralded the final assault on Scarsiamort they were spread too thin, fearing insurrection in their lands, to hold the Undead back and the fortress bridge fell. The Undead walked in the lands of the living once more killing all ahead of them...though they wished only to go south driven by an invisible urge, leaving many towns without harm. Soon it became clear why they went ever south and the nightmare of the Darke Age truly began.

Across the seas from the southern deserts came the Dracci, children of the Dragons, red scaled terrors each with the strength of many lesser foes. They fell upon the lizardlands and then the Goblin armies of Ibe-Herra, even the Orcs of the plains tribes...massacring each of them as they raced onwards north to crash against the Undead in an enmity surely born of millennia. They met in the lands of Alevia where the remainder of the other races of Valon had also made their final stands. Carnage on this scale has never been seen before...it is a true DarkeStorme. The Third Age is a time of high fantasy, high adventures and magicke too though as well as titanic battle.

New Look, Scales and a Boy of Bronze

DarkeStome the Skirmish is a getting a newly redesigned print run of its game book after the initial release in 2005. This is due to several factors including the ending of the current print run in late 2009. However its more than that, its getting an overhaul in terms of its format and its artwork too. The new book is in a smaller format making it more portable and affordable for gamers.

Plus since the release of the first run of DarkeStorme our sister brand 15mm.co.uk has come into being and this new version of the game book makes play truly two scale in both 28mm and 15mm scales; so you can play with Alternative Armies miniatures or smaller ones from 15mm.co.uk. I would also like to take this chance to thank a young and talented digital artist called Andy Gorman for his work on the project, he has really made this period of Valonian history his own in providing all the artwork for the new book.

Whats Packed in the Book

Packed into the sixty pages of the new DarkeStorme book you get the full rules of the game for warriors, leaders and monsters along with expansion rules for chariots, artillery and cavalry.

Full listings of weapons and armour along with a nifty racial table covering all of Valon and also a points system with calculator which allows you to create ANY creature or monster of your own. There are more than a dozen monsters in the book and also a comprehensive character creation and advancement system. The book also has a really detailed and easy to use ten level mage spell listing and rules for monsters going amok and for beast handlers to control them.

There is a full set up section too which gives you tables to generate random terrain, terrain features, special game affecting terrain and the weather too! A small section on creating your own scenarios and how to gain points and coin between games plus of course the account of the Darke Age full of action and ideas for scenarios in itself.

Lastly I should mention the adding of the 'DarkeStorme Free Folder' to the book. This final page gives details of how you can request a folder full of material for the game via email as electronic PDF which will be open to those who ask for it. Extra value for free.

Editors Note: As of the time of this magazine going to print the DarkeStorme Free Files folder contains the following items with more being added soon. Leader Roster, Warrior Roster, Unit Roster, Quick Reference Sheets, Three Example Scenarios with Character Profiles, Scenario 1 from Murder at Instadde bundle and Miniature picture catalogue.

It’s not a new edition of the game though its a re-issue, the mechanics of DarkeStorme remain essentially unchanged. Sure they have been re-organised and laid out in the new format with new artwork and backdrops but the mechanics are those familiar 2D6 opposed roll to result that many Alternative Armies gamers know.

What you might not know is that the engine which drives DarkeStorme is the same one I created which powers Erin the game of Celtic Mythology and also Typhon the game of Greek Mythology. This version of the engine is tuned to fifteen to twenty characters per warband or per ‘Unit’ as the force is termed in play.

The Rules of Warfayre

For those who do not know of the mechanics of DarkeStorme here they are in short order. The engine is simple and elegant for fast and fun play divided into a series of Turns.

Each turn begins with a roll from each active Unit for initiative which determines the sequence each unit activates and moves / attacks etc on the table. The player who wins the initiative states the sequence for himself and all other players. The active unit then activates all its characters one by one, each taking its allocated number of Actions.

For most characters this means two actions typically moving and attacking though it can be other things and need not be in any set order. Combat is divided into missile (ranged) and close combat. Melee can occur when two characters get into ' striking distance' this being how far they can reach with their skills and weapons.

Leaving aside any special abilities that Leaders might have the attacker then rolls 2D6 and compares this to his 'Cause Wound' rating of 2 to 12. The attacker must roll equal to or exceed his 'CW' rating to hit the target. If hit the other character rolls 2D6 against their own 'Resist Wound' rating of 2-12 again equalling or exceeding prevents a wound from occurring.

Additionally if the attacked character has a shield or armour this has a chance of taking the hit for them when it can also be damaged or destroyed in the process. Missile combat uses the same process however the distance to the target, as it increases, increases the chance of missing when the Cause Wound roll is made typically adding +1 for every 6 inches of distance.

A character who is unimportant in the game has only one wound and is killed when wounded. However large creatures, monsters and heroes have more than one wound.

Morale plays a small part in DarkeStorme the game after all is high fantasy and warriors fight they don't run away! Characters continue on most of the time or they partially freeze or run away far less often.

Undead, Magicke and Monsters

The Undead operate in roughly the same way as others in DarkeStorme except that they have poorer initiative and many more wounds, they are harder to 'kill'. The loss of a wound means a roll on the Undead Injury Table which can pass with no problem or result in brain death or confusion; a nice easy but unique twist to the rules.

In the department of Monsters and Magicke the DarkeStorme game shows its strengths too. Monsters can be random or controlled by a Handler. These are creatures of huge power and special abilities which have their own unique mechanics for when badly wounded or losing their handler they can become 'Amok!!!' which means they follow a solo play rule of movement and random attack.

The Magicke system in the game is large and well rounded allowing for the creation of mages and ten levels of spells for them to use. Spells when cast can be used once per game but they always succeed and it’s always up to the target to use their 'Resist Magicke' rating to not be affected. Some spells are learned rote and some require elements which must be bought. You can have some fearsome magicke duels with this game.

As those who already play DarkeStorme will tell you the game is easy to pick up and does not try to over complicate what is meant to be a fun hobby, you can play after reading the mechanics over only once.

The six sided dice engine means that players young and old can play easily and indeed I have been told that some of the youngest miniature gamers out there have been weaned onto fantasy gaming with DarkeStorme as it does not need two weeks to learn and six hours to play!

Miniatures for Darkestorme

Alternative Armies is supporting DarkeStorme with a High Fantasy range of miniatures which while it does include newer designs such as the Dracci and Dracci Lords it mainly composed of our high quality fantasy 28mm codes assembled over the last twenty years.

Everything from Orcs and Elves to Crystal Elves and Dwarves. Undead, Hob-Goblins, Goblins, Dogmen, Gnomes, Vampyres, Wraiths, Good Humans, Evil Humans and much more plus of course many great monster kits all in white metal at great prices.

15mm.co.uk is also in on the act for DarkeStorme (remember its a two scale game) with its HOT 15mm Fantasy range with nearly 100 codes and also the classic TTF range of 15mm fantasy; all the common races and many monsters plus personalities. Head on over to www.alternativearmies.com for High Fantasy and www.15mm.co.uk for the HOT and TTF ranges to see them all.

Over at Orcs in the Webbe, that great resource for all black powder games and more online, several questions were put to the DarkeStorme design team about how the game related to other World of Valon titles such as Flintloque the Skirmish. Since space allows for it, here are some of these questions with our answers. Enjoy!

'How does the background of DarkeStorme relate to that of Flintloque? Is it the same Valon we all know?'

It sure is the same World of Valon but boy is it different. Looking at the map in the book you can see the land masses are the same but apart from a few the countries and cities are radically different. DarkeStorme is set deep in the Darke Age which means there are few links directly to Flintloque.

The Empress Morgana sits upon the Peacock throne and her two sons serve her but she has no idea that her precious Mordred will one day depose her! Artur of the Dwarves is a feudal warlord and quite young at this time and the Orcs collect dung, bessie is nothing but a distant promise of things to come. In the frozen north the Dark Czar has not risen to power, the Undead are in the grip of the Necromancers while the Dracci are very much real and creating the havoc that will make them terrify little Elves in times to come.

We would say enjoy the Darke Age but don't look for too many answers to situations which occur in Flintloque in the 4th Age. We will leave that for another time.

'Are the Dracci really as fierce as we have read about in the history of Flintloque?'

The first time I played DarkeStome, no the first time I had the idea for DarkeStorme it was for one reason above all others... the Childen of the Dragons, the Dracci. They have fascinated me since the first mention of them in the early 1990's. I gave them form in terms of miniatures and a greatly expanded back story too.

If you have read the 'Henri Guidon' novella that was partially serialised in 60 Bloody Rounds you can see how I have built more of a mythos about them too. Oh, also the Orcs in the Webbe advent calendar 2009 has a sizable Dracci story in it.

In DarkeStome the Dracci come in three types, Hatchlings, Warriors and Lords. Dracci Warriors make up the majority of their armies and these guys are fast, strong and nasty; easily a match for any High Elf or Mountain Orc. The Dracci Lords are the toughest non monster creatures in the book capable of felling a War Troll on their own.

With their blood red scale and jade weapons we see the Dracci at their height in DarkeStorme before the loss of Wylde Magicke killed the Dragons and dispersed the remaining Dracci to the furthest reaches of the worlde.

'Will there ever be a title released that will cover the Time of Annul when the Darke Age meets Black Powder for cross over skirmishes?'

This is a question which has come up again and again in the last ten years. I have seen several unofficial cross over adaptations of our games and also other games too; none of them have done it for me. If such as title was to be created it would probably have to use the Flintloque 3rd edition engine for the sake of fairness. I mean that if you wanted, as I am sure you would in this setting, want to have an Orc of the 105th Rifles take on a Dracci Warrior spitting fire and rage it would have to be with Flintloque's rules. This way you could see the relative merits of both sides in the fight. It would also be a title for including the background for the end of the Darke Age and the Elvish Civil War when Morgana is deposed. There are no current plans to produce this title though.

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Webmaster's Notes

The above article was originally published on Alternative Armies content portal, Barking Irons and is reproduced here with permission.

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