|Every good tour should involve cannon fire!
|The green ork on the left is Robert's wizard. Every other figure in the photo is mine...
It was the third day of the Geek Nation Tours Frostgrave Immersion Tour and the gang was back in our gaming dungeon beneath our hotel. We’d had the morning to sleep in, relax, or go for solo explorations, but now it was time for serious gaming. And we needed to get the gaming in, for this night, we were off into the darkness.
The bus picked us up just after dinner, and drove us deep into the dark, Estonian wilderness. Soon we left the paved roads behind, and bumped down dirt tracks into the wilds of Estonia’s largest national park. There we were joined by a local guide, who passed out flashlights. With our breath condensing in the freezing night air, we plunged into the quiet dark. As we walked down a deserted track, one of our guides pointed to the heavens, where a gigantic glowing circle framed the moon. Apparently, this is a phenomenon known as a ‘winter moon’ or a ‘22° halo’. It was stunningly beautiful, and I’d never seen anything like it before.
Our first stop that night was by a strange set of rectangular foundations – all that remained of a set of bronze-age tombs that had been recently excavated. From there, we climbed up a hill to where those bronze-age people had built a hill fort on a cliff edge. If it were the day, we could have seen the sea, but in the inky blackness, all we could see was the ominous nothingness where the cliff dropped away. Nearby, stood three large standing stones. While they looked like an ancient monument, they were actually modern, one of Estonia’s most important World War II moments. (If I heard correctly, Estonia only has 8 living WWII veterans).
After our brief tour of ancient Estonia, we hopped back on the bus for a short ride to the ruins of a gigantic manor house. In the darkness, I couldn’t help think that it looked like something straight out of Ravenloft, with its incredibly heavy construction, and its’ gigantic stone columns. Delightfully, our guide had the key and we got a look at a couple of the bottom rooms. I have always been attracted to ruins, and the cracked and crumbling walls and floors of this once great home did not disappointed. In one spot, we found a pentagram scratched into the floor. We got also got to go up the grand staircase, but where it turned to go up to the next level, it was sealed shut with a massive, iron door. I wondered whether the door was really to keep us out, or perhaps to keep something else in.
|Are you in there Strahd?
We arrived back at the hotel late, but since there was no gaming, I actually went to bed earlier than any previous night. Which was just as well, because we were all up and back on the bus early the next morning! This time, as we again drove off into the wilderness, the snow started to fall for the first time on our Frostgrave tour! By the time we got off the bus, and started our walk through the Estonian bogs, a thin layer had covered the ground. Northern Estonia is a flat country, and much of the soil is poor, leaving large chunks as boggy scrubland. It is gorgeous walking country.
After the walk, we got back on the bus and headed for the small town of Rakvere, which is known for three things: its gigantic statue of an aurochs that looms over the town, its ruined Teutonic castle, and its spas…
The bus parked beneath the castle, and with cool breeze whistling in our ears, we ascended a long staircase that lead up the giant bull statue and the imposing castle gate. I am told by several people that Rakvere castle looks a lot like Winterfell from Games of Thrones. I can just say, it is an imposing structure that seemed to get bigger the more you wandered around it.
The castle was actually closed to the public for the winter, but our guides had arranged a special tour… and it was special! It began in the torture room, where we learned all kinds of gruesome, but interesting facts. We then took a walk through ‘hell’. This was actually a dimly lit, narrow tunnel, with glowing red faces learning from windows, and purposely extremely uneven floors. It was like a ‘fun house’ except with some real challenge to it. This eventually spat us out in a deep crypt, where an animatronic ‘Dance of Death’ greeted us like some demonic version of Chuck E. Cheese. In truth, it was all rather cheesy, but it was also good fun.
From there things picked up significantly. We were taken into the reconstructed great hall and given a talk on various swords throughout history – and even got to try swinging a few recreations. Then we descended into the old kitchen, where one of our number mixed up a batch of gunpowder! I’m not kidding; with the help of our guide, he took charcoal, saltpetre, and sulfur, crunched them up, and mixed them together. Then – the highlight of the day – we took the gunpowder, loaded it into a small cannon, and fired it off. Okay, it was just a signal gun, and obviously there was no ball, but it was still an impressive, and impressively loud explosion! (Though it didn’t even phase the sheep that were pinned nearby).
Having survived all of this, we had a rustic but delicious lunch in the castle. Although it was a wonderful time, it should be remembered that none of it was heated, and it was below freezing. So, having finished our meal, we got back on the bus, and headed to Rakvere’s best spa (and waterpark). There most of the group spent the afternoon and early evening splashing about or trying one of the many saunas (including the 100° Celsius sauna. I honestly wonder how often people pass out in there).
I didn’t join the group for this. Needing a bit of time alone, I went for a walk around the town. I took a look at the imposing church, walked through their interesting town square, and wandered around a mall, where I bought a couple of small gifts for my children. I returned to the spa in time for dinner, and afterwards we all retired to one of their conference rooms for another night of hard-core Frostgrave gaming! Even our guides joined us for this one, staying up well past midnight to see if they could get just one more treasure off the table!
The trip was not over though – we still had a Viking village to see, and some more of Tallinn to explore, but that will have to wait until the next post!
Again thanks to all of my fellow tour participants for taking all of the photos!
|Despite the unfortunate Transpose, Robert and I had a great battle for the central treasure that game!
|That's what +2 damage looks like!