The Black Brick: Hero Sub-Classes…and 36 players?!

We wanted to take this time to expand on one of the questions we included in a recent Instagram post

“1. Can we successfully split out a Hero’s 16 Ability Cards so multiple players can use the same class and still be as effective?”

…because it’s a fascinating question, and gives us the chance to “officially” resolve multiple action items from the past year.

Some background: late last year, we demoed The Black Brick to a local wargaming group. Overall, they enjoyed the game and most of the mechanics seemed to click with them.

We were especially pleased when the Hammer Warrior instinctively played an Ability Card as a response to an incoming attack—even before we had ever mentioned it was an option.

Hilariously, this playtester’s instinct aligned with feedback from an even earlier playtest, where our testers at that time had suggested more ways and opportunities to play Ability Cards. Moments like these have definitely helped us to validate the direction of the game. Haha

In the feedback session after the wargamers’ playtest, their thoughts were varied and broad, touching on Ability usage, combat mechanics (rightly so, given the group), naming conventions, and a few notes on Dice Plate implementation and balance.

However, one bit of feedback really stuck with us: that instead of giving a player all 16 Ability Cards to test a game they’d never even heard of before, how about we break it down into loadouts?

Stellar idea, and though it took us a few months to get around to incorporating it, we’re pleased with the result. It’s added an entirely new wrinkle to building a Hero, because it created sub-classes, which is going to enable players to have multiple “builds” of, say…Necromancers in a game:

While the Abilities Masochism and Sadism do need to be buffed (hmm which one of us could help with skill rebalancing…), the game and our Necromancer duo here were scary fun, and now we’re pretty well convinced that the answer to that question…

“Can we successfully split out a Hero’s 16 Ability Cards so multiple players can use the same class and still be as effective?”

…is a big “yes.” On the Cultist’s turn, they played Dark Fury to give the Weremage +1 Action until the end of the round, then hexed an overly aggressive Warrior Minion with Agony, which deals 2 Wound Points when the target uses Strength. The foul beast was no match for the Warlock’s horrific Necromongrel onslaught that followed!

See that empty slot on the left? It used to be the Minion hexed with Agony. Ouch. And things aren’t looking good for the rest of the underlings, either. They can only take 7 Wound Points before shuffling off this mortal coil, so…

We’re very excited to see how the game continues to grow. Next post will focus on numbers. Specifically, player count. We’re still tossing the idea around, but we believe our game will be able to support 1-36 players. More on that soon!

Posted in Adventure, Deep Thoughts, Fun, Game Design, Games, Heroics and Villainy, Playtesting, Tabletop, The Black Brick | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The 2018 Holiday Display

After a few straight years of using the so-called “War on Christmas” as a theme, the 2017 Holiday Display featured the villains and ne’er-do-wells from various fictional universes celebrating an enjoyable, fun-filled holiday. Originally, plans for the 2018 Holiday Display involved a thematic sequel: the heroes and heroines from many of the same fictional realms experiencing a similarly festive holiday. However, Lego’s new Harry Potter sets resulted in a slight change of plans. Instead, it was simply the staff and well-meaning students from Hogwarts enjoying the holiday season.

Full Display

In order to create the proper seasonal atmosphere, which simply doesn’t exist within the Harry Potter sets themselves, I interspersed elements from a number of smaller Lego Christmas sets. The trees, the ice pond, the snowmen, Santa and his sleigh, and the sled all come from such sets.

While those elements may have been sufficient to provide the proper holiday feel, additional, smaller elements can also help. This is where MINIFIGS.ME came rather handy. They offer a large supply of custom-printed Christmas Lego parts, and I couldn’t resist using them to help make Professor Snape and Professor Lupin far more festive. After all, it’s not Christmas in the United Kingdom without crackers.

As for the rest, it seemed unimaginative to leave the Weasley’s car in the Whomping Willow. Plausibility be damned, Santa’s sleigh in Hogwarts’s felt like the right thing to do. With Santa’s sleigh temporarily disabled, other flying objects were needed. The Weasley’s car obviously deserved to have a little fun (the movies, at least, suggested that it possessed a personality of its own) and dragons are a part of this world. Thanks to the Ninjago line, there were plenty of options available. Size became the most important factor in deciding which to use — most of the ones in my collection would’ve overshadowed the rest of the display. Also, given that it was Christmas, reuniting Hagrid with Norbert bordered on being a moral imperative.

As has been the case when completing every previous Holiday Display, plans for next year’s are already underway. Of course, with nearly a full year to give it further thought, it’s completely possible that the 2019 Holiday Display will bear no semblance to the current plans. After all that’s what happened this year.

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The 2018 Halloween Display

When nearly five full weeks late in posting pictures of a build designed for a specific date, it seems that an explanation for the delay is in order. However, excuses don’t seem to matter given that — much like the long, unintentional hiatus on the next installment of the Trumplestiltskin Saga — pictures for the post were ready quite a while ago. There is no good excuse; just laziness. So, without further preamble, the 2018 Halloween Display.


Obviously, Ghostbusters served as the primary inspiration for the build. The Playmobile Stay Puft was nearly perfect for the display. LEGO designed some nice Ghostbuster sets, but this was an element they were sorely lacking. The LEGO Dimensions Stay Puft minifigure is cute, but it just utterly lacks the necessary heft. However, because this is merely Ghostbusters-inspired and not an attempt to recreate a scene from any of the film, mini-Stay Puft made it into the set as Son of Stay Puft. It was Take Your Child to Work Day, complete with service animal! Of course, Slimer needed to appear as well. In a twist, I went with the female Ghostbusters rather than the original cast. I actually enjoyed the 2016 reboot, and if I trigger a right-wing fanboy (or multiple fanboyz) then I feel I’ve done something rewarding. 

While Stay Puft towers over the display and the Ghostbusters team receives prominent placement, the other major element to the build was the use of a horde of horror movie villains. Because of how they maintain their brand, LEGO will never create sets and figures for R-rated films (the fact that there is an official LEGO Deadpool minifigure is just a wonderful fluke that occurred before Deadpool cursed a blue streak into our hearts.) However, there are plenty of Asian toymakers who are happy to risk of the wrath of Hollywood by selling unlicensed LEGO-compatible characters from a large array of movies. I won’t lie; creating an army of horror movie miscreants was fun. Early in the design of this year’s display, I contemplated giving them a more active role in the scene, but ultimately decided that a scene of true horror-movie inspired mayhem can wait for a future build. For this year, I was basically content to let them all gaze upon the mayhem from doors, windows, and dark corners. 

However, I wasn’t entirely content to simply let all the villains contentedly stand back and watch. There were a few figures who just needed to see some action.

It seemed to me that Deadpool (there’s no way I would just randomly mention him, without good reason) was just the superhero to keep Micheal Myers and Jason at bay. As for Billy from the Saw films, it seemed like a given that Truplestiltskin would be his first and only choice of victim for the display. (Note: this depiction no way implies that the Saw franchise should feature Trump, or a Trump look-alike in its next film.)

The final element was literally the last idea incorporated the display. While accumulating all the serial killers and villains, I also picked up a number of other film characters, as well as celebrities. Initially, I had no plans to insert any of those minifigures. However, the arrival of a Michael Jackson during the display’s assembly along with the number of zombies seemed to demand a recreation of a dance scene from “Thriller.”


The pose could and should have been more creative. This is something that will almost certainly be revisited in a future Halloween display.

Although pleased with the overall final result, there were a couple minor issues that I felt detracted aesthetically. Primarily, I wasn’t able to satisfactorily backlight the display in the same way I did with last year’s display. In addition, the shelf showed how much the lighting near the bookcase reflected off the buildings and a number of the figures (especially the large Stay Puft). The good news is that I solved the shelf glare issue for the upcoming Holiday display, which is nearly complete.

Looking past the end of the holiday season, tentative plans are already in place for next year’s Halloween display. I can’t wait.

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The Black Brick – Balance Patch 1

Our profound apologies for not posting in a while, but it’s with good reason! Since our last update, we’ve completed two more playtests and have been going though a ton of player notes. Much of the feedback so far has aligned with our own expectations, especially when it comes to Dice Plates.

Some background:

Very early on in the first half of 2017, when we were just starting to toss around general ideas and concepts for The Black Brick, we quickly came to the realization that this wasn’t a game to be played with your standard 1D4, 1D6, or 1D8, etc. One of our guiding principles was (and still is) that if we couldn’t justify a number above 10, then it needed to be reworked. We intended for roll ranges to be far tighter than you’d find in a traditional D&D setting, but that meant we had to come up with a unique dice system that provided us the flexibility and freedom to reinterpret one of the most sacred bedrock fundamentals in tabletop gaming.

But how and where were we going to find just the right materials for such a strange, new endeavor? Over the past year, we looked into custom-moulded/printed dice, but that was prohibitively expensive. We looked at basic stickers, but that would have become unwieldy as we’d be burning through tons of stickers during the prototyping stages. We even briefly flirted with the idea of sourcing old LEGO dice from the long-since defunct LEGO Games line, but that would have been similarly expensive and unwieldy.

Then in Q2 2018, one of our consultants happened to pick up a game called Dice Forge. He hadn’t had the chance to do a full playthrough yet, but after chatting about it for a few minutes, we realized its dice-crafting mechanism had enormous potential to meet our dice range needs. Through Dice Forge, we found Rattlebones, and through Rattlebones, we found Rattlebones Prototyping Dice. Our order arrived a few days later, and pushed forward development in a big way. Within a few weeks, we went from a concept to a fully realized prototype:

These Dice Plates far exceeded our expectations in our first two playtests back in July and August. Combat was extremely balanced. There were no major surprises—well, apart from the Rage 1/Rebel Strike combo we discussed in our previous post. Everything was generally smooth.

That was not the case with subsequent tests, and we quickly realized why. Our first two tests used Tier 1 Heroes, Tier 1 Abilities, and most importantly…Tier 1 Dice Plates. This put the Dice Plate range firmly within 1-3.

Our later tests were Tier 2, which saw a significant Dice Plate range increase from 1-3 to 4-9. Ouch. Characters were dying left and right. No Defense roll seemed to be able to consistently save anyone. We saw far too many Attacks rolling 8’s and 9’s against Defenses of 2’s and 3’s. Captains (mini-bosses) were destroying pretty much everything. We wanted combat to be fast and brutal, but this was just too much, too soon.

So, we had to retool our Dice Plates and tighten the ranges:

You’ll notice that there are quite a few repeating plate values here. Our expectation is that this retooling will help address the range issues we’ve discovered, and stabilize higher Tier combat. We want our players to be challenged by tactics and strategy, not dice rolls.

Onward and upward to playtest #5 we go!

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The Black Brick: Rage and Rebel Strike

In battle, each Hero gets two Actions per turn. How the Hero spends those two Actions is entirely up to the Players. Some might use both Actions to move their Hero, while others may choose to move once, then attack, or attack, then move out of range.

OR, a Player may use both Actions to attack twice. Near the end of our second playtest, our Overlord did exactly that. He commanded his Captain, Barbarius the Mighty, to use two Ability Cards against a Warrior: Rage 1 and Rebel Strike.

Rage 1 is a Barbarian Ability that grants Fierce 2, adding +2 to that Character’s Strength roll: “You gain Fierce 2 until end of turn.”

Rebel Strike is a Warrior Ability with Sundering 1, which reduces the Target’s Defense roll by 1, for that attack only: “Deal {STR} damage to target foe. This attack has Sundering 1.”

This was an effective combination because it simultaneously buffed Barbarius’ Strength roll and debuffed the Warrior’s Defense roll.

And the outcome was significant. The Overlord rolled 2 Strength (Attack). The Warrior rolled 1 Strength (Defense). Fierce 2 increased the Attack roll to 4, while Sundering 1 reduced the Defense roll to 0. This resulted in Barbarius dealing a whopping 4 Wound Points to the Warrior, slaying them in the process.

We initially felt that the combo was indeed overpowered, and represented a critical balance issue that we needed to address. After all, it dealt 4 Wound Points, in a single turn, during a Tier 1 battle. At Tier 1, the average Wound Point limit is 5.

But then we took another look a few days later and we realized it’s not that this combo was overpowered for the game; it’s simply extremely powerful for this particular point in the game. Once the Heroes are able to upgrade their Dice Plates, their Defense rolls will improve, and combinations like this one won’t be so devastating.

Additionally, for a Character to play this Yellow-Blue combo, they would need to be dual-classed…as both a Barbarian (Yellow) and Warrior (Blue). You won’t find too many dual-classed Characters outside of the Overlord’s Captains right now…but one of our goals over the next six months will be to introduce dual-classing for Heroes.

As we continue to review our playtest notes, we’ve got a feeling there will be plenty to talk about in future posts. 😉

Posted in Adventure, Game Design, Games, Gods and Monsters, Heroics and Villainy, Playtesting, Tabletop, The Black Brick | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Return to Trumplevania

When we last visted Trumplestiltskin, he was celebrating the creation of the greatest defensive wall a gate-guarded community had ever seen. It was the centerpiece of the campaign that won him presidency of his homeowners association, and a tremendous ego boost. Thanks to the series of shell companies that he used to funnel all the construction to his own contractors, it had also enriched him bigly. It also received a lot of glowing attention from the press.

In short, life was grand.


So, it was with surprising consternation that last night he experienced a rather disturbing and fantastical nightmare. In it, he was being carted away in some kind of horror-based landscape. He was all alone, in a crude cage being pulled by a couple of skeletal horses, and neither of his trusted associates – Jeffy and Mouthy Spice – were there to help. An ominous glow off on the horizon only added to the existential dread emanating from his immediate surroundings.

Yet, as his carriage approached the gate of IMG_2212what could appeared to be a foreboding prison that belonged in Jack Skellington’s Holloweentown, the noise and tremors from an explosion woke Trumplestiltskin from his upsetting. At first, he was overcome with relief as he wiped the sweat from his brow and his heart rate returned to normal. But, then, the thought occurred to him: was the explosion part of the dream, or did it really occur. After considering this for a few moments, the phone on his nightstand started to ring…

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Jurassic Park Is Frightening in the Dark

IMG_0520This week, LEGO released a new series of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom sets. As part of that release, they also included their first ever Jurassic Park set, Jurassic Park Velociraptor Chase, though it does bear the Jurassic World logo on the box instead of the logo from the original film. It’s a fool’s errand to make guesses regarding whether LEGO will return to the original movie/trilogy for future releases. However, I’ll happily brag about a simple build I did before launching this site.

In part, its simplicity made the final result satisfying. Mostly, the build required placing the components in the right configuration rather than a lengthy process of building numerous elements necessary to making the scene work. Revisiting it in the future with a more detailed background — using, say, the broken electrified fences in the background with a jeep in front of them — is a possibility, but time restraints and the need to work out other ideas (such as a return to Trumplestiltskin’s tale) make that unlikely.

Although I’m absolutely certain they don’t need it, LEGO has my blessings to release a more detailed set commemorating this scene. However, I have no expectations that they will actually consider doing so. It’ll be their loss; I imagine this could be a relatively inexpensive huge-seller.



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Midnight Star: a story of smugglers and space pirates with nothing left to lose…

“Fifty-three. They’ve been trackin’ us for fifty-three jumps. Not sure how, but truth be told, don’t particularly care right ’bout now. They finally managed to board us this time.”

“Most of my crew’s been spaced. Look long enough out the observation deck, you’ll see ’em floatin’ by. Ain’t no way for a man or woman to die. I reckon there ain’t much dignity to be found in the black.

The ones that didn’t get vented or vaped are gonna wish they’d been, cause if you survive the interrogation, then it’s hard labor for you. If the interrogation don’t kill ya, the hard labor will. I’ve seen the fields. The harvesters. The mines. Nowadays, it’s the living that envy the dead.”

“They’ve got us backed into a corner. We’re this close to goin’ out completely. Don’t have the numbers or ammo to make a stand worth anything. I’m down to my last couple of rails. Dak’s energy blade won’t hold much longer. Tighe’ll crush a few with the brute…it ain’t gonna be enough.”

“But that don’t mean we’re just gonna roll over. They wanted a war. They’ve got one now, and we’re just gettin’ started…”

Posted in Adventure, Builds, Fun, Gods and Monsters, Heroics and Villainy, Midnight Star, Shorts, Tabletop | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Golden Girls meets DnD

I just now came across this, and it’s amazing. What’s more amazing, however, is what just occurred to me…

…years ago, I bought a set of Lego Golden Girls for my wife.

I’m thinking that Dorothy, Blanche, Sophia, and Rose might have to make guest appearances in The Black Brick and/or have their own mini-campaign as a side-quest (The Golden Brick, anyone??).

Still figuring out their class builds, but I’m leaning towards:

Dorothy: Sage

Blanche: Bard

Sophia: Dwarven Barbarian

Rose: Cleric

I feel like that’d be fairly close to their personalities on the show. Dorothy is level-headed and wise. Blanche has nothing but charisma. Sophia is short, but furious. Rose is more heart than brain and probably would excel with a mace.

Plus, I pretty much just want to see Sophia wield a battle axe that’s bigger than her. Hahaha

Posted in Adventure, Deep Thoughts, Franchise Crossover Friday, Fun, Tabletop, The Black Brick | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

NEXO Knights are ending

“NEXO Knights was launched in 2016 and there has been considerable speculation surrounding its future in recent months, particularly given the relative lack of promotion for the latest wave.

Zusammengebaut has now confirmed that the theme will not be continuing beyond its current wave and that no summer sets will be released.”

I guess that’ll be it for this particular line. It’s certainly a bummer, but while I’ve certainly had a blast with the NEXO sets I’ve picked up over the past year, I can totally see how and why the entire line will be retired.

When NEXO first caught my eye, the villains stole the show. I loved the gargoyles and lightning enemies. The volcanic Orcs or whatever have been on my To-Buy list for a while now. And the Tech Infection series has an incredible tech/vampire aesthetic going on–probably my absolute favorite theme so far.

But the thing is…the sets started to get very “same-y.” Lots of vehicles. Not a whole lot of small- to mid-sized structures. I have a similar issue with nearly all of the recent Batman and Marvel lines: waaaaay too many vehicles, not nearly enough actual locations. In NEXO, we either had super large castles (to be fair, some of them were interesting) or nothing at all. Would it have been a problem to maybe, I don’t know, roll out a watchtower or small outpost? Or am I thinking too much like WarCraft?

Honestly, now that I mention it, I’d love to see Lego do a proper WarCraft line. I know that Mega Bloks have something WoW-related, but I feel like 1990’s WarCraft would be absolutely perfect for Lego: bold colors, varied units, wide range of buildings, dragons, ballistas, gold mines, warships and dreadnoughts…the possibilities are almost endless.

But as for NEXO Knights, well, looks like I’m going to have to start looking into grabbing the last couple of sets I’ve been eyeballing. I need additional spider-mechs! Hehe

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