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USHER Dossiers (ICONS)
by Thomas B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/08/2011 10:51:46
The Good:

- Very nice supers universe with actual time progression, rather than Marvel/DC "floating time".
- An extensive history built to a jumping off point for your own campaign.
- As usual, the characters manage to feel inspired by existing comic characters without ever feeling like rip-offs.

The Bad:
- Some key players are still left undefined.
- The editing could have used much closer attention, as there appears to be two pictures that were swapped, at least one missing picture and noticeable typos.
- No table of contents or index.

For my full review, please visit: http://mostunreadblogever.blogspot.com/2011/02/tommys-take-o-
n-usher-dossiers.html

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
USHER Dossiers (ICONS)
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Moreau Files 2 (ICONS)
by Curt M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/06/2011 13:30:58
if you're nostalgic for the days of the Marvel universe when Hydra was not the instigator of World War II, then you'll like this product.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Moreau Files 2 (ICONS)
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USHER Dossiers (ICONS)
by Curt M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/06/2011 13:24:33
The GM of my current icons campaign, someone who like myself has been gaming for over 20 years, says of the Usher Dossiers that it's one of the best written RPG supplements he's read in years. The art by Dan Houser doesn't hurt either. There's a lot of useful stuff in here for your house campaigns as well.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
USHER Dossiers (ICONS)
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Eugenics Brigade: Villains of WWII (M&M 3e)
by Justin I. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/01/2011 23:34:34
You can never have too many meta human Nazis and the Eugenics Brigade contains some nasty ones. I've not playtested them yet, but everything seems to be in order stats-wise. The artwork is nice and fits. The characters each have briefing reports that make them setting neutrel, but still leaves with great flair and background.

The product's content gets a 5 out of 5.

I'd give the layout 4 out of 5. The only issue I had was with the formatting of the stat blocks. There were spaces and indentations that seemed very superfluous.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Eugenics Brigade: Villains of WWII (M&M 3e)
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Crown Guard: Heroes of WWII (ICONS)
by Christopher H. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/30/2011 19:45:25
I really enjoyed this presentation of a British-organized European superhero team from Vigilance's WWII setting. Although brief, the in-character comments either from the heroes themselves or associated characters add flavor. I would have appreciated individual illustrations of each character; only John Bull receives a separate illustration, and it's inconsistent with the group illustration on the cover (which also occupies the entirety of page 7). That group illustration isn't too hard to decipher, but a caption or key would have been nice anyway.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Crown Guard: Heroes of WWII (ICONS)
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Field Guide to Superheroes Vol. 2 (ICONS)
by Christopher H. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/25/2011 02:33:19
Like volume 1 in the series, Jason Tondro’s “Field Guide to Superheroes, Vol. 2” presents ten superhero archetypes: the descendant, the divine hero, the embodiment, the ex-con, the femme feline, the feral hero, the focused hero, the gadget guy/girl, the handicapped hero, and the jungle hero. For each of these archetypes, Tondro first gives an overview of the archetype, then illustrates the archetype with a specific example hero from Vigilance Press’s “Worlds of Wonder” setting.

Volume 2 improves slightly on volume 1 (which I have also reviewed for DriveThruRPG) by assigning names to the heroes who appear (illustrated by Dan Houser) unstatted alongside the archetype descriptions as well as those who are statted out as examples. However, volume 2 does no better with regard to ethnic and gender diversity. Out of 20 illustrated heroes, 12 are white males; three are impossible to characterize due to their appearance, armor, or mutations; three appear to be white females; and two are black males (one of them a boxer). I hope that future volumes will seek broader representation. In a similar vein, the Veil (a Muslim “resurrected” as an atheist with a Punisher-style approach to crimefighting) from volume 1 and Gabriel (an angel with wings dripping blood) and the Grail (a descendant of Jesus and Mary Magdalene, ripped from the pages of Dan Brown’s fiction) from volume 2 seem almost calculated to offend Islamic and Christian sensibilities, respectively.

On the other hand, for readers interested in the “Worlds of Wonder” setting, volume 2 provides a more direct look at that world than did the lexicon in volume 1. A concluding section on “Wonder Culture” describes the national (USA) and interplanetary contexts in which superheroes (“wonders”) operate in the “Worlds of Wonder” setting. As always, Dan Houser’s artwork gives the product that extra ICONS look and feel.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Field Guide to Superheroes Vol. 2 (ICONS)
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Field Guide to Superheroes Vol. 1
by Christopher H. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/23/2011 19:43:24
Each volume in the “Field Guide to Superheroes” series presents ten superhero archetypes, written up mechanically for ICONS but applicable to any superhero RPG. This first volume introduces the alien hero, android, animal hero, armored wonder, astronaut, avatar, comic relief, creepy hero, dark avenger, and defender. Just from the labels given, it’s evident that author Jason Tondro takes a functional rather than formal approach to superhero archetypes. That is, for Tondro, an archetype is not a power/ability template to be skinned, but a role in a superhero universe. For each archetype, Tondro offers a general description of the archetype, with ideas for typical qualities, challenges, powers, and so forth. This presentation usually occupies one or two pages, and includes an illustration be the, um, iconic ICONS artist, Dan Houser. Tondro then applies his own advice by presenting a specific hero for the Vigilance Press “Worlds of Wonder” setting. For each such hero, Tondro gives ICONS stats plus at least two or three pages of generally enjoyable “fluff.”

Tondro clearly “gets” the free-wheeling, fun-loving ICONS vibe, and this comes through in heroes like Wundermaus and the fabulous Frog-Girl. I consider Prometheus and the Veil to be the most inventive and interesting implementations of their archetypes (the avatar and dark avenger, respectively) in the book. Gigawatt seemed to have a far more tenuous connection with his archetype, the defender.

The character write-ups provide, by example, several great ideas for hero qualities and challenges. Two sidebars also introduce new powers: adaptation and equipment. A “Worlds of Wonder Lexicon” at the end of the book presents, alphabetically, dozens of significant aspects of the setting. It sounds like a fun world in which to set superhero adventures.

Volume 1 of the “Field Guide” exhibits generally high production values, though a few mistakes (such as the misuse of “pouring” for “poring”) did slip through. Also, for example, Tondro’s text tells us that the Eagle has white wings, but Houser’s drawing gives him brown wings. The lexicon entry for “Wonder Stories” doesn’t seem to fit, and the entries for “Wondercare,” “Wonderland,” and “Wonderwear” actually reproduce the definitions for “Tomorrow Man,” “Who Wants to Be a Wonder,” and “Wonder,” respectively. As a PDF, the book could greatly benefit from bookmarks. Also, the use of all capital letters throughout imitates the style of comic book word balloons but isn’t really appropriate for long blocks of text.

I very much enjoyed this product and look forward to volume 2.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Field Guide to Superheroes Vol. 1
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Moreau-1 Files (ICONS)
by Christopher H. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/17/2011 19:58:17
In "The Moreau-1 Files," Vigilance Press offers us a modern-day supervillain, the titular Moreau-1. He's a robotic bioengineering genius; if you read Marvel comics, think of a cross between Ultron and the High Evolutionary. Game stats, a detailed backstory, and a couple of adventure hooks make it easy for ICONS GMs to incorporate Moreau-1 into their own stories, even if not set in the Vigilance universe. The product also includes a briefer writeup on Erepato, one of Moreau-1's bio-engineered creations who could make a conflict with Moreau-1 very interesting from a role-playing point of view.

On the negative side, the product needs better proofreading, as it exhibits an uncomfortably high rate of misplaced or misused punctuation, grammatical errors, inconsistent spelling, and even missing ("a large weapons deal that bringing in") and misplaced words ("held for him ransom"). Furthermore, white text on colored backgrounds (especially the basic "paneled" background used throughout) and occasional inconsistencies in the typesetting (or errors in font embedding, perhaps) make reading difficult.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Moreau-1 Files (ICONS)
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Field Guide to Superheroes Vol. 2 (ICONS)
by Curt M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/12/2011 16:33:59
Another great release from a promising product line, Field Guide to Superheroes Volume 2 adds the next 10 heroes of the 40 total. Of note here is the Super Vehicle power. Mr. Kenson chose to leave out vehicle rules from the main icons book even though the 4C Creative Commons system included them. The Field Guide team has spent some Determination points and "retconed" them back in [yes I realize how nerdy that statement is :)]. Icons fans won't be disappointed with Dan Houser's art either. His art does as much for the icons brand as any write up. It is a key element to Icons' characterization. Any publisher wanting to release Icons products should strongly consider retaining his services.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Field Guide to Superheroes Vol. 2 (ICONS)
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World of Arkara: Gazetteer of the Canterbury Isles
by Pete S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/10/2011 17:44:37
The Canterbury Isles is a setting supplement for the World of Arkara fantasy setting designed for the OSRIC™ system. I reviewed the overview for that setting HERE: http://www.therpgsite.com/showthread.php?t=18407

Technical Details
The Gazetteer of the Canterbury Isles is only 17 pages, with 3 of those pages being the cover, OGL, and map, so there are actually only 14 pages of content. Artwork consists of a few character poses, an area map of the isles, and a map of the largest human city of Bondaea. The area map is very good, in full color, and depicts several islands of various size surrounding the Sheltered Sea. The map of Bondaea City is functional, but not nearly as attractive.

The writing throughout is fairly clear. There were a few minor typos, the most jarring of which lists the Canterbury Isles as part of the World of Ariakus line (I’m assuming the world underwent a few name changes before publishing), but nothing that detracts too much from the reading,

Content
Despite its small page count, the Gazetteer of the Canterbury Isles contains a lot of useful information. The Canterbury Isles are a frontier region once inhabited only by elves until humans came along and were allowed to settle. The humans immediately started logging and cultivating the land, which angered the elves and has led to raised tensions and even armed conflict.

Details for the major areas and settlements are provided, with enough information to get you started, but not so much that you feel cramped when designing adventures. These regions include a large mountain range, several forests, an abbey, a monastery, and several human cities and towns, including the city of Bondaea which is mapped and described in greater detail than the rest, and large enough to accommodate most urban adventures.

Lots and lots of adventure ideas are scattered throughout the text. Some of them are fairly standard (elves and humans not getting along) while others are pretty interesting (like the dwarf queen who bound her clan to a dragon in exchange for the dragon’s help taking revenge for her husband’s death). Other possible adventures include a band of malicious Quicklings, manipulative succubi, marauding ogres, lizard men, and batrachians, and a growing anti-nonhuman sentiment fostered by priests of an intolerant god. One thing I noticed is that some of the adventure seeds seem to enter that “gray area” some GMs like to avoid in their games. Subjects like racism (we’re talking “real” racism here, as in dwarf vs. human vs. elf, etc.) as well as dubiously heroic deeds such as poisoning the ogre clan’s food supply so that they die out during the winter may not be for everyone and are easily ignored.

Major NPCs such as the human duke, the elf queen, and others are given full writeups in the back of the book. These are good for inspiration, but I would probably modify some of their motivations and personalities if I were to use them. There are also two new classes, the Guardsman (a new specialized fighter-type class with its own abilities), and the Cloistered Cleric (a variant cleric class more like a scholarly monk).

Overall
This is a good product for any fantasy campaign setting. All of the conflicts are relevant to the isles, and the islands contain a good range of monsters and threats. You could easily begin a new campaign here and have the characters rise in level without ever leaving the isles. In fact, you don’t have to know anything else about Arkara to use this supplement. The fact that it’s self-contained makes it extremely useful and easy to drop into an existing campaign world. Of course, if you are using the World of Arkara, this product is a must-have as the maps, NPCs, and backgrounds all add depth to the setting.

At $2.00, it's well worth the download price.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
World of Arkara: Gazetteer of the Canterbury Isles
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Stormtroopers of the Deep (ICONS)
by Christopher H. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/20/2010 00:29:23
This is a fun little adventure very much in the spirit of WWII movies and comics. Most of the product focuses on a single encounter, though a long sidebar provides a compelling sequel that could lead into yet additional scenarios. "Stormtroopers of the Deep" is a very nice addition to Vigilance’s line of ICONS-compatible WWII superhero products. There are only a couple of production glitches: a typo or two and the fact that the sea serpent on the cover doesn’t match the description inside. A great value for $1.00.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Stormtroopers of the Deep (ICONS)
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Stormtroopers of the Deep (ICONS)
by Thomas B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/10/2010 23:37:18
This scenario puts the PCs out to see, guarding a mysterious package on a convoy, amid the news that the Nazis have another new trick up their sleeve, some kind of aquatic attack force. Though it is only mentioned as a possibility, if you're running the scenario, the PCs will encounter the new bad guys.

This Battlescene entry is pretty robust, providing a new heroic NPC as well as a few new NPC statblocks. The scenario is easily expanded to switch from merely having the PCs hold off the convoy attack, to allowing the PCs to find the undersea base that the Nazis have launched from and try to take it out.

Plenty of bang for your, literal, buck with this one as Vigilance Press continues to impress with their WWII entries for ICONS.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Battlescenes: Werewolves of the Gestapo (ICONS)
by Thomas B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/10/2010 23:25:53
Again, we keep the focus on the Germans, this time with their lycanthrope stormtroopers.

Like the previous WWII adventures, it is assumed that you are using Vigilance Force, The People's Revolution or The Crown Guard, though you can make your own characters for it. There are two separate "set-ups" provided, with one being for the Russians and the other being for either Americans or British.

In either case, it is an extraction scenario, requiring that you deal with the werewolf gestapo (as the name implies), with the actual target changing based off of your "home" faction.

While none of the Battlescenes are meant to be in-depth (they are, in fact, meant to be combat set pieces), this one does have a little more potential for variation in the outcome of events, with the PCs approach possibly altering the number of soldiers - werewolf or otherwise - that they have to deal with, as well as potentially taking it from an extraction scenario into a chase scenario.

Provided are stats for werewolves, Silver Warwolves and Psychic Agents of the Nazi Occult Bureau, which can easily be lifted for your own scenarios. A very nice addition to the line-up.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Battlescenes: Werewolves of the Gestapo (ICONS)
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Battlescenes: Der Panzer Ritter (ICONS)
by Thomas B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/10/2010 23:11:55
This ICONS BattleScene isn't the first encounter with a giant robot, but this one is markedly different than the previous one, a Japanese Robot in Operation: Bookbinder. In this one, Der Panzer-Ritter is a fusion of magic and technology, powered by a combination of German scientists and Thule wizards.

In fact, this one has an interesting extra option that can be unleashed if the fight with the Panzer-Ritter goes too easily, as the robot's very power source can prove to be hazardous to the PCs.

This one feels incredibly "too the point", and a bit lighter than some of the other Battlescenes, but is also a very nice twist on a similar encounter that has already been used.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Battlescenes: Der Panzer Ritter (ICONS)
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Battlescenes: Operation Bookbinder
by Justin P. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/08/2010 17:34:17
This is the first Battlescene I've run and both myself and my players had a very good time with it. Taking place right after the decisive Battle of Midway, Operation Bookbinder sets the stage for retaliation by Japanese super-soldiers. There are two ways to play this out, one using a giant death robot (complete with mini death robots) and one against the Japanese super team, Shinjuwan Juunigatsu (found in Pearl Harbor December: Villains of WWII). I chose to run this against the giant death robot and the flavor for the encounter was perfect. The characters start out as transfers to the USS Enterprise after a message is intercepted which tells of an impending Japanese attack against the ship. The Enterprise had been positioned to look like she was in distress in hopes of luring the attack to the waiting American heroes...

My players chose Old Glory, Captain Miracle, Marauder and Minuteman to take on this Battlescene and they were pushed to their limits trying to handle the scenario. In the end they were victorious but it was down to the wire and required some very quick thinking.

If you are looking for something that really adds flavor to the Vigilance Force setting and provides your players with a difficult challenge that is not easily solved by beating up the bad guy, then I highly recommend Battlescenes: Operation Bookbinder.

Vigilance Press nets a 5/5 rating for this scenario. Even though it's short, it's a well designed encounter that directly adds to the flavor of the setting no matter which antagonist you use when you run it.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Battlescenes: Operation Bookbinder
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