No more fitting way to put the year of new games to rest than trying out a new one. Matakishi's Tea House is the home to the CROM skirmish fantasy ruleset. The rules themselves are highly attractive. Each character has a dice pool which they assign every turn to movement, attacking, or other actions. As characters are damaged, they lose dice from their pool. Minions are easy to chew through, but be careful, because even small amounts of damage become costly in short order. Initiative is by cards, with some extra treats thrown in. I definitely recommend checking out the rules when you're looking for an evening of high adventure and don't want to spend hours writing your army list, building your characters, and looking up how this special rule interacts with that special rule. If I may quote The Middleman (one of my favorite cult TV shows) "it's elegant in its simplicity."
(Also, you have to always say CROM! like it's in all caps. That's not in the rules, but I think it should be.)
Simple scenario: Freya, one of the heroes of the Aesgaard tribe, had been kidnapped by the Dark Warrior and his foul hyena-men minions. Each of us took one of the three Aesgaard warriors (Wotan, Lokhi, and Freyr.) To win, we had to free Freya from the sacrificial circle in the middle. Each of the towers was topped by a otherworldly statue. The one to the west gave all the evil characters an extra dice on the attack, and the one to the east gave them an extra dice for defense.
The Dark Warrior and the Hyena-Men are from Splintered Light.
Being warriors both clever and mighty, we split up early. Freyr and Lokhi each dispatch to one of the towers to rob the wicked enemy of their magical support. Wotan distracted the Dark Warrior by getting himself injured and then running around. OK, it was a little more noble than that, but we definitely uncovered why it's better to use terrain for your advantage when sneaking up on one gifted with mystical power.
Aesgaard barbarians are the Northlanders from Copplestone.
Lokhi craftily lures his foe around the east tower.
After the towers were sieged and the statues toppled, our heroes set their sights on freeing their fellow hero. This is where things... went poorly.
Both Freyr and Wotan were felled while storming the ritual circle. Lokhi, himself gravely wounded, used Freyr's sacrifice not to strike down the Dark Warrior... but free Freya from her bonds! Surely with her sword fresh and ready for battle, the tide would turn!
Or not. Lokhi was felled by the remaining hyena-men, and the Dark Warrior, enraged that his ritual was interrupted, srtuck Freya down in short order. No tales of glory would be sung by the Aesgaard that day.
The game is a treat, fast-paced and fun. We each ran one hero, and essentially ran the dark forces by consensus, but a gamemaster could have readily taken that role instead. Definitely a pleasant way to round out the gaming year.