Tag Archives: games

RPG I Love You: Cold Shadows

WILL RAMBLES

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.

ColdShadows

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.

Art

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.


Final Thoughts

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.

TOR No More

I can’t write this without the feels.

The One Ring Roleplaying Game (and its 5e ruled companion, Adventures in Middle Earth) by Cubicle 7 are soon to be no more. TOR 2e was fast approaching, and is cancelled. We’ll never see the glorious Moria boxed set we were promised.

I am heartbroken. Some of you may remember the review I wrote for TOR. It’s one of my favorite games of all time. https://liamwrites.com/2018/01/10/rpg-review-the-one-ring/

This is all apparently due to some licensing dispute whose details remain wrapped in shadow. https://www.cubicle7games.com/unexpected-tor2-update/

The elves (Cubicle 7) are leaving Middle Earth.

It’s taken me nearly a full day to recover enough to react. Now it’s Thanksgiving in the US, so I’ll try to end on a positive note.

Everything TOR and AiME is on sale via the Cubicle 7 website at a steep discount, and this is the last chance to own it. The game line is fantastic, and I already own everything in it. Maybe you could too? https://www.cubicle7games.com/?s=The+One+Ring&post_type=product

It’s Alive! Zorro Kickstarter

Zorro: The Roleplaying Game Kickstarter
A swashbuckling and heroic roleplaying game using the
brand new West End Games D6 2nd Edition system!

I’ve been working with Alan Bahr and Gallant Knight Games on getting Zorro to Kickstarter for nearly a year. It’s there now. Thought I’d post here just in case anyone missed all my crazy blasting of every social media platform known to people on the planet earth.

In short:
I AM EXTREMELY EXCITED.
WE ARE FUNDED.
HAPPY DANCE.
EXCLAMATION POINTS.

Zorro funded on the first day, and we have TONS of awesome stretch goals lined up. If you know anyone who likes tabletop RPGs or Zorro, I’ll love you forever if you tell them about it. Who am I kidding? I’ll love you forever anyway. You’re wonderful people.

Here it is on Kickstarter.

Kickstarter – Zorro: The Roleplaying Game

Here’s the blog post I wrote about it, in case you missed it. Blogged – Zorro: the Roleplaying Game

Zorro: the Roleplaying Game

Hi friends! More announcements rolling in. Please bear with me. This is why I’ve been so quiet recently. I’ve been working on top secret stuff!

I’m a co-producer and writer for the upcoming Zorro: the Roleplaying Game by Gallant Knight Games. Zorro Kickstarts starting this Wednesday at 10AM Mountain. Expect my social media feeds to be full of Zorro news for a while. I APOLOGIZE FOR NOTHING. Bringing this spectacular game to life during the 100th anniversary of Zorro is a once-in-a-lifetime gig, and I’m gonna be talking about it. A lot.

Truth is, when Alan Bahr told me he was getting the rights to make a Zorro RPG, I was ecstatic for him and GKG, and I knew I had to work on the project. Zorro was the first true North American vigilante hero and one I’ve loved since I was a kid playing with stick swords in rural Oregon. My dad always loved old shows and movies of daring do, and we watched the greats together whenever we could tune in on our old console TV. It’s one of my favorite memories of him.

It’s a delight and an honor to be a part of bringing a complete Zorro RPG to the tabletop for the first time ever! I’m over the moon to be working with Gallant Knight Games and the fantastic team lined up for Zorro. I’m excited to up my participation in the game industry and learn from the experienced folks I’m getting to work with!

The Kickstarter is live now! Check it out!

Adept Icarus Launch

It’s been a spell. I’m not ignoring you, loyal readers. I’ve been busy working on something I think many of you will enjoy.

I launched an indie tabletop game company!

You can read more about the company and such at https://adepticarus.com and the press release of the launch is HERE.

For those who may be wondering what this means for liamwrites.com, I’ll lay it out plain and simple.

  1. I’m still going to post here. This is a place where I talk in my own voice and keep it pretty informal. You won’t see duplicate press releases from Adept Icarus.
  2. I won’t be writing “reviews” per se of products that compete directly with Adept Icarus. I’ll probably still gush about stuff I love. You can’t stop the love!
  3. I think that’s it? Please check out Adept Icarus, and watch for new game announcements in the coming months. We have quite a few things in development!

-Will

Games I Need (AKA Kickstarting Now)

I’ll be brief. After flirting with a couple of random Kickstarters back in the early days, I backed my first tabletop game (Planet Mercenary) in Spring 2015.

I’ve been racking up experience/victory points ever since.

At first, I went a bit crazy with it. I was backing all sorts of new games and related products by people who’d never Kickstarted anything before. I scrolled everything in funding state and backed anything that looked remotely interesting– and to her credit, my wife and I are still married. I’ve learned to be more selective to the benefit of the bank account and my sanity. These days I don’t take many risks with unknown companies and pledge for far fewer titles overall, but there are a few companies whose campaigns I never miss.

Two of my preferred creators have projects funding right now. I recommend checking them out:

Tiny Supers by Gallant Knight Games

Alan Bahr and Gallant Knight Games don’t miss deadlines. When they set a delivery date for a KS, it happens by that date if not earlier. Additionally, my love of the TinyD6 line for minimalist role-playing games is well-documented. Check the archives. This one looks like a blast and the current stretch goal is a comic with stats for the characters and an adventure at the end. These games are kid-friendly, but as the line goes, they are simple, not dumb. I’ve played plenty of TinyD6 games with kids and adults alike. If you like superheroes, don’t miss Tiny Supers.

escapeplan

Escape Plan by Eagle Griffon Games

EGG is a board game company I came across almost by accident. I backed Xenon Profiteer a couple of years back because it looked cool and wasn’t expensive. No other reason. Turns out it’s a great game and it was delivered fast. Now I also have Vinhos and Isaribi, and I’m waiting for The Scarlet Pimpernel to fulfill. Escape Plan looks simply amazing if you like a big crunchy board game and have people to play it with. I can’t wait to get it on my table.

If folks are interested in this kind of article, maybe I’ll write one occasionally. We’ll see how it goes. In the meantime, I’ll get back to work on the Zorro RPG.

RPG Review: The One Ring

Will Rambles

The One Ring RPG has the distinction of being the first game I ran as a long campaign for anyone other than my kids after my return to role-playing. In a previous life, my favorite RPG campaign to run had been AD&D 2e in the Planescape setting. Something about Planescape always spoke to me.

I played in tons of different systems growing up and one of my favorites while I was still in high school was Middle Earth Role-Playing (MERP). When I came back to gaming, I immediately started looking into the possibility of getting my hands on some MERP books and was disappointed to find it out of print. Luckily, someone kind and thoughtful pointed me to The One Ring (TOR), and I politely declined and continued to pine for MERP. It wasn’t until I played in a one-off session of Ring that I saw the real potential of the system.

The rest is history. I ran TOR for nearly a year meeting a little less frequently than I might have liked, but I had a great time, and I hope the players did as well.

I’ve run one-off sessions here and there for other folks, and you can rest assured when the Moria box set comes out later this year, I’ll be among the first lining up for a copy.

The Review

The original release of TOR was a slipcased version with two books. I’m reviewing the current single hardcover volume.


1.) Size and Production Quality 

The core The One Ring book is hardbound and has good binding. The pages are semigloss and full color. It looks very nice with good call outs and is appealing overall. Also, at 336 pages, it feels good in your hands.

My biggest complaint about the entire game has got to be the organization of the layout. In my experience, this is not the area where Cubicle 7 games shine. Finding what you’re looking for isn’t always easy in a TOR book. In fact, since I was running this game regularly, I found myself adding more and more stickie notes, and doing more advanced note writing so I wouldn’t get caught thumbing through the book for some detail in-game.

At any rate, for $29.99 you can get the PDF on DriveThruRPG. It’s a decent price. The hardback copy is available pretty much anywhere you usually buy games (including Amazon). I recommend your FLGS (friendly local game shop).

7/10


2.) Art

I love the art in The One Ring. The core book cover is ok, but the interior art really speaks to me. Much of it is full color, there is plenty (who am I kidding though, there could always be more), and each piece is super evocative of Middle Earth.

9/10


3.) Content and Rules

Fantastic. Amazing. Wonderful.

So much effort here to be faithful to the source material and create rules and mechanics that evoke Middle Earth. MERP doesn’t hold a candle in any regard except for the fact that they did have more content, but TOR is catching up fast! I won’t spoil them all, but I love the opposition of the hope and shadow attributes for characters. The adventuring and fellowship phases of the game take place over seasons of the year so the more cinematic and action-packed portions of the game can take place while also allowing for social interactions and time for travel.  In other news, TOR has the most exciting and innovative travel system I’ve ever seen in an RPG.

10/10


4.) Game Master Section

Quite a lot going on here for a GM. While it isn’t the crunchiest game you could run, Ring does have some rules. It’s no minimalist or storygame style of RPG. The GM sections are useful. They guide you to create sessions for your players that evoke Tolkien’s world. Additionally, there is a campaign section detailing all the major event taking place in Middle-earth both before and during the game timeline. This allows for rumors and ideas to reach the characters even if they aren’t taking part in these events directly.

8/10


5.) Pre-made Adventure

The Marsh-Bell is an in-depth fourteen-page adventure that’s great for starting characters. They’ll enjoy some familiar sights from The Hobbit, meet some familiar dwarves, risk danger, get to test some of their skill at fighting and riddling, and see the travel rules. All-in-all, it’s a solid introduction to the game.

8/10


Total Score: 42/50

This is not a bad score by any means. I own (and preorder) every book in the series as they are released. My single regret is that I don’t have more time to run TOR. It’s a game and a world I could explore endlessly.

UPDATE September 1, 2018: For the next 4 days you can get the full collection of TOR PDFs currently in print from Humble Bundle for just $15. Do this, and then you can grab a hard copy of the two must-purchase books for players at your table:
The One Ring RPG
Adventurer’s Companion