Hey folks! It’s been a while. I’ve been avoiding writing “reviews” since I officially joined the indie publisher club. This is not an RPG Review (although I’ve had one queued up for Cold Shadows for a while). I’m doing a new thing I’ll call an RPG I Love You where I’ll point out games I love and the reasons I love them. Honestly, I’ve never reviewed an RPG I actively dislike… it’s not really how I roll. Maybe there’ll be some mention about the things I DON’T love in an RPG I Love You, but that’s not the focus. Oh, and one more thing, the rating system I’ve done in the past is gone. Kaput. Finito.
Now that we’re done with the meta stuff, let’s see if I can still do this…
Cold Shadows is one of the games whose Kickstarter ran while Gallant Knight Games was an imprint of Nocturnal Media. Sadly, the death of RPG industry legend and luminary Stewart Wieck of Nocturnal came before the final product delivered. As fans of role-playing games, we are all in debt to Stewart on a level similar to that of Gary Gygax and Greg Stafford and the other progenitors of our favorite hobby. Mr. Wieck’s contributions are multitude, and when he was at White Wolf, he changed the industry forever with the World of Darkness line of games.
This RPG I Love You is dedicated to Stewart.
I LOVE YOU, COLD SHADOW
Today I’m looking back on the Kickstarter edition of Cold Shadows, the narrative Cold War spy roleplaying game by Gallant Knight Games.
Cold Shadows enables groups to tell John LeCarre-style spy stories full of tense scenarios where agencies are the greater whole and agents serve the agency’s purposes– mostly.
It’s based on the Blood and Honor ruleset by John Wick Presents. I’ve played that one as well, and I’d recommend it for groups looking to tell narrative samurai stories. If your tastes run more toward samurai noir during the industrialization of Japan, you should also check out World of Dew by Woerner’s Wonderworks. Ben Woerner was heavily involved in Cold Shadows as well.
This game, like its predecessors makes certain assumptions about both the group and the GM and their capability to narratively describe things on the fly. Additionally, its focus on Agency first and above all is not just lip service, it’s driven both mechanically and thematically throughout the game.
If your game group likes a realistic spy stories and a good roleplaying good challenge, you’re in the right place!
Size and Production Quality
Very nice book with quality semigloss paper and good binding. It’s not the biggest RPG in my collection, but there is plenty of content between the core book and the additional goodies (Cities in Shadow and The Black Book). Probably approaching couple hundred pages total in digest size format. Additionally, the page layouts are very thematic and aesthetically pleasing.
The cover art you seen. Interior art is mainly photographic and thematic. It fits the style well. I’m a big fan.
Content and Rules
The theme of the content is very nice, although it can be challenging to find what you’re looking for in the book. Luckily, it’s not huge, so a little page flipping won’t be too painful. As previously mentioned, the rules are based on Blood and Honor. It’s a roll and keep system I haven’t seen in any games besides this line.
The gist is this, you have a pool of D6s for a given task based on your character’s setup. You’re going to choose how many you want to roll to try to hit your target. The remainder you keep, and each one allows you to say true things about your success (provided you did succeed). It can be a lot of fun when the group gets into this.
There are also subsystems for all sorts of assets spies might have access to in and around their bases of operation. This is a lot of fun to peruse and set up.
Overall, I think the system is extremely cool, but I’ll also allow that it may require an adjustment period for some players. Dropping a group of murder hobos into Cold Shadows probably won’t lead to a satisfying experience.
GM Tools and/or Pre-made Adventure
There’s a ton here, and I’m sure to miss something. Between Cold Shadows, Cities in Shadow, and The Black Book, there is plenty of content and information to run a game set all over the world and in varying time periods. I won’t go too into depth, but I will say if you have a historical campaign based in this world, there’s a ton of good content here written by some very talented folks. For the game itself, there are lots of fully realized agencies and cities you can put on the “board” for your players to explore.
I’m happy I was a backer of Cold Shadows. I even had the opportunity to do a bit of writing for The Black Book. It’s an excellent game (the best spy game on my shelves, and yes, I have a few). I had a chance to play a short campaign run by one of my teammates at work. Super fun time.
If you’re having trouble finding a copy, Cold Shadows and its supplements can be found on DriveThruRPG.