Another fortnight has rolled by, which means we have recorded another Agents of Sigmar podcast. Following on from the previous episode, that looked at AI in games, for episode 5 we discussed Moonstone by Goblin King Games, asking Why Play Moonstone?
Moonstone is a small but beautifully formed skirmish game set in a whimsical but otherwise traditional medieval European setting. Teams consist of 6 fighters drawn from 3 factions, with the game being played across 4 rounds. All you need is a 3′ X 3′ tabletop. Moonstone a really fun game with an Alice in Wonderland feel to it.
The key to everything, funnily enough, is the Moonstones. Be in possession of the most stones at the end of the game, and you are declared the winner. At least, this is the case with the basic starter set rules. Full rules include objectives and campaign modes. I’m at the very beginning of my Moonstone journey, so I haven’t looked deeper into this aspect of game as yet.
Why Play Moonstone?
There are several reasons to play Moonstone. First and foremost, I think, are the refreshingly different mechanics. There are 3 great innovations in the game. First, the planting of the Moonstone themselves. Essentially, hold up a fistful (7) of d4s and drop them in the center of the table. Where they land is where the Moonstones are for the game (each player can ask for a redrop). The numbers matter too. The higher the number the die landed on, the deeper the Moonstone is buried. They’ll require extra energy to harvest, meaning taking control of them will take up more precious actions for your fighters.
Other than that, very few dice are rolled in a game of Moonstone. They’re only used for initiative, to see who starts the turn first. Combat and the use of a fighter’s Arcane powers are controlled through cards, and this is where the next innovative mechanic can be found.
Arcane powers are printed on character cards. Each character usually only has 1 or 2 powers. Each power requires a number of points to use. Points in a certain color. There are 3 Arcane colors: Red, green, and blue.
There are 6 Arcane cards of each color. One worth, 3 points, 2 cards, worth 2, and 3 cards worth 1. When combined with 3 “catastrophe” cards, they make the Arcane deck a slim 21 cards.
When you want to use an arcane power, you draw cards equal to your Arcane skill (usually just 3 or 4). If you have a card of the correct color and number, you can use your power. Only it’s not quite as simple as that. You are allowed to tell your opponent that you have the correct card to use your power, but the card you choose is played face down. If your opponent doesn’t challenge you, then the power works, regardless of what card you actually put down. Put simply, you can lie about having the necessary resources to make your play.
Your opponent can, however, call your bluff.
To help them do this, opposing players are given 6 Arcane cards from the deck. If you tell them you’re using the “Green 3,” to use your power but they have the only Green 3 in the deck, as part of their 6 cards, they’re going to call your bluff. And here lies Moonstone’s first trial of cat and mouse. The bigger powers are harder to pull off, but do you chance your arm?
If you do get caught out in a lie, your opponent can replace the card you played with one of the 6 they have. If they’re lucky enough to have drawn a catastrophe card, this can mean things will literally blow up in your face. (Well, literally to your characters; nothing actually explodes in the game!). If you were telling the truth, and your integrity was unjustly called into question, you’ll get another chance to use the power!
Combat is driven in a similar but distinct fashion. Again, both sides are dealt cards. The attacker draws the same number as their melee rating + 2 cards, and the defender draws the same number as their melee score only. Then both players secretly choose a card to play.
In this case, each player chooses an attack maneuver from the hand they have been given. Some are offensive moves, some are defensive. There are 6 different types of attack in the game (with three of each type forming the combat deck), all of which are strong against some and weaker against others. For example, if you try to defend with a Low Guard when your opponent is attempting a “Falling Swing” (an attack from on high) you’re probably in trouble.
Attacks become a case of trying to guess what you’re opponent might have chosen. You hope to be the only one causing damage. Probably, you’ll both get hurt, but in the absolute worst-case scenario, your attack turns to ash as your opponent skewers you with a feisty riposte.
To further muddy the waters, if you are lucky enough to draw multiples of the same card, you may get the opportunity to inflict a critical hit, essentially doing double or even triple damage. Not only that, each character in the game has a signature move. This is a special attack that will replace a standard attack and can be absolutely devastating (or in some cases, highly defensive). The only problem with signature moves is your opponent knows exactly what you’re going to try to do, and therefore exactly the right move to counter it. Moonstone is full of mind games.
It’s Such Great Fun.
All this adds up to some of the most fun I’ve had when gaming. When there are characters who have attacks called, “Pinch,” and “Punch,” with its signature move being “First of the month,” you know exactly what sort of game you are getting into.
Moonstone allows you to field, goblin pirates, fairies, or members of the human aristocracy. There are trolls, giants, and jackaolopes. There is a flaturlent pug. Need I say more?
Moonstone and Goblin King Games have breathed fresh air into our gaming. We’re only just at the beginning of our journey but can’t wait to explore further.
If you want to take a look, there are a host of resources on the Moonstone website. You can download everything you need to play a game, including cardboard standees of the minis. It’s so great to be able to try before you buy.
Do check out the podcast episode if you want to learn more about the game. And do take a look at Agents of Sigmar; battle reports and discussions about the game will be appearing soon!