Ring Side Report- Castles & Crusades Players Handbook

Product– Castles & Crusades Players Handbook, 7th ed.

System-Castles & Crusades

ProducerTroll Lord Games

Price– $20 here https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/105322/Castles–Crusades-Players-Handbook-7th-Printing?affiliate_id=658618

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%

Ring Side Report- Shadowrun: Chrome Flesh

Product– Shadowrun: Chrome Flesh

System– Shadowrun 5e

ProducerCatalyst Game labs

Price– $24.99 here https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/151893/Shadowrun-Chrome-Flesh?term=chrome+flesh?affiliate_id=658618

TL; DR– Solid book for solid chrome! 95%

Basics– We can make you better, stronger, faster!  Chrome Flesh is the Shadowrun book focusing on our chromed out runners who are more machine than man.  This book provides several options that run the gambit from new metal to shove into your arm, living organism that live inside you, and the dreaded nanites!  This book also builds on the nanite CFD storyline that is forefront in Shadowrun 5e now while building out the world in general.

Mechanics or Crunch– This book is pretty, but maybe a little to pricey regarding your soul.  I like what the book has on offer, but most of the new teck feels a bit too essence heavy or have too many drawbacks such as touching nanites at all.  The newer things suchs the biotech feel like there should be more new tech. I’d like more of the new and less of the old chrome. But, what is here I do like seeing. 4.5/5

Theme or Fluff-This is where Shadowrun books have always excelled and keep doing so.  The book reads like a reddit thread with chapters starting with a story, moving to a discussion by one person in the world, and then the hard crunch.  The fluff of the story and the discussion really make the world feel alive. Even details regarding the tech feel realistic. A solid story and character interaction and delivery really makes the book shine.  5/5

Execution–  This book looks pretty, has a good lay out, and has amazing tables that really help you use the old and new tech together and even find it!  But, there are a number of small errors that take away from the presentation like errors at the top of tables mislabeling essence and capacity.  Also, I love the story, but the repeated nature of a few of the stories and character discussion make this book run a little too long. Solid book with a few errors hurting the presentation.  4.8/5

Summary-A chromed out Street Sam is always a fun addition to a team.  Chromed Flesh adds lots of new toys for the metal men in your life.  Also, this book really makes you feel like you’re in the world of Shadowrun reading updates on Jackpoint.  It’s not completely perfect as some of the crunch needs more options to fill out the roster of available tech and some minor issues mare a great book.  However, most of these problems can be forgiving by the fact this this book provides updated tables showing where all the chrome toys are in the books. If you are looking for a solid book for a character who wants to trade essence to punch through an engine block, then this is the book for you. 95%

 

Ring Side Report- RPG Review of Lover in the Ice

Product– Lover in the Ice

System– Delta Green

Producer– Arc Dream Publishing

Price– $4.99 here https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/184098/Delta-Green-Lover-in-the-Ice?affiliate_id=658618

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

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

Producer– Chaosium

Price– $59.99 here https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/245820/Masks-of-Nyarlathotep–7th-Edition?affiliate_id=658618

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%

 

Ring Side Report-Board Game Review of Custom Heroes

Product-Custom Heroes

Producer– AEG

Price– $25.00 here https://www.amazon.com/Alderac-Entertainment-Group-Custom-Heroes/dp/B07117V56Q

Set-up/Play/Clean-up– 30 to 45 minutes (3-6 players)

Type- Euro

Depth-Light

TL; DR-Build a hero!  89%

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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%