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Legends - a new turn for an old game
Welcome to my next game-log! (Glog?) This one will focus on my entry into Harlequin's offering of Legends: Crown of Chaos 26

[Image: coccov.jpg]
Note, at this time the game hasn't started. If you are interested in playing, contact Harlequin Games so they can give you the details.

Where to begin? My first impression upon signing up and being shown all the rules and setup information is that Legends is OLD. It has been around for a loooong time. It was upgraded to Legends II a loooong time ago, and I venture to say that this current offering from Harlequin Games should be considered Legends III. This is old-school PBM gaming at its finest, with extensive technical updates for the modern era.

The rules themselves are over 300 pages long. And each game is served up in the form of a "module" which refines and adapts the basic rules to fit a certain storyline. In this case, the module is Crown of Chaos, and this looks to be game #26 -- of that module. Considering that a game of Legends can take 2 years or more to finish, that is a considerable feat of PBM staying power. Indeed, some of my teammates had expressed surprise that there is much activity in the PBM world outside Legends. This game has served a fairly large core base of players so well, and for so long, that they have formed a virtual island in our genre.

The module content serves up over 200 pages of additional rules and context. This is a lot to take in for a new player! But fear not -- there is a well-worn path for newbies to take in getting up to speed. Like some other PBM games, Legends lets you bite off just the size and type of position you want to take on. Newbies are encouraged to start the game as a small party of heroic characters, who can take on adventures and actions that advance the story line, win loads of loot, and lay the groundwork for possible power plays later in the game.

More advanced players (or masochists like myself) can opt for larger starts. You get a population base, like a village or nomadic tribe which can form a socio-economic production base and a small army. In the case of this particular module, I am starting with a town, but more on that later. You also get a cast of individual characters -- 8 in my case -- who are the personalities running your little empire. They are far less powerful that the epic Conan-types that the newbies start with, but hey, you've got an army.

This highlights one of the defining characteristics of the game -- the co-existence and complement of individual characters and large groups of population. There are 5000 characters in the game -- most of them are non-player characters. Your own characters can go on to influence them, bribe them, kidnap them, kill them, resurrect them, etc. This interplay between characters looks like a huge part of the game.

But to conquer territory and defend against the barbarians at the gates (some of whom are other players!), you will need soldiers, mounts, weaponry, ships, fortifications, training, gold, and anything else you can imagine. That's the other "huge part of the game". And as a new player, you get to choose what type of role you're most interested in. Crown of Chaos has roles for individuals (in the form of loyal groups of citizens, free agents, minions of chaos, etc), larger holdings (like barons, which start with a town, or nomadic tribes), and the highest power positions (like dukes, which lead a team of barons and citizens, and the mysterious Chaos Lords who join forces with no one.)

From there, players can interact, team up, or clash on the basis of factions, religion, race/species, mutual interest, and perhaps inevitably the end-game backstabbing. Victories can be won by individuals, teams, etc, and can also come in the form of special titles or achievements. So even if you don't want to become the Imperial Overlord, there are many pathways to victory within the storyline, and you can focus on whatever aspect interests you most.

And that storyline? It is deep. More on that later. I have to cut this post off for now, but will return with some details on my "onboarding" process and how I came to join a team...
I enjoyed this Ixnay!
Looking forward for your adventures in Crown of Chaos.
I play in the "explorer" game myself!
Just sent in my (belated) setup, and boy do you get into the thick of strategy and tactics right from turn zero! I will post details later. For now, suffice it to say that the Dark Elves of Henland province have answered the call to secure the northern borderlands of civilization from the hordes of chaos. And perhaps to consolidate some modicum of power in the absence of the emperor, heh heh.
Submitting a Legends setup is a complex task, fraught with strategic implications. Why? Because there are so many layers to this game. As previously stated, there is a duality between "characters" and populations/forces. (The setup itself actually seems to focus solely on characters.) But there are so many things a character can DO. The two main pursuits, it seems, are to "lead" and to "undertake adventures" that further your position. Characters can choose from an array of starting skills toward these ends. The official recommendations suggest that each person specialize in one thing, but that is belied by the fact that you can only spend so many points on any one attribute of a character, AND by the fact that certain combinations of skills work well for certain purposes.

There are mages (with a variety of specialties to choose from), priests from 10 different religions, races, and conventional skills (like "swordmaster" and "merchant".) Then there are personal attributes like strength, personal combat, and "influence". These skills/abilities/attributes are then used to undertake an array of possible missions, and usually multiple missions:

- leading forces
- "lair bashing" to find valuable relics and booty
- scouting/scrying/espionage/covert ops
- trade
- diplomacy and influence
- production, supply, and infrastructure
- magical and priestly research
- "adventures" available for different roles/races/etc
- various intermediate goals, such as winning tourneys for prestige

A new player has a pretty small chance of catching all the possibilities, and so will make choices that are less optimal for getting you through the early game. I am but one lowly baron, but am luckily assigned to an array of teammates who have played before! There are two other barons, an assortment of individuals (who run powerful character teams in lieu of towns), and a duke to lead our faction to victory. They gave me an excellent early-game walkthrough written for new players, and followed up with a detailed critique of my setup.

For every one of the "missions" (my term) I outlined above, there are specific strategies to achieve them, all with multiple dependencies. As a baron, I have 8 characters to start with -- 2 of them moderately capable, and 6 less-so. (Had I played a "citizen", I would start with 2-3 more powerful conan-types.) So it was quite a task to set up a team to flesh out my position and get me up and running quickly.

My main leader is now an Enchanter (type of mage), with the addition of high influence (with which to win over some of the many non-player characters.) I have 2 "generals" whose job will be to lead military troops in battle, and I tried to mix up their skills so they could teach each other on turn one. One is a Warlock (another type of mage, specializing in battle), while the other is a classical knight -- both have Tactics maxed out for leading soldiers. Next I have a Ranger/Summoner as sort of a lead lair-basher. This one will be able to share skills, summon a familiar, help gather raw materials through summoning magic, and form up a Ranger guild -- obviously a key figure in my court. He'll be accompanied by a Wizard/Swordmaster for basic battle. I have an Administrator who will run my home town and help form up defenses. Then there's my thief/spy type, who is of the flight-capable Vultura race (everyone else is a Dark Elf.) He will be both spy and courier. Finally I have a priest/bard, who will run the Deathwalker church in my home town. The Deathwalkers are one of the religions, with specific capabilities for adherents, and churches are a form of guild.

Getting to this point involved extensive reading of the rules and recommendations, and following the extensive advice and example of my teammates. And this is all before the game even starts.

The rules cover in minute detail every aspect of fantasy empire-building/heroic-adventure you can imagine. Production economies, espionage, magery, fortifications, troop training and tactics, religion, factional war, individual glory, team victory, etc. It's all here, and I hope to cover it all in detail as this gamelog progresses.

And I haven't even downloaded the player software tool, yet!
The deadline for submitting setups in this game has come and gone, but no word yet from the moderators. It looks from their website that there are still some open positions in this game waiting to be filled. So if anyone is remotely titillated by the beginnings of this game-log, there is probably still time to join in the fun from the very beginning...
At last, a new update on my position...

Legends turn processing is rather flexible. There is a monthly cycle of "production" turns, in which certain time-based events happen -- crops are harvested, lumber is cut, cows reproduce, shells of magical protection weaken, mana is recovered etc. Monthly as in "real time". The first production turn for this game will take place Jan 7th, and every 7th thereafter. In between those production turns, players may submit movement and action turns, sending their forces hither and yon, engaging in combat, etc. A player may submit as many turns at any time in this period, with the knowledge that a new turn will not be processed until 10 days after the last one was processed. (10 days for this game -- it may vary in other games.) So players may tune their game experience to the pacing they prefer.

Also, players may submit orders on the same day (thanks to this thing called "email"), and request that their turns be processed in a certain order. Both players must agree to this ordering, otherwise their turns will be processed in random order for that day. This facilitates choreography of movement. "You move to province A first, and I will transfer the Sword of Power to you in my move before jaunting off the the monster lair in the next province..." for example.

My teammates sprang into vigorous action the moment the turns were sent out. I, alas, had an attack of real life, and am only now setting up my first orders. I should be able to get at least one more turn in, though, before the next production cycle.

In my setup, I was pleased to see that all 8 of my starting characters are up and running, all stationed in the one town that I control. (Barony has its privileges.) There are some bits of confusion for me at the moment, such as why my town is listed as having a population of 2500 when I have two population groups in town -- one of which is 2500 and the other is 1300? And that doesn't count the soldiers manning the walls.

Another fairly serious question regards the ownership of "forces", which can mean groups of characters, military formations, towns, and other locations. There appears to be a cap of 16 forces that a player may control. So if I divide my characters and troops into 8 groups, does that mean I can control a maximum of 8 "locations" in the game? How do I expand my territory with such a hard limit? I may have read something wrong in the rules. More on this later.

I'll post an update once I have screen-shots ready for the in-game turn-editor tool...
I remember playing in Legends and enjoyed the game a lot. I liked the open-ended games that made it possible to remain small and insignificant and not make grabs for power. I specialised in stealth and subversion and avoided large positions with huge armies. I have often been tempted to sign up again when a game came along that gave me the possibility to survive. There are not many modules and game variations where this is possible, which makes Legends special.
I am sorry to say that I have effectively dropped out of this game. I am told my teammates were able to absorb my in-game assets and carry on the fight without me, and for that I am glad. I had an attack of Real Life that sucked most of my spare time for the last few months. I guess this happens to everyone, and is a perennial problem with most PBM experiences, but I never intended to flare out on a big game like this. The most I was able to do was keep up "maintenance turns" in my other game (cluster wars), and finish up an article I had already drafted for S&D.

In more upbeat news, I am over the hump in terms of Real Life, spare time, and gaming funds. So I will look into starting up in a new game of Legends. The Harlequin web site suggests there are 2 other games still accepting new players (which I believe means those games have begun, but the moderator will accelerate a new setup to make it competitive with the starting players), and one "international" game to be started at some point. I am reviewing the relevant content modules to see what the options are for independent players or unaligned factions.

Hopefully I can restart a game-log that will do justice to the great game system...
Thanks for the game log you did produce Ixnay.

If there is a player out ther that wants to exprience Legends and produce a log like this, PM me!

(12-07-2013, 04:01 PM)Greybeard Wrote: I remember playing in Legends and enjoyed the game a lot. I liked the open-ended games that made it possible to remain small and insignificant and not make grabs for power. I specialised in stealth and subversion and avoided large positions with huge armies. I have often been tempted to sign up again when a game came along that gave me the possibility to survive. There are not many modules and game variations where this is possible, which makes Legends special.

When Carol Mulholland was editor of Flagship I wrote several articles on aspects of the Legends Game system that I was playing at the time. I hope to join a new game sometime soon, in Sword of Pelarn.

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