Stronghold Undead is the latest game from our partner publisher Portal Games. Some of you might be thinking “Wait a minute, Stronghold Undead, I’ve seen that before!”. Our answer is yes uh, no, we mean YES: It is true that the original version of the game, at that time only under the name Stronghold, was released back in 2009 and it is also true that there was an expansion for this game in 2010 called Undead.
But the now released Stronghold Undead is a standalone, fully remastered game with the best of the versions back then. But then, as now, two-game ends, face each other in an epic battle – the inhabitants of Pearl Castle, who defend their sacred relic, and the necromancer Arkhton with his army of undead, who wants to seize the relic.
If he does not succeed before the end of the eighth round, he and his warriors will be reduced to dust. To do this, he uses powerful spells, which the inhabitants of Pearl Castle try to ward off, using the time given to them by the costly spells to prepare inside the castle walls for the attacks of the siege weapons and undead.
But if you want to storm off right now to get your copy at your trusted game dealer or in our online shop – the game will only appear in a few weeks! But that gives us enough time to let Ignacy Trzewiczek, the author of the expert game, have his say. He tells you more about the game and the origins:
“I spent over a year designing the base game on my own and then a few more months for the Undead variant. After the game had been out of print for almost ten years, we finally decided to tackle it and bring it out as a revised, new version.
So I sat down with my team and spent countless hours developing the game – Stronghold Undead is a manifesto of our slogan “Board Games That Tell Stories”. But it is impossible, there is no way to get all of the depth and tell you all of the great and complex story of this project. And yet I will try to give you an idea of it, so let’s begin. But where anyway …?
The siege is one of the most interesting themes in the fantasy genre. The battle for Helm’s Deep from The Lord of the Rings, the defense of a fortress against an army of Uruk-hai, is a breathtaking piece of fiction. A board game that tells such a story, in which you have the option of commanding troops to break through the walls or desperately fighting to defend them, is a topic for a great game night with an old friend!
And Stronghold Undead tells exactly that story. You command dark forces of evil that are marching towards the pearl castle. You can summon a storm of ghosts to move your troops, or you can turn the battlefield into a rotten swamp seething with dark energy. You can cover walls in ghostly mist so that your troops can approach unnoticed.
Your vampires lay siege to the walls and give their dark power to the ghosts that hover over the towers and throw defenders to the ground. Skeletons slowly march towards the walls while Strigoi abducts archers. Cursed bats veil the moon and shroud the battlefield in darkness. The whole table is under your control and wherever you look, it is your army that closes its pale fist around the keep – it is a majestic sight!
And that’s just a first glimpse of what the game has to offer: 24 different spells for the attacker, different units that can attack different wall sections. Then there are the various actions of the defender in his desperate struggle to defend the fortress. Stronghold Undead is a fascinating project!
It all started in 2008. I met Cédric Barbé, one of the founders of IELLO, during SPIEL in Essen. We talked about our release plans, and I told him about a game I had in mind back then – Stronghold. I was just starting out on this game, but I imagined hordes of skeletons and orcs storming a fortress.
Well, in the end, the skeletons didn’t make it into the game, only the orcs. We then presented Stronghold at SPIEL 2009 and I was very proud of it! There I met Cédric again and we exchanged ideas again. I told him about a Stronghold expansion that I had in mind: I was thinking about replacing the orc cubes in the attacking army with the undead.
“That’s it!” Said Cédric, “the last time we talked about Stronghold, I especially liked the hordes of skeletons. I wish you had left it in the final game! ”When I got back home, I immediately started working on the expansion. I planned to add modules that could be combined in any way you want – five or six modules with new rules, from which you can choose the ones you like and ignore the others.
First, I looked at the attacker’s dice – white, green, red. What could i do with it? The white became ghosts, the red became vampires, and the green, well, the green became skeletons, rotting skeletons. But what do ghosts actually do?
They float – and a new rule was introduced: white attacker cubes do not need any free space on the walls because they do not need ladders because they can fly. Vampires? They spread vampiric power and strengthen the ghosts. Skeletons? You kill one and its bones come back into play. So they are not discarded, but reused, even if I did not know exactly how at the time.
In the end, I looked very closely at all the attacker’s actions and considered whether they would fit into an army of undead. At some point I should have stopped worrying about whether skeletons were using potions, ladders, or siege weapons.
But I went on: does the necromancer send out his troops to use siege weapons? No of course not! He speaks spells and uses powerful magic to summon nightmarish catapults. He doesn’t need wood or nails, he just uses his magic.
This resulted in exciting opportunities. I entered a fascinating world of magic. Warhammer books of vampire armies sat on my desk, and galleries of undead artwork were open on the screen. Everywhere I looked there were cemeteries and skeletons.
I couldn’t stop myself, I was always writing down new ideas. The game board gradually filled with cemeteries, strings, fog, and ghost illusions. I got deeper and deeper: How about new ways for the fortress to defend itself against the undead? I created priests, exorcisms, stakes for the vampires, and crossbows on the towers.
After a few weeks, it finally became clear that the whole idea of modules with various new rules was obsolete. The importance of the undead grew and with each working day they more and more took over the entire expansion. There was no more room for anything else! I created new attacker actions, new actions in the keep, and gradually I realized that this idea was big enough to fill the entire expansion.
After the expansion was released, gamers said not only that this was a good expansion, but that they played an entirely new game with it that was much better than the base game.
Over the years, this gave rise to the urge to tackle the game again and merge it with the outstanding expansion. But of course, there was only one title that could do justice to the elements of the expansion to which we owe this new installment – Stronghold Undead! I hope that you will have as much fun with it as I did with the development! “
In the meantime, contact restrictions and distance rules have shaped our everyday lives for almost twelve months. And even if we know that these restrictions are necessary, just like most of you, we miss playing together – trade fairs, game events, but also game evenings with family, friends or colleagues.
Let’s be honest, sometimes it’s pretty dreary without the colorful togetherness, isn’t it? Fortunately, we don’t have to do without it completely, because there are numerous ways to play together online! So, let’s get started with our (game) tips for a successful online game evening:
Before you start, of course, you have to get your playgroup together. Especially if you have already agreed that you want to meet regularly, it can help to set appointments for future meetings.
Nadine explains how it works in her playgroup: “At the end of every game evening, we set a date for our next meeting. It has now become established that we usually play every two weeks on Thursdays – an appointment that I’m looking forward to days in advance. ”But if you don’t have a playgroup yet, that’s no problem either. On our Discord server, you will find over 4,500 (board) game enthusiasts, who are sure to have someone who is also looking for people to play.
When you’ve got your group together, it’s finally time to start playing. You are probably already familiar with our constantly growing game library with lots of games that you can play for free at any time via Tabletopia. We also implemented the entire game digitally for you.
You don’t know our loan yet? Then take a look at www.pegasus.de/spieleausleihe. In addition to classics, novelties, and games from our partner publishers, you can always discover games there before they even appear – currently for example Doodle Dungeon!
But back to playing via video telephony. Crime / investigator games in particular can be played great via Skype, Zoom & Co. For example, the Detective, nominated for Kennerspiel des Jahres 2019, in which you slip into the roles of real investigators and solve five closely interwoven cases.
By the way, the author, Ignacy Trzewiczek, tells you a lot more about Detective in our blog post about game development in a detective case. Since there is always a set of cards and a small game board, one of you needs the game.
He or she could then take on the task of moving your investigation team and time marker on the game board and reading out the relevant case cards. Another team member, on the other hand, can mainly take care of the research in the digital Antares database, which can be accessed from anywhere.
On the last page of the instructions, you will find more tips on the roles that the other players can assume. Just take a look – you can find almost all instructions for our publishing and exclusive sales games under “Downloads” for the respective game in our online shop. But combine clues and unravel the case – you should definitely do that together. 🙂
Even if you should always take notes with Detective, it can still sometimes be helpful to see information in front of you instead of just hearing it. It is therefore ideal if the person who owns the game also has a camera that films the table.
If you don’t have that, no problem! Julia has tips for you on how it works without it: “Instead of a mobile camera, you can simply use your cell phone and use it to film on the table. Or you can quickly take a photo of the newly discovered information with your mobile phone and send it to your video chat group. ”All professional investigators who have already played through the base game and the LA Crimes and Doppelter Boden extensions can look forward to spring
Then Vienna Connection appears – an independent game in the detective world with new rules and new mechanics, which thematically develops a little more in the direction of espionage and in which you embodied CIA agents during the Cold War.
If, on the other hand, you or your playgroup Detective is a bit too complicated or you play with children, we recommend the family version Detective – First Cases to get started. Our crime game City of Angels, which will also be released in spring, can also be played super via videotelephony. As LAPD detectives in the 1940s, you investigate the dirty corners of the city of angels. Our colleagues tested for you how well this works at Community Day at the end of January:
If, on the other hand, you want it darker, more mystical and, above all, much more tentacle-like, then take a look at Mythos Tales: In eight cases you have to investigate the servants of Cthulhu in Arkham. Mythos Tales is a mixture of game and adventure story.
This means that the main part of the game is the 193-page book of the investigation. But don’t worry, you don’t have to read the entire book. On the contrary, depending on where you want to investigate next in Arkham, the reader always jumps to a certain section, which he then reads out loud. Even with Mythos Tales, it is enough if one of you has the game.
The others can then sit back and relax on the sofa at home and listen to the story – at least almost, because here, too, it is helpful if you take notes. In addition to the investigation book, the game also comes with eight newspaper pages – one for each case.
This can either be examined by the lecturer or you agree in advance on who will take on this task and share the pages in advance as a photo, scan, or even in an old-fashioned way via letter. 🙂 For an even better gaming experience, you will not only find the instructions for Mythos Tales on the shop page, but also the city map with all available locations and the address directory, which may lead you to one or the other person.
Speaking of tentacles … If you still dare after your experiences with Mythos Tales, then you can expect a lot more cosmic tentacle horror with the cult role-playing game by H.P. Lovecraft: Cthulhu. And of course that can also be played wonderfully online via video telephony.
If you are not yet familiar with role-playing games or this particular system, don’t worry – all you need for your visit to the Cthulhu world is a few dice, lots of imagination, and the free quick-start rules. If you don’t have the right dice at hand or if you want to make sure during your game round that nobody is cheating, you will find numerous dice simulators online, e.g. Roll Dice with Friends.
The quick-start rules also include a start adventure. You can then either let other adventures spring from your imagination or you can use one of the many adventures that we have already published for Cthulhu.
You can download the matching character sheets from the Cthulhu shop page and you can find further background information on the system, the rules, and of course the horrors that await you in our blog post on the introduction to the Cthulhu role-playing game. By the way, if you feel like exploring the Cthulhu world on your own, the solo adventure Alone Against the Darkness could be the right thing for you.
If, on the other hand, you are rather suspicious of tentacles and you are more interested in the future and less in the past, then our cyberpunk role-playing game Shadowrun is probably more for you.
As an elf shaman, orc street samurai, dwarf rigger, or a completely different personality, you will wander through the shadows in 2080 and stand against the rule of the mighty megacorporations.
Just like for Cthulhu, we have put together quick start rules for Shadowrun that will guide you on your way into the world of shadows. In our blog post about Shadowrun, two experienced gamers introduce you to the system and on the Shadowrun page (www.shadowrun6.de) you can expect a lot more content and of course the downloadable character sheets to play.
If you still don’t have the right group for role play, then take a look at our Trello board. There, enthusiastic game leaders regularly offer you rounds, to which newcomers are also very welcome! And of course, you can look forward to the next CONspiracy from 26.-28. March, for which many more rounds will be offered.
If you are in the mood for something a little quieter, then we have something for you here too: The family-friendly role-playing game So nicht, Schurke !, which you can play with kids from the age of five. In Fabula, the country next door, you will explore an adventurous world with dragons, fairies, elves, but also dinosaurs, racing cars and robots. The game adapts to the age and skill levels of your group.
In this way, younger children can play at eye level with adults or older children. And for all adult fans of classic fantasy worlds, the new edition of the entry-level box for the splinter moon role-playing game will appear shortly. But you will soon find out more about this in a separate blog post.
For a successful round of games, Nadine has another tip from her own round of games: “Before, after, or during your rounds, make sure you have enough time for small talk! Especially during the lockdown, it is really good to talk to friends/colleagues – at least that is the case
In 2018 it was THE novelty at SPIEL in Essen. In 2019 it was voted 4th in the German game award. It was nominated for numerous other prizes, e.g. for the Golden Geek Award in seven categories, including the most innovative game of the year and for the As d´Or.
For the Austrian game award, it was recommended as a game hit for experts. We are now producing the sixth edition. We’re talking about Spirit Island, of course! Today we want to introduce all of you who are not yet familiar with this extraordinary game in more detail and show that getting started is not as difficult as you might expect from an expert game. 🙂
The author R. Eric Reuss reports how he came up with the idea for Spirit Island: “The initial spark for Spirit Island was the colonization action in another game when I suddenly thought: ‘Hm, how pissed off the locals about this colony of Are strangers?
We will never find out because this game completely abstracts away the people who already lived there. Somehow bad. ‘If I uttered this thought, I only earned a smile, then we played on. But the thought persisted because so many Eurogames deal with topics from this time: sometimes we expressly colonize, sometimes ‘we do trade’.
A game from the opposite perspective – the gamblers as subjects of colonialism who oppose it – seemed an exciting idea and would perhaps also make the Eurocentrism of many games clear a bit. In retrospect, I could have proceeded differently: from a concrete anti-colonialist struggle as a starting point, crystallizing a game; like the King of Siam.
Instead, I had a conflict in mind that never existed, but that could serve as a proxy for many real struggles against colonial powers. Spirit Island asks the question ‘What if (at least semi) historical colonists in the Age of Discovery encounter completely unexpected resistance when trying to establish a colony?
‘I set myself the goal of creating a cooperative game, thematically as strong as other games oriented towards the gaming experience (e.g. Arkham Horror), but with greater game depth and strategic possibilities, a playing time of around two hours and without alpha player problems, which can occur in cooperative games. It was a long process, but I am satisfied with the result – and hope you have more fun playing than I am developing. “
So Spirit Island is a thematic and cooperative strategy game that turns around the 4X concept that you probably already know from many games. So instead of exploring the island (eXplore), sufficing yourself (eXpand), exploiting the resources (eXploit) and finally eliminating the other players (eXterminate) you play the island or the nature spirits of the island to prevent exactly that.
But you don’t have to do without the 4X experience entirely, even if you would probably like it after a few rounds, because the game itself takes on this role on Spirit Island. Round by round, new settlers appear on the game board. And not only that, but they are also spreading, building settlements and cities, destroying the huts of the indigenous people, and devastating the land. Our colleague Ronja introduces you to the game concept in a teaser video in more detail:
Even if Spirit Island is only loosely based on the real past, the island has a history of its own. A story full of myths, ghosts and betrayals that you can read in the guide. There you will also find further descriptions of your enemies.
In the entry-level version, you fight as ghosts in Spirit Island against a gray mass of invaders that you cannot really define yet. With the variants for the advanced game ends, not only scenarios but also nations come into play – the Kingdom of Brandenburg-Prussia, the Kingdom of Sweden, and the Kingdom of England.
You really feel like trying Spirit Island yourself, but the label “Expertenspiel” still gives you a stomach ache? Don’t worry, the responsible editor Sebastian will give you some tips for getting started:
“Be sure to play your first game with two or three people! If there are four of you, play two games for two at the same time. This will help you to learn how the game works, your ghosts and their skills more quickly. In addition, significantly more details and options have to be discussed in the four-player game, which can quickly become overwhelming in the first game.
Of the four recommended ghosts for the first game, the ghost “Lightning Bolt” is the easiest to play, because its special rule allows it to use all its abilities as an instant ability in most situations.
In that case, it is best to concentrate your first moves on areas in which there is construction. If you manage to destroy or move all invaders in such an area, this increases your chances of victory immensely, as no new invaders appear.
For example, if you move the last explorer out of a jungle area that is being built, this not only prevents a new village from being built in this round, but also prevents the rage in the next round. The benefits of delayed skills are not always immediately apparent. Just play them out in your first rounds of the game and look at the actions of the invaders, how you can use their actions as best as possible.
And most importantly, don’t give up, even if the invaders multiply in the first few rounds of the game! You and your spirits will get stronger and can push back the invaders later. “
Sebastian also has a few tips for everyone who has already played their first game of Spirit Island but is still not getting anywhere in the fight against the invaders:
“Moves explorers, villages and towns towards the coast to create safe inland zones where new explorers do not appear. Is there already an area in which there are various villages and towns? Then push more invaders into this area as well.
You can take care of it later when your spirits are stronger. Only use abilities in exceptional cases for areas that are not being ravaged or built. This also applies to areas in which you can only partially weaken the invaders. Often times, it’s better to practice the skills in a different area instead, where you can destroy or move all invaders.
During the growth phase, places new presences in areas with few or no invaders. This reduces the chances of them being destroyed by wasteland. Place new presences in such a way that you can reach critical areas with your skills and their range.
Do not choose the first growth option for the first two rounds. This is only good if you have to regain your ability cards. Instead, use the first rounds to place as many presences as possible on the game board.
When planning your next moves, use the reminder markers to show the areas in which you are taking actions. This makes communication easier for you and prevents several people from worrying about one area unnecessarily.
And very important: pay attention to your permanent abilities and try to achieve their element combinations as quickly as possible. In many cases this is already possible in the first or second round. Plan ahead and consider which cards you will need in the next round to perform element effects.
Sometimes it makes more sense not to play a card in the current round so that you can play it in the next round. If you play in later games without the “Increase in Skills” cards, you will initially acquire two weak skills. Here, too, you should definitely pay attention to its elements when choosing a card! “
Here at the publishing house, many of our colleagues are real Spirit Island fans and are already looking forward to the next expansion after the branch and paw expansion, which will be released in a few weeks: Fissured Earth. But we will present them to you again in a separate blog post. 😉
Before you immerse yourself in the Spirit Island story in the instructions or show the invaders where the hammer hangs right at the gaming table, Sebastian finally reveals to you why Spirit Island is a very special game for him: “Spirit Island inspires me on many levels.
It requires tactical moves in the short term and strategic decisions in the long term. In addition, it offers numerous and very different spirits, varied nations, scenarios, and variants that make each game different and exciting. Spirit Island is very challenging and practically every time there comes a point where it looks almost hopeless. But with a little stamina and one or two good moves, you can turn the game around in favor of the island ghosts. It’s a great feeling, especially when you eventually win the game on a higher level of difficulty after numerous attempts. Try it out! 🙂 “