Product– Shadowrun Sixth World Beginner Box Set
System-Shadowrun 6th Edition
TL; DR-Strong start to the six edition. 95%%
Basics-What’s old is new again! Shadowrun celebrates its 30th anniversary with its 6th edition. Let’s dive deep into the new edition and see if its wizzer or hot drek.
base mechanics-attribute + skill, roll that many six sided dice, count 5s and 6s for good, over half 1s is bad. Same dice pool mechanics you know and love and most likely won’t ever change under the current Shadowrun development team.
So What changed?
Edge– Edge is one of the two MASSIVE differences in 6th Ed. In 5th Edition, you rerolled dice or rolled extra dice at the start of a pool. Now, edge is more an ala cart menu where a character choices to reroll extra dice, add successes, or even change the critical glitch range of an opponent. You can only choose one option each round, but now edge begins to flow a lot more. Gear, items, and even differences in ability between you and your opponent will earn you up to two edge an ACTION. That means some people with impressive defences being fired at by multiple opponents will earn edge each attack, not each round! So edge is gonna flow quickly.
Combat-Combat keeps the spirit of the previous edition but massive changes to how actions work and the nature of killing each other. For actions, there are two types of actions: minor and major. Minor are smaller actions like moving while major are your spellcasting and attacking. This ties into initiative. Initiative is still reaction and initiative plus a d6. A character gets two minor action to start and one more minor action for each d6 beyond the first. This ties into multiple attacks. Four minor actions can be converted to one major action meaning if you have 3d6 or more dice for initiative, you can make two attacks a round.
In addition, initiative isn’t rerolled nor do we ever remove counts as we go through a round of initiative. Initiative is just rolled once, play moves from high to low, and goes back to the high. Just like most other RPGs.
Killing People– The bread and butter of Shadowrun is shooting people, and this is still strong in 6th Ed. When you want to kill somebody, you now compare the attackers attack value (determined by the range of the weapon) vs. the defence value of the target’s armor. If someone has an advantage of four or more in this comparison, that character earns one edge. In addition, both people may earn edge based on situational modifiers such as darkness and abilities. The target of the attack rolls a number of d6s equal to the reaction and intuition while the attacker rolls a number of d6s equal to their agility and firearm skill with both sides counting fives and sixes as successes. The side with more wins with ties now going to the attacker. If the attacker wins, the difference in hits is added to the attackers weapon damage. A massive change is now the defender only rolls a number of dice equal to its body attribute with the five and sixes reducing damage as in 5th edition. Since the defender doesn’t have many dice to reduce the damage, weapon damage is also reduced as well.
Magic– Magic is also revamped. When you cast a magic spell, you no longer choose a threshold as thresholds are no longer part of the game. You roll a number of d6s equal to your magic and spellcasting attribute. Each spell has a number of success needed to cast the spell and expressly indicates how a target avoids the damage. It’s clearly written and I not
Skills-Skills are massively reduced with multiple skills being rolled into one skill
Ok, now let’s look at my thoughts.
Mechanics or Crunch-The crux of the game is the d6 rolling system, and that doesn’t change. I love the reduced skills and faster flow of the game. The flow of edge is fun as it provides more player control over the game and less like subjective story candy. The nature of magic and matrix actions also works well. The one thing I’m kind of iffy on is the nature of armor. Armor and weapons having a separate state is ok, but I don’t like that armor is divorced from reducing damage. That feels off. But otherwise, the nature of quick play becomes central to the gunfight nature of the game. I’m optimistic about the nature of the full game’s mechanics. 4.75/5
Theme or Fluff-It’s Shadowrun. You like corporate dystopia and Tolken fantasy, you’re going to like what 6th edition still is. This is more awesome future fantasy in Shadowrun 6th edition. 5/5
Execution-The box set is well put together. I like the layout of the books. The character sheets teach the game well to new players. The biggest issue I have with the quick start rules is I would like a few more pages of explanation to some of the materials. I discussed the materials with a few other Shadowrun GMs and those discussions really helped me solidify the rules. Most people will not have that luxury. The full rules will clear up those issues, but for now, a few more pages would help tie the material together. In addition the art looks amazing, so that gets me ready for a whole new attitude to play. If you want to see a full breakdown of the product check out my unboxing here:https://youtu.be/ruxgYe5usLw 4.5/5
Summary-I’m looking forward to this edition. The changes look good and thought out, for the most part. I think it’s gonna take me a few games to come around on the armor thing. It’s not bad, but it is different. Good different? We’ll see. The rest looks like well done, modern game design streamlining the process and avoiding the random crap that really don’t make a game fun. The physical product is amazing as well. Solid cardboard and writing help get me into this one. I just need more of it to really make my life as a gamer easier. That said, I’m in. I’m invested in the 6th edition of Shadowrun. 95%
TWO reviews in one! First The Duke, then Jarl!
Product– The Duke
Producer-Catalyst Game Labs
Set-up/Play/Clean-up– 30-45 minutes (2 players)
TL; DR-Chess, now with a touch of random. 94%
Basics- Two meet on the battlefield, but only one can rule! The Duke is a miniature war between two dukes. The main goal of the game is to capture the enemy’s duke. If this sounds like Chess, then you’re on the right track. Two new mechanics separate this from Chess: 1) random piece draw and 2) variable piece movement. On a turn, you can do one of two things: draw a new piece or move/activate a piece. The pieces themselves have a miniature board on them indicating how they move, what squares they move to, and any special powers in each square. Some actions are moving across spaces, some are hopping over spaces, some moves are not moves as they just attack spaces at a distance. What is interesting is after a player does use a tile, that tile flips to another side, thus providing two different tactics for each piece. The other option is to spawn new pieces. Each player has a bag of tiles, and when they spawn a piece, the player randomly draws a new tile and places it adjacent to his/her duke. Play goes back and forth between the players as they capture tiles, move across the the board, and try to outwit one another to capture the opponent’s duke. Last duke standing is the winner.
Mechanics-I’m not a Chess player. Sure, it’s fun, but it’s never been my go to game. The Duke, though, is fresh enough to draw me in. The constant flipping tiles and random tile draw makes this an innovative game as pieces can change from a knight/bishop hybrid to some new version of a jumping rook. However the best part of this whole thing is the new moves are all balanced, as well as easy to use. No one peice will completely break the game, and no piece will leave you scratching your head as to how to play them. 5/5
Theme-Theme is hard to do in a Chess game. This game has some nice wooden pieces as well as some decent board art. The tiles all do actions that their names would imply. Overall, its a well done version of a war between two flat kingdoms. 4/5
Instructions-The rules to this game are a bit long. The Duke has a lot of ground to cover, but does it well. I’d like them to trim down the rules a bit, but they do have some excellent game aids to get you playing quickly. Those extra cardboard sheets will be the thing you most often reference as you plan out your attack. I’d rather have less than more, but sometimes more is not exactly more. 4.75/5
Execution-Chess is a classic game, but this not only improves on that, it adds new game modes. You can fight a dragon, you can add new terrain to the map to challenge both players, and the game is expandable by adding heroes from classic literature. I love what comes in this box. See all the parts in our unboxing here! http://youtu.be/QvLnLKnO360 5/5
Summary– I’m not a Chess player, nor is my wife, but we both liked this game. The simple nature of each tile really makes this game approachable. The random nature of the tiles also means that veteran players will have to adjust strategies on the fly, while new players won’t instantly be squashed. It’s got great components. I’d like to place the rules on a diet, and possibly give it a tad more theme, but overall, this is a game I can play. The true test is that this is a two player, head-to-head game and my wife will ask to bring this one to the table. That right there tell you that this is an excellently balanced, fun, fast game. 94%
Producer-Catalyst Game Labs
Set-up/Play/Clean-up– 30-45 minutes (2 players)
TL; DR-The Duke, now with a touch of Vikings. 93%
Basics- It’s time to go to war! Jarl is a stand alone expansion for The Duke. Just like The Duke, players start with a few pieces on the board, and on a turn can either move a piece which causes the piece to flip at the end of its movement, or randomly draw a new piece and place it on the board. Aside from that simple introduction, this game plays like Chess. Players attempt to maneuver their opponent into a situation where their king or Jarl will be captured. Last man or women standing is the winner
Mechanics-This is chess, but fun. The Duke has awesome, simple mechanics. Instead of remembering how each piece moves, the simple diagrams provide all the explanation a player needs to make smart choices. The flipping of each piece is just amazing as the quick transition is easily pulled off and creates a dynamic play experience. I even love the randomness that comes out of this game. Master players will always have to adapt to new pieces, while novice players won’t get steamrolled like most new chess players might. 5/5
Theme-This game is chess, so there is only so much you can do for theme. I do like the nice touches to the pieces like the lettering and the rune like carving and imperfections on the tiles. those are great additions, but as a standard game, you don’t have much motivation beyond kill the other player. That’s fine as this is alternative chess, not a session of DnD or Shadowrun. 4/5
Instructions– My only significant problem with The Duke was the rules. I felt the rules were a bit too long. Jarl trims down the rules to a few simple pages while still keeping the awesome cheat sheets for moves. That’s what I asked for, and it’s exactly what I got. 5/5
Execution– Here is where I sound like a hypocrite. I love theme in games, but there is a bit here that hurts the game. I can’t read some of the tiles as the runic alphabet is a bit hard to make out. I can still easily play the game, but I can’t read the pieces out loud. Not the worst thing I’ve seen in a game, but it’s a bit of a problem. Also, this game comes with fewer pieces. That’s not horrible, but you don’t get the raw variety of game modes as you do with the Duke. This game doesn’t even come with a mountain tile to make some terrain on the battle field. None of these are game ending or even game changing changes, but it is a slight step back from the awesome parts in The Duke box. See all the pieces here: http://youtu.be/QvLnLKnO360 4.5/5
Summary– Jarl feels like The Duke with Viking Additions. That’s exactly what it should be, so this is a homerun from that standpoint. It does have improvement such as trimmed up rules. It also has some back steps like the smaller tile count. Overall, if you like Vikings more than medieval kings, Jarl is an excellent addition to any two-player gamer collection. 93%
Jarl vs. The Duke!
Let’s say you only have $40 and you step up the the Catalyst booth at GenCon-What are you going to buy? Jarl and The Duke play extremely similarly. Jarl and The Duke both have the exact same mechanic of either activate/move a piece or draw a new piece. And, both do that well. Jarl pieces tend to interact more with shield maidens protecting other pieces and so on. The Duke pieces tend to be much more straightforward, not simpler, actions.
The major difference between the two is execution. Jarl has less in the box but better theme. The Duke comes with more pieces, options to make your own pieces, and even a dragon expansion in the box. Jarl has more theme as the pieces are runes carved from almost bone and a runic alphabet.
So, you have your 40 bucks, what do you buy? Well, I’m more of a fantasy guy, so I vote The Duke. I do like a bit more complexity in my games, but The Duke give me extra pieces, and more game options. But, it’s a tough choice. If you can’t get The Duke, and a copy of Jarl is nearby, that is an excellent alternative.