Verrotwood - Part II
Posted: 30. 06. 2023.
Verrotwood is a folk horror skirmish tabletop game by Mike Crutchett. In my last week’s post you’ve read about how I created our two Cults and how we played our first encounter. Now we continue with the next scenario: Place of Power.
I used treasure chests from my collection to represent the relics in game one. But game two’s objectives are three standing stones that “hum with the sounds of a primordial time”. I didn’t have anything like that, so I decided to build some. Instead of stones, I sculpted idols reminiscent of pre-Christian Slavic idols. The rulebook explicitly encourages injecting your own ideas and making whatever changes you want - including coming up with entirely new scenarios. And you’ll pretty much need to do that, since the rulebook only contains two scenarios. To be fair, there are free official supplements where you can find a few more.
I wanted a big monster for this scenario. The first had a Wolf playing the role of Forest Beast. There’s also a profile for Greater Forest Beast in the book, and I had just the model for it: a surprisingly nicely sculpted out-of-scale toy from the dollar store. It only needed a repaint, and I had a giant wolf I dubbed the Duke of Wolves:
Place of Power
In this scenario, the Cults are fighting to control three objectives that make them feel close to their gods. In order to take control of an objective, a Cultist must spend their turn performing the Pray action. An enemy Cultist can do the same to take it over. The Cult with more objectives in the end wins. The rules don’t say what happens if there’s a draw, but I would treat both as having lost in that case. This scenario goes on for five Rounds.
In this game our special terrain was a Cursed Tree - which causes any model within 3’’ that rolls dice always use the lowest result. The tree was placed smack in the middle of the table. As said before, our monster was the Duke of Wolves (Greater Forest Beast).
Three Idols were placed along the centreline, with the Duke of Wolves hanging out nearby. The Cults deployed, and the fight begins!
First Round was once again a lot of running forward towards the objectives. However, the Duke of Wolves gets two turns per Round. Sent in a random Cultist’s direction, the massive beast swiftly got right into Boril’s face and took a big bite. Danka was available to assist, so she Berserked into combat with the Duke, taking down a third of its health.
Round 2, Bogdan moves in contact with one of the Idols, while Karda and Gavril close in on the other two. Jelen attacks the Duke of Wolves and knocks it prone with a crit strike of his two-handed club. Danka then finishes off the giant beast.
In Round 3 Karda and Bogdan spend their turn praying, each claiming an Idol for their respective Cult. Boril, Jelen and Danka fight with Verka and Gavril for the unclaimed Midd le Idol. Boril is taken out of action, and Verka sustains major injuries.
In the Fourth Round Jaromir steals the Northern Idol from Bogdan. Karda runs back to help Verka and Gavril. However, Verka is knocked out by the frenzied Jelen. Gavril decides to claim the Middle Idol before it’s too late, and now the Children have all three objectives under their control. Danka moves towards the now undefended Southern Idol, but it’s clear she won’t have enough time to take it away from the enemy Cult.
Fifth and final Round Jelen downs Karda, and Bogdan downs Jaromir. Gavril does a good deal of damage to Jelen. The Herd knocked out three out of four of the enemy, but they still lose because they have not a single Idol in their control.
Children of the Beast Mother finished the game controlling all three Idols, making them winners once again. They get a hundred Favor, while the Herd get fifty. In this scenario, eliminating enemy cultists and monsters doesn’t earn any victory points. It’s all about the Idols.
Verka and Karda get through with no permanent damage. Jaromir loses an eye, which messes with his ranged attack capabilities. If he rolls this injury once again, he will end up blind and no longer able to fight. Boril got a concussion, rendering him unable to use Rituals for the duration of the next game.
After each game, both players pick a Cultist to send into the woods for a little solo adventure. A card from a standard 52-card Poker deck is drawn, and the player consults a table in the Rulebook. Any used cards are removed from the deck. Depending on their rolls, this can go well or badly.
Speaking of badly... the Children sent Verka. She found forbidden literature in a cave, read it, went mad and wandered off into the woods. She never came back.
The Herd sent Bogdan. He had a pretty awful time: found a village where armoured men were burning villagers at the stake. He got jumped by them, tied up, and left to burn. But he managed to break free and come back home with 9 Favor.
The Children now need to replace Verka with a fresh Cultist, and both warbands get to spend Favor on upgrading their members. Which we will do if and when we decide to continue this playthrough.
Interview with Mike Crutchett
The designer of the game was kind enough to answer some questions for me. My questions were focused on his process of writing and publishing Verrotwood. There are more and more indie tabletop games popping up these days, and Mike’s experiences may be useful for those aspiring to design and publish their first game.
Hello Mike! What’s your hobby background?
I got into the hobby a long time ago when I saw a photo of an amazing Necromunda table online. Ever since then I have been fascinated by making tiny worlds. I’ve played my fair share of TTRPGS and miniature skirmish games.
Is Verrotwood the first game you've designed? What led to you designing and publishing your own game?
Yes and no. Verrotwood is my first tabletop miniatures game but before that I co designed an iPhone game called Zombie Feast Frenzy. Designing Verrotwood came about in an interesting way. It all started with a piece of scatter terrain. I had made an abandoned well and wrote a creepy little story to go along with it. I posted it on a few different Facebook groups and got some nice feedback, so I decided to continue making terrain and stories to go along with what I had established with that well post. After a little while I created a page just for my custom setting. From there it kind of naturally escalated into a setting I wanted to play a game in.
Why folk horror? What were the influences that had an impact on Verrotwood’s world building?
I’ve always been into the idea of religion gone wrong. Folk horror was a perfect for this. As far as inspirations go, I’m a big fan of newer folk horror films like The Ritual and Midsommar. I’m very inspired by the works of Lovecraft and I think that is why Verrotwood centers around trying to awaken terrible old gods.
What was your vision for the game mechanically when you set off to make it?
Once I had decided that I wanted to make a game I decided that I wanted it to be simple and fast to learn. I also wanted to give players the power to create whatever kind of cult they could think of.
What was the playtesting process like? Did you have a local group that met up in person, or an online one? How long did you playtest it before deciding it was ready?
Playtesting was interesting because I started working on the game during the pandemic. It was hard to get groups together to play but luckily for me I had my Facebook group. I set up a simple google classroom and invited as many testers as I could. Going this route can be a bit frustrating though. Many people had signed up to help but a very small number of players actually played and helped with feedback. Although all the people that played it are amazing and super helpful. I had run two separated test groups over the course of two years as the game was tweaked.
Let’s talk rulebook layout - did you do it yourself? If yes, did you have to learn it for the project, or was it a skill you already had from earlier?
Yes I did the book layout myself. That was probably the most daunting part of the whole project. I had to teach myself a bunch of new skills. Of course, I could have just made it a simple text document, but I felt like I needed to go the extra mile to help convey mood.
The rulebook has a number of illustrations, which are important for establishing the look and feel of the Verrotwood setting. Can you tell us a bit about them?
I got lucky because I had a few really cool people donate some art to the project. For everything else I utilized Shutterstock.
Which publishing options did you consider, and why did you pick the one you did?
I had always planned on using a file sharing service of some sort. I went with Wargame Vault because they have a bunch of great tools for indie designers. I had planned on utilizing their print on demand service but unfortunately, I didn’t create my files correctly. I hope to have my next project able to be printed on demand.
You run a Facebook group and a Discord server for Verrotwood players and fans. How demanding and time-consuming is it to manage a community around your game? Do you have someone to help you with that?
I run them all by myself. It can be a bit time-consuming, but I feel like it’s important to build a community around smaller games.
What single piece of advice do you have for aspiring designers of tabletop games?
If I could give one piece of advice it would be to make the game you want to play. I feel like if you make a game for yourself, you will be happier with the final product. The love and care will shine through, and people will react to it more. An added bonus to designing a game you want to play is, if it doesn’t do well, at least you have a game you really love.
Thank you, and looking forward to seein where you take Verrotwood in the future.
Verrotwood is extremely quick to play when you have a grasp of the rules. I’d say half an hour is enough to play a game! We took out time, referencing the rulebook frequently as well as photographing the gameplay, so it lasted a bit longer for us. The fast pace of the game is mostly due to the simple system, and few special rules to keep track of. I like it!
The Exploration mechanic is really appealing to me. I almost wish that each and every card in the deck had a story to it, not only the face cards.
The Cults are highly customizable, so one can fit all kinds of themes and ideas. A Cult is four figures strong, making it rather quick to have playable warband. Making a bunch of different cults to experiment with different eldritch flavours is not time-consuming, either.
Besides Verrotwood being a rules-light skirmish game, the folk horror theme was another big selling point to me.
Now, let’s move on to what I didn’t like about it.
The rulebook is digital only, coming as a PDF. In that PDF, text is flattened. Nothing is selectable - so one cannot use the search function to quickly find the rule they’re looking for. Additionally, one can’t copy-paste bits of rules text when they want to make a reference sheet or reference cards (which is what I normally do when we play a game). The rulebook is also not printer-friendly in any way, so printing it at home was not an option. My hopes are this will be changed in a future update.
When the rules first dropped, the text was littered with spelling, grammatical, and other errors to such extent it was distracting. It felt as if it was never proofread, or even run through the spell check function any writing software would have. It didn’t leave a great first impression. I was happy to see the book got updated fairly quickly, and most of these errors have been corrected in the current version.
Overall, I can say that I like this game, and I certainly wouldn’t mind playing it again!
Have you played it? How was it for you?
Tell me in the comments.
Disclaimer: this is not a paid promotion and I am not affiliated with the game’s creator or publisher. Everything stated is my personal, biased opinion.
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Hi, the Folk Horrors kickstarter minis arrived yesterday, as shown in your bat reps. They are superb minis thank you. GT
Thanks Geoff! Glad you like them!
Funny to imagine dollar stores in Croatia.
Excellent work as always.
I tried to purchase the game but Wargame Vault is not allowing me to log in not with my account (which has an automatic password fill) nor with Facebook.
I will try again later.
hanks! They’re not literally called dollar stores here, but they’re the same type of shop - selling low price stuff imported mostly from China. Unfortunate about Wargames Vault, hope you manage to log yourself back in.
Just bagged myself to a copy and really looking forward to planing & building some more terrain. A fantastic excuse to create more stone circles, barrows and gnarly trees! Thanks for sharing Ana
No problem Lampen Stream, thanks for joining on Patreon!