Verrotwood | Fortified Niche playtest!

Verrotwood cover, but now with Mystery of the Druids guys fighting

You know what? Enough of being being “heroes” and “roughly competent people.” It’s shitty cultist time to shine! That’s right – that’s who you’re playing in Verrotwood, the fantasy skirmish game of folk horror!

Listen to the Fortified Niche episode.

A Tabletop Simulator Verrotwood board, 3x3, covered richly in Warcry terrain.
In Verrotwood, the god looking over a vast forest died after his progeny finished killing each other off. The wood is now proper spooky and damned. The human survivors are now turning to worshipping all sorts of fell things that took this opportunity to crawl out of the muck. And as the player, you’ll create that god and lead the cult. You’ll only ever control four dudes/dudettes/dutheys at a time. And if one of them bites it, a new one is free of charge!
A Verrotwood cultist, represented by a 3D scanned model of a WHFB flaggelant.
Cultists all start out with 1 in each of the four stats (melee, ranged, intelligence, defense). This gives them a single d10 to roll on any check. They also have 10 HP. You have a certain amount of Favor – in-game currency – to buy equipment and level up your dudes. Which stats to raise (to get more dice)? Well, it depends of what type of deity you choose as prayers to them key off their favored stat. So if you choose Defense as your god’s stat…
Verrotwood cultist faces off against a summoned monstrosity
Defense is the God-stat. Defense is universally useful for overcoming damage. Having Defense as your god-stat means rolling quite a few dice pre-game to get Ritual Points for magic. In combat, rolling a 10 is a crit that no Defense can hold against. So even a talentless cultist can hurt an a defender, which bodes well for your Defense-first dunderheads. On the other hand, more Defense dice means that you’ll be likely saving a lot of damage.
On the end of the spectrum, Intelligence is pointed out by the Verrotwood rules as mostly being a campaign stat. Seeing how campaign stuff is a single roll after the match while defense can be useful multiple times per match… you can see where this is going, eh?
Verrotwood table playing the second scenario from the book.
Questionable stat balance that’s handwaved with a “don’t play game-y!” aside, one neat thing about Verrotwood is that everyone’s a wizard. Or that everyone’s a shitty cultist with access to the four rituals you chose to represent your deity. Most often, you pay the Ritual Points and you get the effect. And the effects can be pretty powerful, like summoning a monster to fight for you, switching places with an opponent in LoS… or, you can take some of the four passive, always-on rituals. Two of them are always useful on the battlefield, and one makes post-battle looting less dangerous.
The only reason not to take all four passive rituals is that one of them just generates RP at the start of the turn, but if you don’t have any active rituals, those points wouldn’t do anything. Other than that, everyone’s a wizard.
On the other hand, there’s very little in equipment managing in Verrotwood. You can choose from a handful of weapons and a few consumables. The book doesn’t make it clear whether you need to rebuy the consumables. If you do, then the age-old TTRPG issue arises: having the same currency used for leveling up and buying temporary items. One of the two looks like the better investment! Outside of boosting skills and buying weapons, consumables and/or a horse, you can spend a hefty sum of Favor to increase a cultist’s HP.
Verrotwood monstrosity is attacking a dumb cultist.
Boosting HP is another great investment in Verrotwood. Without freak accidents involving wandering beasts (very likely in your game), a base 10 HP cultist is gonna get taken out in two hits, making them tougher and easier to manage than, say, Necromunda gangers. Increasing HP by 5 makes them a lot tougher, especially if combined with Defense the God-Stat.
Verrotwood cultists stacked on the end-of-scenario exploration card draw result.
All in all, Verrotwood isn’t bad. It’s certainly a light game outside of the massive ritual menu. Plus, a lot of exploration encounters can be deadly, but in a boring and mean way reminiscent of Kingdom Death. We also have some reservations about the campaign length based on scenario rewards. On the other hand, everyone’s leading stupid cultists, so who’s to say who’s right or wrong here?

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