Sunday, April 15, 2018

Interesting Steampunk Horror in Rise of Moloch

My friend Jeff brought over a game he acquired off some guy who got his Kickstarter game World of Smog: Rise of Moloch recently but quickly sold it without playing it.

Jeff got all the guy's stretch goals, but only brought for now the core game and just one of the expansions.

I am not usually impressed with Coolmini's boardgame sculpts, as they are often in cheap boardgame soft plastic, but this time, I was pleasantly surprised. Still in slightly better boardgame plastic, but much crisper sculpts.

I like some of the sculpts in particular, and wouldn't mind painting them up for other games. Like the tentacles coming out of the magical portal sculpt for instance.

This is from what I understand, Moloch, the ultimate bad guy that all the cultists in dear old London secretly worship in this game world.

I honestly know nothing about the SMOG universe, but I do generally like steampunk ever since I played Space:1889 30 years ago. Indeed, I've always liked the Victorian Age...

As my friend was reading the background fluff to us, the world of SMOG seemed interesting.

A world replete with "mekamancers" with their steampunk cyborg gadgets, but also necromancy coming out of Egypt I think. Jeff further talked about opium cults from the Chinese tongs with magical smoke that turn into dragons and such, Baker Street Sherlock Holmes expansion and other staples of Victorian era villains.

The references to Moloch allowed me throughout the evening to make jokes about "sacrificing a calf" and such..

Our characters, in the finest tradition of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, are members of the Unicorn Club, out to protect 1888 London from the dastardly forces of evil.... harumph, harumph.

The sculpts for these stalwart gentlemen and ladies are not bad and paint-worthy..

There needs to be a minimum 4 characters in play. The game is cooperative and pitted against a gamemaster controlling the forces of darkness. Since Jeff fulfilled that role, that means than one of us had to play 2 characters., to which I elected to do so...

My two characters seemed very steampunkish, and the sculpts were nice.

The back of each character card had some background on them, and it made for interesting reading.

Judging by the art style and the text, I sensed that the game was of European design.. The art is a bit gloomier than you would see normally than with pure American boardgames generally.. When Jim read off that his character won the V.C, that further solidified for me that Europeans made this game. Everyone in the British Commonwealth like us Canadians know how prestigious winning the Victoria Cross is to this day. I don't think most Americans even know what it is or how prestigious it is even if they do. It's no Purple Heart.

But I digress..

The game mechanics involve some thinking, as the gamemaster must select which of his villains go in what order, followed by us good guys, all a priori, with the order face down until the right time to flip it up.

Depending on what happens on the streets of London, you could want X to do something right away, but you earlier chose Y to go next. This means that all players have to look at the board, and try to guess what order the other side will go.

Tiles are okay, with just a bit of warping in some of them, and of course, special d6s with symbols (again, something you see multi-lingual European game companies do a lot).

Good guys are in blue plastic, bad guys are strangely in yellow...

In the first scenario we played, we had to save this damsel in distress from Zombies and flaming Zombies, in top hats naturally, and from 2 bosses.

Even the enemy bosses are interesting.. This guy here for instance, is a graverobber with a bonesaw.. Nice.

The first scenario was a bit easy.. we started off in one building..

and the damsel in another building "protected" by bobbies..

It was here that we met the enemy, and it was definitely not us..

Eventually, I engaged in blows in the southern part with one of the bosses, while Jeff sic'd his flaming zombies to smoke out the damsel, complete with the fire spreading to nearby spaces.

An interesting mechanic is the use of Ether, which is the game's energy points that allow the use of cybernetic arms, weapons, etc, for extra damage and such. The only issue is, if the good guys use the Ether, the bad guy GM gets also powered up exactly with the same amount of Ether points you just used up. You can either not use Either, or at the appropriate heroic time, use it, but face some potential consequences as the bad guy will come back roaring as well.

Eventually, we distracted Jeff in the top part of the map, running interference with the Zombies while we allowed the damsel to exit in the bottom part..

It was here that I got intrigued a bit.. This is a campaign game, where, depending on how the session went, there are mechanics that allow the sides to level up with equipment, and skills/powers.

Leveling up a warband is common in such games as Necromunda, Mordheim, and Frostgrave, but you don't see it much in boardgames. However, with the increase interest in legacy mechanics in boardgames, you will likely see it more and more. I should point out that the characters don't ever die, unlike those games.

The leveling up between scenarios mechanic involves visiting 4 locations in London, to get one-use only artefacts or upgraded gear, etc.. A tile is placed, and the 4 sides have random cards for each type of leveling up benefit, to which you then place your hero, with some restrictions depending on who can pick up what and such.

I chose an Aztec magical mask for one character..

and a mechanical robot helper for the other..

You then use these benefits going forward in a scenario, until discarded (if it says so on the card), subject to your carrying limits on your card.

In the second scenario, a ghost wanted to give us further artefacts, but we have to beat off those aforementioned Zombies, as well as a new type, and more bosses.

This was a tougher scenario, with the hordes beating us up a lot more.. sufficient to say, we lost this one..

but I did manage to get very steampunk equipment from the ghost, like a surgical bag and a steel top hat..

Again, we leveled up after the scenario the same way, getting more goodies, though I believe since Jeff won, he got a bit more.

We recorded our ending characters leveled up for future use should the campaign continue by taking a picture of each:


Moloch is not bad, especially if you like Steampunk and horror. The one issue was the rules.. we found them a bit vague at times and rushed.. I am told that there is a multi-page FAQ already trying to clarify things. I hope by the time we play again, some of the rules are clarified even further.


  1. I beg to differ on the CMON sculpt quality: I have yet to see one of their board games with less than high quality sculpts, even back to Zombiecide and Arcadia Quest. Other companies generally don't reach this high standard of sculpts though.

    As for the campaign mechanic: Arcadia Quest also has that, albeit a little simpler than the one in this game. That is one of the things that makes Arcadia a favourite of ours.

    All in all it was worth braving the elements for this session.

  2. The Royal Guard Zombie looks like an excellent concept. He wouldn't be out of place as a higher scale sculpture that's for sure.

    1. Yes, interesting and noteworthy. I would never had thought to turn them into Zombies myself.