Thursday, 17 August 2017

#RPGaDAY 2017 - Day 17 - game on my shelf of shame the longest.

Day 17 of #RPGaDay 2017. 

Which RPG have you owned the longest but not played?

My father was a gamer. I'm sure that's not so strange nowadays but back in the 70s when I was born it was pretty strange. He collected war games, Strategy & Tactics Magazine, Avalon Hill Bookcase games and yes even RPGs. Sadly my father never got to play any RPGs. He just couldn't find anyone else interested in it. While his extensive board game collection got played with family friends multiple times a year (Every New Year's Eve we go to The Brown's so my mom and dad could play board games with them while I played with the kids), his RPG collection never saw any use. That changed when I was 8 years old and snuck a peek at his copy of TSR Marvel Super Heroes when he was out of town on the bowling trip. After that trip, I asked if I could have his old games and he passed them on to me. In that set of games was the original printing of Gamma World from TSR.

Of all the games I inherited from him that's one that I never actually played. It's still sitting on one of my RPG bookcases to this day. While I've opened it up and flipped through it, I've never actually sat down and read it, let alone played a game with it. I honestly don't really know why. I think it just looked too dated. Typewriter font, lots of tables, not very interesting cover, interior art that just wasn't that evocative. Maybe sometime this year as part of #RPGaMonth I should at least read it. 

For those wishing to play along at home, here are the topics for this years #RPGaDay. Feel free to use these cues in your tweets, facebook posts, g+ threads, blog posts and more.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

#RPGaDAY 2017 - Day 16 What RPG do I play as is?

Day 16 of #RPGaDay 2017. 

Which RPG do you enjoy using as is?

No one is going to expect this one.

First off let me know that my general answer is "all of them." I am a big fan of Rules As Written or RAW. I'm not someone who enjoys tinkering with RPGs. I've got some really strong beliefs about RPG rules and how they are the one common language every player at the table shares and how messing with that language can impact the game negatively. I'm not here to talk about that though.

What I want to talk about is Paranoia. One of the things that amazed me the most about Paranoia back in the day is that it was the only RPG that I owned that encouraged you to break the rules. But, it had great rules! It was so ironic. Paranoia (at least in 2nd edition which is the one I ran the most) has a very decent D20 skill based system that I found brilliant compared to the games I played at that time.  The combat system was quick and solid and as deadly as you wanted to make it. They managed to put in funky super powers (sorry mutations) that all managed to work together and didn't break the game while still breaking the core rules. It was a great system, and here they were telling me to ignore it.

So what did I do? I stole it. My first self-published RPG was called Rad City and was a post apocalyptic RPG that was a mesh of Phantasy Star, Final Fantasy, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, Cyberpunk 2020, and TSR Marvel Super Heroes and the glue that held all that together was the Paranoia D20 based system. I have friends today that still think Rad City was one of the best RPGs they played. 

For those wishing to play along at home, here are the topics for this years #RPGaDay. Feel free to use these cues in your tweets, facebook posts, g+ threads, blog posts and more.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 - Day 15 - Which RPG do I love to hack?

Day 15 of #RPGaDay 2017. 

Which RPG do you enjoy adapting the most?

This was a hard one for me as I'm not a hacker. While I love the whole DIY movement in RPGs it's just not something I've ever really been into myself. I'm more about finding that right game for you than taking a game and making it right for you.

That said there is one RPG that I hacked the setting off while keeping all of the rules. That was Dream Park from R. Talsorian Games.  The actual setting has players who are playing characters who go to a Dream Park which is this virtual reality simulator theme park. While there those characters play characters in various Dream Park Settings. So yes: this is an RPG where you play a character who is playing a character.

What I did was mash this with Running Man. I make the Dream Park a live broadcast TV show in a cyberpunk future. The players were contestants on the show. Everything they did was televised. Each episode they would meet their GM who would give them information on the game they were about to enter and the goal of that game. The various GMs were all played by me and I made up 5 or so different ones to keep things interesting. The players never knew exactly what to expect each 'show' and had to re-build their characters based on the information they got from the GM.

Some GMs would run gritty realistic games and if players missed the hints during the pre-game interview they could end up taking things like Super Powers or Magic and then they would get in game and it wouldn't work. Other GMs were willing to let anything go.

Dream Park worked awesome for this as it's the only universal system I know where you can have a Power Ranger, A 1920s Mobster, A Nam vet Sniper and a Wizard in the same party, fighting Mecha with light sabers and the game still works and is balanced. It's a brilliant system. 

For those wishing to play along at home, here are the topics for this years #RPGaDay. Feel free to use these cues in your tweets, facebook posts, g+ threads, blog posts and more.

Monday, 14 August 2017

#RPGaDAY 2017 - day 14 - What I prefer for open ended play.

Day 14 of #RPGaDay 2017. 

Which RPG do you prefer for open-ended campaign play?

Most of my RPG experience has been running open-ended campaign games. Some of my most memorable games were in Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition, Cyberpunk 2020, and Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. To be honest I can't think of a specific system I think is really best for this style of play. Obviously not some of the indy one shot games, but most traditional RPGs are designed for this.

For my official answer, I'm going to have to go with AD&D 2nd Edition. Not because of the rules themselves but because of some of the amazing supporting products that were released for that edition of D&D. Products that let me run an open ended sandbox game that went on for more than 10 years and had probably hundreds of characters adventure through our shared world.

What these products let me do is run my game on the fly. While I did prep work, a lot of prep work I used these tools to be able to react to what my players did during the game. As most of them involved random elements it means that my players and I experienced the game and the evolving story together. It was "playing to see what happens" before that was cool.  I guess I'm an RPG hipster eh?

When the PCs traveled between two areas I would draw from the appropriate deck of encounters (based on the terrain type they traveled through). When that encounter noted that the dead Ogre the party just found had a lair nearby I would grab a dungeon out of the Book of Lairs. When the party found a prisoner in the Lair I would draw a card from my sorted trading cards to give me an NPC. When the party was rewarded for returning the NPC home I gave them a treasure map from the Mystara Treasure Maps supplement. Using these tools I was able to run a game set in the same campaign setting for almost 10 years.

For those wishing to play along at home, here are the topics for this years #RPGaDay. Feel free to use these cues in your tweets, facebook posts, g+ threads, blog posts and more.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

#RPGaDAY 2017 - Day 13 - an experience that changed how I play.

Day 13 of #RPGaDay 2017. 

Describe a game experience that changed how you play.

What I really want to talk about here is the playtest of the game: carry. a game about war. but I already talked about that back on the 7th when I talked about my most impactful session.  That seems like a cop out though, so I think I need to come up with something different.

Does reading an RPG rulebook count as a game experience? Today it does.

I couldn't even tell you how long ago this happened. It wasn't recently. I was sitting there reading the Mechwarrior The Battletech RPG and I had just read something that blew my mind as a GM. It was a chapter on how to GM and it said to do something so simple but so effective. I don't have the book in front of me by here are the cliff notes:

Before you describe a scene to your players take a moment. Close your eyes. Picture the scene in your head. What do you see? What do you smell? How does it feel? Is it hot? Is it humid? Is there a taste in the air? Soak all that in, open your eyes and tell your players what you just experienced.

This changed my GM style forever.

For those wishing to play along at home, here are the topics for this years #RPGaDay. Feel free to use these cues in your tweets, facebook posts, g+ threads, blog posts and more.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

#RPGaDAY 2017 - Day 12 - epic interior art?

Day 12 of #RPGaDay 2017. 

Which RPG has the most inspiring interior art?

I read Fading Suns as part of my #RPGaMonth efforts this year. One of the first things that struck me about that game was the very cool very evocative interior art. Unfortunately, the arts wasn't inspiring enough to overcome the rules. So I've never actually played the game but I have to say the universe looks really damn cool. 

For those wishing to play along at home, here are the topics for this years #RPGaDay. Feel free to use these cues in your tweets, facebook posts, g+ threads, blog posts and more.

Friday, 11 August 2017

#RPGaDAY 2017 - Day 11 - dead game necormancy!

Day 11 of #RPGaDay 2017. 

Which 'dead game' would you like to see reborn?

It seems like this question gets harder every day. I think I get an email or see a G+ post about some game coming back through kickstarter every time I sit in front of my PC. Most of my favourite games from back in the day have come back in some way. Paranoia is the most recent. Traveller still goes strong. Warhammer just had a 4th edition announced. I am very tempted to answer Cyberpunk 2013/2020. There was a more modern release of that though, V3 which received very negative reviews (I own a copy but haven't actually read it).

Instead of cyberpunk I'm going to go with an RPG system that I would love to see come back and that's the SAGA system that premiered in Dragonlance: Fifth Age Dramatic Adventure Game. I don't necessarily need a new Dragonlance game (though I actually wouldn't mind that) but I really want to see something new done with the card based SAGA system.  I really loved SAGA. As far as I know it was the first player facing RPG (something many people seem to wrongly credit to PBtA games or the Cyper system). What this means is that all of the action is driven by the players. The Orcs never attack the characters, instead the characters defend from the Orcs attacks.

I love the card based system introduced in SAGA. The fact that each character class had a suit that was trump was very cool. Hand management added a very interesting meta to the game, where experienced players would choose places for their characters to fail in an effort to build a better hand for when they really needed it. The use of the deck to determine narrative cues was also brilliant. Overall I think this is the perfect example of a game that was way before it's time.

Now I know that there was a Marvel Super Heroes version of SAGA released. That I have not had a chance to check out. For some reason copies of that game and the associated deck sell for more than the almost impossible to find Last Unicorn Dune game.  

For those wishing to play along at home, here are the topics for this years #RPGaDay. Feel free to use these cues in your tweets, facebook posts, g+ threads, blog posts and more.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

#RPGaDAY 2017 - Day 10 - where do I go for RPG reviews?

Day 10 of #RPGaDay 2017. 

Where do you go for RPG reviews?

The quick answer: I don't. I can't remember the last time I actually sought out an RPG review. I learn about new RPGs organically through a mix of social media and podcasts (as I answered back on day 3). Usually, if there is a hot new game and people like it I can't help but hear about it. If it's really popular it feels like every podcast is talking about it. This happened with Fantasy Flight Star Wars. It seems to be happening right now with Blades in the Dark and for some reason, Dungeon Crawl Classics.

I guess if I was going to go digging looking for more info on a game I would head over to From there I would probably head to Google Plus and see if there's a community for the game (there's pretty much a community for every game). Maybe I would google the game. Then once I picked it up, I might even review the game myself.

For those wishing to play along at home, here are the topics for this years #RPGaDay. Feel free to use these cues in your tweets, facebook posts, g+ threads, blog posts and more.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

#RPGaDAY 2017 - Day 9 - What's a good 10 session RPG?

Day 9 of #RPGaDay 2017. 

What is a good RPG to play for about 10 sessions?

Did you read my post back on day seven? The one where I admit that the game I've played the most in the last year I only played two times. Yes two.

Due to this embarrassment, my first thought for today's question is: ANY! I would love to play any RPG 10 sessions at this point. Okay maybe not any RPG, but most, or at least any of the ones I own in print. Regardless, I don't think that was the spirit of this question.

I'm thinking that something like Trail of Cthulhu would be great for a 10 session story arc. Just enough time to have some small cases that lead to a big mystery that is solved, for good or bad, in session 10.

Now I do have to admit I've never actually played/run Trail. I own it. I've read it. I'm not sure I quite grock it, but I still think it fits well for this criteria. 

For those wishing to play along at home, here are the topics for this years #RPGaDay. Feel free to use these cues in your tweets, facebook posts, g+ threads, blog posts and more.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 - Day 8 - Good RPG for 2 hour sessions?

Day 8 of #RPGaDay 2017. 

What is a good RPG to play for sessions of 2hrs or less?

Last year I wouldn't have had a very good answer for this one. I've always been a long session kind of guy. Back in my formative years at the Windsor Gaming Society it was always 5 hour sessions. One from noon until 5pm and then another from 6pm until 11pm when the club closed. My home sessions generally have mirrored this. When I run public events at the FLGS I aim for 4 hour sessions and schedule them as 5 hour sessions. The one exception was D&D Encounters which was set up to be one hour sessions. I hated that. I really hated that. It was such a small bite of D&D that it just wasn't satisfying.

So what has changed now? I've read and actually run the Mouse Guard RPG by Luke Crane and David Petersen. I've owned the game for years and finally read it earlier this year as part of #RPGaMonth. It's one of the most unique RPGs I've ever read. Very scripted with 'rules' for things you don't usually find rules for. One of the things this unique set of mechanics does is allow for very short play sessions. Our first session was done in under an hour and a half. The important part about this session was that it was still fun. Somehow that hour and a half of Mouse Guard was better than any one hour session of D&D Encounters I took part in.

While there are some editing issues with the 2nd edition of Mouse Guard, I strongly suggest people check it out. It's very different from traditional RPGs and not in a bad way. There's a learning curve but once you start actually using the mechanics they actually flow rather brilliantly. 

For those wishing to play along at home, here are the topics for this years #RPGaDay. Feel free to use these cues in your tweets, facebook posts, g+ threads, blog posts and more.

Monday, 7 August 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 - Day 7 - Most impactful RPG session.

Day 7 of #RPGaDay 2017. At this point I should be on a plane for Florida so you all get to see how well I schedule posts :D

What was your most impactful RPG session?

A bit more than a decade ago I decided I should write more RPG reviews as well as get involved in playtesting. I'm pretty sure the driving force back then was to get some free games. People seemed to dig my feedback so I've stuck with it on and off over the years. I can't remember how Nathan D Paoletta found me. He was, at the time, an unknown indie game designer who was big into this thing called The Forge. He contacted me to playtest his new game carry. a game about war.

I had no clue what The Forge was or what it stood for or what it would become. Nathan, was an unknown to me and pretty much everyone back then. I didn't know it at the time, but my playtest of carry was the first public playtest of one of Nathan's games and was a huge step for him. To me it was just another indie game. Well not quite.

carry. Broke my brain. It broke my wife's brain. It broke my best friends brain. It broke my cousins brain. What was this thing? What did we just play. What just happened? Why are people crying. Why was I shaking? 

I had no idea an RPG could be what carry. was. Back then I had played a ton of different systems. From D&D to Cyberpunk. From Chill to Mekton. From Land of Og to It Came From The Late Late Late show. I even dabbled in Amber Diceless. I though I knew the breadth and scope of what RPGs had to offer. That was part of why I felt qualified to playtest these games I'd been playing for year.

Nathan D Paoletta and his 'little' indie hippy story game changed my life as a gamer. He opened my eyes. I learned that RPGs could be so much more than I thought they were. It was a beautiful thing.

For those wishing to play along at home, here are the topics for this years #RPGaDay. Feel free to use these cues in your tweets, facebook posts, g+ threads, blog posts and more.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

#RPGaDAY 2017 - Day 6 - A week of gaming!

Day 6 of #RPGaDay 2017. 

You can game for every day for a week. Describe what you'd do!

I've died and went to heaven. The first thing I would do is pinch myself. There's no way this could be real. It must be a dream.

Now it doesn't say that the games have to be RPGs but since this is an #RPGaDAY thing I'm guessing that we are looking for RPG answers. In reality though for me, it would be mostly boardgaming with some RPGs mixed in.

So going with the fact it has to be RPGs two thoughts come to mind. One is a 7-day mini campaign in some system. The other thought, which currently is more appealing is 7 single sessions of games I've never played before.  This is a week that's perfect for reducing my shelf of shame.

Day 1: This just makes sense that it would follow the question asked at the first of the month. The first game I would play would be the RPG I wish I was playing right now. That's the classic TSR High Adventure Cliffhangers Buck Rogers Adventure Game.

Day 2: As a follow up to day one I think I would like to try Buck Rogers XXVc another classic from TSR. This actually came out before the High Adventures Cliffhangers version and is based on the Buck Rogers serials that came out long after the comics. I bought a copy of this classic off of Wayne Humfleet (The Star Wars guy) last year and I've yet to actually try it out.

Day 3: To move away from all the sci-fi I think it's time for something more traditional. Time for some dungeon crawling, but this time, with a modern twist. Let's finally get some use out of Dungeon World which I've owned for too long to have not played yet.

Day 4: Okay now that we have Dungeon World under our belts lets check out where it came from. Day 4 will be the day of Apocalypse World. I own the original on PDF but got the print version of the second edition through the kickstarter. I'll probably grab the second edition under the assumption that it's actually an improvement on the original.

Day 5: How about something in the middle? I know I lose form RPG geek cred for this but I've never actually played a full game of Shadowrun. Looking to correct this I picked up a copy of the Shadowrun Beginner Box Set a couple years ago but haven't had a chance to use it yet. It's time to fix that.

Day 6: If you thought I lose geek cred for not having played Shadowrun, how about never having run a Cthulhu based game? That's right, I've never owned or run Call of Cthulhu. Now I do have a copy of Trail of Cthulhu as the improvements that the Gumshoe system made to the system sounded rather brilliant. So day 6 we all lose some sanity.

Day 7: I've owned a few FATE games for quite some time. Something about that system intimidates me. I just don't grock it. I've read four different FATE based games and I still don't get it. Day 7 is where I put these fears aside and just jump in. I'm going to do with this Base Raiders as I love the concept of a Super Hero dungeon crawl.

For those wishing to play along at home, here are the topics for this years #RPGaDay. Feel free to use these cues in your tweets, facebook posts, g+ threads, blog posts and more.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

#RPGaDAY 2017 - Day 5 - What cover best captures the spirit of the game?

Day 5 of #RPGaDay 2017. 

Which RPG cover best captures the spirit of the game?

I've been thinking about this one all day while at work. I still haven't come up with the perfect answer. It has been very interesting to see what other people have shared for this prompt. There's some really great stuff out there. Some people seem to be looking for a cover that shows what you will do in the game. Others are going more for a feeling. Some are looking at things very artistically. What I really enjoy about this particular question is the amount of variety I'm seeing. Even people who seem to have been answering the same game for every question are coming up with something new for the best cover.

Ones I've considered: Cosmic Patrol, Albedo, Dresden Files, Trail of Cthulhu, Corporia, DCC, Maid, Swords & Wizardry, Durance, Spirit of the Century, Toon, Motorbushido, Edge of the Empire Beginner Game, Paranoia, Ork!, Mekton, Little Fears, Hollow Earth Expedition, Land of Og, Dream Park, It Came From The Late, Late, Late Show.

In the end, I went for Teenagers From Outer Space (specifically the 3rd edition). To me, this cover shows me exactly what to expect from this game. Just look at that cover. It's got everything you would expect from old 80s and 90s anime. Rockets, space ships, a bi-plane, a little puprle guy, a mermaid girl, a vampire banana, Bee Dude, bondage cat girl, Harlock wannabe and more. I took one look at this cover back in the day and immediately my head was filled with scenes from Urusei Yatsura and Robot Carnival and Dr. Slump. I had to own it. I even picked up an issue of Protoculture Addicts that had the stats for the Robotech SDF1 crew. I remember Minmay having "Wrap boys around little finger" at 5.

For those wishing to play along at home, here are the topics for this years #RPGaDay. Feel free to use these cues in your tweets, facebook posts, g+ threads, blog posts and more.

Friday, 4 August 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 - Day 4

Day 4 of #RPGaDay 2017. This one isn't going to go very well since I don't really play RPGs anymore. Not by choice. 

Which RPG have you played the most since August 2016?

I had to go to RPGgeek for this one as I wasn't sure what I've played in the last year. If I had to guess I would have said Mouse Guard 2nd Edition. After looking it up I was surprised to learn it was actually the Fantasy Flight Star Wars Edge of the Empire Beginner Game.

I started running this back in October of 2016 and it was meant to turn into a long running campaign. I ran the boxed set as written the first session and then downloaded Long Arm of the Hutt to expand on the story. Somewhere in there I picked up the full rulebook and read that back in April as part of #RPGaMonth. I also picked up one of the adventure modules to run when we finished the beginner rules and moved on to the full rules. The problem is: that never happened. We played a big two sessions of Edge of the Empire using only the beginner rules with pre-gen characters and never played again.

Sadly those two sessions back in October and November of 2016 make this my most played RPG for me over the last year. 

For those wishing to play along at home, here are the topics for this years #RPGaDay. Feel free to use these cues in your tweets, facebook posts, g+ threads, blog posts and more.

Thursday, 3 August 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 - Day 3

Day 3 of #RPGaDay 2017. I just realized I leave on vacation next week so maybe I shouldn't have signed up for this :D Oh well. Maybe I will actually figure out how to schedule posts :D

How do you find out about new RPGs?

This has changed quite a bit over the years. Way back when it was by going to The Dragon's Den in Walkerville. Then it was through gaming magazines. Then it was through local BBSs. After that, it was through the Windsor Gaming Society and word of mouth from fellow gamers. When that fell apart my only tie to gaming was a subscription to Knights of the Dinner Table, so that was my main source. When I got back into gaming it was Hugin & Munin the FLGS that had the largest RPG collection. Then I found That was my main source for many years. I used to be very active there. From there I expanded to social media in general. One of the first things I did on Facebook was to grab various RPG rulebooks and try to friend everyone I could find in the credits. As time went on I spent more and more time on Google Plus. Social media is still where I get a lot of my information but it's not my main source of RPG news.

The way I find out about new RPGs now is through podcasts. I listen to a lot of podcasts. Many of them RPG podcasts. Some of my favourites include: Fear the Boot, On RPGs, The Jank Cast, G*M*S magazine, Gaming & B.S., Misdirected Mark, The Gauntlet and Happy Jack's RPG Podcast

Pretty much any time I'm sitting in front of my PC at home I've got a podcast on. When I'm driving around town I've got a podcast on. When I have to work on a weekend or during a shutdown week, I'm at my desk with a podcast on. 

Heck, I even set up a community on Google Plus just for Tabletop Gaming Podcasts where I try to maintain a master list of podcasts. I've even been approached to be a playtester, or rather playlistener on new podcasts. 

For those wishing to play along at home, here are the topics for this years #RPGaDay. Feel freet to use these cues in your tweets, facebook posts, g+ threads, blog posts and more.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 - Day 2

It's day 2 of #RPGaDay 2017 - see the bottom of the posts for the blogging cues I will be following this month.

What is an RPG you would like to see published?

Now I'm not sure if this question means to ask about an RPG that doesn't exist now that I wish existed or one that exists but was never published? Either way, I think my answer will be the same.

I would love to be able to pick up a copy of a good RPG based on Frank Hebert's Dune.  Whether this is the Chronicles of the Imperium RPG by Last Unicorn that was never actually published for sale (shown at the left there) or something completely new, I really don't care.

Dune is my favourite sci-fi novel. Actually, it's my favourite novel overall. I love the universe that Herbert created and I think it would be an amazing place to play in.

Now I know there are systems out there that have tried to get a Dune feel. Warhammer 40K owes a lot of it's heritage to Dune and Fading Suns which I reviewed recently definitely pulls a lot from Hebert's work, but I want an officially licensed, based on the books themselves, RPG. 

There are some unofficial products out there like Jihad: Burning Sands for the Burning Wheel. There are probably others. I want something official. If I wanted a home brew I could make one myself. 

For those wishing to play along at home, here are the topics for this years #RPGaDay. Feel freet to use these cues in your tweets, facebook posts, g+ threads, blog posts and more.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

August #RPGaDay 2017 - Day 1

#RPGaDay has been going on for four years now. For some reason this year I feel compelled to take part. This project was started by RPG Brigade and is a set of 31 blogging/posting/tweeting prompts for the month of August. You can see all of the prompts here at the top of the page.

I'm going to try to put up a post a day but I expect there may be a few days I miss and in that case I will combine the posts into one.

What published RPG do you wish you were playing right now?

The game I wish I was playing right now is TSR's High Adventure Cliffhangers Buck Rogers Adventure Game. 

This near unknown RPG was released in 1993 and was based on the original Buck Rogers comic books from the late 1920s and early 1930s. This isn't the Buck that most of us alive today grew up with. This is a very low tech and to be honest quite racist Buck Rogers. Here we find jumping belts, bi-planes, and Han dirigibles instead of ray guns and rocket ships (okay technically there are rocket planes, but they never go into space). 

Back in March I wrote up a series of google plus posts about this very cool boxed set. I did an unboxing and full detailed review. The problem with that review is that it was a read-only review. I never got a chance to actually play the game. While the rules sounded interesting and like they worked I never got to try them out at the table. That is the main thing that makes me really want to play this right now. I want to know how well this classic plays at the table.

What I found during that review was a very solid sounding rules light system that seems perfect for the pulp nature of the setting. Quite a bit of it seems before it's time while mixed with charts tables and crunch you would expect from the early 90s.

Sunday, 23 July 2017

A (p)review of Burning Rome from SunTzuGames.

Way back in September 2013 I did an interview with Emil Larsen of SunTzuGames about his new game Burning Empires. Emil must have enjoyed that experience since he contacted me earlier this year about his new game: Burning Rome. Emil offered to send me a prototype copy of the game in return for a review. Well here's that review, which I'm calling a (p)review since it features prototype components and rules. If you dig the review and think this game sounds worth checking out, you can find it live on kickstarter right now.


Burning Rome is a very quick tactical card game recreating ancient battles. Four ancient armies are featured: Rome, Carthage, Celtiberia, and Gaetuli. Each force is represented by a 54 card deck. A big part of any battle is preparation and that is represented in Burning Rome through deck construction. Before each game, players construct their own decks. Decks are built using a point system, similar to army building in many modern miniature games. Interestingly decks in Burning Rome are usually rather small, and can have as little as 8 cards.  Each deck includes one general (no more, no less), a bunch of unit cards, and optionally some tactic cards. Points not used to buy cards are split between the armies starting Army Strength (kind of like the hit points for your full army) and Command Points (what you use during play to play cards from your hand).

In order to jump right into the game, and for players not interested in the deck construction aspect, the rules also provide quite a few sample decks: one for each of the factions and a starter deck set up for Rome and Carthage.

Once players have their decks ready it's time to start the war. The battlefield is set up by placing the center line in the middle of the table. Leaving room for card play to each side of it and placing an army board for each player at each end. On this board, players mark their current Army Strength and Command Points.

Each turn players do three things, starting with the attacker (determined by random card draw at the beginning of the match):

1) Draw a card or gain 2 CP - pretty self-explanatory.

2) Play cards into the battlefield by paying the CP cost on them.

3) Attack with the units in play.

This continues until one army hits 0 Army Strength or their CP is reduced below 0 and in that case , their opponent wins.

How cards are played and where is the meat of this game. When playing a card you have to decide where to put it and you have a choice of three fronts. The right or left flank or the center of the battlefield. The first card played in a front starts a new column. New columns can't attack. You can later add more cards to an existing column and these become support cards. The most cards you can have in a column is three (with an exception made for the general card which is the only card that can be the fourth card in a column).

Every single card I've seen for this game has a special effect. Most of these happen as soon as the card is played. They let you play cards for free, gain CP, draw cards from your deck, do direct damage to your opponent and a lot more. Some cards need to be activated and can be activated once every round. Chips were included to mark this status. Other card effects happen when a card is removed from the battle, or are ongoing and happen all the time. Some of these effects are even negative. For example, when Carthage plays their famous War Elephants they have to spend an extra CP or take 3 damage.

Now here's the neat part: only the card on top actually has an effect. So if you plan things properly you can cover up those bad effects, or later in a battle move units to have effects trigger multiple times. It's setting up and manipulating these columns of troops that provides all the action in battle.

Attacking and defending has some neat rules regarding these columns as well. Every card has four stats: Attack, Skirmish, Defense and Siege. When attacking, the front card in a column adds its' attack value to the attack of the middle card in a column (if any) and then that is added to the skirmish value of the last card in a column (if any). Similarly, defense value is calculated by adding the defense of the first unit, plus the defense of the second unit, plus the siege of the last unit. Any attack left over after the defense total is subtracted represents damage to the defender's Army Strength. So, as you can tell, the order of units on the battlefield is of great importance.

One important thing to note here about attacking and defending: units are never destroyed. The cards you play on the battlefield tend to stay there for the entire battle. There are a few cards that let you move them and even fewer that will actually remove a card from the battle. There are retreat abilities on some cards that let you remove them but out of all the decks I only saw a handful of these.

What isn't evident from this summary is how quick all of this happens. A full game of Burning Rome only lasts about 15-20 minutes. We spent way more time deck building than we did playing any of our battles (which is why the rules suggest a best of 3 or best of 5 match up).

Included with the rules I was given were some interesting optional rules. One was the option to build an auxiliary deck of mercenaries where both armies have the option to draw from that deck instead of their own personal draw deck. Another was to play a large battle with two armies per side. In this case, the armies face off in sections. This is where the game hits its' maximum of four player count. There are also some historical scenarios that can be fought but I did not get a chance to try those. These scenarios include some interesting twists like units starting in the field and different victory conditions.

So what did I think?

When I first opened the package from Emil all I could think is: damn that's a lot of cards. Then I was surprised again by how few of them I was actually using in our first battle. Reading the rules I didn't realize how much of this game was about the pre-game deck construction. With 54 cards per deck and the option to combine various decks, there are a crazy number of combinations and permutations possible. This is a very good thing.

Actual battles are ridiculously quick, but somehow still manage to give you the feel of a large battle. The fact that each card represents a full unit of troops, combined with the way you play them to different areas of the battlefield, gives you a very solid mass combat feel. I found this very impressive for a short filler game. I have to admit, that some games go by so quick that I wish they were a bit longer. It sometimes feels like I haven't seen enough of my deck before the game ends. In the games we played there also seemed to be a bit of an advantage to being the attacker, though I've been assured this was mainly due to us being new to the game and not being familiar with the various cards yet.

While I haven't had the chance to try out any of the historic scenarios (my prototype copy didn't have enough cards for the battles currently listed in the rules), I love the fact that they exist. In particular, I really want to try the one battle where Carthage starts with four War Elephants on the field.

The amount of variety you get with four different full decks for four different armies means that the number of different battles you could play is nearly endless. It also means that deck construction has a ton of options. Just browsing through the cards I was coming up with cool and interesting combos I'd like to try out in a future game. This also leads to one potential issue with the game. There are a lot of cards to learn. Each army plays differently and learning each army takes time. This gives a tactical learning curve and something that makes it hard for a new player to compete with someone who has played multiple times before.

Final thoughts: 

I'm glad Emil sent me a copy of Burning Rome to check out. It's a cool game. It's also a lot of game in a small package. I can't think of another game that I can play in 20 minutes that gives me a taste of big box games like Command & Colors Ancients (my personal favourite Rome Vs. Carthage wargame). It has a lot of depth and tactics for a filler game and anyone who enjoys the lonely fun of deck construction will find something to love here.

If Burning Rome sounds like something you would enjoy, check out the kickstarter, which is live right now.