Doomtown: Reloaded

Doomtown: Reloaded

From: Alderac Entertainment Group

Reviewed by: Sitting Duck

Back in 2000, I first came across the Deadlands RPG. Westerns and horror are two of my favorite genres, so seeing them combined intrigued me. I also learned of the CCG spin-off Doomtown. However, I found the CCG model and the prospect of buying a gazillion booster packs unappealing, so I gave it a miss. However, when AEG announced they were reviving the game using a model much like the Living Card Games produced by Fantasy Flight, that was something I was more willing to get behind.

From the rulebook:
Gomorra’s a hard place that has seen more than its share of action, and a good day is any day that doesn’t end in a pine box.

While nominally a card game, Doomtown: Reloaded plays more like a board game. The premise is that you’re running one of four outfits vying for control of the town of Gomorra, California. Each player starts with a deck of fifty-two cards (or up to fifty-four if a player elects to use Jokers) constructed beforehand. Cards come in four varieties; Actions, Dudes (which serve as game pieces), Deeds (which essentially become the game board), and Goods. As well as any relevant stats and abilities, each card will also have a suit and value of a poker card. Actions are clubs, Dudes are spades, Deeds are diamonds, and Goods are hearts. It is not necessary (or advisable) to construct a deck where no two cards have the same suit and value. However, each suit/value combination has a limit of four to a deck.

A game turn is called a day and consists of four phases. The Gambling Phase determines play order for the day and is resolved with a hand of lowball poker (that is the lowest hand wins). Each player antes one ghost rock (borrowing from the bank if necessary) and draws the top five cards from his deck, with the winner taking the pot. During the Upkeep Phase, players gain ghost rock income from any Deeds they control and own. The upkeep costs for any Dudes in play are then paid for, as well as any loans from the bank incurred during the Gambling Phase. The meat of the gameplay occurs during the Noon Phase. Starting with the winner of the Gambling Phase, players bulk up and maneuver their forces, as well as having the occasional conflict. The day concludes with the Sundown Phase. Everyone totals their Influence (from their Dudes in play) and their Control (from the Deeds they currently control). Should a player’s Control total be higher than the individual Influence totals of all the other players, he wins. Otherwise, everyone draws their play hands back up to five cards and unboots any Booted cards before starting a new day.

Two important mechanics to be familiar with are Booting and Pulling. During the Noon Phase, a card in play can become Booted, which is indicated by turning it sideways. For Goods and Deeds, this mostly serves as an indicator of the use of an ability which can only be used once per day. Dudes can become Booted for other reasons and are also more vulnerable to certain actions while in this state. Obviously, Dudes who are already Booted cannot perform actions that require them to become Booted. Pulling usually comes into play when using a Hex Goods card or purchasing a Gadget Goods card. When a Pull is called for, the player draws the top card from his deck. If its value is equal to or greater than the target number called for, the task in question succeeds. This is where one of the more potentially confusing aspects of the game crops up. Aces are treated as having a value of one and are effectively the lowest ranked card. For the sake of consistency, this applies to all aspects of the game where a card’s poker value comes into play. Since most people are accustomed to thinking of an ace as the highest ranked card, this could easily trip up new players.

During the Noon Phase, a player can do one of six things on his turn. Shopping allows him to place a non-Action card into play from his play hand by paying the indicated amount of ghost rock. Trading allows two Dudes in the same location to exchange a Goods card, so long as the recipient is not Booted. Moving sends a Dude to a new location. However, unless the destination is adjacent to the starting point, that Dude must become Booted. Acting allows the use of an Action card or the ability of a card in play that has the keyword Noon. Calling Out allows a Dude to challenge another Dude from a rival outfit in the same location to a Shootout. This can be refused by Booting the challenged Dude and moving him to the outfit’s Home location. If a player can’t or is unwilling to perform any of these options, he can choose to Pass. The Noon Phase ends when all players consecutively Pass.

From the back of the box:
Who will control the town? Slap leather in the town square and join in the story.

As with any proper Western, Shootouts are a key component. These are useful for lowering an opponent’s Influence total, as well as running off any interlopers on one of your Deeds (and thus regaining any Control points). Assuming the challenge wasn’t refused, both sides form up their posses. These can consist of any Dudes in the location as well as any Unbooted Dudes in adjacent locations, who become Booted upon arrival. Once the posses are assembled, both sides take turns performing any available actions with the Shootout keyword if desired and then choose a lead shooter. The Shootout is then played out with a hand of poker. This is more involved than the poker in the Gambling Phase, as it requires that you calculate the Stud bonus and Draw bonus of your posse. Each Dude will have either a Stud rating or a Draw rating, indicated on the card by a number on a colored bullet (silver for Stud and bronze for Draw). The Stud bonus is equal to the lead shooter’s Stud rating (if any) plus one for each Dude with a Stud rating (regardless of the actual value). Draw bonuses are calculated in the same fashion with the Draw ratings. Once this is sorted out, both players draw a number of cards from their deck equal to five plus their respective Stud bonuses. They can then discard and redraw a number of cards up to their respective Draw bonuses. After discarding their hands down to five cards, both players reveal them. Before the results are applied, either player can use any available actions with the Resolution keyword. There is also a special subset known as a Cheating Resolution, which can only be used when the opposing player’s hand has two or more cards with the same value and suit. Once finalized, the players compare the ranks of their hands, with the loser having to pay the difference of their ranks in casualties. If both players have the same ranked hand (regardless of the actual value of the cards), both pay one casualty each. Placing a Dude from your posse into your discard pile covers one casualty, while placing a Dude in Boot Hill covers two. However, once a Dude is in Boot Hill, that Dude can no longer be put into play, even if you have a duplicate still in your deck. If both sides still have Dudes standing, another round may commence. However, if the previous round didn’t go so well for one player, he has the option of running like the yellowbelly dog he is by moving his remaining Dudes back Home, Booting any that weren’t already.

As you can see, the game can have a rather steep learning curve. As well as the counterintuitive nature of aces, the wide range of special abilities the different cards possess can be overwhelming for a new player trying to figure the best way to employ them. Therefore it’s best for a player’s first game to be a two player affair. For one thing, this greatly simplifies the Influence and Control comparisons made at the end of each day. But more important is how resolving Shootouts can drag until you get the hang of them, leaving uninvolved players stuck twiddling their thumbs.

However, once you clear that hump, gameplay moves quite smoothly. With a bit of practice, performing actions and running Shootouts will become second nature and minimize analysis paralysis and player down time.

Rating: 15

Product Summary

Doomtown: Reloaded

From: Alderac Entertainment Group

Type of Game: Card game

Game Design by: David Williams and Mark Wootton

Developed by: Eric Jome, Konstantinos Thoukydidis, Steven Martino

Cover Art by: Mario Wibisono

Graphic Design by: Kalissa Fitzgerald and Blake Beasley

Game Components Included: Rulebook, Introductary Booklet, 2 Player Aid boards, 4 Outfit cards, 52 Deed cards, 102 Dude cards, 38 Goods cards, 10 Spell cards, 2 Joker cards, 54 Ghost rock tokens, 20 Control tokens, 20 Influence tokens, 20 miscellaneous tokens

Retail Price: $39.99

Number of Players: 2-4

Player Ages: 14+

Play Time: 30 minutes

Website: http://www.alderac.com/doomtown

Reviewed by: Sitting Duck

77 Thrones – The Theological Codex

77 Thrones – The Theological Codex
From: RAW Immersive Games
Reviewed by: Joey Martin

77 Thrones- The Theological Codex is a new RPG supplement for Within the Ring of Fire from RAW Immersive Games.

Magic, a major concern missing in the Within the Ring of Fire main book is delivered to gamers in this book. Rules on making magic wielding Catalysts and descriptions of all 77 of the divinities make this a much-needed addition to the game.

From the back cover: “Learn the names and secrets of those that sit on the Thrones of Divinities.

In the lands of K’Vega-Thale a divinity is not necessarily a God or Goddess. There are 77 thrones for the divine. Most are Gods and such, but dragons, powerful spirits and more make up the remainder.

As with the Within the Ring of Fire Saga book, this work is fantastic looking. Well laid out and illustrated for the most part, it is an impressive looking work.

Building upon character creation and advancement, a Catalyst has to spend some of their advantage points to become a caster. This is called the Cleric’s Calling. There are three basic types of Clerics – Druids, Priests and Shaman. Each type has a minimum skill requirement. A Catalyst picks a Divinity to worship or serve. Each Divinity may not have all three types of Clerics. Under the Divinity description there are further minimum requirements. Your Catalyst has to be determined to follow this path, as they will be giving up a small amount of flexibility to do so.

Each type of Cleric has a listing of rituals. In this section there are no descriptions of how to acquire these rituals. Under the Divinity descriptions chapter there is a note stating that when a Cleric achieves the listed Status (level in most games) they automatically receive the rituals of that level.

A selection of Precepts is also given. These would be called ‘Domains’ in other games. A note in the text preceding the descriptions states that allowed Precepts are listed in the Divinity description. It is not. There is a note that Ahriman controls the Precept of Darkness and all his children have access to it. There is also a color-coded list of the Divinities on pages 26 and 27. I assume this list tells you which Precepts are allowed for Clerics of that Divinity. The legend to that color-coding is missing, at least in my review PDF.

Most of the book consists of entries on the Divinities. A dearth of information is given, making this a wonderful addition to anyone wanting to Flame Tend or play a Catalyst in this game. The only problem here is that they are listed in order of throne number and not alphabetical order.

The main rulebook mentioned Warlocks. They were described as dangerous and a threat to all that lives. They make their appearance as the Clerics of Ahriman, the Shadow King. In addition to rituals, Warlocks get access to maledictions. These guys are the definition of evil in this setting.

A short addition gives Catalysts a few more advantages to choose from. Only seven are given and a few are Warlock only.

From the back cover page 6: “Clerics are the servants of the divine. They create holy sites, build churches, preach to the believers, and attempt to recruit new followers for their divinity.

In conclusion, this is a much-needed addition to the main rulebook for the Within the Ring of Fire game. If you play or are interested in playing the game, this is almost a necessity. If you are looking for an interesting and different set of deities for your homegrown campaign, this is a good option. A few flaws such as the list of allowed Precepts for each Divinity and some organization issues do not ruin the experience.

For more details on RAW Immersive games and their new RPG supplement “77 Thrones – The Theological Codex” check them out at their website http://www.youtube.com/user/woodwwad or their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/RawImmersiveGames , and at all of your local game stores.

Codex Rating: 14

Product Summary
77 Thrones – The Theological Codex
From: RAW Immersive Games
Type of Game: RPG Supplement
Written by: Ander Wood
Cover Art by: Alex Guillotte
Additional Art by: Andrew Bampton, Alex Guillotte, Tilen Javornik, Aleksander Kostic, Sebastien Allard, Ed Cawlo, Jennifer Irene Gordon, Lindsey Douglas, Tim Harper, Jessica Pink
Number of Pages: 184
Retail Price: $39.99 Hardcover, $19.99 PDF(US)
Item Number: none
ISBN: none
Email: None given
Website: http://www.youtube.com/user/woodwwad

Reviewed by: Joey Martin

Within the Ring of Fire – Saga Book

Within the Ring of Fire – Saga Book
From: RAW Immersive Games
Reviewed by: Joey Martin

Within the Ring of Fire – Saga Book is a new RPG from RAW Immersive Games.

Within the Ring of Fire is a tough read. Contained within is a reflection of a rich world in the author’s mind. The best way to review this work is chapter by chapter.

From the back cover: “Within the Ring of Fire is a deep immersive Dark Fantasy roleplaying game designed to allow players to explore passions and politics as members of strongholds, ambitious mercantile guilds, rigid theocracies, blasphemous covens, exploratory expeditions, and more.

First off, this book (and PDF) looks wonderful. The artwork is of good quality overall and the layout is very professional.

Chapter one is the ubiquitous chapter on roleplaying. The author does a very good job explaining the concept of a roleplaying game and character creation. A good portion of the chapter deals with the duties of the ‘Flame Tender,’ the name this game gives for the Game Master. Player characters are referred to as ‘Catalysts.’ Again, many games drop the ball a bit on this chapter, assuming (correctly in many cases) that players already know these concepts well. This chapter is worth a read even for an experienced gamer.

Chapter two deals with species. These are the races that players can use for their catalysts and interact with in the world of K’Vega-Thale. The author states that some are reimaginings of classic fantasy races. In addition to new races, fresh ideas on classic Elves, Dwarves and more make an appearance.

This is where the game began to break down for me. A dearth of information is given for each race. Everything from social structure, diet, population, physical description, relations with other races, religion, information on mating and childbirth, a creation story, currency, languages and names. It is a lot of information, almost an overload of it, some very useful, some not. One oddity is that each species has a very similar list except for Humans. Humanity gets it’s own distinct list of ethnic groups. The real problem here is the interspecies relations. Played as written, your Flame Tender would have to give you a short list of allowable species for their Saga. Every species completely hates about half of the other species. Most of this is a kill on sight thing. This makes it hard for most gaming groups I know that like to have a diversity and try new mixes of races.

Chapter three is Catalyst creation. This system uses only eight-sided die. Any roll needed will use 2 eight siders. Basically any result of ‘1’ is ignored, any ‘8’ will ‘explode’ and be rerolled and rolling double ‘1’s is a critical fail.

A point-based system is used to build the stats. Beginning stats range from 5 to 12.Human average for any stat score is listed as an ‘8.’ Racial bonuses and subtractions are added after the fact. The stats are Strength, Dexterity, Vigor, Intelligence, Enlightenment and Presence. Secondary stats are derived mainly from the primary stats. These are Reaction, Defense, Defense Capacity, Armor Rating, Attack and Speed. Catalysts are fleshed out using advantages and disadvantages, skills, passions, opulence, possessions and personality.

For a story-based game it does have a good bit of number crunching. In the middle and at the end of this chapter there is additional terminology for the game. A little bit of renaming standard ideas and tropes can be refreshing. In my opinion this game takes that a bit too far.

Chapter four is titled ‘Extras.’ While player characters, or Catalysts, are called ‘Stars’, what you would normally call NPC’s are called ‘Embers.’ It’s a neat title that goes along with the name and flavor of the game, but again it is just too much overall. Basically this chapter tells you that non-catalyst or Star level beings are what you might refer to as minions, easy to deal with in battle or any kind of competition in which your Star Catalyst is even moderately decent at.

Chapter five lists all the Advantages you have access to during catalyst creation and beyond. These include basic skills with weapons, armor and items along with possessions, ideals, special attacks and other concepts that make your catalyst unique.

Imperfections are covered in chapter six. The opposite of Advantages, each point of imperfections gives you more points to spend on Advantages. Some are quite debilitating and the list is rather short.

Chapter seven covers skills. Skills levels range from zero to fifteen. If you have zero ‘grades’ in a skill you receive a penalty of -4 to any related rolls due to being non-proficient. All the standard fantasy skills can be found here.

Chapter eight covers Weapon Skills. These are skills you buy in addition to the standard skills in chapter seven. For a novice gamer this might be easy to miss. The chapter begins with several pages of color illustrations of numerous weapons. Basic weapon terminology used in the game is also given. Each weapon has three numbers listed after its name. The first is the weapon damage, the second its Armor Surpass and the last is its Boost number. The Boost number was defined back in Chapter three. It is listed as “a term which describes superior success.”

Armor is also covered in this chapter. While the name of the chapter is ‘Weapon Skills’ and skills are needed per weapon or weapon group, the section on armor reminds you that you need the appropriate advantage to properly use armor without penalty. Each armor listed gives you the Armor Rating and Skill Penalty. Shields give you a defense bonus.

In chapter nine we visit combat. A note at the beginning of the chapter states that this is the Accelerant system and is designed for Deep Immersion style roleplaying. Basically when combat starts everyone makes a reaction roll for initiative. Order goes highest to lowest. Each turn a player gets a normal, a move and an accelerated action. A normal action is basically anything but a move and an accelerated action is a quick action that is described as most likely coming from advantages. An attack is a roll of two eight-sided die plus your dexterity plus any weapon skill grades plus any advantages or other bonuses. The defender has a few options on their side. The Static Defense is the dexterity plus shield defense bonus or parry bonus plus Status. I missed that I think. Status (back to Chapter three!) is basically the ‘level’ or ‘hit die’ of the target. In practice a Star or Catalyst (a character) is going to hit a static defense just about every time. Remember that chapter on Extras? This is where the minion reference comes from. Extras can only use static defense. Others can use Active Defense. Active Defense is a 2d8 roll plus your evade skill plus any shield bonus plus any parry bonus plus any fortes. In practice it all really depends on the dexterity ratings. If they are close, it’s a 50/50 type of deal on success. Active defense can only be used a certain number of times per round but unless you are being swarmed by a horde, you shouldn’t have to worry about that. You can also parry. This takes away your normal action but should pretty much negate the incoming attack.

Damage is calculated as the weapon’s base damage plus strength rating plus advantages plus one point per Boost. This is where that Boost number comes in. Some more menacing and vicious weapons will do a good deal of damage on a hit. This system also deals with armor damage. Armor damage also depends on the Boost so those nasty weapons will not just hurt your opponent more but also destroy their armor faster.

Damage is applied to your Health Gauge. Here we have another extra term. If your health gauge falls below 7 you are in “The Quick” and have to deal with a difficult recovery and a penalty to pretty much all your actions. Again, making a quick character and fighting with another, this game in practice is deadly. In most role playing games a party can work together and deal with more mundane threats without worrying about losing members in every fight. In this system unless you are dealing with those practically helpless extras, be ready to face death in every confrontation.

At the end of the chapter we are given a section on combat narrative, describing actions and such. A nice addition and something I see even the avid ‘hack and slash’ players doing.

Chapter ten covers poisons and disease. It is a very short chapter listing just a few of each. Poisons are handled with an active roll, poison versus your defense. Failing multiple times is serious. The listed diseases are generally nasty as well.

Divinities are covered in chapter eleven. This is another short chapter with a brief description of the major higher beings.

The history of the setting is covered in chapter twelve. The concept of this setting, the ‘world’ itself is bright, fresh and wonderful. It’s history is not quite as amazing. Written mostly as excerpts from ancient texts it lists numerous names of divine beings, creatures or various types and races that are not explained. It’s a tough read. As it comes to more modern times it does get more detailed.

Also tied into the setting as a whole is its geography. While a nice detailed look at all the major areas and cities in them is given, once again there are details that leave you scratching your head. Population demographics include beings you will likely see if you visit but are not described in any shape or form in the book. Once again when thinking back on the general hatreds between many of the races, there are very few ‘cosmopolitan’ areas where a truly mixed adventuring party could be based in.

The last chapter is titled ‘Other Worlds.’ A few lands mostly outside K’Vega-Thale and a spiritual realm have short descriptions. This is basically just an informational only sectional. I would assume this and much more of the information in this book is to be fleshed out at a later date.

At the end of the book we get two appendices related to the calendar, a full color character sheet, and a beautiful one-page map of the setting.

From page # 65, “First, consult your FT so you can make a Catalyst based around their Saga concept.

The above quote, while prevalent in many games, highlights the major downfall in this one. If a group of players is willing to limit themselves to just a few races for their Saga, give it a try. I feel this game would be much more fun with a very small group. The changes to standard nomenclature went a little past ‘new and rich’ into ‘a little too much’ territory. I think too many will be a little disappointed in that manner and with combat in general. The other major missing point is magic. No rules on it at all. While this may be covered in a later book, a nod to it or basic rules would have been nice.

In conclusion, you can tell when an author has a great vision in mind. While this was definitely the case here, the execution, while good, was not perfect. The overall concept for the setting is fantastic. If you have the extra cash I would suggest purchasing just for the basic setting and the interesting changes to the races. As for the play within that setting I would suggest modifying it for your own needs and using a more ‘role player’ friendly system such as FATE or a crunchier system like D&D per your preferences.

For more details on RAW Immersive games and their new RPG “Within the Ring of Fire” check them out at their website https://www.facebook.com/RawImmersiveGames, and at all of your local game stores. If you want to purchase any books from RAW Immersive games, you’ll have to search various online retailers

Codex Rating: 9

Product Summary
Within the Ring of Fire – Saga Book
From: RAW Immersive Games
Type of Game: RPG
Written by: Ander Wood
Cover Art by: Alex Guillotte
Additional Art by: Andrew Bampton, Alex Guillote, Tilen Javornik, Aleksander Kostic, Lux Pulcher, Ed Cawlo, Lindsey Douglas, Sebastien Allard, Jessica Pink, G.D. Woods III
Number of Pages: 207
Retail Price: $47.99 Hardcover, $24.99 PDF (US)
Item Number: None
ISBN: None
Email: None given
Website: https://www.facebook.com/RawImmersiveGames

Reviewed by: Joey Martin

Interview with Burning Games

Burning Games is a new company whose first RPG will be Faith: The Sci-fi RPG.

To start off, tell us about yourself and your history in gaming.

We are a group of friends who have been playing all kinds of games since we were twelve. We have always talked about making games, and we have made several of them to play with our friends. Last year we decided to try to publish our first game, Faith.

Describe Faith for us in the form of an elevator pitch.

Faith is a sci-fi RPG that uses no pen and no paper. It is played with custom poker cards instead of dice. Players choose cards from their hand, thus being able to manage their luck and resources. The gear and NPCs also come in beautifully illustrated cards with all the game information needed to use them.

What works of fiction helped inspire Faith?

Robert Charles Wilson’s Spin, Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Saga, Frank Herbert’s Dune, Hyperion, Elysium, District 9 and many others.

One of the key elements of Faith is that gods are both real and actively (though not directly) involved in the affairs of their worshippers. As this is something more commonly associated with the fantasy genre, what prompted you to apply this to a science fiction setting?

We wanted our sci-fi to be as consistent with actual science as possible.  In fact, many elements from the setting are inspired by our science and engineering backgrounds and from the help of an astrophysicist from the Imperial College. However, we did want to keep the interest that comes from supernatural elements such as divine powers.

What other aspects of Faith do you believe cause it to stand out from other science fiction settings on the RPG market?

The Gods of Faith represent moral paths and reward players whose character plays accordingly – taking this theme and implementing it into the gameplay.

The universe is controlled by two species that coexist in a state of permanent cold war. Aware of the consequences a direct confrontation would bring them both, they compete for resources and try to collapse each other’s economy through fierce commerce and black ops operations.

Humanity is the underdog, a species with no society of its own, they are mercenaries and low level workers only appreciated for their physical strength and their desperation for living one day more.

If Faith proves to be successful, are there any additional supplements you would like to publish for the setting?

Indeed! We have plans to release additional gear, more powerful NPCs, rules and components for spaceships and harsh environments… However, all of that is dependent on the success of our current Kickstarter campaign.