Showing posts with label Game Review. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Game Review. Show all posts

Friday, January 10, 2020

Oh, Dear. What Happened? Review of Farscape Roleplaying Game

Title:  Farscape Roleplaying Game
Design: Ken Carpenter, Rob Vaux, Keith R. A. DeCandido, Gavin Downing, Lee Hammock, Kelly Hill, Christina Kamnikar
Rule Set: d20
Year: 2002
Pages: 320
Number of players: 2 or more
Rating: ★★

The TV show Farscape ran from 1999 to 2003 and was followed up by a 2 episode mini-series called The Peacekeeper War. The Roleplaying Game was released in 2002, which would have been in between Seasons 3 and 4. For this reason, the book only covers the first 2 seasons or so of action.

This is an interesting RPG as it tops out at 320 pages, which is one more than the Star Wars RPG which was produced by WotC. What is interesting about this is, WotC managed to cram 4 movies worth of information into a book 1 page shorter than the Farscape RPg as a stand alone work while The Farscape Roleplaying Game assumes ownership of The Players Handbook. Farscape was published sometime in 2002, which makes this The Player's Handbook the 3.0 edition. Maybe? In June of 2003, the 3.5 edition came out. If you did not play D&D, you wouldn't even know.

The results are rather interesting. As is the rest of the book. If I reviewed the first 144 pages, this would be a 5 star review. This section of the book is a recap of everything in the series to that point, plus a short story called 10 Little Indians. The layout is incredible, the information is dense, and it really captures the essence of Farscape.

However, this isn't that review. One of the stand out features of this book is the artwork, which is entirely from the show. All of it is great and it is laid out exactly like a product in this universe would be laid out. Titles appear in a machine-like flowing script which is readable with the proper skill (DC 30). Second, the margins are thick while the columns are diagonal. It's cute for the first 144 pages, but when you actually need information, it's really hard on the eyes. Like MySpace banner hard.

From page 145 on are the rules. Remember that disclaimer about needing the Player's Handbook? Yeah... I'm not so sure. Which is a good thing because I can't tell if this means 3.0 or the 3.5 edition. I think the 3.0 edition, but it doesn't seem that necessary. If you missed that caveat, you could probably play this game not realizing something was missing. It isn't that it's missing words or that the grammar is odd, it's the layout of the book that jams your comprehension. It's just that distracting.

Like The Player's Handbook, you pick a race, a class, generate stats, select feats, skills and powers, then select equipment. All of that works well, it's a proven method utilized by many products in the d20 line. And that is where it gets weird. I can't point to a single thing that would require another book, which is probably my gamer hack-it ethic running wild. It sure seems odd.

One of the flaws in the book is, being a recap of season 1 and 2, who and what the characters are not presented in a way that plays out in the TV show. Primarily, this shows up in the pregenerated characters. John is not particularly strong or smart according to his stats, which doesn't really fit with being a physicist and astronaut. On the other hand, all of the characters do seem to be balanced when only that group is considered. However, they are all rather high level, which you would think would lead to much higher stats.

Scorpius is listing as having a 9 strength, while D'Argo has an 18 which is not quite right. I would buy the 9 for Scorpius if he had some sort of Rage feat that allowed him to overpower other, stronger characters for a short period of time. He is a man with an actual cooling system, after all.

All and all, the book seems incomplete even when paired with the PHB and some that feeling is definitely problems caused by the layout.

At $9.99 at DriveThruRPG, I'd say it's for fans of the series or a person who wants a great coffee table RPG book. It is stunning to look at. Literally.

Two stars... only because I love Farscape.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Star Viking Game Review

Title: Star Viking
Credits:
   Designer: Arnold Hendrick
   Graphics Design: David Helber and Arnold Hendrick
   Cover Painting: Bob Depew
Rule Set: Unique to set
Year: 1981
Pages: 24
Number of players: 2*
Rating: ★★★★


Star Viking places two players head to head for the survival of civilization. Well, one of you will defend the Federation civilization, the other will try to destroy it. The Star Viking boxed included a rules booklet, two dice, a folded sheet of 154 die-cut cardboard counters (each 1⁄2” square), and a sheet of 12 map tiles, each representing a star system.

Game procedure is easy, but as with all simple things can result in hideously complex results. The players are at cross purposes from the start. The Viking player selects his or her forces while the Federation arrays the map tiles and his or her defenses. Turns are divided into strategic and tactical moves. Tactical moves are only required when both players are in the same place.

 The map tiles are divided into sectors, with large cities representing more than one sector while sleepy moons are one sector. These sectors are equivalent to a hex. Some sectors are vacuum, while others are in an atmosphere. They are either contiguous or connected by an orbit line.

There are 20+ units available to the players, each one having a tech level. The sector's tech level determines if a unit can be placed there. For example, a sector with B tech level can support B and C type units. 

Each turn is divided in three, Strategic Segment, Tactical Segment and Politics and Economic Segment. Strategic is for moving vast distances, tactical is for combat and Politics and Economics represents responses such as building new ships or plundering.

One interesting twist on this game is, players purchase victory points to win. There are automatic victory conditions, if the Vikings sack the capital or one player accumulates twice as many victory points as his or her opponent via purchasing on or after the 7th round. If the game lasts all 12 rounds, then the player with the most victory points wins.

*This tiny set of rules has multiple expansions presented right in this set. The first variant is to play as a solitaire game. It suggests automatic movement by die roll, but doesn't include any tables. You are to make them yourself. The second is to use two hostile Viking players for a 3 way game. This requires having 2 boxed sets, which is easy to do since you can print them yourself. The third is to merely extend the number of rounds to 20, 30 or more.

There is exactly one errata, this was a very well produced game from the get-go and still provides hours of entertainment 30+ years later.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Star Wars: Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook

Title: Star Wars: Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook
Author: Andy Collins, Bill Slavicsek, JD Wiker
Rule Set: d20
Year: 2000
Pages: 319
Number of players: 2 or more
Rating: ★★★★


For many years, Star Wars was in the stable of West End Games. Over the years, I accumulated many of their books, but never had a chance to play. In 2000, with The Phantom Menace coming to screens, Wizards of the Coast produced a gamebook for the series, which included everything you needed to play, including a set of rules to convert from WEG Star Wars to d20.

The system is a pretty close skin of D&D 3.0 or 3.5, with some great differences.

The system is a standardized d20 system. Standardization from the ground up is very good. One of the great advantages is it breaks every character down into a couple of stat blocks, which makes building a quality, unique character easy. Each character is made of 7 different categories of descriptions, all of which is uniform between classes. You start with ability scores, then everything changes. You select a species which is an approximation of race in D&D terms, a class, skills, feats, character descriptors like reputation, equipment and finally spells, if any. All characters have the same 6 items, unlike D&D where some characters get spells in addition to their other "stats".

So, what about The Force? Those aren't spells, they are tied into one Feat and several Skills for Force Sensitive people. Hit points are replaced with vitality and wound points. This changes the dynamics of how characters work. Vitality is how much energy and stamina you have, while wounds are actual chunks of flesh. Hike through a hellish landscape will reduce your vitality, but a blaster to the head is a wound. Wounds stick around or are fatal, while vitality tracks how much "give" you've got. Nice system, considering how dangerous a lightsabre is. Vitality returns with rest and wounds require healing. The reputation system is a replacement for alignment, which actually has some mechanical advantages or disadvantages, unlike the alignment system.

While this is a d20 system, there are several advantages to this rule set over a typical d20 RPG. First, your players will have a general idea of what they want to be if they have seen Star Wars. To this end, there are 25 character templates so you can play right away. The rules allow you to flavor these characters, so you are a cutout character, but perhaps not made of cardboard. Additionally, if you played WEG Star Wars, there is a set of conversion rules in the back. There is a section on Starships, Droids, and a Game Master Section, with a module included. Everything you need to play is right there.

4 of 5 stars.

You can pick it up on Amazon for less than $20.00. The links below are paid ads and will take you to Amazon.com.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Dunromin University Press' SM00 A Traveller's Atlas of Dunromin and the Land of the Young Review

I just picked up a copy of SM00 A Traveller's Atlas of Dunromin and the Land of the Young and it is my new favorite item.

Title:  SM00 A Traveller's Atlas of Dunromin and the Land of the Young
Author: Dunromin University Press (Simon Miles)
Rule Set: OSRIC
Year: 2018
Pages: 28
Number of Players: N/A
Rating: ★★★★★

This is supposed to be a full color map folio of the Free City of Dunromin, but the work goes so much further. In addition to the beautifully drawn Free City, Mr. Miles killed it with amazing details of the surrounding area, political and physical maps of the Land of the Young, barrony maps, maps of the continent and of the world.

The artwork is incredible, a great addition to any old school gaming campaign. Being a set of maps designed for OSRIC, it is generic enough to fit into any fantasy game system.

I just can't get over the art. The cover and some other images are wholly digital, but others look hand drawn. It's a near thing, I can usually tell the difference, but not in this product. Many of the pages are on a graph, but I can't tell if it's pencil on graphpaper, or digital work meant to look old school. There are a few pages where I think I can see blowthrough, like a scanner picked up information from a page behind the scanned page, but I can't be certain it isn't photoshopped to look like that.

I probably won't use this in my campaign, but I am already looking to see which pages I will print and frame. Simply put, it's awesome!

Priced a pay what you want, you can't go wrong with this title. I can't wait to check out the rest of the series.

If you need a Christmas gift and you have a nice printer and paper, this is perfect.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Review - Magic Items by The Raging Barbarian aka Simone Tammetta

Title: Magic Items - 1d100 magic items for (almost) every moment
Author: The Raging Barbarian aka Simone Tammetta
Rule Set: Agnostic
Year: 2019
Pages: 16
Levels: Low level
Rating: ★★★★★

Oh, this is the month of reviews. I am all off kilter and not reviewing my normal fair of historical books and D&D modules. Last week, I reviewed the wonderful Moldy Unicorn by Nate Treme.

Today, we are looking at The Raging Barbarian's Magic Items - 1d100 magic items for (almost) every moment. First, it's PWYW over at DriveThruRPG and second, it is ruleset agnostic. I'm a D&D player and generally like D&D themed items, but this agnostic book is great for little details and brainstorming. As advertised, it has 100 magic items. General attributes are mentioned, such as triggering mechanism and range. Exact effects are left to the DM. All and all, it is a list of great idea starters or weird little things to inject into a game for light-hearted fun.

The book also has a cool, non-distracting series of drawings around the edge. The images are lineart which saves ink and all of them beg to be colored.

All and all, 5 out of five. It's definitely worth dropping some gold and silver in the tip jar.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Harpoon II Review for Macintosh OS 9

Title: Harpoon II
OS: Mac OS 9, 64k and Power PowerPC plus Windows.
Year: 1994
Producer: Three-Sixty Pacific
Setting: Combat Simulation
Number of players: 1
Rating: ★★★★★

One of my favorite games from the 1990's is Harpoon II, by Three-Sixty Pacific. 



If you've ever played Civilization and said, "Hmmm... I wish there were more micromanagement in this game..." then Harpoon is the series for you. The initial offerings for the series were simple 2d images of a simulated radar screen, more recent updates use 3d graphics. Personally, I like to the simple 2d. More natural for a simulation, in my mind. 

The game presents a series of scenarios, each of which allows you select your level of realism, control and side. The scenarios hop around the global from Greenland to Antarctica. Each force has specific victory conditions and you receive a ranking in for each condition.

When the game opens, you have a strategic map and a tactical map. You can create as many as you like. You can create formations and CAP patrols, activate ECM/Radar/Com, determine speed and altitude/depth, and a myriad of other functions for each unit. The group command allows you to keep assets together and a waypoint editor allows you to send them off to battle. Or you can leave it the AI. 

Never leave stuff to AI, it isn't that bright. One of the limitations of the game is that the AI only deals with certain parameters, the objectives and can be faked out far too easily. Be careful as you can easily issue orders that will result in losses for stupid reasons, such as planes running out of gas or subs tooling up to a battleship on the surface. The AI happily does that to your opponent.

One of the tricks to this is the time compression settings. You can slow things to a crawl or even pause, then leap to real time or faster to get to the meat of the action. By slowing moments before an important event happens, you can save, proceed to the event and if you don't get the desired result, quit and reopen the game for another chance.
All and all, Harpoon II is very much a tabletop counter game perfectly adapted for the computer. If you like Avalon Hill games, you'll love Harpoon II. It works under Mac and Windows and best of all it's always willing to play with you. 

As this product and equipment ages, I have noticed some bugs. I have a Performa 475 which runs the game very slowly, as it did back in 1994 with no issues. The Performa has OS 7.5.3 and 32 MB of memory, which is about the most it can have. When running the software on a G4, 450 mhz sawtooth, with 512 mb of memory under 9.2, the program hangs on launch. I've tried every solution that comes to mind to fix this but nothing works. One work-a-round is opening a saved game, which allows you to exit that scenario and pick another. There is something about the video file that launches on start up. 

This brings to mind another funny thing about Harpoon II. On a Mac, the Harpoon II folder has a folder called resources, which contains videos used at various points in the game. If you can match the size and name of the old video, you can replace it with something else. Anything else. 

I seem to recall using movie clips at one point...