YT-2400 Freighter Unboxing

YT-2400, Boxed

The YT-2400 Freighter makes up one half of the 5th Wave of ships for the X-Wing miniatures game, along with the Imperial Decimator. This ship is also the second large ship available for the rebel fleet and can be likened to the YT-1300, otherwise known as the Millennium Falcon, as, in the fluff, they are both part of the same line of ships made by the the Corellian Engineering Corporation.

Just as the YT-1300 has it’s banner being flown by the Millennium Falcon the YT-2400 is represented most famously by the Outrider. The Outrider is the ship of the famed fringer Dash Rendar who is also included in this set as both an elite pilot and a crew upgrade card.

The box is the same size as all of the other large ship boxes (excluding the mammoth Decimator) with the standard window on the right hand side displaying the ship, which is shown from a top down perspective this time. Inside the box you’ll find-

  • 1 x YT-2400 Freighter ship
  • 1 x Large ship stand with 2 pegs
  • 1 x Manoeuvre dial
  • 2 x Ship base tokens
  • 19 x Cards (split between Pilot Cards, Upgrade cards, and Rules Cards, I’ll go into more detail in a little bit)
  • 17 x tokens (I’ll detail what there are in a little later as well)
  • 1 x rule booklet

YT-2400, contents

I’ll start by taking a look at the ship itself. The YT-2400 is smaller than the other large ships by a reasonable degree as you can see by taking a look at it compared to the Millennium Falcon here-

YT-2400, Millennium Falcon Comparison

The paint job on the ship is a bit hit and miss. From the top I think it looks awesome, the detailing around the cockpit, the scorch marks near the exhaust ports, even the little touches of red and yellow, they all serve to make the model look excellent. The flip side is that paint around the primary escape pod and on the underside, especially the bottom of the cockpit, is weak at best. On my model the bottom of the cockpit looks practically unpainted, which is a shame. However, on a second ship I have the paint job is complete and thorough.

The model itself is a nice enough sculpt but it is a bit lacking compared to the other large ship sculpts. For a start this ship has no moving parts which isn’t exactly a deal breaker but it does make it seem like less time was spent on the YT-2400 than any of the other large ships. The model also has a couple of points that seem like they might be prone to snapping, namely the top and bottom mounted turret guns. As a matter of fact the guns on the underside of my ship came bent out of shape in the box, something I’ve reached out to Fantasy Flight Games about, to see if they can tell me how to put them back into the correct position. UPDATE- Today I received a replacement YT-2400 in the post from FFG. That is mind blowing customer service.

 

 

YT-2400, TopYT-2400, side view

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

YT-2400, Front YT-2400, Back

 

 

 

 

 

YT-2400, Bottom

Much like the Millennium Falcon before it, the YT-2400 has a turret as a primary weapon, which means that it can fire outside of it’s firing arc, in a full 360 degree radius, making it particularly versatile. The Outrider title allows the YT-2400 to fire a secondary weapon outside of it’s firing arc, giving you a substantial number of options for how you use the ship depending on what role you need it to fill.

YT-2400, Pilots

You get 4 pilots in this set, one generic pilot and 3 elite ones, all of which are unique. The set includes the famous Dash Rendar, who is the most expensive pilot in the expansion and has an excellent elite pilot ability that allows him to ignore obstacles when moving and taking actions. The pilot cards have some nice artwork of the ship in a variety of situations but are nothing outstanding. The complete list of pilots is-

  • Dash Rendar
  • Leebo
  • Eaden Vrill
  • Wild Space Fringer

There are a lot of upgrade cards in this set, many of them unique or near unique which makes the set a valuable resource for anyone that needs the upgrade cards for tournament lists. A complete list of the upgrade cards is-

Crew-

  • Dash Rendar (unique to this set)
  • Leebo (unique to this set)
  • Lando Calrissian (unique to this set)
  • Gunner (available in the Slave 1 Expansion Pack)
  • Mercenary Copilot (available in the Slave 1 Expansion Pack)

Modification-

  • Countermeasures x 2 (unique to this set)
  • Experimental Interface (unique to this set)

Cannon-

  • Heavy Laser Cannon (available in the Slave 1 and Lambda-Class Shuttle Expansion Packs)

Elite-

  • Lone Wolf (unique to this set)
  • Stay on Target (unique to this set)

Title-

  • Outrider (unique to this set)

Missiles-

  • Proton Rockets (available in the Rebel Aces set)

YT-2400 Upgrade Cards

The art on these cards is of the same standard as the previous expansion packs, which is the same high standard I have come to expect from Fantasy Flight Games. In particular I like the image of the Mon Calamari on the Experimental Interface card. The other massive bonus of this set, to me at least, is the inclusion of the Gunner card, previously only available in the Slave 1 set, which is a staple of virtually any Han Solo themed Millennium Falcon set up. As a rebel only player finally getting my hands on this card is a really big deal an I’m really pleased that Fantasy Flight Games decided to reprint it for this expansion.

In addition to all these cards the set also has both a Boost Action and an Ion Token rules card included.

In addition to all the cards you also get the obligatory pile of tokens which, excluding the manoeuvre dial are-

  • 5 x Shield tokens
  • 1 x Stress tokens
  • 2 x Ion tokens
  • 3 x Debris cloud tokens
  • 5 x Cache tokens for missions
  • 1 x Focus token
  • 2 x ship tokes (both double sided, Leebo/Wild Space Fringer and Dash Rendar/Eaden Vrill)

YT-2400, Tokens

Noticeably absent from the tokens are the target locks and ID number tokens. Since Rebel Aces included target locks using double letters (AA and CC) is seems that Fantasy Flight Games finally decided that players own enough of each of these and have stopped putting them in the expansions. This is a big step for Fantasy Flight Games as they adore their tokens and try to add as many as possible to their products, usually far more than is necessary.

The debris cloud tokens are worth mentioning because these are the first addition to the terrain in the game since the starter box’s asteroids. The debris clouds function in a similar way to asteroids, in that they are obstacles that inhibit line of side and have the potential to cause damage when you fly through them but, as is befitting the scattered nature of debris clouds, they will cause stress to a pilot that tries to do so. In addition debris clouds don’t make you lose your attack when you land on them, making them a little more forgiving than asteroids. The downside of the release of the debris clouds is now I need to figure out how to make some 3D models for them.

This is a nice expansion but it’s a shame that it was released at the same time as the vastly more impressive Imperial Decimator because it’s somewhat overshadowed. Dash Rendar is a much loved character from the fluff and his ship the Outrider has been long awaited in the game and now it’s here it is an interesting and valuable addition to the Rebel Fleet. This is a ship that Rebel Players should own but it’s by no means perfect, the paint job is a touch haphazard and the model feels like it hasn’t had quite as much thought put into it as the other huge ships. Despite all of it’s issues though this is definitely an expansion I would recommend players to get.

Rebel Aces- Unboxing

Rebel Aces, front of box

 

Rebel Aces is the Rebel variant of the ‘Aces’ line of ship sets for the X-Wing Miniatures Game. This box was a very long time coming and was eagerly awaited by a large portion of the community, myself included, as it provided a much needed boost to the A-Wing and gave a few more options for the stalwart B-Wing. The point of this article to give players considering the set a good idea of what you’ll find inside.

The Aces line of ships contain variants of already released ships  and focuses on those that have a rich and detailed background in the setting and generally have famous (or infamous) pilots. The idea appears to be to give these ships a little special treatment as well as update them and provide options to make them a more popular choice within the game. This can be because the ship was perhaps a little over-pointed making it seem sub-optimal or because there are certain options that seem tailor made for the ship but that it can’t utilise for one reason or another. Rebel Aces provides upgrades that fit both of those categories.

Taking a look at the box it’s the same size as those used for the Large ships like the Millennium Falcon or Slave one. It has the plastic pane on the right hand side that is the packaging for the ships, both of which as displayed at dynamic angles to give the impression that they are flying while affording you a good view of the ships in all their glory.
In the pack you get-

  • 1 x B-Wing, alternative red paint scheme with stand, pegs and manoeuvre dial
  • 1 x A-Wing, alternative blue paint scheme with stand, pegs and manoeuvre dial
  • 1 x Mission booklet/rule sheet
  • 22 x Cards (more on these a little later)
  • 4 x Ship base tokens, 2 each for the A-Wing and B-Wing, all double sided
  • 26 x Tokens (more on the breakdown of these soon)First let’s take a look at the ships.

Rebel Aces, A-WingRebel Aces, B-Wing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Both have been previous standalone releases, as is the norm for the Aces releases. The B-Wing is detailed with a muddy red along the main body and around the cockpit and has a dagger motif on the main body. This paint scheme is representative of the legendary Dagger Squadron.  The A-Wing is detailed in a vibrant blue with a central stripe down the middle and further detailing along the fins. The blue stripe is enhanced by a white triangle painted at the very front of the ship. This paint scheme isn’t representative of any particular squadron, although it could be presumed to be part of blue squadron. More likely however is that this ship was painted to resemble Star Wars concept artist Ralph McQuarrie’s original art for the ship which can be seen on the prototype pilot card.

Of the two ships I have to say that I vastly prefer the paint scheme on the A-Wing. The blue stands out beautifully and it just makes the ship look that much better. Neither ship is looks bad in any way, I just think that the blue is a much nicer colour than the red and the detailing looks much better. My only criticism of the ships is that I think they could have been made so that when they are put on the pegs they are on an angle which would differentiate them from the regular ships a little more.

You get 8 Pilot cards in the set, 4 for each ship. You get 2 elite pilots and 2 generic pilots for each ship. The elite pilot cards are all unique but the generic pilots are just duplicates of the ones you get in the A-Wing and B-Wing individual packs. The unique pilots are-

  • Jake Farrell, A-Wing
  • Gemmer Sojan, A-Wing
  • Keyan Farlander, B-Wing
  • Nera Dantels, B-Wing

The generic pilots duplicated from the individual packs are-

  • Prototype Pilot, A-Wing
  • Green Squadron Pilot, A-Wing
  • Dagger Squadron Pilot, B-Wing
  • Blue Squadron Pilot, B-Wing

I’m not going to go into detail regarding the special abilities and pilot skills of the pilots, that’s not the point of the article but needless to say, some of the pilots included in this box have some really interesting abilities and tie into the fluff of the Star Wars setting nicely. For instance Jake Farrell is the pilot who helped to design the A-Wing and commanded an A-Wing squadron at the Battle of Endor.

The upgrade cards are where this set really stands out. The upgrades provide Rebel players with the ability to field variants of the standard A-Wing and B-Wings in very interesting and valuable ways and all are unique to this set, which makes the set all the more useful. The pack includes-

Missile-

  • 3 x Chardaan refits (unique to this set)

Title-

  • 2 x A-Wing test pilots (unique to this set)

Modification-

  • 2 x B-Wing/E2 (unique to this set)

System

  • 2 x Enhanced Scopes (unique to this set)

Rockets-

  • 2 x Proton Rockets (unique to this set)

Crew-

  • 1 x Jan Ors (unique to this set)
  • 1 x Kyle Katarn (unique to this set)

Rebel Aces, Cards

Again, I’m not going into detail as to what every card does, you can find that information easily enough online, but these cards are really worth checking out because there are some excellent additions to the game here. For reference purposes you also get a Boost Rules card.

You also get a reasonable amount of tokens in the set. Once you exclude the manoeuvre dials you are left with-

  • Shields x 7
  • Stress x 2
  • Evade x 2
  • Focus x 3
  • ID Token number 43 (x3)
  • Target Lock Tokens AA and CC (x2 of each double sided, red and blue)
  • 1 x Escape Pod mission token
  • 2 x A-Wing Ship Tokens- Double sided Jake Farrell/Green Squadron Pilot and Gemmer Sojan/Prototype Pilot
  • 2 x B-Wing Ship Tokens- Double sided Keyan Farlander/Dagger Squadron Pilot, Nera Dantels/Blue Squadron Pilot

This is a fantastic addition to the game and a set that is a must for Rebel players. The B-Wing is great looking ship and the A-Wing is just stunning, looking substantially better than the standard A-Wing that is sold separately. The pilots and upgrade cards in the set are really useful and, for the most part, are unique meaning you need this set if you want to use the cards in any sanctioned tournament. The point of this unboxing isn’t to provide an overall rating of Rebel Aces, only to show what you get if you are considering it, but overall I’m very pleased with what I got and I would recommend the set to anyone who plays or collects Rebels.

Numenera- Players Guide Review

Name: Numenera Player’s Guide
Type: Roleplaying Game
Publisher: Monte Cook Games
System: Cypher System
Format- Softback
Size: 28.3cm x 22cm x 2.5cm
Pages: 64
Price:  £14.99
Rating: 4.0 Stars (4.0 / 5)

Numenera Players Guide Cover

The Numenera Player’s Guide is a full colour soft-back expansion for the Numenera roleplaying game. This is a nice looking book, full of solid, evocative illustrations that help players and GMs alive to visualise the weird world of the Numenera setting.

The primary role of the book at the gaming table is to give players quick and easy access to all of the basic information they will need for their character. The book is essentially a reprint of a few sections from the core Numenera book. It covers character generation, including full rules for all of the foci and descriptors from the core book, the full equipment lists (such as they are) from the core book and the basic rules of the setting.

Numenera Players Guide, Contents

The main use I’ve had for this book is that it helps speed up group character generation because you have a full set of character information in another book allowing 2 players to simultaneously create characters (more if, like me, you plumbed for PDFs as well). Even though Numenera has a ridiculously simple chargen system having a 2nd set of information allowing multiple players to create characters at once is a godsend. Once a campaign starts having this book on hand allows players quick and simple access to their abilities, without them having to scour the bulky core book, which is helpful, and it prevents easily distracted players from browsing the core book during sessions since the Player’s Guide is pretty focused in its content.

I’ll admit, I was massively skeptical of this book when it was released, going as far as to unwittingly insult the generosity of my group, who had got it as part of my birthday present, by telling them that I thought it was pointless. A book that just reprints parts of another without adding any original content seemed to be a bit of a money grab to me and I couldn’t justify it because, while not particularly expensive, it just looked utterly superfluous. Even as a collector of games I couldn’t see a point it buying it and I pride myself on complete collections of settings and systems.

In retrospect I was wrong, this book has seen substantial use in both chargen and in sessions and it actually prevents overuse and damage of the stunning core book. It’s a useful, small aid to have on hand for the players to be able to check what their abilities and powers can do and this is doubly useful if you have players new to Numenera in your group.

You should know going in that this book doesn’t have absolutely everything you need for chargen, there isn’t a character sheet included, although a link to the downloadable version is mentioned and the sections of the core book that detail the various Numenera aren’t in there either. This just means that you can’t just take the Players Guide to a friends house in order to build a character, you need the core book (or Technology Compendium) as well or else you need to have rolled up what Numenera a character will have ahead of time. It is also worth knowing that the Players Guide contains only the Descriptors and Foci from the core book and not those included in the Character Options book.

Would I recommend this book to someone? That’s a tough question because it’s certainly not something that is required or that I would consider essential but it is really useful and an asset to the table. If, like me, you get the book as a present or you can buy it as a present for another player in your group then it’ll be graciously accepted and it’ll see a lot of use but unless you are a completionist or have money to burn then there are more important books in the Numenera line to pick up first.

Arkham Horror Official Dice

Name: Arkham Horror Dice sets
Type: Board Game Accessory
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
Players: 1-8
Size: 15.3cm x 10.9cm x2cm
Price:  £8.99 Each
Rating: 3.0 Stars (3.0 / 5)

Arkham Horror Dice

The Arkham Horror game comes with a set of 5 normal six sided dice, more specifically it comes with a rather bland set of generic white D6 with black dots.

Arkham Horror Dice, Standard Set

The game required you to roll dice almost constantly to fight mythos creatures, make sanity checks, read books, cats spells, close gates or just to as a pure luck roll. As standard you need a 5+ for a given die to be considered a success but even this can be modified by becoming either blessed or cursed. A blessed player only needs his dice to show a 4+ for them to be counted as successes while a cursed character only gets successes on the roll of a 6.

While the dice that come in the base set are perfectly serviceable for all of these situations, Fantasy Flight Games have released 3 sets of dice that make reading your successes a little easier. Each pack comes as a set of 5 dice that have been designed by Q-Workshop. All of the sets have the same designs for the faces with a central bold number surrounded by corner designs and a tentacle on the normal faces and a smaller off center number with a central Elder Sign on the success faces. Each dice set comes packaged in a little box with a card insert that holds the dice snugly in place.

Standard Replacement Dice

The standard replacement dice come in two colour variations, the Black and Green set that I own and will be featured here and a rather nice Bone set. In the style of many of the dice produced by Q-Workshop these dice have a good amount of fine detail on the faces while ensuring that the numbers are clear and easy to read. The faces on the numbers 5 and 6 are decorated differently to the other sides and display Elder Sign runes which makes it much easier to ascertain which dice are successes, as explained above.

 

Arkham Dice, Standard Dice 1

 

 Arkham Horror Dice, Elder Signs

 

Blessed Dice

These dice are coloured blue, the colour that represents being Blessed in the game, and the designs are painted in silver. The blessed dice are for use in the game when your character becomes Blessed. Being Blessed means that you can get successes a little easier because you only need a 4+ to  succeed. As with the other sets these dice have the Elder Sign design on the faces that are successes.

 

Arkham Horror, Blessed Dice

 

Cursed Dice

These dice are coloured red, which is the colour that represents being Cursed in the game. Like the Blessed dice the designs are painted in silver. Unsurprisingly cursed dice are used when you are Cursed in the game which means that getting successes is harder than normal, requiring you to role a 6 to succeed. Elder Signs also decorate the 6 face, which is the only success on these dice.

Arkham Horror, Cursed Dice

 Final Thoughts

The Dice Accessories for Arkham Horror are pretty cool. The dice are nice with beautiful designs, bold numbers and make it easy to ascertain the number of successes rolled with just a glance. The Standard Replacement dice set is, to my mind, the nicest of the 3 sets because I think the bold green on black looks really good and it’s by far the best contrast of the sets. Having not seen the bone set in person I can’t comment on whether that set is as good a replacement as the green and black but from the images I’ve seen they do look good. The Blessed and Cursed dice are nice and it’s kind of fun to have specific dice in game that make you feel a little special, for better or worse, for being Blessed or Cursed. I also find having the specific Blessed and Cursed dice helps remind me that I need to roll something other than the standard 5+ to succeed.

Are these dice a necessity? No. What they are are nice sets of dice that add a little something extra to the game. In general you can find them cheaper than RRP and they make great little presents for other gamers. I like dice, I like dice a lot and I especially like nice dice and these are some of the nicer dice I’ve seen available as a game accessory.

I’d like to offer a special thanks to @StormFey and @LunchMoney_Al for the loan of the Cursed and Blessed dice for the purpose of this review.

Shadowrun Crossfire

Name: Shadowrun Crossfire
Type: Card Game
Publisher: Catalyst Games
Players: 1-4
Age: 13+
Size: 29.2cm x 29.2cm x 9cm
Playtime: 30-60 mins
Price:  £39.99
Rating: 3.0 Stars (3.0 / 5)

Shadowrun Crossfire, box

I’ve had a long, relationship with Shadowrun Crossfire, not because I’ve owned it for a particularly long time, but because I had it on pre-order practically from the day it was announced, which seems like an age ago. As it is, Crossfire was released some 15 months after their initial window, missing the ‘Year of Shadowrun’ by quite a margin. The delay in the release of Crossfire was annoying for me because I went from excited, to impatient, to annoyed and finally a kind of resigned relief when it finally arrived.

Now I’m a HUGE Shadowrun fan and have been since I was first handed a battered copy of ‘Never Deal with a Dragon’ back in 1996. A good friend at the time had a sizable collection of the sourcebooks for the RPG and I began to read them at a voracious rate, taking in this amazing setting that seems, at least to me, to be the perfect fusion of Cyberpunk and Magic. The easiest way to describe Shadowrun would be a combination of Tolkien and Gibson but that is an absolute oversimplification.

Crossfire is set in the world of Shadowrun 5th Edition, in the year 2075. For those that don’t know, Shadowrun is a RPG with an living world. Every single sourcebook moves the timeline forwards, huge corporate plots unfold, wars are fought, people are born, live and die all within the confines of this world. The world of Shadowrun is incredibly detailed, in much the same way as George R R Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire setting, and the politics of nations and corporations can be discussed endlessly, as can the motivations of people, dragons, even spirits and elementals. It’s for this reason that people can latch onto the world, everyone has their own opinion as to what is an iconic weapon (for me it’s the Ares Predator), spell (Manabolt) or vehicle (Yamaha Rapier) and everyone has their favourite Megacorporation (Aztechnology). It is my opinion that Shadowrun is the single most detailed setting of any RPG.

I needed to explain all that so you understand my passion for the setting, as well as my knowledge of it as it’ll help when I go into some of the finer detail of the product.

In the RPG players take the roles of Shadowrunners, hired criminals that act as deniable assets for anyone that has a shady task that needs completing and the Nuyen (money, literally New Yen) to pay for it. Shadowrun Crossfire simulates the part of the RPG when the runners actually go to perform the job or run as it’s known in the game. These runs usually take the form of breaking into secure facilities and stealing data or prototypes, extracting valuable employees from multinational mega-corporate compounds or even taking out dragons.

OK, so Crossfire comes in a fairly sizable box that is surprisingly light for its size at 1,481g. Inside you initially get assaulted by a huge amount of superfluous stuff, a leaflet with a code for a gun in the unreleased Shadowrun Online game, a booklet entitled ‘Welcome to the Sixth World’ that described the history of the setting (cool but not really required), a preview of the novel Frost and Fire and a Catalyst catalogue. Other than that you get the rules, 190 cards, a sheet of tokens, a pack of stickers, 10 character cards and 3 missions, plus a couple of extra mission related cards. The box has a plastic insert to keep all your cards and tokens in that has space for probably triple what is provided so I guess Catalyst have a good number of expansions in the works.

 

Shadowrun Crossfire, ContentsShadowrun Crossfire, Box Insert

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Rulebook is 31 pages long, just under A4 in size and is full colour, which is nice. The cards are made of a lightweight cardstock and are not laminated. I’m not overly impresses by the production value of the cards, especially given the cost of the game, I think they’ll bend very easily and I doubt that they’ll stand up to any kind of drink spillage or the like. The tokens are nice and thick so seem pretty hardy and the runner and mission cards are all full colour and made of stiffer, laminated card. The cards are all just under playing card size with the exception of the runner and mission cards which are around A5 in size. The stickers, of which, there are 100 come sealed in a little self-seal packet.

There are 190 cards that make up the various decks, one for each role (of which there are 4), a Black Market deck, 2 Obstacle decks and a Crossfire deck. As I’ve said they appear to all be of sub-par standard compared to any other LCG or CCG on the market. Given the style of the game I would say that Catalyst are opting for something similar to FFG LCG system with Crossfire but as no add-ons have been announced, at the time of writing, I can’t say that with any certainty at this point. The cards are all full colour and all have pretty decent artwork on them. I’ll cover the decks individually as each has something work pointing out.

 

Starting Role Decks.

There are 4 of these, one each for the separate role you can play in the game, Street Samurai, Decker, Mage and Face. Each starting deck comprises of the same 4 cards, Quick Shot (a Street Samurai card), Mana (a Mage card), Mark (a Decker card) and Street Smarts (a Face card). The decks are made up of 8 cards, A Role card that has the turn order on the back, 4 of the card associated with the role  and 1 of each of the other cards so, for example, the Street Samurai deck is made up of the Street Samurai Role card, 4 Quick Shot cards  and 1 each of Mark, Mana and Street Smarts. Each runner role has a corresponding colour that has some effects in the game, Black for Street Samurai, Green for Deckers, Red for Faces and Blue for Mages. Starting Role deck cards are basically Black Market cards and their description matches that of the Black Market deck cards mentioned below.

Shadowrun Crossfire, Role CardsShadowrun Crossfire, Street Samurai Role Deck

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crossfire Deck.

The Crossfire deck is made up of 50 cards. These represent the unexpected events that can take place on a Shadowrun, guards with better armour, back-up or weapons, extra layers of security, old enemies turning up at inopportune times or any number of other occurrences that make the runners lives just that much harder. In the context of the game these cards are drawn each round and stay in play and can have such effects as keeping enemies alive until all are dead, or healing the enemies or damaging players. As they change each round it means the players need to keep readjusting their plans. These cards are mostly artless and tend to just have the effects written on them.

Shadowrun Crossfire, Crossfire Card Front

Obstacle Deck

There are actually two of these decks comprising of 40 cards each. One contains more difficult challenges than the other and is used later in the game or in harder missions. The two decks are differentiated by the number of bullet holes on the back of the cards, the easier deck has one, the harder has two. These cards take the form of in game challenges that the runners face and are such things as Security Drones, Lone Star Security, Renraku Red Samurai, Paranormal Critters or a variety of other challenges that may crop up in the RPG. The cards all have full colour artwork on them, along with a coloured box that designates which type of challenge they represent and this matches the colours of the runner roles as noted above.

Each card also has it’s title, a little bit of fluff and the cards title in the coloured box. The Nuyen reward for defeating the obstacle is in the top right corner and the damage to the runner it faces in the bottom left corner. The other notable thing about the Obstacle cards is that they all have a line of icons across the top starting in the top left corner. These icons show what the runners need to do to defeat the obstacle.

Shadowrun Crossfire, Obstacle Deck Card

Black Market Deck

The Black Market deck is made of 60 cards. Black Market cards are new items or skills that the runners can buy during the course of a game in order to increase the size of their deck and to improve their chances of success. Every card has a coloured border that aligns with the runner roles although runners aren’t limited to only buying cards that match their own deck. However like coloured cards tend to have a better synergy with one another and so focusing on just your runners role cards can be a useful stratagy. The cards also have a title along the top, Nuyen cost in the top right corner, extra rules or effects in a box at the bottom and a list of icons down the left side starting in the top left corner. These icons match those on the Obstacle deck cards and it is by it is using Black Market cards, along with Role deck cards, that allow you to defeat challenges in order to ultimately win the game.

Shadowrun Crossfire, Black Market Card

Runner Cards

Runner cards are, for all intents and purposes, character sheets. The are larger than the deck cards and have spaces for you to write your runners name and to add the stickers as your character progresses between games. Each card has a picture of the runner and lists their race (Human, Dwarf, Ork, Elf or Troll), their starting hit points, starting hand size, starting Nuyen and it has a box for you to record your Karma (experience) as you collect it through playing games. The back of the card also has a bit of in game fluff about your race.

Shadowrun Crossfire, Runner Card

Mission Cards

The mission cards, of which there are 5 which total 3 complete missions, are specific sets of rules and objectives that make up individual games of Shadowrun Crossfire. Each details the background fluff for the run, the goal, how the Crossfire and Obstacle decks are used during that game, what the criteria for the game ending are and how to play with less than 4 players. They also explain the Karma rewards for the run and explain how the players can make the run harder in order to increase the Karma rewards at the end. Catalyst have also released 3 new missions online for free and these can be downloaded here- Extra Missions.

Shadowrun Crossfire, Mission Card

How it plays

Normally, when I review a game like this, I tend to go into pretty specific detail as to how to play the game. With Crossfire I can’t really do that, the rules are 31 pages long and the game changes depending on which run you are playing so if I tried then this review would be huge. What I will do is go into a little bit of deal as to what makes it different. If you want to read the rules then they are available for free online here- Rules

Crossfire is a Deck Building game, which means that players start with limited decks of cards (the Role decks) and use Nuyen in game to buy cards from the Black Market so as to increase the size of their deck and what there character can do. Runners start with some Nuyen and earn more by defeating Obstacles. To defeat an Obstacle the players need to play cards with the correct icons to match, in order, the icons on the Obstacle cards, over a number of turns. Once they have matched all of the icons on the Obstacle it is defeated and the runners get paid.

What makes Crossfire really special is the fact that your character gains experience, called Karma, after the end of the game. The amount of Karma earned depends on whether the players succeeded, aborted or were all defeated. Players can spend this Karma on new abilities which are represented by the stickers included in the box, which they attach to their character cards. These new abilities can increase a characters starting hand size, Nuyen or Hit points or allow them to substitute certain icons on cards for another, making the character more versatile. This experience system is great idea and keeps you coming back to the game again and again and makes you genuinely care whether you succeed.

Make no mistake, this is a tough game to win, I’d say that you have a 33% chance to beat the run, a 33% that you have to abort and do successfully, a 33% chance of dying and a 1% chance of throwing a fit and wiping the cards off the table in frustration. What it does well though is force co-operation because you absolutely have to work together when you play this game. Players need to consult with other players regarding what resources they have at their disposal and form a plan to best get through the round and to defeat the enemies as quickly as possible.

Haste is a must in this game, the more rounds that you go through, the more Crossfire cards come out and, if you look at the picture of the Crossfire card above, you’ll notice a symbol in the bottom left that looks like a square targeting reticule with a 4+ in it. Well this symbol means that if 4 or more Crossfire cards have come out then the secondary text kicks in which makes things even harder. The point is, just like the RPG, you want to be in and out as quickly as possible because the longer you take the harder things are going to get.

Final Thoughts

This is a good, reasonably well balanced, co-operative game. The rules work well, make sense and bear a reasonable similarity to the original Shadowrun CCG and to beating challenges in the Firefly Boardgame. Most importantly it actually simulates a the core ideals of a Shadowrun remarkably well. Unfortunately it has a few things that go against it, it’s very expensive for what you get, the production values are rather low and it’s actually quite hard to play with less than 4 players, despite the game providing guidance on how to do so.

However these aren’t the worst things for me, the worst thing is that some of the most iconic pieces of equipment aren’t in the game. Weapons such as the Ares Predator, Browning Max Power or Ingram Valiant can’t be bought for a Street Samurai, Deckers can’t get a Black Hammer piece of IC and Mages can’t get Manabolts (lightning bolt might be iconic in D&D but not in Shadowrun). There is a chance that these things are all going to come out in expansions but they are a stunning omission and a major disappointment for me. The game does have certain pieces of named equipment but none of these are what I would call iconic. I will say that some of these items show up in the art on the cards for instance the Ares Predator is on the Quick Shot card but not being able to buy one detracts from the Shadowrun experience for me.

It’s a game that I would recommend to someone, but only if they could find it cheaper than the standard price. I was fortunate enough to have the game bought for me by my gaming group and while I would have bought it myself, I would have been sorely disappointed with what is in the box if I had. It’s a fun game and one your group will be able to keep coming back to over and over but it’s not without it’s issues.

At the time of writing Shadowrun Crossfire has one expansion available.

Zombie Dice Review

Name: Zombie Dice
Type: Dice Game
Publisher: Steve Jackson Games
No of Dice Included: 13
Players: 2+
Price:  £10.79
Play time:
Rating: 2.0 Stars (2.0 / 5)

Zombie Dice, Tube- Title

Zombie Dice was another impulse buy for me, at the same counter, in the same Forbidden Planet and at the same time as the Cthulhu Dice. I actually went in just to browse and ended up with those 2 games, plus the Call of Cthulhu LCG by Fantasy Flight Games and the Miskatonic University sourcebook for Call of Cthulhu by Chaosium (both to be reviewed at some point but if you’d like to see them sooner rather than later then comment below). Forbidden Planet did well out of my lack of self restraint that day. Anyway, I digress, Zombie Dice is a mechanics light Dice game by Steve Jackson Games that casts you in the role of a Zombie hungry for tasty, tasty brains.

The game comes in a small cardboard tube that houses the 13 dice you need to play the game as well as the rules which come on a double sided, full colour, A5 sheet. The tube also doubles as a shaker during the game. The tube is nicely decorated in full colour with the title of the game and a great looking cartoon zombie.

Zombie Dice, Contents

The 13 dice come in 3 varieties, Green, Yellow and Red. You get 6 Green dice, 4 Yellow Dice and 3 Red dice. The dice have 3 custom faces, a brain, an explosion which denotes a shotgun blast and footprints and each of the different coloured dice has these symbols in different combinations. The Green dice has the most faces with brains, the Yellow the second most brains and the Red has the least with just a single face bearing the brain symbol. Conversely the Red dice has the most shotgun blasts, the Yellow has the second most and the Green the least.

Zombie Dice, 3 Colours

The point of the game is to roll brains and to be first person to amass a score of 13. Like many modern games Zombie Dice elects for an abstract way of deciding who goes first, either it’s the person who won the last game or the person who is able to say Braaaaaaaaains in the most convincing way.

On your turn you shake the tube full of dice and then randomly select 3 and roll them, counting up the number each of result you get, brains, shotgun blasts, and footprints. Each brain adds one to your score, each shotgun blast counts against you, I’ll explain how in a minute, and each footprint means that your victim escaped. After rolling you can choose to roll again to increase your score and to do this you replace any footprint results back in the tube, shake it and repeat the process above.

Brains and shotgun blast results are not put back in the tube until your entire turn is over. You can continue to roll as many times as you like, making sure that brains and shotgun blasts are set aside in between rolls. After each roll you count must check the total number of shotgun blasts you have rolled and if this is 3 or more then your turn immediately ends and your entire score for the turn is discarded as you have been fought off by your victims. You can, of course, voluntarily end your turn after any roll and add any rolled brains to your total score but if you draw more dice from the tube then you are committed to rolling them.

The trick is to keep rolling as long as you can, using judgement based on the dice in your shotgun and brains piles as to the odds of pulling out more Green or Red dice for your next roll. As I mentioned above, Green dice have the most brains and the least shotgun blasts and so are your friend, the Red dice are quite the opposite.  The game progresses until the first player gets a total score of 13 and wins.

Zombie Dice isn’t a bad game by any means and it’s a fun way to kill 10 minutes while your group is waiting for late players to arrive. It has a little bit of strategy to it when deciding whether to take the chance and roll again but not so much that it’ll keep you hooked for any length of time. The production values are quite high with 13 pretty cool dice, a full colour tube/shaker and full colour rules. The size means that it’s easy to just throw into a backpack and take to a gaming night, making it a handy game to have around. It’s not a complex game and that works in it’s favour because it means you might be able to hook the odd none gamer into playing it.

I can’t say that I think the game is great, there is a huge amount of random chance involved and that doesn’t interest a more hardcore gamer like me, plus there just isn’t enough to the game itself to really draw anyone in for any length of time. What I can say is that Zombie Dice is cheap, cheerful, has good production values and will pass an hour or two every now and then before you bore of it and put it on shelf for another couple of years.

At the time of writing Zombie Dice has 2 expansions available.

Cthulhu Dice Review

Name: Cthulhu Dice
Type: Dice Game
Publisher: Steve Jackson Games
No of Dice Included: 1
Players: 2-6
Price:  £5.49
Play time: 5-10 minutes
Rating: 1.0 Stars (1.0 / 5)

Cthulhu Dice text

I’ve mentioned before that I’m a Cthulhu junkie and so it should come as no surprise that I own a game named Cthulhu Dice. Cthulhu dice was an impulse purchase for me, picked up from the counter at Forbidden Planet at the very last minute for the low, low price of £1.99. I’m pretty pleased that I only paid £2 for the game as I honestly don’t think it’s worth more.

Cthulhu dice should really just be called Cthulhu Die, as there is only a single die in the pack, but I guess that the folk at Steve Jackson Games figured that the title Cthulhu Die might suggest that the goal of the game is something very different from what it is. The game comes packed in a self seal plastic baggie and contains a single 12 sided die, 18 glass ‘sanity’ beads and the rules on an full colour, double sided A5 sheet. There are also now several different colours of dice that you can get as part of the set as well as a deluxe metal die version.

Cthulhu Dice Contents, PackedCtulhu Dice Contents, Unpacked

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The game is pretty simple, as you’d expect from such limited contents. In the game you play a Cthulhu Cultist and the goal overall is to make the other players go insane by cursing them which is accomplished by rolling the dice and reducing their sanity points to zero. To start the game each player takes 3 of the glass beads that represent their sanity and then the owner of the game decides who will be the first Caster (basically the player who’d turn it is). The Caster picks a Victim (another player) and rolls the dice, which can result in one of five outcomes-

  • Yellow Sign- The Victim loses a point of sanity to Cthulhu
  • Tentacle- The Caster steals a point of sanity from the Victim
  • Elder Sign- The Caster receives a point of sanity from Cthulhu
  • Cthulhu- All players loses a point of sanity to Cthulhu
  • Eye of Horus- The Caster chooses a result.

The winner is the last player to have any sanity left and if two or more players simultaneously lose their last point then Cthulhu wins. Cthulhu is considered to be in the middle of the table and, as you can see, he can gather sanity from the players throughout the game. If at any point a player should receive sanity from Cthulhu and there are no sanity points in the middle of the table, then the player gets nothing.

One of the things I like about the game is that even if a player is reduced to zero sanity then they can still keep playing, which means that no-one is left sitting at the table with nothing to do. A player who is reduced to zero sanity is considered to be mad which means that, on their turn, they can keep attacking other players  but they can never regain any sanity so can’t win the game. This means that mad players can, and should, do their best to try and make sure Cthulhu wins.

Now, obviously, this game is 90% reliant on luck. Aside from deciding who you attack and, very occasionally, picking the result if you roll the Eye of Horus (a 1 in 12 chance), then there is nothing you can do to influence the outcome of the game. This really limits the mileage you can get out of the game as there is only so much enjoyment you can get out of rolling a D12. The game falls into a weird and difficult niche, it’s a bit too geeky to make it as a mainstream game but it’s a bit to basic to be of interest to hardcore gamers. The best use I can find for it is as a drinking game, with each point of sanity lost representing a shot and going mad meaning you have to finish your drink. In this way it would be a good warmup game for Cards Against Humanity on a casual evening with people that aren’t really gamers.

The best thing about the game, and the selling point for me is the Cthulhu die. It’s an interesting and unique D12 with some cool symbols on, such as Cthulhu and the Yellow Sign-

Cthulhu Dice, Cthulhu Face Cthulhu Dice, Yellow Sign Face

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Overall, this isn’t a great game, there isn’t much there and it’s too luck based to be of much fun but, it’s also very very cheap. The score I’ve given it is based more or less entirely on the fact that it’s cheap and I really like the die. I can’t really recommend it to anyone but if you think the die is cool or if your group wants a new drinking game then it might be worth checking out.

At the time of writing there are no supplements for Cthulhu Dice.

Owning the TPK

So, a couple of days ago a friend who runs a D&D campaign contacted me and asked if I had any modules or adventures set in the land of the dead, Hell or the like. Now immediately my mind jumped to two places, Ghostwalk, a little used 3rd ed expansion that lets you play, unsurprisingly, as a ghost (comment below if you’d like to see a review of it) and, of course, to Planescape. What setting is better to use when you need to set an adventure in a character’s personal idea of Hell than the setting that actually has Hell in it (with the way better name of Baator)? This of course led me to wonder why, after all most of my players, as this friend has been on occasion, tend to shy away from the Planes (after a disastrous 4th ed jaunt there), and it turns out that, much like every one of us who has DM’d a game for any length of time, he’d suffered a TPK in his own game.

For those new to roleplaying a TPK is that most dreaded of DMing situations, it’s when something has gone wrong and, for one reason or another the party all die, you suffer a Total Party Kill. TPKs can happen for any number of reasons, bad dice rolling for the players, good dice rolling for the DM (whether a DM should ever fudge the dice is a debate for another day), an encounter gone wrong, bad planning, you are playing Shadowrun or the DM simply wants to.

I’ll start with the last point as it’s by far the easiest to address. The DM should never intentionally cause a TPK just for the sake of it, NEVER. If you are playing with a DM who just kills your party for the sake of it, call them on it and if they still do it, then stop playing with them. There are many reasons a DM might do it, to punish the party, because they are bored and want to end the game, or because they want to ‘win’ but none of these are a good enough excuse. If the players have done something to annoy you, call them on it but don’t abuse the power of being a DM. If you are bored with the game, tell the players, take a break, or round up the campaign quickly and if you want to ‘win’ then play a wargame because roleplay is about cooperative storytelling (unless you are playing hardcore basic D&D). I repeat, you should NEVER intentionally cause a TPK just for the sake of it.

That said, TPKs can and do happen, entirely by accident. This is what happened to my friend and it’s happened to me on numerous occasions. For me, most recently, it happened in Shadowrun after the players misjudged a very difficult encounter. The dice were against them and this led to them being ambushed and taken down, to a character. When this kind of accidental TPK happens it’s disheartening for the whole table, the players are angry at the DM and feel powerless and the DM is embarrassed and dismayed that it happened and that all their hard work and best laid plans have been for naught.

All this leads me to the point of this article, which is making TPKs work for you. It took me a good number of years to come to this realisation and more TPKs than I’m entirely comfortable with and so if I help just one other DM out and save them and their players from the scourge of the TPK, then my work is done.

The best thing you can do is see a TPK as an opportunity, another twist in the story that builds the legends of the characters. If you handle it the right way then the players won’t walk away from the table angry and upset, they’ll remember the session for being momentous and tell stories about it for years to come. It takes a little work to pull this off the right way but it’s worth the effort to keep your campaign alive and your group engaged in the story you are trying to tell.

The easiest way to own a TPK is to plan for it in advance. I know this sounds a little weird and smacks of intentionally causing the TPK, but as with all aspects of DMing, the key is preparation. As I’ve said, a TPK should be viewed as another plot twist and so by planning ahead for this possibility you can react to it quickly and make sure that a session doesn’t end early and on a somber note. It’s far better to end a game telling the party that they wake up, stripped to their loincloths in a dank dungeon lit by flickering light, with a masked jailer looming over them, than “everyone needs a new character for next week”.

When planning a campaign you should always have an encounter in mind for what will happen if a TPK happens. This just needs to be a very basic framework, something along the lines of being captured by the enemy, waking up as a ghost, waking up as a spirit in heaven/hell/limbo or becoming undead, whatever best fits your campaign and, most importantly, whatever you are most comfortable with.

The easiest and most generic is probably being captured as this fits the most settings and games, in Shadowrun it can be captured by Mitsuhama or the Ancients, in Deadlands it could be imprisoned on the Rock by Reverend Grimme, in Dark Heresy it could be captured and prepared for sacrifice to Nurgle and in Edge of the Empire the Hutts could have taken your party prisoner and plan on selling them as slaves! This is probably the most common ‘get out’ in TV, films and literature as well, just think how many times you have read a book and the hero has been beaten and captured only to have to effect an escape from prison. It’s often this defeat that makes a character reevaluate and come back stronger later and it adds depth to the story.

The point to take away from this is that planning for what happens if a TPK occurs puts you in control, it lets you keep the action moving and prevents all your hard work from disappearing in a few bad dice rolls. A basic framework gives you an idea of what you will do if the worst happens and then every level, or few sessions you can update the plan to fit the story. This just means making sure you have a couple of basic encounters planned and the power level is roughly appropriate as the detail can be filled in between sessions after the TPK has occurred. Once you have this ready then you never have to be left at a loss if the worst happens.

Now I know I said that a DM should never intentionally cause a TPK just for the sake of it and I mean it, but if you are comfortable with everything so far then you can turn the TPK into an interesting tool to add further depth to your campaign. We already know that a TPK can and will cause a severe emotional reaction in your players, and it should because that means they are invested in their characters and in the game, but what if you use that to your advantage? You could have the party think they have the key to killing Verrex the Necromancer only to have him surprise with a powerful item that disintegrates them instantly. Then, just as the players are about to howl in outrage, you describe their souls as waking up some miles away, hand out some XP and pull out Ghostwalk. All of a sudden the horror of a TPK gives way to intrigue and new tools to finally take down that pesky Necromancer and save the land of Generica forever. It can be a risky move but timed right it can make a campaign.

In the case of my friend I offered a little advice as to how I’d handle the situation, I said that I’d have their souls wake up, unarmed and unarmored somewhere in the Lower Planes, being prodded by a spear being wielded by a Baatezu before being dragged to a slave wagon. I’d let that sink in, maybe play the horror of it up a bit and then give them a chance to escape and grab some weapons, perhaps a Tanaari ambush. Then I’d let them explore a bit, learn where they are and eventually let them learn of a portal home. I’d then throw in a twist; to get to the portal, as well as get their mortal forms and equipment back, they’d need to make a deal with a Yugoloth, perhaps an Altraloth like Anthraxus or Bubonix. Of course as they need multiple favours they’d need to make multiple deals which invariably would be to owe the Yugoloth a few services, to be named later. Once the party was home I’d have have those favours to use later when I wanted to complicate things for the players. This way the TPK turns into multiple adventures for the players and becomes an exciting plot twist and not a campaign ending nightmare.

As I’ve hopefully conveyed, with a little bit of planning anyone can stop their game being derailed by a few unfortunate events. Forward thinking can turn the worst situation a DM can face into a great opportunity to mix things up for the players, maybe let them earn a few abilities that would otherwise be out of reach and to make a few new friends or enemies to complicate things later. Planning ahead put you back in control and lets you own the TPK.

Numenera Review

Name: Numenera
Type: Roleplaying Game
Publisher: Monte Cook Games
System: Cypher System
Format- Hardback
Size: 28.3cm x 22cm x 2.5cm
Pages: 416
Price:  £39.99
Rating: 5.0 Stars (5.0 / 5)

Numenera Cover

I first heard about Numenera by sheer chance, by looking up what Monte Cook had been up to and I discovered that he’d found substantial success on Kickstarter with a new game, using his own system, a new game by the weird name of Numenera. The game was so successful that, at the time of it’s conclusion, Numenera was the most successful RPG ever on Kickstarter.

Now when I first heard the name I figured that it was just a setting with a bizarre title, like Eberron, but after some research it became abundantly apparent that, just like everything in Numenera, Monte Cook had been thinking about this for a very long time and it was pitched perfectly. For those that are interested Numenera splits into two words in Latin, Numen and Era. The former has several meanings, Of the Gods or Divine, Command or Will and the later, obviously, means a Period in Time. In the context of Numenera the meaning translates to something like Divine from a Previous Age, which makes perfect sense since everything about this game is deeply rooted in what came before, these almost supernatural devices from ages past, these numenera.

The book

The rulebook is 416 full colour pages hard bound with an sewn binding. The front and back inside covers display a full colour map of the ‘known’ world. It’s a beautiful book full of good artwork that evokes images of classic prog rock album covers (in fact prog rock album covers are a remarkable source of inspiration for games of Numenera) as well as interesting information about a world so distant from our own. Over it’s 9 chapters the book covers character generation, the rules, optional rules, monsters, history, the campaign setting, of course the Numenera in all 3 forms and also gives the standard handful of adventures to get you started. It’s a tried and tested format that gives you everything you’ll ever need to run and play Numenera in single core book. Also included is an A2 size poster map of the world, an addition I really like as I’m a bit of a sucker for maps of campaign worlds.

Numenera Map

At the start of the book is a little framing fiction, The Amber Monolith which sets the scene for the world and can also be downloaded for free here- The Amber Monolith.  The back of the book also has 11 pages (included in the page count) of Kickstarter backer names. I was unfortunate enough to discover Numenera after the Kickstarter and so I’m not on  list but I think it’s a nice touch that the general release print of the book still contains the names of those who made it a reality.

A little bit of history

Before going into some detail about the system and how the game plays I think a little history lesson in the background of the setting would help. Numenera is set on Earth in the future, the distant, far, incomprehensible future of around a billion years or so from now. Numenera is set in the Ninth World and there have been eight previous worlds, each built by civilisations with such immense power that they could manipulate time, reality or matter on a molecular level, at will. These civilisations likely spanned galaxies or universes and were not all necessarily human.

The way I like to describe these previous worlds to players is that they could encompass pretty much any sci-fi or fantasy setting, show or movie that they can imagine, GW’s 40k? That could be just one world. Time Lords? That’s pretty likely, Star Wars or Star Trek? probably just blips or footnotes in the history of a single world. the world of Richard Morgan’s Takeshi Kovacs novels? almost certainly. When you imagine the scale of possible history in Numenera there is absolutely no limit. The history of Numenera is such that the world we live in now wouldn’t even come close to registering as a single previous world. Simply put, if you can imagine it, it could be in Numenera.

With that in mind it’s worth describing the world in Numenera, as it is. The setting is basically medieval, as the new civilisations of the Ninth world begin to rebuild and rise up to claim their eventual destiny (in a few million years), people live in cities or villages, they use animals to farm and bandits, brigands and monsters roam the land preying on the unwary. What makes Numenera different is that nothing is as it seems as the previous worlds have all left their mark on the planet, a day is 28 hours long, the air you breath is full of nano machines and mountains are fallen statues of kings and gods long forgotten. Everything has been changed or manipulated by the previous worlds.

All this change means the medieval world has a feeling closer to Planescape than Dragonlance, as the weird and wonderful is commonplace and accepted because it’s simply  the way things are and have always been. These changes mean that, under the surface there are subtle differences. Some communities use floating drones to irrigate their crops, others live in cities built amongst huge networks of pipes, using them for heat or transit and other still worship these machines for their almost godlike powers.

Character Generation

Numenera Characters

So where to the players fit in? In Numenera there are 3 types or classes, Glaive, Nano and Jack which roughly translate as fighter, mage and rogue but the choices you have mean that it’s not quite that simple. In the world these characters seek out the numenera (more on those later) and explore the lost or forgotten places, either for the good of the world or, if they want, for their own profit. The game isn’t greatly suited to characters seeking to become rulers or overlords, although it can certainly be done, because the premise is that the characters are driven to explore and discover and not amass power and rule.

Character generation is simple and pretty unique in my experience. You start by creating a statement “I am an adjective noun that verbs‘ with the italicised words being taken from the options in the book, the adjective is your Descriptor, the noun is your Type (class) and the verb is your Focus. The book provides a number of options for each and I worked out that, out of the core book, there are some 900+ character variations based on the character generation system and that is before you take into account individual skills or cosmetic differences. An example of a character statement is something like ” I am a clever nano who bears a halo of fire” or “I am a rugged glaive who wields two weapons at once”.

Races are pretty simple, aside from a couple of alien races and mutants (all in the optional rules, rather than the default game), as everyone is assumed to be human, but not human in the traditional sense. Remember that Numenera is set a billion years in the future and so humans have been altered and altered themselves, have interbred with other species and have transcended what we would understand as human. That being said, right out of the gate my players wanted to be something a little more interesting, for example in one case, a player wanted to play a cloud of sentient nanites and so I just reskinned the basic human, worked with him to pick the right descriptor and type, and locked him into a mostly human form due to a malfunction. Numenera easily allows that kind of manipulation.

The simplicity of the system means that character generation only takes around 15 minutes from start to finish and far less if a player is content to just pick a cool statement over reading specifically what each ability does. The longest it took for a player in my group was about 20 minutes and that was for someone who wanted to be a mutant and so we had quite a lot of rolling on random tables to do. The only criticism I have about the chargen system is that some options seem far better than others, which isn’t a problem if you have a group that are more interested in form than function, but if you have powergamers in your party then there will probably be some moaning that some characters seem more powerful than others.

With how simple the system is combined with the weirdness of the world, a little flexibility from the GM and imaginative players, you can end up with some pretty interesting characters in your party. My group created a jack who looks a lot like Katsumi from Mass Effect with powers akin to the protagonist in the Dishonoured game, a mutant nano who looks like the Lizard from the Spiderman movie, a glaive wild man with fists of stone and a bladeling/tiger crossbreed for a pet and the aformentioned nano made from a malfunctioning sentient cloud of nanites that are, more or less, locked into a humanoid shape. I find it amazing that such wildly different and interesting characters can be achieved by just thinking about how the powers could be granted by a characters focus and applying that to the look and personality of the PC.

A critical part of the Cypher system is the players stats, Might, Speed and Intellect. These 3 stats act as hit points, talent pools and armor class all in one and give the players a huge amount of control over the action. A player can spend points from their pool to lower the difficulty of a challenge but they have to weigh that against the fact that a lower pool means that they are easier to hit and can take less punishment. Much as in D&D hit points are an intangible thing and relate more to the expenditure of energy or effort than to actual physical or mental punishment or damage. The logical extension of the idea that the depletion of these pools relates to stress or tiring is allowing a player to expend effort to give themselves a better chance at succeeding at a task, which is just what Numenera allows you to do. Using this system a player can spend Might to help force a door, Speed to carefully traverse a narrow ledge or Intellect to decipher particularly complex language.

The power level of a starting character in Numenera is much higher than in many fantasy adventure type games. Starting characters can have the ability to walk through walls or fly, they can have powerful animal companions or several immunities and the abilities of their powers are far less well defined that is commonplace, deliberately. Numenera is designed to make players think, to find interesting and outlandish uses for the resources at their disposal and to work as a group to solve the challenges that the GM puts in front of them. This works incredibly well if the players are into it but can be a bit of a struggle for players than are used to rigid descriptions of what they can and can’t do as it’s not quite as easy as just making sure you have as many +1’s to your roll as possible.

The rules

Numenera Rules

The Cypher System itself is amazingly easy to master and, 99% of the time, requires nothing more than a D20 and a good imagination to play. I won’t go into a huge amount of detail as your really should buy a copy for yourself, but, in short, the GM sets a difficulty level, for a task, of between 1 and 10 with each corresponding to a target number which is basically the difficulty multiplied by 3. The player rolls a D20 and if the hit or exceed the target then they succeed, otherwise they fail. Obviously hitting a 30 (difficulty 10) on a D20 is impossible, without and exploding dice mechanic, which doesn’t exist in this game, so the player can utilise skills or abilities to reduce the difficulty. All monsters, enemies or obstacles have a difficulty which translates into it’s hit points, damage, difficulty to hit and ability to hit players in return meaning that as long as the GM knows the difficulty then they pretty much know the entire stat line for the challenge which allows them to focus on the story rather than a book.

This leads me nicely into how combat works in Numenera and this was one of the harder things for me to grasp because I really like rolling dice. In Numenera the players roll all of the dice all of the time. The only time a GM might roll is to randomly generate treasure and treasure level, IF they want to roll it. In combat a creature’s level designates how hard it is to hit (difficulty 4 means you need to roll a 12+ to hit, for example) and how hard it’s attacks are to avoid (again, difficulty 4 means you need to roll a 12+ to avoid it’s attacks) and how much damage it does. This, again, allows a GM to focus completely on crafting a story over rolling dice and comparing them to difficulties, it also allows players to focus on the action and feel in more control than if the GM is rolling dice behind a screen and telling them their fate.

In it’s rule-set Numenera reminds me of a combination of FATE, D&D 4th edition and Pathfinder. It embodies the very best of the spirit of those systems while being something very special all of it’s own. Incidentally you can see aspects of Numenera in the recently released D&D 5th edition, something one of my more inexperienced players commented on while leafing through my 5th ed Players Handbook.

The rules of Numenera are quick to learn and teach and allow a player and GM to resolve conflict and obstacles quickly and cleanly. They expect imagination and ingenuity to be used throughout the game and so are flexible enough for the GM to be able to use them to make judgement calls on the fly in order to resolve quirky or unexpected outcomes (which happens a lot). Due to the speed of obstacle resolution, the emphasis on exploration and the simple rules ,GM’s should expect PC’s to complete substantially more in a session than if they were, for instance, playing D&D. Conversely, GM’s should be aware that this openness in the system makes it very difficult to plan a game, beyond a rough outline for a session, as there are so many different ways the players could complete the task at hand. GM’s need to think on their feet more than they may be used to in other fantasy games (though FATE GM’s will probably be used to this kind of GMing) and get used to making up things on the fly.

It’s worth noting that the actual rules of the game take up a fraction of the space in this book, as opposed to say Shadowrun which is 400 pages of dense and complicated information. Numenera is designed to be quick, simple and flexible and put story, exploration and player ingenuity ahead of combat, rolling dice and working out modifiers. From my personal point of view, after running a campaign with a complex rule-set for 2 years prior to starting Numenera, it came as a breath of fresh air to me and to my players.

Numenera in Numenera

Numenera in Numenera

At the heart of Numenera are the numenera, the lost artifacts of previous worlds that PC’s can find and employ during their exploration of the unknown. It needs to be explicitly stated, numenera are, for all intents and purposes, the magic items of the setting, as well as the name of the game and they come in 3 types, Artifacts, Oddities and Cyphers. Artifacts are powerful and long lasting items and they can be anything from a mass of pipes and wires that subdue sound, to a scrap of paper that displays a 3D map of the local area to a 9 fingered glove that confers telekinesis. Oddities are peculiar items with no discernible original use, although inventive players may find a use for them, and can anything you can imagine, a long as it’s weird. One Oddity I gave to a player is a short, crooked, amber coloured, metal wand that screams an incomprehensible phrase in an unknown language when it is pointed due east.

The final type of numenera is probably the most important and certainly the most abundant, the Cypher. Cyphers are pieces of ancient machines that have been salvaged and re-purposed to make them useful again as one shot items. I tend to think of Cyphers as being akin to potions in D&D only much more common and varied in their use. All characters begin the game with a number of Cyphers (2 or 3, depending on class) and they should use them often as they should find them regularly throughout their explorations. All Cyphers do one specific thing, be it turn armour invisible, create a wall of fire or allow a character to teleport 16 feet to the left and it is up to the players to employ them to succeed and again, players are encouraged to be inventive with their use. For example a player in my group used a force wall projector (which unsurprisingly projects a wall of force) as a makeshift slide to break the fall of another character after he was teleported some 100m in the air.

Conclusions

The fact that Numenera reminds me so much of Planescape is one of the things that endears this game to me most, since Planescape is how I cut my teeth as a DM and hold a special place in my heart. I have long considered Planescape to be the best campaign setting ever conceived and it’s no coincidence that Numenera embodies the best aspects of it since Monte Cook is responsible for a large part of Planescape and even mentions his desire to create something similar but uniquely different and infinitely less complex in the foreword to the Numenera core book.

The book is fantastic and well worth the asking price for it’s atheistic value alone but the fact that within it’s covers lies an interesting and evocative world combined with a flexible, fun and light system makes it a steal. It’s probably not a game for someone looking for a lot of crunch as the rules are pretty basic so as to allow players and GM’s to really push the weird. Any game that repeatedly reminds you to emphasise the weird is bound to get my vote as it allows a GM’s mind to run rampant with the wild ideas that just don’t quite fit in another setting.

Numenera plays and reads like a game that has been a labour of love, which can so often mean that a game has too much of the writer in it and is therefore only playable by them, with their idiosyncrasies. Fortunately, to me, Numenera deftly avoids that trap and results in a game that the commercial market can enjoy. After all how can a game with an NPC who wanders the world with his giant, sentient, floating carp companion be anything but awesome?

Numenera Carp

At the time of writing Numenera has 6 print expansions and many more available on Drivethrurpg