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Battle Century G
Publisher: Gimmick Man
by Dylan C. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/11/2018 13:20:53

Battle Century G is a flexible, creative, and narratively brilliant tactical roleplaying game perfect for campaigns ranging from Gundam Wing all the way up to Combattler V. The basic brilliance of the system lies in what it humbly refers to as 'effects-based gameplay' - in other words, the concept that the effects of a given ability are in no way bound up with the appearance of that ability. Once freed from that narrative link, the myriad of options available in BCG (and even more in the expansion book, Battle Century Z) make it possible to portray any sort of mecha genre character you can imagine. Brawling mecha running on fighting spirit? Spry power armor that zips across the battlefield? Titanic battleships with external weapon systems? Alien beasts that warp space and time? All of that and more is achieveable with minimal effort. What's more, the gameplay associated with these various groupings of effects is diverse and enjoyable, with something to bring to the table for every style of gamer. Fully supportive builds that focus on healing and buffing allies are completely viable, while even being able to dish out occasional blows of their own, for example, and the players can even opt for Super Combinations of their mechs with one another, or installing Frames and Transformations to enable myriad forms for each mecha!

Above and beyond the flexible base system, though, are the two truly genius systems: Genre Powers and Tension.

Genre Powers are, in short, what differentiate PCs (and their Rivals) from mooks. They are moments of narrative hype, game-changing super moves that reflect just about every iconic trope in the greater genre. Every character has access to a handful of universal powers, like Try Again, a basic rerolling power, and Synchro Attack, the classic "everyone together" joint assault. Each character then selects one Genre Power from various other lists for each Power Level they achieve -- usually around 6 sessions per PL -- which add a ton of spice. My favorites are I Cannot Be Defeated!, which does exactly what it sounds like, completely preventing a character from being taken out no matter how powerful the opponent's attack; Trump Card, which grants the mech two extra weapons from to use for the Operation, letting them adapt perfectly to all combats; and This is My Battlefield, a perfect execution of the "just as planned" archetype that allows a character to activate a trap that had always already set up ahead of time, detonating mountains or frying electrical systems. The best part about Genre Powers, though? They use a resource, Genre Points, that is primarily attained through roleplaying and -- because this game is forged from raw elemental mecha anime -- having your mecha take significant damage!

Tension, on the other hand, is a short and sweet but equally cunning implementation of genre standards. Tension is simple -- it's a static value, starting at 1 and increasing by 1 each turn, that is added to all offensive actions. This straightforward escalation mechanic makes sure that fights never drag on too long and that game-stifling, purely defensive strategies will inevitably fail. Tension is then used in other places in the system to great effect. Extreme Terrain like electrical storms or flowing lava becomes more dangerous, with its damage potential scaling up with Tension. The most noteable implementation of Tension is with Techniques, the Super Moves of Battle Century G, which receive a double benefit from Tension -- but only the first time they're used each Operation. The Tension system works tirelessly in the background, rarely becoming all too prominent, but always nudging your game towards cinematic and dramatic confrontation rather than mind-numbing caution.

All the glory doesn't go to the Player Characters, though; the system also includes excellent rules for Bosses, who get access to their own overpowered Upgrades, Weapons, and Boss Powers, all designed to make a 5-on-1 fight far more achieveable than in many other tabletop games. These Boss options often give additional out-of-turn power, terrain control, and other such influential powers that allow a single Big Bad to tangle with the whole PC group competently. This is a feature that few combat-heavy games offer and should not be underestimated!

Alongside the system, BCG includes a few sample settings: a Super Robots style setting for those who love over-the-top, insane action; a Gundam-style setting for fans of miltary melodrama and more Real Robots; and an Evangelion-inspired setting for those seeking a darker, more psychological experience. None of these settings are phenomenal or intimately detailed, but they act as perfect jumping off points for three totally unique approaches to a Battle Century G campaign, so they're worth reading.

In short, Battle Century G is the ultimate tool for narratively-oriented giant mecha tabletop games that still retain a degree of engaging tactical gameplay. In many ways, it achieves a flawless balance between the two through the astute approach of intertwining the two; cause trouble for your character by playing up your Themes and gain more Genre Points to kick ass later in the session. While this approach isn't necessarily novel, the Genre Power and Theme system is a remarkable implementation of that strategy, and its benefits infuse the whole of Battle Century G with a delicate balance between two normally clashing worlds. Give Battle Century G a read if you consider yourself even a passing fan of the mecha genre.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Battle Century G
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Dragons Conquer America: The Coatli Stone Quickstart
Publisher: Burning Games
by Dylan C. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/28/2017 17:55:28

Dragons Conquer America tells stories of 16th-century New World warfare glazed with a heaping helping of magic, myths, and monsters. Using the RPC25 system to resolve conflicts with a standard deck of playing cards, DCA positions itself as a narrative-first game that offers just enough mechanical granularity to remain tactically engaging.

Layout The beta edition quick start package includes most rules for character abilities and conflict resolution as well as a number of NPC statlines and a simple three-act adventure with which to cut your table’s teeth. All of this is couched in a lovely layout sporting unique a Mesopotamian flair, giving DCA style without compromising readability. If nothing else, the gorgeous full-page art, solid NPC illustrations, and expertly designed layout make DCA a joy to read on its aesthetic merits alone. Fortunately, there is plenty else to praise.

Basic Mechanics The structure of DCA’s conflict resolution system is simple enough: players maintain a hand of cards, representing their characters’ stamina reserves, while the GM flips cards up from a deck to generate numerical thresholds for the players to challenge. Playing cards from your hand as a player is a tactical decision on multiple fronts. A play that corresponds with the situation a hand -- a Conflict card in a sword fight or an Exploration card while scrambling up a stone temple wall -- results in a redraw (and further bonuses besides if that category is also the character’s Affinity).

However, the number of the card is all that truly matters when calculating the degree of success, and so players must choose somewhat frequently between a comfortable margin of success and the loss of a card, or a more narrow margin or even failure but retention of a card. Furthermore, they must decide whether or not to play multiple cards in a conflict, evaluating this decision in both the short and long term as well. This decision point is recurrent, but is just complex enough to add a degree of tactical depth without slowing play down.

Most Abilities and Skills are simple, almost always granting Advantages and Disadvantages to allies or enemies, which function as simple +3/-3 modifiers to the total value compared in the resolution step. This keeps the game’s focus on the elegant card resolution mechanic, rather than miring gameplay down in minutiae and granularity. NPC stats are equally snappy, with GMs merely drawing cards equal to the NPC’s level, adding them up, adding the appropriate Skill value, and presenting the target number.

Systems Magic is simple enough, with only Christian Miracles laid out in the book. Put simply, characters gain Spirit by performing appropriate actions such as prayer, conversion, and (of course) slaying wicked apostates, then spend that Spirit to cast spells, such as Miracles. The Christian powerset for this system has an interesting sub-mechanic of Corruption, wherein priests who draw too deeply from the well of God’s power might find themselves accidentally imbibing Satan’s strength instead. Gaining and losing Corruption in this way will make for a fun side arc.

There is one truly daring mechanic in the game: Prejudice. Player Characters must select a number of Prejudices, such as Xenophobia, Elistism, Classism, etc. at generation and cope with the consequences during gameplay. The authors go out of their way to delineate this system as option, but it’s nonetheless impressive in the simplicity of its implementation: your characters grew up in imperfect environments and must grow as people or be held back by their Prejudices. There is a Skill, Tolerance, that allows one to resist and eventually completely remove these Prejudices from one’s sheet, creating a natural character arc towards tolerance.

Sample Adventure The adventure presented is nothing to write home about. It competently touches upon the major types of confrontation -- Conflict, Social, Exploration, and Divine -- without lingering on any for too long, gives an overview of the Spanish vs. Native conflict, and allows the players several choice points to align themselves with either or neither side of the conflict. There are some good twists and turns in there, but I won’t spoil those -- play it!

Conclusion Dragons Conquer America has great potential for success, and if the editing and mechanics are tightened up to a professional level, it will likely become another indie gem. There are hints of Shadowrun-meets-7th-Sea in here, peppered with a healthy dose of Dragonlance. Give the Dragons Conquer America Quick Start, The Coatli Stone, a try as a one-shot; if nothing else, it’s worth the time just to flex the card mechanic.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dragons Conquer America: The Coatli Stone Quickstart
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