ApocalypZe

From: Kingdoms Publications

Reviewed by: Joey Martin

ApocalypZe is a new card game from Kingdom Publications.

The long awaited apocalypse has occurred. There are zombies. One could call it the ApocalypZe. There is no mention of how it happened or why it happened. No mention of Patient Zero or a possible cure. You are just holed up in some familiar location trying to survive.

There are others out there. Others whose idea of survival is to send the hordes of zombies and other threats your way. You have to fight fire with fire.

From the back box cover: “Legions of the undead are at your door, trying to claw their way inside. Starved and alone, you make your stand. Will you survive?

This game looks good. The box is sturdy and the art, a nice play on the typical zombie hordes at a door, is muted and well done. The cards are glossy, printed on a good stock and the artwork is very nice there as well. It’s an almost realistic style that works well with the theme. One highlight are the zombie cards. Your ‘basic trooper’ card is basically two in one. The left side depicts your police officer/military soldier/ ganger/ average citizen on a blue background. The right side depicts the same character as a zombie on a red background. A cool concept that is very well done.

Each player has a 60-card deck. There are four pre-made decks. Each is based off a ‘home’ location. A church, a military base, a police station or a bar. You can use these pre-made decks and jump right in the game. I would suggest doing so. Extra cards are given so that players can personalize their decks.

To start the game, each player places his base down and draws eight cards from their deck. Each turn consists of five stages:

1-Draw: Draw from your deck until you have eight cards in your hand

2-Occupation: Pick one location and play as many cards as you please to that location

3-Scavenge: Other locations may come available. When you play them you can send people to that location to scavenge for items and allies.

4-Combat: Self explanatory.

5-Consumption: Basically ‘spending’ cards to feed and keep your people alive.

It sounds like a basic game rules wise but it turns out to be quite complex in play. The key here is that you pick one location to play cards to. The first turn you have to occupy your base. After that you can send your minions to any location. Blue cards are allies and are played to your base or other locations you are attempting to scavenge. Red cards are zombies, cultists or other threats that you direct towards a location one of the other players control. Those cool half blue and half red cards? When you play them you state which they represent, a human or a zombie when played. There is a good bit of strategy involved with placement.

Combat is easy. Each location has an Access number. This represents doors, windows, chimneys and more that attackers can attempt to enter. Some locations are more secure than others. The more access, the more venues for attackers to split their forces and hit. However, each location has a Value number as well. If an attacker does get in, this value number, representing the damage the attacker does, is what you will have to spend on consumption at the end of the round. For example, the church may only have one set of doors and few windows, but if a horde of zombies does make its way in, it’s going to do more damage to the infrastructure that player controls than it would at the military base.

Each card has an attack and a defense value. When an attack is blocked and combat occurs you basically compare these values. Each side takes the damage and it is possible for both sides to be destroyed. It is also possible that you could have an extremely tough character who walks away unscathed. If attacking an enemy base, any attackers who get through this defense affect the Value as described below.

There are other cards that affect play. Some represent weapons and items to enhance a character in play. Some are occurrences that affect combat or scavenging. Overall a nice way to buff your cards and to see a little randomization in the game.

From page #3: “Throughout the course of the game, you will be forced to consume resources. In order to do this, you will move cards into your discard pile.”

Consumption is the win or lose concept in this game. At the end of your turn you have to consume. For each character you have in play you spend one consumption. Other factors such as cards in play and damage done by attackers to your base can increase this. For each point of consumption you have to pay, you can either discard the top card from your deck, discard two cards from your hand or discard a character, counting his Value number as the amount of consumption paid. The object of the game is to be the last one with a deck left.

In conclusion, this is a fun game. It might take a play or three to get the hang of it but it’s more complex than it seems. Luck does play a part. There are only so many allies and characters in your deck. In my first game, my opponent pulled four strong attackers in her first draw. I pulled only one weak defender. She had me on the defensive the entire game.

Once you get past the learning curve and get a little experience, this one is quite enjoyable.

For more details on Kingdoms Publications and their new card game “ApocalypZe” check them out at their website http://www.ninekingdoms.com, and at all of your local game stores.

Codex Rating: 17

Product Summary
Apocalypze
From: Kingdom Publications
Type of Game: Card/Strategy
Game Design by: Ivan Turner
Developed by: Ivan Turner, Peter Spano, Chris Hanson
Art by: Pamela Mazurkevich, Kara Zisa, Nick Bowen
Number of Pages: 16 (rulebook)
Game Components Included: Rulebook, 304 cards
Retail Price: $40(US)
Number of Players: 2 – 4
Player Ages: 13+
Play Time: 30 – 60 minutes
ISBN: 978-0-9836116-1-5
Email: None given.
Website: www.ninekingdoms.com

Reviewed by: Joey Martin

D6 x D6 RPG

D6 x D6 RPG
From: Popcorn Press
Reviewed by: Joseph Martin

D6 x D6 RPG is a new RPG from Popcorn Press.

Writing a successful generic/genre independent RPG rules set is a difficult task. Lester Smith and crew have done a good job on this one. Twenty-nine pages encompass all the crunch and rules for the system. That small amount of typed space contains enough gaming potential to appease even the most jaded gamer.

From page 6: “It’s our opinion that dice ought to clack together in your hand.

One thing that makes this game different from others is its dice mechanic. Like the name says, you roll two standard six-siders. You then multiply them. The result is then compared against the Focus Number, which is the character’s total number of abilities. If it is an ability you are trained in, you are hoping for a high number. If it is an untrained ability, a low one. Once you play around with it you will find it to be a straight forward and effective system.

Character creation is quick and easy. You could easily take longer with a concept than the actual number crunching. There are only four attributes to worry about but they do a nice job of covering all the basics. After choosing an occupation and skills you are practically done.

Sample occupations, skills and sample characters are given. While the given skills and occupations might easily cover what you want your character to do, the game suggests adding your own to fit your campaign.

The combat rules are relatively straight forward. Damage is also pretty close to realistic. If you are playing in a setting where you do not have access to magic or super-science for instant healing, beware of getting hurt!

From page 20: “With this set of guidelines, players can adventure in any of their favorite worlds…

While it’s a good set of rules the real wonder here are the sample settings. Taken from books, games and the mind of the author, they complete the rules with examples that will allow for an easy transition to a home game based on practically anything.

With the versatility this set of rules offers I can see a game master running anything from a standard swords and sorcery fantasy campaign, a gritty noir detective campaign, a steampunk 1800’s campaign or even something out of a licensed product about gates allowing travel between worlds based on ancient Egyptian mythos or a campaign based on a time traveler and his companions riding in an odd blue box…

In conclusion, this one is a rare gem. While described by the author as being ‘rules light’ it accomplishes a lot with just a little for sure. I see this as more of a set of guidelines and examples for making your own campaign – a toolbox you might say. If you are willing to spend a little time detailing a few skills, occupations and gadgets for your campaign, this could be the generic set of rules you have been hoping for.

For more details on Popcorn Press and their new RPG “D6 x D6 RPG” check them out at their website http://www.PopcornPress.com, and at all of your local game stores.

Codex Rating: 18

Product Summary

D6 x D6 RPG From: Popcorn Press
Type of Game: RPG
Written by: Lester Smith
Game Design by: Lester Smith
Cover Art by: Katheryn Smith
Number of Pages: 68
Retail Price: $19.99 (Print)
Item Number: 66001
Email: contact@popcornpress.com
Website: http://www.PopcornPress.com

Reviewed by: Joey Martin

SCARAB 2015 – Columbia, SC

After a long hiatus from gaming conventions I managed to attend the SCARAB gaming convention in Columbia, SC for the Saturday sessions last year. See my review of last year’s convention here: http://thegamerscodex.com/index.php/scarab-2014/

This year I once again ventured down for Saturday. Again, registration online was easy. Last year I was told that all game registration was done on the Warhorn website. Knowing this ahead of time made it easy to schedule games, and I even managed to get into a game with people I knew from the local gaming group.

From the greater Rock Hill area it is an easy drive to the convention. Having attended last year I knew where to turn off to get to the Medallion center where the convention is held. The sun is right in your eyes as you turn off the highway. If you attend in the future, beware of that. It’s not far off I-77 at all. Turn right just past the Waffle House and you’ll be good.

This year I arrived about 15 minutes early. The doors were open and no one was in line at the registration desk. The very pleasant young lady looked through a box full of badges and found mine easily. No wristbands or looking up names on a phone this year. Looking around the desk I did not see anything resembling a program. Not a huge deal. It is mostly a gaming only convention. I was on my way towards the gaming room with time to spare.

I was there to play a few Pathfinder Society games. Once again PFS seems to be their most popular attraction. The PFS games were in the larger room just to the right of the lobby. Last year the tabletop wargames were in the large room and the PFS games were in the back room. This room is not square shaped and sound did not seem to resonate as much as it did in the other room last year. The tables were spaced out a little more. There was room to get past pretty much any table. Only when people were sitting very far from the table or had large bags or boxes behind their chair were there any issues. I looked for familiar faces to find my table. Once I found them I was pointed to the helpful poster on the wall with a list of scenarios and table numbers. I have to admit that was probably on the wall last year and I just never saw it.

My first session was a mid level scenario with two players from the group I occasionally play with in Fort Mill. It was a fun and challenging game. We finished a few minutes early as SCARAB has five-hour slots for the PFS games. A group went out for lunch so I did not partake in the in house food. I did see several people who did and the food looked and smelled good. I did purchase a drink and snack there. The prices were the same as last year. Not bad for convention food at all. They had a nice mix of water, sodas, coffee, snacks, candy bars, cookies and more.

Back before the second slot, I took a tour of the convention center. One room held the kids track. I walked by it a few times and it seemed to be relatively calm and managed nicely. One large room held general gaming and the vendors. Several game store vendors were selling their wares along with a jeweler and the fun people from Geek Forge. The next large room held RPG tables and the wargame tables. As last year there was a lot of gorgeous terrain. I watched a few minutes of a game or two. I have to admit to being an ex-40K player who enjoys watching the extreme opposite battle of Tau versus Tyranids. This room was probably ¾ full all day. Walking past the lobby and across from the PFS room, there was a room for Anime and video games. The several times I walked by some group games were being played  – DDR, rock band type games and such. Around the start time of the last slot of the day a costume contest was held in this room. I saw around 10 contestants and some pretty darn good costumes. I checked their site to see who the winner was. I hope it was the young lady who came dressed as ‘Mother of Dragons.” Her Game of Thrones inspired costume was wonderfully accessorized by her two daughters dressed as dragons. The back room (where PFS was last year) held the LARP games. I saw maybe six to ten people here off and on all day. At either end of the building were the bathrooms. I did notice that the bathrooms and trashcans were cleaned more than once during the day.

My second session was with a bunch of people I did not know, but that’s part of the experience. A low level PFS game this time, lots of fun. The gamemaster really got into character with his NPC’s and obviously enjoys doing so. Once again the session ended early. I walked to an outside establishment for dinner. When I came back I saw several people with what looked and smelled like delicious Chinese food from the concession area.

For the last slot I decided to not venture into the PFS special. I did witness the muster and it seemed to go better than last years. Apparently the decision was made kind of last minute to move the other PFS games into other gaming areas. We were sent to the general RPG room but had no trouble finding a table. It was another great game, a good scenario with fun players. The last slot started at 8:00 and we were done a little after 11:00. I looked into the main room and it appeared that the special was still in full swing.

Compared to last year the few scheduling and management issues I noticed were pretty much cleared up. For the price it is definitely a fun gaming convention. If you are near Columbia, SC and are into PFS, look them up. Even if you are not, it looked like quite a few other games made their tables. Maybe next year I’ll go for more than one day…

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

D&D Basic Rules

D&D Basic Rules

From: Wizards of the Coast

Reviewed by: Joey Martin

D&D Basic Rules is a new RPG from Wizards of the Coast.

Excitement, worry, euphoria and despair; when a new version of the ‘King of Role Playing Games’ is being released all of these things can come into play. I have heard and seen all the above. This ‘starter’ document should answer all the questions new and old players have and give everyone a good feel for the new system.

From the back page 2: “The Dungeons &Dragons roleplaying game is about storytelling in worlds of swords and sorcery.”

The inevitable question when a new version of Dungeons and Dragons comes out is “What previous version of the game is it like?” Comparisons to the original and second edition always abound. This time, it seems to be more of a blend of 3.5, Pathfinder’s ‘3.75’ and 4.0. While the ‘feel’ is still early edition, as all of its successors have to be, this is all new.

This is written as a ‘read only’ review. I have not tested out this edition with any fellow players. I did create my first new character as part of the process. As an aside, Wizards rock! Running around with a cantrip with a 120’ range doing 1d10 fire damage is not bad.

Four races are given, Dwarf, Elf, Halfling and Human. All but Humans are given sub races; High elves are an example of that. One big change is ability score modifiers. Humans receive a plus one to everything. Yes, everything. The rest get a plus two to one specific ability. However, Humans have less other benefits than the rest.

Four basic classes are given, Cleric, Fighter, Rogue and Wizard. Archetypes are given for each for those who want to do something a little different. The rules also present Backgrounds as another way to differentiate characters. Backgrounds give an additional skill proficiency and in some cases, gear and other plusses.

Now to what is different in this edition. The proficiency bonus replaces the Base Attack Bonus, individual class based saving throw bonuses and the base skill bonus. Saving throws are based off of an ability instead of the older three categories. Thus, a trap could be Dexterity based to avoid or Strength based to escape or Will based to throw off an effect. Skills are a bit broader in general. Players will be proficient in fewer. There seem to be no untrained skills in this edition.

Other various changes include the fact that spellcasters can cast in any armor they are proficient in. Some armor has a Strength minimum and some have the listed effect of Stealth Disadvantage. When you are disadvantaged you roll twice and take the lowest roll. Nasty, that. There are two new descriptors for weapons as well. Heavy weapons used by small sized characters make them disadvantaged in combat. There goes my Halberd wielding Halfling Fighter! Finesse weapons allow you to use either Strength or Dexterity for attack and damage bonuses. Initiative checks are straight Dexterity checks. During combat you can break up your move, attacking before, after or during the move. This should change combat significantly. These are just the major changes I have noticed thus far.

With all that said, there is a saying about the more things change, the more they stay the same. This is true here. Players of previous editions of the game will see many familiar concepts.

In conclusion, this document gives you everything you need to generate a basic character and play. A GM will, of course, need more but all an experienced player needs to start a game is to give a copy of this to his fellow players and let them go. If you are interested in getting into the latest edition of Dungeons and Dragons, go download a copy of this. The price is right and it will get you started on the path to fun and excitement.

For more details on Wizards of the Coast and their new RPG “D&D Basic Rules” check them out at their website http://dungeonsanddragons.com, and at all of your local game stores.

Codex Rating: 19

Product Summary

D&D Basic Rules

From: Wizards of the Coast

Type of Game: RPG

Written by: James Wyatt, Robert J. Schwab, Bruce R. Cordell

Game Design by: Mike Mearls, Jeremy Crawford

Developed by: Rodney Thompson, Peter Lee

Cover Art by: Tyler Jacobsen

Additional Art by: Jamie Jones

Number of Pages: 110

Retail Price: Free!

Email: http://www.wizards.com/customerservice

Website: http://dungeonsanddragons.com

 

Reviewed by: Joey Martin

Mindjammer

Mindjammer. The role-playing game.

 From: Mindjammer Press

Reviewed by: Joey Martin

Mindjammer is a new role-playing game from Mindjammer Press.

Writing a really good hard sci-fi or space opera game seems to be a definite stumbling block for humanity. Some that we remember fondly like the original Traveller fall a little short now. Others like the awesome SpaceMaster game can get bogged down in a dearth of rules and tables. D20 Future was just a tiny bit off overall and Alternity never gained a following. Mindjammer, in my opinion, has finally brought greatness to the genre.

From the back cover: “Never has there been a greater time of opportunity. The universe is in flux, and for the first time in ten thousand years no one knows what the future will bring. Charge your blaster, thoughtcast your orders to the starship sentience, and fire up the planning engines. Come and defend the light of humanity’s greatest civilization as it spreads to the stars.”

Sarah Newton and crew have created a monster and a masterpiece all in one. The pre-release PDF was 502 pages. Don’t let this scare you. I have never played a game using the FATE rules before. I opened the PDF and did a little spot reading. I admit a few terms confused me. When I started at page one and read through all became clear.

The FATE rules use a simple ‘4DF,’ four Fate Dice system. While they sell Fate Dice (and I would suggest buying them if you play often) you can make do with regular six-siders. The Fate Dice have a ‘-’ (minus) symbol on two faces, a blank (or zero) on two faces and a ‘+’ (plus) symbol on two faces. Basically you roll four dice and add results together. This gives you a shift of -4 to +4 for your skill check or other daring attempt. In practice you can expect a lot of -1, 0 and +1 totals.  This simple roll is it for the system. The complexity and genius come in how it is applied.

Skills are rated as both a number and name. You have Mediocre (+0) to Superb (+5) for your basic list. These are where the average starting character’s skills will lie. Rolling a skill attempt is the above four dice result plus your skill. For example, if you have Good (+3) Ranged Combat and get a net +1 on the dice roll you have a Great (+4) result. Unless your opponent has a very good defense, that’s going to be a solid hit. Characters have other attributes and actions such as spending Fate points, invokes, compels or teamwork that can and will affect the result.

Let’s step back a bit to character creation. The book suggests character creation be your first game. After reading through I agree. To make a character you come up with a high concept. This is a descriptive such as ‘Drifting dancer with a dark secret’ or ‘Long range explorer with a mental issue.’ There is no limit. Descriptors like this really drive the game. Once you have your high concept and an idea of what race you want to play, you can really dive right in and create your Aspects, Skills, Stunts and Extras during play. I’ll leave it there. You should pick this up and play a game. I mentioned that reading through the book was a good idea. I suggest that the Game Master absolutely needs to do this.

I mentioned the descriptors. This is what I call a true Role Playing game. Getting into character in this game will be rewarding. While Roll Players can enjoy fights and other conflicts, the immersion factor is high with this one. For example, when you are hit, you or the GM can state a descriptor like “You have a Bruised Rib” or “Bloody head wound” that will have Role Playing affects. Very different from the usual “You take 5 damage” of many systems.

From page 5 : “The New Commonality of Humankind is a beacon of light in the blackness of space; hyper-advanced technology and transcendent intelligences are its gifts to the stars.”

The Commonality of Humankind (or just the Commonality) is the setting described for this game. It is set several millennia from now. Old Earth has seen ups and downs. A time of expansion where the moon, Mars and other places in the solar system were colonized has escalated to slower than light generation and later stasis crew ships headed towards distant stars. When faster than light travel was discovered explorers headed out again. Many of the ‘slowships’ made it to their destinations. Some were still thriving colonies. Many were struggling or had regressed technologically.  A large fringe area of systems and planets exist ranging from barbaric Stone Age societies to transhuman populations on exotic worlds. A few actual alien intelligences were discovered. One human society turned extremely xenophobic and attacked the Commonality. Using crude faster than light engines bleeding deadly radiation they cut a swath through known space before being stopped. No truce was signed; the Venu Empire is still a known threat.

There is so much packed into this book I cannot possibly describe it all – rules, history, tech, scientific information on planets, stars, space in general and more. The chapters on stellar bodies and planets are worth a read just for any space buffs out there. I haven’t even mentioned the Mindscape. While computers as we know it are obsolete, data and thought can become one with data boosting thought and actions. Imagine if you could access Wikipedia or Google and have that knowledge available at hyper speed any time. Now imagine you could have that as well as real time satellite imaging and more in the middle of a firefight. That analogy just touches the surface of what the mindscape is capable of. Entire campaigns can exist within it.

The real magic of this game is variation. The setting is vast. Since all you really need is a concept to start playing you can enjoy a long campaign building your characters to greatness or short campaigns or a bunch of one-off games. One week you can be intrepid explorers on the outer fringes, the next a diplomatic corps group bringing a new world into the Commonality fold. You can be a group of diehard marines in a planetary assault or covert operatives on a secret mission in the core worlds. You can be a traveling troupe of entertainers visiting stations, ships and worlds on the fringe or a cultural expert changing a planet population’s way of thinking during assimilation. You can be a small ship full of Venu raiders looking for an easy kill or deep core miners trying to survive after a collapse a hundred miles beneath the surface. You could be a group of Mindscape sentinels defending a core world node or a barbaric world ‘mage’ adapting to space travel. This rules set can handle it all. Your imagination will be the only thing slowing you down.

In conclusion, this is a fantastic game. When I first read the guidelines for reviews on the Gamers Codex site I never thought I would find a product that would merit a ‘critical hit’ of 20 on the Codex Rating scale. This product has impressed me more than I can put into words. Even with a copy of the PDF, I may raise the money to get a print copy of the book.

For more details on Mindjammer Press and their new RPG “Mindjammer. The Role Playing Game” check them out at their website http://www.mindjammerpress.com, and at all of your local game stores.

 

Codex Rating: 20

Product Summary

Mindjammer

From: Mindjammer Press

Type of Game: RPG

Written by: Sarah Newton

Developed by: Sarah Newton

Cover Art by: Paul Bourne

Additional Art by: Earl Geier, Jason Juta, FIl Kearney, Eric Lofgren, Marco Morte, Andreas Schroth, Ian Stead, Jeff Ward, Andy Wintrip

Number of Pages: 496

Retail Price: $ 54.99(US) Book and PDF bundle

Item Number:  MUH042201

ISBN: (ebook) 978-0-9574779-5-7

ISBN: (physical version) 978-0-9574779-3-3

Email: info@mindjammer.com

Website:  www.mindjammerpress.com and www.facebook.com/mindjammerpress 

 

Reviewed by: Joey Martin

SCARAB 2014 – Columbia, SC

I had the opportunity to attend SCARAB in Columbia, SC this year. Due to scheduling conflicts and other life concerns I’ll not bore you with why I have not been able to attend a convention in a little over three years.  Needless to say I was looking forward to the gaming, seeing old friends and the overall experience.

I signed up for a one-day pass for Saturday the 18th on their web site. I had no problems with this part, as the process was relatively straightforward.  I then waited for an e-mail confirming my registration. I figured this e-mail would also have important information like location information, Con rules, gaming registration and such. No such e-mail came. After about a week I sent them an e-mail. Their e-mail address was easily found on their web site.  I received a reply within a day stating that they use Warhorn for gaming registration. I guess I’ve become jaded with gaming conventions that use an in-house system. I visited Warhorn, slogged through the large number of game offerings and picked three Pathfinder Society games for my Saturday.

I then had to look through various pages on the SCARAB web site and the convention center’s site for general info. I just happened to see the note that no outside food was allowed. I was happy to have seen this, as I would have shown up with snacks and a drink or two in my bag. I visited Mapquest and Google Maps for directions. They both agreed on a route. It looked relatively easy to find.

Early Saturday morning I left home for the slightly over an hour ride. The web site stated that the doors opened at 8:00 AM and that the first game slot also started at 8:00 AM. I was a little worried about this but planned to be there early just in case since I would need to get registered for the convention before playing in my first game. I turned onto Garners Ferry Road to find the sun right in my face.  From the description and pictures on the convention center’s site it appeared to be right off the road. It is not. It is actually off the road tucked behind the hotel. On my fourth trip by I just happened to look between two hotels at the right moment to see it. Parking was easy and convenient, although if your car is as low as mine is beware the tall speed bumps on the way in. I walked in just a few minutes before 8:00.

Inside the front doors I saw a concession area just to the left and a desk ahead of me. Only two others were in line. I walked up and joined them. A volunteer asked if anyone was pre registered. I replied and walked up. He then could not find my registration. It seems they made badges for full weekend attendees and only had generic color-coded armbands for daily attendees. They were keeping track of the daily attendees by checking e-mail messages on a phone. The data service in the convention center was a tad slow.  I had printed my Paypal receipt just in case. I presented this and they took it as proof. About the time I was given my armband the network caught up and they found my registration.

Having seen he layout of the center on its web site, I headed to the room the PFS games were scheduled to be in. I walked in to find this large room full of rectangular tables resplendent with war game terrain. Slightly confused I walked back out to make sure I was in the correct room. I was. A helpful attendee standing in the hall asked if I was looking for the PFS room and directed me down the hall, stating that it had been moved. I walked down the hall and into a very full room of people and confusion. Tables were set relatively close together. I looked around and only saw a handwritten note on one table stating which scenario was being played there. I got the attention of a passing volunteer who directed me to my table. My slot had just been given away to a walk in. Thankfully since I had registered for the game on Warhorn the walk in was shunted to another game and there seemed to be no hard feelings.

Once the game started all the slight frustrations were forgotten. We had a boisterous and outgoing Game Master and a table full of fun players. My second game was easier to find as I was playing with three of the same people from the first game and saw them already at a table. Once again, there was no obvious assigning of tables. The last session was the “special.” I’ve seen ‘mustering hell’ but this was slightly more special. Since I was there alone and the group I had played with all day was not playing the special, I did not have a pre-made group ready to go. I was one of the last sets of stragglers hoping to get in. In the end there were plenty of GM’s and everyone (to my knowledge) got a seat and was able to play. The special itself was a lot of fun. My thrown together group did well and in the end the day was won.

Between games I was able to walk around and check out the rest of the building. The PFS room was full all day long. The wargamers room was also full all day long. I was able to watch a minute or two of a few games there. I saw a lot of great looking terrain and some well-painted armies. Warhammer Fantasy, Warhammer 40K and Battletech games were being played while I was watching. The general gaming room on the other end of the building is quite large and was mostly full when I checked off and on all day. The LARP area seemed light and there never seemed to be much of a crowd in the Anime room. Of course, when I had some spare time in the afternoon the anime room turned into the karaoke room. I wisely stayed away. You do not want to hear me sing. I would estimate total attendance to be somewhere in the 400 to 500 range. Overall it was a good turnout with a nice variety of gaming.

Dealers were setup in the general gaming room along one wall.  There was at least one dealer also setup in the wargaming room. The dealers were a varied bunch, ranging from modeling supplies, generic gaming supplies, and an artist to a very interesting comic book related vendor. While there were not a large number of vendors, the necessary things like dice and such were present.

The concession area was nice overall. They ran out of water halfway through the day but reloaded later. Prices were a little high as expected but not completely outrageous. Bottled drinks were $2.00 and snacks were $1.50. Dinner and lunch menu items hovered in the $5.00 to $9.00 range. Other than drinks and snacks, I did not partake but saw a decent variety of food offered. I overheard people giving the food overall positive comments. Most stating it was “better than the usual in-house con fair.”  The concession area stayed open until after 11:00 PM and had pretty decent coffee. For those with time, there are a few food options within easy walking distance from the venue. I had time to enjoy both lunch and dinner out. I also took a short drive and found quite a few fast food and sit down options just a few minutes drive away.

The convention center itself was nice. When I arrived I noticed the trash bins were overflowing but I know this is a common occurrence as the cleaning staff usually heads home before the gamers quit for the morning. Everything was quickly cleaned up not long after the first session started and stayed relatively clean all day. The restrooms were relatively clean all day. The only negative point I have concerning that is a minor one. A hook in the bathroom stalls would be nice for those of us with coats and/or bags with us and no hotel room to retreat to.  Tables in the gaming rooms were set relatively close together but enough space was given to allow easy access around the rooms.

Overall it was a good experience. There were some organization and planning issues that could have gone smoother, but at the end of the day I had enjoyed three gaming sessions, caught up with old friends, made new ones and went home tired and happy. If I am able to I will attend for at least a day next year.

Bite Me! Wereblooded

Bite Me! Wereblooded

From: Misfit Studios

Reviewed by: Joseph Martin

Bite Me! Wereblooded is a new RPG supplement from Misfit Studios.

 Wereblooded is a part of a larger project. This project, Bite Me! The Gaming Guide to Lycanthropes is scheduled to be out in 2014. This is both a preview of and an addition to that work.

 From page 3: “ Wereblooded are the children of man and nature, the liminal race combining the savagery of the animal world and the first days of the civilized races.”

 Wereblooded are a cross between humanity and lycanthrope. In this product wereblooded are a unique race.  I believe the author leaves the details on how they came to be for you to decide in your campaign.

 While many gamers think lycanthropes are ‘cool,’ playing one as your character race is difficult due to their natural power. A party full of werewolves, all with character classes are going to both overpower enemies much tougher than them on paper and be unplayable for a day or two every in-game month, not to mention the pure evil uncontrollable rage and such for most types. Making a cross between humans and lycanthropes is a solution to both of these problems. Wereblooded gives you all the information a player needs to make a character and referees need to include them in their campaign. The Monstrous Wereblooded section gives more options to do so, albeit at a higher power level for players.

 The base type of lycanthropy involved is divided into three clans. Felis, Lupus and Usrus. This covers pretty much all of the ‘standard’ lycanthropes. All of the standard race information is presented including rules on sub types, alternate traits and favored class information. Sample NPC’s are given, but only for two of the Monstrous Wereblooded. The art is well done and production values are good. A new ‘were-inspired’ Incantation is given as something extra.

 In conclusion, Wereblooded is an informative and well-done product. While giving samples of standard Wereblooded characters would have made it feel more complete, it is very useable without them.  It is a short product for five bucks but considering the writing quality and production values it is worth it. The completed Gaming Guide to Lycanthropes and the Spirosblaak campaign setting will be better for the addition.

 For more details on Misfit Studios and their new RPG supplement “Bite Me: Wereblooded” check them out at their website http://www.misfit-studios.com/.

 

Codex Rating: 15

 

Product Summary

Bite Me! Wereblooded

From: Misfit Studios

Type of Game: RPG supplement

Written by: Ben McFarland

Developed by: Mike Welham and Christina Stiles

Cover Art by: Rick Hershey

Additional Art by: Peter Bradley and Jacob Blackmon

Number of Pages: 22

Retail Price: $ 4.99 (US)

Item Number: MIS0014

Email: admin@misfit-studios.com

Website: http://www.misfit-studios.com/

 

Reviewed by: Joseph Martin

Shadowrun/Battletech, a Time of War Quick-Start rules

Shadowrun Quick-start Rules

Battletech, a Time of War Quick-start Rules

From: Catalyst Game Labs

Reviewed by: Joseph Martin

Everyone loves free stuff, gamers possibly more so. When that free stuff is high quality and useful it is nothing short of amazing. “Free RPG Day” products can vary greatly in quality. Over the last several years they have gone from hastily assembled cheap productions to high quality items that many would pay a small fee for. Catalyst Game Labs has hit the mark pretty closely on this two-game quick start pack.

The physical product is beautiful. It is a flipbook with full color covers outside and in. The glossy card stock cover is both eye catching and rugged. Illustrations abound inside the book itself. The layout is good, the text very readable. Overall it is an impressive quality book, especially when you consider the price!

Shadowrun and Battletech have been around for quite some time. Both have a rich history and background. Enough of that history is presented to give new players a working knowledge of the respective backgrounds. The basic rules needed are presented well and appear to be pulled directly from the rule books themselves. All required stats, abilities, gear and more are presented. From a player’s perspective you could read through either section and be ready to play in a short time. Please note that while all the basic game mechanics are explained there are no character creation rules included. Sample characters are provided. This is not an issue with this being a quick start product designed for introducing new players to the games. Being a quick start product it would help to have a Game Master who has played the game previously and has a little experience. A completely new group, including Game Master might fumble a little bit but will be able to play and hopefully enjoy the introduction scenarios.

An easy to comprehend rules set and a well written and flowing scenario to run new gamers through is a must for a quick start product. On the Shadowrun side a serious yet fun run adventure awaits the players. A quick run for some fast food, what could go wrong? The sample characters are well fleshed out. Only a few typographical errors mar their perfection from an experienced gamer’s point of view. All of the standard archetypes are presented. Players can choose from the Street Samurai, Shaman, Decker and more. The game master is given everything needed to run the game. A map, stats and motivations for opponents and bystanders and even a twist and possible lead to future adventures are included. A decent Game Master could take this cold and be ready to run it in just a few minutes.

The printed version of the Battletech scenario is a little bit of a let down. While detailed and interesting characters are given, the flow of the game is entirely up to the Game Master as no real details other than stats on opponents and a description of the area are given. There are no maps, no suggested actions for either the players or the ‘bad guys’. The story is a little weak and the objective very hard. Experienced players trying the game for the first time might be able to find a way to complete the mission. Brand new players will most likely have problems. A Game Master running the print version will need some extra time to flesh out the details and perhaps soften the adventure for the players.

However, the online PDF version (see below) has a completely different scenario with a much more playable story line. The sample characters are not quite as fleshed out as the print versions but overall a much better introduction for new gamers. The Game Master will still need to spend a little time preparing but will not have to do anywhere near the prep work as in the print edition.

In conclusion, Catalyst Game Labs has hit it out of the park with this product. With the corrected Battletech scenario the only thing that mars it are a few small errors, mostly in the fluff. If you can’t find a print copy of this, hit the online PDF’s below. They are a great read and a welcome addition to any gamer’s library.

You can check out all of Catalyst Games Lab’s products at http://www.catalystgamelabs.com/

At the time of this writing you can find PDF versions of these books at the links below. If a link is dead just search, more than likely it’s out there somewhere.

Shadowrun:

http://cdn.shadowruntabletop.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/E-CAT27QSR_SR5-Quick-Start-Rules.pdf

Battletech:

http://catalystgamelabs.com/download/Free%20PDFs/ATOW%20QSR.pdf

 

Codex Rating: 18 (print edition)  19 (Corrected PDF)

 

Product Summary

Shadowrun/Battletech, a Time of War Quick-start rules

From: Catalyst game labs

Type of Game: RPG

Writer/ Artist: No information given in product.

Number of Pages: 64

Retail Price: Free!

Item Number: None.

ISBN: None.

Email: randall@catalystgamelabs.com

Website: http://www.catalystgamelabs.com/

 

Reviewed by: Joseph Martin