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. 😉

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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

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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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The Airship’s nearly complete, m’lord

Oi, yeh highness, I’m thinkin you’ll be pleased with me men’s progress. They’ve been workin day and night, yea, and she’ll be a fine vessel to match your glory!

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Lego vs Enlighten

My first jump into the Enlighten line!

I went with the airship largely due to its distinct “early 1990’s Blizzard WarCraft II: Tides of Darkness” vibe. One of my favorite games of all-time. Hah

I hope this lives up to my tempered expectations; I have many plans for this ship in The Black Brick. 😉

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Stormtrooper Transport – Build progress

The shuttle is coming together nicely. I feel like I’m making good progress at a decent clip, even considering all of the changes I’ve made or had to make. The following pictures aren’t totally current, but I think they still offer a few neat insights and snapshots of the build process.

First, I found my little Imperial emblem piece (I knew I had one somewhere!), so that totally had to replace the old wall component. I’m way happier about this than I should be. Haha

Second, you’ll notice hinges have been installed on the roof hatch and attached to the four side panels over the wings.

The hinges are going to be critical for this project. Without them, the shuttle can’t be opened, which limits my options for light control, camera angles, and character positioning. It’ll still be a tight squeeze, but I’m hoping the ceiling panel and four side hatches will provide enough room to do everything I want here.

You’ll also notice that the supports are now spaced out a bit more. Previously, they were staggered down the length of the ship, because the craft wasn’t wide enough to fully fit them. The width and stagger issues caused quite a few problems with walls, the ceiling, the side panels, and even the Stormtroopers’ seats/helmets. The ‘troopers had to lean forward, rather than sitting up straight; otherwise, the side panels wouldn’t fit.

So, I widened the entire crew area by a single peg on each side. Shifted the panels, shifted the supports, shifted the wings, and then everything fit more or less perfectly. With the added width, the supports could meet flush with each other, which allowed me to connect them with a smooth 4-peg piece, which then provided a perfect support base for the ceiling panel: no concerns about the ceiling clicking and connecting to anything it wasn’t supposed to.

Third, you can see some Nexo Knight vehicle components starting to work their way into the build. Those white elements around the cockpit hinge have meshed with the build way better than I would have ever expected. They’re very simple and straightforward, yet incredibly versatile. I’m very pleased.

More pics to come next time! We’re approaching the final finishing touches–including a bit of a retro Space Police inclusion–so I’ve got a good feeling about the next update.

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