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Hard Wired Island
by Andrew W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/13/2022 10:35:56

Let me preface this review by saying: I'm currently running a game of HWI, it's been going for about a year, and it's coming to an end in a few sessions. So I figured I'm qualified enough to finally talk about the system and what I liked and didn't like.

Pros:

  • The writing in this book is absolutely top tier, the wit and humor hits (unless you're the kind of people the book makes fun of), and it was just genuinely a fun read through; which you don't get with lots of TTRPG books.

  • The setting is a pretty interesting take on sci-fi. I saw it referenced as 'post-cyberpunk', which I believe is pretty accurate. The idea of the space station is intriguing to me, as there's enough lore built in for you to run a full game with (I should know, I did), but they also leave you with enough growing room to create your own areas, leading to no two game's stations being the same.

  • The rules. I love how straightforward and easy to understand everything is. Some of my players have only ever played D&D 5e before, but they were able to swap and adjust really well. Everything is explained very well, and not overcomplicated with edge cases and specific interactions (looking at you shadowrun). The classes were written distinctly enough as to create some semblance of variety in mechanics between characters, and the progression is incredibly simple and easy to do.

Cons:

  • The rules. With all that said, IMO the biggest hangup for the game is the rules. This game feels like it was designed for low level campaigns and one shots in mind. The first couple levels things are interesting and varied, but once you get farther in, a lot of things become really unbalanced, either broken or useless. Cash can either become a treasured commodity, or you are so flush with it you're buying buildings up left and right. (That's even with the game having rules to remove cash every session).

Now, as much as I like the idea of the 2d6 system, it just doesn't work once you get bonus'. It runs into the same issue where either a character is useless at something, or passes with ease.

  • Combat. I get that this book was written to lead toward RP focused games, but combat is just, not supported. This is probobly my biggest hangup with the system, and what I'd like to see more of if there ever is an expansion to the rules. I'll start by saying: if you don't like combat heavy games, and would prefer RP, then you can just skip this part and buy the book, you'll probobly like it. But if you're like me, and enjoy running combat encounters pretty frequently, then buckle up, cause there are some problems.

Damage in this game isn't based on the weapon or person using it, it's simply based on how good you are vs how bad the enemy is. So the bigger you roll, and the lower their defense is, the more damage is done. This leads to some players absolutely demolishing combat, and those that haven't put much into their combat skills being absolutely useless, save for one or two actions, which I'll get to in a minute. This is also the same for social encounters, as your combat people will be absolutely garbage at talking to anyone beyond the cat next door. This all leads to players feeling left out and bored as if the one thing character specializes in doesn't come up, then they can't do anything. Now you might say "oh just rule the they can talk better, or roll less, etc". This would work, but I'm also going off of the books rules, which wants a roll for basically every social or combat action.

Combat actions are a neat idea in concept but don't work in execution. There's a list of about half a dozen things a character can do in combat, including taking cover, distracting, grappling, etc. The problem is you can't do the same action 2 turns in a row. Are you in a long gunfight? Sucks you gotta stand up every other round. A social character in a bar fight? I hope you like distracting people every other round because there's nothing else you can do there. The game also ties damaging attacks to these actions, so you can't really just swing at someone, or shoot them. It has to be tied to an action, leading to some awkward encounters.

Also, there's no built in support for battle maps, no movement stats or ranges, so if you like that sort of thing you'll have to make it up yourself.

In short: The writing and story and RP parts of this book are fantastic, but the combat rules feel very lackluster, almost like a part they felt needed to be included because they had to, not because they wanted to. Regardless, my time with the system was very enjoyable, and I might even revisit it later down the line if new supplements come out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Hard Wired Island
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Hard Wired Island
by James R. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/05/2022 10:53:57

This sytem is SO good.

It understands what Cyberpunk should be about without the orientalist or cybernetics=evil garbage a lot of others come with, and feels fresh in tackling the issues we face today rather than retreading the 80s again.

The base setting of Grand Cross is fantastically well thoughout, and the mechanics help to make it feel like a community your characters are a part of.

I think the one thing that prevents me from giving it a 5 star it's that assets and tags feel clunky. I don't think this section of the book does a good job of explaining them to people, it took me a while to get my game group to understand how they worked. Restructuring and maybe givng more depth to some of the categories would help I think. The way you go from usables to locations and then to wearables just doesn't feel intuitive, especially since progams, drones, and weapons all have their own sections after these.

If you like Forged in the Dark games, or the Sprawl you should definitely give this a try.

It's well worth the price for the PDF version, you'd probably have to pay around $150 and buy at least four different PDFs to get anything as substantial as this from Wizards of the Coast.

The physical book is also amazing. It's HUGE and really well made.

Buy and play, you won't regret it!



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Fight Before Christmas
by Ramón F. A. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/18/2022 21:37:58

A super light-rules rpg that let's you prepare a quick play sesion and have a TON of fun.

Try to ensure that your combat mechanics work more on creative problem solving and not PvSanta for a better result.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Fight Before Christmas
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Hard Wired Island
by Jeff S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/04/2021 13:31:03

This is definitely my favorite cyberpunk/post-cyberpunk game, and I've played quite a few of them (all editions of Shadowrun, Cyberpunk 2020 and Red, The Sprawl). It's not afraid to take a stand on what the genre should be focusing on, something that gets lost in a lot of other games. The core mechanics are easy but lend enough depth to be interesting, and all of the subsystems (burden, assets) mesh really well. I love that the core setting is fairly self contained (Grand Cross space station) but leaves plenty of opportunities for your own stories and modifications. And it's refreshingly not 100% grimdark like some other cyberpunk settings. Well worth the purchase!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Hard Wired Island
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Hard Wired Island
by Chris K. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/19/2021 17:52:07

First and foremost, Hard Wired Island is a game that is not only unafraid but eager to engage with the questions of society and abusive capitalism that are core to cyberpunk as a genre. From the excellent and evocative art that plays on the attempts of corporate social media to advertise via lip service to advocacy, to forthright commentary on the gig economy via such twists as Headpattr, the on-demand cat maid service, HWI absolutely wears its politics on its sleeve.

My favorite part of the design is that the focus is on characters living in a cyberpunk and transhumanist world and navigating the social and economic struggles required. This game is not the rainy nights and neon, leather and gear porn sort of cyperpunk-as-aesthetic game most common for the genre. While fighting is an option, the system shines when navigating social scenes, with robust and well-explained mechanics for keeping things moving and accomplishing your character's goals by means other than bullets.

In play, things run extremely smoothly. The book gives in-depth play examples for its mechanics, and includes useful sidebars to help new GMs and players understand how best to improvise when something not covered by the stated system comes up. The character generation system is very broad, including open-ended specialization as well as a variety of character traits and the design philosophy for creating new traits that suit other character concepts.

I would be absolutely underselling it if I left out an additional point that I adore; the sheer diversity of the characters represented as examples, and the inclusivity written into the rules and setting. This is a game that is comfortable with characters of all sorts, with any variety of ethnicity, gender presentation, or orientation that a player would like. This is not just lip service, as the writing is welcoming and the in-game examples presented reflect that same diversity in all its glory.

Plus, where else are you going to get a game that has a table of random android characters for inspiration that includes a rapping idol so hot she allegedly had to add heat fins?



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Hard Wired Island
by Hector C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/11/2021 07:34:14

Simply Amazing and unlike the vast majorities of other Cyberpunk RPGS, Playable!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Hard Wired Island
by Jacob K. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/11/2021 06:18:52

I adore Hard Wired Island. It's a clever, unified whole in a way most focus-tested, homogenized fluff doesn't dare to be - and which projects with massive teams simply can't be. And more than that, it is cyberpunk. Not just another rote retelling of Gibson or Stephenson, not just wearing the husk of cyberpunk while tacitly endorsing everything it pretends to be against. It's punk, with suitably contemporary politics and everything! Now, it might make some folks wary, to hear that the game dares to deal with political issues that aren't old enough to have fought in the Gulf War. That might make some folks hesitate - hell, it might even make them uncomfortable! But that's punk, baby. Despite that, it doesn't wallow in its politics - it just displays them openly, wearing them on its sleeve, in your face. You know, like patches on a jacket? That punk thing, again? Modern punk, irony-poisoned and internet-savvy punk, but punk nonetheless.

TLDR: It's very good and you should probably buy it.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Hard Wired Island
by Astrid K. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/30/2021 11:15:15

I absolutely love Hard Wired Island, i've only gotten to run one session and I already want to run an entire game in it. The way the rules blend together and keep the team working together and on the same time table is incredibly nice.

The fact that most cyberpunk games require the Hacker one of the roles that is kind of what started cyberpunk as a genre (Lookin at you Case in Neuromancer) gets to do things at the sametime as the rest of the team and not need to know an entirely different games worth of rules makes this game worth every penny in my book, heck I've even bought it more then once since I bought copies for my players!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Hard Wired Island
by Nicholas D. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/29/2021 07:38:49

Hard Wired Island is a really impressive product - 400 pages of vibrant art, a unique but straightforward ruleset, a cybertruckload of location-based lore, and a dedication to giving you the tools to tell some pretty pointed stories about creating and maintaining communities in the face of disaster, agressive commodification and rentierism, and the various bigoted agendas that are pushed through the gates of Troy hidden inside the bright tech optimism of the station's politico-media complex. It's a game that sells itself as "cyberpunk done right", and it makes a strong case for itself all the way through.

Player characters are residents on humanity's first freestanding space colony, which so far is speeding through the horrors of late capitalism quicker than even your worst scroll through Twitter. Your characters have deep roots in the world around them and are personally invested in the safety and wellbeing of their friends and neighbours (a post-cyberpunk trope, in opposition to the lone wolf protagonists and detached mercenaries of traditional cyberpunk), and this means putting up resistance against those who mean them harm. In very practical terms, this means doing heists, investigations, sabotage, civil disobedience, and creating a network of allies powerful enough to really strike back against the ruling class's casual cruelty.

Some standout features include a clever three-strike system for stealth and hacking, a suite of cybernetic enhancements with the optional devil's deal of getting them for free if you agree to have them loaded with adware, job apps that let you make cash doing deliveries or putting on a cat ear headband to do someone's chores, and a really comprehensive breakdown of several neighbourhoods that acts as inspiration for plot hook after plot hook. The humour really carries the back half of the book - I've enjoyed Ettin's writing style for a long time, and he's consistently at his best here. It's a book that's confidently funny in that it doesn't need you to laugh at all of its jokes, and while the references are fun if you get them, everything stands strong on its own as a lived world full of big characters and their reputations.

A strong five stars from me!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Hard Wired Island
by Dillard R. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/27/2021 23:35:25

Bottom Line Up Front: Did the author's make money from this product? If they did well welcome to Capitalism.

The system seems to be a mashup of a bunch of different systems. Systems with tags and aspects. Systems that are strongly narrative style. I love FATE and am not really sure why we had to re-invent the wheel. I'm not sure the authors were successful.

I will also be up front I don't appreciate the overt and poorly thought out choice to make ideology front and center in the game. Making Capitalism (an ideology not a sapient individual) the scapegoat is a poor substitute for a villain. Not really sure how an inanimate meme can make that monologue. Oh well. Then the fact (yes fact) that the United States is the country portrayed as the villianous foil and fundamentalist religious groups are being used to undermine the station. Oh and the police/law enforcement are out to beat and murder as well. Here's a quote, "The station’s security services are, broadly, universally reviled unless you're from the "right" parts of society." And yes that "right" means conservative politically.

Frankly I'm impressed with the author's ability to hit every high note (low note?) of anti-America and anti-Western culture.

Now to their grasp of cyberpunk...well actually according to the authors we are calling it post-cyberpunk. It's not gritty. Which I think robs the genre of its realism. It is hopeful, which I do agree with...frankly hope is a needed commodity; for the protaganists and for us.

The art what there is of it is cohesive, but doens't capture the feel of cyberpunk. Its pristine and looks like saturday morning cartoons for 8 year olds. It isn't going to inspire me to go out and fight the Man. The streets are clean and there don't seem to be any evil gangers beating up old ladies for their lunch money. Definitely not cyberpunk and lacking in inspiration.

The authors definitely put in time and effort to produce this ideological skreed...I mean game. There is probably love, sweat, and tears put into every page. However, insulting and deriding a large part of your audience seems a poor design choice.

Given the disdain the authors hold for capitalism I wonder what ideology they do support.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Hard Wired Island
by Kai T. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/19/2021 05:07:58

Hard Wired Island is cyberpunk that actually examines what it means to be a cyberpunk game beyond lots of neon, robot arms, and doing corporate espionage for money. During the Kickstarter for the game, the creators laid out their vision of what makes good cyberpunk, which includes things like the consequences of technology without ethics, perspectives focused on marginalized people fighting back against a status quo with nothing but disregard for them, and relevance to the issues that people face today in our own cyberpunk present.

Some people seem to think that a cyberpunk game that draws pointed attentions to issues like disability advocacy, corporate overreach, marginalization, and gentrification is being "too preachy" about things, but I'm posting this review about a day after the US Supreme Court ruled in favor of several corporations facing charges of using child slavery, so I find it kind of difficult to agree with the idea that a cyberpunk game can actually overstate just how badly capitalism wants nothing more than to grind people between its gears to extract the slightest bit of increased value it can out of their blood and suffering.

Hard Wired Island's examination of the miseries capitalism loves to inflict for profit comes through the lens of a near future retro-anime inspired tomorrow that never was. In the aftermath of a devastating asteroid strike against the earth, the world's nations briefly banded together to create an off-world habitat capable of sustaining a sizable human population in order to prevent further such disasters from threatening the extinction of humanity as a whole. This habitat, Grand Cross Station, is now at the center of a struggle between the station and its residents and a consortium of corporate interests who want nothing more than to export and entrench the worst capitalism has to offer, privatizing infrastructure, buying politicians, pushing out locally owned businesses, and widening the wealth gap.

In Hard Wired Island, players won't be taking on the role of hardened cyber-mercenaries doing assassinations for nameless middlemen on behalf of corporations. Instead, HWI puts you in the role of characters who are fighting back against corporate encroachment upon your home. You have a familiar array of archetypes at your disposal, including hackers, social (media) butterflies, street fighters, soldiers, and technical experts, but the emphasis of the game is placed squarely on fighting The Man rather than working for him. Hacking and social engineering are recommended over resorting to violence, though there are also rules for combat, and characters can employ a variety of abilities, equipment, and cybernetic enhancements (which don't erode their soul, but can make dealing with periodic "economic shocks" more difficult as you have more bills to pay for maintenance and repairs) to accomplish their goals.

One of HWI's biggest draws is the setting, giving a richly detailed breakdown of Grand Cross Station's many districts and points of interest. There's enough information here for you to run a dozen games and never run out of places, people, or plot hooks. Attention is given to places that players are likely to want to explore during games, so in addition to universities, museums, and corporate offices there are also hole in the wall restaurants, cafes (with or without maids), arcades, game stores, underground doctors, fast food places, nightlife spots, and various fronts for organized crime. The game also comes with a scenario framework you can structure a campaign around, dealing with a corporate conspiracy surrounding the alien-minded Dreamers, next-generation artificial intelligences which have escaped into the station.

I'm skipping over a lot of details both in terms of mechanics and setting because HWI is a dense 400 page game, there's too much to hope to comprehensively cover in a review and frankly the game's own writers are better at covering those points than I am, but if you're a fan of cyberpunk gaming and the usual suspects have grown stale, then this game is well worth the asking price.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Hard Wired Island
by Sebastian M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/16/2021 16:42:05

This rpg is sacrificing its sci fi world building for its shallow political message. (big corporations are bad. cyberpunk has been around for decades, we know!)
I tried to ignore it as best as i could, but sadly its just too obnoxius. when i read how uncaring corporations dont care about rules for desabled accessibility in buildings i could not continue reading. its a space station with androids and full body cybernetic replacements covered by health insurance. as if anybody would care about accessibility.

3 stars because the rules are not bad, and the scenario is intresting



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Hard Wired Island
by Seamus C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/07/2021 19:40:54

"With firm pillars grounding it in the genre it wants to embody, easy to understand rules, and a vibrant setting, Hard Wired Island is worth any cyberpunk’s time to check out." - Seamus Conneely

Read the full CHG review here: https://cannibalhalflinggaming.com/2021/06/04/hard-wired-island-review-hard-luck-cyberpunks-at-lagrange-5/



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Hard Wired Island
by A customer [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/17/2021 09:22:33

The best cyberpunk rpg I've ever seen when it comes to nailing the street level ethics of the genre. HWI wears its politics on its sleaves and is about people fighting for a better future against impossible odds. An excellent book all around!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Hard Wired Island
by Joshua W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/14/2021 08:20:26

Angel's Citadel just reviewed this 400 pages of gritty cyberpunk goodness here: https://angelscitadel.com/2021/05/14/review-hard-wired-island/



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
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