Friday, October 8, 2010

Tommy's Take on Vigilance Force, Eugenics Brigade and Crown Guard

VIGILANCE FORCE: HEROES OF WWII

Vigilance Force: Heroes of WWII is the first supplement for ICONS by Vigilance Press.

Here's the thing about ICONS: I want to like it, I really do. The whole package looks very charming. The Marvel FASERIP influence is great. The writing is just...I feel like too much got glossed over with a "Hey, if you don't like a rule, change it, champ!" approach. And in actual play, I didn't really feel like it held up.

Why am I saying all of this? Because there is some cool third party stuff coming out for ICONS, like ION Guard. Vigilance Force is the first book establishing a World War II setting for ICONS, and it is not all happy, Silver Age fun like the ICONS core leans towards. Instead, it comes across fairly hard nosed, with some very lovely, gritty art by Jon Gibbons (supplemented by art by Dan Houser which is nice, but a sharp contrast).

For $2, you get 14 pages of setting and superheroes, designed to be used as PCs for a WWII game. They do provide the Team Qualities, Challenges and Resources for those who wish to use the team rules in the ICONS rulebook.

There are some very cool characters here, my favorite being Freight Train, a super speed brick (not a combo you usually see outside of Superman). Agent Liberator is a lot like an amalgam of Captain America and The Comedian (from the Watchman) and Marauder sure seems heavily inspired by (though far from ripped off of, don't get me wrong) Wolverine.

In fact, there are very cool influences all over Vigilance Force that are nice homages and not just "serial numbers filed off".

The downsides? Unless I am just missing it, Captain Miracle has no backstory. Dan Houser contributes one piece, and it's fine, but it sticks out like a sore thumb next to Jon Gibbons. Not calling either style better than the other, just saying they clash...bad. I would have liked individual pics, instead of trying to figure out who was who in the group shot, personally. Finally, I don't run games with pregens, so for a guy like me, a team of superHEROES isn't incredibly useful. Not useLESS, just not the most useful. That said, for $2, there is some great inspiration in here.

I'd jump all over a BASH version, personally.

THE EUGENICS BRIGADE: VILLAINS OF WWII

The Eugenics Brigade are the counter balance to the Vigilance Force. In fact, they are the reason Vigilance Force was formed, and they are far more useful because villains tend to be far more useful for a GM than heroes do.

One of my gripes from Vigilance Force is present here as well, as several characters don't get any art, though there seems to be more individual art here than there was in Vigilance Force.

The first villain we get is a scantily-clad, nazi slutbomb stereotype (though she is a ballerina and not a dominatrix) named Charismatic, and thankfully she gets a picture. She has a twin sister with Luck Control powers to complete the ensemble.

Fireproof is the Nazi answer to the fiery hero Old Glory, and War Hound plays the Sabretooth to Marauder's Wolverine.

The two that impress me the most are Uberkrieger and Ubermensch, the Super Soldier and the Super Man. Underkrieger is just UGLY, with a large rifle and metallic jaws, while Ubermensch is, thankfully, not nearly as versatile as the real Superman.

There are other villains, as well as some cannon fodder such as soldiers in jetpacks, mystics and the rejects from the Eugenics program.

For $2 this offers much more bang for its back than its predecessor, due to villains simply being more useful, as noted above. Definite recommendation.

THE CROWN GUARD: HIS MAJESTY'S HEROES OF WWII

The latest in the ICONS WWII releases by Vigilance Press, The Crown Guard were the British super team that was fighting WWII before the US got involved, fending off the Eugenics Brigade.

Despite being outgunned and outmanned, the Crown Guard managed to keep Winston Churchill alive and convinced the Eugenics Brigade that they were better off attacking Russia than England.

As with Vigilance Force, this is a collection of heroes, so there is probably less utility for the average purchaser than there is with, say, a villain collection.

The PDF does include the necessary Team rules to fit the ICONS Team rules, if you wanted to run a Crown Guard game.

We get Big Ben, the prototypical giant brick.

Espirit is a French agent with phasing and invisibility, hence the name. Reminds me a lot of a random character I generated back for Marvel FASERIP who was ALSO a spy, and also had Mind Control...so I have a certain fondness for the character type.

Excalibur actually carries Excalibur, as well as a couple of other artifacts, making him a tough customer.

Grizzly is an animalistic Canadian hero, who seems a bit like a Wolverine riff taken the opposite direction from Marauder in Vigilance Force.

Illustrious is a bit of an enigma...a compulsive liar with amazing luck and an assumed name.

Ironclad is a living machine, the greatest creation of a dying scientist.

Repulse is The Crown Guard's Master of Magnetism.

Swordfish is the setting's answer to Namor/Aquaman.

Armorer is a supergenius inventor, trying to liberate his native Poland.

And last is John Bull, the only "successful" attempt at recreating the Nazi supersoldier project...leaving him with the appearance of a minotaur.

Again, like with Vigilance Force, there are a lot of obvious homages, but nothing I would call overtly ripped off. Even Swordfish feels like his own man and not like either Namor or Aquaman specifically.

There's the odd piece of art, but there is a big, group picture that you can use to suss out just who is who in the group. It's a good product in a good line...if World War II in ICONS interests you, then I recommend picking it up.