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Battlemap - The Lumberman's House
Publisher: Lord Zsezse Works
by Christopher H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/25/2012 00:15:36
This 2D map pack leverages the power of layers—not PDF layers, but simply stacking maps on top of each other on the tabletop. The base map depicts the titular house, plus a bit of the surrounding area (including a mine track, a patch of phosphorescent mushrooms, and more). Additional, smaller maps depict the upstairs and the roof, making it very easy to conceal and reveal the interior as needed during your game. The LZW crew even included a key to the map, although most of what’s labeled on the key is unnecessary; GMs know a saw, mine rails, chess board, etc. when they see it. The English text needs a good bit of cleanup, but the composition and execution of the artwork is great.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Battlemap - The Lumberman's House
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DRAGONSHIRE: Gargoyle Bridge
Publisher: Fat Dragon Games
by Christopher H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/25/2012 00:14:12
The “gargoyle” bridge is so called because of the gargoyle head on the side; the model doesn’t ask you to build a cardstock gargoyle! In fact, the model requires only a beginning skill level, and does its job very well. It’s a great addition to anyone’s print-and-build terrain collection.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
DRAGONSHIRE: Gargoyle Bridge
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E&I Wall Set #1
Publisher: Lord Zsezse Works
by Christopher H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/25/2012 00:13:33
Even if you already own a set of print-and-build dungeon walls, you’d do well to consider adding this set to your collection. The walls themselves are easy to build, but the LZW crew has included a feature I haven’t seen anywhere else: a very simple system for linking the walls together using ordinary bobby pins. That’s a great innovation. An even better innovation is the “options ruler,” which harnesses the power of PDF layers better than LZW or anyone else (as far as I’ve seen) has ever done it before. It’s a little hard to explain what the options ruler does, but once you’ve seen it in action, you’ll love the unprecedented level and ease of customizability that the system offers. This set is pretty heavy on instructions, and the instructions file credits a copy editor; while the English instructions are noticeably better than in some earlier sets, more care still needs to be taken to bring the text up the excellence of the artwork. Normally, that would limit my rating to four stars, but the excellence and utility of the options ruler overrides that this time. “E&I,” by the way, stands for “exterior and interior.”

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
E&I Wall Set #1
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Fantastic Maps - Illfrost: Coastal Encampment
Publisher: Illusionary Press
by Christopher H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/25/2012 00:12:44
With five substantial buildings, apparently designed for permanence, this looks more like a “settlement” than an “encampment” to me. Two buildings seem to be sleeping quarters; one seems to be a kitchen; two (without doors) are apparently for storage. Paths lead off the map in at least four different directions (maybe five, if that snow-covered path leads somewhere). The map is large and brimming with story possibilities. You could easily stage several different encounters on this map, giving you good replay value. At some point, it could even become a home base (albeit a sparse one) for the PCs. Although labeled for use with the Illfrost campaign setting, there’s nothing here that’s unique to that setting; any visit to a snowy clime will create an opportunity to use this map.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Fantastic Maps - Illfrost: Coastal Encampment
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Fantastic Maps - Illfrost: Stockade Dungeons
Publisher: Illusionary Press
by Christopher H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/25/2012 00:10:58
There’s a lot going on in this map by Jonathan Roberts, created for the Illfrost setting but suitable for any fantasy RPG. It’s an interior/underground map, so it’s not even confined to chilly climes like Robert’s exterior maps for Illfrost. The complex includes barracks for guards or soldiers, more private quarters for officers, cages for prisoners, and a twisty cavern/tunnel system whose function leaves me guessing. The map is well done, like all of Roberts’s maps. However, this one would really benefit from a brief key with suggestions about how to use the various encounter areas. This usually isn’t needed on Roberts’s maps, especially the exterior ones, but this one is so “busy” that a key would help.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Fantastic Maps - Illfrost: Stockade Dungeons
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ICONS: Flight of the Nova-1
Publisher: Ad Infinitum Adventures
by Christopher H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/25/2012 00:10:02
“Flight of the Nova-1” offers a fun scenario for either a new (using the prologue) or existing (skipping straight to chapter 1) superteam. Chapter 1 basically sets up the dramatic situation, and chapters 2–4 resolve the issue (or so the players will hope!) over a series of three combat encounters. The end of the adventure teases a forthcoming product; this will either build anticipation or frustration, depending on your perspective (and your confidence in Adamant’s release schedule) and your interest in running the projected series of adventures in sequence.

Dan Houser’s artwork is, of course, wonderful, although, GMs not familiar with the full range of ICONS character from Adamant might incorrectly think that the illustration on p. 11 depicts Wrack and Sapphire Synapse, the villains involves in the action described there, when the illustration really features Dr. Punch and Electric Judy, heroes from the adventure “No Laughing Matter” who have no connection to the “Nova-1” storyline.

His writing isn’t quite as good, mainly because he occasionally takes too much for granted instead of spelling things out in detail, forcing the prospective GM to “read his mind.” It was also discouraging to find a homonym error in the very first sentence (“baited breath” instead of the proper “bated breath.” Unfortunately, this is the beginning of a trend; grammatical errors, oddities, and inconsistencies (especially related to punctuation and capitalization) crop up repeatedly, marring an otherwise excellent product.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
ICONS: Flight of the Nova-1
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Forgotten Ruins
Publisher: Lord Zsezse Works
by Christopher H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/25/2012 00:08:48
This nice-looking 3D model requires a good bit of precise cutting and lot of patience to assemble well. The artwork is very nice, but the walls, columns, and so on are unrealistically thin—the thickness of two sheets of cardstock. This affects both the verisimilitude and the sturdiness of the model. It’s not a bad piece, but there are better ruins models out there, especially given the relatively high price.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Forgotten Ruins
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The Heart of Fire (DnD 4e)
Publisher: Darklight Interactive
by Christopher H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/25/2012 00:07:31
Wow! This is a big, exciting, complex adventure, well-designed and well-presented in almost every way. Author David Flor has covered all the bases, providing several different ways for the PCs to get involved. The maps are well done, though there is no other interior art. Although the production values aren’t quite up to those of the big publishing houses like Wizards of the Coast and Paizo, the storyline and other content easily match the quality of modules from those publishers. Just about the only way to make this product better would be to include printable miniatures-scale maps.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Heart of Fire (DnD 4e)
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Justice Wheels #1 Black Scarab
Publisher: Fainting Goat Games
by Christopher H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/25/2012 00:06:05
Each entry in the Justice Wheels series presents a superhero or supervillain who uses a distinctive vehicle. The characters are presented as heroes by default, with tips on how to use them as villains instead. Black Scarab strikes me as basically “Moon Knight in black”; even his origin is very similar. I presume that was intentional. Scott Harshbarger’s illustrations of Black Scarab and his car, F.A.L.C.O.N., are excellent. The page formatting is minimal and, frankly, unattractive. A relatively high number of misspellings (“anhk” instead of “ankh,” “profecient” instead of “proficient,” “machineguns” spelled as one word) and inconsistencies (especially with regard to capitalization) mar the two pages of substantive text. It’s also worth noting that Justice Wheels #1 does not seem to use the vehicle rules published in Justice Wheels #3; at the very least, it isn’t clear how Black Scarab’s vehicle puts those rules into practice. Black Scarab is an interesting enough character to add to your ICONS roster; in my case, I’m more likely to use him as a villain than offer him to a player as PC. 50¢ is a good price for a pre-statted villain with great artwork.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Justice Wheels #1 Black Scarab
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Justice Wheels #3 Bluejay
Publisher: Fainting Goat Games
by Christopher H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/25/2012 00:04:12
Each entry in the Justice Wheels series presents a superhero or supervillain who uses a distinctive vehicle. The characters are presented as heroes by default, with tips on how to use them as villains instead. Compared to Black Scarab from Justice Wheels #1 (I haven’t read Justice Wheels #2), Bluejay is a fairly unexciting character—sort of a “poor man’s Batman” with a taser-tipped quarterstaff—and his Golden Eagle is a fairly unexciting vehicle. The page formatting is minimal and unappealing, and the text needs another round or two of copy editing. The compelling reason to get Justice Wheels #3 is the set of vehicle rules at the end, which include not only a Vehicle power but also two sets of rules for chases (one simpler and one “crunchier”). These rules are good, and worth having, even if the presentation is humdrum, beset with grammatical errors, and lacks hyperlinks to online resources referenced. I doubt that I’ll use Bluejay in my ICONS games in any capacity, but I will almost surely use the chase rules.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Justice Wheels #3 Bluejay
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Battlemap - Way to Cthulhu - FREE
Publisher: Lord Zsezse Works
by Christopher H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/23/2012 18:27:23
This three-room dungeon ending in a shrine to Cthulhu is a perfect jumping-on point if you’re curious about the Lord Zsezse Works line and want to “try before you buy.” The LZW team’s artistic excellence is on full display here. As I mentioned before, the product basically gives you three dungeon rooms, with several options for hooking in other methods of entry if you wish. As usual, LZW provides both top-down and isometric views of the scene, which really helps to bring the environment to life. Large JPG files are included for the GM’s reference and for use with virtual tabletop software. It’s hard to argue with free, although the visual aid PDF would have been more useful if it had been laid out for portrait viewing on-screen as well as portrait-orientation printing. But really, you can’t go wrong with this map set!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Battlemap - Way to Cthulhu - FREE
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Wargames: Supreme Commissar (ICONS)
Publisher: Vigilance Press
by Christopher H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/23/2012 18:27:01
Supreme Commissar is a great villain for the Wargames setting; unlike some of the other villains in the series, he’d be hard to move to a different time period without major reworking of his backstory. In addition to a long narrative about Supreme Commissar’s history and psychology, and of course his stats, this supplement also provides stats for a typical Red Directorate agent and the Red Directorate’s helicarrier, obviously inspired by S.H.I.E.L.D.’s helicarrier. It’s a good thing the Red Directorate helicarrier has a cloaking device, because it’s painted cherry red; unfortunately, the writers can’t seem to decide whether to hyphenate “heli-carrier” (pp. 9, 12) or not (p. 7). Stats are also provided for a military jet fighter and helicopter; the artwork for these two is a completely different style from the rest (either photographs or 3D rendered models). Three long and fairly detailed adventure hooks round out the product. Better attention to proofreading (to eliminate the inconsistencies, mismatched/misplaced punctuation, and other such problems) could have raised the rating by one star.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Wargames: Supreme Commissar (ICONS)
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Wargames: Sovi-Ape (ICONS)
Publisher: Vigilance Press
by Christopher H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/23/2012 18:26:47
This villain’s origin and backstory are interesting, and author Mike Lafferty provides four fun adventure ideas using him. The writeup includes not only the simian mastermind himself, but also two types of henchmen that can serve as models for others. Sadly, this product seems not to have been proofread/copy-edited at all—or at least not successfully. The most glaring problem, standing head and shoulders above the many punctuation errors, is the product’s indecision about whether the villain’s name is spelled “Sovi-ape” (cover, pp. 2–9) or “Sovie-ape” (p. 1).

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Wargames: Sovi-Ape (ICONS)
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Wargames: Majestic12 (ICONS)
Publisher: Vigilance Press
by Christopher H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/23/2012 18:26:35
Majestic-12 is a great twist on the “man in black.” He’s a great fit for the Wargames Cold War setting, but author Mike Lafferty also includes tips for transposing him into a more contemporary setting. As a bonus, the writeup mentions that Majestic-12 has two customary form of dress; the cover shows one, and the “character sheet” shows the other one. The product includes three fun adventure hooks that involve Majestic-12. Despite these strengths, the text needs some additional copy-editing to eliminate grammatical errors. Most importantly, somebody needs to decide whether the character’s name has a hyphen (cover, p. 1, header), a space (p. 2), or nothing (p. 3) between “Majestic” and “12.” That kind of sloppiness gives an otherwise fun product a black eye.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Wargames: Majestic12 (ICONS)
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Wargames: Death Mask (ICONS)
Publisher: Vigilance Press
by Christopher H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/23/2012 18:26:19
Death Mask’s look and powers may remind you a bit of Dr. Doom, but this writeup gives him a unique flavor and motivation, both perfectly suited to the Wargames setting. The package also includes three fun adventure hooks and stats for the Red Guard “foot soldiers” in P.H.A.N.T.O.M.’s army.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Wargames: Death Mask (ICONS)
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