RPG Reviews Roundup, September 2012

One of the good things about Dungeons & Dragons next-generation inspired publishing hiatus is that it gives other games a chance to shine. While I doubt gamers are suddenly diverting all of their D&D 4th Edition buying power toward other games, I do hope (and anecdotally this seems to be the case) that it gives folks a chance to try something new.

One of those new thing’s that’s generated a fair amount of buzz has been Margaret Weis Production’s Marvel Heroic Role-Playing, which is a Cortex-infused take on the superhero genere. I bought the core rulebook early in the summer and paged through it. Based on that initial glance, I liked what I saw, particularly with how it handled the superhero tropes of particularly solo vs. duo vs. team match-ups, but I give it a more through read-through.

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An assortment of aliens in the foreground; U-shaped spacecraft in the background.

The Unknown Regions

The Unknown Regions is the final sourcebook for Wizards of the Coast’s Star Wars: Saga Edition Role-Playing Game. The book serves as a placeholder for all the books left unpublished, and promises to carry players to the unexplored corners of the Star Wars galaxy. It does this by venturing into The Unknown Regions to explore what fans know — the Chiss, the Rakata and the Sorcerers of Rhand — and plenty that they don’t.

The Unknown Regions details eight worlds created just for the book, introduces a planet generator that game masters can use to make their own, and debuts creature generation rules to populate them. Since Scouts are essential to exploring these brave new worlds, they get a variety of feats and talents, and because no final frontier should be without its dangerous challenges, the book re-envisions “Hazards” as Dungeons & Dragons Fourth Edition-style threats that require a combination of brawn and skill to defeat. The end result is a toolkit that gives players everything they need to continue their adventures beyond the last book in the Star Wars Saga Editions line.

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Galaxy of Intrigue

Skill challenges were the best thing to emerge from our Dungeons Dragons 4th Edition mini-campaign, and when we started playing Star Wars: Saga Edition, we pieced together our own version of the rules. We based them on 4E’s examples, the skill DCs established in Scum and Villainy, and personal experience. The end result created some of the most memorable moments in our campaign, including the heroes’ disastrous attempt to escape a proto-star nebula.

Galaxy of Intrigue formalizes these ad hoc rules by creating a Skill Challenge system for Saga Edition that improves the 4E iteration in every way. The source book introduces new feat and talent options for skillful characters, nine new species (including the Bith, Defel and Neimodian), an entire world dedicated to intrigue, eight mini-adventures, and the “The Perfect Storm” campaign.

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Black and blue cubes -- representing viruses -- are stacked on a map-like game board depicting various cities. A white pawn represents the player character fighting the viruses.

Pandemic

Pandemic is Z-Man Games’ globe-spanning game of viral infection in which 2-4 players travel from city to city trying to prevent local outbreaks from turning into full-blown pandemics.

The game is played on a map of the Earth, with major cities connected by highways and flight paths. At the start of the game, color-coded cards keyed to the cities are drawn from the Infection Deck, indicating which metropolises have seen virus outbreaks. There are four viruses in all; the goal of the game is to cure the viruses before the planet succumbs to rampant disease.

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A masked villain holds a large gun.

Necessary Evil: Explorer’s Edition

 Explorer's EditionAliens. We always knew they were out there, ready to invade our planet, enslave the population and strip mine its resources. But we also knew that if they should try it, Earth’s greatest superheroes would rise up and save us.

We were wrong.

When the V’Sori came they slaughtered our super-powered defenders just as easily as they did our armies. Now our cities are conquered, our people are terrorized, and the job of saving the world has fallen to the most unlikely of people: Earth’s super villains.

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Munchkin Level Counter

At its heart, Steve Jackson’s Munchkin is a simple game. Players assume the role of adventurers hacking, slashing, and looting their way through a dungeon, fighting monsters (and often each other) on a quest to reach level 10.

These power-hungry munchkins can play all manner of cards to help them, including weapons, armor and other magic items, as well as special species and class cards. It’s simple … but often devilishly hard to track. The Munchkin Level Counter app ($4.99, Steve Jackson Games) adds to the complexity, but also brings some new tools for managing it.

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Get lost in a new reality with the Inner Sea World Guide

The Inner Sea World Guide is Paizo’s third iteration of its Golarion campaign guide. The first was released when D&D 3.5 was still Wizard of the Coast’s flagship fantasy game; the second came with the release of Paizo’s own 3.5-derived Pathfinder RPG. The latest iteration reflects the growing maturity of the Pathfinder product line. Within its pages players will find that redundant material – such as class write-ups now included in the Pathfinder core rulebook – removed in favor of extended write-ups on the world itself.

And what a world it is. While evoking spirit of World of Greyhawk, Golarion excels at tweaking standard fantasy formula. Within its pages – including 64 pages of new content – you’ll find Cheliax, a kingdom that embraced devil worship in order to save its empire, as well as Galt, a country that threw off its imperial Cheliax masters and descended into a never-ending bloodthirsty revolution. There are the mountaintop citadels constructed after the dwarves completed their quest for the sky, and a frozen kingdom ruled by the daughters of Baba Yaga. It’s a setting that feels familiar and new at the same time, and like Pathfinder itself, it’s a worthy successor to the worlds of Dungeons & Dragons.

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Lose your sanity (and time) with The Wasted Land

 The Wasted LandRed Wasp Designs’ The Wasted Land takes Call of Cthulhu to the iPad and iPhone, transforming RPG horror into a turn-based squad game that seeks to prevent a German mythos cult from unleashing an army of undead during World War I.

The game unfolds in the No Man’s Land between the Allied and German fronts during The Great War. A team of British soldiers, led by the mystic scholar Brightmeer discover that someone is re-animating the dead. It’s a classic Call of Cthulhu storyline, ripped form the pages of H.P. Lovecraft’s own “Herbert West: Reanimator”, with classic CoC rules.

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Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom

Cover: Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom

Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom is an action-adventure game set in a new fantasy setting. Typical of the genre, you’ll also solve various types of puzzles as you explore and defeat enemies.

Released about a month before Christmas, this game was quickly lost in the plethora of new games at that time. I never let it leave my radar, and eventually found some time to check out the game. It turned out to be a little different than I was expecting.

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