24 Nov 2012

Strange Aeons - review

To be honest, I was working on my buildings (roof tiles -.-), some conversions and even some sculpts, but I'm too "tired" to take any pictures, so I've decided it is about time I've posted a review of Strange Aeons, game that I am most into at the moment.

I am glad I haven't written a quick review as soon as I've got it, as this enabled me to lose my starting enthusiasm and give you a more objective review.

So...what is the game about?

Strange Aeons is a game that is mostly (but not only) influenced in H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu mythos and other eldritch horrors. The setting is U.S. in 1920s, but it could easily happen in other parts of the world...nothing really ties it to one place. With some minor modifications you could play it for any period. I guess modern setting would be most looked for, which could easily be played by adding some modern weapons, non existent in 1920s...like assault rifles and various rocket launchers.I think it could be easily adapted to play some ancient Egyptian or Greek myths and legends.

The core rulebook is about 80 pages long, spiral bound (with protective plastic sheet in front). The covers imitate leather and I honestly believed the front cover is graved in...had to run my fingers trough the paper :P.

The book is divided in game rules (further divided into basic and advanced rules), weapons and skills, scenarios and example of play.

The rules themselves, the mechanics are 12 pages long if I counted that right. This is because the core mechanics are really simple. But in my opinion, not too simple as they cover just about everything.

Game is played by (at least) two people, one taking the control of governmental agents, fighting the paranormal (called Treshold in the game), the other taking control of the "Lurkers". The lurkers are represented by more than 20 different profiles, from humans (cultists, maniacs, mad scientists, even rouge treshold agents...), humanoids (hybrids, fishmen, ghouls...), beasts (werewolf, for example), undead (zombies, mummies...) to demons.

A treshold player builds his list, worth up to 15 points (at least for the campaign, I can not see any reason not to play a stand-alone game and just build your list up to whatever points you wish), and lurker builds his list to match the points of the Treshold player. Game is played in 2x3 board and usually last under or around an hour. Those games are nothing special per se, but really shine when they're linked in a campaign.

Campaign starts with 15 points worth of greenhorn agents, fighting the monsters and growing in points as they earn new skills (which represent their growing experience in the business). A list can never exceed 15 BASE POINTS (base points represent the cost of characters, agents and their skills), but can exceed 15 in BASE and BUILD points combined. Build points represent the agent's weapons and equipment. In practice, this means your character will eventually get better (by getting skills), but you will have less and less agents, if they die in the course of the campaign.

One of the things I like in the game is injury concept. It is somewhat hard for an agent to actually die in a campaign, but there is a big chance of him getting crippled. Your brave little hero can suffer from anything from a leg wound to teratophobia, claustrophobia, haphephobia or even ballistophobia. On the other hand, the near-death experience can embolden him, making him better. Or it can just make him horribly disfigured, making him scare the sane people around him.

The  campaign has no end, as the threat from the cosmos is ever-present. Campaign only ends when your "character", main agent, meats his maker...so to speak.

As for the game mechanics, game runs in turns.

Each turn a player can nominate one miniature from his group to act that turn. There are some special rules, that allow you to nominate more miniatures, but that doesn't really matter now.

So, you nominate a miniature and it can take 2 actions. An action can be shooting, moving, charging into close combat or "other". Other can be just about anything. Climbing a rope, jumping a gap, climbing a ladder, preparing a dynamite, chanting, praying, dispelling, spelling and so on.

Shooting is somewhat straightforward. You throw a number of dice noted on your weapon's profile, each score, higher than your "dexterity" is a hit. Then an opponent throws any saving rolls and you roll as many dice as you got hits on target. Then you pick the highest, add any extra damage your weapon does and compare it to target model's constitution. When the target runs out of wounds you roll for injury. It can be stunned, removed from table with no further damage or "major injury", which means you have to roll further after the game, too see how badly he is wounded (I've talked about the injuries earlier).

When all of your models have activated, you pass turn.

I think that is about all I can tell about the game. The review shows how my minds jump from a thing to thing nicely, but I still hope anyone interested in a game will find a valuable information in this post. If you'd like to know more, feel free to contact me.

As for my experience with the game, here are my pros and cons:

I really like the fact that it is a skirmish game, you don't need many miniatures to play.
The campaign is awesome if you got time to play it often.
The rules are written with a little bit of humor and to me, game offers lots of fun when you "roleplay" a bit.
Monsters! All kind of monsters! You like zombies? Check! You like madmen? Check! You like spirits and ghosts? Check! You like giant rats? Check! You like walking fish? Check! Walking snakes? Check! Enormous octopus-dragon-human-something else being? CHECK!

As for the bad...rules can be broken. Yes sir! But unless you play it for a personal prestige, money or prize, that is no problem.
There are quite a few things that are unclear in the rules. The author's support is awesome (you can find Strange Aeons' forum on Lead Adventure forums), but there are still quite some things that are not specified. Some people are bothered by that and others are not.
Price...well, I don't have much experience, but I found the rulebook to be quite expensive. It and one of the expansions cost me around 50 euros. As the game origins from Canada, I've ordered mine from UK based The black hat miniatures. Then again, let me mention me and my brother played the game for whole day when we got the rules. It is just that awesome.

To conclude, I strongly recommend the rules to anyone who wants to play skirmish games. Even if you don't like monsters, you can easily just play agents versus cultists...actually giving you a gangster's brawl or, with a clever use of miniatures and weapons, even a WW1 clash. But honestly, I'd get this game just for the lovecraftian mythos. Game rules are simple and easy to learn, yet you can throw miniatures, blast miniatures, blow miniatures and even simply haunt them.

The game is ever-growing. You can get some special rules in a Strange Aeons magazine, I am unfamiliar with, but there are also 4 expansions already out. Those are:

Morbid adventures, a book that collects all the lurker profiles and offers many new scenarios.
Strange tales trilogy. Most of the content (I think all rules, but no stories) of ST1 is free for download on Strange Aeons site. PDF is still available. ST1 gives you experimental weapons, ghosts (also in Morbid adventures book) and animals (falcon, dogs, horses) for the Treshold agents. ST2 gives you a special "black dossier" campaign where you lead an expedition deep into rainforest, searching for a scientist and hunting some dinosaurs. ST3 offers three "black dossier" campaigns but I am still waiting for my book, so I can't tell you too much.

I will make a review of all the expansions at a later date, probably MA solo and all the strange tales together once I get the 3rd book. Again, I've ordered it from the UK and it looks like those haven't been sent yet. It is kinda bad, because it is about 3 weeks since ST3 was released in Canada, but well...saves the shipping and customs, so I can wait.

I apologize for uncoherent wall of text again and hope at least some of you were interested in the game enough to read trough it all. And if you did, that it gave you the information you were looking for.



  1. A cool review. I've heard of Strange Aeons many times but was never really sure what it was a bout. I usually figured Cultists. What minis do you use as the badguys?

    1. Mostly my zombies and survivors, haha. But once I get the minies, cultists will be from Pulp miniatures and/or Artizan. For the monsters, I'll try to sculpt as many as I can myself, but RAFM, EM4 and BCB are all good sources.

  2. Nice review mate. Thanks for posting it.

  3. I've always wondered what Strange Aeons was, as I have seen it pop up quite a bit lately. So it was actually interesting to read (even though very long!). So thank you for explaining what it was! I always imagined it to be some fantasy game in a mystical world, set in medieval times, so it's cool to know it is set in the 1920s!

  4. I may give this game a look after reading your review. I can see some club members liking the idea (and other hating it) so maybe, just maybe I'll give it a try. Thanks for an informative review.

  5. Glad you like it guys!

    As for the club, you can easily get 2 - 3 games in a time you'd play one of more played games, which is pretty nice. I've once spent about an hour deploying for FOW and lost in first turn -.-