Prime Runners, A Shadowrun Sourcebook Review

Name: Prime Runners
Type: Sourcebook
Publisher: Fasa Corporation
System: Shadowrun 2nd edition
Setting: Shadowrun
Pages: 104
Cover: Softcover
Price: Out of print
Rating: 2.0 Stars (2.0 / 5)

Prime Runners, Front Cover

Prime Runners is a sourcebook for the Shadowrun 2nd Edition roleplaying game. It was published in 1994 by FASA Corporation and was written by Mark Gascoigne and Carl Sargent. Prime Runners is an NPC sourcebook containing 41 different NPCs for GMs to pick up and drop into their game as needed. Each NPC gets 2 pages, or there abouts, that provides in game statistics and skills, an illustration, character background and plot hooks. As the title of the book suggests, the NPC’s in this book are considered to be at the top of their game and therefore may prove to be an interesting challenge or a powerful ally depending on how players interact with them.

Prime Runners, Back Cover

The book follows the style of all early Shadowrun sourcebooks, which is black and white throughout aside from a handful of full colour images, in this case of some of the NPC in the book. There is a vivid full colour image on the front of the book, in this case of a runner riding on the roof of a car as explosions abound around him, and a little blurb on the back telling you what the book is about.

Prime Runners, Contents

The book splits into 5 sections-

  • Introduction, a brief section just describing what the book is and what it contains
  • Welcome to the Freak Show, which lists 34 of the NPCs that are most likely to be friendly to the PC’s
  • Prime Terrors, which is a further 4 NPCs that are generally going to be antagonists in a story, including a serial killer and 2 terrorists
  • Wolfram’s Gang, which is a generic gang that makes up the rank and file that runners will face day after day. There are 3 example characters provided here.
  • Threat ratings, which provides some rules and guidance around creating encounters and how to balance them against your PC’s abilities.

I won’t detail every character, there are far too many and so i’ll just go through a couple that I like the look of as an example of what you find inside.

Martin de Vries, Vampire Hunter. I picked Martin since he’s a character that I know from the novel The Terminus Experiment (which I talk about on this post) and because he has duel illustrations, both in the colours section and in his bio.

Martin de Vries, Bio photo

Martin de Vries, Colour

The book gives a nice rounded history for Martin, it describes how he was an accomplished mage and scholar, studying in the Netherlands before moving to Oxford and then Yale. He became a grade 3 initiate with the Ordo Maximus and became increasingly obsessed with a secret conspiracy of Vampires who intended to bring a powerful Astral entity to the world, one that would make Toxic and Insect spirits look like irritable toddlers. Somewhere along the way Martin managed to contract vampirism himself, likely deliberately in order to better understand his prey and he picked up a strange artefact that allows him to increase his essence far in excess of normal levels and therefore limit when he feeds.

Now Martin spends his nights hunting and draining vampires, trying to trace the elusive conspiracy he knows exists and occasionally crossing paths with groups of runners who had better hope they don’t cross him or look particularly toothy.

For hooks the book describes that Martin de Vries would be a very strong source of information for runners who need help taking down vampires and it also advises that he sometimes hires runners to help him on particularly difficult hunts. The conspiracy that Martin hunts could make the basis for an entire campaign if the GM chooses to run with it, tying the PCs fate and that of Martin de Vries inexorably. As a final note the bio makes reference to Martin having lost his weapon focus in the fight that turned him into a vampire and so he would dearly love to be reunited with it, or similar, and he would go to great lengths or pay large sums if someone could help him with that.

Rhonabwy, bio image

I chose Rhonabwy as the 2nd example because, being British, I love the idea that the great Welsh dragon is a real thing. I also thought that the Great Dragon was one of the more interesting and established NPCs in the book. Unlike the other NPCs Rhonabwy gets 4 full pages, as befitting a Great Dragon, and the great majority of this goes into explaining the history of the beast since he woke up on 22/02/2012.

Rhonabwy woke up near Carmarthen in Wales and subsequently destroyed the surrounding area in what he described as a fit of ‘post hibernation trauma’. He’s since spent a considerable amount of money in paying compensation to the families who lost property and loved ones. This generosity seems to be ingrained into Rhonabwy’s personality as he is known to pay well over the asking price for any property or land he intends to appropriate.

From the perspective of his affairs, the most likely reason the runners might get involved in his affairs, Rhonabwy is deeply invested in a significant number of mis size corporations as well as apparently owning 4-7% of AAAs Ares and Shiawase.  He also appears to be quite the political player, seemingly supporting metahuman rights around the world as well as, in rather a contradiction, supporting secessionist and terrorist organisations in a variety of places, including both Tir’s.

The book does a solid job of playing up the secretive and apparently baffling motivations of a Great Dragon, providing a number of explanations as to Rhonabwy’s motivations but ultimately leaving the decisions up the the GM. This is particularly the case with regards to the rumours abounding about the relationship between Rhonabwy and a Sea Dragon in Cardigan Bay. Personally I like the suggestion that these are the two dragons of Arthurian myth, I think that fits well with the setting and the later confirmation of the existence of Excalibur in big D’s will.

For hooks the book doesn’t really provide much that is concrete and instead suggests that runners would rarely know of Rhonabwy’s involvement, either as a Johnson or a target, since the Dragon is far too clever for that. It advises that the runners may be hired by a nature spirit working for the Dragon, and if they were to find out that Rhonabwy was involved it would be over the course of a several runs, maybe an entire campaign. To my mind it would make sense for one of the targets of Rhonabwy’s ire, maybe one of the Tir’s, hire the runners to implant some information in Rhonabwy’s network that allows them to predict where he may next attack them. As with any run involving a Great Dragon, only the most accomplished of runners should even be considered as an opponent.

As a final point I very much like the Shadowland remarks on Rhonabwy, particularly the reply to the comment made by a poster named ‘Merchant Banker’. The reply simply reads “is that your real name, or is it just rhyming slang?” If that doesn’t mean a whole lot to you then I’d perhaps suggesting googling it, but to an Englishman, even one from outside London, I find that pretty damn amusing.

Looking at the book as a whole it has a few good points, the write up of Rhonabwy being of them, and a good number of negative ones. Art in particular is lacking in the book and while the colour images are nice, albeit with an art style that isn’t really in keeping with the style of the game as it looks more comic book, some of the black and white bio art is atrocious, in particular Rhonabwy’s.

Prime Runners is touted as containing the very best runners for the players to interact with and meet and to my mind this should include some of the more iconic characters from the setting, people like Dodger, Ghost Who Walks Inside, Dirk Montgomery and Argent. Unfortunately the book doesn’t include many known character at all, at least not to me, there is Martin de Vries, although his novel was published some time after this book, and there is Michael Sutherland a decker from the books set in the UK like Black Madonna. It’s a shame as it feels a bit like a missed opportunity to me.

On the whole Prime Runners is a pretty weak book. It has some use, especially to GMs who struggle for NPCs on the fly, but in general it’s feels much more like a cash in than a genuine attempt to try and expand the setting. It’s a rare miss for early Shadowrun, since most of the books have great content (just not necessarily great art) and tend to all help build the settings rich history. I’m happy to have it in my collection but i’m also happy that I didn’t pay too much for it, around £8 if memory serves. It’s not a common book but unless you are after a complete collection it’s not a book i’d suggest spending a lot of time and money seeking out.

Star Realms Colony Wars Review

Name: Star Realms Colony Wars
Type: None Collectable Deck Building Game/Expansion
Publisher: White Wizard Games
Players: 2-6 (2 per box used)
Age: 12+
Size: 9.7cm x 7.1 cm x 4.6 cm
Weight: 255g
Playtime: 20 mins
Price:  £12.99
Rating: 4.0 Stars (4.0 / 5)

Star Realms, Colony Wars, Front of Box

 

Star Realms Colony Wars is a stand alone game and an expansion for the Star Realms Card Game. It is produced by White Wizard Games and was released in December 2015. Colony Wars is the first boxed expansion for the Star Realms game. As with the rest of the Star Realms line, Colony Wars follows an LCG style model and so every single Colony Wars deck has exactly the same cards in it, unlike CCGs like Magic the Gathering.

Colony Wars comes boxed in a standard trading card game style cardboard tuck box with the front decorated by the Mech Cruiser card art and the back of the box giving some general flavour text about the game and the designers. As with the original Star Realms game, Colony Wars was designed by MtG hall of Famers Rob Dougherty and Darwin Castle.

Star Realms Colony Wars, Contents

Inside the box you get-

  • 80 x Trade Cards
  • 10 x Explorer Cards
  • 20 x Starting Cards (comprised of 2 decks of 2 x Vipers and 8 x Scouts each)
  • 18 Authority Cards (12 x double sided 1 and 5 cards and 6 x double sided 10 and 20 cards)
  • 2 x Rule Leaflets (1 x Standard and 1 x Multiplayer rules)

Star Realms, Colony Wars, All card types

The cards come cellophane wrapped in two decks, within the box, and the rules leaflets sit between the two. The cards are of reasonable quality, not quite the premium cards of FFG but better than the ones in Shadowrun Crossfire. They are laminated for protection but still feel a little flimsy and so probably wouldn’t stand up to the spill test all too well, which is worth bearing in mind.

I won’t go into a huge amount of detail as to how the game work, thats covered on the original Star Realms Review, but in simple terms each player starts with 50 Authority (life) and the same starting deck of 10 cards (2 Vipers and 8 Scouts). Players have a hand of 5 cards and take it in turns to play them, using any Trade (yellow coin symbol) to buy cards from a shared Trade Row made from the main deck and using any Combat (red circle symbol) to cause their opponent damage and to loose Authority. The first person to reduce their opponent to 0 Authority or lower wins.

Star Realms Colony Wars, Faction Cards

Each of the cards in the Trade deck falls into one of the 4 factions from the original game, being the Blobs (green), Machine Cult (red), Star Empire (yellow) and Trade Federation (blue). As with the original game the abilities and bonuses that these cards provided are broadly defined by faction. For instance the Machine Cult generally allows you to scrap cards from your hand and discard, so reducing the chance of drawing weak cards late game, while the Star Empire tends towards forcing your opponent to discard cards from their hand, limiting what they can do on their turn.

The card art is a further improvement on the original game and Crisis expansions and is now more defined, brighter and more action packed giving the cards a greater impact on the table. While the standard of the art, in terms of complexity, isn’t exceptional, I don’t feel that this detracts from the game at all and it certainly helps keep the game cheap to buy and play.

Star Realms and Colony Wars Power Comparison

Looking more closely at the cards it seems that there is a little power creep in play, the card on the left, the Trade raft is from the original Star Realms game while the Solar Skiff on the right is from Colony Wars. As you can see, it’s immediately better since you get 2 Trade and the ally ability or drawing a card on the Skiff for the same cost as 1 Trade and an ally draw on the Raft. I’d generally be concerned but as the Trade Deck and Row is shared between players, both are equally aided or hampered by it.

Colony Wars expands the base Star Realms game beyond the 2 player game it was out of the box. Sure you could have bought multiple boxes to play with more people but  generally don’t like buying the same game more than once when I know it’s not going to add content and so the introduction of Colony Wars gives me another way to bring the game to the table for my wider gaming group.

Colony Wars is a great stand alone game and an even better expansion to the base Star Realms set. I hope White Wizard look to make more boxed expansions for the game in the future as it’s a simple great with depth and replayability, making it perfect for a casual evening. The only downside for me is that it’s now too big to fit in my Star Realms Deck Box, meaning i’ll probably need to buy a second one, or the larger one.

 

Star Realms Cosmic Gambit Review

Name: Star Realms Cosmic Gambit Expansion
Type: None Collectable Deck Building Game
Publisher: White Wizard Games
Players: 1-2
Age: 8+
Playtime: 20 mins
Price:  £7.95 approximately
Rating: 3.0 Stars (3.0 / 5)

http://www.starrealms.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/Screen-Shot-2015-12-06-at-5.56.28-PM.png

The Star Realms Cosmic Gambit Expansion is booster pack style expansion for the Star Realms Card Game. It is the 6th such booster pack style expansion and it contains a further 16 Gambit cards for use with the Star Realms and Star Realms: Colony Wars games.

As with all of the Star Realms sets the Cosmic Gambit pack resembles a booster pack for collectable card games such as Magic The Gathering but unlike collectable card games each Cosmic Gambit pack contains exactly the same cards and, in this, resembles the Living Card Game model that Fantasy Flight Games uses for games such as A Game of Thrones and Android: Netrunner.

As with all of the other booster style expansions this set comes in a foil pack that tears open, much like any other trading or collectable card game. The art on the front is bright and neat and depicts a mining station on a volcanic planet akin to Mustafar at the end of Revenge of the Sith. I find the artwork to be extremely eye-catching and I’d certainly take a look at what it was if I saw it on the shelf of my FLGS.

Star Realms, Cosmic Gambit, cards

You get 13 Cards in the pack and they are all Gambit cards, aside from the Secret Outpost and the rule cards. Of those 13 cards there are 10 unique cards with 3 having multiple copies in the set. The full card list is-

  • 1 x Rules
  • 1 x Secret Outpost Base
  • 1 x Acceptable Losses
  • 1 x Black Market
  • 1 x Hidden Base
  • 1 x Triumphant Return
  • 1 x Two Pronged Attack
  • 1 x Veteran Pilots
  • 1 x Wild Gambit
  • 2 x Asteroid Mining
  • 2 x Exploration
  • 2 x Rapid Deployment

The art on these cards is exceptional, a real step up from any of the previous releases. As you can see from the Hidden Base and Secret Outpost cards below, they’ve really improved the overall visual style, making the cards more action packed and the art cleaner and more dynamic. Star Realms cards have generally had a fairly high standard for the artwork but these surpass any previous offerings.

The rules for these Gambit cards are slightly different from the original Gambit set. Whereas previously you dealt out Gambit cards and they were revealed by all players simultaneously at the start of the game, Cosmic Gambit cards are dealt out and remain secret until a player chooses to reveal and play them, adding previously unseen ‘secret’ element to the game. This is the only circumstance in Star Realms when a player won’t know what cards his opponent has available since all Trade Row buys and hand/deck discards are public.

The new cards work slightly differently to the first Gambit set with each card providing a single discard bonus that tents to allow additional drawn on top of a small amount of a resource. The exception is the Hidden/Secret base as this Gambit allow you to put the hidden base card straight into play, which could be a significant advantage early in the game. This base is one use though and doesn’t go into the discard pile after it is destroyed so it needs to be deployed wisely.

ic Gambit, Hidden Base:Secret Outpost

As with the last Gambit pack the Cosmic Gambit pack is a nice addition to the game of Star Realms but it’s far from essential and, of the two, I prefer the original Gambit pack, although that is decidedly harder to source nowadays, especially in the UK.

It will add an interesting element to your games, especially the secrecy of what Gambits people are holding since you can’t be sure as to how strong your opponent is, right from the start, but you aren’t loosing anything by not picking it up either. With that said, I’m a completionist and for the minimal cost of the expansion it hardly seemed worth missing and that that reason enough for me, as it will be for others but I wouldn’t prioritise it over Colony Wars or indeed most of the Crisis sets.

New Year, More Games, More Glory

It’s a brand new year and 2016 is the third calendar year that No Games, No Glory has been around for. It’s been an interesting road for me, a hard one at times, but a really fun ride nonetheless and I’m hoping it all gets bigger and better in 2016.

I’m not a fan of New Years Resolutions, mostly because I never keep them, so I don’t want to make a list of my gaming resolutions and I don’t want to tie myself into some odd challenge that I regret once I get out of the first week of January but I do have a few things I’m hoping to do this year and I’d like to share them with you.

First up I’d like to attend more tournaments, both X-Wing and Netrunner. I highly doubt i’ll go further than Store Championships or seasonal kits but I really would like to attend more and get my hands on some more of the awesome alt art cards that Fantasy Flight Games are putting out. For X-Wing I’d really like to win a Tournament this year, since the best i’ve managed so far is 3rd but just making the top half in each event is enough.

Second, i’d like to get back to running my own RPG for my Monday night group. Playing is making a really nice change as i’m feeling pretty burnt out after running games for 4 years straight, but my true love is running games. Hopefully as we roll into the second half of the year i’ll be back on track and getting ready to take my players back to Dragonlance’s Krynn, Shadowrun’s Dystopian Future or experiancing the Horror on the Orient Express for Cthulhu.

Third, I’d really like to start using video on the site. I’m not sure how this will work yet, whether it’ll be via a linked YouTube channel, embedded video or some other method I haven’t considered yet. I expect things like the X-Wing unboxings will migrate over to video form to bring them a little more into the 21st century and I might talk about a few other things that take my fancy. I’d also like to film some games of X-Wing occasionally and provide some commentary on them but that lets take things one step at a time.

Last, I just want to play, and write about, more games. I started No Games, No Glory because I wanted to find a way of expressing myself about my favourite hobby and I still love doing that. It’s getting harder to find content, despite the fact that I own a huge library of RPGs and a more modest board game library, I need to feel inspired to write about something as this isn’t my job, it’s a hobby but i’m hoping I can find a little more of that inspiration over the coming months and branching out into some newer games should help that.

Happy New Year Folks, I hope that your opponents are worthy, your dice roll true and characters come alive.

Hacker Premium Token Set Review

Name: Hacker Premium Token Set
Type: Gaming Accessory
Publisher: BSD Hobbies
Weight: 115g
Price:  £25.50
Rating: 4.0 Stars (4.0 / 5)

BSD Hobbies, Hacker Premium Token Set

 

BSD Hobbies recently sent me a pack of the Hacker Premium Token Set for review, a set of tokens for use with the Netrunner Living Card Game made by Fantasy Flight Games. In the interest of disclosure this was sent to me free of charge. This pack is BSD Hobbies entry into the field of token sets for the Netrunner game and, to my knowledge, they are the only UK based company to do so, being based in Swansea in South Wales. I have to say, I think it’s great whenever any UK company steps into the gaming market as we simply can’t get enough home grown gaming companies.

BSD Hobbies, Hacker Tokens, Full Premium Set

The set comes with a significant number of tokens, 112 in total according to the website although the pack I received had a couple of extra 5€ and Link tokens, and these come in 13 different designs. In total you get-

  • 24 x 1€ Credit Tokens
  • 6 x 5€ Credit Tokens
  • 10 x Virus Tokens
  • 6 x Tag Tokens
  • 6 x Advancement Tokens
  • 10 x Link Tokens
  • 6 x Bad Publicity Tokens
  • 10 x Memory Tokens
  • 24 x Tracking Tokens (12 x each of Red and Orange)
  • 6 x Brain Damage Tokens
  • 2 x Action Tokens
  • 2 x Click Tokens

The tokens come bagged all together and my set had an example of most of the tokens attached to a piece of card, showing what was in the bag. BSD Hobbies have advised me that this is no longer the case when the ship orders and that this just happens when they send them out to stores, reviewers or send them to shows so people can see what’s included in the pack.  All the tokens are laser cut from acrylic and all have laser etched designed on the surface. The level of detail varies from token to token with some, such as the Memory Tokens being fairly elaborate and others, like the Tracking Tokens being more basic.

BSD Hobbies, Memory Tokens

BSD Hobbies Tracking Tokens

 

 

 

 

 

The quality of the etching also varies a little but this is to be expected given the price for the whole set, and the imperfections aren’t noticeable unless you closely inspect each of the tokens individually. Having looked at them pretty closely i’m confident that taking a couple of hours to add a touch of paint to the etched areas would effectively remove any of the imperfections and generally add an extra bit of wow factor to the tokens as a whole and thats something I may well do one rainy afternoon.

While the Memory Tokens are probably my favourites looking ones in the set others, like the Virus, Tag and Link Tokens are also very well designed, interesting and would certainly look much better on the table than the generic card tokens that FFG provide in the core box.

BSD Hobbies, Virus Token

BSD Hobbies, Tag Token

BSD Hobbies, Link Token

 

When the tokens arrived some of them needed a bit of cleaning to get the most out of them as they had a little bit of plastic dust on them as a result of the cutting and etching process. It wasn’t a huge amount of effort and just took a few minutes with a cloth and some nail polish remover to tidy them up and have them looking nice and shiny.

BSD Hobbies, Credit Tokens

I wanted to mention the Credit Tokens. These are in denominations of 1 and 5 with the currency used being the Euro, represented by the € symbol. I think using the Euro symbol is a nice choice, it’s a bit more unfamiliar than the pound £ symbol and less generic or obvious than dollar symbol $. If I was brutally honest I would prefer that a ¥ yen symbol were used, as it fits a Neo-Tokyo Cyberpunk style game a little better in my mind but thats personal taste.

BSD Hobbies, Brain Tokens

My pack came with 2 different version of the Brain Token, used when a runner takes Brain Damage. There is a version with a stalk and one without and when I reached out to BSD about this they advised that it’s because some people prefer one version and some prefer the other but packs will only contain one or other other, rather than a combination of both.

Having considered it, I prefer the version without the stalk as it looks more brain like to me but I like the fact that there is a choice available. There isn’t an obvious way of opting for one or the other on the website but i’d suggest dropping them a line if you have a preference and i’m sure they’ll do their best to accommodate you.

This set provides just about all the tokens you would need for both a Runner and Corp deck in a standard game of Netrunner. There are exceptions, certain virus heavy decks might run out of Virus Tokens and you might need more Advancement Tokens if you plan on using Government Takeover or if you plan on advancing several Agenda or Traps at once but, in either case, you could just use the Tracking Tokens to make up for them, so it’s not really an issue but it’s noteworthy nonetheless.

Don’t get me wrong, there are more elaborate Token Sets out there, but you pay a premium for them and again to get them shipped to the UK. For comparison a similar collection of tokens from the widely known Team Covenant in the US would set you back around $90, before postage to the UK and thats a significant difference for something that doesn’t actually effect play in anyway beyond proving a nice aesthetic.

BSD Hobbies have produced a great set at a fantastic price that covers everything you need to play the game, getting 13 different types of tokens and over 100 in total for this kind of price is excellent value for money, even if a few are a little rough around the edges.