I haven’t tried to do a review before so thought I would give it a bash.
I got my advance order copy of the Otherworld Skirmish Rules through the post this week. I ordered the full bundle, including the rulebook, roster pad, tokens and deck of cards. There were also 6 D6 and a couple of pencils as well.
I have not actually had a chance to play the game yet but have had a good look through the rules and will give my first impressions.
The rules are written by the wonderful people from Crooked Dice, who wrote the 7TV rules and their expansions and this game follows the same mechanics. I have been a fan of 7TV since I bought the rules a few years ago but have never had the time to collect and paint the models that would be required to do the game justice.
As far as the appearance of the book goes it is very pretty. There are lovely full page shots of various models from the Otherworld range of miniatures set in some lovely terrain scattered throughout the book, along with a generous amount of smaller photos. It makes the book a great showcase for Otherworld’s Miniatures if nothing else. On top of this there are a lot of line drawings, all of which look a lot like miniatures from the range.
The book itself can be broken down into three sections. The rules, the profiles and stats for all the heroes and monsters and how to play the game including generic scenarios and some specific ones as well, using pre generated bands of monsters/adventurers.
The rules are pretty straight forward, using the action:engine from crooked dice. The main feature about these rules is the activation system. At the start of the turn you receive a number of action tokens equal to half of the number of models in your force and you have to assign them to models before you do any activations. Certain models have abilities that can increase this, like Leader but basically you are unlikely to get to activate every model in your force every turn.
The game uses a fairly standard profile to represent your models, with Spd for how fast you can move, Defence for how hard you are to hurt, Hits for how many times you can be hurt before that model is out of the game etc etc. The average stat appears to be about 3 for most things, as having a stat of 3 requires a die roll of 4 or greater to succeed at any tests.
The actions available to a model once activated are fairly straight forward, with each model getting two activations to spend on things such as moving, spell casting, fighting, shooting climbing etc. Actions are resolved on a test system, with the value of a stat affecting the number required on a D6 to succeed. All pretty simple so far. On top of the basic profile each miniature can have some special rules, and there are a lot of them, broadly split into several categories such as Equipment (10 foot pole!), Traits (move silently, Pickpocket) or Combat (Dodge, Great Strength). It is these abilities that set the individual characters apart and they have a very old school D&D feel to them (ten foot pole, thieves’ tools).
The second part of the book covers all the profiles to use in the game, and needless to say they cover the range of miniatures from Otherworld pretty comprehensively, with each model having a cost in Gold Pieces, which is basically point’s value. These profiles are broken down into Legends (mighty heroes or villains), Companion (2nd tier heroes). These two types come in Good and Evil flavours. In addition to this there is the Minion Manual which covers everything else (hirelings, Humanoids, Monsters, undead Etc.).
Whenever you play a game you pick forces from this section of the book to an agreed value of Gold Pieces and a lot of these can be modified to suit whatever theme are aiming for in your game.
The third section of the ruled book gives details on how to play and details victory conditions and provides a number of basic scenarios to play. This allows you to play pickup game quite easily by picking a couple of forces and rolling a scenario, but I don’t think that is where the strength of this game lies. There are three very nice linked scenarios in this section, with each one using a variety of forces to tell a story. It is these three scenarios that show what could be done with this game with a little bit of effort and just sitting reading the book gets me thinking of how I could create a small narrative campaign to use at the club. There are certainly lots of possibilities.
Overall the book is great and I am looking forward to giving it a go. I think that it will be great for playing themed games and adventures with an old AD&D feel. The only thing that I think is a weakness is the generic feel to the book, which means that you need to put in a bit of work for your games. However I also think that this is a strength as there is probably less tendency to treat the game as a competition and more of a co-operative affair to tell a good story. In that sense the game feels very much like a RPG rather than a wargame.
It is bit of a shame that Frostgrave came out when it did, as both games are excellent in their own ways, but Frostgrave seems to have garnered the lion’s share of the attention on the various war gaming forums and I have seen very little mention of this game on t’interweb.
I like Frostgrave as well and it benefits from having a basic premise to the game that is easy to get into and can be done with very little work which is great, but as always some elements are straight into working out what are the optimal choices to squeeze the maximum efficiency out of their warband, which I feel is a wasted opportunity. The way these rules are written and presented makes it difficult to do that and naturally steers you towards a more collaborative affair, which is a good thing.
So to sum up, lovely book, nice system that lends itself to RPG style gaming but will probably require some work to get the best out of.
Photos used in this blog have been borrowed from the Otherworld website as they have better photography skills than I do!