The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=22537.
Reclamation is a sci-fi fantasy post-apocalyptic setting and system powered by a standard deck of playing cards instead of dice. The setting takes place in a post-apocalyptic Earth after a pandemic swept across the world (caused by a Nuclear Cataclysm) and transformed half of the human race to bloodthirsty degenerates. The player characters assume the role of survivors touched in some way by the apocalyptic event (depending upon their age). Reclamation takes place shortly after the apocalyptic event so the setting is filled with those who survived the apocalypse, those who were born after it, and those who are considered the current youth population.
As mentioned, Reclamation utilizes a standard playing deck of cards instead of dice for resolution. Players flip over the top card from their Fate Deck, adding your ability, and attempting to meet or exceed the target number. Skills are used as a way of improving your odds by allowing additional cards to be flipped and hoping for a better result. Without spoiling the mechanics, some cards add to your total while others subtract. This is how you end up with the randomness like a die roll. Target Numbers vary depending on the action being taken, but they are essentially a measure of how well or poorly the action was instead of a simple pass or fail.
Reclamation is a truly unique setting and system, taking a very dark approach to sci-fi fantasy post-apocalyptic instead of the humoristic settings you find elsewhere. The apocalypse truly transformed the world for the worse and even the darkness of the layout accentuates that image. The use of the playing card mechanics provides a truly unique experience giving gamers something they may have never seen before. At the very least, if one doesn’t like using cards over dice, you can change the system to a dice pool or use it as a campaign setting. Either way, your bound to get a lot of enjoyment out of Reclamation no matter how you use it.
Publication Quality: 8 out of 10
Reclamation is a beautiful book, supported by the successful Kickstarter campaign. It has great looking art, an easy-to-read layout, and the formatting looks nice. I would say that there is actually too much art at times. I found plenty of locations where the art did not really add to the value of what was being stated in the content. I also found the continued insertion of narrative to be excessive. A little narrative sprinkled throughout is nice, but when it really breaks the flow of the content, it becomes intrusive instead of valuable or fun. (You could say it was slightly over-produced.) However, visually, Reclamation is a great book and the layout and formatting make the mechanics easy to understand.
Mechanics: 8 out of 10
The playing card mechanics for resolving actions is incredibly unique and put together in a way that makes them interesting and fun. The character creation is a great way of building a great character and how the skills allow you additional cards to improve your chances of success is a great implementation of characters; this method really brings the action resolution mechanics and character creation together. Magic is a bit on the heavy side in terms of volume of mechanics. Almost half of the book is given over to magic (Gifts) which seems a bit much for a post-apocalyptic setting that seems to focus on sci-fi as much as it does on fantasy. Additionally, there is not nearly as much information for the Game Master (called the Fate Dealer) in terms of antagonists and Reclamation adventure creation (there’s a lot of generic stuff, but not so much setting content). The example adventure does a good job of painting the scene for the Fate Dealer, but I think a little more love for the person running the game could be included.
Combat has a very different feel for mechanics compared to simple action resolution. While the cards are still involved, there is a bit more decision making required on each participants part (by choosing how much aggressive one is attacking) and damage is static using the given options on each weapon (related to the cards suit). This is a very unique way of using the playing cards and again plays in quite well with the card-based mechanics of the system overall.
Desire to Play: 10 out of 10
Reclamation is a very unique setting and a very original system. If you refuse to play with anything other than dice, then I suggest using the setting for a campaign in another system. However, if you are ready to try something different, Reclamation has lots of great characteristics that make it desirable for play, even campaign play.
Overall: 9 out of 10
There are plenty of sci-fi fantasy post-apocalyptic settings and systems available. Many of them take a very epic fantasy approach to this version of post-apocalyptic and many add a bit of humor into the supposed dismal setting. However, many of these settings are wastelands that feel like survival is not as hard as it claims. Reclamation doesn’t have that feel. Reclamation puts the apocalypse back into post-apocalyptic by presenting a very dystopian and dark version of Earth after the apocalyptic event. You won’t spend your time wondering what the alarm clock you just found does (because you don’t know it’s an alarm clock), rather you’ll spend a lot of time fighting for your lives and actually struggling to survive in a world that has been drastically changed.
[5 of 5 Stars!]