Author | Billzilla

Billzilla

Bill Bodden has been writing professionally for more nearly a decade. A contributor to Madison Magazine, Geek Monthly, Scrye, Knucklebones and Games Unplugged magazines, Bill's writing was included in the Hobby Games: The 100 Best and the forthcoming Family Games: The 100 Best essay collections. Bill has also had gaming-related work published by Green Ronin Publishing, Fantasy Flight Games, Mongoose Publishing, and Games Workshop/Black Library. Bill works as the wholesale sales rep for Green Ronin, and in his spare time paints miniatures, reads, plays games and cleans up after four cats. Bill lives in Wisconsin with his wife, Tracy.


Billzilla

Cthulhu 101 Review

Posted on December 3, 2009 by

Have you repeatedly heard references to something called “Cthulhu” and wondered what it was all about? Are you already familiar with “the Big C,” know the signs and the secret handshakes, but are still looking for something to fill the great, gaping wound in your soul? Look no further, dear friends – Cthulhu 101 is good for what ails you!

Published by Atomic Overmind Press (www.atomicovermind.com), Cthulhu 101 is a witty overview of the Cthulhu Mythos, a world of pulp horror monsters from other dimensions and beyond the stars, created in the 1920’s and 30s by Howard Philips Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, Robert E. Howard, Robert Bloch and many others.

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Billzilla

Witch of Salem Game Review

Posted on December 1, 2009 by

Cooperative games are popular these days. Playing against the game so that the players win or lose collectively is appealing in a day and age when people even compete with each other for the best Christmas light displays. In Witch of Salem, the players take on the roles of occult investigators working against the evil sorcerer Necron, who intends to open inter-dimensional gates to allow the Great Old Ones into our world to wreak havoc. Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? Trust me, it’s never that simple.

The board shows a representation of the fictional city Arkham, Massachusetts. There are eight locations the players can visit; Miskatonic University (also the starting space), the Sanitorium, the Arkham News offices, the Witch House, the Hotel, the Cemetery and the Church. The eighth location is the sunken city of R’lyeh, which players will only visit in the end game phase to prevent the Great Old One there from bursting through.

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Billzilla

Flee in Terror with Innsmouth Escape!

Posted on October 6, 2009 by

In Twilight Creations’ board game Innsmouth Escape, one player takes on the role of the human trying to free her friends and flee from the accursed town infested with frog-like worshipers of Cthulhu, while the rest play the nefarious Deep Ones themselves, intent on keeping their dark secret away from the prying eyes of outsiders.

The board is a simple six-by-six grid. Some of the squares are marked with symbols indicating places to rescue human captives, obtain equipment and have encounters (all for the human player) and to spawn Deep Ones, summon a Shoggoth (more on that later) and draw cards for the Deep One player(s).

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Billzilla

Zombie Mosh Tramples Boredom!

Posted on September 24, 2009 by

With the runaway popularity of Zombies these days, it isn’t surprising that we’re seeing the shambling undead teamed with nearly every other concept imaginable, from video games to Jane Austen. Even lighthearted zombie treatments are gaining a strong foothold, like Shaun of the Dead, the upcoming film Zombieland starring Woody Harrelson, and, of course, Zombie Mosh from Bucephalus Games.

Zombie Mosh is exactly that, a game about zombies bashing each other apart in a mosh pit. Players select one of six different character cards, then shuffle the Zombie cards and deal four to each player. The dealer then draws two cards and randomly places them in the “damage” row of each player, including himself. Each card has two different results, facing the top and bottom of the card, so orientation of each card matters.

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Billzilla

Open Grave: Secrets of the Undead Review

Posted on September 3, 2009 by

If there is a single grouping of monsters that are a favorite, undead would probably be at or near the top of everyone’s list. From ghosts to zombies and from vampires to mummies, undead are the critters we love to hate. In Open Grave: Secrets of the Undead, Wizards of the Coast offers up a tasty book filled with intriguing information for GMs wishing to get the most out of their players’ encounters with those who refuse to stay dead.

It’s important to note that this volume isn’t a simple monster manual for the Undead. It doesn’t bother to cover the basic types; skeletons, zombies, and even straight-up vampire types are totally ignored, being covered in some depth elsewhere. What it does offer are variations on the standard creature, with strategy tips and useful tricks for effective deployment.

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Billzilla

Aye, Dark Overlord! Game Review

Posted on June 25, 2009 by

Aye Dark Overlord! defies precise description. It is at once a board game, card game and has elements of a party game and role-playing games as well. The players take on roles of sniveling servants of the Dark Overlord, a vengeful chap whose patience with his inept followers grows thin…

Players begin by randomly drawing a hand of six cards – three hint and three action cards. One player is selected to play the role of Rigor Mortis; the Dark Overlord of the title. Once the players have their cards in hand, the Dark Overlord addresses one of them by saying something like “So my faithful minions; I ordered you to kidnap the princess. Has this task been accomplished?” The player indicated must then fabricate a brief story – using the elements illustrated on the cards in the player’s hand — explaining why the task was not completed, and in so doing shifting the blame for the failure to one of the other players.

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Billzilla

Little Nightmares – Privateer Press

Posted on June 18, 2009 by

privateer-logoIt’s difficult to imagine the miniatures world without in it, yet this company has been in existence for less than seven years. With their breakout hit Monsterpocalypse and their solid Warmachine and Hordes skirmish-level combat lines, Privateer Press is well-situated to be a force in the industry for years to come.

The Warmachine and Hordes product lines mesh well with dark fantasy, as they have a number of factions tailor-made for people of such inclinations. A perfect example is the Gorax, a light warbeast from the Circle Orboros faction in Hordes. The Gorax, looking very troll-like – or even like an Oni from Oriental mythology – strains at the chain that holds him to a large boulder. The pose is interesting and well-executed, and the figure’s rippling musculature and tufts of scraggly hair combine to give this model a ton of character. At a $17 MSRP, this model is a smidge pricey, but a first-class sculpt never the less.

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Billzilla

Where the Deep Ones Are Review

Posted on May 6, 2009 by

The classic children’s book “Where the Wild Things Are” by Maurice Sendak has been parodied before, but rarely as successfully as in Ken Hite’s Where the Deep Ones Are. Ostensibly a childrens’ book, Deep Ones is a story of a boy who rebels and is banished to his room in punishment, subsequently discovering a hidden world that calls to him enchantingly.

Instead of Max, we now have Bobby, a boy who loves to eat fish. He also wears a frog-like costume with several tentacles dangling from the face, and it’s mentioned more than once in the text that he has a cousin named Larry Marsh. This boy is well on his way to becoming a Deep One himself, which parallels the story of Shadow Over Innsmouth, on which the actual tale of Where the Deep Ones Are is partly based.

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Billzilla

A Touch of Evil Board Game Review

Posted on March 31, 2009 by

Flying Frog Productions has only produced two games so far; so far — in my humble opinion — they have two winners. The First, Last Night on Earth, is a zombie survival exercise with real goals to achieve that put Flying Frog on the adventure gaming map. Their most recent title is A Touch of Evil, and fans of the Johnny Depp version of the Legend of Sleepy Hollow will find this game somehow familiar…

Players begin by each choosing one of eight characters to portray. Each character has a score of from one to five in four abilities: Spirit, Cunning, Combat and Honor. Players may increase these scores during the course of the game through a variety of means, and all four abilities will come in to play at some point. In addition, each character also has their own unique ability to give their player a particular advantage.

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Billzilla

Little Nightmares – Mississinewa Minatures

Posted on March 12, 2009 by

Mississinewa Miniatures is a little-known miniatures company from Indiana. Specializing in Zombie-themed figures, they have an impressive selection, if not a broad range – yet. Mississinewa sent Flames Rising a generous selection of figures to review. Sadly, I can’t do justice to them all so I’m going to concentrate on what they do best: Zombies!

The zombie line is reasonably well- fleshed out; 18 different models shamble their way to your gaming table, and while the variety isn’t truly spectacular, it’s solid. The first six are all naked zombies. Before you get too excited, let me first point out that there are no naughty bits in evidence; they’re more like zombie mannequins than anything else.

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Billzilla

Wolfsbane and Mistletoe Fiction Review

Posted on February 25, 2009 by

Tracy Benton reviews Wolfsbane and Mistletoe

Because, after all, nothing goes with Christmas like werewolves, right?

As a follow-up to Many Bloody Returns (vampires and birthdays), editors Charlaine Harris and Toni L. P. Kelner bring us Wolfsbane and Mistletoe (2008), an anthology of stories starring werewolves and set at Chrismastime. (To give them credit, the editors state in the introduction that they rejected the zombies-and-Arbor Day combination.) I was sufficiently intrigued by this concept to read the book, and I was also attracted by the array of authors, which, oddly enough, are mainly mystery writers.

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Billzilla

Cthulhu Goes to the Movies

Posted on February 24, 2009 by

Once in a while a movie comes along so epic, so terrifying, that its review requires two authors. Call of Cthulhu (2005) is just such a movie. Produced by the H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society, this modern silent film treatment of the classic Lovecraft tale is remarkably effective: creepy but not gory, atmospheric but well-paced. The film is in black and white “Mythoscope,” meaning it’s artificially aged so as to seem vintage, and the soundtrack may be played in “Mythophone”, so that the music seems aged to match the film. Bill and Tracy offer their views below; Bill is a longtime Lovecraft aficionado, while Tracy prefers monsters of the Universal or Japanese vintage.

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Billzilla

Monster Mayhem Game Review

Posted on February 12, 2009 by

Since monsters of various types are pretty much White Wolf Publishing’s stock and trade, it makes sense that they would attempt to diversify their product line to include horror-themed board or card games. One of White Wolf’s offerings, Monster Mayhem, has each player taking on the role of a different classic monster, seeking out victims and devouring those parts of them each fiend finds most delectable.

Players begin by selecting one of the five monsters – Vampire, Werewolf, Mummy, Zombie or Poltergeist – and placing the token for that monster on its starting space. The board is a grid of hexagons, and the players flesh out the city by placing the notable location tiles, either randomly or according to one of several sample layouts provided. Each player then draws three victims from the Victim deck and places that card by their monster’s data card.

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Billzilla

Little Nighmares – Cardstock Scenes

Posted on February 6, 2009 by

Empty Room Studios produces full-color tiles for use with miniatures in an adventure-game setting. The sets I’ve looked at most closely are the Blasted Canyon and the Caverns Tiles Base Set 1.

The Blasted Canyon set provides a wide variety of terrain features that can be printed and cut out to produce more than four square feet of unique terrain. Box canyons, cul-de-sacs, a large temple, a marketplace, transition pieces, dungeon entrances, and an oasis are all included, each with either a desert background or with canyon walls added around the edges. This is a handsome set, and much thought clearly went into its design.

Review by Bill Bodden

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Billzilla

Little Nightmares – Disposable Horrors

Posted on February 3, 2009 by

After a long hiatus, Little Nightmares is back. This month, I’ll be covering somewhat related products from two different companies; full-color stand-up cardboard figures from Precis Intermedia, and ready-made maps from Empty Room Studios.

Precis Intermedia produces stand-up cardboard figures, called Disposable Heroes, in a variety of themes. Since this is Flames Rising, they sent us a pack of monsters to look over: Disposable Heroes: Horror Statix 1. The figures themselves are available in two different formats within each set: two-sided and three-sided. The two-sided figures may require some kind of plastic stand to assist them, as the fold is at the top like a sandwich board sign. Printing the figures on lightweight cardstock before cutting them apart will probably remove the need for bases – at least until the figure has a few miles on it and the crease begins to wear. The front of the figure is a full color image and the back is a black silhouette of the same image for ease in determining rear/surprise attacks.

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Billzilla

Shadows of Cthulhu (True20) RPG Review

Posted on December 31, 2008 by

I was so excited to learn that an RPG treatment of the sanity-blasting horror of H. P. Lovecraft had been made available using the True 20 rules that I went online and bought a copy within days of the discovery. Shadows of Cthulhu, designed by Russell Brown and published by Reality Deviant Publications, is a great way to introduce D&D gamers to a taste of something different without forcing them to learn an entirely new game system. In that vein its important top note that Shadows is not a complete game in itself: a copy of the Green Ronin Publishing’s True 20 Revised Rules will be required in order to play Shadows of Cthulhu.

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Billzilla

In the Service of Samurai Fiction Review

Posted on December 10, 2008 by

I’m frankly a sucker for many things — ghost stories and samurai films among them. On discovering the book In the Service of Samurai by Gloria Oliver, I was pleased to discover that two of my passions had been rolled into one package.

In the Service of Samuari tells the story of a young apprentice mapmaker, Chizuson Toshiro or “Toshi,” who is purchased from his master to act as navigator for a strange samurai with an even stranger ship and crew. Cursed and betrayed in life, the undead Samurai and his ghostly men must wander the sea until they have completed their mission. In the end, only Toshi’s wits and determination can help them see it through. The tension of the story grows as Toshi learns to accept his situation.

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Billzilla

Tour de Lovecraft: the Tales Review

Posted on November 24, 2008 by

Howard Phillips Lovecraft is one of the few authors of the horror genre who has been dissected rather thoroughly (Edgar Allen Poe being another). Kenneth Hite, who’s made much of his living as both a critic and a Lovecraft enthusiast, has a few things to say on the subject, and they make for very interesting reading. Tour de Lovecraft — the Tales is an engaging breakdown of all 51 of Lovecraft’s mature prose fiction, from 1917’s The Tomb to Lovecraft’s last work, the Haunter of the Dark from late 1935.

This is not a book of literary criticism, as I first assumed, but rather criticism of literary criticism. Hite takes pains to offer quotes and examples of criticism from a number of noted Lovecraft scholars, and offers his own opinions that don’t always mesh with those notions. In effect, the book breaks Lovecraft’s work down into what might be considered Hite’s Top-10 list of Lovecraft’s work. Hite spends time analyzing Lovecraft’s most effective tales.

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Billzilla

Little Nightmares – Iron Wind Metals

Posted on November 20, 2008 by

Our next contestant is Iron Wind Metals. Rising from the ashes of the fallen Ral Partha Miniatures, Iron Wind first began cranking out miniatures in 1999. Since then they’ve attempted to resurrect many of the figures for which they became famous in the 1980s and 90s, but have so far found little success getting their re-tooled fantasy lines into stores. Ordering online might be your only option to acquire these beauties, but check your favourite local game store first; they may be willing to special order Iron Wind Metals miniatures for you.

The miniatures we’ll be looking at come from several different product lines. As usual, I will list the miniatures by name, stock code, and by MSRP (Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price). I try to include the sculptor’s name whenever possible; credit where credit is due, after all.

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Billzilla

Hardboiled Cthulhu Fiction Review

Posted on November 19, 2008 by

Hardboiled Cthulhu is billed as an anthology of “Two-Fisted Tales of Tentacled Terror”, and mostly it delivers. However, the quality is quite uneven, though in some cases pretty creative. For example, “Eldritch Fellas” by Tim Curran, a “Goodfellas” pastiche with the Great Old Ones as mobsters, while initially amusing, was far too long. It wasn’t really clever enough to justify its genre-bending inclusion here.

Likewise “Day of Iniquity” by Steven Shrewsbury is neither particularly hard-boiled nor terrifying.

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11 Tales of Ghostly Horror

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