Interview with April & Kevin Cox, of KnA Games

April & Kevin Cox make up KnA Games and are currently Kickstarting a board game, Space Movers. They took a few minutes of their time to answer some questions about his Kickstarter.

Thank you April & Kevin Cox for taking the time to answer a few questions. Tell us a little about yourself and your gaming experience.

We are a couple of reluctant adults that remain kids at heart. For fun, we love to watch movies and play games. Kevin probably has about 10 more years of gaming experience, but we’ve been playing board games together for over 20 years. He grew up playing games like Stop Thief and Dark Tower. I grew up playing Monopoly and Life. He introduced me to Magic and Eurorails in the early 90’s and I was hooked!

How did the Space Movers come about ?

Space Movers is something we began working on about 3 years ago. Kevin initially came up with the idea of the theme and basic structure of the game. Over a couple of years we spent a little time developing the game. Late last year we learned about Kickstarter and went into high gear polishing the game so that we could release it this year.

Could you give us a brief description of the game and why you are so passionate about it.

Space Movers is a cooperative adventure that incorporates story, strategy and balance. You work as a crew to complete 5 objectives to win the game. During play you will have to deliver cargo from planet to planet to gain resources that allow you to keep flying. There are several other things you have to juggle during gameplay, like events that can alter the rules of the game and the evil UO that will chase you across the system in an effort to interrogate one of the crew members. Space Movers is the type of game that has you feeling like you have complete control in the beginning and like you’re barely hanging on by the end!

Honestly, we are passionate about the game because we really believe it is good. Not that we can take all the credit for that. Since we began demoing the game over the summer, we have had great feedback that has resulted in changes to improve the game tremendously.

How does the comic book tie into the game?

The comic gives you a backstory for the characters and helps you to connect to them. We developed a small bio for each of the characters to help us determine what their special abilities would be in the game. That led to the idea of doing a more complete story that explained why the characters ended up together on the Liberty. The added benefit is that you feel as if you know these characters and inevitably identify with one or more of them, even though you’ve never met them before.

The art for the game and comics is phenomenal. Who does the art and what inspires it?

Kevin did the graphic design for the game board, game box and the cards. All the illustration of the characters and ships in the comic and the game were done by Jon Hrubesch. And phenomenal is a great way to describe his talent! We have been so fortunate to have him involved in this project.

What do you feel separates it from other cooperative games of its nature?

Probably the most unique thing about Space Movers is the dice mechanic that is used to complete skill checks. Each player controls a die specific to their character. To complete skill checks, dice are rolled one at a time on a roll mat inside the game box lid. Multiple players can be involved in each check and they are able to try and change the result of previously rolled dice.

What do you see for the future of Space Movers?

The possibilities for expansions are endless. We will be releasing more Objective card sets and Random Objectives like we have in the initial game, along with more roll mats. We would like to also release an expansion with miniatures for the ships and characters. Eventually we hope to release a new game with a new location for our crew to explore along with another comic book to continue their story.

Interview with Duncan Davis, Sherwood Games

Duncan Davis of Sherwood Games is currently Kickstarting a card game, Missing Link.  He took a few minutes of his time to answer some questions about his Kickstarter.

Tell us a little about yourself and your gaming experience.

Hello everyone! My name is Duncan Davis and I am a game designer. During the day, I am a Ph. D. Chemical Engineer at North Carolina State University. I work with polymer origami (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CjfhfqAv1mI). I am the 2nd of 5 children and have been playing games like Bridge, Magic the Gathering, and Acquire since I was 6 years old. I grow up in Rhode Island – the smallest state with the biggest imagination!

How did Missing Link come about?

Missing Link came about because I once took a physiology exam to test creativity and one of the questions was to come up with as many ways to use a brick in a given amount of time. I had a lot of fun with the question and tweaked the idea a bit to turn it into a group deduction game.

Could you give us a brief description of the game and why you are so passionate about it? 

The active player draws two objects from the deck, reveals one object, and keeps the other one hidden. That player provides hints to help the other players guess the name of the hidden object. The trick is that all the hints must be true about both of the objects.

For example: If you had an apple card and a skyscraper card, you might reveal the skyscraper and and say “Both objects are associated with New York,” “These are both bigger than a strawberry,” etc. When someone shouts out APPLE! They get one card and you keep the other. The first player to get to 7 cards wins.

Each card is a one-word, physical object. This helps because people always have physical characteristics to work with – you can always compare size. The active player has 2 minutes to get another player to guess the hidden object (although new players get to wave this time limit).

What do you feel separates it from other party games of its nature?

Missing Link makes you think in a very different way than any other game on the market. You are restricted in what you can say in a very interesting way and many times you have to take a few turns before you get a handle on the game. One of the goals I have as a designer is to make fun games that secretly teach you something important without the player realizing. Missing Link does this beautifully because it helps players become more creative. By making you think in a new way and compare things with nothing in common, you have to be creative with your hints. A Wack on the Side of the Head is my basis for making this claim – if you are interested in creativity, I highly suggest you read it (it is a quick read)!
What do you see for the future of Missing Link?

If Missing Link does well, I plan on releasing a ‘dirty’ expansion focused more on adults. I think that players will have a blast trying to compare objects that are more risqué then an apple and an elephant.

5 Questions with Michael Lawson, MACE 2014 GM of Brain Case Trophies Events!

Tell us a little about yourself and your experience in gaming?
Hello! My name is Michael Lawson. I am 48 years old and I currently live in the Atlanta Metro Area. I am originally from the Detroit/Ann Arbor area and that’s where I started gaming in… oh, 1980 or so. AD&D, Gamma World, Boot Hill, Top Secret – all the TSR games from back in the day. Other games include Traveller and Space Opera. And Chaosium’s Call of Cthulhu. I guess that makes it about 34 years of gaming. Still having fun!
What is Novus Ordo Seclorum?  How did you get involved?
Novus Ordo Seclorum is a Chicago based group of gamers who have been bringing their “A”-game to Gen Con since 1985. My first Novus round was back in Milwaukee, the last year Gen Con was in Milwaukee (2001?). The experience forever changed me and showed me what horror role-playing was all about – or what it could be. Every year after that event (held in the locker room of the ice arena where the RPGA games were held, across from the main convention hall!), I have tried my best to get into their games. And it’s hard to do considering there are more people who want to play than open slots. They run the Cthulhu Masters tournament, and in some years, a Novus Round (both elimination style tournaments, where 1 or 2 players from each session advance to the next round, until there is a final round and a winner proclaimed). Other Novus games come up occasionally that are not run tourney-style. I can tell you this, if you see one, get a ticket if you can. You will have great fun and role-play with some of the best RPG’ers out there! I got to the point where the only games I go to play at Gen Con are Novus rounds. For me, others just don’t compare… with the exception of the “You Too Can Cthulhu” games. They’re run by folks from Minneapolis/St. Paul MN who have ran the Masters a time or two as well. The year before last, I made it to the finals for the Masters. Awesome fun, but the Mi-Go Brain Case Trophy still eludes me! Last year I tried my hand at helping out to run the Novus games. I realized how much hard work it is! I think going forward, I will play Novus rounds at GenCon, and that is why I’ve started to look for events like MACE, where I can run a CoC game and to help “pay it forward”. By that I mean, take what I have learned on how and why Novus rounds are such a blast, and try to create a similar experience for other players. Above all, it has to be fun for everyone.
How would you describe the perfect game for you as a player?
Perfect game? I’ll say it again: it has to be fun for everyone at the table. Then, I suppose the best games I’ve been in is where the players are able to carry the story forward. A GM can stage the scene, but the particular script is best when it comes from each player as their character. The perfect game for me is one where the story takes on a life of its own… and becomes a shared collective experience for players as well as the GM. Each player stays in character 100% of the time (because they want to and just are in character, 1st person) and table-talk and meta-gaming is kept to a minimum. You know you’ve been in a great role playing game when everyone stays at the table, talking about their shared experience, their characters, the story… it just is apparent when the game has transcended and become more of an experience then an event at a convention. Atmosphere, props… music… anything that helps to craft that experience goes a long way in helping with the suspension of belief which is I believe is core to “my perfect game as a player”.
What makes the Lovecraftian Horror most appealing to you?
Good question. I guess it has to do with how precarious our existence is… how chaotic, random, cold and indifferent the universe is, in my opinion. Despite all our technology and hubris, we really don’t know what’s out there, do we? Or what the “true nature” of reality is. People say, “Every thing happens for a reason”. Malarkey. Most everything is the result of an innumerable number of events that came before it that set things in motion… in combination with even more random factors that simply happen for no reason. Lovecraftian horror admits to the reader the truth that our minds and our capability of understanding the true nature of the Universe – is limited. Very limited. As a protagonist in a Call of Cthulhu scenario – at the game table, or as a character in a story – characters most often start out as “regular” people… who for various reasons, get caught up in some horrible fate that gives them insight into this “horror of knowing” and/or glimpses of some awful “thing which should not be”. Characters become “tainted” by this knowledge and most often pay a price for it. Remember, Call of Cthulhu is the only game I know of where you can have a great time and still see your character go insane, die… or worse…
What other games are you involved with?
Sadly, since moving to Atlanta I don’t get to play much (hint: I’m always on the look out for a good group of RPG’ers to play with in the Atlanta area!). Other games I like to play: Pathfinder. Hated DND 4. Excited to try DND 5, I hear they fixed it. Traveller is a classic game I still enjoy. I’ll try any role-playing game. My buddy in Atlanta is teaching me to play StarFleet Battles (a board game – I probably got the name wrong). “Are you a werewolf” is fun. I just bought the card game “Gloom” at GenCon – hoping to get my family to play as they don’t enjoy role-playing like I do. I can say I’ve had some of the best time gaming ever in LARPS at cons. I’ve also had the worst time ever playing in LARPS at cons… so I know they can be very fun… you just have to know which ones to sign up for. Oh! One of the best RPG games I have ever played campaign style (non-con, regular weekend schedule with friends) was a Star Wars game, which is no longer in print. I have come to learn there have been several versions of Star Wars RPG… wish I could remember the exact name/version of that one! The game system was awesome and I was so surprised at how well the game mechanics for being a Jedi worked. It was fun! I want to play again. I have to say one of the biggest reasons I love classic Call of Cthulhu is the game system. Its so light-weight, it doesn’t get in the way… and puts the emphasis on role-playing, and of course, having fun.

The Dawn Colonies

115844The Dawn Colonies
From: Gypsy Knights Games
Reviewed by: Ron McClung

The Dawn Colonies is a new RPG Supplement from Gypsy Knights Games.

I asked John Watts once what TV show he would relate his setting to, I predicted correctly that he feels it was most like Firefly.  In many ways, it really has that feel – the grittiness, and the feeling of being a western in space.  However, at the same time, it addresses a lot of the things that Firefly and the subsequent RPGs ignored – the realism, the vastness of space and the isolation one planet can feel.  It keeps a lot of the adventure local, instead of planet hopping across the universe.  It is that sense that makes it attractive to me.

Expanding out past the Clement Sector, the fine people at Gypsy Knights take you to a new sector of space called the Tranquility Sector, which is located near the Clement Sector and connects to the Cascadia subsector of Clement.  As opposed to Clement, Tranquility is a frontier, where the factions of the Clement sector have moved past their disconnection from Earth and followed their continued desire to human colonize the region.

From the website:
“Four colonies on the edge of the frontier!”

There are four colonies presented in this sourcebook, each less than 50 years old.   They are fairly young as compared to the Clement sector, still struggling and developing to live on their own.  There are also several unexplored systems with simple letter-number designations left for GMs and players to adventure to.

The Cascadia Colonization Authority (an organization from the Clement Sector) was primarily involved in the settling of two of the worlds, Dawn and Tranquility.  Although considered independent worlds, they have considerable ties back to the Cascadian government.  Dawn, the more populous world, is quite literally a frontier farm world, with two major cities and controlled by the Lawson family.  Tranquility is a mining world in the neighboring hex to Dawn and supports a small mining facility.

Argos Prime is an independent world primarily colonized by ethic Slavs and Greeks from Clement.  It is a cold world, with much of surface covered in snow and sea-sized sheets of ice.  The population primarily lives under these sheets of ice and these “ice windows” are also a tourist attraction.

Bicocca is the final and youngest of the new worlds, settled by colonists of Italian descent.  It is seeking out any and all colonists willing to come and is slowly growing as a settled world. Bicocca is an earth-twin that has one small city that houses almost 1300 colonists.  It is a world with a lot of potential for growth and colonization, and that potential is waiting to be tapped by the players.  It is a simple and very welcoming world and a great colony to originate a character from.

In each system entry, a little more detail is given about other worlds in the system.  Sometimes these worlds are uninhabited and are waiting to be explored while others have outposts on them.  But most of the solid bodies in each system are at least mapped out with very attractive full color rendering.

From the website:
“The Dawn Colonies are the only settled worlds in Tranquility Sector.  Located to trailing of Clement Sector, Dawn Subsector is the spearhead of colonization into this new sector.  The last stops before heading into the unknown!”

Following the system descriptions, a short section on making characters from this subsector is presented.  It contains a simple table of backgrounds skills for character from each of the colony worlds.

Key to a “frontier” region of space is the adventuring and encounters.  It is totally different from adventuring within civilized space.  The final pages of the book are dedicated to just that.  It mentions the published adventure series that is also available in PDF but also describes ways that a GM can design adventures and the various ways characters can find it in the Dawn subsector.  Dawn subsector is significantly different from the other subsectors of this line and I am glad they put this in the book to get that point across.  One very good idea is a way that a GM can make the Dawn subsector his or her own: base an entire campaign on the settlement of one single system.  The text gives enough ideas and inspiration for conflicting interests from the Cascadia subsector and the growing criminal elements within Dawn.  A GM could have years of adventuring with just that, with a little work.

The book closes with random encounter tables and stats for various creatures found in this region, enhancing the “frontier” feel just a little further.  Call me petty, but I like to have a picture of the creature along with those stats but I understand that art for that can be expensive.

In conclusion, I wasn’t overly thrilled with the first half of the book when I first got into it, but as I read through it, it got better.  It is not one of Gypsy Knights best works but it does create a new level of potential in the Clement sector setting.  It also can be used in other Traveller settings if a GM so chooses.

For more details on Gypsy Knights Games and their new RPG SupplementThe Dawn Colonies” check them out at their website http://www.gypsyknightsgames.com .

Codex Rating: 12

Product Summary

The Dawn Colonies
From: Gypsy Knights Games
Type of Game: RPG Supplement
Author: John Watts
Cover Art: Fotoila: Algol
Artists: George Ebersole, Ian Stead, kraifreedom, Angela Harburn
Editor: Curtis Rickman
Number of Pages: 50
Game Components Included: One PDF sourcebook
Game Components Not Included: Core Traveller rule books
Retail Price: $6.99 (US)
Website: www.gypsyknightsgames.com  

Reviewed by: Ron McClung

 

Rapture: The End of Days RPG

Rapture: The End of Days RPG
From: StoryWeaver Games
Reviewed by: Ron McClung

Rapture: The End of Days RPG is a new RPG Core Rulebook from StoryWeaver Games.

The Rapture has been the subject of various books and movies and all have approached it from a similar fashion – portraying it as something in the near and foreseeable future.  No one that I have seen before this game has ventured out and asked the question “What if it happens way far in the future after man has found ways off this world?”  Rapture: The End of Days is a game about that very thing.

From page # 5:
“Welcome to the end of days … After centuries of war and strife, seven great nations arose to enter an uneasy peace.  Humanity was once again rebuilding, with science blossoming and a new discoveries heralding a true renaissance.”

SETTING

The book opens with a focus on the rules system but to me, it’s the setting that really sells it for me.  So that is what I am going to cover first.  The game itself has a strong focus on storytelling and plot, and less on rules, so it only made sense to start wherethe story begins – the setting.

Players are characters called Mortals – human beings that were living or otherwise located in one of the disparate colonies spread out over the known worlds – called Human Occupied Space.  The year is 2645 and The Rapture happened.  The Earth went through years of war, rebuilding and finally prosperity under a new order and after colonizing many extra-solar worlds, God decided to fulfill his Biblical promise.  All the worthy souls on Earth (those that believed in God’s Word) were accepted into Heaven while the others were left behind, including all the souls on the extra-solar colonies.  Meanwhile, the gates of Hell have opened on Earth and demons are pouring out, claiming domain on humanity’s once beloved home.

Why, do you ask?  That was my first question going in and they have a very inventive and creative explanation that sits at the core of the game setting.  Heaven, Hell and Creation all sit in parallel dimensions.  For every location in Creation, there is an equal location in both Heaven and Hell.  Unfortunately because of their nature, demons never bothered to create space travel to traverse their version of space, so for now, Mortals on other colonies were saved simply by distance.  But demons can find ways around that and do so when they can – like entering Creation on Earth and finding a means to travel within Creation to the other colonies.  Also, a less-than scrupulous human could summon a demon from beyond to any world in space; however, that is a rather arduous task.

The book describes the stellar-political topography of a post-Rapture Human Occupied Space, giving the history of and general political structure of each of the major Earth powers that have colonized the known worlds.  These include the Sino Block (part of Asia primarily dominated by the Chinese), North American Alliance (a socialist alliance of the remnants of the US and part of the American continents after the collapse of the US Government), the Southern Union (parts of Southeast Asia and Australia), and the Democractic Russian Union (a Representative Republic Russia reborn out of the ashes of a chaotic Russia).  Along with these faction are the Corporate entities that dominate certain regions of space.  There are eleven corporations listed and all have very unique and interesting backgrounds.

There are several dozen colonized worlds, some Earth-like (Earth Analogues) and others terraformed.  The Earth analogues are not perfect copies of Earth but at least have the basis to minimally sustain human life.  Technology covers the rest of it in some way or another.  The terraformed planets are expected to take multiple generations to complete, and the results are not guaranteed.  There are also “orbitals” or space stations that maintain populations.  There are also abandoned colony ships called space hulks that are still being used by fringe groups.

Below the national or corporate identity, some characters might have an affiliation with a known faction.  Factions here are presented mostly as religious groups, like Xeno Retionalism (people that believe this “Rapture” is some kind of alien attack), Paganism (a blanket group that covers any non-Judeo Christian or Islamic based group), Biblical Inerrancy (groups that believe their version of the Bible is the true Word of God), and Humanist Emancipationism (a strange group that believe that God made a mistake starting the End of Days).

Technology in 2645 is not all that much different than what we are familiar with, to some degree, at least according to the writers.  The “cyberpunk revolution” never happened and the tech just got bigger (or smaller), faster and better.  Two major advancements help conquer the tyranny of stellar distances – Photonic Teleportation Arrays (PTAs – communication devices that allow for near instantaneous communication over stellar distances) and Gravity Drives (allowing for travel over stellar distances in relatively shorter periods of time while isolating the vessels from the effects of relativity and time dilation).

Man not only faces the danger of space and the alien worlds they live on, they face the new threats from the Rapture and from Hell.  The creatures are presented in the same style as the rules (see below) – rules light and simple.  They range from the generic Unclean Spirit, the fallen angels of Legion, and Zombies.  There are also alien predators like the Dragons of Brilliance, Shark Gods, and Cannibahls.  There are also more modern threats like Insane AIs.

Supernatural powers exist but are treated very Biblically.  Anything that is not of God is evil and thus much of the powers are routed in evil, hubris or Satan.  Man continues to latch on to the hubris of human science and rationalization, so not many humans have powers.  Many creatures; however, have them and they are expanded up in this book  The most a human can do is exorcism and that is not an easy task to do.

From the website:
“The legions of Satan are real… And they are coming for you.”

SYSTEM

The designers of the system called it “rules light” and “a narrative system”, with a strong focus on story and character and less on combat, tactical and technical stuff.  They also say upfront that this is not a good beginners RPG.  I found that honest and to the point.  I admire a writer with that level of honesty.

Character generation system is usually where you get the initial feel of the system and this game is no different.  Creating a character in Rapture is very rules light and simple.  There are 3 primary stats (Mens or Minds, Corpus or Body, and Potentia or Soul) and the rest is content that the player makes up.  There is a real simple skill list where a player picks 3 to be good at and the rest are left alone.  In total, there are 10 easy steps to creating a character and much of it is like “Choose a Profession… Any Profession is fine” or “Write down a Personal Goal” or “Write down your Redemption Task.”

The main way to gain experience and grow is to die.  The experience stays with the player and affects the next character he brings in.  If a character dies in some glorious, biblical, self-sacrificing way or in a way that really drives the story, the group of players can vote on it.  If the death was voted to be suitably memorable, then the next character that is brought in gains an extra attribute point.  This is a very unique concept and a real differentiator to the system.

The system is basically a d10 dice pool system. One of the three primary attributes is always rolled and if a Hero’s Skill applies, add more dice to the pool.   The GM determines a Target Number between 2 and 10, and in most cases the Challenge will require between 1 to 3 dice to be equal or greater to succeed.  Challenges and Combat are very abstract and sometimes, especially in the case of combat, can be decided in one role.  Combat is very abstract and designed to be simple but deadly.

As the game has a horror component to it, there is a Fear system.  True to the spirit of the entire system, it is simple but it also interesting unique and creative.  Fear are points that build up during the course of an adventure, either through taking damage or experiencing something horrific.  But there is a good side as well as a bad side to them, thus there is no choice or test when a character takes Fear points.  As a character accumulates Fear, he gains extra dice in his physical stat.  However, the down side to Fear is the that it effects the other two stats equally in a negative way.  There are ways to overcome one’s Fear but it is difficult and has consequences.

Hand in hand with Fear is Madness.  What horror game would this be without some kind of sanity.  Madness in this game is caused by a specific type of Unclean Spirit called a Madness Spirit.  For those previously effected by such spirits, gaming Fear can cause manifestations of this madness.  There is a simple system and a table to consult and the players is asked to roleplay the madness in whatever manner moves the story along well.

Another aspect of this game that I find interesting is common to a lot of these rules light games.  The players have nearly as much control over the story as the GM.  In certain situations, the GM is encouraged to let the players describe situations after Challenge tests, etc.  This is not overly unique but it does make the game interesting and more attractive to those that like these types of narrative games.

In conclusion, my first impression of the game is that it was a little too “hippy” for me and I wasn’t sure about it.  Being a Christian, the subject matter did not put me off at all and in fact, drove my curiosity.  As read, the setting was very attractive and I kept on thinking of it in terms of other systems like Savage Worlds or True20.  But in truth, although those game systems would be interesting to try for this setting, it would be a totally different experience and certain aspects of the game would be lost.  The system itself fits perfectly for what the writer wishes to accomplish.  It’s elegantly designed for the setting and very simple.  It has a certain nuance to it that makes it engaging and I am already thinking of ways to run this at my next con.

For more details on StoryWeaver Games and their new RPG Core RulebookRapture: The End of Days RPG  ” check them out at their website http://www.storyweaver.com.

Codex Rating: 16

 Product Summary

Rapture: The End of Days RPG
From: StoryWeaver Games
Type of Game: RPG Core Rulebook
Written by: Joe Sweeney
Contributing Authors: Ray Duell
Game Design by: : Joe Sweeney
Art by: Kascha Sweeney, Mark Person
Number of Pages: 133
Game Components Included: 1 core rulebook (PDF)
Retail Price: $14.95(US)
Website: www.storyweaver.com

Reviewed by: Ron McClung

Interview with Eloy Lasanta, creator of Apocalypse Prevention, Inc. 2nd Ed.

Interview with Eloy Lasanta of Third Eye Games, and Kickstarter for Apocalypse Prevention, Inc. 2nd Ed.
Hello, Mr. Lasanta.  Thanks for taking the time to interview with us again and spotlighting your Kickstarter, Apocalypse Prevention, Inc. 2e.

Thanks for having me!

How did the Kickstarter for Apocalypse Prevention, Inc. 2e come about?

Well, we released the first edition of Apocalypse Prevention, Inc. (API) almost six years ago. While the game line has been successful and is still picking up new fans all the time (mostly from conventions), we at Third Eye Games decided it was time to update the system to the caliber of our current design philosophy. Along with that, we decided to advance the timeline of the setting a bit as well and pump it full of  more awesomeness. It took a lot of thought to really decide if API would receive a second edition, but in the end we’re VERY happy with the stellar version of the game we’ll be releasing soon after the Kickstarter.

What are the major changes to Apocalypse Prevention, Inc. from 1st edition to 2nd edition?

Oh, I already started to touch on this in the last question. Essentially, we’ve taken the framework that existed mechanically for Apocalypse Prevention, Inc. and rebuilt it. So, it’s essentially the same game, but fine-tuned to really deliver the best API experience that it can. Instead of generic Passions, we’ve now got company specific Reasons. Instead of lists of Skills and different skills working different ways, we’ve streamlined the mechanics so it all plays smoothly. Instead of hyper-strategic combat, we’ve reduced it to what will give the most strategy without as much math. Every decision made for API has been to make the gameplay better and root out the things that may have complicated the first edition.
Best part is that all of the new things we’ve created for Apocalypse Prevention, Inc. 2nd Ed (API2E) will also be converted to Savage Worlds, so that our Savage fans can integrate these new additions into their games as well!
Beyond the elevator pitch, how would you describe Apocalypse Prevention, Inc. to a person that has never heard of it?
The elevator pitch, of course, being: “Action Horror RPG with a twist of humor.” It basically takes all my favorite things from media like Men in Black, Hellboy, Ghost Busters or Buffy the Vampire Slayer and mashes it all into a single RPG which is full of monsters to slay, negotiations to be made and laughs to be had in-between. You can play as one of 20 different races, from humans to giant fish demons to slime creatures. This game isn’t just about taking out bad guys, though. Sometimes, it’s just to maintain the piece or whatever else the company needs you to do (on a budget). There are a lot of different approaches to staying in the black, and it’s up to the agents to pick the correct route that will please the company the most.
What inspired you to create the world of Apocalypse Prevention, Inc.? 

Great question! I was honestly looking for a kind of game like this to play that appealed to my mechanical sensibilities. The closest was the Buffy the Vampire Slayer RPG, which was great but carried a lot of baggage along with it that either made it harder to find players or to play outside of the established plot when you could. So, i started from scratch and took it a step further… “What if you were enlisted to help fight against and regulate demons on Earth, but what if it wasn’t a government thing? What if it was a company who also had to stay in business?” Then Apocalypse Prevention, Inc. was born (of course, that was a placeholder name that the playtesters loved, so we kept it).

Among other things, I think it was also my inability to run anything without a little bit of horror in it. The “twist of humor” part of Apocalypse Prevention, Inc. is just as important as the action or the horror parts, because it adds the kind of levity and fun into the game (and the setting) that I love. There are a lot of games out there to take themselves way too seriously, and API isn’t one of them. I wanted more than just “the latest dark monster hunting game.” I wanted something that was unique and really filled a niche that I could feel proud to put my name on.

What are you most proud of with respect to Apocalypse Prevention, Inc.?

I think I’m most proud of API’s longevity. Six years of sales is not by accident. I’ve seen a lot of games be released and then go out to pasture and not so for Apocalypse Prevention, Inc. I think it strikes a chord with fans of twists on pop culture monsters and general humor hidden underneath all the horror of the game line. Along with the original corebook, we’ve released 5 sourcebooks for API (API Worldwide: Canada, Demon Codex: Lochs, API Worldwide: Europe, Demon Codex: Spectrals and API Worldwide: South America), each adding to the world in new and crazy ways. That’s why the current Kickstarter has goals to update these sourcebooks to both the new 2E rules, as well as Savage Worlds. It’s out biggest undertaking with a Kickstarter we’ve ever done, and I think Apocalypse Prevention, Inc. deserves the honor, being our first and long-running game line.

What is in the future for Apocalypse Prevention, Inc. once this Kickstarter gets funded?

Apocalypse Prevention, Inc. will continue beyond the Kickstarter. After we get all of the current sourcebooks updated to both the API2E and Savage Worlds systems, it’ll be about continuing the game line with both systems going forward as well. The next book in the line, which already has a lot of material written for it, will be Demon Codex: Burners with API Worldwide: Japan to follow close behind. There are a lot of great things in API’s future once this Kickstarter is done.

Assuming you find time to play, what are you playing these days?

I do play on occasion, usually card/board games that I get to play with my kids. Been playing a lot of Sentinels of the Multiverse in that respect. Been playing some of the Firefly RPG from Margaret Weis Productions, which is pretty awesome, and I may be joining a group soon to play some 5E (haven’t gotten the chance to play that one yet). So, I’m doing pretty well with playing lately (which is a lot more gaming than I’ve gotten in the last year).

Thanks again for taking the time to talk with us.  Good luck with your Kickstarter.

Thanks a lot, Ron!

Dungeons & Dragons: Player’s Handbook (5th Edition)

Dungeons & Dragons: Player’s Handbook (5th Edition)
From: Wizards of the Coast
Reviewed by: Ron W McClung

dndphb1Dungeons & Dragons: Player’s Handbook (5th Edition) is a new RPG Core Rulebook from Wizards of the Coast.

Much has been said about the staggered release of the new D&D rulebooks and as much as I understand the complaints, I don’t really think it is all that big of deal in the grand scheme of things.  Some say that the staggered release will hurt D&D’s chances of gaining any ground lost to Pathfinder but I seriously do not see it.  Come December when the DMG is finally out, people are going to forget all about the staggered release and invest a lot of time in whatever game they choose.

The first of this staggered release is of course, the Player’s Handbook – the much anticipated herald of the three book series that preports to ring in a new era for Dungeons & Dragons and roleplaying in general.  While I am not sure I totally believe that, the new version of D&D does give me a lot of hope for the industry and for D&D in general.  I have already reviewed the Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set and in fact, have run it a couple of times already.  You can also read in that review my limited experience with D&D in the past and how it has evolved to this point.  You can also see a review of the free Basic Rules here in The Gamers Codex, exploring the basics of the system and what changes WotC previewed there.

From the back cover:
“The Player’s Handbook is the essential reference for every Dungeons & Dragons roleplayer.”

The new Core system to D&D has been talked about enough in the other two reviews.  The basics are similar to 3rd edition but with some extra fun mechanics like Advantage and Disadvantage.  What this review will cover is what new things the PHB brings to the table that you did not see in the previous products and perhaps give you some reasons to buy the product.

The book is divided up into 3 major parts – Creating a Character, Playing the Game, and Rules of Magic.  All three are fairly straight forward.  Comparing the three PHBs I have available to me (2nd Edition, 3rd Edition and 5th Edition), it already appears to be more organized and is more robust with equal elements story, role play options and statistical information.

DND PHBs
DND PHBs

First and foremost, the PHB expands the number of races the player can play.  The Basic Rules provide some basic races – Dwarf, Elf, Halfling, and Human.  Rest assured, that is not a complete list of races available in D&D.  A total of 9 races are presented in detail.  Along with the Basic Rules races, it adds the less common races – Dragonborn, Gnome, Half-Elf, Half-Orc, and Tiefling.  Some races have subraces including a few more for the Basic Rules races.  Humans, for example, include 9 different ethnicities (and typical names) native to the Forgotten Realms setting.

The races I am least familiar with are the Teifling and the Dragonborn, although my diehard and veteran D&D friends are familiar enough with them.  They were introduced in the PHB in 4th Edition, as part of the further embracing of Forgotten Realms as the default setting.  Some diehards are not pleased with that embracing.  My opinion of it really doesn’t matter but it is one of the more intimidating parts of getting into D&D for the first time.  I never ran it until 5th edition but there is so much about Forgotten Realms I know nothing about.

The Classes in the PHB are Barbarian, Bard, Cleric, Druid, Fighter, Monk, Paladin, Ranger, Rogue, Sorcerer, Warlock, and Wizard.  Classes look a lot their 3rd edition versions.  They have been simplified with new elements like the Proficiency bonus replacing skills and attack bonus, as mentioned in previous reviews.   The customization options of each class are what stands out to me.  The Barbarians, for example, have Primal Paths, Bards have Bardic Colleges,  Druids have Circles and Fighters have Archetypes.  No two Barbarians, Bard or Fighters will be the same and the same holds true for the rest of the classes.  Of course, you can easily see future books with more options for each class.

From the back cover:
“The world needs heroes.  Will you answer the call?”

The D&D (5th edition) Player’s Handbook has many elements in it to help the player not only build his character statistically, but also his character’s story and role playing aspects.  Personality and Background are two aspects that are expounded upon a little further.  Relating Backgrounds to something I am more familiar with, 5th edition Backgrounds are very similar to the aspect of the same name in d20 Modern.  It expands on your class a little further and gives you a little more about where your character came from.

Backgrounds are also helpful in determining Personality Traits, although a player is not restricted to the ones provided in each Background.  Personality Traits are divided up into three primary aspects – Ideals, Bonds, and Flaws.  Barrowing from games like True20 (Virtues & Vices) and the like, these three items round out the character and add a little dimension to the character.

Sadly, this is something a DM would hope his players would come up with on their own, but as many know, not all players are that creative in making a background.  Some players simply don’t get the purpose of the background and make it boring and absent of plot hooks.  They see it as something the DM uses to manipulate the character and that is so wrong.  One of my favorite products of all time is the Central Casting background generator books (Heroes of Legends, Heroes of Tomorrow, and Heroes Now!).  I used to make it a mandatory thing to use them because my players never really gave me multi-dimensional characters.  The difference between a sheet with numbers on them and a living breathing character is usually the background and the various hooks that can come from it.  I am very encouraged that the Player’s Handbook in this edition of D&D has some focus on that.

This is one area I wish the book spent a little more page-count on.  Although there is ample background and related personality trait tables to get started, it did leave me wanting more.  I hope there will be future focus on this.  This is the first time I really felt like a D&D character was more than a sheet of numbers and words.  Of course, this is highly tied to the setting, sometimes, so I hope the setting books that are released (or the subsequent Player’s Guides) include more background and personality trait options.

Tying all this back into the game mechanic is a concept called Inspiration.  This is of course mentioned some in the Basic Rules as well as the Starter Set.  This too has been covered enough, but I do want to say that I like this aspect a lot.  Having played many other games where the players has a means to save himself (Savage Worlds with Bennies, True20 with Conviction Points, and D6 System with Character and Force Points), this was needed badly in the world’s most famous role playing game.

What I find interesting about Inspiration is that you are limited to one at any given time.  You have to spend it to get another.  Unlike other games where players can sandbag points like this and unload them on the DM at the “boss fight”, Inspiration puts the character in the dramatic dilemma of when to use that one favor from the gods.  Although I did not initially like that aspect of Inspiration, in practice, it is very fun to play.

A player can do further customization of one’s character, as explained in the Customization chapter of Part 1.  This is where multi-classing is explained and this gets into the least favorite part of the book.  It seems to me they made multi-classing a little more complicated, especially for magic users.  Spell casting and Spells slots, especially if you multi-class into more than one magic user class, get understandably complex.  There is some simple number crunching and logic to work through.

Feats return in this edition.  At the heart of 3rd edition bloat, Feats are one of those things that D&D fans loved or hated.  How the designers decided to work them into the mechanic really shows they listened to the fans.  First, they mitigate the bloat a little by limiting how often you can get feats.  They also make it an optional rule, keeping those that hate Feats happy.  Of course, over time, as more and more expansion books come out, the Feat list will grow but characters won’t be overloaded with a ton of them to keep up with.  You can choose to gain a Feat in exchange from the ability score bump you get each at certain levels. At most, a character will have 5 or 6 Feats.

Now these are not your typical 3rd Edition feats, however.  These pack a little more of a punch, since they are the alternative to something you only get every four levels or so.  There are a total of 43 Feats and the only thing I wish they had added was a table list of them with summarized notes of their benefits.

Part 2 dives into the mechanics of the game, which was partially revealed in the Basic Rules but expanded upon a little more in the PHB.  Ability Scores, Proficiency Bonuses, Saving Throws, and Passive Checks have all been pretty well covered in other reviews.  They are basically a logical simplification of 3rd edition concepts, with a lot of influence from other editions as well.

The Combat section is noticeably different from previously editions.  The tactical complexities of Full Actions, Standard Actions and Free Actions are far more simplified.  There is less stuff about the tactical options available players and more general information about what can be done in a round.  Combat in past editions felt like a strict table top board game or miniature game and in this, it feels more like a role playing game.  However, don’t get me wrong, I like some of the tactical complexities and as I understand it, they are going to be presented as options in the Dungeon Master’s Guide.

Advantage and Disadvantage is also a new mechanic introduced and although we have talked about it some in previous reviews, I have run D&D 5e now a couple of times and have seen it in practice.  I am not sure of the mathematics of the system – if it truly does give a significant advantage or disadvantage to the player (a much more math-inclined person than me can figure that out) but in game, it has a great effect.  It is dynamic and creates a very tense situation when a person has to roll more than one die.  It is a fun mechanic and that is what a game is all about.

Part 3 ends the book with the much maligned or anticipated (depending on your perspective) new magic system, that is not exactly new but at least better than the last one.  To many 4th edition fans chagrin, it is a return to the Vancian style magic system that seem to take the back stage in 4e.  But with Spells lists and Spells Slots, it is much more simplified and logical than past editions like 3rd editions (and its other incarnations).  I avoided magic users in previous editions (when I played) because it was too complex for me to deal with.  And the session by session maintenance of Spells Known vs.  Spells per Day was frustrating.  I can wrap my head around this system a little better.

The Vancian system returns the magic users to the thematically roles they were meant to be – scholars of magic and arcane knowledge and restricted by the nature of magic and the source they are gaining it from.  Thematically, I felt that D&D was not D&D without Vancian magic.  As I understand it, the previous edition all but abandoned Vancian magic and most that adhered to that edition are angry about the return.  To that, all that can be said is that the market has spoken.  Right or wrong, Vancian magic is D&D and D&D is Vancian magic.

Is it balanced?  So far, I see a lot of attempts to not only balance it at low levels but keep it balanced as the characters goes up in levels.  The Spells Slots and Casting at Higher Levels is at the heart of this balancing effort.  Sure you can cast a Magic Missile that causes 12d4 but you have to spend a higher level spell slot for that spell.  Suddenly, Magic Missile becomes that level of a spell.

Ritual Spells is another aspect that is refreshing.  You don’t always have to have a spell prepared to caste it.  If you have time, you can cast it as a Ritual Spell.  Only certain spells can be done that way, but most are logical.

In conclusion, I think it is clear I am a fan of this new edition.  Until this edition, I have either not had a chance or purposely avoided playing D&D and this edition has pulled me in.  My only major complaint is the price tag.  Where their competition is able to put together a huge book that virtually includes both the PHB and DMG in one, for a lower price, the fine folks at WotC put a larger price tag on a smaller book and stagger the release so it won’t hurt the budget as bad.  Is it worth it?  I say it is, but I am not sure everyone is going to agree.

Outside the monetary issues, the book is hardy and the art is phenomenal.  The layout is on par with other editions although I would have liked to see a few more lists then they provided.  The index is really tiny print, and forces this old man to use his reading glasses.

I give this a Codex Rating of 19 because this is a big hit for me.  It not only revived my faith in the guys behind D&D but also in the D&D line in general.  It has pulled me in pretty strongly and for the first time, I am running a fantasy game. It is enjoyable and I look forward to a whole new bookshelf of 5e books as they put them out.

For more details on Wizards of the Coast and their new RPG Core RulebookDungeons & Dragons: Player’s Handbook (5th Edition)” check them out at their website http://dnd.wizards.com/, and at all of your local game stores.

Codex Rating: 19

Product Summary

Dungeons & Dragons: Player’s Handbook (5th Edition)
From: Wizards of the Coast
Type of Game: RPG Core Rulebook
D&D Lead Designers: Mike Mearls, Jeremy Crawford
Rules Development: Rodney Thompson, Peter Lee
Writing: James Wyatt, Robert J. Schwalb, Bruce R. Cordell
Editing: Michele Carter, Chris Sims, Scott Fitzgerald Gray, Christopher Perkins
Producer: Greg Bilsland
Art Directors: Kate Irwin, Dan Gelon, Jon Schindehette, Mari Kolkowsky, Melissa Rapier, Shauna Narciso
Graphic Designers: Bree Heiss, Emi Tanji, Barry Craig
Cover Illustrator: Tyler Jacobson
Interior Illustrator: (Entirely too many to list, see handbook for list)
Additional Contributors: Kim Mohan, Matt Sernett, Chris Dupuis, Tom LaPille, Richard Baker, Miranda Horner, Jennifer Clarke Wilkes, Steve Winter, Nina Hess, Steve Townshend, Chris Youngs, Ben Petrisor, Tom Olsen
Project Management: Neil Shinkle, Kim Graham, John Hay
Production Services: Cynda Callaway, Brian Dumas, Jefferson Dunlap, David Gershman, Anita Williams
Brand and Marketing: Nathan Stewart, Liz Schuh, Chris Lindsay, Shelly Mazzanoble, Hilary Ross, Laura Tommervik, Kim Lundstrom, Trevor Kidd
Number of Pages: 321
Game Components Included: Core Player’s Handbook
Game Components Not Included: Monster Manual, Dungeon Master Guide (to be released later)
Retail Price: $49.95(US)
Website: http://dnd.wizards.com/

Reviewed by: Ron W McClung

 

Interview with Steven T. Helt, writer for Cross Of Fire Saga Adventure Path

Steven T. Helt is Paizo’s RPG Superstar for 2013 and the project coordinator and a writer for Cross Of Fire Saga Adventure Path for the Pathfinder RPG.  Steven took a few minutes of his time to answer some questions about his Kickstarter.

 Thank you Steven for taking the time to answer a few questions.

Thanks, Ron. I’m grateful for the chance to talk about this project. It has been a fun experience….if a little creepy.

Tell us a little about yourself and your gaming experience, Steven.

I played my first session of AD&D back in 5th grade. A friend’s brother ran us through Queen of the Demonweb Pits. We were massacred but I was hooked. I started designing adventures and running my own scenarios in middle school, but never thought of it as more than a hobby until my mid 30s. I won the Iron GM world championship twice and really got a taste for writing and design as I improved my game behind the screen. I’ve been playing and running RPGs for 32 years.

Since I won RPG Superstar in 2013, I have put together a writing group of fantastic design minds. We’re working to build a reputation as the guys who design things players and GMs salivate over. Fortunately, the publishers we’ve worked with have said very pleasant things and we are already scheduled for a lot of releases with different companies over the next couple of years.

I pitched an offer to develop the Cross of Fire Saga Adventure Path for Louis, crafted the plot from his framework, and now we have a really excellent cast finishing their drafts so our backers know they have already-finished adventures waiting for them when the KS campaign concludes.

How did the Cross Of Fire Saga come about and could you give us a brief description of the Adventure Path?

Louis asked us to write each of the adventures just after we committed to a few other large projects. To make sure he still got what he needed on time, I offered to join the project as author/developer and find him authors with known names who could pick up the writing task that the Four Horsemen couldn’t commit to. Of course, Pestilence is superhuman, so he signed on for a full adventure by himself. But we also got Victoria Jaczko (RPG Superstar 2014), Scott Fernandez (Paizo contributor and Superstar finalist), Jeff Lee, who has designed for several companies, and our third Horseman Dan Dillon. Dan is a crucail addition for the CoF backers becuase when it comes to traps and adventure inspired by dangerous old-school games, Dan is…well….vicious.

Cross of Fire is the first adventure path for the larger Obsidian Apocalypse setting templates. In Jeff Lee’s intro adventure, the players are transported to Abaddon—a harsh realm of post-apocalyptic horror. Their best chance to get home is to follow the lead of a vagabond mystic—someone the PCs can’t fully trust, but at the same time is obviously motivated to help them. Travel in Abaddon is hard, even for high level characters, so across the hard terrain and harder people of the land, the PCs work to locate the missing elements they need to unite in the saga’s conclusion in order to return home. Unfortunately, they have enemies that seek to manipulate them and at any given time their allies aren’t much better. Cross of Fire is gritty and violent and tells a unique horror story the whole way through.

The plot for the saga is something I am really proud of. We’re big fans of turning tropes on their heads, so you can’t take anything for granted. We also have a knack for breathing life into the Maguffin so everything has a detailed story and purpose. The things you need to achieve victory in the Cross of Fire finale have a life of their own and are as dangerous to the PCs as they are to the PCs’ nemesis.

What is it about the Ravenloft and Dark Sun settings that inspired the setting? And what about Abaddon do you think will pull players in?  What makes it unique?

For me, those two settings had defining art and a very specific feel. I think what’s great about working with Louis is you know you’re going to get quality art. The setting material for Obsidian Apocalypse is built around templates, so you can actually sort of choose the post-poc campaign your group wants. Maybe you want a setting where undeath spreads across the world. Obsidian Apocalypse gives you material to focus the horror in that direction. In the Cross of Fire adventures, we’ve blended elements of Lovecraftian horror from beyond, wickedly powerful undead, and the unparalleled cruelty of mortal races pushed to the brink for survival. Some of the most amazing moments in this saga come from less supernatural threats. Just communities very low on hope and trust, and already pushed well past the point of showing charity to strangers.

Great settings have a certain voice but also have some flexibility in that voice, and I think Raveloft was like that and carries into Abaddon for Pathfinder players.

What do you see for the future of Cross Of Fire Saga

Obviously that’s in the hands of Louis and the backers. I will say this: Cross of Fire deserves to be backed at a very high level. It’s not very often that you see a group of designers include two RPG Superstars, a Superstar finalist, and three Iron GMs. The authors of these adventures haven’t been afraid to tackle some difficult material and have honestly knocked it out of the park. If you want to see more adventures designed by teams of well-known freelancers, this is the Kickstarter campaign that will make that happen.

One other thing: the Four Horsemen have always pledged a little extra free content for everything we write. Backers of Cross of Fire will get more options, maybe even another adventure, if they fund us at a higher level, and we won’t charge Louis or the backers at all for that extra content. Give us your trust, and we will give you an adventure path you will never forget.

Thanks, Steven T. Helt, for you time.  Cross Of Fire Saga Kickstarter is opens this Wednesday, 10/1/14.  Please check it out and back it.

Shadows Over Camelot, The Card Game

Shadows Over Camelot, The Card Game
From: Days of Wonder
Reviewed by: Ron McClung

Shadows Over Camelot, The Card Game is a new Card Game from Days of Wonder.

Every once in a while, when I am running events at a convention, a dealer who knows me will drop off a game for me to check out.  At ConGregate in Winston-Salem, NC, Dan of Walt’s Cards (out of Maryland) dropped off Shadows Over Camelot, The Card Game, a game based on a very good board game.  I love the board game, so I was very intrigued about the card game.

From the back cover:
“Dark clouds gather over Brittany again…”

The card game is a cooperative effort between players taking on the roles of sons and daughters of Knights of the Round Table.  The players unite together to defeat various challenges presented in the game through Rumor cards.  In a sense, they are working together to defeat the game itself.  Right off the bat, this has broad appeal.  Cooperative games are a lot easier to win over  players in mixed crowds.  And they are just plain fun.

The group works together to acquire 7 white swords.  Meanwhile, based on Loyalty Cards distributed at the start, a Traitor may be working against the group to find 7 Black Swords.  Through the sequence of play, each player listens for rumors by flipping Rumor cards and waiting for the right moment to go on quests, while at the same time trying to fish out the traitor.

The bulk of the Rumor cards is related to individual quest like Picts, Saxons, Dragon, Excalibur, and Holy Grail.  These cards each have values that add up.  The “sweet spot” for a successful quest is 11 to 13 points.  As the Rumor cards are flipped, they form the Threat stack. People have to keep the values in the Threat stack straight in their head or the run the risk of being too high or too low.  Too high or low, means you gain a black sword if you attempt the particular quest.  Within the range of 11 to 13, you gain a white sword.

Players can do one of three things each round.  Listen For Rumors is the most common action, where the players flip cards from the Rumor stack to the Threat stack.  The player also can choose to Go On a Quest based on the card on the top of the Threat stack.  When that happens, the Threat stack is laid out into different quests, totaling up their numbers.  For the primary quest, the one that matched the top card, the numbers have to land in that specific range to earn a white sword, otherwise a black sword is awarded. So this is where remembering your totals are important.

From the back cover:
“…and the rumor has it that a Traitor might conspire against the Round Table.”

Communication between players is key to remembering the totals.  However, there are special cards that might impose silence during the game.  When a Morgan card is drawn, all communication between players must stop until another special card – the Merlin card – is then drawn. Like in life, people do not realize how important certain things are until they lose it.  Communication in this is so essential.

The special cards – Morgan, Merlin and Mordred – all have other effects that either occur during play or while totaling a Quest.  As indicated above, Morgan cards are usually bad and Merlin effects are usually good or helpful.  The Mordred card is also bad thing, but not as bad as Morgan.

The Traitor and Loyalty cards are integral in the game.  In the first game I played, I was the Traitor.  However, it was a learning game, so I was not as effective as I probably should have been.  I think I can personally claim responsibility for 1 black sword.  Through the normal course of play, the Traitor can simply feed misinformation to other players about what he remembers in the stack, feigning poor memory, for example.  However, through certain cards, primarily the Morgan cards, more lucrative opportunities arise for the Traitor to thwart the efforts of the other players.  The key is to not let these opportunities go to waste.  The game is short (60 to 90 minutes) and getting 7 white swords easier than you think, especially if you are playing with very intelligent players like I did.

There is also on other card in the deck that could create another Traitor.  The game plays up to 7 players and it contains 9 Loyalty cards (7 Loyal and 2 Traitor).  Game set up creates a Loyalty deck based on the number of players and always arranges it so that there are two extra Loyalty cards left over after dealing them to players. Those two cards remain in play in case the special card called Vivian comes up.  When that card comes up, the player picks one of the extra Loyalty cards and hands the other to someone else.  Both then pick between the new and the old one.  This creates a sense of shifting loyalties and in a large game, increases the chances of two Traitors in the mix.

The third and final thing a player can do on his turn is accuse another player of being a Traitor.  There are benefits and consequences to this.  If the Traitor is revealed, for the rest of game, the Traitor can only flip two cards from the Rumor deck to the Threat stack.  This of course increases the speed that the cards accumulate and forces to players to do more quests and take more risks.  If the person accused is not the Traitor, the group gains a Black Sword.  So the players have to be very careful when they accuse and the Traitor has to be very subtle about his actions.

There are also other cards in the set that the rules say are used in the advanced game.  These are called Knights to the Rescue cards.  You only add this into the game once you are familiar with it.  In a normal game, you usually have 3 extra Morgan cards that do not come into play.  However, in the Knights of the Rescue variant, the 3 extras are in play, set beside the 9 Knights cards.  Every time a Quest is successful, a new Morgan card is shuffled into the Rumor deck.  When a Quest fails, however, the balancing factor is the Knights cards.  The player that failed draws a Knight card and keeps it secret.  These cards can be used to change another player’s course of action, gain intelligence out of the Rumor deck and a number of other things that is advantageous to the players.  However, these cards are dangerous in the hands of the Traitor and give the Traitor more options to sow the seeds of deceit.

In conclusion, this game is about communication, memory and subtle group manipulation (in the Traitor’s case).  It’s a brilliant social game as well as a fun memory game.  I thoroughly enjoyed playing it.  It definitely has some interestingly subtle nuances that players have to master (especially in the Traitor’s case).  It’s fun in general to play the cards, with the switching back and forth between imposed silence and group communication, but with a Traitor in the mix, it is even more fun.  I almost would be inclined to make sure at least on Traitor gets played in the game to keep things interesting.

I want to thank John and Lisa Grigni, Alan Hyde, Jesse Riggs and Mike Welham for sitting down and play-testing this game with me.  It was a blast!

For more details on Days of Wonder and their new Card GameShadows Over Camelot, The Card Game” check them out at their website http://www.daysofwonder.com, and at all of your local game stores.

Codex Rating: 19

Product Summary

Shadows Over Camelot, The Card Game
From: Days of Wonder
Type of Game: Card Game
Game Design by: Serge Laget, Bruno Cathala
Artist: Julien Delval
Number of Pages: 15 page rulebook
Game Components Included: 62 Rumor cards, 9 Knight cards, 9 Loyalty cards, 16 Swords, 10 Tokens, 1 Rules booklet
Retail Price: $24.99(US)
Number of Players: 1-7
Player Ages: 10+
Play Time: 60-80 min
Website: www.daysofwonder.com

Reviewed by: Ron McClung