Thursday 15 July 2010

Gaming Reviews

Villains & Vigilantes
Core System
Monkey House Games

Available Now - £6.57 (PDF) and $14.95 (£9.80) (Paperback)

Intercrime: Hostile Takeover
Scenario for Villains & Vigilantes
Monkey House Games

Available Now - £2.60 (PDF)
Review by Brad Harmer

Cult superhero RPG Villains & Vigilantes was originally released way back in 1979 – with a second edition following in 1982 – and, whilst never a runaway success, managed to find a very strong following with a contingent of superhero gamers (it’s a tragedy of unplugged gaming in general that there are so few excellent systems for the superhero genre). Whilst it has remained relatively inactive for some years now, fan support online kept the game alive, and now version 2.1 (essentially the same game as the 1982 version, but with a few typos corrected) has been released. Great news for the fans of this game, granted...and with two scenarios released already (one as a free download), it looks like the support should be good. But how will those more used to modern gaming systems take to an RPG that was last updated nearly thirty years ago?

Villains & Vigilantes takes a very different stance from the off. The players don’t roll up a bunch of stats to create their dream superhero. Instead, they create themselves as characters within the game, assigning stats for how they are in real life, and then generate superpowers for them. Sound interesting? It sure does – and if you’ve got a fun loving group who know each other outside of the gaming table, it will prove to be a laugh riot.

There are enough potential superpowers in the main rulebook to keep you going for a good few years. Not as many as the superpowers book for TSR’s Marvel Super Heroes game, granted, but for a core rulebook, it’s pretty impressive. They are all pretty innovative, and allow for adjustments and scaling.

The combat system is pretty impressive, with each sort of attack cross referencing off each other on a combat grid – they work off of comic book physics, but it really seems fun – if you don’t mind referencing tables.

And this is the only part Villains & Vigilantes falls down on. It’s both very maths intensive, and contains lots of charts and table to roll on. Sorry kids, but that was how RPGs used to work back in the day. We didn’t have the d20 OGL. We barely understood how useful percentile dice could be. We had to do lots of calculations and gubbins – and we were grateful...

Sorry, I’ll stop there before I wind up in The Four Yorkshiremen Sketch...but it is an important aspect to consider. If you don’t think you’ll mind playing an RPG like they used to make, then you could have a lot of fun with this. Those used to games whose character sheets have dots to colour in or other easy referencing may find this a little bit of a culture shock.

The scenarios released so far are, rather unfortunately, pretty unimpressive. The story sections are vague – often appearing like two or three battles with a bit of narrative for the sake of form. This is barely acceptable in this day and age. There’s already Heroclix for people looking for that sort of game – Villains & Vigilantes will need to bring out some deeper, storyline based scenarios if it wants to attract “role-playing” gamers.

Also, they supply counters, but only thumbnail maps. Why couldn’t there be a full size map for gamers to actual play on? I could understand if printing costs were a concern – but not when they’re PDFs, surely? It's a minor thing - but also indicative of how out of touch with modern RPGs the game is.

Summary: A system with a lot of potential, but one that may find itself held back by its out of touch perception of role-playing games. Players looking to scratch the superhero itch could do a lot worse than this little bundle of goodness, though. 8/10

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