Friday, 20 July 2018

Here's Negan!

If you’re a fan of The Walking Dead and, in particular, tabletop gaming, then some pretty exciting news broke this month. Mantic Games have announced the imminent arrival of Here’s Negan, a board game (designed by Yours Truly) based on the popular TWD prequel comics.

Unlike The WalkingDead: All Out War, which is a wargame with board game elements, Here’s Negan is a full-on board game experience, with players creating a walker-infested factory using illustrated game tiles.

The game picks up right where the comic book leaves off, with Negan becoming the leader of his fledgling group of Saviors, and leading them into the factory to clear it out, ready to transform it into the Sanctuary. In this game, Negan is not controlled by the players, but instead makes his way through the factory layout towards the objective, while you and your fellow players must clear a path for him, and achieve the mission goals at the same time. It makes for some tense, frenetic situations, and failure at even the smallest level means you’re dangerously close to getting a jab from Lucille…

The tricky balancing act for this game was to create that sense of both a cooperative and a competitive experience simultaneously. You want to win, but you also don’t want the other characters to die, because not only will it make it that much harder to achieve the objectives, but Negan will be most displeased! In order to measure your success, you must achieve Reputation points by impressing Negan. But be warned – he’s a fickle son of a gun, and he thinks you’re sucking up he might just bawl you out on the factory floor, and attract a truck-ton of trouble in the form of ravenous walkers!

Dwight, when he was still pretty(ish).
There are five playable characters in the game: Dwight, Sherry, Tara, John and Laura, each with their own specialties and weaknesses. Again, you really need to work as a team, but at the same time you don’t want to let the others steal your glory.

As you scour the factory, you can pick up new and improved equipment and weapons, as well as triggering random events that might be detrimental or beneficial. All the while, as in All Out War, the Threat Tracker ticks along inexorably, ramping up the tension and bringing more walkers into play. If it reaches its max level before you achieve the scenario goals, it’s game over!

The Walking Dead: Here’s Negan is available from Mantic Games and all good stockists from November 2018, and you can pre-order it now!

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Cloud Cuckoo Land

When Holmes and Watson are visited by the young Miss Harding, they cannot guess that they are about to embark on one of their darkest and most mysterious cases. Miss Harding's late uncle has left his entire estate to one of four cousins, but only the cousin who solves an elaborate puzzle can claim the prize – a puzzle contained within the very fabric of the bizarre Atreus Manor. The house has already claimed the life of one of the cousins, and drove another to madness, and Miss Harding will happily give up her claim if Holmes can get to the bottom of the secret. But is she really ready for the revelations about her family that the world's greatest detective will unearth?

Cover art by Dave Elsey

Really pleased to have an original Sherlock Holmes story published in the wonderful Gaslight Gothic anthology, edited by JR Campbell and Charles Prepolec. It contains stories by some of the finest horror and Holmes writers around, including Mark Morris, Steve Volk, James Lovegrove and Angela Slatter, so I’m delighted to be in such fine company.

My story, The Cuckoo’s Hour, is partly inspired by the recent trend for 'Escape Room' puzzles, though it’s really born of my obsession with Gothic fiction, especially Poe, and livened up with a healthy dose of classic Horror inspiration from the likes of Hammer and Amicus, that I've loved since my teens. Indeed, some of the same themes were used in my recent Holmes novel, The Red Tower (no surprise really, as I wrote them concurrently), although The Cuckoo’s Hour is rather more ‘sensational’ as the Victorians would have it.

But don’t take my word for it: the first review is up already at Sci-Fi and Fantasy Reviewer:
The opening story by Mark A. Latham, The Cuckoo’s Hour, is not only a strong opening story and one of the best in the anthology, but also one of the best Sherlock Holmes stories I’ve ever come across. Latham seems to have an innate understanding of the Holmes canon and characters, as well as how to write gothic fiction, to the extent that there are times when the story feels less like a pastiche and more like a piece of fiction Conan Doyle might have written in his later, more spiritual years. It’s effective as both a detective story and a piece of quiet horror, and features an ending that is genuinely unnerving, both in terms of its implications and the subtle way that Latham introduces such a twist. 

If you’d like to know more, there’s a webcast with the editors here.