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Traitor's Chess
Publisher: Tubby Tabby Press
by Roger J. S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/23/2013 22:39:57

Simple, yet brilliant and imaginative. A one-page rule variant on standard chess that will probably horrify true devotees of the game but will add an interesting twist for the rest of us who, like the author, are “only amateur players”.

Can’t wait to try it out. I just hope other players will also decide to share their ideas for chess “house rules” with the general public.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Traitor's Chess
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The Solo Wargaming Guide
Publisher: Precis Intermedia
by Roger J. S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/02/2013 14:23:50

I found this book to be most appealing. There really isn’t all that much in it that is wholly original, but that’s not the point: ideas I’d heard of or read about elsewhere are taken up here and developed extensively and intelligently. Good examples of how to apply them are also included.

There’s even a rather creative section on solitaire play for boardgames intended for two players or more.

The proposed system relies heavily on randomness, so be ready to shuffle those cards and roll those dice every few minutes.

I thought the writing could have used some tightening up and a solid last review (I really dislike seeing someone confuse “affect” and “effect”, for example). Also, the focus of the book is heavily Napoleonic; although Modern-related issues are covered, they don’t seem to get the same careful consideration pre-Modern ones do, mostly in matters related to maintaining the fog of war.

But all in all, this is a very good buy indeed, not only for solo wargamers but for any wargamer interested in adding some unpredictability to their game: many of the ideas included can be used to ensure that a regular two-sided game ends up more capricious, and therefore more challenging, than otherwise expected.

A good purchase, well worth your money and, more importantly, your time.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Solo Wargaming Guide
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Pulp Egypt
Publisher: Griffon Publishing Studio
by Roger J. S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/10/2013 12:21:29

Amateurs, take note: THIS is how you write a sourcebook.

Written mostly from an in-universe perspective, “Pulp Egypt” is an excellent sourcebook for, obviously, the Egypt of the Pulp era, focusing mostly on the decade of the 1930’s. According to the back cover, the book offers:

• A “Visitors Guide to Egypt” suitable for orienting gamemasters and familiarizing players with common knowledge of the setting. Not to disparage the rest of the book, but this is my favourite section. Though too short for my liking, it is well-researched, logically structured, informative without being pedantic, and written in a very professional – yet surprisingly easy-to-read – style. Over four millennia of history competently summarised in three pages or so, yet with sufficient information to help readers unfamiliar with this desert wonderland’s background to grasp the key parts of Egypt’s rich history and put them in the context of the early-to-mid 20th Century. And of course, the bibliography and other media resources provided in Appendix 4 are there to hep curious readers deepen their understanding of the subject matter. The section also includes a map and timeline, both very useful given the span of the time and space covered here. The rest of the 20-odd-page section deals with a multitude of topics ranging from transportation to or within Egypt, to points of interest, which include mosques, clubs and restaurants, and information on how to bargain in a bazaar or whether you should consider staying at a hotel or renting a townhouse.

• A chapter filled with Egyptian exotica, all the mysterious places, supernatural occurrences, magical artefacts, and mythical beasts abounding with adventure ideas. From the famous Lighthouse of Alexandria to the mythical city of Hamunaptra, from how to exorcise spirits to how to tell whether that thing that’s following you is a Shambling, Lesser or Greater Mummy, this 40-page section offers a wealth of information on landmarks, beliefs, artefacts and animals one is likely to encounter in the Egypt of the 1930’s. And, of course, plot hooks and scenario ideas abound throughout.

• A chapter for running each of three kinds of themed campaigns in Egypt — archaeology, espionage, and criminal — including a full campaign outline for each. The description speak for itself: 70 pages or so in which the author gives free reign to his vivid imagination, with very creative adventures which numerous sidebars flesh out through additional information such as timelines, random-event generators and maps and diagrams.

• Appendices detailing suitable character archetypes for pulp Egyptian campaigns, a random artefact generator system, and a list of book, film, and music resources to enhance your game. A short section (under twenty page), which might have been lengthened to a certain degree. The character archetypes are not all that many (a score or so), but they are well fleshed out and, in any event, may be complemented by characters drawn from the “Who’s Who in Pulp Egypt” section, which includes historical and fictional characters.

The book also features the author’s “Any-System Key”, a truly generic system that allows you to carry the information provided in the book over to the game system of your choice, and to do so with amazing ease.

Overall, the book is very well written, with a pleasant layout; there is a profusion of illustrations, but the text does not feel as if it were bieng smothered under their combined weight. The author obviously has a knack for storytelling; hopefully, this will encourage the reader to start looking for some of his other works (luckily, there are also additional downloads available: “The Charioteer's Tomb”, and “Enemies on the Horizon”, adventures designed to be used in the “Pulp Egypt” setting, both available for free on RPGNow), and the author to keep producing such entertaining books.

There are too many semi-literate authors out there who cobble together a few paragraphs, a couple of lists and a page or two of confusing scenarios and sell the resulting mishmash at outrageous prices. Fortunately, there are still authors who take pride in their craft, and when someone comes around and produces such outstanding work, I feel they must be given their due. This is one such author.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Pulp Egypt
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Enemies on the Horizon
Publisher: Griffon Publishing Studio
by Roger J. S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/08/2013 22:54:27

WARNING: DO NOT DOWNLOAD THIS FILE if you’re only looking for a preview of what Pulp Egypt might be like. Trust your instincts, buy the core book first, and THEN download this file: that way, you’ll derive far more enjoyment from this scenario.

This is a short adventure that takes place in 1935, shortly after the events described in “The Charioteer's Tomb” (also available as a free download at RPGNow): the Mallory expedition is still working at the site of the tomb of Henu-Akhet when their photographer is kidnapped. To free her, the characters will have to face a number of challenges, which this time these will include Nazi spies.

Another fun little adventure, with hand-outs and pertinent illustrations, this one ends with additional ideas for further scenarios featuring more Nazis, a cult bent on bringing back their god, Set, and (what else?) mummies.

Thoroughly enjoyable.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Enemies on the Horizon
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The Charioteer's Tomb
Publisher: Griffon Publishing Studio
by Roger J. S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/08/2013 22:34:36

WARNING: DO NOT DOWNLOAD THIS FILE if you’re only looking for a preview of what Pulp Egypt might be like. Trust your instincts, buy the core book first, and THEN download this file: that way, you’ll derive far more enjoyment from this scenario.

“The Charioteer's Tomb” is a short adventure that takes place in 1935: an expedition has located the tomb of a legendary charioteer who fought at the Battle of Kadesh. The scenario calls for six players (profiles provided), but allows for more or for the substitution of any character by a player-designed one.

The characters will have to face a number of obstacles, from Bedouin raiders and corrupt soldiers to animated statues, a giant asp, a swarm of scarabs, sundry death traps and other assorted interesting challenges.

Entertaining, well-provided with aids (from the front page of an issue of “The Egyptian Gazette” to pertinent illustrations), this scenario offers players a lot of adventure, thrills, dangers and, ultimately, satisfaction (if the giant scorpion doesn’t get them).



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Charioteer's Tomb
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The Parthians; historical background - army lists - campaign game
Publisher: Jim Webster
by Roger J. S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/06/2013 02:47:40

[My sincere apologies for the length of this “diatribe”, as reviewer Dax so charitably puts it (albeit not here). This should be my final post on the matter.]

Every once in a while, you come across an unexpected pearl: a book priced far below its actual worth, brimming with valuable, well-presented information, a joy to read at once and consult at leisure, a book that makes you say you have to keep an eye out for anything else this author/publisher releases.

This isn’t that book.

What this is, actually, is a potentially decent 50-to-99-cent book which, unfortunately, costs over six dollars.

Where to start? Well, how about we start with what’s most important: what information does the book offer?

Actually, it offers very little of a concrete nature. A muddled retelling of local history, following no clear chronological or geographical pattern; a profusion of names, whether of individuals, peoples or places, which aren’t always clearly identified, or with relationships that are sometimes rather confusingly presented; other names that mysteriously switch referents; in short, a jumble of less-than-useful information. And what few historical references are given are not properly identified, making it next to impossible to find and evaluate the context for the original quotes.

Conclusion: as far as the “historical background” part of the booklet is concerned, you’d be better off reading the Encyclopædia Britannica (or even Wikipedia).

The blurb also claims the book “offer[s] up [why “up”, I couldn’t say] some army lists (designed to fit with Impetus rules but easy to follow and equally easily converted for other wargames rules)”.

Now, I’d never heard of “Impetus”, although a visit to their website certainly proved instructive. But “easy to follow and equally easily converted”? Let’s see.

Army lists look something like this [Please note: this was copied “as is” from the booklet, merely for illustrative purposes]:

THE EARLY PARTHIAN ARMY Average Command Structure Nr Type M VBU I D VD Pts Notes 1- 6 CM - Hyrcanian and Parthian cav. 10 4 2 B 3* 19 2- 12 CL – Horse archers 12 3 1 B 2 23 Comp Bow B […]

Good luck with converting that to something you can use: no explanation of what “VBU” means (you have to go to the website and download the free “Basic Impetus” to learn it means something like “Basic Point Value”… go figure!), or whether a “VD” of “3” is better or worse than one of “2”.

Yes, I know I was warned the tables were “designed to fit with Impetus rules”, but, I repeat, the author also claims they are “easy to follow and equally easily converted”, and I beg to differ on that point.

“The third purpose is to provide a simple campaign”. Again, unless you’re familiar with Impetus, I beg to differ: the campaign is anything but simple; rules are ill-presented, unclear, and sometimes self-contradictory. Just trying to understand the “map” is a neat trick in itself: it consists of seven rectangles, numbered in no specific order I can figure out, and each one connected to one or more other rectangles with straight lines. The rules say, “The Parthians can always avoid battle for two turns in Mesopotamia and Iran, but only for one turn in Babylonia.” The problem lies in figuring out where these locations actually should appear on the map. [NOTE: But see the Late Correction appearing in the Additional Comments, further on.]

So much for contents, then. What about form?

Well, the writing style is… let us call it “casual” and leave it at that. Not that there’s anything wrong with informality, mind you (you should try reading parts of the Licensing Agreement for “A Fistful of TOW’s 3” for an example of a well-written, yet not necessarily very formal text). But such informality imposes certain rules, and one of them precludes the use of allusions such as “returned from his Anabasis”. In any event (but this is only my opinion), someone who can’t tell the difference between an “overview” and an “oversight” (“I’ll give a comparatively swift oversight of the history of the area”) should probably shy away from words like “anabasis”.

Generally, the writing style is extremely confused (and confusing). Part of this is probably due to poor editing. In fact, a passage such as the following, taken “as is” from the booklet, would seem to suggest no one actually took the time to reread the text before converting it to an e-booklet:

“Not long after this Anilai and his men were caught asleep or just drunk, by the Babylonians and were destroyed as a military force and disappeared from history. which might mean the legionaries garrisoning the immediate area, or might mean local troops raised for the occasion.”

It’s my fault, really, for expecting too much: my first hint should have been the blurb (taken from the Introduction, as I later discovered), which begins with, “The purpose of this guide is two fold [sic].” It then goes on to list the purposes:

“On one hand [sic] […].” “The second purpose is […].” “The third purpose is […].”

Now, I’ll readily confess English is not my native tongue, but I always assumed “twofold” actually meant “A and B”, not “A, B and C”.

Another oft-voiced complaint of mine regarding many RPG/wargaming books is the twin banes of poor punctuation and poor spelling. In this respect, this booklet is not the worst I’ve read (a sad commentary on the writing skills of many a fellow gamer), but that’s a far cry from saying it passes muster. I mean, really, “Winning and loosing”?

And then there’s the double-take that hits you when you come across something like “Artabanus IInds son-in-law”: forget the lack of a genitive apostrophe for a minute; just tell me at what point Roman numerals started accepting ordinal suffixes.

To summarise:

What I liked: the idea of the book, per se. In reading it, I was forced to consult a number of hard-copy and online references, and I did learn a few things that way, so that’s a good thing. It was also a pleasure to dig out old Tacitus and Josephus (haven’t read those two in, oh, must be twenty years now) and set them aside, so that I can read them again in the coming months. Now that I think of it, I’ll also have to find my copy of Xenophon’s Anabasis.

What I didn’t like: first and foremost, the cost.

Not that I’m one to challenge any author’s right to charge whatever he wants for his work, you understand, but I certainly want to know what I’m buying before I pay for it. Now, had I known that the entire “book” consisted of only 16 pages, including illustrations (plus a cover page and one page of advertisement), I would have questioned how much detail I could expect from something which purported to provide me with historical background, army lists and a campaign game, and whether this was likely to warrant such a relatively high cost (to give but one example of a reference book I recently bought, compare this with the excellent “Red Steel: Soviet Tanks and Combat Vehicles of the Cold War”: well over a hundred pages of background information, hard facts and tables, well written, well documented, suitably illustrated, reasonably well presented, and all for less than 4 dollars).

Nor, do I hasten to add, am I unwilling to pay for quality: merely as an example, Rapid Fire’s “Lightfoot’s Left Flank” and “Lightfoot’s Southern Assault” each cost $4.00 for fifteen very heavily illustrated pages (to the point where they almost look like catalogues for WWII miniatures), while Hurlbat Games’ “Micro Ancients” and “Micro Napoleonics” cost $6.19 each for, respectively, 20 and 24 pages, I believe, of poorly-formatted text. Yet, I was – and still am – glad to have purchased not only each of these booklets, but the entire Rapid Fire series and all of Hurlbat Games’ reprints, at what I considered – and still consider – very good prices.

Actually, I blame the Wargame Vault far more than the author for not providing basic information. Merely noting that a file “weighs” 9.6 Mb is woefully inadequate: the aforementioned “Fistful of Tow’s”, with its 462 pages, weighs less than 7 Mb, while the second edition of “Micro Squad, The WWII 1-1 scale game”, only 48 pages long, weighs in at a hefty 116 Mb. So telling me the file weighs “9.6 Mb”… well, that and a nickel is worth exactly a nickel.

As many will have inferred from my previous observations, I also disliked the jumbled historical account; the limited use to which the army lists can be put; the less-than-clear campaign game; and the poor writing, spelling and punctuation.

Then again, while visually appealing, the booklet is definitely not printer friendly. Not that I intend to print it anyway (I’ve read it, so I know it’s not worth having a hard copy around, but someone else might think otherwise), but its busy borders, its coloured background, its illustrations… all of these are extremely ink-intensive.

How the book could have been improved: aside from the obvious (e.g. some really, really serious editing), I would say the most worthwhile improvements would be:

  • the inclusion of a map with, for example, geographical reference points (political borders varied so wildly during the period in question that they would prove of very limited use as references), major battle sites, points of origin of some of the migrant peoples mentioned in the texts, …;
  • the inclusion of more in-text references to such geographical markers (such as “[…] the Paropanisadae, the region of the Hindu-Kush in what we now regard as eastern Afghanistan, centered on the cities of Kabul and Kapisa (modern Bagram)”), for roughly the same reason;
  • the inclusion of a timeline, to help keep different events in some kind of perspective;
  • the inclusion of a simple list of Parthian (and other) leaders, in some chronological order and with whatever dates are available, allowing the reader to figure out who was contemporary to whom;
  • the inclusion of some kind of explanation of the army lists’ abbreviations;
  • the inclusion of a better-designed, properly-labelled campaign map;
  • the inclusion of a printer-friendly edition, for anyone who actually feels the need to keep a hard copy lying about;
  • ….

Ranking: The booklet gets one star, in acknowledgement of the beauty of the “Menic Ruttimann collection” miniatures, and another star because, let’s face it, there are worse products than this out there. But not by much.

[LATE DEVELOPMENT: Subsequent events (see below) really do warrant my stripping the second star. But fear not, the “Alliance” will rally and insert another series of totally justified and well-reasoned five-star rankings.]

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS:

I found it interesting that two of the reviewers – first-timers both – should share such similar enthusiasm for this booklet that they would, within an hour, express themselves in virtually the same fashion:

“[…] as a historical wargamer with a decent interest in history, this is pitched just about right for me and as an Impetus player, the army lists are a real joy.”

“As an historical wargamer with an interest in history, this is pitched just about right for me. As an Impetus player it’s excellent value.” (By the way, “Overall verdict - worth a punt.” Exactly what is a “punt” worth nowadays, anyway?)

What I believe needs be addressed, though, is the misconception that might arise from the ill-informed comments of a third reviewer (another newcomer to the community of reviewers, and before I forget, I should dearly appreciate his telling me exactly what “plenty of mini-porn” means – do the border drawings include overly graphic representations of little people doing things they really shouldn’t do in public? – and why this should be viewed as a plus): if I did “take it upon [myself] to write a negative review of a product for a game [I’ve] not only never played, but of which [I’d] never heard”, I should point out – and this can be seen from my previous observations – that I was careful to pass no judgment whatsoever on the game itself.

And, of course, the fact that I’ve never played “Impetus” is totally irrelevant, so long as I limit myself to reviewing this booklet and not the game itself: for example, I’ve never played Green Ronin’s “True20”, but that would scarce disqualify me from heartily endorsing their “Eternal Rome” and “Hamunaptra” (I just might get started on a review for each of those, in fact); I’ve never played “GURPS” either, but I’ve bought, enjoyed and recommended a number of their “settings” books. So I fail to see the sin in writing a review (negative or otherwise) “of a product for a game [I’ve] not only never played, but of which [I’d] never heard”.

What I reviewed here was a poorly written and overly expensive booklet (one which nowhere claims to be intended SOLELY for players of “Impetus”, I should add), a booklet which purports to offer me (a) a historical background of the Parthians, and (b) army lists that are “easy to follow and equally easily converted”. In these twin objectives, as I believe I’ve demonstrated, the booklet fails miserably.

As regards the second comment (which I find more than a tad aggressive), “The fact that the reviewer in question openly admits they have no idea what they’re writing about gives a clear indication as to the value of their review.”, I really must take strong exception, as I admit no such thing.

On the contrary, as explained previously, I took pains not to discuss the game itself, the only part of the book about which I “have no idea”.

I did, however, start wargaming almost forty years ago, and I have been told once or twice that I had more than “a modicum of intelligence” (as another reviewer delicately puts it), so here again, I feel I’m not altogether clueless on the subject and, were the “map” included in the campaign game remotely intelligible, for example, I feel I should be able to understand it.

[LATE CORRECTION: Using my “modicum of intelligence”, I now understand that the seemingly random numbers on the “map” actually refer to unstressed in-text numbers which, in turn, identify specific regions. This means the map is no longer unintelligible, just sloppily designed and improperly referenced. The campaign rules remain slovenly written, but that really doesn’t matter all that much, all things considered.]

I have more than a passing acquaintance with Military History (or so I should hope, having majored in it back in my University days), and this (the actual historical contents) was the very first thing I discussed (and dismissed): this seems to put the lie to the gratuitous affirmation that I’ve “no idea what [I’m] writing about”. I freely confess I’ve read neither Strabo (nor do I intend to, as his reputation as a historian was never impressive) nor Justinus (assuming we’re talking of the Epitoma, the accuracy of which has been questioned to some considerable degree), two authors quoted in the text. But Polybius (whom I’ve never really liked, for some reason), Plutarch, Tacitus, and Josephus – while I may have neglected them for too many years, and questionable as their objectiveness may be – are old familiars of mine.

As to the other focus of my review, i.e. the poor writing and abysmal editing, this was based on my own three decades’ worth of experience making a decent living writing and translating. Again, scarcely a topic regarding which it could justifiably be said I’ve “no idea what [I’m] writing about”.

Finally, regarding whatever “value” my review might have: personally, if I’ve helped one single prospective purchaser decide to spend his hard-earned money on something of greater worth than this booklet, I will consider my time was well spent indeed.

FINAL INTERVENTION:

I suspected there might have been some orchestrated campaign to boost the rating of this insignificant little booklet, and I also wondered why the author himself would not deign respond.

All quotes taken from http: // impetus.forumsland.com / impetus-about4409-0-desc-0.html and following.

To begin with, I was apparently not the only one with a problem as far as the map was concerned:

[…]; Posted: Thu May 02, 2013 6:51 pm One question on the campaign - do the numbered areas represent particular areas? I could not quite work it out

Jim Webster; Posted: Thu May 02, 2013 7:09 pm Sorry it’s implicit rather than explicit If you look at page 16 you have the four enemies of Parthia, 1,2,3,4 They start off on the map in areas 1,2,3,4 So if you have Indo-Scythians or Kushans they start off in Area 4 The Parthians have three armies in areas 5,6,7 and they start off in those areas and are created in line with the comments on page 16 [And moments later, a wondrous admission:] I should have been more explicit, it would only have taken another line

Other interesting comments:

Jim Webster; Posted: Sat May 04, 2013 12:15 pm So much for great value, according to the reviewer he obvious expects me to pay him to take it away, and he doesn’t seem to be able to cope with the fact he’s never heard with Impetus [My dear sir, I wouldn’t dream of asking for a refund: you “obvious” need the money more than I do. If I could dare make a suggestion, you might wish to apply it towards the purchase of a good, second-hand grammar book. As for coping “with the fact [I’ve] never heard with [sic] Impetus”, you may rest assured I am the first to recognise there are no known limits to my ignorance.]

DAX; Posted: Sat May 04, 2013 1:49 pm Hopefully the review balance has been restored a little by someone who has heard of Impetus and actually read the book...... Did not agree with the first review at all. [Actually, I did read the book, but…]

Jim Webster; Posted: Sat May 04, 2013 2:04 pm Thanks Dax It’s nice to have someone do a decent review. [Translation: a “decent review” is one that praises the author and ignores his failings.]

Zippee ; Posted: Sat May 04, 2013 2:39 pm What a complete **! Shock horror an ‘Impetus Guide’ is aimed at using Impetus which because I’m a complete ignorant pillock I’ve never heard off so this book is a waste of time and money... I’d really like to meet this ** at a show If only to explain that VBU isn’t “basic point value” - I’m sure that could be expressed through imaginative use of morse code and a toffee hammer and to teach them the actual value of 4 quid in the modern world. I’ve added to Dax’s review with a more balanced one as well Jim [To begin with, I don’t know about the people you normally hang around with, but rest assured I certainly would never call you a “complete ignorant pillock” (not even sure what that means, actually, although it sounds more than a wee bit aggressive). Regarding the VBU, my apologies: according to the November 2008 updated edition of Basic Impetus, “VBU” stands for “Basic Unit Value”. You are correct, of course, to wish to point out the error of my ways (when I wrote “it means SOMETHING [emphasis added] like ‘Basic Point Value’”) with “a toffee hammer”, as “Basic Unit Value” is absolutely NOTHING like “Basic Point Value”, and the abbreviation itself, though obviously from some Latin language (“Valeur base de l’unité”? “Valor básico de la unidad”? “Valore di base della unità”?), should nevertheless be self-explanatory. Next, in re. the “actual value of 4 quid”: down in Mexico, where I currently reside, 4 quid is more than an honest labourer will earn in one day at minimum wage. (Fortunately, I earn somewhat more than that.) In any event, do please make an effort to keep things in perspective: 4 quid may be nothing for a good thesaurus (another hearty recommendation, and one that would obviate your need for so many asterisks), but it’s a bit steep for a booklet of matches, wouldn’t you say? In other words, it’s not the amount per se that matters, it’s what you get in exchange therefor. As for your kind invitation, let me weigh the options: spend a few thousand pesos to cross the pond and be greeted by a person who cannot express himself in a civilised – or even grammatically correct – fashion, but who is overly eager to demonstrate his rather unusual skill of tapping out messages in Morse code using a toffee hammer – OR – stay at home, save the aforementioned few thousands of pesos, make a few extra dollars, and invest them in worthwhile purchases. What to do? What to do? Tempting though the first option is, I believe I’ll save myself the time and money, and stay here. But I do thank you anyway for the offer to demonstrate your unique skill, and will gladly receive you in kind should you ever wish to come over. And if you do, please remember to bring your toffee hammer: I’ve never seen one of those, actually.]

FMB; Posted: Sat May 04, 2013 3:37 pm I just added another rating and review. That first reviewer is a manifestation of the wonders of the internet. [I’ve been called many a thing in my life, but a “Wonder”? Thank you.]

Moderator; Posted: Sat May 04, 2013 4:50 pm Sentiment appreciated - expletives deleted. [Pity! It sounds as if the expletives would be some of the more intelligent comments posted.]

Fenton, Posted: Sat May 04, 2013 5:06 pm Don’t worry about it Jim you get one person who writes a review like just because they can, they fact he has copied and pasted an army list with points at the end looks to me that he hasn’t really read it.. I cant believe there is anyone out there in the wargaming fraternity whether they like the game or not hasn’t heard of Impetus [And I “cant” believe there is such a thing as a “wargame fraternity” where one is the subject of such comments. Guess we were both due for a rude awakening. And, again, “they” fact is I did read the booklet. Twice through, and a third time for the campaign game. How else would I have caught on to the meaning of the map, for example?]

DAX; Posted: Sun May 05, 2013 7:46 pm ... I think the original reviewer has got hacked off that his pearls of wisdom, skills and gravitas have been brought into question - such sensitivity..... But highly amusing - and it is a good book for anyone who likes Impetus! [“Sensitive” is another qualifier seldom used in reference to me. Thank you. As for pearls, well… “Nolite dare sanctum canibus, neque mittatis margaritas vestras ante porcos, ne forte conculcent eas pedibus suis, et conversi disrumptam vos.”, as we used to say.]

DAX; Posted: Sun May 05, 2013 8:07 pm Couldn’t help myself - just updated the review so that the diatribe from reviewer number one wouldn’t be the first thing people saw. Nobody picks on Uncle Jim and gets away with it [And there we have it: the real reason for most of these posts. But fear not, gentle Dax, this should be my last update. All you have to do is repost and you’ll be “on top” once again.]

Greymouse; Posted: Sun May 05, 2013 8:29 pm Oh - I just posted a review to kick him from the first place [Idem. Amazing how honest people will be about their intentions, under the right conditions.]

DAX; Posted: Sun May 05, 2013 8:44 pm Our alliance will prevail - thwart the forces of ignorance and darkness -well okay, we might hack of a reviewer - maybe - but at least it gives Jim’s book a push [Really, does this need a comment?]

And one chap whom I would gladly invite to a pint or three (if he could stand being ostracised by his fellow Impetus gamers for fraternising with such a heathen as myself): PilGrim; Posted: Sun May 05, 2013 9:49 am Firstly - good job Jim Secondly lets not get too concerned about manning the barricades on this one hostile review, because I suspect while we may be partizan, there are some valid points and lessons that could be learned to improve for future projects. Grammar, spelling and punctuation. If there are problems then get some proof reading and a little suggested editing done first - I’m sure someone here can string a coherent sentence together and would be happy to volunteer. Not me obviously - while I am happy to volunteer the first criteria rules me out. Impetus to other rules conversion. If this is an aim we need a well written explanation of what the army list represents, and how Impetus army lists work, ie the “How to use the lists” section that is on the inside cover of the Extra Impetus books, plus an explanation of the troop types. On the plus side much of this exists already and it will add a few pages to the total for those who measure value by page count not content. The alternative is to state this is for Impetus only. Map - that’s a good idea if possible [Can’t help but notice, though, that after 12 hours, the author had failed to address one single point you made, despite having posted two more comments after yours. Goes to show, right? And, with all due respect, I, for one, do not “measure value by page count not content”; I am quite happy to pay much more for quality. My problem here was attempting to quantify an inherently unquantifiable issue.]



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
The Parthians; historical background - army lists - campaign game
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Lava Rules! Fire and Brimstone
Publisher: Expeditious Retreat Press
by Roger J. S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/03/2013 13:18:16

This is one of the most useful collections of generic rules you are likely to encounter on the effects of immersion into a hostile natural environment (in this case, lava). The rules succinctly cover partial and complete immersion, and implicitly consider whether the immersion was accidental or voluntary (and if the latter, whether the decision was made by the immersed Character or by some third party who pushed the Character into the lava).

True, there is some ambiguity in the phrasing of the rules themselves (something which can hardly be surprising when one tries to write rules that can be applied to almost any game system). But that’s where the diagrams, brilliant in their ability to synthesise the key points of the rules, come in.

If I could point out a minor flaw or three, they would constitute my only criticisms of an otherwise brilliant book.

1) The decision-making flowchart (the second diagram) seems to create an unintentional loop. I would have redirected the rightmost “No” branch to another, new rhombus, perhaps reading something like "Do you want/have to remain where you are?”. Obviously, a “Yes” arrow would lead back to the middle rhombus, thus completing the loop, but this would then be the Player’s choice rather than the GM’s. On the other hand, a “No” response would lead to the yellow square (which might require minor rewording to consider this new possibility).

2) I have some questions concerning the special section on Characters who are “Immune to Fire”. Specifically, I should like to know what happens if the Character is immune to FIRE but NOT to HEAT? Conversely, what happens if the Character is immune to HEAT but NOT to FIRE? And perhaps the most insidious dilemma: what happens if the Character is immune to BOTH heat AND fire, but CAN’T SWIM? I’m looking forward to a second edition of these rules, which will hopefully address these pressing questions in sufficient detail.

3) One obvious formatting error is the total lack of numbering for the various illustrations, which might result in some confusion for the hasty reader. But a more leisurely perusal of the section, along with numerous references to the rules themselves, will likely clear that up in no time.

On the other hand, an obvious bonus is the inclusion of a very complete index. This, along with the care with which the authors worded the Disclaimer, shows their dedication to furthering the cause of good, clean gaming. If they're ever in my neck of the desert, I will proudly stand them a beer.

All in all, and despite minor flaws, this is possibly the best compendium of rules on Lava, Magma, and Superheated Rock ever written. And not only is it not rules-dependent, which is a great plus, it is also more polyfacetic than the authors themselves seem to realize. In fact, I will confess I tried something truly far-fetched, and it worked: I was able to adapt these rules – with minimum tweaking, mind you – to miniature wargames, and they have proven to be a great success indeed. (That last point, by the way, is the reason why, despite the aforementioned minor flaws, this book deserves a full five-star rating.)

In short, I heartily recommend this book. It’s free, true, but don’t let that deter you: it’s easily worth twice the price.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Lava Rules! Fire and Brimstone
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Perils of the Surface World
Publisher: Exile Game Studio
by Roger J. S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/23/2013 18:03:01

A brief observation: it might be nice to let potential buyers know that this is actually a collection of the four adventures previously released individually, to avoid someone making the mistake of buying the same scenarios twice.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Perils of the Surface World
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Tactical Hex Map-Woodland Set I
Publisher: Tactical Assault Games
by Roger J. S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/17/2013 11:43:10

This is not a bad product: it consists of a single grass-green open field, rather small at that (six hexes tall and five wide, each hex sporting a central dot, and one row of half hexes on each side). Layers consist of:

a) three “road” layers, each one with a series of roads (with various overlaps between layers), and buildings (2 to 3 per layer) with short paths leading to them; b) one “field” layer with three ploughed fields, each one with hedges on four hexsides; and c) three “woods” layers, each with three clumps of threes.

Not overly busy, as you can see, but adequate.

There are a few problems with this product (let us number the fields “1”, “2” and “3”, going from top to bottom, for convenience’s sake): a) if the layers “Woods-Set 3” and “Fields” are turned on at the same time, one of the clumps of trees lies smack on top of field “1”; and b) if the layers “Roads-Set 1” and “Fields” are turned on at the same time, fields “2” and “3” both lie in the middle of a road.

I understand these are but planning errors, but still, I feel that such errors, plus the small number of available terrain features, do not warrant the cost of this product. At best – but this is only my opinion – it is worth $2. Still, I do see potential in this new product line and would consider buying one more product, if the price were more attractive.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Tactical Hex Map-Woodland Set I
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Red Steel: Soviet Tanks and Combat Vehicles of the Cold War
Publisher: Shilka Publishing
by Roger J. S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/14/2013 16:12:31

For those of us who are (a) interested in military technology and (b) know little of this period, this is a good introductory book. True, some – more familiar with the subject matter – might think it is rather light on background information, but as I said, neophytes such as I will find it provides more than enough to put these vehicles into some sort of context.

The book describes 8 tanks; 6 IFV’s; 8 APC’s; 12 anti-tank vehicles; 3 Recce vehicles; 13 SP AA mounts; 7 SPG’s, howitzers and mortars; 8 multiple rocket launchers; and 8 tactical ballistic missiles. I have no idea whether this is actually exhaustive (or nearly so) or merely representative, but it does paint quite an image of the wide range available in the Soviet post-WWII vehicle park.

My only disappointments with this book are purely technical:

1) Pages 5 and 6 include a short but very instructive discussion on the value of sloped armour, along with a table indicating the relative increase in armour effectiveness at various angles of deflection. Vehicle entries have brief specifications summaries which include, among other interesting information, such details as this (taken from the entry for the IS-8/T-10):

Hull front upper: 120mm @ 60° Hull front lower: 100mm @ 55° Hull side: 90mm @ 60° Hull rear upper: 60mm @ 30° Hull rear lower: 30mm @ 50°

I would have appreciated it had the author taken a few moments to calculate and provide us with the corresponding increases in armour effectiveness.

2) The book is printer-friendly, in the sense that there are no cumbersome, ink-consuming background images and that the font is large enough to be easily legible, yet small enough to fit a lot of text in a single page. But the “one entry = two pages” approach means that there is a lot of blank space that could have been eliminated through a different formatting.

3) I tend to like to have more rather than less technical information, and I would have liked to see the author include such details as cross-country speed and autonomy, ground pressure (rather important considering the terrain conditions in parts of the former Soviet Union), main-gun depression and elevation (this oversight is strange, as the author made a very valid point regarding Soviet inability to fire back at Afghan insurgents attacking from above), and so on.

4) Finally, while I understand that some will find it useful to have the specs of each vehicle or weapons system placed directly in the corresponding entry, I would have appreciated a table that provided this information for all vehicles and systems, for ease of comparison; at the very least, a table for all those included in each section (all IFV’s, for example, at the end of the corresponding chapter).

Still, all of these are but details. At this price (under four US dollars), you certainly will have a hard time finding a better buy, or (more importantly) a better introduction to the subject matter. I am eagerly looking forward to the next book by this author.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Red Steel: Soviet Tanks and Combat Vehicles of the Cold War
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The Wraith: A Superhero Novel (The Wraith Series, Book 1)
Publisher: Coscom Entertainment
by R J C S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/23/2011 17:24:13

Note: I would post a “Spoiler Alert”, but that would imply there was something to spoil.

In his “Author’s Note”, the author states he wanted to “conceive [his] answer to such classic heroes as Batman, the Shadow and the Spider”. According to him, it took years “to try and flesh [the Wraith] out, to try and bring him to the world, or at least bring him out in such a way so that I myself could see him more clearly”. Then, in 2002; “my creative juices began to flow, and there was no turning back”. Personally, I would say that if this novel is an example of his “creative juices” flowing, I would hate to see what the author produces when he’s off on a plagiarising spree.

Why would I say this? Well, let’s see. The novel features: • a major city which has fallen from the heights of its glory days to become a bastion of corruption and criminality (Gotham City/Metro City); • a rich protagonist who lives in a mansion, has devoted his life to fighting crime as a black-caped vigilante swooping down on evildoers in whom he strikes fear (Bruce Wayne/Paul Sanderson-Michael Reeve), and repairs to an underground cavern (the Batcave/the Lair), complete with computers, training area, etc., with access through a secret passage in the library (indeed, even the elevator granting access to the underground cave sounds like it was “inspired” by the 1960’s television series); • the hero’s assistants, who include an English butler (Alfred Pennyworth/Jonathan Simpson) and a reformed criminal turned inventor (Harold Allnut/Max Horton); • a few honest police officers within a generally corrupt police department, two of whom are a tough, no-nonsense, vigilante-distrusting detective (Harvey Bullock/Bob Sloan) and his female Latin partner (Renee Montoya/Rosa Perez); • …

What else? Oh, right: the hero wears a dark suit with a cape and cowl, conceals coiled rope on his belt, which also has pouched compartments holding, among other things, gas pellets, and often perches among the gargoyles on the city’s rooftops. He uses the Eye of Judgment on criminals (cf. Ghost Rider’s Penance Stare). He “had sworn never to take a life, no matter what the circumstance”, and one of his earliest crime-fighting feats is foiling the attempted mugging of a couple, where the criminals “just wanted [the] cash an’ that necklace” (cf. the murder of the Waynes).

If none of this sounds familiar to you, you haven’t been reading the same comic books as I (or, obviously, the author).

What about the “plot”, then?

This involves mass-murder through poisoned make-up (anyone remember the 1989 Batman movie?) and disappearing homeless people brainwashed into becoming an army (as in the 1994 Batman/Spawn crossover, although in the latter case, the homeless were cybernetically joined to mechas) of a mysterious, physically imposing criminal mastermind (“the Cobra”, who somehow reminds me of Bane, but that’s probably just my imagination).

If you are into nitpicking, there are many apparent inconsistencies to choose from: regarding Tavelli Cosmetics’ offices on Montgomery Street, “Leena pushed the button for the fifteenth floor—the building’s top floor” (Ch 18), yet in the following chapter, “The Wraith scaled carefully down the glass and steel wall, lowering himself with a remote controlled line, feeding from a small engine atop the building’s roof. Not needing to lower himself very far, The Wraith stopped the mechanism at the fifteenth floor […]”. This either (a) implies that the 15th floor is no longer the top one, or (b) is an example of the author’s poor writing style (considering that his characters do things like “retreat[ing] back from the wreckage”, this is a distinct possibility).

The author does have problems with floors, actually: forget that the world’s largest building (currently, this is the Burj Khalifa) has “only” 163 floors. The Latham Industries building has 300, which is a nice round number with which to impress the masses. But when its roof and top floors are blown up, the Wraith jumps to the roof of the nearest building. Now, unless there are numerous buildings with 290+ floors in the city, that is one magnificent jump. And if there are that many tall buildings in a single area of the city (with the Latham building being the tallest, as explicitly stated), imagine how wide the streets must be, to deal with the traffic such buildings would require; the jump would still be an impressive one. But as I said, this is mere nitpicking, of course.

The same kind of painstaking attention to detail is given to punctuation, and most particularly to hyphenation, making some of the sentences rather hard to understand at first (on top of which, there are missing words here and there, which probably reflect the editor’s lack of concentration when going through the final draft: who could blame him for falling asleep while reading this “rollicking good adventure yarn”?)

In short, I have no idea what the actual comic book is like, but I do know that this “novelisation” is a horrendous attempt to reproduce the naive style of classic pulp fiction. Contrary to the author’s stated opinion (“It is what it is, a short novel in the vein of those old classic pulp magazines—easy to read, quick to digest, enjoyable to finish.”), this novel is merely a waste of a day’s reading.



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
The Wraith: A Superhero Novel (The Wraith Series, Book 1)
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Things We Think About Games
Publisher: Gameplaywright
by R J C S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/12/2010 06:04:12

160 pages. 160 pages of words of wisdom from screenwriter John August, Evil Hat's Fred Hicks, GURPS author Kenneth Hite, genius cartoonist John Kovalic of Dork Towers fame, and many others. 160 pages of gaming secrets from 2d6 of the industry's greats, for only $8.00. So with this kind of a bargain, how could you go wrong? Well, when much of the book consists of one single quote per page, like "Know why you play games.", "You cannot convince someone who is not having fun that he is.", or "A game, as a creative work, has no responsibility to historical or scientific accuracy." (I lie: there's also a page number and a footnote entry that reads something like "Tags: games | life"), you might just feel let down. True, "bite-sized thoughts" is how they advertise the book. Most of these "bite-sized thoughts" go on for one or two paragraphs, and some are quite a mouthful ("Brevior vita est quam pro futumentibus negotiam agendo." was almost worth giving this book a third star.) But I just can't help but feel cheated when I open a book expecting to sink my teeth into something substantial like John Four's "NPC Essentials" or even the poorly-written (and farcically edited) "Ultimate Games Designer’s Coinpanion" [sic], and my meat-and-potatoes meal turns out to be a platefull of fortune cookies of dubious freshness... The book deserves two stars because some (and I emphasize that only some) of the observations are very useful. But fewer entries with greater development would have made this a sure winner. As for me, the next time I feel the need for words of wisdom by John Kovalic, I'll just reread one of the half-dozen Dork Towers books I purchased.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Things We Think About Games
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Fantastical Currencies: Kingdom Edition Master Set 1
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by R J C S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 08/23/2010 22:18:48

An excellent purchase, without a doubt. This little gaming aid shows great versatility because of its multi-layered format, allowing a high degree of customisation. For its price, it offers a value that’s hard to beat.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Fantastical Currencies: Kingdom Edition Master Set 1
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Mythic Chess (Greek vs Egyptian)
Publisher: Guild of Blades
by R J C S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/06/2010 03:27:09

I’d already bought a few games released by this publisher (the various "1483”, for example), and thought that, while undoubtedly amateurish in certain aspects, they were creative and entertaining. Some of them were even fairly accurate, historically.

So I was fairly optimistic regarding “Mythic Chess”. With such an interesting concept, how could one miss?

My opinion of this publisher has dramatically changed after purchasing this game.

Not only is it characteristically amateurish, it is poorly designed, inadequately explained, grossly unbalanced, unnecessarily complicated, and irritatingly pretentious. The author should really stay away from words that “reflex” a poor grasp of the language. (By the way, the author would also do well to learn how to run a simple spell-check, if nothing else: it would hardly improve the quality of the writing, but it just might eliminate the “diagnal/diagnally”, “seperate”, “unlinted” and other inanities that plague what text there is.)

It’s unfortunate, really. The concept, while not new (we’ve all seen a dozen or more different takes on traditional chess, including circular, cylindrical, spherical and cubic boards; pieces with new movements and abilities; added levels; etc.), certainly deserved better treatment than what it is afforded here.

Movement descriptions are deficient at best, and confusing at worst. The same goes for attacks (exactly how can Theseus destroy up to 3 units?), which are also disproportionate (a hero can destroy 3 units, but the very God of War can only destroy 2?).

I would like to see someone else take a hand at a more intelligent design, pitting the Mexica pantheon against its Incan counterpart, for example. But from this publisher? No thanks.

What I liked? The concept per se.

What I disliked? Everything else.

Would I recommend this? Let’s just leave it at “No”.



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
Mythic Chess (Greek vs Egyptian)
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TFG Stupid Fantasy Laws Bundle 1 [BUNDLE]
Publisher: Dark Quest Games
by R J C S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/06/2010 20:55:53

I have to say that, at the price they were offered for (because of a GM Day special, the bundle cost only $4.25, instead of the regular $6.20 price tag), these small references are a decent source of ideas for plot twists meant to get unsuspecting characters into serious trouble.

The material itself is interesting, despite the numerous errors (spelling, grammar, irritating expressions like “quite certainly perhaps”…), and the “Probable Cause” sections are actually quite useful. Our little group likes to get into discussions about the plausibility of some of the events thrown into a game, and we like such details. A line or two after each law to indicate whether it is actually on the books of some poor misguided town or county would have been even nicer.

The presentation, on the other hand, would have to go up a notch or two to qualify as poor. The cover looks like a bad attempts at recreating a psychedelic poster from the 70’s, while inside, there is no format to make the text pleasant to peruse. Just check out what you want, and get back to something more interesting.

By Vol. 7, the cover has evolved into something a tad more attractive, even though it does look like something from the earliest days of RPG’s; by Vol. 8, it actually looks more professional, and some decent attempt is made to give the text itself a more appealing format, something which is eventually managed in Vol. 9, which even includes a few stock images. (Unfortunately, neither of these two last volumes are included in the bundle, an odd oversight at the very least.) But all in all, this is a visually unappealing product line.

We have simply decided we will strip the texts out of the various pdf files, combine them into a single document, and give the results a more appropriate presentation. Should take us all of an hour, at the most, time we would have liked to see the author himself invest.

All in all, a decent buy, considering the sale prise, but not an incredible one.

What we liked:

Contents: Imaginative and useful. Inclusion of a Probable Cause section a very nice detail.

What we disliked:

Presentation: Absolutely amateurish. Writing: The author's taking a few minutes after writing to polish some sections or even to check the spelling and punctuation would have been nice.

Overall value: Worth the on-sale price, at most. Definitely not worth the full price.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
TFG Stupid Fantasy Laws Bundle 1 [BUNDLE]
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