Monday, December 17, 2012

Psi*Run

Psi*Run is an interesting new game from Meguey Baker. It is a slim volume that seems to be aiming to be as accessible as possible with lots of talking cartoon heads to explain the game.

The scenario for the game is a group of amnesiac characters with strange powers escape from an accident site where they were being transported by a strange group who then pursue them relentlessly with the goal of recapturing them.

The characters have a number of questions about themselves so the aim of the game is to stay ahead of the pursuing Chasers and learn as much as they can about themselves and what is happening to them.

The core game mechanics are a simple tree-branch map of the locations between the accident site and where the characters are now. The Chasers start at the accident and will then follow the tree to where the characters are. It's a pretty good mechanic and I see a strong "Fugitive" vibe to it.

The other system is a playmat where a player places a pool of dice to indicate how conflict situations play out. There are several parameters than need dice assigned to them including resolution, memory, the pursuit, the well-being of the characters and also how their powers behave.

Essentially you want to role high on as many dice as possible but the assignment mechanic is an interesting way to give the player agency in how the game is going to pan out. If the pursuit gets closer or the character gets injured that is essentially because the player wants that to happen.

This seems a straight-forward and engaging near-future sci-fi game and I'm looking forward to giving it a go.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Edge of Empire Beta

Would anyone really pay for the beta of a game? Er... hello!

I actually like the heart of Fantasy Flight's Warhammer 3rd Edition rules system so I was intrigued to see how it would work with the Star Wars universe.

There is some interesting stuff in the rules system as this is much more abstract than Warhammer and while it relies on special dice there are no additional cards and sub-mechanisms going on so the result is something a little leaner and slightly more cohesive. There are also some interesting indie game influences in the form of Obligation which represents the driving motivation behind the group. So Han's debt to Jabba ends up driving his story through the films.

However it is still intensely crunch heavy which is something of a turn off as the Fantasy Flight propensity for little, fiddly special rules is here. The design may be good but is never committed to finding the simplest answer to problems.

While the equivalent of Talents have been simplified and now take the form of Talent flows they are still more complicated than they need to be and there are a few examples of Talent I, II and III instead of creating a base effect and then allowing an extension to the base effect each time the ability is purchased again.

The book has a nice layout and the illustrations are excellent but I suspect that the rules wonkery that appealled in Warhammer is going to seem fiddly and tedious in the world of the space opera.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Fairyland

This is a booklet scenario that is very similar to the thin "bookmark" format that Graham Walmsey has used for some of his self-published scenarios. I was pretty sold on the premise/pitch for the scenario: Victorian Fairies meet the Cthulhu Mythos but having had a quick read through it seems to have a few problems.

It has the problem that James Raggi was complaining about in Monolith Beyond Space and Time of very quickly hitting the Cthulhu brand names rather than the concerns of the Mythos. Packaging the engaging concept into a very established pattern sucks all the excitement out of things.

The game focuses on the parents of a young girl, which is a brilliant premise but then seems to progress as if this will be a standard party game of about five players and spends some time on while all these new arrivals will turn up at remote Scottish village at the same time. I think it would have been better to focus on the three player set up and make that sing.

One really interesting thing it does is to highlight text with an iconography that indicates the mechanical aspects of the scenario. This helps it wear its system agnosticism well and is actually a really subtle but effective way of conveying additional information without disrupting the flow of the text. This seems an innovation that is worth stealing.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

The Monolith from beyond space and time

Picked up at Dragonmeet and its an attractive paperback as most LotFP stuff is, certainly makes me look forward to the IndieGoGo stuff.

The introduction is typically bombastic stuff from Raggi, talking about the way that much post-Lovecraft Mythos fiction relies on the icongraphy and "brand" touchstones of the original stories. As a dig at the way that Paizo use Lovecraft I definitely agrees. Defining this adventure as something that aims to be Lovecraftian without the tropes we once again have a bar being set ridiculously high.

The main problem is that Raggi doesn't seem to want to engage with structured storytelling and therefore is happy to mix up weird situations with dice-driven random tables and not really bother with the idea that OSR games are essentially about how groups of people interact in response to their environment.

Also as normal the prose clunks along and wears its influences too strongly to seem anything other than derivative.

I have a lot of time for Lamentations from a stylistic and ethos point of view but there is a point when nostalgia turns into being stuck in the past.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Dog eat dog

Another Kickstarter game here and one that has taken a while to come out in print. The set consists of the basic game and a fanzine like collection of potential settings. This really is one of those hippy story games as it is essentially about how defeated cultures respond to presence of a dominating occupier.

Since victory is ultimately impossible the game tries to map what the resulting settlement will be: assimilation, whole-hearted submission or a different cultural heart to an outwardly homogeneous society.

I'm looking forward to giving it a go but really it is a game of ideas rather than presentation.

Durance

My Durance Kickstarter book and set of cards came through this weekend, in a ridiculous amount of packaging for the content. The cards look quite intriguing ways to express some ideas about the neat planetary surveying mechanism.

The book is slender but the hardback covers are absolutely massive, no worries about dropping this book in your gaming satchel. The illustrations work well with a mix of painted inspiration scenes but also a series of sketches of the game's archetypes that mix in well with the notebook/manual style of the game text.

I've had a chance to play the revised game from the PDF version of the text and some of the game fiction has been tweaked to make it work better than it used to. Also random events seem to have been overhauled to make them actually work. However I'll need to play a few more games to see if they really work out.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Cold Soldier

This is a small zine-sized indie two-player game with a dark theme of a resurrected soul being forced to serve the master who has brought them back from the grave. The master naturally has terrible ambitions and will command their creations to perform dire acts.

During the course of performing these duties the soldier begins to remember flashes of their former life and perhaps gains the strength to begin to act on their former desires and regrets.

It looks pretty interesting but there does seem to be a massive expectation that the GM/Master character has to create an interesting narrative as they have to explain who the Master is, what they are trying to achieve and how they are achieving while maintaining the Gothic Horror ambience throughout.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Adventurer Conqueror King and The Secret Fire

I recently contributed to the Kickstarter projects for two projects that have now delivered their draft PDFs. The Secret Fire and Adventurer Conqueror King have both ended up delivering projects that seem superficially to deliver yet another Dungeons and Dragons clone. In some cases with some of the OGL 3e improvements but definitely with more retro styling than game design theory behind the system.

Since most of the Retro hacks and OSR rules are free I'm not exactly what these projects had to Kickstart for except perhaps artwork costs and physical production fees. It is also not exactly clear to me that these games add a lot more to what was already available and certainly don't capture Redbox, Blue box vibe for me.

In all probability, given the number of new and exciting games coming out I'm not sure I'm really going to give either more of a shake than a quick read through.