The excellent folks at Mödiphiüs did a Kickstart for this game a while back. My daughter has stumbled onto the new CGI version of the show, and I remember the original Gerry Anderson Supermarionation version — even had all the Dinky toys when I was a boy — so buying the game was a no-brainer. Everyone starts their review the same way, so I’ll not break with convention…

5…4…3…2…1…Thunderbirds are go!

Designed by Matt Leacock, Thunderbirds is a cooperative board where the players work together as members of the International Rescue, stopping disasters in space, and around the globe, as well as stopping the evil machinations of the Hood, with their cool-ass Jet Age craft, the signature of any Gerry Anderson show (Fireball XL-5, Supercar, UFO, Space: 1999, and others.) I’m told it’s similar to his famed Pandemic, which I’ve yet to play.

Each player has a character from the show and their signature vehicle under their command, and during your turn you can take three actions: move to a location, stage a rescue, plan by pulling F.A.B. cards, or scan for issues using Thunderbird 5, in geo-synchronous orbit. there are other operations which don’t cost one of your actions. Each disaster has certain requirements, or gear/vehicle/character benefits if you have those units present. You roll dice, and if you get a Hood silhouette, his piece moves along a track toward victory (unless you thwart the three “schemes” he has going.) The other way to lose is if you get overwhelmed by disasters and they reach the end of their track, which they progress along on each player’s turn.

The disasters stack up pretty quickly, and the trick is to plan out how you’ll get what gear where so that you can knock out the disasters as fast as possible, while ending the Hood’s machinations. It’s tough. I played this solo and did pretty well, then with the family (including said five year-old girl) and we won with a half-full disaster track.

Substance: 5 out of 5. There’s a lot of meat to the game — you have to work together, plan carefully, and decide how to use the various bonuses you get from tokens. I suspect this is a game that will be a lot of fun to play repeatedly.

Style: 5 out of 5. The entire set is high quality, from the linen finish on the cards, and the box, to the board map, to the wee plastic Thunderbirds pieces. The pictures on the cards are screencaps from the old show, and the characters stick very well to the functions they played in the show. For instance, I got stuck with Alan, Thunderbird 3‘s pilot, and this turned out a great thing, as it allowed me to nab the various space-rescues that came up. It really evokes that Space Age flavor that sci-fi had at the time, where we were going to be in space; rich people weren’t the devil, but millionaire inventor philanthropists saving the world with their unique inventions; and gear looked fab!

Is it worth it? The set runs about $70 most places you look, (I found it for much cheaper online…) but the quality of the manufacture and the good game mechanics lead me to say yes. If you are a Thunderbirds fan, abso-friggin’-lutely!

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The excellent folks at Mödiphius have gotten the license for the Conan roleplaying game. Now I’m not much on the sword-and-sorcery genre since I left my high school days behind, but for those of you that want some gritty fantasy goodness, jump on this bad boy! They’ve already blown past their $65k goal and at last look were at about $360k…enough they funded 11 other products off this.

I’ve had a look at the quickstart rules, and was impressed with how gorgeous even that 50 page taste of the game was. They’ve pulled top-notch artists for the project — Brom, Jusko, Tim Truman, Syrigos, among others. The system is 2d20 — a rules set that borrows a lot of good concepts, looks to play pretty simply. (Some of the writing makes it seem a bit more complex than I suspect it is.) An looks to capture the vicious, gritty side of fantasy, instead of the more friendly Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition. (Which I, surprisingly, liked!)

Speaking of — the 5th edition D&D is gorgeous. Truly a spectacular job from the production side of things, and Conan looks to be matching or surpassing that.

It’s not my cup of tea — I’m a bit more interested in the John Carter line —  but check it out, by Crom!

 

12670087_10153963273907082_3286283278008602244_nI’ve already done a review of the PDF version of the game, but I’ve finally laid hands on a physical copy of the game. This was a game that loomed large in my gaming through the 1990s, and informed some of the Victorian sci-fi camapigns of the early 2000s. I still have the original copy of the GDW game, bought at Compleat Strategist in Philadelphia in 1989. Now I have the new Ubiquity-powered game from Clockwork Publishing out of Germany to complement it.

First off, this is the “premium” faux leather covered version of the book. They go for about $100. Production quality on the book is good — the fake leather feels nice and the gold embossing is well done. The binding is solid, and includes a bookmark ribbon in bronze. Good glossy paper, with a readable font in two columns per page, with black & white, grayscale, and color art throughout the book. One point of contention is the sizing. Rather than a typical 8.5×11 or 11.25″ book, like many game lines, this one is 8.5×12″, so it sits higher in the bookcase. The different aspect ratio looks nice, but might be a pain if you don’t have spacious bookshelves.

The new edition is very true to the original setting, but expands a bit on the original material of the game, mostly in dealing with Venus and the German colonies there, but also adds a bit on Mars and Mercury. Setting takes up much of the page count at 121 pages. The game rules are Ubiquity — the same system that powers Hollow Earth Expedition, the ’30s pulp game that usurped Victorian sci-fi in my group’s play rotation. There’s not much new to the rules beyond those found in HEX, same for bits on gravity on different worlds, and comes in at 80ish pages with character creation. One point where the new rules dropped the ball was on the Martian and Venusian characters…there’s no racial templates to give them their own flavor, so I cobbled some together based on the rules from Mysteries of the Hollow Earth and Secrets of the Surface World sourcebooks from the Hollow Earth Expedition line. They are presented below.

Style: The original game was pretty sharp for it’s time, with good color art and crappy line art for the rest; the new version is average RPG quality art for the black and white art, decent color. I’d go 3-3 1/2 out of 5 for the normal edition of the game, but the faux leather brings this edition up to a 4 out of 5.

Substance: Unless you plan on really digging into political intrigue and the like, the book is good enough to launch into a campaign that night, and the rules are complete enough to handle most situations — 4 out of 5. Is it worth the $56US for the print and pdf combo? If you are into this genre, yes; if you are an old Space:1889 fan that wants a better set of mechanics than the execrable ones from 1989, absolutely; and this edition with the swanky cover might be worth the $100 for the fans of the old game.

Space: 1889 is now available through the shop at Mödiphius.

Here’s the templates for the main alien races of the setting:

MARTIANS

Hill, Canal, and High Martians -- as portrayed in Chronicle City's version

Hill, Canal, and High Martians — as portrayed in Chronicle City’s version

The denizens of Mars have three major racial types — the Hill Marian, found in the desolate wastes of the Red Planet; the Canal Martians, found almost exclusively in the urban and canal-fed areas of the world; and the High Martians — thought to either be the “Ur” Martian, or possibly a Hill Martians evolved to the particular environment of mountainous Mars.

Using some of the Beastmen advantages from Mysteries of the Hollow Earth (pg. 14-25), I slapped together Martian character templates that were more in keeping with the original flavor of the game:

template

Venusians

Venusians aren’t set up as a player character in either any of the editions of Space: 1889, but I’m sure there are folks out there that might want to give them more to do in their campaign than be a poor man’s Sleestak. So here is a Template, vikked from Hollow Earth Expedition‘s Mysteries of the Hollow Earth to use to create a player character Venusian:

venusian