Comment jouer à Epic Encounters: Hive of the Ghoul-kin

Notre groupe d'intrépides D&Ders poursuit sa quête de gloire et de fortune. Alors que le Liche Impératrice may have been defeated, other threats linger – and these ones have a taste for flesh and blood. What trials await both them and our Dungeon Master in our latest Epic Encounters How to Play? How easy is the set to use? And most of all, is it actually any fun? Read on to find out.

How to Play Epic Encounters: Hive of the Ghoul-kin – Introduction

We’re back for another session of Dungeons and Dragons with the help of one of the latest Steamforged Games Epic Encounters box.

D&D can be a tough game to get into. There’s a lot to it, and the scope and breadth of its system leaves would-be players at the whims of a thousand rulebooks and unsure where exactly to start their journey. Donning the mantle of Dungeon Master/Game Master, however, is an infinitely more daunting prospect – even the most experienced D&Der.

As such, products like Steamforged Games’ Epic Encounters sets take some of the legwork out of both running and playing Dungeons and Dragons.

Rencontres épiques Hive of the Ghoul-kin Review Unboxing 1

Designed to be an encounter in a box, SFG’s Epic Encounters come in one of two flavours: Warband boxes, which come equipped with a number of different figures for larger, pack-style encounters, and Boss boxes, for dramatic showdowns against monstrous, er, monsters.

Today, we’ve re-assembled our Dungeons and Dragons players to have a look at SFG’s latest Warband box. Having escaped the Arène de la Horde des morts-vivants et ont affronté leur premier ennemi vraiment indomptable au sommet du Tour de l'impératrice-liche, our players’ next encounter will take place within the Hive of the Ghoul-kin.

If you haven’t already done so, make sure you check out our full close-up review of the contents of this box in our Hive of the Ghoul-kin critique.

How to Play Epic Encounters: Hive of the Ghoul-kin – The Team

You’ve met them once before already, fumbling their way from the Arena of the Undead Horde to the Tower of the Lich Empress, but here they are again!

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So, from left to right, we have Rich the Half-Elf Wizard, Ollie the Dwarf Barbarian, Dave the Wood Elf Druid (who would like everyone to know he doesn’t normally wear sunnies indoors, he’d left his regular glasses at home and only has these!) and Lizzie the Aaracockra Rogue*.

As ever, the session will be organised and run by FauxHammer’s own Rob…

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…who désespérément a besoin d'un plus grand écran DM.

Since last time, we’ve also outfitted our D&Ders with their own custom minis, courtesy of Hero Forge Miniatures personnalisées.

Rencontres épiques Hive of the Ghoul-kin Review Heroforge Custom Mini 1
Lizzie’s Aaracockra Rogue
Rencontres épiques Hive of the Ghoul-kin Review Heroforge Custom Mini 3
Dave’s Wood Elf Druid
Rencontres épiques Hive of the Ghoul-kin Review Heroforge Custom Mini 4
Ollie’s Dwarf Barbarian
Rencontres épiques Hive of the Ghoul-kin Review Heroforge Custom Mini 2
Richard’s Half-elf Wizard

These were all 3D printed by Ross using his Photon Ultra and designed and painted by Rob using Citadel, Monument Hobbies, and Scale 75 paints (aside from Dave’s druid, which he designed himself!).

*À noter, depuis la dernière session, Lizzie a transformé son Aaracokra Druid en Aaracokra Rogue afin d'avoir une meilleure répartition des classes à travers le groupe.

How to Play Epic Encounters: Hive of the Ghoul-kin – The Venue

As ever, we’re back at The Games Table in Norwich for this week’s adventure.

Équipe d'examen de l'espace central Lieu 1

We could sing the praises about this place to the highest of heavens (and we frequently do), but today we’ll suggest you head over to leur page Facebook and have a look through their recent posts and pictures for a good sense of what they’re doing.

Si vous habitez près de Norwich, The Games Table vaut vraiment le détour. Si vous venez de plus loin mais que vous vous retrouvez en visite, assurez-vous de passer pour une visite!

How to Play Epic Encounters: Hive of the Ghoul-kin – Playtesting

Il y a deux aspects à chaque session D&D : la mise en place et le jeu. Les deux exigent des choses très différentes d'un groupe D&D et, en tant que tels, ont des exigences très différentes pour tous les produits associés. En tant que tel, vous voudrez peut-être vous familiariser avec les différentes parties de cet encadré avant de poursuivre votre lecture. Vous pouvez le faire en consultant notre Hive of the Ghoul-kin critique.

La première partie, la mise en place, est prise en charge par le DM/GM. En tant que telles, toutes les ressources devront être faciles à mettre en œuvre dans leurs jeux. La deuxième partie, le déroulement réel de la session, doit être facile à exécuter et à adapter sur place par le DM/GM, et doit également être très amusante pour les joueurs. Qu'une session soit amusante ou non dépend en grande partie de la façon dont un DM / GM est capable d'utiliser son matériel et ses ressources, donc les choses reviennent à nouveau à ce premier point.

Alors, comment les ressources de la boîte Hive of the Ghoul-kin sont-elles à la hauteur?

Playtesting – Set Up

If you’re a DM/GM, you’ll likely know that setting up for your D&D session comes in two parts.

First, there’s the pre-session bit, where you make sure you’ve got everything you need to run your session ahead of time. Whether you do this five days before your session and spend hours and hours doing it, or you quickly glance over your source material five minutes beforehand depends entirely on your style.

Next, there’s the on-the-day stuff: laying out maps, reading your miniatures, making sure you’ve got all your resources sequestered firmly away from your players’ eyes behind your DM screen, and so on. We’ll have a closer look at what Epic Encounters: Hive of the Ghoul-kin does for both these steps now.

I. Pré-session

Une grande partie de toute session Donjons et Dragons se déroule souvent avant que tout le monde ne se rencontre et ne commence à lancer les dés. Le Dungeon Master ou le Game Master, selon votre préférence de titre (désormais DM / GM), devra faire au moins un peu de préparation avant le début de la session.

Depending on how you like to run your session will determine how you use the book. For those DMs/GMs who are comfortable turning up and ad-libbing the encounter, the Campaign Book has all the basic info you need. There are plenty of notes on setting, guides on using the maps in the box, and all the stats you need for the enemies. You’ll find it easy to get from one part of the encounter to the next using just the info in the book. You could rock up to game night having glanced over the Campaign Book once and be ready to go with no prior planning necessary.

Epic Encounters Hive of the Ghoul-kin Review Campaign Booklet 1

If, however, you’re a bit more pédant of a perfectionist like I am, you’ll likely want to have plenty of narrative fluff and other failsafes put in place in order to ensure your session goes off without a hitch. As such, I prepared a few sheets of notes to take with me, including some expanded loot (which on the day the party almost entirely missed all of). I also really wanted to give my players plenty of opportunities to really engage with their characters and build their personalities, which is, perhaps, the one thing that the Hive of the Ghoul-kin Epic Encounter doesn’t facilitate so well.

But that’s not necessarily a problem. Because the Campaign Book is so modular, it’s very easy to fit in other stuff around what is already written – which is what I was able to do, facilitating travel and exploration elements before arrival at the encounter. It’s pretty much a case of just plugging in the Campaign Book when you want it and unplugging it when you’re done with it. Looking over the notes I wrote, I have a few sides of my own writing, and then just a note to “use the Campaign Book from pages X to Y for this bit”.

II. Au jour

Parce que l'ensemble Hive of the Ghoul-kin est livré avec toutes les cartes et miniatures dont vous avez besoin pour organiser votre rencontre, la mise en place le jour même vous oblige simplement à vous rappeler d'emballer la boîte et de sortir la carte et les figurines au bon moment. .

Epic Encounters Hive of the Ghoul-kin Playtesting 20
Les figurines de Hive of the Ghoul-kin sont superbes, même non peintes.

That the campaign booklet is quite small and slimline means it is easily tucked behind your DM screen, and can easily be kept open alongside your other notes. In addition to this, as we noted in our full product review, the Hive of the Ghoul-kin’s packaging is excellent: the box isn’t too large, and the clever packaging makes certain that everything is both safely stored yet easily accessible.

Playtesting – Playing the Encounter

Une fois la configuration préliminaire de la rencontre terminée et nos D&Ders tous présents et comptabilisés, nous avons pu commencer la session et jouer à Donjons et Dragons. Alors, comment se passerait la session, et que penseraient nos joueurs des produits ?

I. Quitter la tour de l'impératrice-liche et entrer dans la ruche des goules

In order to ensure that our players had a sense of continuation from the last Epic Encounter they played – which was Tour de l'impératrice-liche – we were keen to create a continuing story that took them from the setting we had established during the last session and on to the Hive of the Ghoul-kin.

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The group tries to figure out how to escape the Lich Empress’ tower whilst Dave prepares to take a bite from an invisible orange.

Selon le livret de campagne Hive of the Ghoul-kin, les Ghoul-kin aiment manger des cadavres. Comme nos joueurs venaient d'affronter l'archi-méchant responsable d'une armée entière de morts-vivants, il était assez facile d'établir une raison pour laquelle un groupe de monstres mangeurs de cadavres traînerait à proximité.

“These ghouls have grown fat and strong on the corpses of the dead abducted by the Lich Empress’ followers. A sick symbiosis has existed between the Lich Empress and the Ghoul-kin for centuries: powerful allies and savage killers, the Lich Empress has allowed the Ghoul-kin to take corpses – and even the occasional one of her followers – in order to keep themselves strong. The Lich Empress knew that should anything threaten her, the Ghoul-kin would come to her side to defend her home – as well as their own. But the Ghoul-kin know this balance has now been disrupted and are on the edge of a feeding frenzy. Suddenly afraid that their way of life is under threat, they are lashing out and taking what they can from the Old Kingdom whilst it is still plentiful.”

It didn’t take long for our players to stumble upon their first wandering ghoul, and shortly afterwards they found themselves at the entrance to the Ghoul-kin’s lair.

Epic Encounters Hive of the Ghoul-kin Playtesting 35
“Chapter 2: How to Play Barbarian. Step 1: hit fings real ‘ard. Step 2: repeat til it stops wrigglin’. Step 3: collect loots.”

From a DM’s perspective, linking our previous session to this one – literally a case of going from the Tour de l'impératrice-liche boîte le Ruche des Ghoul-kin box – was actually very easy. Whilst there was no guide on how to do this in either box, neither set imposed any restrictions on what needed to come before or after each encounter. As such, putting one next to the other – and linking the two zones with a little travel and some roleplay – was very easy, and the players were none the wiser as to the disconnect between the two.

One thing I was sure to include, however, were a few tremors – earthquake-like movements beneath our players’ feet, perhaps hinting at something to come…

II. Les rencontres des goules

Après avoir lié les deux rencontres avec quelques morceaux de récit et un peu de jeu de rôle, nous sommes arrivés à la viande de la boîte Hive of the Ghoul-kin.

The first part of the encounter begins with the players dropping face-first into the middle of the hive having happened upon an opening. The Campaign Booklet states players enter the chamber from a hole in its roof – that’s all. No restrictions, no prerequisites. Just a hole to fall through.

Bâillement, aux bords déchiquetés et teinté de la lumière du feu, le large trou dans le sol donne sur ce qui semble être une crypte. Vous pouvez apercevoir une poignée de torches étouffées autour du bord de la large chambre rectangulaire qui vous attend peut-être douze pieds plus bas. On distingue un sol en pierre taillée et taillée, jadis posé avec soin mais aujourd'hui fissuré et usé après d'innombrables siècles d'utilisation et de délabrement.

From a DM’s perspective, this super basic, easily replaceable entry into the encounter is fantastic, as it afford you a great deal of flexibility. It’s an easy part to remove and rework depending on your own campaign.

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En fait, tomber tête première au milieu des goules était exactement ce qui est arrivé au pauvre Dave. En reniflant de façon spectaculaire un échec acrobatique, son druide elfe des bois a plongé face contre terre dans les griffes du Ghoul-kin affamé de chair, qui a décidé d'essayer de lui faire leur dernier repas. Le reste de la fête a suivi et la rencontre a pu commencer sérieusement.

Epic Encounters Hive of the Ghoul-kin Playtesting 21
Dave, surrounded by Ghoul-kin Reavers, awaits the rescue of his companions who were, er, looting another room…

It’s up to the DM/GM how to run the encounter: have the Ghoul-kin arrive in small, wave-like groups or hurl everything at the players at once. Because our party are all level 10, I decided to empty the majority of the miniatures onto the table at the start of the encounter, then reinforce the Ghoul-kin with the worm-riding Hive Wardens half-way through.

Epic Encounters Hive of the Ghoul-kin Playtesting 13
Ollie et Lizzie affrontent un Ghoul-kin Hive Warden.

Don’t be afraid to really hurl these enemies at your party – none of them are particularly beefy, and higher level characters will be able to one-shot the smaller ones. Also, DMs/GMs, keep a close eye on the Ghoul-kin’s abilities: some have some dangerous (and very fun) things they can do to keep your party on their toes.

And don’t forget the “pustules” table. This is beaucoup de plaisir.

Epic Encounters Hive of the Ghoul-kin Playtesting 14

Il existe également de nombreux facteurs environnementaux convenablement sinistres dont vous pouvez tirer parti : les bassins d'acide, les fermes d'asticots, les blocs de boucherie. Ceux-ci sont tous conçus pour encourager les joueurs à vraiment réfléchir à leur position sur le plateau au lieu de simplement sauter la tête la première dans tout ce qui apparaît. Ollie, par exemple, s'est presque retrouvé face contre terre dans une piscine d'acide après avoir sauté sur le dos de l'un des harceleurs Ghoul-kin en plein combat pour essayer de le tuer.

Epic Encounters Hive of the Ghoul-kin Playtesting 18
Un Ghoul-kin Stalker tente de jeter Ollie dans une mare d'acide alors qu'il tente de lui arracher la tête à mains nues. Maquettistes et miniaturistes du monde entier retiennent leur souffle, le cœur dans la bouche, devant ce formidable numéro d'équilibriste.

With the room cleared, the Campaign Book then suggests players encounter either or both the Corpse-Chewer Corral and the Tunnels. These smaller transitory zones don’t have battlemaps like the first part of the encounter and the mini-boss that finishes it off. These are smaller, flexible additions to the module that can be inserted or left out as the DM/GM requires – depending on both how you may wish to run the encounter and any time constraints you have have.

Afin d'essayer d'accélérer les joueurs, cela un grondement suspect semblable à un tremblement de terre est réapparu, and as such they all fled into the Tunnels to avoid a rockfall. They then managed to silently sneak into the Brood-Sire’s Demesne, the second mapped part of the encounter.

Epic Encounters Hive of the Ghoul-kin Playtesting 34
“Sssh, I don’t think they’ve seen us…”

The Brood-Sire is a mini-boss. He’s an intimidating foe, sure, especially when backed up by his ghouls, but he’s not an impossible task for an experienced adventure party. He’s also the perfect baddie to build some lore around, especially if you’re running a longer campaign.

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Alone, he’s tough. With two of his biggest, baddest buddies, he’s a nightmare. With an entire hive of nasties? Downright deadly.

Without spoiling too much for would-be parties, the battle with the Brood-Sire is about strength and endurance. He’s a monstrous, meaty meanie backed up by a near-infinite supply of smaller, but no less angry, minions.

Epic Encounters Hive of the Ghoul-kin Playtesting 8
In the absence of a proper miniature, Dave’s Staff of the Python takes the form of a suitably green-coloured D4.

Le groupe devra être intelligent avec son approche et sélectif avec ses sorts. Le Brood-Sire, lui-même un ennemi imposant capable d'arracher des morceaux du groupe de joueurs, est soutenu par son approvisionnement presque infini de créations Ghoul-kin, qui se battront jusqu'au dernier pour le défendre.

Epic Encounters Hive of the Ghoul-kin Playtesting 6

Exécuté correctement, la rencontre avec le Brood-Sire a le potentiel d'être un moment extrêmement mémorable pour n'importe quelle campagne. Sa crypte-laboratoire pleine d'horreurs, le bavardage de ses goules fétides, sa propre présence terrifiante : c'est de cela que sont faites les légendes de D&D.

Our players prevailed against the Brood-Sire – by the skins of their collective teeth. As testimony to how tough the encounter can be, both Rich and Lizzie were brought to the very brink and were only saved by several timely heals from Dave (and Ollie kicking the living snot out of everything).

The laboratory falls still. The stench remains, as do the ghosts of the unspeakable horrors that took place here, but you finally have a way out. On the far side of the chamber is a heavy crypt door, slightly ajar, and beyond it a set of steps leading upwards. There is the faintest glimmer of light at the end of it – not weak, anaemic torchlight like that which fills the rest of the Ghoul-kin’s hive, but starlight: distant, faint. The world above beckons – not the ink-black, storm-scarred sky of the Old Kingdom, but the clear heavens of the rest of the world.

Whatever awaits them next? Surely it couldn’t be un énorme ver en colère? Non.

How to Play Epic Encounters: Hive of the Ghoul-kin – Summary

Une fois de plus, le verdict des D&Ders résidents de a été unanime : Hive of the Ghoul-kin est très amusant. Les figurines sont excellentes et merveilleusement variées, et ont été brillantes pour augmenter l'excitation sur le plateau.

Once the players were familiar with each type of monster, their appearances in later parts of the encounter elicited the appropriate reactions you’d want as a DM/GM. The small Reavers drew eye-rolls and cries “not these guys again”, from the group. When the two hulking Ghoul-kin Bulwarks lumbered into view during the Brood-Sire fight, the colour visibly drained from some of the faces around the table. Ollie even described the sinewy, canine-like Ghoul-kin Stalker “truly cursed” for its twisted appearance. In fact, he hated the way it looked so much he made it his priority to kill them both when they first appeared.

Epic Encounters Hive of the Ghoul-kin Playtesting 3

From a DM/GM perspective, Hive of the Ghoul-kin is a fantastic resource that really helps bring a D&D session to life. It’s not restrictive in how it plays, and there’s plenty of flexibility afforded across the entire encounter (for example, we didn’t head to the Corpse-Chewer Corrals).

Vous pouvez très facilement exécuter toute la session à partir des seules ressources de cette boîte et n'avoir besoin d'utiliser rien d'autre. Les cartes sont superbes, les minis sont fantastiques et il y a plus qu'assez d'idées dans le livret de campagne pour vous permettre de continuer. Nous avons rempli quatre heures avec cette boîte, et c'est avec moi que j'ai précipité la fête à certains moments.

There’s a lot here, and all of it to like. Tons of fun for players, and easy to implement for DMs/GMs, Hive of the Ghoul-kin is a no-brainer. Grab yourself a copy, and plunge your D&D party into a horrific body-horror nightmare at your next session.

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Epic Encounters Hive of the Ghoul-kin Playtesting 19

If you haven’t already done so, now is the perfect time to check out our Hive of the Ghoul-kin critique for a close look at the rest of the box. You won’t be disappointed.

Encore une fois, un immense merci à La table des jeux pour nous accueillir !

Editor’s note: the flavour text that has been inserted throughout this article does not originate from within the Hive of the Ghoul-kin Campaign Booklet. This was written by Rob as part of his planning and was used throughout the live session.


Rob has spent most of the last 20 years playing World of Warcraft and writing stories set in made-up worlds. At some point, he also managed to get a Master's degree by writing about Medieval zombies.

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