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[ICONS]The Super Villain Handbook Basic Edition
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/24/2015 17:32:11
Let’s start with what’s greatest about this product: it focuses on the villains, and it focuses on their stories. A few days ago, my 11-year-old son was asking for advice on creating scenarios for ICONS. One of the things I told him was, “You have to think about the villains and their motivations. What do they want, and how do they try to get it, and how does this cause problems for the heroes?” The Super Villain Handbook provides a really nice resource for thinking about those questions. Jason “Dr. Comics” Tondro has structured the book around the dramatic roles that different kinds of villains play in comics stories rather than around their power sets. The “Stories” section of each archetype explores typical goals, recurring themes, and support cast rather than a bullet list of “adventure hooks” or specific capers (as in Fainting Goat’s Miscreants, Malefactors, and Megalomaniacs or the World’s Most Wanted series). Those “Stories” subsections are very good and, in my mind, they are the chief selling point for this book.

Now for elements that are of good quality, but not sufficient reason to purchase the book. The artwork is very enjoyable (though I’d like to see the Deluxe Edition include specific credits for the artwork, since I don’t know each artist’s signature). I also really appreciate how Jason has included an appendix that sort of “converts” archetypes from the Field Guide to Superheroes into villainous archetypes.

It’s not all wine and roses, though. This book is actually a subset of a larger project (not yet released at the time of this writing), a kind of “down payment” for those who backed the Handbook on Kickstarter. The unfinished quality of the work shows through in five particular respects. I’ll list them here from least annoying to most egregious. (1) The Basic Edition is only about half the length of the Deluxe Edition (in number of archetypes). This isn’t really a weakness of the Basic Edition, but it’s important information for people to have when deciding whether to purchase. (2) The book introduces and uses rules for cosmic-level characters that will be changed in the Deluxe Edition to line up with the official ICONS supplement “C is for Cosmic” in the ICONS A-Z series. I appreciate both Jason’s shout-out to the old Marvel FASERIP system in the rules included in the Basic SVH and his (and FGG’s) flexibility in changing the cosmic-level rules to match “C is for Cosmic.” Again, this is not so much a weakness of the Basic SVH as it is a caveat emptor so that potential buyers will understand the differences between the Basic and Deluxe editions. (3) Not all of the archetypes feature artwork. I don’t consider this a really big deal, but it’s really noticeable. (4) This is a 99-page PDF with no bookmarks. Well, I take that back. The cover, table of contents, and back cover are bookmarked—the three pages you least need to have bookmarked. A full set of bookmarks needs to appear in the Deluxe Edition. (5) The book’s big weakness is that the stat blocks at the end of each archetype lack context, and in at least one case they’re not really consistent with the archetype writeup. Essentially, Jason gives us stats for a character embodying each archetype. But although these characters clearly have specific individual flavors and personalities — they are instantiations of the archetype, not stats for a bland generic version of the archetype (and that’s a good thing) — they don’t have names or even brief backstories. This is a gaping hole that needs to be patched in the Deluxe Edition. The most jarring example of this is the Conqueror. The writeup is for the Brain, from the Pinky and the Brain cartoon. But the Brain is a laboratory mouse, so he doesn’t at all fit the advice given in the “Abilities” section of the Conqueror writeup. An unwary reader who didn’t perceive that the stat block reflected the epigram could easily become confused. And while I love Pinky and the Brain, I don’t think the Brain is really a good example of the Conqueror archetype for RPG purposes.

Jason Tondro is a good writer, so awkward phrasings and grammatical errors are much rarer here than is typical for FGG (sorry, Mike). The layout is bland but not objectionable; the page frame is easier on the eyes than the one for Stark City. The typography is boring to the point of stale (Arial? Trebuchet? Really?) Oh, and “supervillain” should either be one word or hyphenated, not two separate words. The phrase “supervillain handbook” denotes a handbook for supervillains; the phrase “super villain handbook” denotes a super handbook for villains. There’s a difference.

The bottom line is that I’d advise potential buyers to wait for and purchase the Deluxe Edition. The Basic Edition shows that the Deluxe Edition will be a great resource. But this is really more of a Preliminary Edition than a Basic Edition. I feel pretty sure the Deluxe Edition will be a 4-star or 5-star product, but at the time of this writing the Deluxe Edition isn’t out yet.

Full disclosure: I received the Super Villain Handbook, Basic Edition as a free review copy. I did not back the Kickstarter — not because I didn’t want to, but because I was so distracted with other things at the time that I didn’t get my pledge in during the campaign.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
[ICONS]The Super Villain Handbook Basic Edition
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[ICONS] Worlds Most Wanted #4
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/23/2015 21:34:13
Vertexor’s origin story is a real stretch, even for comic-book biology … but it’s so much fun, who cares? Shrinking heroes and villains are all the rage right now, as I write this review within a week after the Ant-Man movie’s release. Vertexor is permanently shrunk, adding a neat wrinkle. As with all the WMW and Space Supers issues, I love the use of an action figure card as the cover—but Vertextor’s “creator,” Prospero, would no doubt point out that the “actual size” Vertexor on the cover appears to be a 3.5"–4" action figure rather than an 8" action figure. For reference, 8" is the size of the G. I. Joes, Mego superheroes, and Star Trek figures that were popular back in the 1970s. The one on the cover doesn’t seem to have enough points of articulation to be an 8" figure. Okay, now I’m just geeking out. World’s Most Wanted #4: Vertextor is definitely worth the asking price ($0.75 as of this writing) and can add a dose of big fun to your ICONS gaming.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
[ICONS] Worlds Most Wanted #4
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[ICONS] Worlds Most Wanted #8 - The Locust
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/22/2015 15:49:30
Just a couple of days ago, my younger son was thinking out loud about possible capers for insect-themed heroes. Now here comes the Locust to give him a great example of how the villain’s motivation can be somewhat independent of the villain’s theme/totem. Mechanically, the Locus is a little boring, but his personality as revealed in the two-page writeup is just the right amount of quirky. All three of the one-paragraph plot hooks are well worth exploring. For me, the third is the most inspiring, and I may use it soon or turn it over to my son for him to develop. The “MSRP” of $3.99 would be way overboard for one page of art, one-and-a-half pages of content, and the OGL page, but the actual selling price of $1.00 is a good value. My rating tops out at four stars instead of five because of production values. I love the “action figure card” covers on the series, and Ade’s artwork is great for ICONS, but the typography is boring (Franklin Gothic? Trebuchet?) and the text needed another pass or two by a copy editor (an “and” on p. 2 is missing its “d”; “outwitted” is misspelled on p. 2 as two words; and so on). But these imperfections aside, I really enjoy and recommend this installment in the WMM series.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
[ICONS] Worlds Most Wanted #8 - The Locust
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[ICONS]The Super Villain Handbook Basic Edition
by Andrew B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/26/2015 09:20:34
This book feels unfinished. Especially when compared to Dr. Tondros Field Guides to Superheroes. Concepts end in the middle of pages. Not every archetype has a picture. The archetype examples do not have any names, just stats hanging at the end of each article. For example one under 'Cosmic Menace' looks like a shark composed of stars and nebula gases like a more animalistic Galactus which doesnt look like a giant guy wearing a pointy helment. I guess you could call it... 'the Cosmic Menace' or 'the Galactic Shark' or 'Jax, the Eater of Stars'.

I think his Kickstarter program reached the levels to trigger making the 'Youverse' and the double lengthed expert edition and so they just left this book on its final edits. "We'll cover the rest of this stuff in the delux edition," they no doubt told themselves. The problem is you can feel this rushed incompleteness. If this product peaks your interest, you should probably wait for the double the pages at double the price deluxe edition.

Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
[ICONS]The Super Villain Handbook Basic Edition
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Publisher Reply:
Andrew sorry you were disappointed hit me up at mikelaff at gmail dot com and I\'ll refund your full purchase price.
[FAE]Villains Accelerated
by Michael S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/14/2014 22:44:00
Villains Accelerated is an amazing product. It is a wonderful resource for a villains for your Fate Accelerated supers game. I has wonderful art and the villains are really cool. They are great example of how to build your own heroes or villains using Fate Accelerated Edition. I truly hope to see more Fate products from Fainting Goat Games!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
[FAE]Villains Accelerated
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[ICONS] Worlds Most Wanted #2
by Walt R. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/10/2014 17:38:46
Fainting Goat Games comes through again with a great product at a fantastic price. World's Most Wanted #2 debut's the mysterious Cat Bugler known as Orion-5. The greatest villains are ones we can sympathize with as well as have fun watching. Orion-5 is just that guy. With story elements to make this fun, mysterious, and absolutely annoying to players, this particular villain is a lot of fun.

WMW#2 has a great cover, clean layout (2-column), and finishes off a well crafted character with two plot hooks. Need a fun little ICONS Assembled villain to annoy the heck out of your players and then make them feel bad about going after him? Yeah... Fainting Goat has your game...

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
[ICONS] Worlds Most Wanted #2
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[ICONS] Sentinels of Stark City
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/11/2014 21:05:51
This add-on for the Stark City setting from Fainting Goat Games presents nine superheroes who patrol Stark City. The characters are interesting and the art—mostly by Jacob Blackmon with contributions by Jon Gibbons and Dan Houser—is wonderful (though a little jarring when the three artists' works are composited, as on the cover). Sadly, the prose needs a thorough editing for grammar and consistency (for example, aspects are sometimes set in sentence case, some in title case). The table of contents is numbered 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 9, 10, 12, 14 instead of 1–9, without any explanation (the Kickstarter backers' version seems to have the same table of contents, so I don't know where the "missing" characters are). The Fainting Goat guys are capable of such fantastic stuff that it's sad to see these kinds of errors. The product's biggest weakness, however, is simply that it's a collection of superheroes for a superhero game—for which a collection of supervillains is much more useful. The heroes presented here could be used as pregenerated characters, or as notable NPCs, but for a long-term Stark City campaign, players are more likely to want to play heroes of their own creation. If you need a collection of superheroes for your Stark City campaign, though, this fits the bill.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
[ICONS] Sentinels of Stark City
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Improbable Tales Volume 1 Compilation
by Sean H. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/06/2014 12:02:38
If your Icons game is light-hearted, mostly four-color adventurism then Improbable Tales Volume 1 should provide an excellent set of short adventures for your campaign. These adventures are fun and have a great spirit of comic adventure, only a few taking dark turns, if such fits you campaign style (and if you are playing Icons, it probably does) give this collection a look.

Improbable Tales Volume 1 Compilation, from Fainting Goat Games contains eleven adventures for Icons, each designed to be done in a session or two. Each short adventure includes several scenes, full statistics (and art of) the major characters and printout paper standees for the adventures. The first few also have their own mock advertisements in the style of the Hostess ads in superhero comics from the 70s which I found charming.

Primarily, the tone of these adventures is light, fighting giant ants, super-intelligent gorillas or Nazi zombies, and follows a basic comic book progression of scenes ending with the requisite final confrontation with the major supervillain. Most are designed to be dropped into an existing campaign, with an NPC (or two) provided to act as an aid to do such though one adventure (Tokyo Kaiju Chaos) works better -as it is a pastiche of Japanese sentai shows- to have character built specifically for it. There are considerable call outs to pop culture scattered through the adventure, everything from 1950s atomic horror to the Lovecraftian mythos, 1980s cartoons and classic superheroic characters and more all have their cameos. There are the occasion sidebar suggesting possible changes and problems, and solutions, that came up in the adventures while playtesting.

The Improbable Tales adventures are excellent to fill in the space between campaign arcs or when you just need something quick for a night’s superheroic action.

Disclosure: As a featured reviewer for RPGNow/DriveThroughRPG, I received my copy of this product for free from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

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

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Improbable Tales Volume 1 Compilation
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Space Supers #2 [ICONS]
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/06/2014 01:05:40
Malfaex is an interesting villain in the vein of Thanos or a herald of Galactus. His "look" reminds me of Marvel's Terrax. Dan Houser's art is, as always, a highlight of the product.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Space Supers #2 [ICONS]
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The Great Game Soundtrack
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/05/2014 12:50:42
If you like to listen to EDM while role-playing, you'll probably like this trio of tracks. If you prefer a more orchestral flavor of background music, you should probably look elsewhere. I'm personally in the latter camp, although I can appreciate the skill that went into composing these tracks. "Cosmic Voyage" is upbeat and almost happy in tone. "Creeping Entropy" is, well, creepy, with excellent use of percussion overlaid by techno tones that I don't personally care for but that fit the "cosmic supers" genre reasonably well. The name "Starsiege" made me expect that the third track would imply some kind of battle, but it really sounds more to me like backing for a 1970s police show montage. The three tracks hang together pretty well. I really expected more than three tracks for a "soundtrack," but the per-track price is more than reasonable. Although it doesn't really fit my background music preferences, this collection could be just the thing that some GMs are looking for.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Great Game Soundtrack
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The Great Game [ICONS]
by Jacob B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/10/2014 17:30:49
One of the most innovative space/cosmic settings I have seen published for superhero games in quite some time, The Great Game offers a universe of possibilities for your campaign. Although written for the ICON superhero rpg, this sourcebook can be used as a reference guide to any superhero rpg with a little conversion know-how.

The Great Game is 53 pages long and filled with numerous illustrations from a number of different artists. It even includes a "snack cake comic" like in the olden days of comic-dom. Layout appears top-notch, and several pdfs are presented, allowing for easy printing.

The Great Game is filled with a number of homage characters and settings that give a nod to superhero comics from across the last century. The Prometheans give tribute to the numerous "space gods" of Jack Kirby. The Ghostlight Legion nods toward Space Ghost. The Bloodstone Protectorate mixes the Green Lantern Corps with the vile immortal mind of Ego the Living Planet. The Krobon Empire shows how much fun a "Flash Gordon" style setting can be. Even the Mech Centrality pays homage to the Transformers! How about an homage to Rom the Spaceknight and the Dire Wraiths? Check!

Even though I do not play ICONS, this single sourcebook has a wealth of knowledge that will find its way into my superhero campaign. Furthermore, the possibility for Fainting Goat Games to expand upon this book is as infinite as the universe. I will be sure to look favorably upon future space-based books from FGG, if they are of the same quality as The Great Game.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Great Game [ICONS]
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The Great Game [ICONS]
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/18/2013 07:19:29
Truly cosmic in scale, this epic work takes superheroes out of their neighbourhood and onto a galactic stage. In the introduction, we meet the Prometheans who have written the history of the universe page by annual page in a book that stands 820 miles thick and which seems to have a life of its own! Their goal is to bring civilisation to the teeming inhabitants of the universe... and found human beings both a challenge and of great potential. For they proved easy to modify, and formed the core of the Janissaries, the Promethean's loyal troops... but not all were biddable enough and these were left behind. Of such seeds are today's superpowered individuals born.

Out in the black, struggles rage on, and this is the Great Game of the title. Where and how will humans become involved? The local powers to Earth are described and mapped, and these details are followed by a wealth of advice on running a cosmic campaign. Your first choice is to decide if aliens come to Earth or some folk from Earth venture forth to encounter aliens... both options present plenty of potential for adventure and are, of course, not mutually exclusive. Examples are given from the history of comics as well as within the context of the universe as postulated for this work.

Both factions and individual aliens are presented in detail, plenty of resources here with which to create your own campaign, and the descriptions are peppered with ideas on how to utilise the individuals and factions described, giving plenty of direction without becoming too prescriptive. There's a lot of intrigue out there and it is well worth thorough study to embroil your characters in at least some of what is going on.

There is great scope for adventure here, if your party dares to enter the universe-spanning conflict between the Greater Bright and the Greater Dark. However, there will be work to do before the universe is ready for them: this book is replete with ideas but you will have to create the actual adventures in which they will participate. But for those prepared to put the effort in, epic campaigns await.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Stark City Campaign Setting and City Building Toolset
by wesley c. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/10/2013 18:51:47
I really enjoyed this book for me the best part of it was the way to get the players involved and invested in the setting with the sentinels team overall great book and I can't wait to get to use it in an icons game.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Stark City Campaign Setting and City Building Toolset
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Colorado_Flood_ Relief [BUNDLE]
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/17/2013 12:28:30
Thank you for providing this convenient (not to say enticing!) opportunity to help this good cause.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Colorado_Flood_ Relief [BUNDLE]
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[ICONS] Defy the Prophecy: A Stark City Adventure
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/07/2013 23:58:33
“Defy the Prophecy,” an ICONS adventure for the Stark City setting, has a rather cliché core plot: the bad guys are stealing objects to perform a dark ritual they must not be allowed to complete. What keeps the adventure from being hackneyed is the nature of the thieves—a bit of mystery that actually shouldn’t take the heroes too long to unravel—and the main villain’s motivation. The best thing about the adventure plot is the tie-in to Stark City lore.

Unfortunately, the text’s references to the game mechanics are imperfect, possibly even downright confusing. For example, there is no such thing as a “Know Test” (p. 3) in ICONS; rather, you make an Intellect test to find out if your PC knows something. Similarly, ICONS has no “Occult test” (p. 5), though it does have an Occult specialty that can give PCs bonuses on Intellect tests when dealing with occult matters. I can easily imagine a new GM reading this adventure and wondering, “What on earth is a [whatever]?” when the terminology doesn’t follow the core rules. On the other hand, grammatical errors and inconsistencies are few and minor.

The cover art by Jon Gibbons and the interior art by Jacob Blackmon are quite good. In fact, the cover art is almost too good, as it depicts a scene unlikely to occur during the adventure!

If you consider the “stop the ritual before it’s too late” plot to be “tried and true” rather than “overdone,” you should be able to give a group of ICONS players a fun evening of play with “Defy the Prophecy.” On top of that, if you’re kicking off a Stark City campaign, the adventure provides a good way to introduce players to a major potential threat in the campaign world. Adapting the adventure to non-Stark settings would be difficult, I think, unless you want to adopt the whole Gloriana storyline into your world as well.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
[ICONS] Defy the Prophecy: A Stark City Adventure
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