How about a review of a board game? Been a bit, but we’re back!
How about a review of a board game? Been a bit, but we’re back!
Product– Adventurer’s Backpack
System-Castles and Crusades
Producer– Troll Lord Games
TL; DR– OPTIONS! 86%
Basics-It’s time for a solid player option book for CnC! This book features TONS of new classes, spells, items, niche rules, and even a complete new magic system. There is even a whole chapter dedicated to backpacks of tools each adventurer would need to do their job. How does it stack up?
Mechanics or Crunch– Ah old school… you provide us with gonzo options and allow the DM to do whatever they want. The problem is, this is pretty rules-light for how some of the crunch works. A perfect example is the warrior priest. That class has Cure Wounds which allows them to heal other characters. Awesome! I love it. But the rules don’t describe: do you roll once per day, or do you roll all hit points and then give them out as you want, or do you spend dice as you go? I could hunt online and find the answer. I don’t want to do that. I just decided and went with it. This is old school, so once the group decides, we roll with it. That’s the bad; the good is this book gives you new character classes, character options like spell casting rangers, paladins,and bards, lots of equipment options, spells, and all sorts of tools adventurers might need to fight evil. It’s not perfect, but the flaws are all part of OSR rules’ light touch. The good is amazing and makes this worth the price. 3.75/5
Theme or Fluff– I would not call this a fluff book, but I do think what is here is done well. It mostly gives you ideas how the new things fit into the fantasy worlds of Castles and Crusades. It’s world-agnostic in a decent way, so you could plug these into any fantasy world and have a fitting character. I would like more, as I want to build out the world and campaign setting, but the book gives you enough that you can find the equivalent in your world and plug and play right away. 4.25/5
Execution– PDF? Yep! Hyperlinked? YES! This book is well done. It’s an old school game, but it’s modern design makes me happy. It’s not perfect – I would like the font to be a bit larger, but this thing has all the things I think a modern book should have. 4.9/5
Summary-My summary of this book comes down to one very specific question-do you want more character options for CnC? If yes, then get the book. It’s not perfect; I think things need another round of writing to fully explain what the writers wanted me to do in some spots, but if you can look past some small issues, you will enjoy this. The fluff is decent. I want more, but it’s not bad. Just not the whole world laid bare. Physically, the book is done well. Links, layout, and text all work well. I’m glad this is in my collection, and I know my players are always happy to have this as a place to get spells, classes, and toys to help them put down evil. 86%
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Product– Esper Genesis 5E Sci-fi – Core Manual
System-Dungeons and Dragons 5e
Producer– Alligator Alley Entertainment
TL; DR-5E IN SPACE! 92%
Basics-Want some DnD 5e but also want some spaceships and don’t want the less serious nature of Starjammer? Then Esper Genesis is the game for you. Hard space opera on the level of a Mass Effect with the crunch of the Forgotten Realms. Let’s go into the pieces first and then my thoughts on it.
Base Mechanic-Can you play DnD 5e? Then you know this system. That’s it. That’s not a bad or a good, it’s just the basic mechanics you know and you may love.
Classes-Like any system that bases itself on another base game there will be some reskins and some out of the box thinking taking the game in new directions. You have a not-fighter and a not-rogue, and the DnD 5e system needs those to work, but you also have whole new classes and a different magic system relying on new abilities, due to a new material found in moons across the galaxy. These new classes feel like combinations of clerics and wizards, and truly it’s not bad. It breaks fun new ground on the mechanics of the system.
Spaceship Dogfights-DnD is NOT a crunch heavy system that requires a battle map to play, so the spaceship part of the game can’t use that either. Each player gets a role on the ship and can do different actions in a round from repairs to shields to killing people with lasers. However, this is all done quickly via theater of the mind.
Those are the basics. Let’s look at my thoughts.
Mechanics or Crunch-Honestly, this is the shining highlight of the book. You have the cloned classes that you know were going to be there from the not-fighter to the not-rogue, but the changes in mechanics really help the players see a new universe of potential to the system. I like what I see here. Now, this is a reskin and cut and paste of some DnD things from spells that have to be healing word and cure wounds, but it is different enough so you get new things for you to explore. Heck, you can’t even say this is just a combo of Starfinder and DnD5e, as the stuff feels fresh enough that it has its own feel distinct from either of those properties. This isn’t just a hack job of reworked DnD 5e material, this is its own thing that stands strongly on its own two feet. 5/5
Theme or Fluff– I like what I see here, but like any gourmet meal, I left wanting more. There is a whole universe here to explore, but I felt like not enough time was spent on the world itself. It’s some amazing stuff, even if it does take some strong references from the Mass Effect series with elements like humans fighting then joining a galactic UN, a mystery element that gives powers. Now, this doesn’t make this game and its world derivative. The basic plot of “magic/science things give magic/science powers to people and now we deal with it” is a staple of the scifi and fantasy field, but what I don’t like is the limited amount of information on display. I wasn’t so much as left wanting more as I was left not getting enough. I wasn’t full waiting for my next book, but was more often than not given enough story to start strong. The world is fun, but not flushed out enough. I’m down to play and read more. What is here does draw you in, but I feel I need another 30 or so pages to really know the world or universe, from bad guys to who the main races are. That said, what is here is well done. I enjoy every piece of it, but just need more of it. 4.25/5
Execution– PDF? Yep! Hyperlinked? Yep! Ok, all the things I want standard in a book! The book is laid out well and typeset well, but the big issue I have is too many pages of double column text. Even the best world book or rule manual is simply a guide book or math textbook, and those NEED to be broken up to keep the reader involved. So I want more pictures to show me cool stuff of your world. Also, this is a third party product, so it has a limited budget. Many cool things are discussed like the monster manual in the back of the book, but I need pictures to see what you’re showing me. I want to see what you got. Also, as a new world that is whole-cloth your own, you NEED a short adventure to tell me your pacing and story structure. I read this as standard action adventure scifi, but you might have meant this to be hard R space horror. Overall, it’s well done, but it’s missing a few pieces to make it excellent. 4.5/5
Summary– From my review, you might think I don’t like this, but this is an amazing rpg. It’s got scifi using the nuts and bolts of the DnD 5e system while not just becoming spelljammer. It’s full of new flavor that is all its own and not just a copy paste from Star Wars. It’s got solid layout in a format I BEG the major RPG producers to do. All these things mean it is a solid game! My issues are minor, such as wanting more story in the base book, even though the authors clearly indicate other books that have come out since this game was published to build out the world like trailers for coming attractions. The execution of the book is good, but needs more pictures. I just want more in the book, but for a whole RPG from a small press RPG company, this is an amazing product. However, the inevitable comparison comes forward-Is this just Starfinder with 5e? And the answer, I think, is no. This is more light scifi with no space wizardry and none of the more fantastical elements that make Starfinder science fantasy while this is science fiction. The systems stay very separate from one another, as Starfinder embraces the hard crunch of Pathfinder while Esper Genesis has its own mechanics from 5e and modified as needed to give this the speed that 5e is famous for. With this book and the base DnD 5e book, you could make your own Starfinder game, but honestly, I’d use this book by itself to play an awesome game among the stars. If you are looking for your fast, fun, 5e scifi, look no further than this game! 92%
Product– Pathfinder Core Rulebook
Price– $60 here https://paizo.com/products/btq01y0k?Pathfinder-Core-Rulebook
TL; DR-A solid mix of new good things, but some issues remain. 92%
Basics-It’s here! Pathfinder 2nd ed is out in the wild! Let’s dig into this thing! The basics from my previous review here: Let’s look at the big changes.
Base Mechanic-The d20 system never really changes. It’s still numbers + d20 vs other numbers. Pathfinder 2nd Ed has the player add their ability modifier, their level, AND a modifier to the roll, depending on their level of proficiency. The biggest change from the previous one is that the proficiency levels are now +2, +4, +6, or +8 instead of adding one to 4. Honestly, this feels like a change coming from 4th Edition DnD. I know the heresy of that statement, but I like that mechanic.
Action Economy– Players still have the three actions per turn of the playtest with some spells or actions requiring additional actions to do.
Skills– If you are not trained it’s just a d20 + ability modifier. If you are not trained, after about 4th level, it might not be useful to even roll.
Options– This edition is labeled featfinder by its critics, but the designers use the word feat instead of options. I’m ok with featfinder as I LOVE class options.
ITEM LEVELS!!!-Items HAVE LEVELS! I love this as you know exactly what an item should cost, what kind of character should have this, and it means that some things such as alchemical items are going to be useful later as higher level options are available.
Character Advancement- Characters now level at 1000 exp. Monsters of your level give certain amounts of experience, and there are formulas for changing the experience points if you are fighting a creature of a higher or lower amount.
Those are the basics. Let’s look at my thoughts.
Mechanics or Crunch-I really love this system. Long ago, I toyed with the idea of making a 3.5/4e hybrid, and this is almost what I wanted. I get the clean mechanics of the d20, but I add my level so leveling up made things matter. I get the deep CRUNCH of 3.5/Pathfinder, but the ease of a 5e. I get cantrips that I can use all the time and not have a wizard firing crappy crossbows while still feeling like a wizard. But it’s not perfect. Skills are kind of a big deal for me. I think the system kind of forgets about skills if you are untrained. I think a fighter could pick up some basics of magic from traveling with a wizard and I liked how previously untrained actions still added your level, just with a penalty. Now you don’t add your level to untrained actions and that basically means you have silos where no untrained character can go. It’s a design choice that isn’t bad, but not one I love. Also, I really don’t like the new EXP system. Just keep creatures with different exp instead of having some crazy formula to figure out the exp! It feels like a level of simplification that some players demanded but the rest of us hate. But overall, I really do like the simplicity of the system and the variety of options in this book. 4.75/5
Theme or Fluff-Everyone has their own idea of what “fantasy” should be. Pathfinder has a niche of an almost industrial magic world where some elements of science are beginning to poke their timid heads out of the real magic with semi-magic, semi-chemistry potions and simple guns. This new game nails that vibe. Also, this edition fixes a major problem others had before: alchemy. I love the idea of alchemy, but it’s always hard to add to a system Lots of RPGs add this in later due to fan demands. But that system feels bolted on and not a core of the world, with alchemy basically being a new magic caster class but with a reskin. In Pathfinder 2e, with item levels, an alchemist makes alchemy items and the items are NOT spells. They are their own special thing. I LOVE THIS! Pathfinder 2nd ed nails the Pathfinder theme even better than the original! 5/5
Execution– PDF? Check! Hyperlinked? NOPE! Come on Paizo! This book is over 600 Pages! Even random websites trading illegal PDFs have their stuff hyperlinked and for this size of document, it’s a major problem. Also, I think 3.5 has the best layout for d20 systems in regard to class advancement and feats. However, in the new system the classes get a table of advancement for each level, but you have to read deep into each specific advancement to know what is really happening. It’s less at a glance and results in slower leveling and progression. I LOVE table with the character level, short descriptions of mandatory class options, and saving throw bonuses, and even spells if needed. Now we get too many words that are not helping, and two tables that are seperate for magic and character options. That is two too many! Nice concise tables would help this feel less wordy and less tiring to read. Next, feats for each class need a feat table with short, one sentence descriptions of each class option. This is going to take up space, but the current layout of listing several options and just making players read the possible rule in its entirety is too long and wordy. Even if you keep the full feat description, adding these tables would make skimming for your next class option a breeze, but instead you end up reading lots of class options you do not care about. Reading about options you don’t care about is tiring! The rest of the book is fine, but those class sections could use some serious changes to make the material easier to read! Pathfinder 2nd ed charts its own territory, but it needs to learn from its roots for its readability. 4/5
Summary-My review of this system is not glowing, but I do love it. The mechanics of 2nd edition Pathfinder are a mix of 3.5, Pathfinder, and 4th edition and 5th edition DnD. Since I love all those games, I had no issues with all the best being blended together to make the best of everything. I didn’t get EVERYTHING I wanted, but I got enough. I love the world, and the new mechanics of the new edition really emphasize the world. The low point was the execution of the book. It feels way too wordy and made reading all the different classes a slog. The book isn’t bad by any stretch, but I feel that taking some clues on how other editions of RPGs work and displayed their information would really help here. Now this might seem negative but overall I love this system. It’s easy to play, characters are made quickly, and I feel it’s going to be a fun system for a long time. Can’t wait to see what story I can tell with this system! 92%
Check out our review of Paper Tales below!
Product-Professor Evil and the Citadel of Time
Producer– Fun Forge
Price– $30.00 here https://www.amazon.com/Passport-Game-Studios-Professor-Citadel/dp/B06W56ZL3T/ref=sr_1_1?crid=2PIIRCWB14ZM3&keywords=professor+evil+and+the+citadel+of+time&qid=1557748520&s=gateway&sprefix=professor+evil+and+the%2Caps%2C153&sr=8-1
Set-up/Play/Clean-up– 30 to 45 minutes (2-4 players)
TL; DR-Let’s steal the Declaration of Independence -FOR JUSTICE! 97%
Basics- Saving relics in the knick of time! In Professor Evil and the Citadel of Time, players take the rolls of victorian themed heroes attempting to rescue items stolen across time by the evil PROFESSOR EVIL! This game isn’t subtle, but it is fun! This is a completely cooperative game, so each turn has a phase where the players help the team and a phase where the players hurt the team. During the phase where you help, you can are given three actions and a card action. The basic actions are move from room to room, deactivate traps, unlock doors, and rescue treasure. You can do any action you want multiple times. Also during this phase you draw two card from a deck specific for your character and you can use these special abilities to really help the team as a separate action! These powerful, specific cards vary a lot from having the ability to move the evil professor to turning off all the traps of one kind! The goal of this phase is to have all the traps off of all the types for a given treasure, be in the room with the item to save, and have an action left to save it. However, after you take your turn, you roll three dice to hurt your team. These dice advance the professor around his house kicking heroes out of his house, locking doors, resetting traps, or move time forward on the different treasures or all of them at once! Once a good hasn’t been rescued before its time is up, the good it put in the safe room where no player may go! However, all is not lost. As the game progresses, players unlock different global and personal abilities making it a much fairer fight! The goal of the game is to save four goods and return them to their own times before the dastardly professor can put four goods deep into his safe room.
Mechanics-This is a simple game, but that doesn’t make it any less fun. The basic turn of do good/do bad is a quick, easy, and fun way to do cooperative games and isn’t going away anytime soon. Those three actions and a card action get nearly surgical when you have to get to a treasure in time ramping up the tension and thought process in a fun way! I love this game, but the dice based nature of the bad action is very random, as dice should be. But, this makes it a bit harder to plan. Not a bad, but a different, and you can get absolutely wrecked on a bad day. Keep that bit in mind, and you will have a great time dealing with all your plans falling to pieces because the professor teleported into the room you NEEDED to be in the get that last treasure! 4.8/5
Theme- This game delivers its theme very much in the show don’t tell way. The characters and items all look like they belong to the same world, and the victorian/steampunk setting looks fun. I would like a bit more background as I’m very much a story driven gamer. That said, you do feel like a gentleman/gentlewoman sneaking around the manor of a madman hiding and stealing his ill gotten gains from across time. 4.5/5
Instructions– The instructions are six pages, full of pictures, and well written. When I cracked this box, I was playing in five minutes. That’s a great “opening box to playing” timeline! I also didn’t have to consult Board Game Geek to figure out any obscure rules. It’s a simple game with efficient, well written rules. 5/5
Execution-Quality components, quality box, quality art, and FULL CARDS make this a fun game. I like good quality cardboard, and this game delivers! This game is simply put together well. 5/5
Summary-Good co-op is a hard balance to find. Good, simple co-op is a much harder balance to find, and this game delivers in droves! It has good, simple mechanics, great art, quick to read rules, and great components. All these combine to make a fantastic gaming experience. The only word of caution is if you expect a 10 hour brain burning eurogame experience, keep walking. This is a fun, fast game in the tradition of Pandemic, but using dice, which have their own punishing randomness at times. If you’re looking for a great way to spend an hour with up to three buds, you can’t go wrong with this game. 97%
Product– Castles & Crusades Players Handbook, 7th ed.
System-Castles & Crusades
Producer–Troll Lord Games
TL; DR– An interesting mix of old and new. 86 %
Basics-Onwards to adventure! Castles and Crusades is an Old School game through and through in its seventh edition. Let’s walk through to see all this game has to offer!
Basic Rolls-Castles and Crusades uses the d20 system at its core. Attacks are D20 rolls plus an attack bonus and an attribute. Skills are d20 plus an attribute and possible additional bonuses. If you’ve played any basic d20 system you can hop right into this game.
Skills, saves, and the Siege System-When you do something in Castles and Crusades, you roll as discussed above, but you sometimes get to add your levels. If the thing you are doing is something your class could do, you add your level. If you would not be trained because this isn’t something you would know how to do, you don’t add your level. The gamemaster sets the number you need to roll based on two factors-attribute and challenge level. Here is the crux of the Siege system. During character generation, you get primary attributes from your race and your class. If the thing you are trying to do or the save you are trying to make is based on a primary attribute, then the number you need to roll starts at 12. If it’s a secondary attribute, then the number starts at an 18. Next the GM adds the challenge level. This is a number representing how hard the thing you are doing is. Open a one tumbler lock might be a challenge level 1, but the king’s personal bank vault might be an 8. So, different characters have different required rolls based on their primary abilities.
Everything else-From here on, if you have played Pathfinder or DnD 3.5, you’re in solid hands. AC, rounds, and spells all function pretty much like you expect. If not, then the book gives you a solid introduction to the system
Mechanics or Crunch– Overall, this is a decently put together system, but the Siege system has some significant bumps in the road. I have lived through 3.5e to 5e DnD and watched wild swings in how much control a GM has at the table regarding the number required to roll for PCs to get things done. This game is solidly old school as lots left up to the GM, and I feel that hurts this a bit. This game really needs a list of skills and what classes get what skills, if any. Its OK for the rogue to be the a skill monkey and have tons of skills, but often some things just are left up to the GMs discretion. Saves are even left up to the GM! There is a chart of what attribute you roll for each save with different spell and monster effect requiring different attribute saves. All of this falls into the basics of the Siege system with a fighter who didn’t choose dexterity in a worse place compared to the rogue when the fireball goes off or he sneaks around in the dark. It’s not bad, but GM and the players have to really work together to run this game as some things are too complex to run on autopilot like simple roll to dodge a blow. Solid, but some needlessly complex things mar the system. 4/5
Theme or Fluff-.Solid old school fantasy. The book doesn’t have a world per se, but it does have world building with discussions on the nature of magic and character classes. Even each class has a bit of fluff to make you understand who they are and if you want to be them. It’s light, but for building a generic fantasy RPG, it’s doing its job well. 5/5
Execution– PDF? Check! Hyperlinked? CHECK! Tables that lay things out well? Well here is where things break down. This game is solidly in the OSR crowd. That’s not bad as the old school has some great advice for the young, but some things just need a new touch! Things like laying classes out better in tables and saying what I get at each level instead of having me read the complete class entry to see if and when I get different abilities. Spells suffer from the same issue as challenge levels where much interpretation is needed to determine what kind of spell is being cast instead of just leaving me with what I have to roll.and More often that not, I’m left making a call on what I’m doing or what kind of save I have to make. And for some things, I just want to add things up some numbers and see if I succeed. It feels a bit like homework. It does read easily, but modern RPG design elements would really help make this book that much more easier to read and run. 4/5
Summary-This game is a solid entry in the Old School Revolution that is embracing the advances of d20 system, at least for the mechanics. Adding at most two numbers and hoping is easier that thac0 or other previous system, at least for new players. But this book didn’t take enough from modern systems and layout. Listing skills and just saying what attribute to roll for every spell and most common effect will really help me play and enjoy the game. Now, this game is absolutely playable and fun out of the box day one with the basic mechanics being tried, true, and tested, but more specifically, fun. It’s old school fantasy RPG with some new additions that build on and preserve the original author’s vision. However, some things could be done much better to really help me play and teach this RPG. 86%