Thursday, February 20, 2020

Hellboy - Game Three - Downward Spiral

This isn't a recent playtest for ToonCon... (as I've been doing these last week) This is actually a long overdue game report of the third game we played of Hellboy almost two months ago...

On New Year's Eve we played a third game of Hellboy. The kids wanted to try something HARDER, but not TOO long... Of those remaining there were two listed as Challenge Rating: Medium, Duration: Long, and two rated as Challenge Rating: HARD, Duration: Medium. So Hard and Medium length it was - they settled on B.P.R.D. Case File #165481 "Downward Spiral"


AS I've mentioned in the previous two game reports - the scenarios are supposed to be SECRET - they are a series of cards packaged in order in a sealed packet and meant to only be opened when you plan to play and the cards are meant to be revealed and playing in order as instructed on the card to that the scenario is a bit of a surprise - the rules are VERY SPECIFIC that you are not to open them earlier or look at the cards in the pile until directed to DURING the game. Although those rules DO also claim that they are "VERY REPLAYABLE" - just.... not-so-much of a "surprise" I guess. So if you don't want any surprises ruined, you have been warned:


I have to admit it has been rather fun playing this way - guessing at who we might be facing at the end of the scenario... it isn't THAT much of a surprise - there are only four minion-types in the base game - and they're ALL just variants on the Frog Monsters - Venemouse Frog Monster, Transforming Frog monster, ARMED Frog Monster, and Spitting Frog Monster... and there are really only three (well... four) "Bosses" we could possibly be facing: the GIANT Frog Monster, the Tentacles of Sadu-Hem, or Rasputin (or, Rasputin's Ghost!)

The set up for this one was definitely larger... and this is meant to be a MEDIUM Duration game... I wonder what the LONG ones are going to look like - or perhaps they mission will require to go back and forth across a game area several times...?

Now, as I mentioned, we played this almost two months ago... and I didn't really take notes or anything. I have a crap memory and barely remember how this game is even PLAYED at this point... but I DID take a lot of pictures - with the intent of a blow-by-blow game report... so I'll mostly let the pictures tell the story, because, in reality, I can't!?

I do recall Amanda wanted to try out a different version of Hellboy - there are a few... I an't remember the differences... Otherwise we kept playing the same characters - I played Johann, Finnegan played Roger, and Keira played Liz.

The Downward spiral...

also the name of a Nine Inch Nails album which I've been listening to again lately...

Case File, Deck of Doom, and baddies all set up... lots of Clue tokens to pick up...

Hellboy, doing his punching frogs thing...

That sounds like it could be a euphemism for something lewd...

Not sure why there is a random fire there..

Room One: Clear.

Moving on...

Roger and Hellboy getting ahead of Liz and Johann.

More frogs.

Still More Frogs.

More frogs. More Clues.

Still more of the same...

Getting around to the end...

Well we didn't explore all the rooms, but I'm guessing we triggered the end game by having loads of insight markers!


Yikes! So, this seems like maybe it was super bad... but at least it could be hurt, if I recall, unlike the Ghost of Rasputin, which could only, at best, be stalled....

I feel like the victory involved at least one of us getting away with some clue or something...

Because I do remember Johann legging it!

All the way back to the beginning - while everyone else was punching the tentacles...

Again with the words that sound like they could be a lewd euphemism... maybe I just have the mind of a twelve year old...

Apparently they punched out the tentacles... or... something.

Yeah, we did win this one. I feel like it was a bit touch and go - which is good. It's a bit lame if co-ops feel like a cake walk - like victory is a foregone conclusion.

Of course defeat doesn't have any lasting implications either... If the characters are "knocked out" during the first bit, they wake up to face the boss at the end of the game. And if everyone is knocked out facing the boss, it's assumed that the boss just leaves them like that and escapes with whatever the agents were looking for... or BPRD tactical team shows up and saves them... or... something... There is no campaign or lasting consequences for failure, which is why I'm not loving this game QUITE as much as I'd hoped I would... I wish there was more of a campaign system - like Blackstone Fortress.

With Blackstone fortress, there is a bit more tension - because if a character is killed... they're DEAD and can't be used for the rest of the campaign... and if you don't complete the campaign is X number of games... that's it, you've failed and lost the entire campaign. But also, the characters you play can get better - not through experience and levels and stat increases (like in a role-playing game or even a skirmish game like Mordheim or Necromunda or Kill Team) but through gaining resource cards that effectively make that character better at doing things...

I have to admit, I haven't even looked though ANY of the expansion stuff we got with the Hellboy Kistarter ALL-IN deal... so maybe there IS some sort of campaign system in there... but in the core set... nothing. Still it was fun enough that we played it a few times and I feel like I WANT to play it more... we just haven't because there are SO MANY other things that I ALSO want to play, and so very little time to play it all in...

I do hope we'll get to play this over the weekend again (Sunday evening?) and that I'll get in another game or two over the following weeks BEFORE I have to run it at ToonCon!!!

Coming Soon to Tim's Miniature Wargaming Blog:

Friday (tomorrow!) we'll be playing Power Grid. Saturday should be the usual RPG day - Finnegan's D&D game in the afternoon, and the Wrath & Glory game I'm running for the family in the evening. Sunday evening we are slated to play another playtest game for ToonCon - either Blackstone Fortress or Necomunda or Hellboy... but as we've played Blackstone Fortress AND Necromunda (twice) recently, it'll probably be Hellboy! So, I'll probably be posting another Hellboy game report on Monday - If I don't have a painting update before then!


  1. So a tentative yes for Hellboy? Looks good!
    Best Iain

    1. Sort of...?


      I don't know.

      I LOVE the Hellboy and BPRD and all the other spin-off comics. Love. Not like. LOVE!

      It is a fun game. They did a good job putting this together. Clever, simple, plays quickly enough. I like the miniatures well enough.


      If I knew then what I know about it now about the game and fully thought it through, would I have gone ALL IN on the Kickstarter? I'm starting to feel like that would be a "Hard NO". Would I have backed the kickstarter at all...? Mmmmmm... maybe not...?

      I should qualify that that is mostly because there are just SO MANY other games vying for my attention and as much as I do like this game and the setting... There are others that I like MORE. A large part of that MORE is a campaign or a campaign system - something that builds a narrative and ties the games together. I LOVE that in a game. If I'm honest, I don't often get to PLAY THROUGH a whole campaign of anything... I really love the IDEA of it!

      I have it though, and I am going to try and, eventually, paint up all the miniatures for it and hopefully play through all of the scenarios we have. I do know there is a Scenario Generator in one of the expansions - which is cool... but still not the same as a campaign system...

      If you have zero interest (or TIME for) a campaign and are cool just playing a series of on-off games and love Hellboy and don't have dozens of other miniature games... then this IS the game for you!!!

    2. I think the crux of the problem is that the game revolves around one particular character, and they seem to have just avoided dealing with the problem of that character dying early in a campaign. And doing that avoiding in a pretty obvious way.

      It's a shame that they pretty much set up a campaign (especially with their wording about not opening things until each game starts, which very much hints at a campaign system) and then they seem to have chickened out in dealing with character deaths, which destroys the narrative of a campaign. If your character cannot die, there's not the same risk or tension.

      I play Chain of Command. It's a very different game when you play a one-off scenario compared to a campaign. In a one-off, you'll fight to the last man. But in a campaign, you'll start weighing whether sacrificing a team of 6 guys is worthwhile when you know that those 6 guys won't be available in follow on games. There's tactics that you will not do in those campaign games because they risk more than they likely gain.

      Hellboy seems to play as a set of one-off games, where its packaging and promotion suggests that it is a campaign of linked games. And that disconnect is where you seem to be disappointed.

    3. That sums up the situation very well.

      And that is exactly it - about campaigns versus one-off games - a commander (the player) makes VERY different decisions depending on whether having guys survive to fight another day matters... Sometimes you make that gamble if it will pay off, but often discretion really is the better part of valour!

      I feel like there was a game I had and played a couple decades back that tried to incorporate some element of flexible morale (maybe Stargrunt and/or Dirtside?) where Mission Importance had a major role in how quickly troops would abandon the fight. A patrol might be a Low Importance mission and troops would be more likely to "fail" morale and give up, whereas a desperate last stand defence is of High importance and those same troops that bugger off at the first sight of a superior force on a patrol will fight to the very last soldier when they're defending the last starport off that miserable rock they're on...

      This has been a minor point of annoyance with 40K where each troop type has the same Ld (leadership) characteristic always, regardless of the situation. I guess that's where narrative mission rules come into play - you can write into a scenario "Defenders never check morale" or "Defenders roll two dice and discard the highest when rolling for morale", etc...