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%

 

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Ring Side Report- RPG Review of Starfinder Adventure Path #1: Incident at Absalom Station (Dead Suns 1 of 6)

Product– Starfinder Adventure Path #1: Incident at Absalom Station (Dead Suns 1 of 6)

System– Starfinder

Producer-Paizo

Price– $23.00 here https://paizo.com/products/btpy9tmf?Starfinder-Adventure-Path-1-Incident-at-Absalom-Station

TL; DR-Not the brightest star, but a decent start.  83%

Basics– ARE YOU READY FOR ADVENTURE!?  Incident at Absalom Station kicks off the first Starfinder adventure path.  Players step off the ship and into gangland warfare as their contact is gun downed within seconds of seeing him.  Why? What dark secrets are at play? Who is involved? Also, this book contains a gazatier on Absolom station, several new monsters, and a whole new world for your players to play in.

Mechanics or Crunch-Ah the intro adventure!  What can a level 1 nothing do on their first day?  Not much, but LOTS OF SKILL CHECKS! Paizo has a history in their adventure paths of having players do lots of checks to get past those first few levels.  This adventure is no different. It’s not bad, but once you get past the first fight, its checks. And, if your party doesn’t have the right checks, then its a slog.  Past that its balanced and fun. After the checks, there are some simple space fights to get those mechanics out there, an exploration with some progressive fights to get those mechanics out there, and then we’re off to the next adventure book.  Overall it’s balanced, but the standard paint by numbers of a new RPG needs to really get players into the system and teach them the rules can be a bit boring. 4.25/5

Theme or Fluff-Repeat after me-PLAYERS HATE FIGHTS WHERE THE ENEMIES SHOULD RUN AWAY.  I’m not talking big bads, I’m talking regular grunts above the player’s level.  Players want to KILL! This adventure starts with gang war above the players pay grade, and the players want everyone dead.  It’s not supposed to happen, but my players are always EVIL, SPITE-FILLED MONSTERS who must kill EVERYONE! If that describes your players, then as written, they will be mad.  For check section I mentioned above, the players need to talk to people, and if your party decides Charisma is for suckers, then that is a SUPER slog as my Cha 10 fighter attempts to talk to people as the -1 to -2 modifier other players hope for 20s to even get the middle of the ground information.  Past that first fitful start, it’s a fun adventure as players can find the roles they need and better understand what they should do next. This adventure runs like a train-slow, clunky start but then smooth sailing the rest of the way. 4/5

Execution-PDF?  Check! Hyperlinked?  NOPE! Why not hyperlink this book?  It’s 60+ pages! Next, Starfinder isn’t going to get the 64 page world building books that went with the Pathfinder line.  That’s ok, but now my players don’t get as much world building as before as unless I print of sections and hand those out, they players either can read the book or spoil the adventure.  The items are nice, the monsters are interesting and have great pictures, and the layout is well done. But, no new races! Part of the fun of Starfinder is if you want to be an intelligent mist, then we got stats for that baby!  But, I’m not seeing that here. Throw me a new playable race each mod! There are a few other issues as some things just don’t fit well. The water world of Heicoron IV is ok, but there are no mentions of how I can play either of the races that live there.  It feels thrown in. It’s not bad, but reference your other books or give me stats, so I can have a whole adventures with the fish people. This is a good but, but it has some flaws that do knock it down a bit 4.25/5

Summary-I’m ready for more, but I have some notes.  Overall, I like what’s here. It’s done well, readable, and a good introduction to the mechanics of the system.  The story itself has a few issues, but those issues are part of every adventure path’s start. I have more notes on the new execution of the Starfinder line.  I want separate books and changes to how they are produced. New races, new tech in the books, and some focus will help improve this line. Will I get that? Most likely not.  But, as a GM running a game, I think this is a good way to get your players rolling dice and understanding how to play Starfinder 83%

Ring Side Report- RPG Review of Arcanis 5E Campaign Setting

Product– Arcanis 5E Campaign Setting

System– DnD 5e

Producer-Paradigm Concepts, Inc.

Price– $25.00 here https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/234910/Arcanis-5E-Campaign-Setting?affiliate_id=658618

TL; DR-Shades of grey are finally comprehensible!  95%

Basics-For the EMPIRE!  FOR ILLIIR! Arcanis was a campaign setting for 3.5 DnD which grew to its own game when 4th edition happened, and finally is coming back into the DnD mechanics with a conversion of DND 5e.  How does the world of the Shattered Empires stack up with a 5e rebuild? Let’s get into it!

Mechanics or Crunch-I usually start with theme, but let’s go mechanics first.  If you like 5e DnD, then you will like this. This isn’t a scrap to the base boards rebuild of DnD 5e, it’s a new implementation using the same base mechanics of proficiency, hit dice, et al. you most likely love from DnD 5e.  And honestly, that a good thing. I could give any person playing “Hoard of the Dragon Queen” an Arcanis character and they would be playing in seconds. So that begs the question, what’s different? Well some things are just simple reskins.  The Fury is the Barbarian. It’s got some different parts to it, but let’s be honest-it’s just a new name. Not bad, some theme for Arcanis added, but it is what it is. Some get a much more exhaustive change. Paladins are holy champions, and they might be a tad overpowered if you build them right, but that’s a criticism of DnD 5e itself.  Holy Champions get god specific paths to take that really hit theme hard with powers appropriate to the gods of the setting. The same thing for clerics. There are new races with instructions on how to change DnD straight races toward Aracnis races like there are no Tieflings, but there are Dark kin. New feat trees are brought in so you can master a fighting style with both introduction and advanced versions of those feats.  The book also introduces psionics in a heavy way, but honestly, it’s just the same mechanics you’ve seen time and time again in DnD 5e vanilla. You have powers, the DC of the power is 8 + ability mod + proficiency or you attack with a power and you use ability modifier + proficiency. DONE. Vanilla is my favorite base for ice cream, so this isn’t a bad. Rocky road starts Vanilla, and that’s what this book did. It took the base stuff you know and like and made it something you will love. 4.8/5

Theme or Fluff-So what is Arcanis?  Well, that’s probably the best thing this book does.  You get to feel the Shattered Empires honestly better than before.  It’s a pretty weighty tome coming in over 400 pages, so you get a lot of backstory.  And that’s really what this world needs. I came in when DnD 4e brought about a major change in the RPG world around it.  The Aracnis alone system wasn’t bad, but it relied heavily on me having books that we not in print and knowledge for a world that I could not find.  So, I was honestly in the dark for large portions of this world. Heck, there wasn’t even a great map available. I had fun with what I understood and playing in, so off I went playing and running Arcanis all over.  But, I would always run in to diehards who knew stuff from the wayback. The 5e book fixes this smashingly. I get better breakdowns in things. It’s big, but doesn’t have to dedicate all the pages the base DnD system does to the base rules just saying “GO SEE THE OTHER BOOK YOU BOUGHT!” and can dedicate those words to how the world works.  That’s amazing! The mechanics have been adapted and modified to meet the needs of the theme. Again, that’s a phenomenal way to build your world. As a GM when I run games with this book, I’m not lost. I feel like I finally know as much or MORE than my players. Sure, they are also republishing all the old books with updated rules, but this is a good way to hop in to a world of multiple different empires and groups fighting and in-fighting for control in a quzi roman world.  5/5

Execution-And the low point because I’m a bit petty.  I like the way this book is laid out. I like the text style, but it might be a bit too small.  I like the background, but I would like a background free version to read on my tablet. It comes in a PDF from Drive Thru RPG, so I’m thrilled that we’re moving Arcanis to the Paper free world.  But the things that makes me the least happy is no-hyperlinks in the text. This book is 400 plus pages. Thats a lot of hopping around trying to find pages. Just link the book! The book is bookmarked, so if you read on some readers, you will be fine.  Honestly, it’s small things that minorly annoyed me about this book, but as the RPG industry moves forward, I want hyperlinked PDFs to become the standard! 4.4/5

Summary-The real two remaining question to if you want this book is 1-Do you like the 5e DnD rules? And 2-do you want morally ambiguous semi-roman age fantasy?  If you don’t like 5e DnD, then this book still has lots of background that you might want to put into your game. If you don’t like shades of gray in your fantasy but love DnD 5e, then this is a great source book for crunch including psionics which WotC needs to get out there before they end up just copying these guys.  I like this book. I like the shades of gray fantasy that Arcanis bring to the table and using 5e is a great way to get people into the world extremely quickly since 5e is a snap to learn. My only qualms with this book are technical. Give me a backround free version if I want to print and bind myself or read on a tablet and HYPERLINK THE BOOK!  Will that stop me from reading this? No. This books is a well done resource from a fun world where a fallen Roman empire battles snake people for dominance of long lost relics that belonged to the elven gods that the Roman gods ate for power using slick mechanics. Ya, that’s an Arcanis sentence if I ever saw one. If you want to play in that world, then you need to get this book NOW! 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 Bitten

Product-Bitten

Producer– Cat Dragon Games

Price– $14.00 here https://www.amazon.com/Redshift-Games-Bitten-Board-Game/dp/B071Y7MVCY/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1532962819&sr=8-3&keywords=Bitten+Card+Game

Set-up/Play/Clean-up– 30 minutes to 1 hour (3-6 players)

Type- American

Depth-Light

TL; DR-Three way monster mash! 92%

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Basics- There can only be one!  In Bitten, players take the roles of Zombies, Vampires, and Werewolves as they attempt to take over a city by working together and against each other.  Each player is handed a lair card. This is a secret role that indicates if you are a vampire, zombie, or werewolf. From here, players are given five cards, and then in turn order, each player will either choose to play a card from their lair or from their hand.  If they choose a card from their lair, the randomly discard a card from the hand of cards they were given. Then, a player chooses to play that card either to a location or to another player’s lair. This leads to the two ways players can win. Each card has one to three symbols indicating zombie, vampire, werewolf.  Locations have a card number on them as well as a possible power. When the number of cards on a location equals the number written on the location, then you count the number of symbols on each card, and the most symbols wins the location (ties are possible). If at the end of any turn, a player has control of three of the five locations, they win!  For lairs, a player may never look at the cards in their lair unless they spend their turn getting a card from their lair. But, after a player plays a card and they have at least three cards in their lair and they have the most symbols of their type in the lair, they alone win! If no one won the round, then players pass their hand to the left, and players continue to draft cards until they pass one card.  If a player only has one card to draft from, then they draw four more, and play continues until one creature has control of the city and the night!

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Mechanics-Overall, the mechanics of this game are really smooth!  It’s a mix of a hidden roll and drafting game that almost always give you something to do.  Have cards of your symbol? Play to locations! Don’t have cards of your symbol? Screw with players’ lairs, but be careful!  There are also other action cards that remove cards and destroy locations, so that is a good mix for the game as the start locations are not what the game boils down to.  That said, this game slightly suffers from a player balance issue as play is really great at 3 and 6, but 4 and 5 can get a bit lopsided for the person without a partner. Actions cards are maybe a bit overpowered as several turns can be blown away by one action card.  It’s not horrible as this is a lighter game, but something to keep in mind. That said, this is a great game to get to the table, teaches quickly (honestly the quick run down above is 90% of the rules), and is a blast to play. 4.75/5

Theme- I feel like I’m gathering territory in this game!  Do I sent my werewolf agents to take over the dance club or the park?  Should the Vampires fight in the sewers? I do feel like an underworld fight for dominance is emerging.  Zombies are a bit of a tougher sell as I’m wondering how hordes of zombies are not noticed in a city? But, that is me being pedantic.  I do like the three sided nature of this fight. Locations where the undead would be get things that help undead like free symbols, and each race gets a place where two would do well alongside other locations where the race does well by sites.  The lairs all have fun names for the different people using the monster from voodoo master to mad scientist for zombie and others for the other two sides of this midnight beatdown. There is not combat between the monsters, so that takes away a bit as the zombies basically wave at werewolves who move in next door.  But that doesn’t break the game. The art also fills the theme as this feels like Sin City with a black and white noir style that feels like midnight. It’s a grim and dirty monster mash. 4.5/5

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Instructions-The instructions to this game are short and easy to read.  However, the instructions need a few more examples. In my first game, we ended up with a three way tie for our first location.  You can tie, but can you triple tie? The rules did not cover that. We said yes and rolled with it. That said, the rules work. If you have an especially punctilious player, then you may end up going to board game geek to fight over rules clarifications, but honestly for about 90% of the players and games, the rules are fine.  They could use a few more pages to describe things, but as written, you can play this game in about 5 minutes. 4.25/5

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Execution-First things first, I HATE SMALL ¼ CARDS!  This game has them, so that always makes me mad.  But, once I learn to deal with my own, internal, mental issues, the rest of the game is really well put together.  Nice sturdy box that fits the cards. The little cards are there to help players see who controls each area, and I’ll admit, even grudgingly, they work well.  The art on the cards is really well done even for just being two tones. I can tell who is what from far away. The card stock feels great. It’s also a small game that you can play on a bar table with friends, and I think this is the place for it as this might not be a weekend killer.  But, Bitten is a great game that is a fun fill between your four hours games or at the end of the night when you don’t want the fun to end. Finally, this game is less than 15 bucks! You can’t go wrong at this price. 4.9/5

Summary-I usually don’t like hidden role games.  I’ve never gotten into bang, and Battlestar Galactica is still on my shelf in the shrink.  But, this game is fun. You can manipulate the others or you can just get work done. I don’t feel bored by this game.  I always have something to do, the cards feel great, and the art makes me happy. It’s just dark enough even though it’s mostly just black and white.  The mechanics flow well, and the theme fits, even if you dig too deep into this one. I also like the portable nature of this game. This isn’t a perfect game as randomness can absolutely screw you and the hidden roles might not be fair, but if you need a game that goes up to six, plays quick, and is fun, then Bitten is a great game to get to the table.  92%