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Ghost Ops - A Modern Day Covert Ops RPG
Publisher: FeralGamersInc
by ar e. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/30/2019 00:08:58

Excellent system! Finally, a military game that strikes a great balance between beefy simulation and fast-paced, narrative-oriented play. If I had to summarize it quickly, I'd say it's a great amalgamation. It mixes some of the better concepts from various systems to create a unique engine that's well-suited to its task. In essence, you might say it's the love child of the Cypher system (Numenera), FATE (FUDGE, more specifically), and a game I played a while back called In Harm's Way: Wild Blue. It's got a nice, sleek system, plenty of source material to get you rolling, and more in supplementary content.

My only personal complaint is a nitpick in that at times it feels, especially with the art, like it leans more towards Tom Clancy or Call of Duty-style operations than I'd prefer, but leaning more towards realism is as easy as playing it that way. Nothing about the engine itself or the various special forces backgrounds you can draw from say "action movie" more than "simulation", so in that regard, it's actually a good thing. If your table enjoys more romanticized action, it can do that. If your table prefers a more procedural simulation style of play, it's absolutely equipped for that. Aside from that, the book isn't extremely pretty, but it does its job and that's all you really need. I don't really have any other major complaints!

Excellent buy, not disappointed. Something I've been searching for across the past couple of years, and finally, Ghost Ops delivers.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Ghost Ops - A Modern Day Covert Ops RPG
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Schema, Second Iteration
Publisher: Amagi Games
by ar e. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/17/2019 13:12:17

While it might take some re-learning if you're coming from a traditional tabletop background, if you're after narrative-driven roleplaying where a character's actions can heavily dictate the course of a scene, no one does it quite like Schema. It's light, it's unique, it's flexible (if you're willing to be a little creative and take the time to set up your own variations of the rules), and the depth of things that can happen from a given roll is immense. Think Apocalypse World's engine, but without the limitation of specific moves and rigid character roles. What's more, you can add just about anything you want and make it work if you try. For example, the system doesn't track health naturally, but if you want to, it doesn't require rewiring the rules. Just track it with some tokens and you're good to go!

The real beauty of Schema is that you can make most any task as complex or as simple as you want, and you can do anything you want without the need for an exhaustive list of specific actions you can take in a given situation. It allows me to zoom in and out pretty seamlessly, handling everything from intense duels between generals to grand scale campaign strategy without bloating the game. You'll need to sort of reverse engineer the system before you can really make it happen, but as the entire book is less than 30 pages, this doesn't take long.

The core system is ingenius: Every roll that matters is a combination of "stakes"; potential dangers, good things, and/or automatic effects that come together to dictate the outcome. With this basic system, you can turn just about anything into a sort of dramatic vignette in which the result could potentially feature unintended consequences or interesting new opportunities, regardless of success or failure. That core principle is what makes this engine so wonderful. It's simple, yet so deep.

I'm still finding my footing with it for my very specific needs, but at its core, it's just really fun to play for someone like me, who favors sandbox-style gaming. Once you read over the rules (which will take all of five minutes), it really opens up as you find new ways to make use of the mechanics. For instance, I was able to create a mass combat system using a combination of stakes for the strategy phase, and another for the actual battle that's rolled repeatedly until one side has won out. I track forces with tokens for both sides and the swing of momentum, using one token that can shift between sides in a tug-of-war sort of way. This is an example of something that isn't explicitly in the book, but I was able to add by looking at another product from this author, Stakes for Schema.

(If you grab this, I strongly reccommend Stakes for Schema as well. It's an excellent companion piece and is Pay What You Want.)

All in all, two enthusiastic thumbs up. And my big toes as well. I had to take my shoes off for that one, which should tell you just how pleased I am with Schema.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Schema, Second Iteration
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Conan: Adventures in an Age Undreamed Of core book
Publisher: Modiphius
by ar e. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/13/2018 04:09:21

I've only become interested in the Conan universe recently, and I'll just say upfront that the book does a great job of telling me what I need to know lore-wise. I can't, however, speak to that side of things extensively since I'm far from an authority on the topic. What I will, however, say is that the system itself is a great deal of fun. It strikes that excellent balance between number crunch and cinematic pacing in that it gives me enough in the way of talents and skills that I feel like my character is unique and has a clear identity, while keeping the actual rolls streamlined and the pace of play smooth.

Combat is gritty and visceral and it really captures the feel of a violent world waiting to chew you up and spit out your bones. As a fan of medieval fencing and the like, I found it intriguing how the game manages to incorporate a lot of the things that make a fight "feel like a fight". Weapon reach is accounted for, with longer weapons making it more difficult to assail you with shorter weapons... but also the idea of getting past someone's guard, so that the shorter weapon actually has the advantage. The idea that ammunition is a concern, but only if you're burning through it quickly or you're carrying a bundle of javelins or the like. The concept of cover and concealment, where hiding in a bush doesn't give you protection, but does make you harder to hit. Hit locations and armor soak, plus a nice and concise mechanic for shield breaks and armor destruction. It manages to make use of all this and more and never feels particularly obtuse in so doing. Combat is a joy to play, whether you're leading a squad of warriors in a skirmish (you can do that!) or dueling a Zingaran fencer.

(In regards to "chewing you up and spitting out your bones"... It by extension does a good job of making your characters feel particularly powerful and special. When they're overcoming the odds of a world that wants to destroy them on a regular basis, it really shows them to be larger than life figures. That said, there are alternate creation options that allow you to make characters that are little less gifted, even going as far as characters that are destitute and running on fumes at the start of the campaign!)

Equipment is handled quite well. Most of the odds and ends you'd carry around are condensed into kits, which provide bonuses (or negate penalties) to skill tests that make use of them, at the cost of either greater encumbrance or static placement as a workshop. Weapons and armor give you all the options you'd expect without being unnecessarily bloated (for example, a dagger, a dirk and a stiletto are all functionally the same thing, just call it what you please). Mounts and beasts of burden can be bought, as can vehicles such as carts and ships, opening up a range of potential gameplay options. Want to play a trader with mean bladework? You could absolutely do that.

But one of the things I love most about this product is character creation. While you can choose from any of these options freely, it expects a random roll mechanic that harkens back to the classic games like D&D, but handles it differently. Instead of flatly rolling stats and skills, you're almost rolling a lifepath. As you roll at each stage, you're learning more and more about your character. For people like me who often don't know what I want to play going in, this is a really fun thing to go through. Perhaps more interesting is that I've yet to see a combination that wasn't intriguing and also cohesive, with a little imagination.

My current character is a Zamoran woman who grew up herding goats, living a lazy and peaceful life. Then came a Hyrkanian mercenary company looking for recruits (implying her village was visited semi-regularly by this company, perhaps as part of an agreement of payment for some major service they did for the village years ago). She was snapped up for her skill with animals, ascending from goat herder to horse tender. Time with this company saw her take up archery, and she eventually began riding to battle. What I have now is a goat herder-turned-horse archer who travels the world, following her natural curiosity into all sorts of misadventures. All this was prompted by my character creation rolls, each stage of which contributed to building not only her history and personality, but her attributes, skills and talents as well.

Overall, I'd say this is among the top five systems I've ever handled. The PDF is laid out well, everything's good and easy to read, NPC rules are nice and concise... Even the intangibles are in order. The only thing I can't yet judge is magic rules (they do exist, however!), as my group hasn't really dabbled with them yet. I strongly recommend Conan: Adventures in an Age Undreamed Of for anyone into Conan, general "gritty fantasy", or even perhaps for those looking for a system to run their own similar setting on.

Side note: I also have Conan the Barbarian, Conan the Pirate and Conan the Mercenary, all of which are also excellent products. Nothing but good vibes from the entire line so far, and I can absolutely see more purchases in my future.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Conan: Adventures in an Age Undreamed Of core book
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Legend of the Elements
Publisher: The Logbook Project
by ar e. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 08/20/2018 17:00:53

Excellent take on Avatar: The Last Airbender/Legend of Korra for the Apocalypse World engine. It does a really good job of translating the setting to the rule system. My one complaint with the PDF is that it's not bookmarked, but that's a very minor issue. The formatting is pretty barebones, but it doesn't particularly need to be anything more than that. It does its job.

As far as the actual meat of the game, yeah, it absolutely does a good job. Apocalypse World is, of course, easy to tweak, but speaking from experience, keeping the balance of "engaging game" and "not too bloated" can be more difficult than one would think. This book handles it beautifully, giving me plenty to make it feel interesting and varied without weighing the sleek engine down. I also enjoy that the author was willing to step outside the box a little with the engine itself, implementing things like Oaths (which I don't think I remember being in Apocalypse World), sub-playbooks and animal companions.

Interesting side note: While it can absolutely be used for Avatar roleplaying, the sales pitch doesn't lie when it says it can be used for all sorts of other wuxia settings as well. As a fan of the Dynasty Warriors video game series, I can absolutely envision the components of Legend of the Elements emulating high-action Three Kingdoms roleplaying, for example. The only thing it's missing is rules for mass combat, but when one warrior is worth a thousand men, that's not necessarily something you need.

All in all, very pleased with the purchase. Worth the $10 US in my book.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Legend of the Elements
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Realms of Terrinoth
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
by ar e. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/15/2018 00:11:24

Fantastic purchase with or without the core Genesys System rulebook (I happen to own both). All the streamlined, emergent narrative goodness of the Genesys system with a boatload of rich fantasy setting flavor that takes classic conventions and puts a fresh spin on them. A solid list of fantasy races to choose from: Humans, Elves, Dwarves, Gnomes, Orcs and Catfolk, each with different sub-species that offer a unique racial ability and help set this world apart from the countless others who employ these species. Likewise, the game makes use of the Genesys corebook's optional magic system, which itself is extremely versatile and intuitive, and applies its own tweaks to create a variety of fascinating magical styles, from musical magic to rune-assisted spellcasting. And this isn't even touching on the setting, which is developed very well and features plenty of things that coax the imagination.

The book is well laid out and features beautiful art throughout, to help you visualize what the setting has created. A world full of red-orange deserts, demon-infested steppelands, frozen expanses and dense jungles await. The setting has a clime to suit most any story, and gives you a handful of beasts, natives and illustrations to get you started. If you so desire, you can also read a 26-page chapter going into the history of the world as well, giving you even more context.

All in all, I haven't been this impressed by a setting in years, and the book makes excellent use of the Genesys System to make a game out of that setting that I can't wait to dive into.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Realms of Terrinoth
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Elite Dangerous RPG core book
Publisher: Modiphius
by ar e. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/05/2018 01:18:56

An excellent product all around. Getting this out of the way: If you're a fan of the Elite Dangerous game and universe, this is what you're looking for in a tabletop RPG. The writers are clearly fans of the game and have gone to great pains to bring the game as directly into the mechanics of the RPG as possible (particularly where ships and their components are concerned), and it comes out really well. Overall it's a sleek system with tons of options for customization, yet minimal numbers crunch.

The PDF itself is just magnificent. The art is nice, the fonts and layout are easy on the eyes and aesthetically pleasing, everything is nicely color-coded to quickly draw your eyes to what needs referencing... It's one of those PDFs that made me realize just how important aesthetics can be on the reading process, despite not usually thinking much about it. It doesn't lack for content, either. There are at least two dozen background options for your characters, which you'll pick from to put together a unique individual whose experiences have shaped their skillset right out of the gate. Ships all come with several different stock models - for example, the Adder "Aspire" Coupe is kitted as something of a personal cruising vessel, while the Adder Raider feels more like an interceptor - and of course, you can hand-craft your own ship by mixing and match components and balancing power needs the way you would ingame. There are even rules for creating your vessel from the video game, if you played, in the RPG. NPCs are fairly easy to make, and the book comes loaded with numerous stock encounters; different strengths of foe graded by their rank (from Harmless to Elite) for each of three groups: soldiers and mercs, police and security, and criminals.

I tend to ramble and I'm trying to abbreviate as much as possible, so I won't gush on, but it's absolutely worth the money. As a space RPG on its own, it does a really solid job, on par with some of my favorite spacefaring tabletop RPGs. As a way for fans of the video game to transfer their experience to a fully fleshed out universe complete with planetary interactions, personal-scale firefights and of course, exciting space dogfighting (or even mining if that's your thing!), it does its job almost perfectly.

I have only two complaints: One is the lack of comprehensive ship listing, which I believe is remedied in some of the expansion material but I haven't purchased those to make sure yet. Make no mistake, what's here gives you a ton of options. The Adder, Anaconda, Asp Explorer, Cobra Mk III, Diamondback Scout, Eagle Mk II, Fer-de-Lance, Hauler, Krait, Python, Sidewinder, Type-6, Type-7, Type-9, Viper Mk III, and the Vulture make up the ship roster in the core book, and that's nothing to laugh at. Particularly when you consider that each of these models come with something like three or four different stock configurations (and again, can be modified to your heart's content!). That said, I'm hoping to find the faction ships and cruise liners in the expansions. If not, I'm hopeful that the faithfulness to the source material will make them easy enough to translate homebrew!

The other complaint I have is the slight lack of depth in the mission generation tables. I don't want to call it "lack of depth", really. The mission generation system is really cool and it does its job very well. The only thing that worries me is... Within each of the three mission types, there are a handful of missions, each with a handful of scenarios and a handful of twists that could be rolled. The positive in this is that the generated results tend to feel really exciting and unique, but the downside is... Well, I was sort of hoping for D100 tables rather than D10's. This, however, is a personal gripe and a minor one at that. I'm fairly certain these generated missions will help my table get rolling and our own ideas will carry it from there, so they'll likely do their job just fine!

All in all, I can't recommend this product enough. I'd been waiting for this since I first took the controls of my crappy stock Sidewinder some year and a half ago, and the folks at Spidermind have delivered in a way that almost feels tailor-made to my wishes.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Elite Dangerous RPG core book
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Uncharted Worlds
Publisher: Sean Gomes
by ar e. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/05/2017 15:59:02

Truly excellent stuff. If you like the Apocalypse Engine and you like sci-fi, this game won't let you down. I love the quick yet versatile character creation; departing from the PbtA standard Playbooks to a combination of Career (what you did for most of your life) and Origin (what kind of society you came from). Kind of gives me a Mass Effect vibe, and it allows for a great deal more variety in a cast without feeling like it's artificially restricting anyone's options, so to speak.

Also love that faction creation guidelines are presented, as well as tips for playing different "scales" of universe. Playing in a universe with two distinct factions (Star Wars) is far different than playing in a game with a solid handful (Mass Effect) or a full plethora (Elite: Dangerous, if you wanna get technical), and the book gives you direction as to how. It also makes creating one or two or ten or 20 of these factions as simple as a few rolls of the D6, if you're looking for quick direction.

Most of the staples you expect to see in a sci-fi game, from starship creation and customization to speeder bikes, monetary negotiations to boarding parties, are all covered in the mechanics, and the Debt system makes your relationship with the factions of your galaxy matter whether you're independent or a proud citizen. The information is laid out nice and clean in the bookmark tree, and while the pretty art is kept to a minimum, the sizing and position of the text break up the sections nicely.

For such a simple game, mechanically speaking, I was very pleased by the number of potential options. Want a flying car? How about a walker? From a small, agile shuttle to a luxury starliner, or a heavy fighter to a capital ship, you can potentially have it all. If you fancy planetary engagements, exploration, inter-species diplomacy... That's all well and viable. If ship-to-ship combat is your thing, or smuggling runs past massive blockades, that's perfectly doable as well. Like a true PbtA game, it gives you the basic mechanics for a whole slew of potential gameplay concerns, then lets your table carry it into an adventure worth telling.

As standard for games Powered by the Apocaplyse... For those not familiar with Apocalypse World or its many offshoots, I do warn that you'll have to do some unlearning. The system expects a lot of narrative "filling in the blanks" and your actions won't always be selected from a list. Combat in particular can take some getting used to if you're coming from one of the many more rigid tabletop RPGs out there. But learning this system and giving it a chance is something I absolutely recommend, because it's extremely enjoyable once you get the hang of it. It's not that it's complex; quite the contrary. It's rather so straightforward that those used to number-crunching may have trouble making sense of it, until one's brain is trained to lead the rules rather than follow them.

For those already familiar with the engine, I reiterate that Uncharted Worlds does a superb job of bringing it to the stars. The solid presentation, the clever adaptations of tried and true Apocalypse Engine conventions, the evolution of certain familiar systems into something unique but no less intuitive, even the graphics for Origins and Careers, it's all just great. I severely doubt you'll be disappointed by this game.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Uncharted Worlds
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7th Sea Core Rulebook (Second Edition)
Publisher: Chaosium
by ar e. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/28/2016 02:35:58

I never played the 1st Edition, so this review considers only the mechanics of 7th Sea 2E on its own objective merits. Also bear in mind that I have an interesting opinion of John Wick works in general, in that I tend to think the ideas are really unique, but the rules are a little too light for me. 7th Sea 2E, however, turned out to be just right for my taste.

In brief, if you want a fast-paced, action-oriented system without a lot of number-crunching, this is a great way to go. In essence, 7th Sea 2E expects both the players and the GM to actively tell a story, rather than react to strict rule conventions and what I like to call "gamey circumstances" (IE, "do the math, try to decide what your best course of action is").

The presentation of the book is nice and clean. The art is lovely, the world is intriguing, and everything is laid out in a fairly aesthetically pleasing and easy-to-read way. If you want rich lore, 7th Sea 2E is going to deliver. There's a lot to read, mind, but it does an excellent job of mixing various historical cultures with unique, original concepts to place you in a familiar, yet exotic world.

Now let's get to the meat: The gameplay. First, something I'm taking some getting used to is that the game isn't designed for traditional, hack-and-be-hacked combat. Actions are conducted in the framework of "Risks", which utilize a dice pool to generate "Raises" that can be used to affect the scene. You do react to circumstances at times (these elements are called "Consequences" and "Opportunities", which you buy off or simply buy, respectively, with Raises).

Otherwise, and generally speaking, you take action using Raises, and I emphasize this for a reason. In most systems, you choose your action, and your action dictates what you roll to determine success. In 7th Sea 2E, you take your action after you roll by simply spending a Raise. What do you want to do? Spend a Raise, and you do it. In this way, players alter the course of the scene itself more often than they react to circumstances.

"How do you know what to roll if you take action after the roll?" This is the "Approach". Your Approach defines your general strategy for tackling a Risk, as well as what your dice pool will be. Anytime you wish to do something the GM judges to be outside the scope of your Approach, you have to spend an extra Raise. For example, if I approach a Risk saying "I cut my way through to the foul Count, my blade dancing like a dragonfly on the water." Clearly this is a physical, combative approach. But let's say the GM informs me during the course of the round that a spear trap is headed for an ally, and I decide to grab it and brute force it from extending all the way. Very different than my Approach states; I'd have to spend 2 Raises to do this.

In general, Risks are conducted on one of two stages: the "Action Sequence" or the "Dramatic Sequence". Action Squences are quick, visceral periods of excitement, and where combat will generally take place. Dramatic Sequences are longer narrative periods, spanning hours, days, or even weeks. The danger of an Action Sequence is physical harm; the danger of a Dramatic Sequence is deciding how to spend your resources to get what you're after despite all potential obstacles.

The reason I say combat is nonstandard is because of the way it flows seamlessly with all the other action occurring within an Action Sequence. Could you do a typical back-and-forth combat sequence using these rules? Absolutely. But the design is to mix it up, swashbuckling style. For example, rather than simply saying "I swing my sword," you're expected to have the option of saying "I rush up to the balcony for a superior vantage point." Then, assuming your foe is still beneath you, your next action could be "I lunge from one balcony to the next, cleanly slicing the rope holding the large chandelier so it fall on the Count!" Now the GM might think "Hoo, that's probably 4 Wounds, easy." And he'd have to spend Raises for the Count avoiding the damage. Likewise, there may be situations where you flow from running across a rooftop, to fighting a foe, to continuing to run, to sliding down a rope onto a moving carriage, to dueling the villain atop that carriage, all in the same round of action.

NPCs are handled in a very concise, effective manner. They come in three forms. Brute Squads are your mooks. They come in groups and act all at once, bearing a single stat, Strength, and possibly a special effect they can employ. Strength is the number of people in the Squad. It's applied as damage to a single target at the end of a turn order, and every Wound sustained by a Brute Squad is the death of one of its members.

Villains are the extremely dangerous foes you'll face over several sessions. They have two stats - Strength and Influence - and can also possess the Advantages your PCs have access to. Strength and Influence together make up a Villain's dice pool, making them extremely dangerous to take on without thinking. However, Influence can be eroded through play, encouraging players to topple a villain by taking on his empire, slowly weakening him through several sessions. Conversely, Villains can attempt to regain Influence through schemes the players can attempt to interfere with. Honestly, it feels a little like a tabletop version of Shadows of Mordor's system of Orcish power structure, if you've played the game.

Monsters are a bit of a cross between Brute Squads and Villains. They have Strength ratings, and can also carry a few Monstrous Traits that make each monster uniquely dangerous.

The crux of NPCs, in my mind, is this: they are quick to make and play. This means a reduced burden on the GM, who can focus more effort on actually running a fun game. What makes each Villain unique isn't their character sheet, but how they behave. How they utilize their power and influence. It's very much a writer's system in this regard.

Sailing mechanics are also nice and streamlined, and poised to be easily house ruled if you find them a bit too lacking in complexity. You have a ship that has a tangible history, that can take so much punishment before it's useless. You have a crew that you can split into up to two Brute Squads to have at your disposal. You have Cargo, bought or looted, that you can sell for Wealth, which must be divided to your crew each session lest they grow mutinous. It's quick, it's clean, and it does its job well. (It also comes with a lot of fluff about seafaring in the world of 7th Sea 2E's setting, which helps those of us who have minimal knowledge about sailing to roleplay with.)

ALL IN ALL, I find myself thoroughly enjoying 7th Sea 2E. D&D it is not. If I had to compare it to anything, and I can only do so in terms of crunch, it's closest to Cypher or Fate. More crunch than Fate, less than things like Basic Roleplaying; roughly on par with Cypher's degree of number crunch, if just a tiny touch more. What it is, is a smooth, relatively lightweight system that emphasizes collaborative narration. I strongly recommend it for small groups who enjoy writing the scene as they play, or larger groups who want a little less bookkeeping.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
7th Sea Core Rulebook (Second Edition)
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Situations For Tabletop Roleplaying
Publisher: Amagi Games
by ar e. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 08/30/2016 13:59:50

This and every item like it I've gotten from this genius of a man is worth the tiny bit of invested time to read, and more money than is asked. I got all the "pay what you want" ones for free to try them out, as I'm low on funds right now, but I intend to go back and buy them proper when I have some bills paid off. If I had to value this and his similar books, I'd say $4-5 easy.

Not only is the content solid and extremely useful for any roleplaying system, but the way it's presented is cleverly minimalistic and very easy to reference. I absolutely hate reading, but these PDFs are a pleasure to read. Excellent publisher, this good fellow.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Situations For Tabletop Roleplaying
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FiveCore 3rd edition. Skirmish Gaming Evolved
Publisher: Nordic Weasel Games
by ar e. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/17/2016 21:38:35

From a personal standpoint, for my style of gaming, the rules themselves might be slightly much to handle alone. However, objectively, they're well written and pretty concise as far as miniatures rules go. The core rules aren't the reason I gave it a 4; the main reason is the lack of a bookmark sidebar, which would be extremely helpful in referencing certain nuances mid-game.

From a more biased standpoint, I'd like to note that once again, Nordic Weasel Games has delivered a rather useful tool within a game that, even though I may not end up getting much use out of the core book, will be extremely helpful to me in other endeavors. In this case I refer to the solo play rules and the tables occupying the last third or so of the PDF.

There are comprehensive rollable tables for campaign attributes such as random forces (WW2, Modern, Irregular, Gang and SWAT), fireteam generation, vehicle presence, a war generator for both earth and spacefaring settings, and even some goodies in character creation that help you define the background and personality of a character you don't already have down in your head.

Perhaps most intriguingly, the campaign rules give you rules and rollable tables for such things as the nature of injuries that befall those taken out in combat (from light wounds and dramatic scars to permanent injuries and death), replacements and recruits, campaign events (reassignment of soldiers, arrival of a new recruit, and so on), and of course, full-on mission generation.

For me, the strength of Nordic Weasel titles has always been the robust random generation, and these are things I feel like I could transplant into any game. In fact... I was going to give it a 4 for the lack of a bookmark index, but the more I look over these bonuses at the end of the book, the better I feel about this purchase. Five stars, for depth of utility alone!

Short Version: (And mind, this is from a very individualized standpoint.) If you've been searching for a game that lets you take control of a squad or platoon and follow them throughout a procedural military campaign, as I so long have, this is your train. Get on and ride this baby to glory. (Or... horrific defeat, as circumstances may dictate. May the dice treat your boys well!)



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
FiveCore 3rd edition. Skirmish Gaming Evolved
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Usurper - Claim to power: A game of lords, rogues and adventurers
Publisher: Nordic Weasel Games
by ar e. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/10/2016 03:53:32

For me personally, the core section of the book - which is roughly five pages of actual mechanics - is alone worthy of $9.99. I like to use tabletop roleplaying systems to run stories that force me to react to circumstances and think on my feet, and this is understandably difficult. But Usurper gives me enough "randomness" for my taste without bogging me down in number crunching mechanics.

The character creation, another part of the core, is also excellent. Games that can mesh the perfect amount of meat with the perfect amount of simplicity in the way the Usurper character creation rules do are rare gems indeed, and I enjoy them like a fluffy oven pastry on a cold day.

The quick option, for those who already know what they want to play, is a single page (plus one extra for how to handle specific questions players might have). The story option, which sings to me in particular, is a lifepath sort of system with roll tables.

The great thing about it is that the rolls are random, but not absolute. If I roll that my character was born with Reflexes, I could arguably apply this as several different traits: Maybe he's got "Keen Senses", maybe he's a "Social Chameleon" who can adapt to any setting and blend in perfectly, or maybe he has "Unassailable Wit", shooting down arguments contrary to his own like a master archer. Or maybe he's just "Quick on the Draw".

One special point I'd like to commend the author for is the "First Time Readers" notes. At the end of each section, a paragraph or so is written out for first time readers. It's a bit like a school assignment where you quickly apply some of the points covered in the previous section to practice, getting a hands-on feel for how they work as you go. This is particularly good for someone like me, who learns better by doing than by reading.

In summary: Usurper offers a lot of meat, but most of it is selective and supplementary. At its core, Usurper is a game that operates very smoothly. You roll d100. You have your result. The game then manages to work in per-character nuance and how it applies to actions, as well as attrition, all without convoluted numbers-tracking.

If you're looking for a game that walks the fine line between game and storytelling, one that determines outcomes systematically without becoming a slog... I suggest giving Usurper a try. As someone who's spent the past ten years sniffing out such games wherever I can find them, I can attest that this is one does a very good job of it.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Usurper - Claim to power: A game of lords, rogues and adventurers
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Early Dark Role-Playing Game
Publisher: Anthropos Games
by ar e. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/27/2015 23:31:30

An excellent product all on its own, but I also found the system itself useful when adapting it to suit my own original setting. For me, Early Dark's mechanics strike the perfect balance between functionality and game speed. In my many forays into various tabletop engines, I've found that in general, a system is either so complex that it takes several minutes to resolve one action in full, thus destroying momentum before it can even build... or it's so streamlined that everything is too abstract, and it feels like I should just be writing a story rather than roleplaying.

Early Dark succeeds spectacularly at streamlining rolls and bookkeeping while maintaining facets of the game that make your character feel like "your character". It does so by culling hit tables and probability calculation, yet manages to make me think more actively when my character is taking action than any other system I've tried since AGE - and moreso than AGE, even.

The rules for advancement are also quite novel and work perfectly for what my campaigns tend to be about. In Early Dark, the focus isn't as much on crawling through dungeons and getting loot for loot's sake as it is about accomplishing things and forging your character into a literal legend. Every major thing your character does will be with the goal of making their mark on history, and it ties into the mechanics by allowing you to custom-build little "advancement packages" tied to a title or epithet earned from some great accomplishment your character performed in the course of the game. You play to be remembered. By doing something memorable, you grow stronger. By growing stronger, you are able to commit greater deeds that are even more memorable, and those deeds in turn make you stronger. It's an excellent cycle that has remained entertaining since I picked the game up.

This isn't even addressing the Arts and Talents systems, the magic system that has "just enough" meat (for my taste, at least), and the excellent world building job. So far I've only used the system for my own setting simply because that's my habit, but even just glossing over the playable cultures and the history that was put into this setting made the world builder in me stand up and applaud. I fully intend to play the game in its own setting in the future, and I'm actually quite eager to do so!

There are more things this game does well that make it a unique experience, but this review grows long-winded, and my opinion likely isn't worth too much of your time given my insular experience with tabletop gaming. In short, Early Dark is an excellent game that, as far as I've been able to tell, isn't going to be a familiar experience. It doesn't draw on the same old mechanical conventions, but what it's created is sleek, intuitive, flexible, and very fun. I strongly recommend giving it a try.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Early Dark Role-Playing Game
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