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Shadowrun: Fifth Edition Core Rulebook
by Thomas B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/14/2013 23:58:06
Fun fact: I actually have no experience with Shadowrun whatsoever. Yes, I know it’s pretty much a classic and one of the bigger fish in the gaming sea…and, yet, here we are. So when I got a chance to review the Fifth Edition of the game, I took it.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: First and foremost, this is the 5th, and most recent, version of the game. The books clocks in at 489 pages, making for a hefty tome. The PDF is about $20, about a third of what the print version is going to retail for, it looks like. Shadowrun is a mix of fantasy and cyberpunk sci-fi elements, a lot of which have now been seen over the years. The system uses a d6 dice pool system, with 5s and 6s for successes and “Glitches” occurring when half or more of the dice rolled come up 1s. The world is ran largely by megacorporations, and people deal in both Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality while Magic is a fairly commonplace element.

WHAT WORKS: I like the fantastic elements like the elves and dwarves and orks and trolls, blending them with the modern world. The magic system has some very neat points to it, with my favorite part being the mentor spirits. The book is a gorgeous piece of work, with some impressive art. There is a “random run generator”, essentially a random adventure generator, which I always love. Character creation levels are provided, so you can start campaigns with street level newbies, capable warriors or power players.

WHAT DOESN’T WORK: In-game fiction doesn’t do too much for me, anymore, and there seemed to be a lot of that here (maybe it was just my perceptions), especially for the price. I’m not a fan of the approach taken with the system…for the most part, I’ve moved towards “lighter” systems over the years, and a skill heavy system like this isn’t really in my wheelhouse (75+ skills is a bit much for me).

CONCLUSION: Shadowrun isn’t really for me. I’m not surprised, as cyberpunk isn’t a genre that really interests me, and when I do have a desire to scratch that itch, I have a perfectly good Savage Worlds alternative waiting for me (Interface Zero). The book never really “clicked” for me, making it difficult for me to engage with it, and I think that might be the “Dracula” effect: In short, all those trends that Shadowrun kinda helped set are a bit overdone now, and so it has a bit of a “been there, done that” feel to it. That said, if the system were more my speed, I really think I could get into the setting due to the “magic plus sci-fi” mish-mash. Not a bad product, just not my cup of tea, unfortunately.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: Fifth Edition Core Rulebook
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Shadowrun: Harlequin
by Roger N. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/10/2013 15:02:49
This was the first of the original Shadowrun scenarios that I actually completely recall playing. In todays terms it would be a 'mega-scenario' covering a longer period of time with multiple potential spin offs through out. The group i played with at the time had played Shadowrun since it was released in the UK and this really did hit us with a whole new level of challenge.

I cannot recommend this scenario/adventure enough. For any group wanting to get some Shadowrun goodness this is really up there. In my opinion only Universal Brotherhood was better from the original Shadowrun 1ed released scenarios.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: Harlequin
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Shadowrun: Fifth Edition Preview Omnibus
by Marcus G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/09/2013 20:14:29
Same as the other review, downloaded and opened up blank pages...

Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: Fifth Edition Preview Omnibus
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BattleTech: Alpha Strike
by sean f. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/09/2013 15:19:37
This system is well written and is going to be a blast to play!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
BattleTech: Alpha Strike
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BattleTech: Alpha Strike Preview 1
by Max B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/09/2013 12:16:41
This preview has me very excited about the ruleset. I'm going to try it at Gencon, and probably buy it after that. As a Wizkids Mechwarrior player, I find this seems to strike a better balance of speed vs. unit individuality than either regular Battletech or some other wargames focusing on larger numbers of units.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
BattleTech: Alpha Strike Preview 1
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Shadowrun: Fifth Edition Core Rulebook
by Adrian S. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/08/2013 20:07:14
Reviewing a core rulebook is always fraught with difficulty; usually because it invites discussion on whether it is 'better' than previous editions. Rather than go into the rules and the mechanical changes in any great depth, this review will focus on the general use and production values of the book.

One of the key questions about a core book is whether it can stand on its' own. We have come to expect over the years that gaming companies will provide an endless supply of expansion books, but in my opinion a game should be playable with only one book. In this, Catalyst delivers.

The designers have been very clever about the content, and made some really intelligent decisions. The book is very well-suited to engaging with a new cadre of SR players. There are very good sections which flesh out the world, give readers an overview of what it is like to live in the Sixth World, and then explain why shadowrunners exist and what they do. It gives a breakdown of how you should approach a shadowrun, the sorts of activities that might be involved in a mission, and what roles exist in the average group. Added to this is a decently detailed section on the corporations. Were I not reviewing this, I would be tempted to skip these chapters (I've been playing for a while), but this would have been a mistake. Even the most veteran player or game master will take away something from these sections.

There is plenty of fiction that serves to reinforce the themes of the book, and illustrate 'how it all works'. A GM can gain a lot of insight into the world simply from this fiction - which shows that the developers understand to to not only produce and display mechanics, but make the world accessible. Shadowrun's greatest strength over the years has been the depth of immersion possible in the world, and this book continues that fine tradition.

The rules are all explained in very easy-to-understand terms. Most of the rolls are broken down into small diagrams, which I can see being very useful for reference purposes. Whilst SR tends towards being a more complex system historically, I don't think the designers have made this edition unnecessarily so.

The artwork is uniformly of a high standard, and most is in full colour, which makes this book a true pleasure to read.

The only two negatives for me are around editing and language, especially if this is something that a new player to the system will pick up. Firstly, more attention should have been paid to grammatical, spelling and layout. There are a enough to be annoying, and I'll be waiting for a second printing before buying my hard copy. Secondly, Shadowrun has a long history of creating in-game words to add colour and flavour to a conversation, and this includes swearing. I see no point to use fol language in the book, especially given that the authors could have used in-game words to add to immersion. This has been a disappointing trend throughout Fourth Edition and seems to now be the staple for the game.

However, this is a great book overall. Generally speaking, I'd recommend it as an entry point to the SR game, especially for the explanatory chapters at the beginning. Veteran players should get equal value from the book, too.

This has definitely kept my interest in the game, and I'll be keen to see where this new edition takes one of my favourite game lines.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: Fifth Edition Core Rulebook
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BattleTech: Alpha Strike Preview 1
by Bartosz B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/02/2013 12:29:16
Great preview! Makes you wanna buy the whole thing!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
BattleTech: Alpha Strike Preview 1
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BattleTech: Alpha Strike
by Kyle W. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/01/2013 16:08:39
I'm a long-time fan of BattleTech, in part because I grew up playing the MechWarrior video games and quickly fell in love with the wargame as soon as I discovered it. Alpha Strike is a bit of an oddity; on one hand, it attempts to include all the features and complications in BattleTech, but do so in a way that minimizes bookkeeping and allows for a faster form of play.

The game comes with Introductory, Standard, and Advanced rules, including another little section for aerospace, all of which are significantly faster than those of traditional BattleTech. It's immediately clear that faster does not equal easier; the game isn't dumbed down (though the Introductory ruleset is good for beginners), so if you were just hoping for a game to play with a couple buddies who hadn't played before, you'll be best off sticking to the Introductory rules. That said, you'll have to do a lot less bookkeeping with Alpha Strike, so even if the rules are more or less as difficult as normal BattleTech, you'll still be able to enjoy an interesting ruleset without having to track how much damage a 'Mech's arm has taken and each of the weapons individually, which does make the game a lot easier for novices to understand. In addition, the fact that you're working on smaller scales than normal BattleTech (i.e. unit versus limb for 'Mechs) means that you'll have to worry a little less about certain rules and weapon functions, and the move to consolidate as much stuff as possible into a one-size-fits all category (for instance, how all 'Mechs all use the same ranges, though some can't attack at Long range) means that there is less worrying about checking record sheets and more play.

As far as the game goes, it's more or less what can be expected-it's not exactly revolutionizing wargaming because BattleTech's already a huge influence in the market and taking this approach has been done before. Fortunately, since part of those expectations include high quality, it's worth noting that you can have a ridiculous amount of complexity going on-Alpha Strike simplifies the record keeping more than the rules themselves, so you can still enjoy advanced features such as C3 or artillery without having to worry about what the new system does to them. Everything's scaled down pretty much mathematically, so you can expect similar results in Alpha Strike as you would in normal BattleTech, with the slight loss of precision that comes from the fact that there are smaller numbers and the like doing little to the expected outcomes of conflicts-a Gunslinger can blow away a Jackal in one turn just as it could when you track all the guns and parts individually using traditional BattleTech rules.

From a production perspective, Alpha Strike is as you expect. There weren't any major errors, but there were a couple typos in there-for the most part, however, the typesetting was spot on without any errors, and the art, which is the traditional "take pictures of a set up scenario on the table" is fine and accompanied by useful diagrams that help drive home the point of things. Toss in some examples, and the nice added touch of all the tables being compiled at the end of the PDF, and Alpha Strike shapes up to be a very well put-together book.

So, in short, Alpha Strike is exactly what it says on the tin, a "fast-playing form of BattleTech" that emphasizes quick results that perhaps lack some of the nuance of its more complex cousin but that still provides a plethora of tactical options.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
BattleTech: Alpha Strike
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Shadowrun: Fifth Edition Core Rulebook
by Mike M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/27/2013 13:06:11
The rules system has some improvements, in my opinion. However, there are problems with some of the new rules. Limits, as an example, are a mixed bag. While it stops crazy results from rare dice rolls there are place to exploit it or it's just plain inconsistent. The limit mechanic gives the impression of not being tested at all. The pdf itself is extremely slow to move around in on pc, mac and an android tablet when I tested it. This includes using adobe reader and other 3rd party readers. It's brutal to try to flip through on my windows 8 phone. The index is not very helpful for finding a bit of rules that you might need. Trying to find something in a pdf that runs so poorly AND is hard to find what you need is just bad. I had that experience just trying to tell a player about some of the rules changes. However, the part that frustrates me the most is the mass of typos, missing information, errors, etc. in the book. It's really just a shame that a company and project of this size will produce a book so filled with mistakes. Honestly, I think that Catalyst produced this in a hurry to have something to sell along with the excitement of the release of Shadowrun Returns. It appears to be poorly tested, poorly checked over and cumbersome. It's the first pdf by Catalyst that I regret buying.

Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: Fifth Edition Core Rulebook
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Shadowrun: Fifth Edition Core Rulebook
by Christopher W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/26/2013 14:30:42
Ok first off, I'm not going to sugar coat it, the biggest thing I found disappointing in this book is the Karma award and advancement system, earning 3 - 6 Karma per run and needing 100+ to upgrade something just isn't going to work at my table. My players have come to expect a fair degree of advancement through role playing and under the new Karma advancement tables we are looking at one year of Roleplaying just to gain one attribute or skill increase at times (as the karma is per run as opposed to per game session).

The second thing I found that I'm really not liking is the newly imposed Limit system. The logic behind it's existence is understood, but I seriously feel like forcing this systems inclusion rules out the role Luck plays in the game. Sometimes the dice allow a player to defy the odds, they shouldn't have to feel the all the Hits scored in excess of a Limit were wasted.

One final change I am not pleased with was the switch back to the Priority system. While I can appreciate the speedy character creation it provides, it doesn't give the same gauge on NPC builds that the Build Points did. I could set my 300 BP characters against a 350 point NPC, and see how tough it was, the priority system removes the gauge for NPC building leaving you with a good amount of guesswork to do.

Combat: big changes made here, and I don't agree with them. Evading an attack is a simple Reaction + Intuition roll, anyone can do it, but throw a Dodge in, to add Gymnastics to that roll and now it has a Physical Limit? This punishes players with one or two ranks in Gymnastics for even using it in combat by limiting how lucky they can get in combat.

Organization of Content: Some people have said in their reviews that the organization is better than the previous edition, I blatantly disagree on this. The book is still cluttered and to actually find something you need during a game session you have to thumb through 3 -10 possible pages it could be on thanks to the index being poorly made yet again. For instance, the rule for unarmed combat damage took me nearly a half hour to locate during play last weekend. A rule of such importance should be discussed early on in the chapter or included in the equipment chapter with the melee weapons and stated explicitly, or included with the Unarmed Combat rules. Unfortunately you have to thumb through the entirety of the Combat chapter to locate the rule.

Now that the ugly and bad are out of the way, the good. Hacking has been simplified, which is nice, but there is little to no customizability to Commlinks and software, so even this simplification bears a heavy handed trade-off. I used to like that software was important to the system, as it forced players to get a bit creative and showed them the limitations of their hacking tools. Cyberdeckers return, and have full rules again, glad for that.

Magic hasn't changed much from the previous edition, if anything they've expanded it to include alchemy into the game. A plus, but not a huge one.

---
Not to be overly critical but I may stick to running the previous edition after running this one and I won't be trading in my fourth edition 20th anniversary edition books for this one, and just include the rules simplifications from this one. My final rating on this edition of the game would be a 2/10. While the glitzy cover art of the book looks good, the content itself hasn't been overhauled to a level that pleases me. If anything they've made the game a little worse in the change over (not as bad as D&D Next has screwed up, but still bad).
I really wish they'd have done more extensive playtesting of fifth edition before releasing it, as many of the complaints from the last edition simply were not addressed. (Organization of information being the biggest one).

Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
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Shadowrun: Fifth Edition Quick-Start Rules
by Michael H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/26/2013 12:59:19
A good look at how the game will run.
The quick start contains enough to get the flavor of Shadowrun and shows how the changes in the rules help everything go along. It would be possible to play quite a bit with just these rules.

And free is a very good price, chummer!

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: Fifth Edition Quick-Start Rules
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Shadowrun: Fifth Edition Core Rulebook
by Adam A. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/24/2013 12:30:02
The book is not well put together. There are many errors and inconsistencies between tables and then examples given in text. There are constant contradictions in the material and while there are some improvements it seems like it needed more play testing before it was sold.

Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: Fifth Edition Core Rulebook
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Shadowrun: Fifth Edition Core Rulebook
by Cesar S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/23/2013 16:03:43
The GM section of this book is one of the best I've read on any RPG game. It is designed specifically to get this game - with over 20 RL years of content - up and running taking into account group management, narrative elements and opposition. The new Limit mechanic, even thou it adds another step to every roll, looks great as it integrates equipment and other external situations into the mix.

It would be great to have a lower res file for non-ipad devices, so referencing could be done on the fly.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
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Shadowrun: The Clutch of Dragons
by Cesar S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/23/2013 15:58:37
Good book, really interesting to start a campaign around Dragons. It does require a lot of knowledge/research to fully apprehend all the information.
On the pdf as a file, it is too High res for my Galaxy Tab 2.0, making it actually unreadable on the device (using the standard Acrobat Reader app). It would be great to have a low res version.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: The Clutch of Dragons
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Shadowrun: Fifth Edition Core Rulebook
by Sean H. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/22/2013 06:58:41
Shadowrun Core Rulebook, Fifth Edition, which is the newest version of that classic game system. Like all new editions it has changes, some which are improvements and others which may or may not be but without a doubt it is a well laid out and pretty to look at. If you are a fan of Shadowrun, it is definitely worth taking a look at the latest version of the core rules.

Catalyst Labs has released the fifth edition of the Shadowrun core rules, to coincide with the Year of Shadowrun, and it is a beautiful presentation, nearly five hundred, full color pages. It covers all you would expect, and all you need to start, as far as gaming in the Sixth World is concerned. The basic system, a dice pool system, works well and the rules show how to use it very clearly. The major change from the last edition is the introduction of ‘limits’ usually based on the characters’ statistics and divided into physical, mental and social (with some exceptions we will look at in a moment) which are tied to various skills and limit the maximum successes a character can achieve. Honestly, not sold on the limit system though it can be overcome by use of edge, a special statistic that represents a character luck and ability to overcome trouble, but still not convinced that it adds anything beyond extra complexity to the system.

The character creation system returns to the priority system where you choose a set of priorities for you character (species, skills, statistics, resources and magic) and those give you the pieces needed to assemble your character . . . but some of the choices then include a nested set of sub-choices and you are given a block of points, which you can add to by taking flaws, to customize your characters. The advantage of a priority system over a point system, in theory, is that it makes choices clear. This system seems to me to combines the worst aspects of both, that priority systems are naturally more limited and deny flexibility with the point tracking and bonus seeking of a point-based system. There are a set of sixteen pre-built archetypes, so you can pick up play directly (though it would have been nice if the priorities used to built them were noted so you would have an idea of what a particular set of build choices lead to).

Skills are nicely presented though, oddly, it does not mention under gymnastic that it is the skill used for dodging in combat. Combat has been made more interactive, at a slight increase of complexity for the initiative system, and more deadly than 4th edition both of which strike me as positive changes. Weapons have an accuracy statistic that determine their success limit, rather than using the character’s physical limit, and even melee weapons have an accuracy statistic which seems a bit strange to me. Vehicle combat gets its own section and it looks as though it is properly integrated with the rest of the combat system now.

As it is a new edition, the Matrix and hacking rules have been revised again. They seem to be much clearer now and the technomancer rules are properly integrated into the system, the greater importance of the Global Overwatch Division in matrix security. Riggers are (for the first time) properly included in the core rule book with rules that dovetail nicely with the vehicle combat rules (as they need to).

As for the Matrix, so for Magic, the rules are cleaned up with enchanting and alchemy enhanced and a new type of magician (at least to me), the Mystic Adept who combines adept abilities with the full range of magic (except for astral projection) which strikes me as quite powerful. Overall, the magic system looks clean and as easy to use as it is likely to get for Shadowrun.

The Game Mastering advice is quite good, especially about discussing with a group what everyone wants out of a campaign. Good advice on structuring games especially for the traditional shadowrun (and a set of random tables for inspiration), using non-player characters, appropriate threats and rewards is presented. Contacts are further detailed and rules for favors are systematized. Creatures, toxins and drugs round out the game master’s section.

The book ends with a list of useful gear ranging from weapons to vehicles, cyberware to surveillance equipment. Certainly everything needed for initial forays in the world of 2075. Lastly there are a selection of full color art ‘plates’ including covers from all of the previous editions of Shadowrun. These are quite nice to look at.

While I am not thrilled by the general limit system, though I like their application in spellcasting and the matrix system, and the return to the priority system overall it is a solid edition of Shadowrun and if you are a fan of the setting, it is well worth taking a look at.

Disclosure: As a featured reviewer for RPGNow/DriveThroughRPG, I received my copy of this product for free from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Note: Read more reviews and other gaming articles at my journal https://seaofstarsrpg.wordpress.com/

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: Fifth Edition Core Rulebook
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