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Hard Wired Island
Publisher: Weird Age Games
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.


  • 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.


  • 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.

[4 of 5 Stars!]
Hard Wired Island
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