Blurbs from the Booth-Top Ten RPGs of 2014

Just like last week (, I feel it’s time to go over the top ten RPG products I reviewed in 2014.  Same rules apply-I need to see your product AND review it in 2014.  Want your favorite or your product up here?  Get me a copy!


  1. Emergence RPG reviewed here Did you like Guardians of the Galaxy? How about a whole society of humans who emerged on to a planet in the 1980/1990’s with Orcs, Dwarves, and Elves? Only thing I want more of is content for this RPG.


  1. Numenera RPG reviewed here Numenera or The Strange was ending up on this list one way or another. The wife made the call for me as I’ve run both for her, and she wants more Numenera. It’s got quick character building, extremely fast combat, and a very intuitive skill/combat system.


  1. Crawl! Issue #10 reviewed here I love DCCRPG. I run one game a month and one con game a month. I AM STARVED FOR OFFICIAL PLAYER CONTENT!  However, if I can’t get my official fill from Goodman Games, there is always Crawl! ! (That’s intentional Crawl! has an exclamation point.)  This issue was the demi-humans issue.  You want that Halfling rogue?  You got it!  Also, this is the cheapest thing on this list at three bucks!


  1. AMP: Year One reviewed here How about the X-Men? Well, there is no official RPG anymore for the X-Men, but there is AMP: Year One. Mutants super heroes with crazy powers and customization makes a great RPG.



  1. BareBones Fantasy Reviewed here A short simple RPG that plays fast. I love quick systems, and this one is short and to the point. All characters are made quickly and the game plays even quicker.  Also, the books are CHEAP and they look like graphic novels!


  1. Victoriana 3rd Edition reviewed here Why yes I love Shadowrun, Steampunk, and forcing my players to have to choose what happens when they push themselves. Here is a system that does all of that in spades. Also Cubicle Seven proved how classy to me they are by releasing the update to their Lord of the Rings RPG for FREE.  Great content and guys/gals all around.


  1. Run and Gun for Shadowrun 5e reviewed I love me some SR, and options was what any player really wanted in 2014. And options are what we got.  It’s not everything we could hope for, but it was something big!


  1. Darkwood Adventure Arc #1-The Deft and the Deadly reviewed here Pathfinder needs a spot on this list, but this isn’t from Paizo. I really like what these guys are up to. They’re making a brand new world, and this book not only describes a small adventure but is part world guide.  Great bargain for less than 15 bucks!


  1. 13 True Ways Reviewed here 13th Age is one of my favorite RPGs to come out recently, but if Catalyst is somewhat quite, Pelgrane Press is downright mute on new content for its RPG. 13th Age players want options, and this book gave them plenty. From the monk that made me super happy with proper martial arts forms to just tons of new content, I love this book.


  1. Dungeons and Dragons-5th Edition- DM Guide reviewed here, Monster Manual reviewed here, and Player Handbook reviewed here No surprise here. It’s the game I play the most if you follow my twitter.  WotC had one of the cleanest launch products I’ve seen in a while.  It felt classic and new at the same time.  Well done!

Daily Punch 1-15-15 Ball Lightning Cantrip for DnD5e

Had a new player love Shocking Grasp, but hate to have to get close.  How about something similar, but not overpowered?


Ball Lightning

Evocation Cantrip

Casting Time: 1 action

Range: 100 feet

Components: V,S

Duration: Instantaneous

You lob a ball of pure electricity at a target.  Make a ranged spell attack against the target.  On a hit, the target takes 1d6 electric damage and can not take reactions for the next turn.

The spell’s damage increases by 1d6 when you reach 5th level (2d6), 11th level (3d6), and 17th level (4d6)

Daily Punch 1-14-15 Paladin Program for Shadowrun 5e

I’ve been reading a ton of Shadowrun lately and thinking about how to protect your friends as you do matrix overwatch.  Here’s my idea


Paladin (TM)

Practice safe matrix activity, always use Paladin(TM) brand overwatch!

Sometimes you can’t protect all your friends gear at once.  Sometimes your friends get hit, and then they wine later.  With Paladin(tm) running, your friends reduce all hits dealt to their matrix gear by one box if you have those PAMs slaved to your deck or RCC.



Ring Side Report- RPG Review of Shadow, Sword & Spell books


Time for a three part review!  Shadow, Sword & Spell-Basic, Expert, and Threats!


Product– Shadow, Sword & Spell: Basic

System– 12*

Producer– Rogue Games

Price– ~$5.25 here–Spell-Basic

TL; DR– All the stuff I love in an RPG 94%


Basics– How about some good, old fashion pulp fantasy!  Shadow, Sword & Spell is an old school RPG with some new mechanics and a serious side of Conan.  It’s a simple system, but simple in a smart way.  It’s also human focused.  Let’s look at the first book, and possibly the only book, you need to run the system-Basic.


Mechanics or Crunch– This game doesn’t have a ton of moving parts, but let’s look at the different things presented here:

Base Mechanic- This system used a 2d12-based, roll-under system for all tasks.  Basically, for any given task you determine an attribute from your character (like brawn for swinging a sword) and a skill (melee for the sword) and add those two numbers together.  That’s the number you need to roll under on two twelve sided dice.  All tests are resolved this way.  Its quick, it’s easy, and I’ve just taught you the entire system in 30 seconds.

Degrees of Success– From above, you need to roll under a target number.  BUT, what I really like about this system is the degrees of success really matters.  In your standard DnD Game, hitting the orc with a 10 on the d20 really doesn’t change how dead the orc is compared to a rolling a 15.  However, in this game, you count how far under the number you needed to roll.  If your opponent wants to dodge the attack, he/she/it rolls under its quickness and dodge scores, and counts the degrees of success (if any).  The target’s successes are subtracted from your successes, and if you still have hits, you hit the target and that number of net hit is multiplied by the weapon damage of your weapon.  This system uses NO other dice.  Thus, a hard hit is one where you are way below your own target number and they completely flub their defense roll.  It’s interesting, almost as if you run the race against yourself.  I like that a really good roll has a really good result.  This works for everything from sword fights to battles of wits with the king.

Magic-It wouldn’t be fantasy if it didn’t have magic.  And it wouldn’t be pulp if magic didn’t cost you something!  In Shadow, Sword & Spell, all magic will cost you some vitality (hit points), and some will cost you sanity.  Just like before, it’s all roll under your proficiency with a spell, compare your successes to their successes, and do an effect.  Unlike before, that magic system here is cast till you pass out.  You cast a spell, you lose some life.  Keep going, and you might kill yourself!  I love that in a magic system!  The magic is broadly divided into two different categories: common spells and alchemy.  Common spells are the magic you know and love that will rain fire or heal your friend.  Alchemy is your potion brewing, elixirs, and poisons.

Hooks and Story Currency-Lately I’ve been on a kick of giving some narrative control to my players.  I love ideas like hero points and inspiration from the big two.  Most 3rd party RPGs are adding this in as well.  This RPG is no different.  In this game you get hooks.  Hooks are one line descriptors that describe your character.  This can be “I will never let an innocent suffer” to “if it doesn’t pay, I don’t play“.  They don’t need to be noble or even nice, but they do tell the GM what you will do with your character.  When you follow these hooks you get action points.  Action points let your character cheat:  raise your target number for your roll, become proficient in a skill, or whatever you might dream up.  It’s pretty simple, and doesn’t need much explanation, but this does make me happy to see this added to another system.

Vitality-Vitality is your hit points.  What’s interesting about this is that as you lose vitality, you also gain negatives.  I’ve taken a few hits in my day, and as I take a hit, I wear down.  Lose a percentage of your vitality; you gain a -1 to all tests.  Lose more vitality, and you gain more penalties to all your target numbers.  “More than none, ready to run” isn’t realistic, and I appreciate the gradual reduction in your abilities when you get hurt.

Summary- This system is a combination of all the things I like to see in an RPG.  It’s got a combination of dice rolls that provide a more stable average for your rolls.  Its mechanics are simple enough to grasp in five minutes.  It’s got magic that doesn’t require a college degree to understand and explain.  It’s got player narrative control, cast till you pass out, and damage reducing your abilities.  And most importantly, its use of roll under target numbers is a well executed, general mechanics for all its tests.  This last point is the most important.  When I teach RPGs to new players, the vast number of different mechanics at play tends to be the most confusing.  Here, I can just say, “Roll under those numbers, and tell me how much lower you were.”  And it’s done!  That right there is the best part of this whole system.  The only thing I would like this game to talk about more is how to build fights fairly.  The book doesn’t go too in-depth on how to make a combat.  It discusses running a combat, but not how to set one up.  4.8/5


Theme or Fluff- For a third party pulp book, this book actually has a really well done amount of fluff!  I honestly wouldn’t have expected a whole world to play in to come from this book. The book has a lot of ground to cover from teaching the system, to giving all the math a GM will need to run this effectively, but the book actually invents its own world that you can use right out of the box.  Yes, the world is pretty much what you’d expect from Conan and Lovecraft fan boys.  But, I’m a Conan/Lovecraft fan boy, so I’m on board.  I did feel like there should have been some kind of divine magic as the arcane and the alchemical are good, but don’t explain some of the cult magic you’d read about in the old school pulp.  4.75/5


Execution-This is a really well done third-party product.  It’s not perfect.  I’d like a bit more guidance on how to set up fights for my players, and I’d like the art a bit more focused.  However, there is a decent amount of art for a small company.  It really breaks up the text well.  I never felt bored reading this book.  And the book even comes with an adventure.  For the price, this is well worth it for a complete system.  Also fun, the system books kind of look like pulp books.  They’re short books with some simpler covers.  That simplicity isn’t much but it really does tie things together. 4.5/5


Summary– This is a well done system.  The math behind everything from after dinner quips with the queen to killing all her guards is simple.  I like the race with myself mechanics.  The books are executed fairly well also.  It has LOTS of white space.  Look, I tend to get some flak for that.  I’m supposed to like reading RPGs if I LIKE RPGS.  But, I like when a book doesn’t make itself a chore to read.  And the sleeper hit of this whole package is the word that is discussed here.  If you want your own pulp world, the book helps you with that, but if you want an out of the box setting ready to roll, here you go!  All said and done, I’m really impressed with this game. 94%


How about some more Shadow, Sword & Spell?


Product– Shadow, Sword & Spell: Expert

System– 12*

Producer– Rogue Games

Price– ~$5.25 here–Spell-Expert

TL; DR– A textbook splat book example! 97%


Basics– How about some more Shadow, Sword & Spell?  Now ON EXPERT MODE!  Expert is the truest definition of a splat book.  It’s just more of the stuff you want for your S, S&S game.  Expert adds rules for everything from managing a kingdom to making new monsters.  Expert also adds to the world and expands on the places you can conquer, explore, and control.


Mechanics or Crunch– This book is crunch-tastic.  Honestly most of the book is new subsystems to add to your game.  These are not mandatory subsystems, but they are ones your GM would have to custom build on the fly if, say, you wanted to tax your fiefdom and raise an army to go conquer your neighbors.  Now, these are all the d12 mechanics we know and love from Basic, but now you have a set in stone from the designer’s rules for how to do it.  Also, rules for monster generation are really useful. 5/5


Theme or Fluff- Expert is larger than Basic, and Basic has to explain how to play the game!  That said Expert explains the rest of the world and has maps.  I loved how Basic had a world to play in.  And now I love that Expert makes the world truly a world.  It even expands on all the fiddly bits of the world.  It’s not down to the level of favorite fish of a region to eat, but it’s done well enough and taken from the pulp sources that you could find that information.  For a book on adding subsystems to a game, there is a ton of new story to add to your games.  5/5


Execution– Expert is done extremely well, but it could use a bit more.  I’d like a few more examples with some example characters and groups to help me understand the subsystems it adds a bit more.  What’s here is good, but it needs a few read-through’s to get its point across.  Also, I am happy to see art and white space to break up texts, but as with basic, I would like a little more consistency in the art.  While in its execution Expert stumbles, Expert falls from perfection to extremely well done.  4.5/5


Summary– I really like this book.  Now just like the authors of Basic said, you don’t need this book.  But, you most likely will want this book.  No pulp game could be complete without a battlefield and a fiefdom to command!  Now you get nitty-gritty rules for that!  I’d like a few more examples and some more art, but overall, this is what a splat book should be.  97%


And more Shadow, Sword & Spell, but this time it’s the monster manual!


Product– Shadow, Sword & Spell: Threats

System– 12*

Producer– Rogue Games

Price– ~$5.25 here–Spell-Threats

TL; DR– A well done monster manual 93%


Basics– Every good game needs a monster manual.  Sure, Basic had a small one, but here are a ton of different threats (see what I did there!) to throw at your players.


Mechanics or Crunch– It’s a bunch of monsters that all follow the rules set forth in Expert.  The abilities are all defined well and you will know how to make them.  I would kind of like a repeat of the rules from Expert on how to build a monster, but honestly that book’s cheap, so go buy that one! 4.75/5


Theme or Fluff- I like the monsters here.  They all feel pulpy, but they don’t get too much write up.  A common set up is one page for a picture and one page for stats and description.  Descriptions get the short side of that stick.  The description does give you something to work with, but I would have liked a bit more.  However, the book does describe a few new villainous organizations for you to throw at your players, so Threats does build on the story of the campaign setting. 4.5/5


Execution– Threats does have some problems, but overall it’s well done.  There are a few typos and other minor problems.  Also, just like Basic, no real advice is given for how to build a fight.  But that is par for any pulp fantasy RPG course.  Even with those minor complaints, I am really happy with one thing:  EVERY MONSTER GETS A PICTURE!  I hate having to describe each monster and then point at a general monster of that type.  The pictures are not perfect, but at the very least they’re in there!  4.75/5


Summary– Every good system needs a monster book.  And this is just a well done monster book.  My problems with this one are minor.  I’d like game specific art for each thing, but some are is better than no art.  Also, while other monster manuals teach you to build the monsters, Threats expect you to look at Expert to know those rules.  Those are not bad, but just know that going into this one.  Overall though, what’s here is well done and well worth your five bucks. 93%

Ring Side Report-Board Game Review Hawaii


Product– Hawaii

Producer– Rio Grande Games

Price– $150! at Amazon-Good Luck anywhere else! or FREE at Board Game Arena!

Set-up/Play/Clean-up– 90-120 minutes (2 to 5 players)

TL; DR– In depth strategy from a simple game. 85%


Basics-Are you ready to become the big Kahuna?  In Hawaii, players battle to see who will be the next best chief.  Hawaii is a game with several different sides to it.  The main goal is most points.  There are a few ways to go about that though.  Each player has several different villages that they can grow to score points at the end of the game.  To get points for each village, it has to be long enough to reach the tiki for that column it reaches and have a Kahuna at its start on the beach.  For now, just think you have to have a start point marker as well as a distance marker for the villages.  To get village tiles, the players take turns gathering people, places, gods, and resource tiles from the main island.  This main island has several different buying tiles that are separated randomly into three rows.  Each turn during set up, you randomly select different cost tokens for each tile.  The last buying space on each tile will show the maximum total cost to all these tokens.  If you ever draw a token that would put the total cost over the maximum cost, then that token is flipped upside down and placed in the fishing lagoon as all tokens have a cost side and a fishing side.  Cost tokens are also placed on all the order selection spaces besides the first one.   This game has a two sided economy for these tiles.  You have to play to move to a place with feet and pay to buy things at a tile with shells.  To move to a tile, it costs feet.  To stay on a tile, costs feet.  To go back to the beach is free.  Players then go in turn order moving to the tiles and buying what’s there by moving onto one of the cost tiles and placing that location in one of their villages on their own player board.  Therefore, cost tokens limit what can be bought each turn.   Further complicating things when you buy a tile, you can decide to pay double the cost of the cost token you moved to.  If you do this, you buy the more amazing side of the tile for the location.  The more amazing sides reduce costs, give your extra points, give you extra money, and in general are better.  At the beach players can use boats (something that you can buy from a tile) to go to the islands.  These islands give you point as well as locations and money to spend.  Also at the beach players can use boats to get the fish tiles that were placed in the lagoon earlier.  And finally, players can move on to the turn order track to determine next turns order.  While this seems pretty simple, what compounds this is the spending requirements for each round.  Each round a token indicates how much players have to spend to get more points.  Whoever spends the most gets more points, second most gets slightly less, and then anyone who at least spends the minimum gets a point amount too.  However only the token and fish tokens you have count for this spending requirements!  Thus if you spend double to get the better version of a tile, it only counts for the original amount.  This massively increases the strategy of the game as buying the most expensive thing might backfire in a large way, and deals are an even more amazing values you have to really look for.  After all players are on the turn track, the round ends, players get points if they spend enough, the turn spending token indicates how much money everyone gets for the next round, and new spending tokens are placed on all the different buying locations.  At the end of the fifth round, players count up points from their villages, and the player with the most is the big Kahuna and next chieftain of the tribe!


Mechanics– When I played this the first time I hated it.  I constantly got mixed up in the rules, didn’t understand the general mechanics, and overall was a mess.  However after really dissecting this one, it’s amazing.  The two different resources are an amazing way to make the game stand out.  Feet and shells are not tradable.  There is no exchange rate between movement and money, and this makes you have to really decide what parts of your villages you need and must built to win.  And built you must.  Your village not only gets you end game points, but it also gets you more resources each round.  This game forces you to think on about three fronts as well and have to second guess all your opponents to make sure they don’t move to the spot you need next.  It’s not perfect as a runaway victor can easily destroy everybody else, but that’s a problem of the other players not seeing the strategies and values that are available.  A well versed gamer will decimate a new players, but this game despite having some randomness, is a hard Eurogame. It’s not perfect, but it is some great, thinky fun.  4.5/5


Theme- There is a lot of different Hawaian things here, but not everything feels like it belongs.  Surfers reduce the amount have to spend each round to get points by 2 or 4 shells.  I don’t know why.  Some huts get you extra feet.  Also why?  What is in this game does feel like something that would come from a tribal island group.  They tokens and board all do feel like Hawaian stereotypes.  That’s pretty fun.  However, I’m not sure why I have feet and shells.  Is my chief like Homer Simpson and after too much work, he’s tired for the day?  It’s not a perfect fit, but some aspects do feel like they fit. 3.5/5


Instructions– Rio Grande Games does a good job explaining their games.  This game has not one, but two rule books!  One book gives the basic rules, and the second explains all the pieces in depth.  I like that.  The game has some sticking points, but honestly, by rereading a few times, you can easily figure out what’s going on. 4.5/5


Execution– The pieces are not bad.  It’s well done cardboard with some good wooden tokens.  The box is pretty decent, and the components hold up to some wear and tear.  It’s not perfect as it’s a bit small, and you have to shuffle some hard cardboard pieces, but overall it’s reasonably well done.  4.5/5


Summary– Time for a personal story.  My mother player this game online-once.  The next time I come home, she had BOUGHT a physical copy of the game!  She paid the over $70 for this game and loves everything about it.  Now, we make a point to play this game when I get home.  It’s honestly a fun game that has some amazing depth.  It’s not perfect as some aspects don’t quite make sense or are not executed as well as may be needed.  However, if you see this game online or at the GenCon Game library, pick this one up.  When you know what you’re doing, it’s a fast paced game with lots of levels to it that will have you thinking on your feet the entire game.  85%

Daily Punch 1-12-15 Air Rifle for Shadowrun 5e

I got a present for Christmas.  No it wasn’t from Red Rider, but it was an air rifle.  Funny thing about air rifles, the Austrians used to use them to fight the Nazies.  Maybe it’s not that bad a weapon.  Here are my stats for it.


Air Rifle 5 2S or 5P 1 SS 1 BB 2 100 Y

An air rifle is not a weapon that will take down your average dragon.  However, if you aim right and know what you’re doing, you can do some serious damage.  When you make an attack with an air rifle, if you were hidden when you made the attack you are still hidden.  The weapon normally does 2S damage.  However, if your target glitches his or her dodge roll or is unaware of the attack, the damage of the weapon is 5p.