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!]