Saturday, August 6, 2011

Tommy's Take on Wellstone City Encounter Deck, ICONS Hero Pack 2 & 2.5

WELLSTONE CITY ENCOUNTERS DECK

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: This 8 page PDF is a "random events" chart designed for Wellstone City that can be used with any deck of standard playing cards (which are standard stuff for Savage Worlds). It is notable in part because many of the "randon events" can have HUGE implications on the campaign, like your own faction sending a sniper after you, or your rivals trying to recruit you as a double agent. The events are divided by suit, with a specific event for each card, although Spades/Hearts and Diamonds/Clubs use largely the same events with major/minor tweaks to them.

WHAT WORKS: Based off of a playing card deck makes the PDF incredibly simple to use, especially for folks on a printer budget. So many of the events having the ability to turn things on their ear is very much a plus in my book.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: Given how big some of the events can be, and how closely they are mirrored in the Minor/Major scale, drawing once per scene seems excessive, especially when you factor in the "Joker" rule that can put multiple cards in play. I did note a few typos that made it into the final product. The PDF price seems a little high, *but only in relation to other Wellstone City/Silver Gryphon Games products*.

CONCLUSION: Great concept, but then I love random roll/draw charts, and the scale at which this chart works is very nice, with some real game-changing options present, which can lead to a series of double-crosses and and the like. A great idea for a great setting, adding an element of chance that can affect the game in minor ways (finding $20 on the street) to major ways (having the FBI offer you the chance to take down the Russian Mafia from the inside, or the CIA turning on you mid-op with an assassination attempt, for their own reasons). Especially recommended if you feel like your Wellstone City game is lacking a certain spark right now.

ICONS HERO PACK 2

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: With the success of the ICONS Hero Pack, it is no real surprise at a Hero Pack 2 came along. All of the art is still provided by Dan Houser, with characters created by ICONS fans, but this one only had 30 slots...which means the PDF is 65 pages, with every character getting a full character sheet and a background "page". Each character also receives a printable standee, so if you like your standees, there's a whole slew of them available for you here.

WHAT WORKS: One of the gripes I had about the first Hero Pack was that many of the characters weren't usable "out of the box", due to Qualities and Challenges not being specified, as well as the characters not having backgrounds...that is a non-issue here. Many of the characters were created by the same people, and have their backstories interwoven with one another. If I had to pick a favorite from this set, it would be Mook, a common thug with Duplication powers who hires himself out as an all-purpose Henchman force.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: Some of the images, names and concepts seem to be an odd fit (Shadowform, the shapeshifter who turns into various tools and wears a green costume comes to mind).

CONCLUSION: From a design standpoint, this is an improvement over Hero Pack 1 in just about every way. The trimming down to 30 characters allows all of the characters room to "breathe", and allowing the artist's work to show off more than the otherwise crowded Hero Pack 1 did, and at $2 less than the first one.

ICONS HERO PACK 2.5

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: For $5, you get six new characters as well as an adventure with map and standees. In addition, Galacticron (who was lurking in Hero Pack 1) is present here, along with a couple of other villainous types specific to the adventure. The adventure itself is a pretty basic affair, with Lady Omega ripped Galacticron across space and into the New Mexico desert, in hopes that he will destroy Earth. The kicker, of course, is that the PCs can't really harm him directly.

WHAT WORKS: I really dig a couple of the new villains, like the tech-stealing Ephemera and Sequence - a villainous powerhouse who has received a serious upgrade. I actually wrote a comic script with villains similar to the "space locusts" that are presented here (although mine were more like cockroaches), so that's rather cool.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: The adventure could have used some editing, and while Lady Omega is TECHNICALLY a fully useable character...she comes across like the barest stereotype of a supervillain. Also, the "useable map" sure looks like it would be DRAMATICALLY off scale for the standees (and that's being generous with the definition of "scale"). I would have liked, say, a page of Lakmar Shock Trooper standees, myself...I mean, if you're going to use them, you're going to want a bunch of them.

CONCLUSION: A good product, with a great example of an adventure where the heroes HAVE to think outside the box, at least with the Galacticron problem. Despite the paper-thin characterization of Lady Omega, she does at least have a cool look and power set, so an enterprising GM can build from there.