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Mage the Awakening 2nd Edition
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by Rory H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/07/2020 18:25:50

As with the previous 2nd editions of Chronicles of Darkness games, this is a highly polished effort with improved art direction, excellent rules for magic and by it being a self contained game. Its also notable shifted away from the Atlantis backstory emphasis of the previous edition, which is a welcome change.

Notably, this Mage game is only half the size of it's intimidatingly huge cousin, Mage: The Ascension, and will be certainly easier to play for newcomers. It manages this by missing out on much of the more gonzo, philosophical and real world culture referencing material of the former - and may feel a bit bland by comparison for the original game's fans. As a toolkit for running modern magical stories, like those you might find in a Vertigo comic, its a highly polished product, but it's still an obvioulsy fictional world with comic book tropes rather than an exploration of real occult concepts in many respects.

Regardless, it's a great addition to the Chronicles of Darkness line or just as a stand-alone urban fantasy game.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mage the Awakening 2nd Edition
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M-SPACE Companion
Publisher: FrostByte Books
by Rory H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/22/2020 00:24:50

Good comprehensive supplement for M-Space, especially for those thinking of sprinkling their science fiction with a bit of a transhunan spin. As with the core book, this is a very neat book that crams a lot of information into it in a sleek and stylish way. Good art pieces too.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
M-SPACE Companion
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Wrath & Glory: Core Rules
Publisher: Cubicle 7 Entertainment Ltd.
by Rory H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/17/2020 19:31:04

A major improvement from the previous printing in terms of layout, and kudos must go to Cubicle 7 for releasing this update free of charge to previous purchases.

The game could still be expanded upon, but it lays a pretty good foundation with a D6 dicepool rules system that functions a little closer to miniatures game than the previous percentile systems did. It lacks a 'high concept', as occured with Dark Heresy, Rogue Trader and instead adopts a fully inclusive, 'choose your own framewirk' regarding campaign design. While some might find this lacks focus, others will be enthused by the opportunity of playing previously unavalable options, like Ork Clans for example.

Its a good product, although I do miss aspects of the percentile system, which creates a certain gritty tone, and for me, the main interest still lies with the fantasy version of Warhammer roleplay.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Wrath & Glory: Core Rules
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Chicago By Night (Vampire: the Masquerade 5th Edition)
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by Rory H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/19/2020 20:04:27

Continuing a tradition of Chicogo By Night campaigns from the 1st edition in the early 1990s, this is a model for how to organise a city campaign as well as being a great sandbox for the Chicago setting. The addition of the Lasombra is welcome, although I'd prefer to see this in a more core rules book, but each Clan gets a good write up. You could literally use just this, along with the core rules, to be able to run campaigns for years - and the various NPCs write ups are full and varied, along with a selection of Loresheets which are becoming an increasingly useable game aid at the table. The art/layout is excellent too and it's both easy on the eye and easy to read.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Chicago By Night (Vampire: the Masquerade 5th Edition)
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Castle Falkenstein
Publisher: R. Talsorian Games Inc.
by Rory H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/19/2020 05:21:42

Ideal purchase in PDF, as the physical book always used to fall apart when you touched it.

Lots of cool ideas, and a terrifically colourful, card based magic system. I like the narrative-based character generation too, and have run some entertaining sessions from it in the past. It was ahead of it's time, for sure. Ultimately, the fairy-tale, faux-Victorian setting isn't may not appeal to everybody. Very much worth buying though, and the updated file makes everything feel quite spectacular again..



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Castle Falkenstein
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Mage: The Ascension 20th Anniversary Edition
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by Rory H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/08/2020 04:54:50

The sheer size of this book is intimidating, and some may find the writing style grating.

There are some new developments in terms of creating your own paradigm and style of magic, which still hangs on the core freeform magick (sic) system, while the setting material and various factions and groups accumulated through the years are all there. This very much an immersive, kitchen sink setting. A game some will undoubtedly love, but others will find it a bit much!



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Mage: The Ascension 20th Anniversary Edition
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Aquelarre
Publisher: Nocturnal Media
by Rory H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/08/2020 02:38:14

The rules are familar enough to anybody who likes RuneQuest style games, although there are a few differences in stats and skills. The setting is reminiscent of Ars Magica in it's 3rd edition - being a very dark, medieval world with a very high level of authenticity based on historical research.

Set specifically in the Spanish Peninsular (this was Spain's No.1 RPG - translated for the first time into English) during the 13/14th Century (High Medieval Period), it's less structured than Ars Magica and there is no default campaign as such. However, the emphasis on demonology, based on the Christian, Jewish and Islamic faiths of the time, as well as the name ('Aquelarre' means 'Coven') suggests that the characters will possibly be dabbling in the dark arts of magic or at least dealing with them. Magic is based upon alchemical lore, again well researched, evocative and with a big spell/ritual list, and there is a comprehensive host of angels and demons involved in the background, as well as a bestiary featuring creatures from Spanish folklore. There is a clever core mechanic where characters are rated on a two-headed scale of Rationality/Irrationality. This serves as a Sanity mechanic, of sorts: The more Irrational you are the more you believe in the supernatural (and the more capable you are to practice magic), but the more Rational you are, the more resistant you are to it.

The time period has the Spanish Peninsular made up of five competing nations, again well researched and presented here with lots of information about the history and medieval society. Supplements will detail each nation seperately - but there is lots here already. Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition (!) but you could well play in a campaign based around this sort of investigative organisation (or have them as antagonists), along with a lot of other societies you could join (including military orders or fraternities). There are several introductory scenarios included.

This is a very rich setting, beautifully illustrated in a massive book, which is very much a work of passion. The Kickstarter campaign encountered some tragedy along the way, but both Stewart Weick (RIP) and Lester Smith (the translater) as well as the original writers, Ricard Ibáñez and co. have done the English speaking audience a service for making this great game available for the first time.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Aquelarre
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Vampire: The Masquerade – New Blood Starter Pack
Publisher: Modiphius
by Rory H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/29/2020 23:31:13

A solid enough introduction to the rules and storylines of a Vampire game. Not essential if you already have the Core Rules, or even The Monsters Quickstart (which is free), but it nevertheless provides a playable scenario which captures some essential themes of the game for a relatively non-commital cost. The Character sheets provided are adapted well to summarising key information and rules on the sheets themselves, and may be useful as a formatting tool in themselves. The various files could be consolidated together into a single file with the cover included, preferably.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Vampire: The Masquerade – New Blood Starter Pack
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Laws of Ascension
Publisher: White Wolf
by Rory H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/11/2019 10:17:35

As a concise write up of the very complex Mage setting, this product does manage to pack a lot in. The rules are well written and the premise sure gives a lot of options for 'let's pretend'. Doubles up well alongside the Companion book (for Technocracy characters).



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Laws of Ascension
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Judge Dredd & The Worlds of 2000 AD RPG Core Rulebook
Publisher: EN Publishing
by Rory H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/23/2019 18:12:53

This is the latest in a series of games based on Judge Dredd, starting with the original Games Workshop edition in the 1980s and two editions/supplements put out by Mongoose for D20/OGL and the Traveller rules respectively.

The main appeal of the game lies with it's setting material, which has a 40+ year comic library and has very much a cult following in the UK at least. The 2000AD comics are very gonzo, 'punk' infused, action based storylines and this remains an enduring appeal to many - although curiously, it's never fully transported it's fanbase into America where DC and Marvel comics were entirely dominant, truth be told. Much of the art within is drawn from the comics, which adds a degree of style - yet in other ways the layout, font and general interior design could have been better. Having owned the previous versions of the game, they generally seemed less cluttered and easier to read (the font size) than this current edition.

This edition has maximised it's utility by being a springboard core rules book, primarily for Judge Dredd's Mega City One setting (as the most popular), but detailing a potential expansion through all the various strips in the comics. This is a welcome expansion, along with having built in rules for playing Judges, Perps (criminals) or Citizens - which means it's pretty much a cyberpunk-ish type of game from the core. This is a pretty familar game premise of course, but it wouldn't take too much to create some crossover with other settings as they build on the line.

It's WOIN system that powers it is only so-so, however. The core mechanic is familar to anyone who knows D6-based dice-pools, which may seem promising as an easy, fast and loose system akin to WEG's old Ghostbusters or Star Wars games. Yet, there are lots more rules stipulations and character generation in particular is a lot more involved. I didn't get the sense that the rules were especially adapted for the setting or, indeed, had any particular innovation of note. What they seemed like, honestly, was a set of homebrewed house-rules that had managed to see print and the game was essentially adapted to it's format rather than the other way round. In short, they aren't anything special.

As such, it is an OK game, but if you're already playing a gonzo action game using Savage Worlds, Fate or whathaveyou, and you aren't buying the game just for the 2000AD setting, I'm not sure there is that much that will persuade you to change your mind.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Judge Dredd & The Worlds of 2000 AD RPG Core Rulebook
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Savage Worlds Adventure Edition
Publisher: Pinnacle Entertainment
by Rory H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/22/2018 17:19:40

Most certainly, one for the fans.

I'm a more casual player of Savage Worlds, and to me it's mostly more of the same - but then I'm not as experienced as others with the nuances of the game and the changes made. It's certainly a colourful and enthusiastic game to follow.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Savage Worlds Adventure Edition
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Traveller Companion
Publisher: Mongoose
by Rory H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/22/2018 17:17:17

It's really a hodge-podge of collected ideas and developments - possibly the first of a series.

That said, there will be some players and referees that find the alternative character generation methods (points buy, background/career packages included) and a full experience system to be a godsend. It's the sort of thing that they have clamouring for.

In all, there will definitely be something in here for everyone to like.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Traveller Companion
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The Monsters: A Vampire: the Masquerade 5th Edition Quickstart
Publisher: Modiphius
by Rory H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/26/2018 03:50:10

The Monsters provides a pretty good overview of all the mechanics in the new Vampire 5th edition in an easy to read and levied way. The story itself is a classic noir tale, solving a murder mystery through investigation, but with a good variety of action and drama along the way. As a free introduction, it actually holds a fair amount of story which should provide several sessions of play, and includes the requisite number of pregens.

With regards to the system changes, I have to say this is a much more streamlined and superior system than in previous editions. I like the Hunger mechanic that seems to cause much chagrin for other critics, largely because it seamlessly brings the vampiric condition to the general play of the game in a much more integrated way than before. Frankly, it was a fundamental aspect of the game often forgetten by some groups, who were just happy to play 'superheroes with fangs' well within their comfort zones. The other mechanics manage to incorporate diceless play and a number of other simple but effective ideas into an elegant and very playable whole. As such, the fifth edition of the game remains a faithful throwback to the earlier editions (1st and 2nd) without the baggage of nearly 30 years of supplementary development.

Regardless of how some established fans may react to change, this is a very good and well thought out product that serves to show new players what the game of Vampire: The Masquerade is all about. And it's totally free, so judge for yourselves!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Monsters: A Vampire: the Masquerade 5th Edition Quickstart
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Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay Fourth Edition Rulebook
Publisher: Cubicle 7 Entertainment Ltd.
by Rory H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 08/26/2018 19:42:50

As with other Cubicle 7 products, the layout and general presentation are top notch and it's pretty well written and easy to follow. The rules are very much based on WFRP 1st edition, rather than 3rd or 2nd. We all expected that the experimental 3rd edition rules to be thrown out, but some fans of 2nd edition will note that there are more rules stipulations and a few changes from what they might expect. That said, character generation was fun when we tried it, and the rules have a gritty flavour which is key to the setting. The real value of the new game is likely to become more apparent in the supplements and campaigns to follow (especially The Enemy Within redux). It's a professional product, but it still needs a bit more to bring it alive.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay Fourth Edition Rulebook
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Wraith: The Oblivion 20th Anniversary Edition
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by Rory H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 08/10/2018 03:42:14

FINALLY……being the operative word after three years of waiting after the original estimated Kickstarter delivery date. It should be noted that this is the last of the big 20th Anniversary (now called 4th edition) World of Darkness rulebooks, although most of the lines will continue with supplements for a while. Wraith was actually meant to be the fourth in the series, but was so delayed that Changeling overtook it. It's actually closer to it's 25th Anniversary now. That said, it makes a fitting finale to the WoD series, being themed around death and all. It should also be noted that the original game was a very slow burner, with initial reviews being unfavourable before critical appreciation slowly accrued some years later.

The major appeal of Wraith, in my view, is twofold. Firstly, it appeals to those critics of Vampire who don't like the awkward immorality of drinking blood from victims, but still want to experience some of the dark artfulness you get from WoD games. Wraith offers just as much mood and atmosphere, but deals with a more universal theme of existentialism. Characters aren't necessarily moral by default, but they aren't antiheroes either, and good tales can be built around regretful ghosts trying to atone for their failings in life. The society of ghosts, when implementing Guilds, the Heirarchy, Heretics and Renegades can build for decent political campaigns also, but can otherwise be ignored. The same is true for the various monsters found in the dark depths of the Shadowlands (Spectres etc). There is a lot of emotional depth in Wraith, and plenty for characters to do, and players can pick up on it well with decent preparation.

The second appeal is to do with the design, not so much of the general engine (which is so-so, but pretty much the same as other WoD games), but more with the innovation of 'Shadow-play'. This being where players are given the dark alter-ego of somebody else's character to play, with the goal of tempting the regular character towards self destruction and the eponymous Oblivion. Again, I see this as an optional feature rather than a compulsary mode of play, as it does make the game more complex. Nevertheless, it's a feature that definitely does create a sense of 'personal horror' much more than any other WoD game, and was a critical success.

Indeed, it's a pet theory of mine that the Shadow is actually a hold-over idea from Mage: The Ascension, which didn't make the cut as the Mage game was complex enough as it was. In Mage, I could see the Avatars being played exactly in this way, either trying to guide the character up towards a personal Ascension or as a kind of Faustian pact with a personal daemon. It's an idea that could still be lifted, and used to steer Mage away from it's tendency towards superhero roleplaying should you wish.

How is the new edition? It's extraordinarily stylish to look at, with the artwork being as good as any of the previous books. It's also very complete - including rules to play The Risen (á la The Crow) or Orpheus (á la Flatliners), and indeed any narrative in all sorts of ghost stories from literature, movies etc. It's very passionately written and was clearly a labour of love. Ideally, it possibly wouldn't have so many conventional stats - particularly physical stats like Strength, Stamina, etc (like….why?). There is a possibly overwhelming level of detail and ideas, particularly in this 20th Anniversary edition. However it's not necessary to include everything from the book in a scenario or campaign. It's more a case of using the book as a springboard for your own stories. It's terrific all the same though - I can't wait to have it make up my set of 20th Anniversary games.

Wraith's traditional role as the weakest commercial WoD game, and evidently the most difficult for the creators to complete, means this could potentially be the last edition. Make sure you give it your dues before it passes on….



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Wraith: The Oblivion 20th Anniversary Edition
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