Sunday, June 19, 2011

Tommy's Take on Wargames: Heroes and Villains of the Cold War

I've mentioned a few times how much I like the Vigilance Press WWII stuff, even though I'm not a big WWII buff. Wargames is a bit of a different approach, supers set at the end of the cold war.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: Wargames is normally listed as being being $6.95, but is currently free for the weekend. It comes in two files: A timeline and a profile on General Venom, who kinda resembles a star-spangled Cobra Commander or Baron Zemo.

The Timeline is 42 pages and has a note up front that it should be considered one canon with Phipps Studios Halt Evil Doer! While I've never read it, I recall hearing of it and it certainly sounded cool.

The 42 page timeline is as it sounds: A timeline of major events (as well as recommended reading and viewing for capturing the feel of the setting). While there are some big, full blown changes to the real world timeline, such as Nixon being a bonafide traitor to the country who commits suicide in order to avoid trial, others are more subtle (JFK was still killed, and Russian supers were suspected, but never proven). There is a bit more confusion as well, as some of the WWII team names also show up in this timeline, but are presumably meant to be different entities, since we've seen the USHER Dossiers, which lay out the future of the WWII timeline. The Wargames Timeline covers from 1937 through 1991, pretty much at the end of the Cold War.

The book is a mix of photos and art, the latter of which seems to be drawn from multiple sources and clashes in some places.

The General Venom PDF details the history of General Venom and his terrorist organization, the House of Serpents. General Venom is the son of a patriotic former hero who believes that America has become completely corrupt, and he's intending to shake the whole country to its foundation in order to "fix" it. Fair warning...a lot of the political themes present in this book echo some modern philosophies, taken to a terrorist extreme. If you have strong political beliefs, especially in the more hardcore libertarian/Tea Party bent, it is possible that you will be less than thrilled with the presentation of this entry. In addition to a full character sheet for Venom, the PDF has three plot hooks, as well as a generic stat block for his powered armor minions.

WHAT WORKS: General Venom's character design is very swell, and Vigilance Press again shows that ICONS can be used for more than just "animated series" type stuff that people seem to think it is limited to. The cover is also great, using trade dress that resembles a GI Joe action figure card. Venom, himself, is another fantastic example of how Vigilance pays homage to certain characters without ripping them off - While it is easy to see the image and the House of Serpents, combined with the GI Joe action figure call out, and think "Oh, it's Cobra Commander"...you would be dead wrong, as there are a number of elements included (even a bit of Iron Man), making Venom feel like a fleshed out character, rather than athinly veiled knock-off like you get in many supers products.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: While I'm not terribly hardcore in my ideology, I've figured out that I'm a biiiit to the right of the Vigilance Press guys - which is fine, as I think folks should feel free to believe what they believe until they start hurting someone else - but there were points where I was a tad uncomfortable with the first villain presented for the Wargames setting being presented as a worst case scenario for a superpowered Tea Partier. There were also a few points, especially in the Venom PDF, where the layout seemed to have a bit of wasted space that a different font size or something might have fixed.

CONCLUSION: The setting certainly has promise, although it is definitely in less politically "safe" territory than World War II, so it is possible that a given segment of the gaming population may not be thrilled with the presentation. It is absolutely worth getting while it's free, and if the Cold War-esque setting appeals to you, then it's probably worth purchasing as well. With a little tweak, Venom and the House of Serpents could easily be dropped into a number of settings (despite my comments above, I would have zero problem using him in a game - and could have much fun using him alongside The Patriot from the Villainomicon, in the right game, of course). Thumbs up on the overall presentation, just be aware that Wargames is NOT just WWII, with Russians inserted in place of Nazis.