Local reissue masterminds Numero Group have always specialized in the obscure, specific, and expansive, but their latest project, Cities of Darkscorch, takes the cake. Back in March, Numero released Warfaring Strangers: Darkscorch Canticles, a 16-track double-LP collection of whimsical, Tolkien-inspired, private-press hard-rock and proto-metal bands that arrived in the early-70s wake of Zeppelin and Sabbath. The combo of hazy, down-tuned riffage and budget studio fidelity provides the perfect soundtrack for either smoking a spliff under a yellowing light in your parents’ basement or for throwing around the 20-sided die (depending on which end of the Freaks & Geeks spectrum you fall on). On Mon 6/24, Numero will officially release Canticles‘ ambitious companion piece, a Dungeons & Dragons-style RPG created by staffers Ken Shipley, Dustin Drase, and Judson Picco called Cities of Darkscorch. Work on the game began in January of 2013, and on Fri 6/27 there will be a release party at Logan Square’s Comfort Station.
Much of Cities is gleaned from an elaborate homemade board game that Shipley discovered his stepfather Robert Soden had created in his basement in the 70s. Many of the maps, symbols, and rules are borrowed from that project, but instead of navigating a fantasy underworld of sorcerers, spells, and dragons, in this game you’re a rough-and-tumble rock band. As Stonehenge, Stone Axe, Stoned Mace, or any of the other 13 bands from the compilation, you navigate a mystical world and battle to land a record contract “penned in brimstone, VD, and pot smoke.” Power-ups include a cheap mechanic to fix your beat-up van, a round of antibiotics to cure a bout of syphilis the band got from sharing groupies, and enough cocaine to bribe a club owner into hosting you despite your being blacklisted. All the cards are adorned with very funny—and often vulgar—illustrations by John McGavock McConnell and Eliza Childress, my favorite of which is a crude drawing of Ace Frehley with his dick lopped off.
Last night I took part in the game’s first play-through, and it was a blast. RPG experience might help you out a little, but it isn’t totally necessary. Drase tells me that Cities of Darkscorch was originally more complex and complicated—a true gamer’s game—but these heady elements were ultimately cut out to keep game play fast-paced, fun, and easy enough to handle for someone who’s trying to battle while drinking tons of beer.
The 6/27 release party includes a show of the artwork by Soden that inspired the game, as well as game play led by the Numero staff and copies available for sale.
A Cities of Darkscorch package that includes the Warfaring Strangers: Darkscorch Canticles double LP sells for $100, and an expanded edition is available for an extra five bucks, which includes a bonus seven-inch from Supa Chief, whose sleeve unfolds into a board-game extension. The game is limited to 1,500 copies, and you can order it now from the Numero Group website. Rolling papers not included.
You can check out a commercial for the game below.
And you can listen to Warfaring Strangers: Darkscorch Canticles below.