Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Review: Wizards & Gunslingers

During the last summer sale on DrivethruRPG I picked up a few less known game systems, one of which was "Wizards and Gunslingers," by Trevor Banister from Avalon Games. It is possible to find a couple of reviews of the game if you scour the web for information, with statements related to good ideas and poor execution.

The 199-page standalone rulebook contains information on character creation and advancement, combat, magic and other resolution systems, reference of creatures found in the game, game mastering advice and the setting of Westrue. The book is set in grayscale, with text in two columns. The quality of the illustrations range from inspiring down to amateur. At the end of the book there are also several maps, quick reference tables and the mandatory character sheet template.

Character creation is based on allocating points to three main attributes and then deriving several secondary values. After that, skills are also purchased by using points. There are six skill categories and, in an interesting twist, the character's class is determined by the category with most skill points. It took me about 40 minutes of reading through and, at the same time, creating my character for this playtest. If you already know the rules or have someone to guide you, I'd say that a character can be created in 10 minutes.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Review: Strange Grogge

Last night I got to read and test Strange Grogge by Mike Baumann, Matthew Hartley and Steve Blease of Wessex Games. It is a game about "age of sail" skirmishes in a fantasy land. So you can play orc pirates (or Pyrates in the book) invading a dark elf settlement, or maybe ratmen privateers boarding a dwarf ship. With little work it could be adapted to play battles inspired by old swashbuckler movies. From the copyright notice, the game's been around since 2004 but I only came to know it this year.
Contents: Strange Grogge is a 32-page game book. The basic rules span 16 pages and describe the choices on force types and equipment, movement, ranged and close combat and other actions. The rest of the book contains optional rules to expand the character attributes and add skills and magic, as well as a campaign system. I really liked the different "flavors" of magic available in the game, from the more traditional spell-based Aquamancy to the bonus-granting magic foodstuffs from Gastromancy. Like everything else in the game, magic isn't completely reliable and there's always risk of backfire.

Characters in the basic game are described by race, unit type, equipment and a single attribute called Salt, which is a measure of their fighting state (morale, preparedness, health and so on.) Salt will go up and down during a battle based on success or failure of actions and damage in combat, requiring some bookkeeping. Going below Salt 2 makes a character rout; besides that, characters may be killed outright as a result of combat actions (although that is more likely for characters with low Salt.)