Reviews #004 – Alpha Omega

June 7, 2009

Introduction

There has been a lot of buzz around Alpha Omega by Mindstorm Labs, what with people talking about the setting, the book itself and the system. Usually comments of amazing, beautiful and complex respectively. A new game from a new publisher has to do well to break into the rpg fraternities hearts and minds and from the discussions carrying on it looks like Alpha Omega has managed it with top marks.

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Into the Frey… Part 2

May 28, 2009

So here are a few of the comments from last nights 4th Edition game, see if you can guess the general opinion from the group:

  • “Nice boardgame”
  • “Its like Advanced Heroquest with extra bits added”
  • “Its a fun break from roleplaying”
  • “Its ok, but its not D&D”
  • “If it was called something else it would be ok, but its just not what I expected”

…. yeah, you guessed it, they pretty much saw it as a distraction from “real roleplaying”. Give them their dues though, they are determined to finish off the scenario next week and kill off as many Kobolds as possible. Also the added hint that there might be a dragon lurking in the depths of Kobold Hall gave them a lot of incentive to carry on as well. Im hoping that next week will convince them that it is an ok game, maybe not the best game but just ok.

As for GMing, well I found it ok. Thanks pretty much to the Newbie DM pack that I mentioned in the last post, the game flowed quite well. I only had to look up rules a couple of times and the encounter charts with pre-rolled initiatives was a great timesaver. Also worth a mention are the tokens in the DM starter kit. The guys really liked them and had much fun flipping them over to the bloodied side when they scored big hits on the Kobolds. Little things please small minds I guess :¬)

The long and short of this tale though is that the group seems to thing that 4th Edition is not what D&D once was, and they now see it as a one shot game. They cannot envisage using it at all for a campaign, even though they do want to try to complete the current adventure. My guess is that next week will not sway them too much but I hope that they enjoy it all the same.


Review #003 – Mouse Guard

April 4, 2009

In an attempt to get my thoughts down while their still fresh from reading the book; it’s time for the review of Mouse Guard by Burning Wheel

 

Introduction

Mouse Guard RPG is based upon the graphic novels by David Petersen that follows the tales of a group of mice who serve and protect the local mice communities. As a game the RPG stresses the fact that as mice are so small, it’s pretty much mice against the rest of the world. It also portrays the game as a simple one that can be enjoyed by all ages and abilities, so let’s see how it fairs.

 

Style

As it is based upon the graphic novel, the RPG takes a lot of its style from the source material. What it does do though is emphasise the struggles that the mice face day to day. One area in particular that seems to be forgotten in most games is the effect of the weather upon the creatures of the land. More on this later but it’s worth thinking about how so many other games miss the natural elements as something that can be a main protagonist to the PC’s.

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Review #002 – Dark Heresy by Fantasy Flight Games

March 20, 2009

After the review of Mongoose Publishing’s Traveller, its seems only fitting that we move to another RPG that has been covered on the site and one that deals with another sci-fi setting…. Dark Heresy by Fantasy Flight games

 

Introduction

Dark Heresy is the game set in Games Workshops Warhammer 40K universe. It’s essentially the game that roleplayer’s have been asking after for the last 25 years since GW released the tabletop miniatures game.

 

Style

40K has always been a bit different to other Sci-Fi in that it portrays a very chaotic, dark universe where bad things happen as a matter of course. Technology is not that advanced, no beaming from place to place here. The setting is filled with weird aliens that, pretty much, all hate humanity; weird humans that call forth strange beings from another dimension and other people who are just plain weird.

This is a pretty dark setting to put PC’s into, but it works. It’s mainly a story of the struggle of the PC’s against the overwhelming tide of corruption, insanity and dark places and the stories and adventures in Dark Heresy convey this pretty well.

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Review #001 – Mongoose Publishing’s Traveller

March 12, 2009

So to the first review… and I guess it only fitting that we start with something that has had a lot of words written about it here already… Mongoose Publishing’s Traveller

 

Introduction

Traveller has been around in some form or other since the dawn of RPG’s. So for Mongoose to take another shot at publishing it was a brave thing to do considering all of the old timers who so loved their old game, be it Classic, MegaTrav or some other flavour.

So how did they do? Well let’s look at the book in sections and then summarise it so we don’t get lost.

 

Style

Traveller has always projected a style of being a hard sci-fi system and setting and Mongoose has done nothing to change this. I consider this a good thing and so should the old timers, none of that fancy sci-fantasy here, just good reasons why things are like they are. For example, with communications, you can’t just call up a friend halfway across the galaxy and have a quick chat (I’m looking you here Star Wars!) Radio signals do not travel faster than light so it’s impossible and no fudge has been introduced to account for it. Mongoose has kindly added a list of fudges for Lightspeed/Faster than light/

Warp/etc if you so wish to use them, but that is just a bonus and not considered a standard rule for the default setting.

All in all, if you want hard evidence and logical science in your sci-fi, then this game is probably your answer.

 

System

The system is pretty much built upon the old Traveller systems of old. Not much has changed. It’s a D6 system where the player rolls 2D6, adds skills and stat bonuses and modifiers and tries to get a result of 8 or more. Simple, neat and easy to use. Now it may sounds like PC’s will be able to do anything really easy in this way, but a couple of things need to be pointed out. Firstly Skills here are not huge levels of bonus, if you have a rank 2 in a skill consider yourself an expert, rank 1 or even rank 0 skills are far more common. Secondly modifiers can be added by the GM to make tasks more difficult or easier if they think that it is required, on top of any situational modifiers.

Now the special part about Traveller has always been the parts of the system that can almost be looked upon as “mini-games”. Creating a character, detailing a system or world, designing vehicles and more have always been a fun way to waste time for GM’s in Traveller. This book keeps to that premise with another fun character generation system that is inspired by the Classic Traveller system. Characters follow a lifepath, building skills and a back-story of sorts during creation that really helps a player identify with the PC and gives them a very strong basis to work with when considering their action in game. System Generation is the same, giving a rich feel to any setting that the GM, if he cares to, can build upon. This system also should spark the creative juices for any GM as he works through it. “Hmm I just rolled up a world with high tech and no population…. Robots!”, “A world with no water and lots of people… trading water with others for survival maybe, Ice Shipping through space…” And so it goes on.

 

Setting

It has to be said here that Traveller has no default setting. The book is gear towards the official Traveller universe, but it is essentially without setting for all intents and purposes. Indeed Mongoose has since released a setting book, called The Spinward Marches that details a full sector of the official Traveller universe. Also more books are in the pipeline for other settings using the Traveller system (Babylon 5 anyone?)

That said being, any setting used in Traveller is going to be at the harder end of the sci-fi scale unless the GM puts in some considerable work. As I mentioned in the introduction, things in this game do not happen with a wave of a magic wand or some technobable explanation. Everything is a logical extension of the science as we understand it today and anything beyond that is something that the GM will have to work out for themselves.

 

Layout

The layout of the book is very much of the clean and crisp school of thinking. The book is written in an easy to understand tone and is pretty clear in most respects. The one point that I found a problem with was the system generation rules are not laid out in a very organised fashion. Some things seem to be in the wrong order or even missing. I did wonder if this was a last effort kind of deal as this section is at the back of the book and seems to have been given less care and attention than the rest of the book. Still after a second or third read through, a GM should be able to create systems and planets without too much trouble.

The book is a hardback which is nice considering that it is less than 200 pages long. It just shows how much Mongoose cares about having a nice clean product that can be used and abused without it falling apart or looking scruffy like so many softback rulebooks seem to be after a few game sessions.

 

Art

Much has been said about the art in this book before so I’m not going to labour the point. Basically the art is all simple black and white. In some places it looks pretty good, in others, no so good. I’m also led to believe that Mongoose has changed the artwork in later reprints to much nicer stuff. (Not sure I agree with this as surely it should be a revised edition rather than just a reprint) Other than that the cover is inspired by the old Classic Traveller books, which is a nice touch, and the art for the spaceships is really cool as well.

 

In Play

In play the rules work well. They don’t seem to get in the way of good roleplaying and the simple task resolution system is easy to use and understand. Combat is fast a fairly deadly and so far seems to be pretty fluid thanks to the simple skill system. So far I’ve found that players like the system and the default setting has many fans out there already.

 

Overall

Overall, I’m pretty happy with my copy of Mongoose Publishing’s Traveller. My 2 only regrets are that I wish I had held off buying it on the day it came out so that I could get a newer copy with the updated art and errata, and I wish that they had laid out the System generation rules a little clearer. Other than that I really do love the game and will probably use the system for lots of things other than just playing around with the default setting.

 

The RPGBrainDump Checklist for good books

Index

Check

7 pages long and easy to read

Table of Contents

Check

 

Adventure Seeds

Kind of

System generation system should give you lots of inspiration

Character Sheet

Check

Clean, but a lot of wasted space with Stats taking over 1/3 of the sheet

Chargen Summary

Check

Step by step summary

Stat Level Meanings

Absent

Easy to work out due to stat based dice modifier

Rules examples

Check

Lots of good examples

 

Scores

Style

4.0

System

4.5

Setting

3.0

Layout

4.0

Art

3.0

In Play

4.5

Overall

23.0 / 30.0

 

Scores – rpg.net Style

Style

4.0

Substance

4.0

 


Reviews – Intro

March 8, 2009

In one of my opening posts I put a list of things that would be in the pipeline. One of those was reviews. Now I’ve held off from doing these for a couple of reasons but the main one being that im not sure if people want to see another set of reviews from an average joe. I mean why care what someone else thinks of a game??

Now however, as per usual for me and this blog, ive had another idea or thought about the subject. People want to get as much info on a prospective purchase to ensure that they spend their money wisely, especially in the  current economic climate. On top of that people (me included) want to know if a game lives up to the hype that surrounds it,
and the more an item is reviewed the more chance a person has of getting a well rounded, clearer and unbiased picture.

An example. Joe wants to buy the new, super-mega, glossy Man & War RPG (Don’t look for it, I just made that up).
Option #1
Joe reads how great it is on the publishers website and thinks, it sounds cool and the art looks good.
If Joe buys it now, and its not the greatest thing since sliced bread, then Joe is put off buying from that publisher again and is put off buying stuff from other publishers for a while. Once burned, twice shy and all that.

Option #2
After reading the publisher blurb, Jow checks out a review. The review slates the game with a massive rant on how rubbish it is.
If Joe saves his money, but a friend buys it and Joe finds out that it is actually what he was looking for, he is put off reading reviews and ends up next time following option #1… not a good thing as we have already seen.

Option #3
Joe reads a stack of reviews…Some good, some bad.
Joe gets a more rounded opinion of what the game is, what the system is like, how it plays and hopefully if this is the game for him.

So there we go. To ensure that Joe is well informed, we as an RPG community need to make sure that games get reviews or are at least talked about in forums. Without that Publishers spin may fall flat and not sell great games or they may sell something that they wrote on a really bad day at the office and is not worth buying.

I guess want Im alluding too here is that this is the internet and its full of information. Adding to the information is a good thing. Praising something good is a great thing, and warning (note – NOT ranting or slating) of a bad thing is also good. If people have enough information they can make their own informed choice, no information means a punt in the dark.

Look for reviews to start showing up here in the next week…..