Monday 28 September 2015

Attack of the Fungoid Trolls

Finally the ancient tome known as the Attack of the Fungoid Trolls is in my grasp.

Attack of the Fungoid Trolls | TTG | 1980

Published by Bob Conners Tabletop Games in 1981 Attack of the Fungoid Trolls was the only published scenario for their Reaper Fantasy Wargames Rules - written by Bryan Ansell and Richard Halliwell ,who also collaborated on Imperial Commander for Bryans Laserburn and with Rick Priestly went on to devise Warhammer.

Physically Attack of the Fungoid Trolls is a simple black and white A5 8 page saddle-stitched (or "stapled" to the illiterate heathens) volume with off-white cream card covers. If you're familiar with other TTG products of the same era, perhaps Reaper itself or Laserburn or one of their many fine historical wargaming rules it a follows a familiar template. The typesetting is monospaced font that looks like it has come straight off an IBM daisywheel printer, punctuated with neatly done Letraset headers, in this case Letraset Old English giving it a somewhat gothic feel, and by gothic I mean some obscure proto-doom synth-pop cassette only release by some random bunch of ex-hippies and post punks from Sheffield.

Unfortunately none of the artwork is credited beyond a few signatures. Most certainly looks like the work of  Tony "Shadow King" Yates who also did art duties on Reaper. None of the pictures seem particularly relevant to  anything in the text, yet it all manages to evoke the same grimy swords and sorcery atmosphere and create a wider world.

Attack of the Fungoid Trolls also comes with a folded A5 sheet of plant schematics, reminiscent of the kind Letraset put out for architectural rendering, and later found in Games Workshops Dungeon Floor Plans series, although printed on sturdy yellow stock for you to cut out and use.

These are trees... not Chaos Vortexes... or are they?

The text evokes much the same feeling as the early Citadel Specialty Set scenarios (The Quest for Chaos et. al.), but given a little more depth and detail. As Fungoid Trolls is co-authored by Bryan Ansell and Richard Halliwell that isn't a complete surprise, and there are elements I'd attribute to each. There are some obvious motifs taken from Dungeons & Dragons, the Hill, Stone, Frost and Fire Giants, regenerating Trolls and the Red Dragons for example. There is also the perennial Warhammer obsession with mutants and chaos and a kind of precursor to the Death World concept that arose in Rogue Trader and would resurface with Warhammer 8th Edition terrain. There are the randomly determined forces alongside the "use whatever figures you have" suggestion, and something vaguely psychedelic about the whole affair. All in all it is fantastic, and everything I hoped it would be, without being at all what I'd expected.

nobody expects the fungoid troll invasion!

But what of the scenario itself?  The forces of the Evil Necromancer Macarbres Dwight IV clashes against the Astothian army in the Mutant Woods. The Marcarbres raiding party boasts a fine display of Ogres, Giants, Trolls and Acolytes, whereas the Astothians are a rugged mixed human infantry and cavalry army centered on a group of adventurers. The woods themselves are full of deadly and trecherous vegetation, as likely to cause death and destruction as the machinations of the generals. As the actual armies compositions are really random / flexible, it's difficult to pinpoint exactly what size game it is, but the force averages around 120 troops per side. The focus on adventurers kind of puts Attack of the Fungoid Troll into the strange hinterland between RPGs and Wargames... 3D Roleplay Hobby Games perhaps... The rulebook does TTG figures, both their fantasy Reaper line, which gets listed on the back cover, and their historicals are suggested, alongside the Citadel Fantasy Tribe Trolls.

Citadel Fantasy Tribes Troll painted by the talented Don Hans

So there you have it. Five long years it has taken me to get a copy of Attack of the Fungoid Trolls - almost as long as this blog has existed. Over the years I'd contacted various second-hand games sellers and collectors, jammed Attack of the Fungoid Trolls with a half dozen alternate spellings on my eBay saved searches. Sent random people emails, scoured boot-fairs and wargames shows alike. Nothing. Not a single sniff. Like some Thane Tostig lost in the dark woods, I thought the quest would never be quite complete.

But finally the fine folk at second hand and collectable RPG dealer Shop on the Borderlands managed to unearth the arcane tome some time in the middle of September 2015 and put it on their website for sale, somehow succeeding where all others had failed. And then a scant two days later the thing arrived in my mailbox, sturdy board backed envelope and ziplock-bagged. Chuffed, yes I am.

Anyway, rather than just leave it there, I thought I'd ask Mark in a round about way how he'd managed to get hold of Attack of the Fungoid Trolls when I had spectacularly failed too ...

Hi Mark, when did you start The Shop on the Borderlands?
I think we launched in May of last year. I'd been made redundant from a well-paid job and gone to work in my wife's business, which was much more fun but meant I didn't have the disposable cash to lavish on old roleplaying games. And I missed that. So starting a business trading in old roleplaying games was a way to get that thrill back. It helped that my wife's business was web development (among other things).

Where do you source your stock from? Do you spend the weekends obsessively hunting round car boot sales, charity shops, digging up fields around Nottingham and haunting house clearance auctions like the rest of us retrogamer addicts?
Car boot sales always start too early and I suspect that the chances of finding stuff every time is probably quite low. I have found a few items in charity shops (usually when actually looking for secondhand books). My best find in a charity shop was a pretty obscure Cthulhu supplement. Regrettably though, the people in the shop had been clever enough to realise that they had something quite valuable and had it on sale for £30. I did buy it and later sold it for £60. I've not hit the house clearances market yet - hopefully most roleplayers are still alive! I buy quite a bit on eBay sites (not just in the UK, but internationally) and from people on various social media groups and forums.

Since I'm still a gamer myself, the hardest part can be forcing myself to buy the product I know I'll get a decent margin on and not the product that I've always wanted to have a look at! Oh, and I do
get approached by people wanting to turn their collection into cash in one job lot. We do also sell brand new stock, and get that from Esdevium Games (like most RPG stores in the UK).

Ah yes, I used to drop into Esdiviums Aldershot shop back in the day - they used to run those full page 6pt text adverts in White Dwarf that listed just about every RPG thing ever published. I think the retail and distribution arms spilt a long time ago.  But back to hoarding old stuff, do you buy collections?
Yes. That's not to say we buy any collection - I'm running a business here!  For me to buy a collection, I have to be confident I can make a good profit on it in a reasonable time. Stock turnover in this kind of business is pretty slow, and I can't afford to tie up all of my working capital in slow-moving stock that I'll only be able to sell at a small margin. The bigger the margin I think I'll be able to make and the quicker I'll be able to sell something, the more interested I'm likely to be. I was trying to avoid buying anything at the moment (because we currently have rather more stock than cash or shelf space), but I actually bought a collection today because the seller offered me a very good deal!

Oh well, there goes my hope of flogging my old tat. What's your most valuable collectible in stock?
Probably the most valuable item I own isn't actually in stock, but just in my private collection. That's the second copy ever printed of the GDW boardgame 'Imperium' from 1977. Mint, unpunched, and verified as the second ever printed by Marc Miller. Imperium is of interest primarily because it was the first use of what would become the official setting for Traveller. After D&D, Traveller is probably the most collectable of all RPGs. I should know - I was a collector, and most of my collection became stock, but I drew the line at that copy of Imperium. (We do have another copy of Imperium for sale in the Shop though!

I think the most expensive item we currently have in stock is also for Traveller. It's The Travellers' Aid Society Alien Encyclopedia, a hardback compilation of the Classic Traveller Alien Modules, produced as a limited edition in Germany (ours is 86 of 200).

Second would be the very, very obscure (and not entirely licensed) Blake's 7 RPG. I think the most expensive items we've sold in our first year of existence were '101 Robots' for Traveller (£160), the TSR Silver Anniversary Collector's Edition Boxed Set (£150) and a Japanese language edition of Traveller (£130).

I've recently acquired a complete run of Blakes 7 on VHS (it's the retro-scifi format of choice!) and had no idea there was an unofficial B7 RPG.  So how did you get into RPGs?
Probably the same way a lot of people of my age did - a friend had just got the red box Mentzer edition Basic D&D and wanted some players. My first character was a fighter called 'Markon' and the first adventure we played was B2 The Keep on the Borderlands (which obviously inspired the name of the Shop). I either bought or was bought as a present MERP, Traveller and 1st edition AD&D not long after that. I ran and played in a few campaigns at university (Traveller and AD&D), became a collector at the point in my life when I had more money and less time, but now have a group who were all people I knew at university (including my wife) and we play a hardcore week-long campaign (playing about eight or more hours a day) once a year, always with me as the GM.

My current campaign is going to last for several of these weeks (so several years) and is set during the Second Age of Middle-earth, but using my own rules rather than MERP or any other published game.

Well, that probably marks us as a similar vintage, even if my own interests tend towards the period before I started gaming. Week-long none-stop RPG sessions using your own house-rules is pretty hardcore! Thanks for taking the time out to answer my questions and another thanks from me for tracking down Attack of the Fungoid Trolls and flogging it to me.

Attack of the Fungoid Trolls by Bryan Ansell and Richard Halliwell was available from TTG in Nottingham for 60p, in the 80s, send SAE for catalogue.


  1. I don't recall ever seeing a battle report on your blog but you are going to play Attack of the Fungoid Trolls and tell us how it went, aren't you?

    1. I have done one game report, The Wardream of Ymir which was Warhammer 1st Edition played with chestnuts, acorns and stones. But I found the task of documenting the game and writing it up a bit of a distraction from just enjoying the game, so the rest of that campaign (involving rosehips, rusty nails, acorn cups and oak galls) just got played. It's a bit like taking a camera to a gig, tends to distance one from the experience.

      There's certainly much room for more Fungoid Troll activity on the blog tho :-)

  2. Zhu, you are my hero!!! I have been searching for this ever since my brother-in-law alluded to some supplement to REAPER he had seen years ago. Having never found even the slightest lead on this I began to assume that the book was one more of those naughty Nottingham Myths just to drive us retro-fiends insane! But Huzzah! You have proven it true! Now if you ever care to post a scan of it...

    1. Ha! That's kind of how I felt about Mark at Shop on the Borderlands for finding the thing. I imagine him as some kind of elite Ranger type, tracking and hunting strange prey with his mad woodman skills...

      I will still keep my eyes open for another copy and let you know if I spot one!

  3. That was a great read! Nice troll as well ;)

    1. Thanks for letting me use your photo; )

      Strange coincidence that you posted around the same time (well it is mushroom season). Attack of the Fungoid Trolls only mentions 2 Citadel miniatures, FTT1 and FTT2 - for use as the Fungoid Trolls themselves. What is especially pertinent about your version is how it appears quite fungal and horrific - the Fungoid Trolls shed fungus infections from their skins, and several of the are trained to extract spores from giant deadly fungus using long sticks. The colour pallet and conversion all seem to fit perfectly.

  4. I'm so glad you're excavating some of this dim history of the hobby. I had never even heard of Attack of the FTs. I'm also pretty happy to learn about Shop on the Borderlands. Named after the first D&D adventure I ever played (I think I was seven at the time, and my 11 year old brother was DM).
    Grand post.