Product– Lover in the Ice
System– Delta Green
Producer– Arc Dream Publishing
TL; DR– Good adventure, Hard NC-17 rating! 85%
Basics-Some things are best left unremembered. In “Lover in the Ice”, a snow storm opens up a Delta Green storage facility, and “something” gets out. Can you stop whatever got out from loving its way across Missouri in a blizzard?
Theme or Fluff-The story of “Lover in the Ice” is a solid one. Players race around a medium sized town in the middle of a blizzard of the century. It’s got some great scenes that feel real and a lot of little extra fill out the world details. What I miss from most of Arc Dream’s work is intro paragraphs of box text. These set the scene for the players and really the GM to get you in the right headspace for each location. I’m long enough in the tooth that I can cobble one together from the description, but this is something that needs to be part of each place you visit! Players do a breach, bang, and clear for several houses and locations, and a quick section detailing what each room looks like will really help my players and me. It doesn’t make the story any less fun, but it does make me have to do more work. What here though is fun, but HOLY COW it’s hard R. KNOW THIS GOING IN! If your group is ok with that, then have at this one! 4.5 /5
Mechanics or Crunch-Overall, I like what’s here, but I think some things need to be filled out a bit more. There is a monster that can do some very horrible things to the players. I’d like a bit more words on how the attack is done. I have an idea of how it works, but I’d like either a few extra checks or two phase method of attack to make it happen. Otherwise the attack looks like its a one and done prospect. That’s a bit rough. Also Delta Green likes to just give the players information saying if you have HUMINT 30% you know X. I prefer to make the players roll. This is at odds with the ideas Arc Dream has of not making trivial things rolls, but it’s more in line with player expectations. Players like touching dice and even if I say “you know X because of your HUMINT 30%” It feels less fun to the guy/gal holding the dice. Overall, this is much more of a social/explore mission than a straight up fire fight. Don’t expect Fallujah level fights here! This is a contain the problem mission. The mechanics work well, but I had a few issues that I changed on the fly because its my game and I can. I think you will do the same, but I think these changes should be a standard part of the scenario. 4.25 /5
Execution-I like the basic setup of this mission. Now, let’s get petty! “Lover in the Ice” has a decent layout, but for the price, I kinda want a cover page, more art, and hyperlinks. Its a PDF, but not hyperlinked, so I get slightly annoyed. It’s pretty short, so this is a good one shot. But, I’d like a bit more production value. The monster gets a hand drawn picture, but never a nice, graphic picture I can throw to my players. The handouts I gave to my players are amazing and horrified a few of the players to stop reading! But the adventure puts up a few red herrings along the way. There is a section where players can keep finding random crap. Nothing in the random crap box is useful except one item. That is fun to see all the different things in there and what other things Delta Green might have been up to! I’d also like player maps of places without the marks that a GM has. These unmarked maps are VERY useful as something I can plunk down on the table instead of having to remake maps or just cover up points of interest. I like the general execution of this adventure, but I’d like a few more things to really knock it out of the park. 4.25 /5
Summary-I really love this adventure! It’s got a solid storyline, good execution, and enough action to keep the players involved. It is not without its faults. I’d like a bit more direction or changes to some of the rules, some extra writing, and some minor things added to the product. None of the faults here absolutely breaks the game in any way. Honestly, if your group can stand Hellraiser and wants to try Delta Green, then this is a great intro game. If your group cannot stand theme of body horror and rape, then give this one a hard pass. Just like sushi, it can be done amazing, but if you can’t stand raw fish, pass and be polite. Don’t force anybody to eat the sushi! But if you want to try this one, it’s a great day to save the world from some crazy horrors in the snow! 85%
Ring Side Report- RPG Review of Masks of Nyarlathotep
Originally posted at www.throatpunchgames.com, a new idea everyday!
Product– Masks of Nyarlathotep
System– Call of Cthulhu, 7th Edition
TL; DR– Ya, this is about as good as it’s gonna get! 98.3%
Basics-Where will you find the Dark God? Masks of Nyarlathotep is one of the granddaddy scenarios for Call of Cthulhu occuring in almost every edition of Call of Cthulhu. Starting in Peru as a backstory adventure or in New York when the main action starts, players find a world spanning cult where different groups worship and advance the goals of an ancient evil creature beyond the stars as they travel the globe. Let’s dig into this GIANT tome.
Theme or Fluff-You might not like Call of Cthulhu or Chaosium, but you can never fault them for their research. First the “main” book clocks in over 500 pages. The original edition of Masks was about 150 pages. That was pretty big for something in the 80s, but HOLY COW! This book has some details that you might never thing to check. When was the first plane the flew over the Andes? The book checks! What is the ethnic makeup of the different locations in 1920s? The book checks! This book has lots of small details provided where you need them. The story has been repeated so many times before, but that doesn’t make it bad, because this is the people who told it before. You’re going to stop a bad thing across the world. It feels like Indiana Jones pulp, but then again, it should. Indiana Jones is 1920s. You just have to choose how much Pulp you want in your Mythos Orange Juice. Whatever your desire, this book is an excellent resource for telling a world spanning mythose tale. 5/5
Mechanics or Crunch– I really like the Call of Cthulhu, 7th edition rules. It’s light and clean. I’d like a bit more character advancement beyond your numbers increase, but overall, it works really well. That’s the rules you get for this book. The people who wrote the rules I like wrote a story they know well. So, unsurprisingly, it’s done well. Now, it’s not perfect. I’d like some more advice on some things, but that criticism goes to the heart of Call of Cthulhu, 7th edition. Some things are hand waved a bit too much for my taste like if I keep the ancient evil gold, how much does your credit rating go up? A bit more advice in those aspects would help, but I don’t think it hurts the product too much. This version of Masks is like the advice given by Michelin Star chefs-simple, well produced ingredients prepared expertly make amazing products. 4.75/5
Execution-GAWDDAMN! So, Masks of Nyarlathotep is a beast at the main book clocking in over 500 pages. But for $60 for a PDF, that would put that at an average price point. (By the way, hyperlinked PDF because Chaosium, while they write about the past, is not stuck in it!) But, IT DOES NOT STOP THERE! You get a handout PDF that is expertly crafted so you can hand that out to your players WITH MAPS! You get a file of NPC portraits that you can show off. You get a PDF of a GM screen and a separate Keepers guide. HOLY COW! You took the time and made this thing amazing. Oh ya, new art, maps, and the layout is great too. That’s usually what I whine about, but those basics are covered so well that I barely felt the need to mention it. Like normal, I skimmed the first section before my first game running it and was able to pull of a great game without having to memorize the giant section on Peru. Digging deeper pays off, but its written well enough that you can just jump in the command chair right away and get running. That’s hard to pull off in a FIVE HUNDRED PAGE BOOK! I really want to emphasise that! I’ve had basic DnD scenarios not be able to pull that off in five pages, so kudos to the writers. The price is a bit steep for some new GMs, but if you can pull the trigger, then you will get exactly what you need to run games for at least a year, if not more. This level of production is well worth the price. BONUS ROUND!!! PDFs should be free if you buy the book. That’s my bold stance. Chaosium agrees. If you buy the PDF from them and then go to buy the physical book from them, then you SUBTRACT THE PDF PRICE FROM THE BOOK! The physical price will be over $100 because it’s over 500 pages (AGAIN THAT’S A LOT!), but if you want a book that can break a shelf at your house, consider ordering form them since you get the PDF for free when you get the physical copy. Also, I LOVE this strategy as maybe I only want one and not the other but might change my mind later. LISTEN OTHER COMPANIES, GO DO THIS! 5/5
Summary-Every DnD player explores the Tomb of Horrors. It’s in almost every edition, it get reprinted, and it’s a rite of passage. Sometimes that reuse of material is throw in a separate book and called good as a slapdash money grap when you don’t have anything better on the horizon. Sometimes the product is nurtured, loved, and cared for till it matures like fine wine. That is exactly what happened here. The 7th edition Masks of Nyarlathotep is an phenomenal product that is well worth the considerable money you are putting into the product. I love the writing, the mechanics, and the overall presence of this thing. It’s got some flaws, but those are minor issues that will not distract from the amazing product her. If you have the money and want to play some Call of Cthulhu, then this is your purchase! 98.3%
Set-up/Play/Clean-up– 30 to 45 minutes (3-6 players)
TL; DR-Build a hero! 89%
Basics- Cards! Assemble! Custom heroes is another in the card crafting games lineup from AEG. This game is a trick taking game where one player will play any number of cards of one number, and every player after them will play cards of the same number or higher numbers until no one can play any more cards, and the last player wins the round. Then, the player who went last starts again. An example would be starting with three 4s, and then play continues to 3 10s. You can also skip other players by playing the exact same cards as the previous player, so even if that player has an awesome play, they might not get a chance get it out there! Players continue until they have no more cards in hand earning various rewards. The first player out in a round then earns victor points, power chips, and inserts, while the last player left in a round loses a point, but gains many more chips and inserts.
And here is where the game really takes off! Each insert will give you a new base number, add, subtract, or provide a new power. When the round comes to you, you can insert as many inserts as you want into a card, as long as they don’t cover ones already there, and then play these new custom heroes. The game starts with base cards numbering 1 to 10, but I have seen three 18s played on a turn! Powers have to be activated with power chips, but if you don’t use the power, you gain back a chip. While you modified that heroe, they are part of a common deck, so you might watch as the hero you made one turn is played by a different player a turn later
The game continues until a player has 10 victory points and wins. So you might be over the 10 victory point top, but unless you are the first one out with that many, play keeps going. Three way battles between players with 14 or more victory points make for some tense games!
Mechanics-I have a lot of trick taking games, but the custom nature of this one is really fun. You get a bit more choice in the game. Lots of games like this just screw you on the flop, but now you get the ability to build your own numbers should the ones you are dealt suck. But, what’s really fun is how much this little game will make you think. You really do send your time thinking about the different math combinations you can pull to make your next play. This is a simple game that hides a much deeper one! 5/5
Theme- Here is where this game gets screwed by my love of theme. Hearts is a fun game, but it has absolutely no theme. This game has some good art and the nature of how the inserts customize what the heroes are doing is fun, but there really isn’t a story. It feels like some anime world, but beyond that, there isn’t much here. This game has a fun, but not deep, theme. It tries! There are descriptions of things in the book, but again, this is like asking for a custom, story based, version of poker that doesn’t change the cards in any fundamental way. 3/5
Instructions– Did you see the instructions up above? That’s the rules! The book says it nicer, shows pictures, and reads quick. This game isn’t hard to get into, and the rules make that transition quick. 5/5
Execution-Overall, i really like this game! The art is cool with a nice anime vibe. The inserts are great quality, as they build awesome heroes. The one things I don’t like are the card sleeves. AEG has to walk a hard line here. The card sleeves are the game, so they have to be rough and tumble enough to be used over and over. BUT, they are a bit too tough. They stick to each other way too much! Often when I’m about to hand out the 10th card for the round, I have everybody count to see if I have given them 10 already because the cards are stuck together. It’s not game ending, but it’s a slight annoyance that will drive you a bit mad. You can see our unboxing of the games here: https://youtu.be/3TAXTdlFGWA 4.75/5
Summary-Custom Heroes is just fun. It’s a small box game that teaches quick, plays fast, and isn’t bogged down in being too much. The art is great, the rules read easy, and the inserts are a fun addition to a simple game concept. I’d like to see more of this. I wish there was a story that we could build upon here to make more theme, but this is a simple game that any card player knows what to do next. Overall, it’s a blast that you will want to replay as soon as you finish your last game. 89%
Product– Pathfinder Playtest
System– Pathfinder 2nd Edition
Price– Free! here http://www.paizo.com
TL; DR– Great Crunch, Decent Fluff, Horrible Layout. 89%
Basics-Is this the 4th edition players wanted years ago? Pathfinder Playtest is the newest playtest from Paizo. It is an update to the 3.5 rules Pathfinder that is based on modern design design, Starfinder, 4e DnD, and other systems to make something new the players might want and the old vanguard will love. Let’s check out a few of the key differences.
Basics of the D20 System-Pathfinder Playtest isn’t honestly that far removed from 3.5 DnD. It’s still just d20 + ability modifier + ranks/proficiency/attack bonus + bonuses + penalties. Thats 90+% of the game, and that hasn’t changed. What the big differences are in how the ranks/proficiency/attack bonus is calculated. Level is now used to determine what your bonus/ranks are. During character generation your class, race, and background will tell you what skills you are trained in. That uses your full level for a bonus. As you advance, you can become further trained gaining up to a +3 to your ranks/proficiency. This goes for attacks as you will be trained in some weapons and not others. You take a -2 penalty to anything you are not trained in, be it weapons or skills. Modifiers are also cleaned up with most modifiers being called “conditional modifiers”. Just like the heart of the D20 system, you apply the biggest penalty and the biggest bonus. That’s it! Attacks, spells, and skills all fit nicely in one package to the point that when you attempt an action that requires a skill, the attempt will be against a certain level, and the GM will decide if the activity is hard or easy to check a simple DC chart. VERY SLICK! Defences is also figured out the same way as you can be proficient to various degrees in defending yourself.
Action Economy– The second biggest change in my opinion is the action economy. Characters get three actions per turn. One attack is free, but you can make two more attacks at a -5 and a -10 penalty, so a level one character can swing for the fences by attacking three times! There are no longer any full round actions. Some spells require three actions, while raising a shield uses an action instead of a swift action. Every action has a nice stat block laying out what it does. This feels very 4e DnD, but it feels like it’s more using the better parts of layout and design and avoiding oversimplification of 4e DnD system. Again, this is a great way to get all the over complicated pieces of that grew in Pathfinder into a much more simple system.
Feats or options-Starfinder provided lots of options for characters, so no two characters, even at level one, might be quite the same. The Pathfinder Playtest goes further with that idea. When you build your character you choose a background and then several feats. These feats are for your race and your class. As you advance you choose more feats for race and class, so you custom build your characters as a member of the race and as a member of the class. So, while 3.5 grognards might think of feats as a sometimes thing that provides a bit of differentiation to your character, this modern design really focuses on options. Feat really just replaces the word option in this edition.
Mixed Shenanigans-There as also several other small changes to the game. ITEMS STILL HAVE LEVELS! That always makes me happy as I know exactly when I should give each toy to the players, and quite honestly the best thing brought over from Starfinder. Hero Points are a fun way characters get to control the world by providing rerolls, death saves, and extra actions in combat much like edge or luck in other systems. And, the list goes on, but most of these are smaller changes that you can dig deeper into. These are not major ways Pathfinder changes, but do reward careful digging into the rules to see new options like throwing damage into a shield instead of your face or limiting magic item usage by a new statistic. It won’t keep you from enjoying the game, but all these small things don’t really break the game you might know and love.
Alright, let’s get to my thoughts on the system and book.
Theme or Fluff-Huh, this is a playtest book for a system, why is there fluff to this book? I’m not complaining. Honestly, I’m impressed! It uses the base Golarian world, but does include fluff on the world and its people. It’s not a ton, but it’s enough to get a game going. I like what’s here! What does and will always piss me right off is WHY DOES EVERY NEW EDITION OF A GAME HAVE TO CHANGE NAMES FOR BASIC SPELLS!?! The basic healing spell in Pathfinder was cure BLANK wounds. Now, it’s heal. That’s just confuses players coming from previous editions as heal was a ultra-powerful spell. Nows is level 1 necessity for a cleric. DnD 5e called their basic spell cure wounds, just do the same. Nobody owns those words! Good fluff, but some unnecessary changes. 4.9/5
Mechanics or Crunch– This really isn’t an edition change as it is a rules clean up toward a more modern game design. People called the previous edition of the game Mathfinder, and now I am seeing the term Featfinder thrown around. Those are fair criticisms of the game, but I don’t think those are bad by any stretch. Paizo uses the world feat here to mean option. This game gives you a lot more options! OSR games have one path for each character. More modern design likes options, so Pathfinder 2.0 uses Starfinder ideas to really give you more options per level so you don’t have a bunch of human fighters who are basically carbon copies. The new skill system is good as we lost the overspecialized characters being the only ones who can play in any situation. Characters can still specialize, but if I didn’t spend 10 levels working on diplomacy, I can still talk to people without sounds completely stupid or being absolutely useless when we talk to anybody. I’m just slightly worse having at most an increased 25% chance of failure compared to most other characters by skill alone. This involves more of the party and that is always a good thing! Action economy threw me for a loop. When I first skimmed the rules I missed that you get three actions a round, so actions like readying a shield really caught me off guard. Seeing that you get three actions a turn really makes that a much better option as well as being able to multiattack at first level with increasing penalties reminiscent of full attack in Starfinder. You can see lots of lessons learned from Starfinder in this game. Magic is still magic, but the addition of spells taking more or less actions and all spells being able to be cast at higher levels for better effects really brings in some 5e and other RPG design ideas to Pathfinder. These are great additions to the system as now players can choose to just whip a small spell quickly or to really burn a whole turn gathering eldritch might to destroy their enemies. 4.75/5
Execution-Overall, this is a well laid out book. First, Paizo PLEASE HYPERLINK! Heck, if you send me the PDF a day early and a coupon for a 10 piece of McNuggets, I’ll hyperlink your PDF for you! This book is hundreds of pages full of new contect, so it’s a monster PDF. A hyperlink makes that not a pain to read and move through. Second, why did you change the layout to match the DnD Essential line for character development? Do people fondly remember those books as a giant mush table that was hard to read but kind of looked like a broken comma delimited file? DON’T DO THAT! Aside from those major issues, the book isn’t bad. It reads well, and the new layouts for spells and actions look great. It feels like 4e design layout principles, and if you didn’t love the mechanics of 4e, you have to agree the basic layout was well done. The book could use more art, but then again, it’s free and a playtest, so the fact it’s not 400 pages of word docs means this is way above what can be expected. I would not buy the leather bound edition of PLAYTEST RULES(!!!) with recycled art, but for a basic softcover or PDF, this works well. 3.75/5
Summary-The kids are alright! Honestly, if this is the new system as written, I’d be happy. I like options! If you are an OSR guy/gal, then the number of options here will be a killer. There will be quick builds, but the point of this version is if you want to do the thing, there is a way to build the thing! Classes, races, and backgrounds all add to the crunch and fluff mix, and the options you have will help you customize your character to your heart’s content. The basic math feels good. I like systems where I know how hard a skill will be at each level. It’s much less hand wave-y! The mix of attack, skill, saves, and defense do make life that much easier. And that is where the rubber will meet the road for you. That is a clear carry over from 4e DnD. I LOVED 4e DnD. It wasn’t the d20 we knew and loved, but it tried. Low level characters could not do high level things. Your growth as a character mattered much more than your starting abilities. If you think a level 1 dude should be able to hit the Demogorgon in the eye with only slight more difficulty than a level 20 guy, then this won’t be your version of DnD/Pathfinder. I’m honestly down for the changes! The fluff here is good. It’s WAY more than you should expect for a playtest, but it’s a fun thing that they spent some time on. What NEEDS to change is the layout of classes and abilities. Please take that from 3.5. Give me columns that say what I gain each levels, what level I gain each different feat type at, and how many spells, if any, I can cast per day. What you have here hurts me. Its text-file vomit that is hard to read. I can do it, but it makes life hard and reading not fun. If Paizo tightens up a few things, retools the class layouts, and builds a bit more theme in to the next book, I’d be down for the leather edition of the real rules! 89%
Product-Duhr: the Lesser Houses
Producer– Devious Weasel Games
Price– $25.00 here https://www.miniaturemarket.com/dwe4000.html?utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&adpos=1o1&scid=scplpDWE4000&sc_intid=DWE4000&gclid=CjwKCAjwkYDbBRB6EiwAR0T_-hBpzyMP4YvWog65j9suM5TGfDH83ZBpJP8u00fsGxLE0pZEMCN1UBoCfUoQAvD_BwE
Set-up/Play/Clean-up– 45 minutes to 1.5 hours (3-6 players)
TL; DR-I don’t have to win for you to lose! 91%
Basics- Why waste knives when words will do. In Duhr: the Lesser houses, each player plays a minor, lesser house vying for power as the king will advance one, and only one, house to a major house, so it’s time to get dirty! During set-up each player is dealt a secret goal that targets one or two players. Then, players take turns doing one or two actions. Houses that are favored (their house card upright) can take up to two actions, and disfavored or vilified houses can take only one. The actions favored and disfavored houses can do are to put a card matching a house’s color onto the house face down, play a scandal face down on any house, discard a card of your color to use your house ability, play an event card, or discard two matching cards to do a masterstroke. Masterstrokes are how you win the game. These reveal a card on any house, remove a scandal from any house, put scandals from the center on a favored house, or negate ANYTHING! This leads into house standing. When a house gets cards in front of it, it begins to lose reputation as unsavory things about the house come to light. If a house has five cards in front of it it becomes disfavored. And when a disfavored house has three of the five card in front of it turned face up, it becomes vilified. Disfavored houses can only do one action per turn, have to shuffle their hands, draw two for the turn, and hope those cards let them do something good! After a disfavored house takes its one action, it draws cards, shuffles them with its other cards, draws two of that pile, and plays its next turn with two cards. You now have less options but some effects can not target you. Vilified houses are hated by all, but they gain some awesome powers. A vilified house flips its house card over to a black and white side so everyone sees your status. Vilified houses no longer have a hand of cards. Villivied houses can just change a card in front of a house to a scandal, flip face up a card on a house, or play a scandal card face down on any favored house.
House powers radically change the game. These powers range from moving cards between players, flipping cards face down, or even removing cards from in front of players. This leads to people making friends quickly or you die even faster! Each player has an agent in another house. This person is a secret. On your turn, you can flip this over, gain a card in front of you and can now play cards of that house’s color to use their power. But, if you ever become disfavored, you instantly reveal your agent, and that house gains a card in front of it. That feels like it should as webs of secrets come to life and hit EVERYBODY!
Play continues like this until only one house or fewer remains favored, and then players add up points. Favored houses start with 10, then lose one point for each face up card of their color and two for each face up scandal. Disfavored houses start at nine and lose points like favored houses. Vilified houses start at 2 points and gain two points for each other vilified house! Finally, players add points for their secret objective. Player with the most points wins!
Mechanics-I really like the mechanics of this one, but you need to know exactly what you are doing! This game isn’t very forgiving, as social combat usually is. If you pick the wrong fight and do something stupid, you will lose quick! The advice most people will give you is you need to play maybe three times to have the rules down. I don’t agree. I honestly think you can learn the rules in about five minutes, but that’s kind of like saying you can learn chess in about five minutes. Now, you have to develop strategy. That takes time. But, I think that is time you will enjoy putting in. 4.75/5
Theme- This game does feel like noble houses knifing each other in the back. You get agents in another player’s house, and sometimes getting that hated appointment causes him to flip his agent and screw you in the process. That is a blast when it happens! I do feel like I am a Lord of a house fighting it out in the dark and in the streets to show that my house has its crap together and keeps our secrets safe. Half the players in my games walk away exhausted because this game isn’t your standard DnD knife fight, but social combat. The other half want to reshuffle the cards and start up as soon as the winner is declared. I’m in the reshuffle up and play again group! 5/5
Instructions– The instructions work, but you will need a few passes at it. One major issue is you really need to pay attention to how cards are played. Cards are played face down. That took me a few too many passes reading to get. But, once you get the flow of the rules, you can easily play the game. 4/5
Execution-First things first, I HATE SMALL ¼ CARDS! This game only has small cards, and I only have fat fingers! That said, my only other complaint is the action guide cards. They are awesome! They tell you what you can do what you can do on your turn, explain all the symbols, and are really well put together! The bad part is they are rare. You get about ½ the player count. It’s not bad, but you often have to share. And, I don’t want to share with people I want want to die! The other parts are great. I like nice chunky cardboard for the houses and secret agent cards. Even the dreaded ¼ cards are nice. I also like the symbols. There is no confusion on what each symbol is on the cards. You can see our unboxing of the games here: https://youtu.be/3B7ECFtGU8I 4.5/5
Summary-I don’t own too many games where you play noble houses and knife each other in the back. But, this game scratches an itch. It’s fun, it’s mean, and it’s quick. But it’s also not too mean. I don’t have too many feel-bads. If several people vilify your house in a turn, then you just start wrecking other people with abandon! Most games I’ve played, it’s not the favored house that wins! This game teaches you some fun lessons about politics. It’s not without its faults. I’d like bigger cards, more pages to the rule book, and some extra explanation cards. But, overall, this is a blast to play, and one that when you finish, you’ll want to start up right away. And, at its playtime, you can get this one back to the table easily. 91%