Originally published at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2012/10/31/tabletop-review-colonial-gothic-the-french-indian-war/
Colonial Gothic is one of those games I dream about getting really into. I love the theme, I love the setting, and I love that effort has been put in to allow for a historically accurate game. Rogue Games has put out plenty of material for it too, and I will be reviewing a few pieces that we have here at DHGF, starting with The French-Indian War.
The book is divided into three main sections: a portion covering the history of the war and the factions involved in it, a portion with various additional rules including rules for mass combat, and a section containing a series of adventures set in this period of history. There is also an appendix with stats for various characters the players might run into.
War never changes
This particular war occurred right smack in the middle of the 18th century and was sparked primarily by a spat between Britain and France over Ohio territory. I won’t go through the history of the conflict, this book does it for you. The first chapter takes you through the various battles of the war and incidents that drove it. The second chapter is about the various locations important to the war, which means lots of forts and trading posts. This chapter includes a lot of maps which is great, some of them are rather grainy but tend to be labeled so that the important parts are at least pointed out. Chapter three deals with groups and personalities involved in the struggle. This section gives real groups that were a part of the struggle and also details how they can be flavored to fit in with the setting of Colonial Gothic. Each topic in these chapters explains what role the entity had in the war, and contains useful and interesting information that help to piece together the multi-faceted puzzle of powers involved.
Rules of Engagement
Section two begins with some new backgrounds and several backgrounds from the core rulebook that have been modified specifically for use in a French-Indian War setting. Players can choose from “Indian Trader”, a soldier in the British army, a colonist, or even a Native American, among others. Chapter five is a bit of a laugh, it’s essentially one page of new skills. Moving on…chapter six details the rules for mass combat. The whole ordeal is too complicated to explain here, but essentially units (or, depending on your level of granularity, whole armies) are given a numerical rating made of up several different factors. Rolls are made, totals are compared, and then a chart is consulted to see what the outcome is. In a nutshell, that’s mass combat, but there are a lot of possible exceptions. While I am really interested in conducting a mass combat using these rules, I am almost confident it would take at least an hour with armies of any size, so I think the possibility that combat could take up most of a session is a pretty good one.
Ohio Territory: Land of Adventure
The third section of the book is an impressive list of possible wartime events that the players can take part in. They are presented in sketch format with a brief description of the event and then some notes for the Gamemaster. While they are historical for the most part, they incorporate the supernatural flavor of Colonial Gothic. There are a TON of these events, and a GM could potentially take a whole string of them together to build a campaign or a session on.
The last portions of the book are an appendix and a short bibliography listing references used by the author (one of which is the movie The Last of the Mohicans). In the appendix are such personalities as George Washington and Benjamin Franklin, who are such mythic figures I wouldn’t even want players to meet them in a game. I mean, as a GM how do you roleplay George f-in Washington? I guess ol’ GW seems like a person of such an opposite personality from me, I would just mess up any possible version of his personality I could try and portray.
Digressions aside, this is a really great book. If you like Colonial Gothic this is a great supplement for taking the game out of the Colonies and more into the wilder territories of the West. The mass combat rules are very interesting, if a bit complicated and fiddly. While some might just throw out those rules or avoid mass combat altogether, I could see putting together some nice battles and getting a little game-within-a-game action with some nice tactical action at the unit level. The thought of players caught up in a large-scale battle has always intrigued me, and I would be interested to pursue it using this ruleset. Aside from the new rules and backgrounds, the historical information is really succinct and covers a lot of topics well enough to get an idea of how to use them, not to mention the whole conflict is absolutely fascinating for an armchair history lover like myself. It’s not exhaustive, but this gets you enough information to spark your imagination and make your players think you know your colonial history. Bryce presents his information authoritatively and with a decent bibliography to back him up. I would bet just reading the title and knowing about the general feel of Colonial Gothic would tell you whether you are interested or not; and if you are interested, I say definitely get this.