Lovecraftesque second edition is available to pre-order

Lovecraftesque. The eldritch horror roleplaying game where you create the mystery at the table. Pre-orders now open. Image shows the Lovecraftesque box cover with a skull-like monster lurking behind a lone character in the woods. Alongside this are the new rulebook with a striking red-and-white cover, and a spread of cards from the new edition.

Lovecraftesque second edition successfully crowdfunded in late 2023. You can now pre-order it here, or if you’d like to know more, read on!

A Storytelling Card Game Of Eldritch Horror

Lovecraftesque is a storytelling card game of creeping cosmic horror, emulating the tone and pace of eldritch horror stories. The game will guide you to create the story of a lone individual who stumbles upon clues to a terrible evil. It creates slow-building, brooding horror that the main character at first dismisses, until all too suddenly it becomes impossible to deny. The ending will certainly be bleak, and the main character is likely to meet their doom.

A mock up of the cards used to play the game
Brand new cards help streamline gameplay and inspire your group

Lovecraftesque is an emergent mystery game, which crafts a story out of clues that you take turns to create. The game includes hundreds of creative prompts to help you generate your story and guide the main character towards a confrontation with cosmic evil. You take turns to drip weird events into the story, building up your mystery one clue at a time.  Each player creates a secret theory about the horror and the truth about the horror emerges from those theories. By the end you’ll reach a chilling climax that none of you could have predicted at the start.

Lovecraftesque is easy to learn and teach, simple and intuitive to play, with hundreds of prompts to fire your imagination. It can be played with 1-5 players in around 2 hours.

Lovecraftesque is created by Josh Fox and Becky Annison of Black Armada Games, the award-winning publishers who brought you Wreck This Deck, Last Fleet, Flotsam: Adrift Amongst The Stars and Bite Marks.

A mock up of the Lovecraftesque core box
A New Edition

We created the first edition of Lovecraftesque back in 2015. It was our first game design project and we were delighted with its success. It’s received critical acclaim, won awards and gained thousands of fans around the world. But we were new to publishing then, and the costs and risks meant we were unable to realise our full vision for the game. In this new edition we’ve created the game we always wanted to.

The second edition is fully card-driven. It gives your group more support for their creativity through prompt cards that help you get your story set up and populate it with interesting clues, characters and locations. The story will seem to write itself.

There are also brand new card-based scenarios to get your story off to a flying start. Check out the scenarios list to see the incredible range of fresh exciting settings for eldritch horror, written by a diverse slate of talent from across the industry. Like the rest of the game, these are written on cards, meaning you can easily mix and match to make up your own weird tales.

With the new card-driven approach the game is even easier to learn, teach and play. The rules and structure of the game are written into the cards and your progress is tracked on the board, so you always know what you’re meant to be doing. As always we include teaching text to make it easy for you to learn and teach the game at the table, and tools to avoid the stereotypes of Lovecraft’s own work.

We are also commissioning new art by Vincent Sammy and Paul Tomes to make the game look cooler than ever before.

Lovecraftesque second edition will be available as a boxed set with the rules and all the cards you need, and as a virtual tabletop for online play.

Lovecraftesque is crowdfunding from 10 October to 9 November 2023. Pre-order now and become one of the first to back the project!

Coming up on the Black Armada Patreon…

Hey everyone!

We’re still on a pause here while we unstick our creative muscles, but we are working on stuff and we expect to get things going again soon. This is to give you a preview of what we’re thinking about and working on.

Before we do though, we just wanted to say thank you to everyone here for supporting us. We were just updating the Black Armada Hall Of Fame, where we record the names of everyone who has ever supported us here. There’s now been 130 people who have given their support at some point. Whether you jumped on for a month and gave us a few bucks, or have been here for the long haul, we truly appreciate it.

Josh’s main design project right now is Untitled Space Investigation Game. This is a far future game at the border between SF and fantasy. You’re state agents investigating threats to sapient life and freedom such as: demons, rogue AIs, cults, sorcerers, ancient technology, and so forth. You might play an ancient war machine, a space necromancer, a technarchologist, or a super spy. UTSIG is playing in the space of emergent mystery mechanics such as those seen in Brindlewood Bay and Apocalypse Keys, but Josh is iterating it and folding in DNA from Lovecraftesque, to try and being more of a procedural investigation feel. He’s also grabbing a bunch of ideas from Forged In The Dark. Currently playtesting version 1!

Becky has been working on Untitled Post-Apocalyptic Circus Game, based on the same system Josh has developed for Untitled Space Investigation Game. You play the members of a traveling circus bringing joy to the struggling settlements littering the post-apocalypse. Life on the road binds you together as a tight-knit, found family. But something darker binds you still deeper. Each show you perform is a magical act and an act of magic. Your circus is responsible for maintaining the magical prison preventing the demon Belphagor from finishing what he started and destroying the world. His agents are everywhere and you are just a band of scrappy circusfolk trying to make it amongst the devastation. Roll up, roll up, and enjoy the show!

Meanwhile we’re cooking up a bunch of smaller games, such as:

  • Grimbark, where you play power armoured doggos defending their owner the immortal emperor from threats such as cars, postal workers and cats.

  • Chekov’s angels, in which you play super-spies working for Chekov, a man you’ve never actually met. Create a deck of unlikely items you have to use to foil the plots of dastardly villains and their highly trained bodyguards.

  • Sunrise, a solarpunk game that uses the same system as our previous releases Biome and Polis. Optimistic post-apocalypse where you build and develop a community.

  • Side quests, a little book full of inter-connected tables for generating interesting NPCs with fun problems that your characters might like to help with.

  • VIIIIth, in which you are members of the ancient order that prevented the rise of the old god Henry VIII through the use of ritual marriage; 500 years later, you must stop his successor.

  • The Working Dead, in which the dead have risen and been found fit to work by the Department of Work and Pensions. What awful jobs must you do to earn a crust?

While we’re here, I’d like to mention that it’s awards season! We’re putting Wreck This Deck forward for the big awards, and if Josh finds time he’ll put forward our other stuff too. Amongst others, The Crit Awards is open – we’d love it if you nominated us. The deadline is 31 May (ignore the dates at the top of the form, those are for when the product has to have been released, not your nomination). There’s a list of our eligible stuff below if you need your memory jogging.

Thanks again and we’re looking forward to sharing new games with you very soon!

Josh and Becky

List of crit award-eligible stuff

Our games released in the eligible period:

  • Solo RPGs: Wreck This Deck, Not Your Witch, Advent Of Abomination, Monsterball, Gelatinous, and Familiar Friends.

  • Multiplayer RPGs are: Imposters and Polis.

And for our Black Armada Tales AP podcast:

  • Best one shot – Lovecraftesque or Gladiators 2050

  • Best series – Last Fleet

  • Best NPC – any you like, but we particularly loved the hapless Captain Winther, the commanding officer of the Tychon

  • Best Villain – any you like, but we think Dr Roy (despite being a PC) would be a great nomination

  • Best Utilization of Accessibility Features and Safety Tools – any you like

  • Best game master (indie) – Josh Fox

  • Best player (indie) – Becky Annison, Eadwin Tomlinson, Josh Fox, Nick Bate, Sue Elliott

Rules do not elide

A rule can be a statement of what you can do, what you must do, or what you must not do, and it may also describe *how* you must do a thing. Rules have all kind of uses. In tabletop roleplaying games, one of those uses is to simplify arguments about how things ought to play out in the fictional situations we imagine and describe at the table. This has led to the claim that “rules elide”, and from what I can glean from the froth and din of internet discourse, some people think this is a very important claim*. But I am going to argue this is, at best, a partial representation of what rules do.

Why might we say that rules elide? Well, if you haven’t already, you can go and read the article where this idea was first publicly described (though it has now been deleted and is only available on backup, so don’t harangue the author** about it – which, come to think of it, don’t do that anyway). From reading that article, I take the essence of the “rules elide” claim to be this:

  • Without any rules, we describe the fiction in intricate detail, carefully characterising each little bit of what is happening. For example, we might describe each step, slip, swing and cut of a sword fight.
  • Rules enable us to shortcut that by instead rolling a die and saying “I win”, skipping out all the detail in between.
  • Therefore, rules elide the details of the fiction. Not necessarily all the details – and indeed, by eliding some parts, they effectively highlight what is left – but nevertheless, this is their role. Rules elide.

Whenever one describes another person’s argument there’s a risk that this leads to simplification or misrepresentation but I think the above is a fair summary of the “rules elide” argument.

The problem is that the first bullet isn’t true.

Without any rules, we might indeed describe the fiction in intricate detail. But we might not! In the linked article, an imagined player group describe the picking of a lock by working through the movements of pins and tumblers and whatnot. But that is certainly not how I would handle the picking of a lock. Here are a few ways I would think about doing it:

  • I might make a quick decision either way and describe what happens. “Nope, you can’t pick it, and your lockpick snaps.” “Cool, it opens.”
  • I might describe the lock and ask the player picking the lock what happens. “This is a top quality valyrian steel lock. How good a lockpicker are you, do you think you can open it?”
  • I might present a “yes, and” or “no, but” sort of approach. “Sure, you can open it, but it is going to take a while and you can hear the footsteps of the guards approaching, what do you do?”

You could of course argue that somewhere in there I’m using rules. My ability to “make a quick decision” rests on some rule, whether explicitly stated or implied, that I have a right to make a decision (probably because I’m the GM). But in reality if we started trying to roleplay together without discussing any rules at all, it is very very likely that at some point someone would skip over most of the fictional detail and make such a decision. Indeed, the decision to say “you find a locked door” is such a moment. The casual elision of details is actually a fundamental part of storytelling and imaginative play, regardless of whether you think there are rules involved.

So it’s not the case that roleplaying without rules is inherently very detailed.

But more than that: rules can actually supply detail where none would otherwise exist.

Consider the classic case of a game of cops and robbers. “Bang bang! You’re dead.” “No I’m not!” In this game, we skip over enormous amounts of detail. I point my two fingers at you and say bang bang, you fall over or you don’t. At no point do we consider what kind of gun or ammunition we’re using, what armour we might be wearing, how good my aim is, the potential elements affecting my aim such as distractions or (at longer ranges) wind. We are eliding the heck out of that gun fight.

I defy anyone to look at the crunchier roleplaying game manuals and tell me that these games elide compared to this simple roleplaying activity. Looking at my old copy of Shadowrun 4th edition, I see 2 and a bit pages of rules for adjudicating initiative, 6 and a bit pages of rules for different types of ranged fighting, plus 9 pages of details about different types of ranged weapons (with pictures!) This is not eliding *anything* relative to how I would normally conduct a firefight in a roleplaying game; in fact if I take it seriously as a set of rules, it enormously expands the level of detail and precision I would use in narrating such a fight.

So at the very least, I think we have to say that rules don’t always elide. Perhaps they are always eliding compared to some perfect simulation of reality, but that is certainly not the default or most commonly observed state of imaginative play when unmediated by rules.

What, then, will we say about rules? Rules are a way of guiding the conversation. We can drill into the details we find interesting, as Shadowrun players presumably find weaponry. We can skip over the details we don’t find interesting, as many other games do with the details of the same weaponry. We can remove arguments over who went bang bang first and who is now dead. We can specify how decisions should be made, and who gets to narrate the outcome of those decisions, as when Forged In The Dark tells us who gets to decide what dice to roll and who gets to decide the level of risk and effect. We can quantify things that would otherwise remain vague, as with hit points in D&D or sanity in Call Of Cthulhu. We can introduce details that don’t exist in the real world, like the characteristics of a monofilament whip. We can force the conversation at the table down particular lines, as when in Ten Candles, if the last candle goes out, the characters die regardless of what they may have had planned. We can force a player to describe something they hadn’t even thought about until a moment ago, as when in Apocalypse World a character is suddenly asked to tell us their secret pains.

Rules can sometimes elide. But more often, rules specify. Rules focus. Rule describe. Rules intrude.

Rules are a magical way to shape our conversation at the table, to direct play and to bring imagined worlds to life. Used unwisely they can be blunt instruments that get in the way of good storytelling. But the best rules help us tell stories we almost certainly wouldn’t have told otherwise. They mostly don’t do it by eliding.

If you enjoyed this blog article, please encourage me to make more by supporting the Black Armada Patreon.

*Side note: I am far from the most up-to-date person on internet discourse. I think this claim may be fairly old, at least by the frenetic standards of discussion on X and other such places. I’m sorry if I sound like an old man shouting at clouds.

**Which, to be clear, I have no idea how important the author thinks “rules elide” is as a statement or how sweepingly they intended to make that statement. Perhaps this entire article is a statement of the bleeding obvious – ironically I kind of think so. Still, discourse eh?

1 year of self employment

A year and a day ago I left my office in the UK civil service for the last time. I started a life of adventure as a full time game designer. So far I haven’t looked back!

Here’s what I’ve done in my first year:

  • Run two successful crowdfunding campaigns, fulfilled one of them entirely and broken the back of the other one.
  • Built the foundations of a new game system which will form the core of a number of future releases, and commenced playtesting of that system.
  • Learned how to use Roll20 and designed the virtual playroom for Lovecraftesque in it.
  • Created 7 new games through our Patreon and supported Becky to publish 2 others.
  • Published 40 episodes of our AP podcast Black Armada Tales and watched the audience steadily grow.
  • Attended 3 major conventions including one overseas.
  • Set up a bunch of useful systems that will support our business in future.
  • Kept the business afloat and paid myself enough to live on.

I’m pretty satisfied with that for a first year’s work. This year will be different – we are only at the start of the design journey for the stuff we’re working on now, so there will probably be less publishing/crowdfunding activity and more development work. One thing I discovered this year is that it’s quite hard to manage a serious crowdfunding to publication cycle while also designing new stuff! Finding a rhythm is going to be one of my challenges.

All of this has been helped enormously by the enthusiasm and encouragement of our fans. Whether you’re one of our patrons, a crowdfunding backer, a podcast listener or someone who has helped to spread the word about our stuff, it is all very much appreciated.

Onward to the next year!

December game: Advent Of Abomination

Advent of Abomination was our December game. It is no longer available to patrons, but is now available on our itch store.

December’s Patreon game is out early*, to enable those who are craft-inclined to print and assemble it. Because as we trailed last week, this is an advent calendar TTRPG!

Advent Of Abomination is an advent calendar that’s also a solo folk horror TTRPG. Open a door every day to reveal journaling prompts and drive your character to their doom just in time for Christmas day.

This year, you’re alone for Christmas, staying in a remote cabin far from the beaten track. No friends, no family, just you. It could be pretty miserable – but you’ve surrounded yourself with festive things and delicious holiday food. Things look like they’re off to a great start as a thick coat of snow has fallen. You are settling down for a lonely, but relaxed holiday. But you’re not as alone as you thought. Something inhuman stirs, and it’s about to tear your quiet little Christmas apart.

This Christmas, experience wonder and terror with Advent of Abomination.

Advent Of Abomination includes print-ready files with marks for cutting your own advent calendar doors. It also includes a bookmarked PDF which you can use as a virtual advent calendar; using the bookmarks to navigate will avoid spoilers.

As mentioned in our last post, we are going to be printing and hand-cutting a limited run of these. Today (Thursday 23 November) is the last day to order one, and as Black Armada patrons you can use the code “patreonadvent” to get 30% off the cover price. We will post your copy out to you, or you can collect it at Dragonmeet. Order that here: 

Happy holidays!

Josh and Becky

*We charge monthly so this hasn’t triggered any extra payments.

November game – Gladiators 2050

Gladiators 2050 was our November release. It has now been taken down, but will be available soon on our itch store.

Over the last few months Becky and I have been re-watching the classic 90s TV show Gladiators. This is the UK version – the US version came first, but the UK one will always be closest to our hearts. The show still stands up, and the cheesy 90s attitude remains much preferable to the serious, grumpy noughties reboot. (We’re also very excited about another possible reboot happening later this year – even if there’s no sign of it actually being aired!)

One thing we noticed watching it from fresh is that we had become connoisseurs of the events in the show. We took to critiquing events and imagining how they could be redesigned. It wasn’t long before I started thinking about writing a TTRPG version. Gladiators 2050 is that game.

In Gladiators 2050 you’re playing the latest reboot of the show, an ultraviolent hybrid of Gladiators and The Running Man. You will each get a Contender who is trying to win that sweet holiday in Barbados, but also one or more Gladiators working to end their run – and perhaps, end their life. 

You’ll take turns to procedurally generate an event for your Contenders to try and beat. You’ll then run your Contenders through it and, if they survive, interview them at the end. Once you’ve played through a few events, you’ll each create one chunk of the dreaded Eliminator, and find out who has won the competition.

I had a blast writing and playtesting Gladiators 2050 – hope you enjoy it!