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Subject: [Review] Carnevale by Vesper On Games. (Assassin's Creed meets Cthulhu) rss

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Pete aka The Masked Minstrel
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This is my sixth review I think, and I will be covering the game Carnevale.

OVERVIEW AND FLUFF
Carnevale is a 28mm scale miniature warband level skirmish game set in an alternate history Venice. It uses a low figure count of approximately 3-10 figures, depending on the points value of the forces and played in an area approximately 80cm x 80cm.

In the late 1700's a rift opened up above Italy causing a 'magic mist' to seep out which empowered people who could harness it with magical / mystical powers.
As a result, Rome sank into the ocean, and Venice which is located by the northern edge of the rift has become a hotspot for paranormal activities in addition to poverty and famine.

You have four factions to choose your warband from.
The Patricians who are bored lesser nobles who indulge their vices in violence upon the streets and hiding their identities by wearing masks.
They are also accompanied by retainers from their houses, butlers, maids, and even the city guard are under their pay.

The Guild Commoners who fight back against their oppressors, lead by master thieves/assassins they recruit whatever motley crews they can get - Butchers, barbers, harlots, citizens and even the surly pulcinellas who take to the streets as club wielding mob.

The Ospedale Hospital or Asylum workers, these people were experimenting on inmates of the asylum long before the rift opened up, and with said event found themselves a power to themselves.
Using madmen as living batteries to fuel their strange experimental weapons.

The Cult of Dagon CTHULHUISM! well, Mythos. These cultist worship the sea entity Dagon and can call upon the fishmen to aid them in battle, along with brainwashed citizens and their sickly looking hybrids who decidedly have that 'innsmouth' look.


THE GAME SYSTEM
A Game turn starts with rolling for initiative based on the Command skill of each squads leader, with the winner determining who acts first, and then alternate activation of models until all figures have acted.
This allows less down time than an I-Go-U-Go type system where you would have to wait much longer for your turn to come back around.

Each character has has a predetermined number of Action Points which determines how many things they can do when they are activated.
Typical actions are walk, shoot, attack in melee, but there are advanced actions like Run, Running Jump, Drowning Attack, Climb, Reload, and many more, particularly the important 'At the Ready' action which I will explain later.

Carnevale uses 10 sided dice (d10's) in a system that is similar to World of Darkness RPG.
Whenever you roll a pool of dice, one of the die will be a different color to differentiate it, this will be the Destiny Die that determines Critical Success or Failures.
You roll a pool of as many dice as per applicable stat for the action you are doing IE, SHOOT for ranged attacks or COMBAT for Melee, and every dice that beats the target number (which is either 7 or equal to an enemies specific statistic) is a success or in Carnevale termed an 'Ace'.
Rolling a 1 on the Destiny Die cancels one of your Aces, or if you have rolled no Aces at all, you Fumble the action to a penalizing result.
Conversely, rolling a 10 on the Destiny Die allows an extra degree of Success, depending on the action.

There are two types of dice rolls, Basic Roll and Opposed Roll. (Technically the rulebooks says three types of rolls, Basic, Attack, and Opposed - but Basic and Attack rolls are pretty much the same, except for the target number required which is 7 for actions / shooting or enemies DEXTERITY for Melee)
In a Basic Roll, the number of Aces rolled indicates the degree of success - For example, in a running jump action each Ace adds 1 inch to the distance covered.
An Opposed roll is where both players roll their dice pools and whomever rolls the most Aces, succeeds by the difference in Aces rolled.
A typical example in this is Melee combat against a ready opponent who is actively defending themselves.

EXAMPLES OF BASIC ROLLS
Shooting
Melee against an unready target
Jumping action
Climbing action

EXAMPLES OF OPPOSED ROLLS
Melee against a ready target
Dexterity check to break away from an enemy in Melee who opts to trap you in combat

That is the meat and bones of the Carnevale game system.

Now going into more depth with Combat.
When you attack a character who is not prepared for you, you roll a basic roll against their Dexterity, with the number of Aces being the damage done (Modified for weapon and armor/toughness, ie a sword does damage equal to Aces +1, and then total Aces are subtracted by Targets Protection Value - any remainder being Damage Dealt).
But a character who has performed an 'At the Ready' action is ready for combat and so when attacked, they make an Opposed melee roll allowing them a better chance to defend themselves, or even wound their attacking enemy. (At the Ready is an Overwatch-type action that is performed as the last action a figure will make before ending its activation - it allows you to shoot if you get an opening or fight back when attacked in melee)

Modifiers exist to the number of Dice rolled, being ganged up on increases the dice pools for the outnumbering party and lowers the pool for the individual - Though there is a skill called Growth through Adversity where such individuals thrive when they are outnumbered.
Another standard modifier is the Pain Threshold, after a figure takes a certain amount of damage they suffer a penalty to their dice pools - this is indicated on their character sheet.

Carnevale also includes magic, healing and many other options to add flavor to the game, but it all works off the simple dice system above mostly using the MIND statistic of the figures.
The other notable thing to mention about this game is that each character comes with Karma points, which are spent to increase a dice pool for a one off roll, or to activate certain abilities, but once a character has spent all their Karma, they suffer a -1 to Dice Pools totals.
Karma can be replenished by defeating enemies.


MY THOUGHTS ON THIS GAME
It is a fun game with an interesting theme - described as Cthulhu meets Cassanova or Les Miserables meets the Invisibles meets Shadows over Innsmouth.
To me, it 'is' the Assassin's Creed 2 game, because it captures that feeling so well and not just because some of the figures look like they have been taken straight from the game.

Terrain is really interactive in this game because you can spend climb actions to make dexterity rolls to scale walls or buildings.
Running is a fun option to this game, unlike other systems where running is just a static multiplier of your base movement rate, here it is a Dexterity roll where you move an extra inch per Ace rolled, and +3 extra inches with a Critical success, but if you fumble the roll you don't move at all - both the move action and the run action cost 1 Action each to point to perform, coming down to whether you want to try your luck or not.
That randomness adds to the fun for me, with a good roll a character can burst out from nowhere and do something very cinematic - and these extra rolls don't add much to the downtime of the game at all with the alternating activation sequence.

There are many options for Combat instead of just a straightforward attack - you can Shove where you force move your enemy, which is great for use with buildings or canals.
You can also 'Low Blow' which stuns an enemy, reducing their dice pool until they spend an action to 'Clear their head' - Consecutive stuns instead cause 1 Damage ignoring Protection so it allows you to wear down armored enemies.

I have only played a couple of test games with my wife, a one miniature on one Miniature game initially to show her the rules, and then a 100 point squad skirmish which was 2 figures vs 3.
One thing we noted from this is that it is very hard to wound each others figures substantially with the current protection values of 2 or 3, and there are guardsmen out there with Protection of 4.
We found ourselves spending more time trying to throw each other off buildings or shove the other players figures off ledges when we were climbing them because the falling rules are quite nasty once you get over a 7inch height.

This game has been translated from Spanish, and there are some typo's in the book or some issues which are worded confusingly but all in all I find the game great fun though very dependent on having suitable terrain which is very specialized (Don't expect normal gamers to stock 1700's Venice terrain with mandatory Canals) to add to the fun.

One word of caution with the miniatures: while they are nice, they are somewhat fragile particularly the thin pieces - I snapped a guardsmans bayonet off his musket, and have broken off some figures at the feet when snipping off the base tab to glue the figure to scenic base inserts.
While this causes caution, I still really enjoy the figures and they are great sculpts.

Also this game is suitable for one off skirmishes or a mini-campaign of 5 Adventures where your surviving characters can improve.

Personally, this is the game Mordheim should have been.
NOTE: I really hated Mordheim because it seemed lame as a skirmish game, static models in melee, no opposed dice rolls to give that feeling of fighting back, and spending FAR more time on managing your warband than actually playing.
Carnevale has the two things I consider mandatory for a good skirmish level game, Opposed Dice Rolls for Melee and Ability to move in combat and not just being stuck static.
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Ryan McCabe
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Thanks for this, it sounds really, really great. Do you know of any US retailers carrying the book and minis? I could really get behind a minis game that is very different in its theme.

Edit: ah ha, checked their website and found some. Any chance of pictures of the terrain you used?
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Pete aka The Masked Minstrel
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http://vesper-on.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=secti...

Here is a link to the Vesper On Points of Sale page, where they list distributors and stores that stock their products.

I should also note that on Vesper On Games' website they have the full rules available as a free download, so you could DL them and proxy some figures to see what you think
 
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Pete aka The Masked Minstrel
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This last one was a mock up / Dry stack of the walls for a ballroom, but I found it was way too big for the table I was making, so I had to cut it back to make it more feasible
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Ryan McCabe
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That is awesome. I wonder how well recreating one of the multiplayer maps from AC:B would work.
 
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Pete aka The Masked Minstrel
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http://vesper-on.com/index.php?option=com_ninjaboard&view=to...

This guys terrain is sheer beauty!

I think it would be pretty doable considering some of the terrain I've seen done for this game.
http://elrefugiodelfriki.blogspot.com.au/
 
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Ryan McCabe
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squallgoku wrote:
http://vesper-on.com/index.php?option=com_ninjaboard&view=to...

This guys terrain is sheer beauty!

I think it would be pretty doable considering some of the terrain I've seen done for this game.
http://elrefugiodelfriki.blogspot.com.au/


Holy cow that's amazing work.
 
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Pete aka The Masked Minstrel
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Not sure how the special characters are balance wise, but miniature wise they are awesome looking, some of the best figures I have seen.

Notably
The White Dove
The Black Specter
 
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Charles Silbernagel
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Pete, where did you get the terrain you've posted here? It looks really good, and I'm sure I've seen some of it before but can't recall where.

Great review of a great game by the way.
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Pete aka The Masked Minstrel
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I made it using bricks from Hirst Arts Molds.
 
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