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ePublishing 101 (#2) - Setting an Art Budget
Publisher: Ronin Arts
by Lee V. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/18/2006 00:00:00

While this article has its faults, for the price, it's really a must have for people who are new to obtaining art for their games. This article includes information on how much to pay for art and links where you can find clip art, stock art, and artists. It also includes an interesting tutorial on coloring black and white art to save money over colored art. One of the recommended sources for artists features a dead weblink (or at least it looked quite dead when I checked it). The tutorial teaches you a couple of great tricks, but really should have had at least one page on using digital masks and another page on adding textures to images instead of just painting them in continuous blocks of colors. Those faults aside, I think anyone who has a project that needs art, but doesn't have an art editor on staff to manage this stuff should read this article. Easily worth $5.00. I've already recommended people to check this out on my own website and on the Board Game Designer's Forum, so clearly I think a lot of this article. I haven't checked out the other article in the series yet, but if it is as good, then the series itself is worth checking out.<br><br>
<b>LIKED</b>: Great art tutorial.<br><br><b>DISLIKED</b>: Needed about two more pages of other techniques in the colorizing black and white art section (even if this raised the price) and one of the web links listed in the book was dead.<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Very Good<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Very Satisfied<br>

[4 of 5 Stars!]
ePublishing 101 (#2) - Setting an Art Budget
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Publisher Reply:
Thank you for your feedback. I felt textures and masks would be too much for the simple method I was trying to show -- that's something I may consider for a future article but those aren't tools I frequently use so I didn't want to deal with them. And please let me know which link won't work for you -- I tested all of them before releasing the article so I'd like to find out what happened.
NARRATIVE COMBAT: Story Driven Action For D20
Publisher: Adamant Entertainment
by Lee V. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/12/2005 00:00:00

This is a clumsy, poorly implemented, and poorly explained idea. In principle, characters aim at some amorphous thing called "the encounter" and must do X damage to "the encounter" to defeat it. The encounter, in turn, does Y damage to every character in the party every round. Oddly enough, if you target specific characters they take damage, but even if all the specific characters in the opposition die, the encounter continues to damage you until you damage it back sufficiently, and damage targeted at the specific enemies of the encounter does not stop this random damage generator from slapping you with damage. You have to stop the random damage by smacking down the invisible thing called "the encounter". And if the encounter features an army of enemy sorcerer's, instead of attacking you with many varied spells each round, they simply act as random damage generators that occasionally cough up a pre-planned effect once or twice at key moments during the encounters.

If the ideas presented herein are useful for anything it is probably for some freeform mass combat system, but I'm not even sure that would make sense.

The system, if it makes any sense, is so bloody poorly explained as to be practically useless. Now, I'm certain that some ideas contained herein, if explained by a more competent author, would have made for an interesting read, but such is not the product I have before me, nor can I see this being a useful replacement for the normal d20 combat system nor the basis for any other combat system unless the ideas contained therein are teased out and entirely reworked.

I'd say that I feel this product is an incredibly disappointing way to spend $7.95, and that everyone considering spending their money on this product should instead avoid it like the plague.

<b>LIKED</b>: Almost nothing except the art, much of which was licensed from Louis Porter Junior and Clipart.Com<br><br><b>DISLIKED</b>: Almost everything.<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Poor<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Ripped Off<br>

[1 of 5 Stars!]
NARRATIVE COMBAT: Story Driven Action For D20
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Publisher Reply:
It's fairly obvious that you didn't understand the product, since your description of how it works is blatantly untrue. Some encounter templates are damage-based, others are based on amassed successes of skill checks. I would further refute your points, but there are just so many that are mistaken that I don't know where to begin. If other readers are curious to understand how the system actually works, check the following forum threads for examples: Our company forums: http://www.readybb.com/phantomzone/viewtopic.php?t=1228 The EN World forums: http://www.enworld.org/showthread.php?t=155651 Lastly, if the author of this review would contact me at gms@adamantentertainment.com, I will be happy to give him $7.95 credit towards any other Adamant product, since he was so unhappy with this one.
A Cold Day In Hell
Publisher: Darn Fun Games
by Lee V. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/27/2005 00:00:00

A PDF-formatted card game that can be played as a nice beer and pretzels game or a serious one taking mental concentration, depending on your mood. It'll be a cold day in hell before you find another game this fun for the price. "A Cold Day in Hell" has an interesting premise: it's a cold day in hell and the Devil has misplaced his winter coat, and you the demons, are on a search for the elusive winter coat.

While this is an acceptable game for 2, it was just great for 3 players. I have not tried it with 4 yet. The rules do not specify a number of players that the game best serves. In practice it lasts 10-30 minutes, on the longer end of the spectrum the more players that are at the table.

The game is mostly a card game though current movement position is tracked on a "board" of 9 double-sided tiles. The tile in the center is a placeholder tile that has the same location on both sides and will never be the location of the Devil's winter coat. The other 8 double-sided tiles represent 16 possible locations (one location per side per tile) where the Devil's winter coat might be found. Each location has 2 Items associated with it. While you can freely enter any location without matching items, you can't win the game unless you are at a location where the winter coat is currently Rumored to be at with items that match that location.

For instance, let's say the Devil's winter coat is Rumored to be somewhere in the Evil Doggie Part. To win the game you have to chat up the cute demonesses there out walking their hellhounds, and to do that, you'll need to be carrying an Evil Doggie Treat and a copy of the book "Hell's Worst Pickup Lines".

Aside from the 9 "board" tiles, the rest of the game is played with a deck of cards. There are 4 types of cards in the deck: Rumors, Cheater cards, Items, and Actions.

Rumor cards represent a possible location where the winter coat is. Only one Rumor can be in play at a time. Play a new one and the old one is discarded. There's only one copy of each Rumor, so once a Rumor is discarded, you aren't getting it back.

Cheater cards represent minor changes to the rules (change in maximum hand size, or the number of items you can carry, etc.). Like Rumor cards, only one Cheater card can be in play at a time.

Items I addressed above.

Actions are just that -- extra things that you can do, like flip locations (so that you can move during your move/flip phase and still flip a location), switching pawn locations with someone else on the board, etc.

You have a hand size of 5 cards. You can carry 3 items played to the table in front of you. Each turn you have all 3 of the following phases which you may choose to skip any of, but you can't change the order of the phases.

1) Move one space orthogonally OR flip any one tile on the table
2) Play one card OR discard a card
3) If you have fewer cards than the hand size limit, then you draw cards to bring yourself back up to the hand size limit

In general, the game is an attempt to build up items matching a Rumor card in play or in your hand and to navigate your pawn to the winning location. Now that is easier than it sounds, particularly so when you are playing with more people, because your opponents will do their damndest to steal the shirt right of your back, and banish you to the farthest reaches of the 3 by 3 board on every one of their turns.

We did come up with two unanswered rules questions:

A) When the hand size decreases (due to someone playing a Cheater card) do you have to discard down immediately? We decided not, since all the other cards that make you discard immediately say so on them.

B) Also, what happens if you get to the bottom of the deck without anyone winning? Do you reshuffle the cards? We think so, although I can't remember if the rules actually say.

The card art is whimsical, though appropriate for such a silly concept. The art pictures and the text are large (I am somewhat visually impaired, so I appreciated this).

Being a PDF game I do not downgrade this product for making you supply your own pawns, but I really think that 4 different print-out tri-fold devil tokens would have been appropriate.

The rules are mostly complete and can be learned in 5 minutes.

And I would have liked to see a set of card backs for these cards. 90% of people would just sleeve these and not want card backs, but they would have been nice for those few who want this to look like a "finished" game and who are willing to go through the time and trouble to print the game out on nice stock and laminate it.

Another page in the book on game strategies and alternative forms of play would have been great. For example, we printed out an extra sheet with miniature (fit 4 pages to one page) versions of the locations as a cheat sheet, and we let people look through the discard pile. However, with no cheat sheet and a "closed" discard pile this game would become a very challenging version of concentration almost instantly.

As to strategies -- well, there is only one of every Rumor and two of every item, so memorizing all the combinations of locations + Item cards is important, as is the ability to "count cards" in your head. But the real strategy is to definitely NOT play a Rumor card until the last possible second as people can ditch it just by playing another, and it signifies, if you have matching items, that you are about to win, making you the universal target of all the mayhem everyone else can muster.

It's probably also a good strategy, though I didn't come up with it until just now, to flip over the location you want to win on to its opposite side a few turns before you make your move. When you are headed to the Evil Doggie Park with a dog biscuit and a book, people will see it and know what you are up to. If you flip it over, then it may be out of sight and out of mind, particularly if you aren't playing with a locations cheat sheet. You can always flip it back over when you arrive if you need to. Or, if you convince people that you are visiting the location on the back the Evil Doggie Park, they might try to delay you by, flipping the Evil Doggie Park face up, playing right into your hands.

I would be tempted to score this game down by several points for some of the things that it left out (that I've mentioned above), but for one thing -- the price. For $5.00, this game is a steal. It's fast, it's crazy, and above all, it's fun. So, while it has a few minor flaws, it's certainly worth purchasing some card stock and burning a bit of an ink cartridge for (on that latter score, unlike some games, printing out at "normal" rather than "best" ink coverage works fine given the large size of the art and the text the game uses).

On Style I rate this 5 stars out of 5, and on substance, 4 stars out of 5. Again, I think these scores are slightly inflated objectively (as I can?t really rate a PDF game on component quality the way I can a hardcopy game), but subjectively, taking into account speed of game play, the amount of fun I had, the price of the game, the charm of the game's theme, and the simplicity rules, I think this game deserves the high marks I am giving it.

Game Publisher: Darn Fun Games
Game Design: Paul Starr
Publisher?s Website: http://www.darnfun.com
Purchase Online At: http://www.rpgnow.com/product_info.php?products_id=160-
Game Publication Year: 2002

Review by: Lee Valentine
Review Date: September 27, 2005
<br><br><b>LIKED</b>: Almost everything except the few things I mentioned elsewhere in this review.<br><br><b>DISLIKED</b>: A couple of unclear rules. A lack of card backs. A lack of printable devil tokens.<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Excellent<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Very Satisfied<br>

[5 of 5 Stars!]
A Cold Day In Hell
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Fudge Treats: ASCB
Publisher: Avalon Game Company
by Lee V. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/19/2005 00:00:00

This is nothing more than a repackaging of the 2002 Kenneth S. Hood "ASCB" System. What is ASCB? It's two things. First, it's effectively a two-tier hierarchical trait system which is used instead of skills.

Traits are listed like:

Scientific Good
Biology Great
Physics Superb

Meaning that all Scientific rolls are made at Good except for Biology which is made at Great and Physics which is made at Superb.

The system uses a relativistic modifier system where every roll in the game receives a minor bonus or penalty depening on whether something should nominally be common knowledge or obscure knowledge to someone of your culture or background.

<br><br><b>LIKED</b>: FUDGE needs some sort of hierarchical skill mechanic, in my opinion. I liked the fact that pretty much everything in the product was 100% OGC.<br><br><b>DISLIKED</b>: I think the notion of applying some relativistic modifier to many if not all rolls is gonna be a bit intrusive. I would have preferred to see Culture and Background and mega-skills, proxies for lots of skills that aren't covered by the game, instead of some source of ever-changing modifiers.

Also, I really wish this would have been something more than a re-canning of a formerly free product (which I already have). Much of the art was wholly unrelated to the subject matter and so it made it stick out like a sore thumb sometimes. I wanted more white space between the columns -- that was a major failing of the layout (broad margins on the outside and incredibly cramped columnar formatting). I think I was happier with the layout of the original free PDF.<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Acceptable<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Satisfied<br>

[3 of 5 Stars!]
Fudge Treats: ASCB
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Publisher Reply:
Thank you for your purchase and comments. "Fudge Treats volume 1: Aptitudes, Specialties, Culture and Background" is Ken Hood's system, but this revision is released under the OGL whereas the original release was not. I kept the original name of the system as to avoid confusion. Artwork was a challenge for this product. It's very hard to find artwork that screams out "character creation system", so I went with artwork that screamed out "characters". Around the "background" section we see a grizzled dwarf - his myriad packs and well-worn clothes speak to quite a background; around the "combat" section we have knights in action. The listing of aptitudes features a superhero (certainly possessed of many aptitudes), and the "character development" section features a balding, bearded apothocary studying the human anatomy. I'm sorry you dislike the layout. Thanks again, Tim.
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