Happy International Tabletop Day!
Tim over at The Savage Afterworld has sponsored a Blog Hop as a chance for us to celebrate some of our favorite boardgames. For my entry I’ve picked an old favorite, a game of mayhem and madness, The Hills Rise Wild! Released in the year 2000 by Pagan Publishing, this is a light miniatures wargame pitting up to four Lovecraftian clans against each other in a violent battle for the sake of their favorite Elder God.
“It’s an inbreed, corpse-fed, blood-red bonanza! Old Wizard Whateley kicked the bucket! And his precious copy of the Necronomicon, a book of powerful magic, is up for grabs.”
“Pit your team of drooling horrors against your friends in an all-out battle of bullets, brawn and brains.”
-The Hills Rise Wild! Back cover
Full disclosure; I was a playtester for this game.
No, that’s not even close to full disclosure. Pull up a seat while I digress.
It was a golden age for our gaming group; a time when we were still gaming regularly. Not only did we have role playing games on the weekend but a group of us also played in a weekly board game night. For over a year this was a sacrosanct ritual, a break in the week’s doldrums not to be missed. One evening a friend said he’d signed us up to be playtesters for this crazy new game Pagan Publishing was working on. Being old hands at Call of Cthulhu and well acquainted with the company it wasn’t hard to get us to agree to test it out.
And test it we did. For several months this game took over our weekly gaming night, not simply due to a sense of obligation but because we were having so much fun with it. Writing up our after action reports was part of the fun and seeing anything we’d pointed out show up in the next set of rules filled us with more joy than a ghoul in a graveyard. There are in-jokes coined at our first gaming session that still live on with our group* and for years after the game was released it hit our tables with frequency. Somewhere my friend still has the original playtest packet.
In The Hills Rise Wild each player takes control of a familial clan devoted to one of the Elder Gods; The Whateley Clan, the Marsh Clan, the DeGhoule Clan, or the Cult of Ezekiel. The game board represents an old backwoods New England village with the locked Whateley Mansion in the center. The goal of each clan is to search the village for the magical Whateley Seal, use it to unlock the mansion, find the Necronomicon inside, and escape with it back to their summoning circle. With it they will try to summon their Elder God of choice into this world, ushering in an age of madness and death.
Meanwhile the other cults are trying to do the same thing and everyone is armed to the teeth with guns. And bombs. And spells. And… other things. The blood flows quickly and in great quantities.
I love this game.
The map is made up by several thick cardboard squares, lain out by the players at the beginning of the game and adding a level of variety to each session. The artwork was excellent for the time, winning the 2000 Origins Award for Best Graphic Presentation, and it still holds up well today. The characters are represented by cardstock standies with nice representations of the characters. There are also a lot of little chits to represent items or statuses like Stunned or Slammed. Let me say again, lots of little chits.
Do not sneeze on the chit pile. You’ll be finding them for days. Yes, I am speaking from experience.
The Hills Rise Wild is not a board game in the way we look at them today. It’s a fusion of board games and light miniatures combat, taking some of the best elements of both to give the players a fun game that moves fast and rewards tactical thinking. Some of these elements might give a modern gamer pause; Movement uses a tape measure? Clan sheets meant to be printed and written on? The game uses damage tables!
Specifically both a regular damage table and the iconic Brutal Damage Table with such popular results as “Say Goodnight!”, “Have a Heapin’ Helpin’ o’ Hurt!”, and the ever popular “Daddy’s Home!”
It’s also possible for nobody to win the game. On more than one occasion we’ve ended with everyone dead, or the only ones left alive being characters who cannot cast the summoning spell.
The game has been out of print for a long time, but copies still pop up on a regular basis so it shouldn’t be too hard to track one down. You can usually find them for close to the original price of around $40. That’s cheap by today’s standards though at the time it was one of the more expensive games available. An expansion was planned for the game called the Reanimated Clan, which would have added Herbert West and zombies to the game, but it never made it to publication. That’s a shame because we playtested it too and we really enjoyed it.
I would love to see a new edition of The Hills Rise Wild and I think the time is perfect for it. Board gaming is going through its greatest golden age right now and urban fantasy, zombies, and H.P. Lovecraft are all hugely popular. The price points and modern production values could allow for including some impressive miniatures and there are some places where modern design ideas could be incorporated into the game. Add to that the ability to leverage the Pagan Publishing name with Kickstarter and a new generation of Hills fans would be spawned.
But until that day comes I suggest you track down a copy, get a few friends, and start coating the field in blood. You won’t regret it.
*Beware the curse of Slippy Finn!
Special thanks to Tim from The Savage Afterworld for putting on this Board Game Blog Hop! Make sure to check out the other entries at the links below.
And by all means, have a great day of gaming!
The Savage AfterWorld — http://savageafterworld.blogspot.com/ — Escape: Zombie City by Queen Games
Channel Zero — http://www.channel-zero.net — Thunderstone by Alderac Entertainment
Fractalbat — https://fractalbat.wordpress.com/ — The Hills Rise Wild by Pagan Publishing
The Gibbering Gamer — http://www.gibberinggamer.com – Dragon Dice by SFR (formerly TSR)
Random Encounters (From Ohio) — http://randomencountersohio.blogspot.com – Nano Bot Battle Arena by Derpy Games
Troll in the Corner — http://trollitc.com/author/neilrobinson/ — Star Realms by White Wizard Games