Review originally posted at FlamesRising.com - http://www.flamesrising.com/weird-war-ii-sw-review/
Tabletop RPGs were born from historical minis gaming. Going in the reverse direction seems to be difficult in RPGs. Unless, of course, you add a supernatural element. Western gaming lay dead until Deadlands came along with a potent mix of zombies and steam guns. It’s no surprise that the company made famous by that game, Pinnacle, might try a similar formula with other times in history. They made a successful foray into the d20 OGL with Weird War II, smashing together the horrors of war with the horrors of legend. Weird Wars are poised to become a brand within Savage Worlds, with rumored entries including Rome and the Crusades. Launching the line felt like a good time to revisit Weird War II, which is available in Print and PDF for Savage Worlds.
The setting is a pretty basic mash-up: take World War II, add zombies, vampires, werewolves, and cultists to taste and stir. It differs from Deadlands in that the fantasy and horror elements don’t change up the world in big ways. Things are more low key, and the Office of Special Intelligence is much better at keeping a lid on the existence of creatures. Players are also less supernaturally aided. A Haunted vehicle can be taken as an Edge, Russian soldiers can eventually be trained to be psychic soldiers and chaplains can use faith to turn the undead but that’s it. More often than not, the PCs will have to use their wits, guts and whatever equipment the U.S. Army gave them to kill the monsters the Axis Powers unleashed.
The Savage Worlds version offers a good fit for the setting and system. Though human is only playable race, there are dozens of branches of military that fit a similar function. The base assumption is that the group will be made up of a unit with a commander and his men. Other options exist, for those who might want to patrol the seas looking for a phantom U-boat or partisans and resistance fighters behind enemy lines. Some Edges even offer traits that play to national stereotypes like unflappable Brits and friendly Frenchmen.
This is a full-color PDF that combines much of the material from the original d20 line. There are chapters devoted to many of the fronts of the war as well as a general overview. The PDF is full color, using artwork from previous books as well as vintage artwork from the period. A few changes from the original Weird War have been made. Players no longer have access to magic. Some of the sillier monsters were removed. The O.S.I. is now interested in covering up the supernatural instead of controlling it. The changes are minimal but fans of the original should take note.
The presentation in the book is top notch. Pinnacle is known for its flavorful core books and this is no exception. Everything is in full color. The art is a mix of vintage posters, authentic photographs and spooky paintings. Each of the chapters is broken up into a different campaign. These campaigns have subtle but different looks and keep things from getting too boring. The presentation makes coming up with adventures as easy as flipping through the book with the History Channel on in the background.
World War II is a huge subject to cover. Material from the original line made it into the book but not all of it did. There are points where it feels like concentrating of a specific theater might have been a better idea. the writers are clearly passionate and knowledgeable about their subject. Focusing in a specific area might have allowed the book to really nail the feel of being a frontline soldier as well add mixing in some strangeness to battle. Unless the group is made up of people looking to play multiple World War II campaigns, a lot of the book could go unused once the players blow up Hitler’s necromancy lab once and for all.
Each theater gets a chapter that details the soldiers, equipment and creatures that fit in the area. But the space each theater takes up leaves little room for one of the best parts of Savage Worlds books. Plot Point campaigns are one of the most well-liked bits about these core books. They offer a campaign structure condensed to be flexible. This book doesn’t have an overall campaign, instead choosing to go with short hooks in each campaign and random encounter generators. It’s disappointing since the authors show a love of history and seeing what they could come up with for an epic campaign would be interesting to say the least.
The book is filled with stats for tons of equipment from the era. Guns, artillery, tanks, airplanes, boats and more get statted out for whatever campaign might need them. In addition to the stats, many of the items get callouts in the text to discuss a little bit of history. The equipment also expands the field of battle, allowing for dogfights over Britain or tense sub encounters in the north sea.
Bottom Line: If you want to shoot Nazis, zombies, or, even better, Nazi zombies, sign up to deploy with Weird War II today