Lady Pandora of House Tamere

Dark Heresy, Second Edition, cover
©2015 Fantasy Flight Games

A couple of weeks back I decided to take a break from DMing my regular Monday game, i’ve been running for roughly 3 years straight and i’m pretty burnt out, much as I don’t like to admit it. So, I asked a friend if he’d take over for a little while to give me time to recharge and after a little group discussion we settled on playing Dark Heresy, 2nd Edition.

I found myself pretty excited at the prospect of being a player, it’s something I don’t get to do all that often and so I threw myself into Character Generation and since i’m pretty pleased with the result I thought i’d talk about it.

First of all, the Rules. I went into it expecting Dark Heresy 2nd ed to be pretty similar to 1st ed and I was very, very wrong. Second Edition is a much more flexible game with a higher power level that is more in line with what I expected from the First Edition. Characters are no longer tied to specific talents and skills through a tier system and, in principle, everyone can access everything if they are willing to spend the XP. The downside of the rules for character generation and advancement is that they feel cumbersome, especially in regards to the way aptitudes work but i’ll go into that when I do a full review of the 2nd ed.

Character generation is split into a few sections, you pick a Homeworld, a background and then a Role, all of which give you skills, talents and aptitudes and form the basis of your character. From group discussion i’d already decided that I was going to play a Psyker and that meant taking the Mystic role.

Initially I was thinking about a male character who came from a Deathworld with the Feral homeworld and building an unsanctioned Psyker from there. The more I thought about it though the more that didn’t quite click for me and so I started looking online for miniatures. The idea was to look for some kind of daemonhost model, since that was what I was thinking about but a couple of curious clicks brought me to a selection of female psykers and things started falling into place.

First thing was homeworld and this changed to Highborn since the woman I was thinking about had a noble bearing about her. I imagine her tall, lean and with sharp angular features dressed impeccably in dark fur-trimmed clothing. She is pale, with white hair, almost Scandinavian, and all of this made me think that she came from a cold planet, probably an Ice planet and a quick search of latin terms gave me the name Frigore. I got the name by doing one of my favourite things when playing a 40k RPG, going to English to Latin on Google and trying related words and, in this case, cold translated to Frigore.

So, next is background. This was fairly simple as, in my head, my character had been identified as a psyker young and because of her families connections she was treated well and enrolled in the Adeptus Astra Telepathica. Rather than be taken to the front lines and thrown at the enemy like many psykers she received a position in Intelligence as an interrogator and it was from there that she was recruited by Inquisitor Corbin Inarus some time later.

Finally was the Role. Again this was straight forward as the only way to be a psyker is via the Mystic role, so thats what I picked, taking the Sanctioned trait since it was now significantly more fitting than being unsanctioned.

With the character’s history developed I moved onto characteristics (stats). In Dark Heresy there are 10 characteristics, 9 of which can be improved via XP and 1 that can only be improved via GM awards. I considered what my character should be good at and set her Willpower and Appearance to maximum, which is 40 in character generation. Highborn characters need neither strength nor toughness, so i set those at 25 and 20 respectively, the minimum possible for them.

I considered that she probably would have indulged in hunting and so be adept with a gun so her ballistic skill was set at 40 while her weapon skill was minimised at 25. She’d need to be perceptive, so that was set at 35 but I imagined that she’d more rely on her looks and charm to get her by than her wits and so left her intelligence at 25. Lastly I set her agility at 35 simply because characters that can’t dodge don’t last long in Dark Heresy.

I don’t normally min/max but it’s hard not to in Dark Heresy as characteristics start at 25 for the most part, max out at 40 during generation and can’t be voluntarily reduced. All things told I think my choice of characteristics made sense for the character I made, based on how I think her life has unfolded up to this point.

With this done I had the 1,000XP you get at the start of the game to spend. This is a whole lot more than in 1st ed but when you are a Psyker it doesn’t go all that far. I made a list of the skills I wanted, and it was a long list, and narrowed it down to just picking up Charm and Dodge, the former because I think a noble, high society upbringing will have taught Pandora etiquette and the latter for the metagame reason that I know that she won’t last that long without being able to get out of the way of attacks.

I didn’t even take a look at the talents, I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to afford any if I wanted to be  vaguely competent Psyker and so that brought me to Psychic Powers. Looking through the different trees narrowed me down to Pyrokinesis,  Telepathy and Telekinesis with the two latter trees winning out simply because the first power in the Pyrokinesis tree, Control Fire, was too circumstantial to be of use.

Given that Pandora was an interrogator and that’s where she drew the eye of the Inquisition Telepathy was a given and Telekinesis seemed like a natural extension of that. From Telepathy I took Telepathic Link, to pull information from peoples minds, Erasure to prevent them remembering that I had done so and Hallucination for when I needed a distraction. From Telekinesis I took Telekinetic Control for it’s varied usefulness and Assail to use as a direct weapon.

Later I plan on taking Pyrokinesis, although I’m probably going to talk to my GM about reskinning it as Cryokinesis, based on my homeworld of Frigore. There will need to be a few workarounds, to make it work properly as a power, especially the Control Fire ability since Control Ice isn’t as easy to adjudicate as Control Fire.

In terms of equipment my GM was happy for us to have fairly easy access to reasonable equipment requests and so I only had to worry about the choice items you start with. I wanted a nice pistol, just because it made sense for Pandora to have the best of everything, so i took one of good quality, which had no in game effect but fits for who she is. Beyond that I took some Guard Flak Armour for added protection, a rebreather for toxic or contaminated environments and night vision contact lenses, for when she has to operate in the dark.

The final touches were a small puzzle box that she carries, which was a present when from her mother when she was a child and something she keeps on her person at all times. In my mind it looks like the Hellraiser Puzzle Box-

Hellraiser Puzzle Box

I toyed with this being her Psyfocus but it felt a little too obvious and despite the fact that she never goes anywhere without it, it would be cumbersome to pull out during combat, or when she was trying to be circumspect. In the end i thoughts that her Psyfocus would be better served being something less obvious and so I decided that she would wear a necklace, something delicate, that would be adorned with a small vial of Permanent Ice, a resource from her homeworld and the source of her families wealth. Permanent Ice, I decided, would be a valuable commodity prized by the Mechanicum for it’s ability to cool cogitators and machinery.

That was it. I found a couple of models that would represent her if it came to it, both from the Malifaux Neverborn faction, both representing the character Pandora-

Pandora, NeverbornPandora, Neverborn


Pick the Lock, Kickstarter

Name: Pick the Lock
Type: Card Game 
Publisher: Portal Dragon
No of Players: 2-4
Age: 8+
Price:  £8.50 on Kickstarter
Rating: 4.0 Stars (4.0 / 5)

Pick the Lock logo
© 2015 Portal Dragon

This week I was sent a print and play copy of Pick the Lock, a game by Portal Dragon that is currently live on Kickstarter until 07/12/15. Pick the Lock is a simple and quick game that mixes luck and skill to determine which player is able to acquire the most treasure and therefore win the game.

My copy was just a print and play so I can’t comment as to the production values of the game, however the cards and box have both received an upgrade through unlocked stretch goals as part of the Kickstarter. The art is simple with the Players and Communal cards being different colours for each player and just displaying numbers with some light decoration around the outside. The Treasure cards are clean and bold with strong images of the various treasures, including crowns, gemstones and more.

In the 52 set I got-

  • 4 x player decks (4 x 7 cards numbered 3 through 9)
  • 1 x communal deck (9 cards number 1 through 9)
  • 1 x Treasure deck (12 x treasure cards)
  • 3 x Rules Cards

I know things have moved on a little since the print and play was produced and the rules have been trimmed down and refined. All references in this review are to the print and play I was using to just bear in mind that the player and combination decks have different numbers of cards in the final version. In the final Kickstarter set you’ll get-

  • 4 x player decks (4 x 5 cards numbered 4 through 8)
  • 1 x Combination Deck (8 cards numbered 1 through 8)
  • 1 x Treasure Deck (21 cards)
  • 7 x rules cards

You don’t need anything else to pay the game, no tokens, no dice, nothing, which I like as many smaller games often require a dice or a few coins or beads as tokens but Pick the Lock is entirely self-contained.

In terms of rules, these are fairly simple. Each player takes a player deck and a number of treasures are placed in the middle of the table, which acts as the vault. The exact number or treasures varies based on the number of players but, in a 3 player game, it’s 5.

Pick the Lock, Player Cards
Player Cards

Players then take it in turn to try to steal treasure from either the vault or, if they have treasure, another player. Stealing is simple, you pick a treasure and then place one of your cards, numbered 3-9, in front of you and the player to your right choses 3 cards from the combination deck (numbered 1-9), none higher than the card you played. You then guess a number and if guess one of the numbers on the 3 combination cards then you have guess the combination correctly and stolen the treasure and you place the treasure card in front of you and discard your own number card (so you can only use each number once).

Pick the Lock, Communal Deck
Communal Deck

If you want to steal from another player the same process is followed except that they only pick one card from the combination deck and the individual treasure abilities may come into play (I’ll talk about those shortly). The game ends when all players have run out of cards in their own decks, which is 7 turns each. At the end of the game the player with the most treasure wins and, in the event of a tie the two players go into sudden death just using the number 3 from their own deck (I assume this will be 4 in the final version).

Treasure Cards
Treasure Cards

Treasure cards each have an ability which the thief can use when trying to steal from another player. Some are mandatory and increase the number on the card the thief plays (so you play a 3 but it may count as a 4 for purposes of picking cards from the combination deck). Others benefit the thief by allowing a second try at stealing or restricting the combination cards to just odd or even numbers, narrowing down the potential choices. Treasure cards add an interesting dynamic to the game because they make it a little more tactical and allow you to devise a strategy for what you plan on stealing and with what cards.

Pick the Lock is a cheap game, it’s $13 (£8.50ish) to back and that includes postage to the UK and it’s already funded. It’s almost impossible to get any game for that price, Love Letter, my other go to simple game, is around £6-£8 and so that makes Pick the Lock remarkably good value for money. Not only that but it’s quick to play, I played it with 2 groups of people, teaching the rules both times and the games still only took around 15 minutes, which makes it perfect for a game to pull out while waiting for folk to arrive on games nights.

Pick the Lock might not be to everyone’s tastes, while it has some tactical aspects regarding the different treasure abilities it’s still fundamentally down to luck much of the time and so people who prefer skill based games probably aren’t going to like it. That said, I consider myself a pretty hardcore gamer and I played it with other hardcore gamers and with people who only really dabble and everyone enjoyed playing it. They found it simple, fun and light, which is exactly the kind of game it is and unashamedly so. Personally I also think it’d make a great intro game for children, especially if you don’t use the treasure abilities, as it would help them learn numbers and number values in a fun way and then treasure abilities could be slowly introduced later, as they become more confident with the mechanics.

It’s nice and cheap to back Pick the Lock anywhere in the world and if you want to throw down some more money they have some truly beautiful looking handmade wooden deck boxes at higher pledge levels. I was sent the Print and Play for Pick the Lock for free so I could review it but I’ve backed it with my own money because I think it’s excellent value for money. It’s simple and fun and I like the fact that I’m helping a small company make a game and try to make a living doing something they love.