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Capes, Cowls and Villains Foul $14.95
Average Rating:4.9 / 5
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Capes, Cowls and Villains Foul
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Capes, Cowls and Villains Foul
Publisher: Spectrum Games
by William W. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/03/2014 14:42:41

I haven't been as impressed with a roleplaying game as I was with Capes, Cowls, and Villains Foul (hereafter referred to as CCaVF) in a very long time. It's a really open-ended, flexible, system that is simple, easy to learn, and easier to play. There have been several rules-light Supers games in recent years like Icons, BASH, Supers!, and Truth & Justice. CCaVF beats all of those games for me.

Character Creation is largely based around defining your own character with TRAITS which work in a very similar manner to Qualities in Truth & Justice or a bit like aspects in FATE and can range from "As Strong As 100 Men" to "Crown Prince of the Planet Trobb" or anything you can imagine. While CCaVF does rate character traits by number, it seeks to emulate comics narrative style rather than simulate it. If you're the sort of player who likes crunch like in Hero System/Champions, CCaVF is probably not for you. However, if you're open to a more abstract system able to recreate the types of narratives seen in comic books without a lot of crunch or the fiddly bits then you can hardly do better than CCaVF.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Capes, Cowls and Villains Foul
Publisher: Spectrum Games
by Michael C. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/03/2012 16:21:12

One thing I've noticed is that when a company decides to specialize in something, it tends to do that one thing very well. In the case of Spectrum Games, they've chosen to do genre emulation, and thus far, they've done that very well.

I'm happy to say that they haven't missed the mark on Capes, Cowls & Villains Fowl.

I've played a few games that are supposed to emulate the superhero comics genre, and they do an okay job of doing it, but in the process, you wind up with a set of complex and confusing rules that almost railroad gameplay. Add to it that the character creation rules are almost non-existent. Bear in mind, I like open-ended character creation, but there has to be at least a little crunch in my book.

CCVF satisfies both the need to have some crunch in my characters as well as having a simple set of rules emulate the comics. The game does both well.

For character creation, you simply list abilities and add modifiers, linking and levels to them. There's nothing preset about the abilities, you make up what you want and that's it, although modifiers do allow you to fine-tune those abilities more acutely. I like them in this regard.

Generally, open-ended abilities can cause a deer-in-the-headlights reaction as you try and put together all the possibilities, but the bright side is that the game includes a few pages of ideas to pour through and organizes them well enough that you can pull from different areas and make the character you want.

The modifier I like most in this game is Versatile. Many supers games try and have a “do anything” power that either is too powerful or it requires use of math in the middle of play that can slow it down. Here, it's just cut and dry: Each time you buy the modifier, you get one aspect of the power that's always available, and one aspect of it that's open, and you can buy it up to three times. The open aspect can be defined once per issue. Not bad, although I might house rule it for things like Annuals and 80-page Giants to be able to use it a little more often, but have you ever seen Green Lantern or Doctor Strange use really “out there” abilities more than a couple times in a regular issue? Not really.

Conflict is resolved through rolling the dice and taking setback tokens. Both parties roll, and the loser takes the token. Once four tokens are acquired, the character is out of play in one form or another. I think this, more than anything else in the game, is where CCFV shines in emulating its chosen genre. Hit points and damage tracks don't do well in supers games, and the definition of what they do is too narrow to capture all that can happen in a superhero comic.

Filling up on setback tokens can mean anything: capture, falling asleep, being knocked out, getting fed up and stomping off in frustration, being bound in place by a pile of tires, whatever the story and character demands. It CAN mean death, if that's the kind of game you're playing, and the rules do address killing combat. When I played with my group, we had a lot of fun with this rule, and it required a greater creativity, which added to the fun.

To really be able to write a good review, I did play this with a group, and it does live up to the promise of being able to play in the fast-paced action of a superhero comic book. Sometimes the math involved with higher results on the d12 slowed play slightly, but it's easily forgivable. I love how the game plays.

I think the biggest trouble came in understanding how to build characters, or where linking comes in during character creation. I think the creation rules could have been a little clearer here. There was a little bit of “human error” in my group, as they only tried buying powers rather than buying powers and other things that their heroes could have used. But when they bought all of their abilities, there was a lot of points left over and we couldn't figure out where to put them. This was cleared up later, fortunately.

All-in-all, CCFV takes the superhero genre and does it really well. It's got enough in the rules that we can make sense of the action, but loose enough that action is fast and smooth. Hero building is flexible without including too many rules. Of all the games that make the claim of superhero comics emulation, I'd place CCFV at the top of the list. Not only do I want to play it again, but my fussy group is also clamoring for more.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Capes, Cowls and Villains Foul
Publisher: Spectrum Games
by Thomas B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/09/2012 03:09:05

WHAT WORKS: Tons of examples. Simple system, with the Setback Tokens being among my favorite “non-Hit Point” damage systems I’ve seen (with the word Stress just stressing me out). CC&VF seems to have taken a lot of ideas from other games but implemented them well. Oh, and I loved the random twists. The system is very flexible without being completely hand-wavey.

WHAT DOESN’T WORK: Very few of the example characters terribly inspired me. Many of the optional rules (like the templates or building heroes in advance and working up to them) don’t do a thing for me…but they are optional. There are big chunks of the system that are open to player-GM negotiation, which can go bad in the wrong hands.

CONCLUSION: While many of the support pieces did little to inspire me, the core seems very flexible and very sound. With large parts of the system open to such interpretation, certain types of players can make for nightmarish sessions, just like certain kinds of GMs can, but that’s true of any system (and especially Supers systems, which require a certain amount of buy-in from all parties above and beyond most genres). Unlike some other recent entrants into the supers RPG realm, I feel confident that I have a good/decent grasp of the mechanics right away, but I suppose I would have actually preferred the “serial numbers filed off” approach to the sample characters, rather than the characters used, because generic versions of Thor, Flash, Batman, Silver Surfer, Captain America, Wolverine and Superman are more useful for me in pinning down the important bits of the system. Does CC&VF hit some magic area that no other supers game ever has? Not for me, not really. “Hawkeye fighting alongside Thor” has been built into more and more games over the years, with BASH and ICONS even handling it in largely the same way. Does that make CC&VF a bad game? Heck no. I intend to play around with the character creation to see how well it models certain characters of mine, but I’d be inclined to put it near the top of my Supers options right now, if not at the very top.

For my full review, please visit http://mostunreadblo-

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Capes, Cowls and Villains Foul
Publisher: Spectrum Games
by Eric T. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 08/07/2012 20:21:27

This is, quite possibly, the game which finally gets my seal of approval as my favorite supers RPG of all time. I say "possibly" because I haven't actually played it yet, but giving it a read-through, it absolutely ticks all my boxes. It tries to emulate comic books, rather than simulate the real world. I have never understood people's predilection for simluating the real world with supers. It quickly becomes silly. After all, we're dealing with people who can fly, pick up a plane with their bare hands, or all manner of things which just don't stand the test of real-life physics. Yet, lest I stray too much from my topic, let's put that bugaboo back in its stuffy closet and move on.

This game does everything it claims it does, and does it all well. It has a simple, elegant system which does its job and gets out of the way, without getting bogged down in fiddly bits and confusing dice-pool mechanics. However, if you are not fond of abstraction, this game is most definitely not for you. This game is the anathema to a Champions fanatic. The rules are straightforward and clear, and have numerous examples sprinkled throughout. And as if this wasn't enough, they do something which I would encourage every game designer to do: They present an extremely lengthy example of play, covering all sorts of options and showing how all the rules fit together in a cohesive play session. In a nutshell, if you like games like Truth and Justice or the Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Game but find them just a bit more crunchy than you prefer, this game will probably find your sweet spot. I'm more inspired to play this than I've been inspired by a game in a very long time, and it was enough to get me to write my first review here, for what that's worth. I can't recommend this game highly enough.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Capes, Cowls and Villains Foul
Publisher: Spectrum Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/07/2012 07:38:48

Capes, Cowls and Villains Foul (CCaVF) is the eagerly anticipated supers/comic book emulation game from Spectrum Games. The same folks that gave Cartoon Action Hour.

I want to start off by saying that this is an attractive book. At 164 pages of full of color it feels like a comic. Since that is what the author aims to emulate I would say it so far is a success.

I think that is a good place to start. What is CCaVF? Well yes it is a supers game, but it is more a comic book emulation game. Meaning it tries to emulate the play-ability of reading a comic book. This sets it apart from the likes of other purely "Supers" games that might be trying to emulate how a super hero could exist in some sort of reality. Instead the assumption here is comic book reality. This would include things like editorial control or even breaking the 4th wall. Both of which are discussed later.

Chapter 0 is our Introduction which helps lay the ground work for what we will be reading. We are told that physics and logic often take a back seat to drama and excitement. So far I feeling that this will be closer to Marvel Heroic Roleplaying than say Villains and Vigilantes (both of which are great games for different styles of play). We are told that this game is about telling exciting stories with your friends. So far this sounds good. We are told next that this game uses the d12. I love that. The d12 is the oft forgotten die stuck between the mighty d20 and the diva that is the d10.
We also learn that CCaVF is a resource-based game. Now my experiences with resource based supers games has been mixed. So lets see what we have here.

Traits are match against other Traits with various Linked traits. Traits can be Primary or Secondary and after they are Used they become less effective. So someone like Superman would have a Primary Trait of Super-Strength with Secondary Traits of Flight and Heat Vision. Following the example in the book the Traits are bolded. Characters are likely to have 5 to 12 traits. Characters can also have Complications and Factoids. Sounds great! Let's get into the design!

Chapter 1 is Character Design. I like the term "Hero Design" myself, but that is cool. Your "Editor" (GM) will determine how many starting points your character will have. Much like the Power Points of M&M or other games. Except you are not buying the trait itself, you are buying what the trait represents. So a Signature Triat vs. a Secondary one or an Auto Defend. There is a handy chart with all the trait types and levels/ratings so you can add up your points quickly.
CCaVF encourages thinking about your character as a whole. So when making your Batman-clone you would not list all his martial arts but would just list Advanced Combat Training or something like that. Superman would have Super-Sonic Flight while the Carol Danvers Captain Marvel would have Hyper-Flight. So where are these traits listed? They are not. Yup. YOU define what the traits mean. So for example I define an Anamchara trait to go with my Willow & Tara characters. This is a Shared Trait, so the points are split up, but I define what it means and what it does. But don't worry the author gives you some ideas to work with.

The neatest thing though has to be the Editorial Control. These are like supercharged hero points or drama points. Editorial Control can be purchased with points, but is more expensive for more powerful characters. The Editor also gets a pool of EC points as well to use for the villains. There are also examples of various ways to regain EC points. Finally you fill out the character with factoids.
The chapter ends with an example of character creation. This is followed by a quick generation card to get you plying right away. Finally a listing of Heroes and Villains.

Chapter 2 is the Rules chapter.Typically rolls are a d12 some trait. Other times you might need to roll 2 d12s and keep the highest or even 3. The basic idea here is that the action needs to be like that in a comic book. So a bit of time is spent on combat. Now heroes and villains in CCaVF don't have hit points, but they do have Setbacks. Most of the chapter is dedicated to this this idea and some example difficulties are explored. All and all pretty easy.

Chapter 3 is all about Villains. Villains get special treatment in CCaVF. They are created with the same rules that give us heroes, but there is more to them than that. Given the treatment given them here, I think this should be must reading for any superhero RPG player/GM. Heroes are often defined by their villains or rogues gallery. This game did not forget that.

Chapter 4 deals with Options. Things you can do to tweak characters or games. One really nice thing is about how deal with super hero team-ups and what to do when some characters are more powerful than others. There is even a bit on killing (and why it should be avoided) and live action (LARP) supers.

Chapter 5 is a fairly comprehensive example of play. If you normally ignore these please read this one. Many of my questions were answered here. It is a good walk through of how to play the game.

Chapter 6 talks about Issues, or adventures for your new set of heroes and villains. Again there is a lot of good information here for Editors/GMs of any sort of supers game. In particular there is the all important Introductory Issue which brings the team the together. I could not help but think of the team of misfits in the new Justice League Dark while reading this. Fantasy RPG fans should also take note of this chapter since it helps get past that old "you all met in an inn before an adventure".

We end with an Afterword where the author discusses why he made this game. The Appendix has a great glossary, index and cheat sheets for the game.

All in all I am quite pleased with this game. I agree with the author in that I love Supers games, but it is hard to find that perfect game for your group. There have been some great choices that have come out in the last few years, but none are 100% perfect. CCaVF may not 100% perfect either, but it is really damn nice and has a lot of great things going for it.

You can read more here, http://timbrannan.blogspot.com/2012/08/-

I will also have stated up characters.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
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