Sunday, September 23, 2012

Playtest - Mike Nystul's Axes and Anvils

I recently backed the Kickstarter for Mike Nystul's Axes and Anvils.  When I saw that Mike was headed to Fencon and would be playtesting, I bought my ticket.  Unfortunately, I had to leave early, but I was able to get a good sense for the game, and I'm even more excited to get my copy now.

Before I get into the meat of the report, it's worth mentioning the fact that this is a fun game, and you can tell that Mike has had fun designing it.  The passion he has for this game was on full display as he ran us through the session.  If you doubt his commitment to this game, see the picture to the right, where the Stretch Goal-sponsored tattoo is on display.

Yeah, it's like that.

As far as the game itself went, it was simple, intuitive and fun.  There's an emphasis on the clannish nature of Dwarves that permeates the system mechanics in an organic sort of way.  The clan is in many ways as important as the characters themselves, and part of the character creation process includes the group creating the story of their clan in an interactive, communal process that was lots of fun.

As far as character creation goes, I was impressed - in less than an hour and a half, we had all the setting background  figured out, and characters in hand.  There's a good mix of character archetypes, and each character we ended up with had a good set of skills and abilities that gave each it's own unique flavor.  I ended up with a human sized Sorceror Dwarf who was Blessed by the Gods, but there were Berserkers, Scholars, Diplomats, all sorts of different shades of Dwarfdom were recognized. 

At one point, I was reminded of my brief, passionate love affair with Kobolds Ate My Baby.  When you score a critical hit, if you want to take advantage of the bonus associated with it, it is MANDATORY that at least half of the party hoist their flagons (shown to the right), and cheer, "HUZZAH!"  If that doesn't happen, the attack is as normal.

Combat is simple and intuitive but actiony, and we were able to bash through several giant spiders.  It wasn't easy, but had just about the right feel for the systems equivalent of 1st level characters.  The mechanics are very different from what you might be used to with Dungeons & Dragons, while capturing the freewheeling, rules-lite spirit of early editions.

I was disappointed that I had to leave early, we had just negotiated our way past an ogre and threw a pack animal down a hole (don't ask), and were on our way to track down a wayward clanmember who had been apparently fallen prey to a clan of goblins.  But alas, duty called and I had to abandon the party.

I'm definitely even more excited about this game than I was previously, though, so mission accomplished, Mike Nystul!   


  1. This is just a matter of taste, but I'm not so much a fan of the mini based combat. Do you think anything of the fun you had would be lost if they were't used?

  2. I think so. Mike preferred using the miniatures because they encourage a tactical approach to combat, which furthered his aim of emphasizing the dwarves' group mentality. It's not 4e, though - rules don't hinge on three square ranges and such. In fact, the units of measurement we heard about were fabulously dwarfy - the dwarven unit of measure for distance is a "hurl" - ie the distance a typical dwarf can hurl a keg.