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BattleTech: Interstellar Operations
by Thomas M R. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/20/2015 17:07:39

Catalyst Game Labs/Topps Interstellar Operations - Beta adds to the first four core rule books by allowing game masters, players, and gear heads to play from the early years of the Star League to the latest conflicts in the BattleTech Universe. If the final release is as good as the battle this will be a very good addition to anyone's BattleTech Collection.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
BattleTech: Interstellar Operations
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BattleTech: Combat Manual: Mercenaries
by Russell W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/16/2015 01:39:08

Sexist and racist artwork? Where? Except for the full page color art, it has all been used before.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
BattleTech: Combat Manual: Mercenaries
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Shadowrun: Hell on Water
by Customer Name Withheld [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/13/2015 10:38:47

Totally disagree with the previous review. There was little time to expand on all of the characters as the action was expansive. I loved the way the book was written, more episodic than linear. It made me want to spend more time in Africa (as a character)



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: Hell on Water
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BattleTech: Combat Manual: Mercenaries
by Taryn F. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/11/2015 21:39:40

It has some racist and sexist artwork in it, and the chapter on Force Building is hard to get through. Plus, the whole book basically requires the Alpha Strike Companion, and one of Catalyst's employees admitted to me on their forums that omitting this from the description was an error.

Having said that, the artwork of the "Unseen" mech redesigns is pretty, and there are a ton of named characters of both (binary) genders and multiple ethnicities. And if you can digest the rules, and own a copy of the ASC, this should make your Alpha Strike battles much more entertaining ... at least the ones with mercs in them. There's even a "character sheet"-style thing to print out, where you can list all the pilot and lance special abilities for your company (3 lances, or 12 mechs, plus optional support units) at a glance.

Oh yeah, there are a lot of textual errors and typos as well, a lot of which you should be able to tell was not what was intended. Unlike with the artwork (and Catalyst's typical wall-of-text wording), I'm confident that most of those will be fixed once this is out of beta.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
BattleTech: Combat Manual: Mercenaries
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BattleTech: BattleCorps Anthology Vol 1: The Corps
by Trevor R. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/06/2015 14:54:06

A good series of short stories in the BattleTech universe.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
BattleTech: BattleCorps Anthology Vol 1: The Corps
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Shadowrun: Hard Targets (Deep Shadows Sourcebook)
by Sean H. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/29/2015 20:33:11

Shadowrun: Hard Target provides information about assassins, killers for hire, along with some metaplot advancement and information on Cuba in the Shadowrun setting. It is very specialized toward particular levels and styles of play so it is not universally useful but interesting and has some fun toys. Do you need it? Unless you are running an assassin or Cuba-based game, not really, but it is a good read and a GM will probably eventually add it to their library.

Shadowrun: Hard Target, is a Deep Shadows sourcebook focusing on assassins and other killers, guardians, and Cuba in the Sixth World. Rather an mixed bag of material, Cuba not sitting particularly well with the assassination and killers sections of the product.

As expected, it opens with fiction, followed by an overview of what the book contains. The first section is devoted to supporting the current Shadowrun metaplot, the CFD/Headcase outbreak, and the evolving metafiction of the Sixth World. It is all over the place with information on megacorporate activities and a variety of other power players, there are interesting plot information there but most are too high level except for the most powerful and connected runner teams.

Next is a selection of contracts (as in assassination requests) with comments and, for the other side of the coin, protection needed jobs. Interesting reading and some good adventure seeds there, especially on the protection side. Followed by a brief section on hiring killers, protection and dupes for such jobs. The following section is a collection of famous assassins, guardians and hunters (of killers).

Then we go to Cuba, heart of the Caribbean League, it is the usual package but also seeded through are NPCs complete with connection ratings and what they can provide and how they like to be paid (very useful). In addition there are rules for Caribbean magic, new creatures, new life path modules and even a couple of new vehicles. Overall, very useful for anyone who had wanted to explore the Caribbean League.

A section on the life and business of being a professional assassin, good advice for both players and GMs here, couched in world discussion. But an interesting and amusing read (especially as the signature character for the in-world writeup is by Blackwing, who has been around since 1st edition Shadowrun). Then, what everyone has been waiting for, new toys! Weapons, ammunition (including silver bullets), cyber and bioware, new tools (including disguises), drones and poison are all provided. Nore are character options neglected, with new adept powers, including some for archers, new positive and negative qualities, specialized knowledge skills, and contacts. Truly something for everyone (who wants to kill someone else).

Closing the book is a short bit of advise on running assassination teams, a few new life modules (for those using that character creation systems) and ten adventure hooks building off the information presented earlier. The hooks are very short and will take considerable work to turn into useable adventures.

Note: Read more reviews and other gaming articles at my journal https://seaofstarsrpg.wordpress.com/



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: Hard Targets (Deep Shadows Sourcebook)
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Shadowrun: Hard Targets (Deep Shadows Sourcebook)
by Rob W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/29/2015 15:16:51

Pretty decent fluff, with plenty of plot hooks for wetwork and decent NPCs for competition or opposition. The "targets lists" are pretty great, and the CFD segments haven't been as intrusive and "scene-stealing" as they have been in other books. I also felt the chapter opening stories were particularly good this time.

The section on Cuba is quite decent, though I feel there could have been more detail on the pirate factions (like this Gingerbread Man character). The mystical segments of their society are quite important but do not overwhelm the mundane, and the government itself shows plenty of room for intrigue and makes solid political sense.

Most importantly of all, the weapon modifications and spygear segments are great, and the weapon mods section in particular covers so much that it either covers or gets close to covering all the weapon mod options that 4th edition's Arsenal covered. Great job!

The new items have a lot of nice touches (holographic sights, disguise kits, more rules for archers and adepts, official rules for C2, cloaks, depleted uranium bullets), and for the most part seem well balanced (though I have yet to give these a real playtest). The only truly odd component is the Ares AP arrow; leave it to Ares to reinvent a 14th-century piece of technology with a monofilament edge and a fancy price tag.

Unfortunately, the crunch takes up only a small section of the book, but it covers a lot of things that have needed to be covered since 5th edition came out. Fluff and crunch combined make this book worth a 4/5, and a decent buy!



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
BattleTech: NAIS Fourth Succession War Military Atlas, Volume 1
by Jorge S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/10/2015 14:36:40

it's flawed. Page 64 is missing and instead there is a repeated page 60. It goes laike that: 60, 61, 62, 63, 60, 65...



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
BattleTech: NAIS Fourth Succession War Military Atlas, Volume 1
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Shadowrun: Chrome Flesh
by Sean H. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/02/2015 18:52:38

Shadowrun: Chrome Flesh provides background and game data for the wide world of improvements and augmentations availible in the Shadowrun world, everything from soft genetech to hard cyberware and everything in-between. Beside the fact that new toys are just fun, this book provides a wide variety of things to be stolen, hacked or otherwise used as the basis for shadowruns. The editorial quality feels better than the first of the fifth edition books as well. Overall, I would put this book into the needed source material column for a GM and most players will want it for the new toys.

Shadowrun: Chrome Flesh, is the core augmentation handbook for the 5th edition of Shadowrun providing information on cyberware, bioware, chemical, genetic and nano-enhancements. In other words, this product is full of new information but, more importantly, new toys for both players and GMs.

The book begins with one of the ubiquitous fiction sections and then moves into the current state of the metaplot, the continuing Cognitive Fragmentation Disorder (CFD) storyline and specifically how they effect cyberware and nanoware. While I appreciate the value of an evolving and changing setting, the CFD storyline does not appeal to me though I did like how it was used especially in the final section of this product.

A section on medical treatment options, framed around some lovely information from DocWagon, both corporate and “unofficial.” With a discussion of treatment for mental health issues, which includes CFD, and a discussion of using such in roleplaying (with appropriate disclaimers and warnings).

Then there are the obligatory positive and negative qualities, mostly tied to cybernetics and several linked to personasofts and BTL use (including Blank Slate, when someone’s original personality has been wiped by excessive use of personasofts). This section concludes with a few new Life Modules for the system from Run Faster.

Next, Cyberware, starting with a history of cyberware, why people use cyberware, and a discussion of the grades of cyberware available. All of that is good background and world information, but it is the part that come next that most people are buying the book for, more cyberware. Long time players will see a lot of familiar things here: move-by-wire systems, cyberskulls and so on, lots of interesting options. The things I really like are the low level cyberware, especially the cosmetic cyberware (light tattoos, led hair, and so on) which really feel like the sorts of things that would be developed for a consumer market and thus add a level of reality to the setting. The rules for the use of skillwires and skillsofts is expanded and clarified opening a whole range of interesting character options (“Oh of course I speak Mandarin/ hang-glide / swing dance. Why do you ask?”). A selection of common packages of cyberware for various purposes (as provided by your friends in the megacorporations) is provided and useful for stock characters.

Then comes Biotech, like the cyberware chapter before it starts with alight history of biotech and then talks about the major players in the biotech industries, which suggests a variety of potential Shadowruns. Then, new bioware, again, a mixture of revisions of older wares and new advances, again with a fair amount of cosmetic options and a variety of interesting symbionts. Though one of my favorite piece of bioware, the trauma dampener, has just become a pain editor and is no longer as fun or as useful as it was in previous editions.

Tangential to biotech but its own section is Genetic modification and Nanotech which rounds out the improvement section. It comes with an in-world debate on the technological possibilities, limits and risks of genetic tampering. Further, since the arrival of CFD on the world stage, using nanoware has become much more suspect and riskier but it can do some amazing things but it is far more limited than it once was. But there are still wide ranges of useful options available especially in the countermeasure department, such as anti-radiation protection, and minor enhancements. The wide range and narrow applicable genetic improvement and focused nanoware provides the tools to build uniquely specialized characters (and to improve existing specialists).

Next, the cheap and dirty options to make yourself faster, stronger, whatever, mostly applied chemistry but also chips and bottled spells. This is a good section especially for street level games as it gets into the dirty edge that these quick fixes provide, cheaply by comparison to permanent ware, but at a potentially deadly cost on the body and mind. Useful rules for customizing and making your own drugs are provided so you can have your own better life through chemistry.

The last section is looking to the future of enhancements and those affected by CFD, so it is full of adventure seeds and interesting world details, including a potential endgame for CFD. Possibly the most useful non-rules section for a games master.

The book ends with pages of master tables for all of the cyber/bio and other wares, from this and all of the other fifth edition Shadowrun books, useful if intimidating.

Note: Read more reviews and other gaming articles at my journal https://seaofstarsrpg.wordpress.com/



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: Chrome Flesh
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BattleTech: Chaos Formed (Book Two of the Chaos Irregulars)
by Trevor R. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/02/2015 12:56:06

Excellent novel of short stories, I quite enjoyed it and the premise behind it.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
BattleTech: Chaos Formed (Book Two of the Chaos Irregulars)
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Shadowrun: Fifth Edition Core Rulebook (Master Index Edition)
by Sam B. S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/18/2015 18:00:12

Amazing setting! However a little more editing would have gone a long way as a book that sets you back $60 for hard copy really shouldn't have as many spelling errors as this one has.

Also no one likes being told "more info on this in another book you can pay us for!!" Really, info on running your own host and other matrix stuff really ought to have been included in this book instead of Data Trails. It's fairly obnoxious something that fundamental to matrix play was left out.

Other than that, wonderful intro to an older setting that has been vigorously and wonderfully revived for a whole new generation! I'll raise a cup of soycaf to the designers for that!



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: Fifth Edition Core Rulebook (Master Index Edition)
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Shadowrun: DocWagon 19
by Colin O. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/18/2015 13:06:24

I am a big fan of Shadowrun and so I really enjoyed this book. Very much liked the different approach to telling the story as well as seeing things from the other side of the fence (Docwagon not the shadows). Might have been a couple of typos but nothing that stopped me enjoying the story.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: DocWagon 19
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Valiant Universe: The Roleplaying Game
by Dan O. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/18/2015 12:39:20

I'm so pleased to find a rules-lite system like this at last! The hobbling point for the RPG group I play with has always been fashioning characters. In any generation of Dungeons and Dragons character creation takes HOURS if not days of pouring over books not the least to determine complex equations based on scores and how to make those scores deliberately unbalanced. But the Catalyst system gives you options without making the point of the game to boost your scores. The numbers become less important than the adventure...AND THAT'S HOW RPGS SHOULD BE I THINK! Roleplaying! It's a little distressing to me how seldom that's actually used in favor of rules lawyering.

My favorite system for a long time was the somewhat obscure Over the Edge which deliberately tried to cut out the chaff of rules in favor of outlining characters quickly but in depth, but that system always had the issue again of lots of arbitrary numbers being thrown around requiring all players access to one book. The Valiant Universe dispenses with this and makes character creation so simple it barely takes up a chapter compared with the rest of the book which is devoted to the Valiant Universe itself.

And what a universe! I used to collect Valiant comics and still pick them up when I can because it's a welcome departure from either the crushing despair of modern comics or their rigid formality. Valiant is a maverick in the genre thanks to presenting different times, different cultures, and different attitudes revolving around the core iconic concept of the 'super hero'. And the system also reflects that approach with super powers being extremely flexible, granting characters suitably heroic edges but not making them invulnerable.

All in all I'm glad that free RPG day introduced me to this system and this concept of gaming in the Valiant Universe and I'd recommend it to those who are fans of the comics, want a speedy but customizable system to make character creation and breeze and roleplaying deft and entertaining again, and for people who just want a different take on the super hero genre itself.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Valiant Universe: The Roleplaying Game
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Shadowrun: Data Trails
by Carl A. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/11/2015 19:18:53

I'm really conflicted on what to rate this product. For the price to crunch value, I'd have to say a 2 (maybe even a 1). But I really like the rules for AIs and for that I'd give it a 4 or 5.

I have a major gripe with one thing, though. The terrible excuse for a a table of contents and a complete lack of an Index! The rules for creating an AI starts on page 145, which doesn't even show up in the Table of Contents. Instead, it is buried in a section called "Principles of Insanity". WTF? How are you supposed to know where this is short of memorizing it or looking at every single page?!? If there was a good Index, I'd forgive this, but I have to reduce the rating to a 2 instead.

There is some useful information here, but why is the ToC so terrible? For a premium priced PDF we should get a good ToC AND a good Index. There are apps that will build both of those for you, and this book really needs it.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: Data Trails
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Shadowrun: Wolf & Buffalo
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/24/2015 06:35:44

Originally published at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2015/08/24/tabletop-review-shadowrun-wolf-buffalo/

Every runner has an origin story; we just rarely ever hear them. Established characters in the Sixth World canon are generally introduced to us after having been veterans of the shadows for many years. It’s rare a character is seen being exposed to the underbelly of the Oligarchy (or Coporatocracy if you want to be blunt) that controls the planet in the 2070s. Even when you and your chummers make their own PCs for Shadowrun, you rarely act out the origins of a character as you might the embrace of your Vampire: The Masquerade PC. Instead, you just whip up the character and the backstory is either told through sessions via flashbacks, story hooks or general PC conversation. That’s what makes Wolf & Buffalo an interesting piece, as you see a character getting exposed to the harsh reality of life in the shadows with no warning whatsoever and how they react to the insanity of it all. It’s a point of view we rarely get, and so even though much of the perspective is, “WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON? SO MANY BULLETS! BODY COUNT HIGH! NOT A GOOD DAY!” it’s nice to see something other than a jaded snark filled reaction to corporate fueled gloom and doom.

Lena is your average young teenage girl in the Sioux Nation. She’s got a dysfunctional family, a government that treats her as a second-class citizen since she’s half Anglo (Remember this is the Sioux Nation. In Shadowrun prejudice runs all ways, be it white, black, troll or ghoul.) and a life she was hoping to improve by joining the SDF (I kept reading it as RDF and I was like, “Veritech rip-offs are in CGL’s OTHER game line.”). Unfortunately the government found a cheap out to excuse her for service, even if they didn’t specifically state her rejection was due to not being pure Native American.

Of course, if Wolf and Buffalo was just about late teen angst and the struggles of growing up half-Lakota, half-white, this would be more a tale for Sherman Alexie or Americo Paredes rather than a writer for Shadowrun. Instead we have to have some sort of Catalyst (no pun intended) that brings Lena into life within the shadows. In this case, it’s a smuggling ring gong wrong, the destruction of her family, attempted rape with a side of murder thrown in and a late awakening to her shamanistic potential. That’s quite a lot to be hit with in a single day – and all before she’s legally old enough to vote, to boot.

The rest of the story basically has Lena blundering around, trying to stay alive as people try to kill her and friends try to help her (and die as a result. Seriously, she’s Clementine from The Walking Dead bad in this regard, but far more likeable). Lena finds herself in over her head with talisman smuggling, “demon” summoning and not one but two totems making their presence (and requests) known to her. The end result is a fast paced story with a higher body count than most full-length Shadowrun novels and a story that shows you just how strange life can be in the Sixth World, not to mention how quickly things can change. One minute you might be the mayor of Seattle, and the next, a highly sophisticated A.I. has taken over your body and you’re dropping your pants in public, defecating on a street performer.

Wolf & Buffalo is a really good story and I enjoyed the chaotic nature of the tale. Sure, the protagonist was in over her head, whined constantly and really only survived because everyone else took a bullet (or ritual knife) for her, but it makes sense. I mean, when you were 17/18, could you process being a channel for ancient spirits to funnel magical energies through while being tasked to recover a sacred artifact to your people and dodge heavy fire? No, you’ll probably piss yourself. So Lena is an extremely believable character. Hell, she’s even likeable in spite of being the type of character who’s usually relegated to the supporting role of a story and who you get really annoyed with – especially when they show up in a summer blockbuster. Thankfully good writing saves the day.

That’s not to say the entire story is without fault. I do feel the climax/ending is very weak. Not only is it very similar to the same ending used in the author’s full length novel Borrowed Time (which is really good and you should purchase it), but it involves not one, but TWO Deus Ex Machinas to get the main character out alive. One alone is acceptable, but weak. TWO, however, did have me roll my eyes and wish for something better. So a great start, but a really weak finish. The end does detract from the overall quality of the story, but it’s still a good read and worth getting if you’re a Shadowrun fan.

Finally, as this is a piece of “Enhanced Fiction,” we get some stat blocks at the end of the book. This is another weak area. I love that the main character got statted and can be used as an NPC in your own adventures. The second character, however, dies in the book, so I don’t see the point of giving them half a page of stats. I’d have given this to one of Lena’s friends that survived (or anyone who survived the story really) as that would be more useful overall. The two stat blocks are the only “crunch” you’ll get in this, so hopefully you’re just looking for a fine short story that allows you to spend some free time in the Sixth World. With a price tag of only three bucks, you’ll certainly get your money’s worth with Wolf & Buffalo.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: Wolf & Buffalo
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