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DRAGON TILES: Caverns
Publisher: Fat Dragon Games
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/27/2012 14:04:52
This set consists mostly of fairly basic 2D cavern tiles, plus some 3D elements. The mine cart track tiles and the 3D mine carts that go with them are terrific, and I’ve used them to good effect in my games. The other cavern elements are pretty “flat,” and you’ll get more out of other sets from Fat Dragon and other vendors.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
DRAGON TILES: Caverns
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DRAGON TILES: Dungeons of the Dwarf Lords
Publisher: Fat Dragon Games
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/27/2012 14:01:36
This set includes some rather basic 2D tiles, but shines with its 3D models—especially you want a little dwarven steampunk in your fantasy. I’ve used most of the 3D elements in this set to good effect on the table. The “walking tank” is a bit complicated, but the other models are pretty easy to assemble.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
DRAGON TILES: Dungeons of the Dwarf Lords
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Fantastic Maps: The Dragon's Lair
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/27/2012 13:47:21
The titular lair in this product consists of an “audience chamber” connected to a warren of tunnels. One cavern holds signs of the dragon’s hoard, in the form of a scattering of gold coins. Otherwise, decorations are pretty sparse. The amount of lava on the map puts me in mind of a red dragon, but the product doesn’t include any key, descriptions, or suggestions.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Fantastic Maps: The Dragon's Lair
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Field Guide to Superheroes Vol. 4 (ICONS)
Publisher: Vigilance Press
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/27/2012 13:31:14
The fourth and presumably final issue of the Field Guide to Superheroes runs only about 2/3 as long as the others in page count, but serves as a worthy conclusion to the series. As with the other issues, Vol. 4 presents a series of superhero archetypes, throughly discussed and then illustrated with a hero who embodies that (and perhaps other) archetypes. Vol. 4 features ten archetypes. This volume also implements a number of significant improvements, most noticeably the new stat block format and the use of typefaces that have lower-case letters (this may account for most of the lower page count). The presentation is very attractive, although there are still some editing issues; for example, the book can’t seem to decide whether “superheroes” is one word (per the cover) or two (as in the footer). Also, at least one of the characters in FG4 shares a name with a character in Adamant’s official products, creating potential confusion. As usual, Dan Houser provides excellent artwork at the rate of two characters per archetype. One appears, unnamed, in connection with the archetype; the second appears with the specific character write-up. If you have the other issues of the Field Guide, you’ll definitely want Vol. 4. If you haven’t checked out the Field Guide yet, be aware that the earlier volumes have some different layout conventions than Vol. 4. Just before I posted this review, Vigilance updated the PDF with bookmarks, a helpful addition.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Field Guide to Superheroes Vol. 4 (ICONS)
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Ground Set #14 - Trenches
Publisher: Lord Zsezse Works
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/27/2012 12:35:41
This set is ideal for a WW1 game involving trench warfare at miniatures scale, but you might also find uses for them in other settings. The tiles use PDF layers and LZW’s beautifully-illustrated controls to provide an amazing variety of trench pieces. The English instructions have been much improved since Rich Crotty started editing the material, though there’s still a way to go for the text to reach the excellence of the artwork.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Ground Set #14 - Trenches
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Gamescapes: Story Maps: Urban Sprawl
Publisher: Savage Mojo
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/27/2012 12:20:04
This map pack provides a downtown intersection, useful in a variety of modern RPGs. Skyscrapers stand on three corners, with a parking lot on the fourth corner. The artwork is very good, although the skyscrapers are drawn in a perspective view rather than a strict top-down view. This may be slightly disorienting at first, but it's great for wall-crawling superheroes and the like.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Gamescapes: Story Maps: Urban Sprawl
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Gemerator 2: Jewelry
Publisher: Tangent Games
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/27/2012 02:01:02
Would you rather tell your players that they looted a “fancy pewter badge” or a “marquetry-enameled, satin-finished, pewter enseigne, ornamented with six silver baubles”? If the latter, then you’ll find Gemerator II: Jewelry a rich resource. A little less than the first half of the book presents a series of tables on which you can roll to produce a piece of jewelry as simple or complex as you’d like. A little more than the second half of the book consists of an illustrated glossary of all the specialized terms used in the book. The PDF is thoroughly indexed, right down to every single entry in the glossary. Obviously, a lot of work went into Gemerator II, and GMs running many different types of games can get considerable good use from it. The product does have some weaknesses. The alternation between “portrait” and “landscape” pages is annoying, the typography is both drab and inconsistent (several different serif typefaces—very similar, but not identical—are used), and the illustrations are photos from a variety of sources and in a variety of styles. The price strikes me as a little high as well. If this review system used half-star values, I’d give Gemerator 2 three and one-half stars; since it doesn’t, I’ve rounded down to three (because four stars just feels like “grade inflation” for this product).

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Gemerator 2: Jewelry
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Arena Tiles
Publisher: DramaScape
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/27/2012 00:50:05
A large (14 x 32 squares) arena surrounded by bleachers (including box seats and space for concessionaires to ply their trades) awaits your fantasy RPG miniatures in this product. The tiles are not modular; you can really only build one layout. The product’s origins in Dundjinni clearly show through: all of the repeated elements are exactly the same, and the shadows are relative to the individual elements, not to a “global” light source (you can perceive both elements most clearly by examining the concession stands). On the other hand, Dramascape has included a textual description of the arena, along with suggestions for traps and such (though there are a number of grammatical and stylistic problems here, and map viewers don’t need to be told that corners are corners). The weaknesses don’t seem terribly significant, though, when you consider the very low price tag. Also, the product includes several “overlay” pieces that change the arena, with suggestions for how to use them, expanding the scope of the product’s usefulness.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Arena Tiles
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ICONS: Whiteout!
Publisher: Ad Infinitum Adventures
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/19/2012 01:23:29
In my judgment, Whiteout! is the best ICONS adventure that Adamant has published thus far (as of July 18, 2012). Author John Post has covered pretty much all of the bases, giving GMs sufficient guidance to easily respond to a wide variety of PC responses to the freak blizzard conditions besetting the northern hemisphere. The first two chapters are very free-form, almost “sandbox” in the latitude given to the PCs, while the last two chapters are fairly linear, although even here the PCs could take a number of different approaches. Lots of excellent GMing advice appears throughout this adventure. In particular, the “Running an Investigative Adventure” sidebar on p. 9 ought to be required reading for any ICONS GM (especially beginners) planning to run an investigation scene. The blizzard conditions and exotic locations are used well. The primary villains are interesting and have good synergy, but some of the supporting villains don’t add much to the central plot and seem to be included just to provide a superteam with a reasonable combat challenge. GMs running for smaller groups could easily leave out Kavik, Baba Yaga (whose artwork, apparently reused from Danger in Dunsmouth, doesn’t really fit her), or both without injuring the plot. The text isn’t absolutely free from grammatical errors and inconsistencies, but they’re few enough not to annoy too much. Whiteout! offers numerous and varied in-game experiences, and it’s suitable for both beginning and experienced GMs.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
ICONS: Whiteout!
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Publisher Reply:
Thank you for your kind words. -- John Post
ICONS: Murder of Crowes
Publisher: Ad Infinitum Adventures
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/19/2012 01:18:30
This adventure is rather dark for ICONS, beginning as it does with the murder of a small-town teenager. Imagine a blend of elements from Smallville’s first season and Children of the Corn, and you’re somewhere in the neighborhood of Murder of Crowes. There’s a good bit of investigation involved here, with action scenes sprinkled in at strategic moments, before you eventually get to the showdown with the main antagonist. Even there, the antagonist’s motives and nature remain ambiguous enough to allow for multiple approaches. The adventure is very well designed and presents a compelling series of events. The proofreading lags well behind the adventure design in quality; mistakes like “Jacob Crowes remembers him mom” and various instances of misused punctuation crop up more often than they should. There’s not much coaching for GMs, so this probably wouldn’t be the best choice for an inexperienced GM; due to the subject matter, I also wouldn’t recommend it if you’re playing with grade-school kids. A relatively inexperienced GM planning to run Murder of Crowes would do well to read the “Running an Investigative Adventure” sidebar on p. 9 of the ICONS adventure Whiteout! by John Post. For a relatively more mature group (by which I mean middle school and up, probably), you should be able to get a good night of slightly macabre fun out of this module.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
ICONS: Murder of Crowes
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ICONS: The Aotearoa Gambit
Publisher: Ad Infinitum Adventures
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/19/2012 01:15:33
Originally released to promote disaster relief for the Christchurch earthquake of February 2011, this adventure offers a delightful “change of venue” for superheroes not normally based in New Zealand. The module offers several suggestions for why the PCs might find themselves in New Zealand when the story begins. One of this adventure’s most appealing innovations is the use of three parallel events all happening at the same time. Novice GMs might find these events difficult to run, if the heroes split up, but more experienced GMs should be able to deliver an exciting, fast-paced series of cut scenes reminiscent of many comics and movies featuring superhero teams. The villain in this piece is interesting, and might even be a little sympathetic if he weren’t so crazy. GMs can probably get more of a dramatic sympathy factor with the Green Man, one of the “lesser” villains. His scheme makes a kind of twisted sense, within the bounds of comic-book logic (or that of James Bond films). The final resolution, listed as a separate subpoint in the adventure outline on p. 5, is sort of “tucked away” without its own subheading in the last two paragraphs on p. 14, and feels rather anti-climactic. GMs may wish to spice this part up to make it a bit more dramatic.

A significant number of grammatical and spelling errors remain in the final product, including inconsistent spellings of the main villain’s names (both civilian and super). For some reason, the numbered lists on pp. 5 and 7 are set in a different sans-serif typeface (Calibri) than the one (Skia) used for the rest of the body text. Some, perhaps most, of the copy-editing oversights might be attributed to haste in getting the adventure to market in time to participate in the earthquake relief fund-raising; on the other hand, it shouldn’t have taken more than about an hour’s proofreading to fix these problems. Such errors noticeably weaken an otherwise fine product.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
ICONS: The Aotearoa Gambit
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Action Scenes: Museum Mayhem (ICONS)
Publisher: Vigilance Press
by Christopher H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/02/2012 11:27:32
A lunatic curator has taken hostages in a museum, and wants to transform himself into an Egyptian-inspired demigod. Can the heroes prevent the ritual and save the day—or, if necessary, take down a new demigod once the ritual is complete? That’s the story behind “Museum Mayhem,” the first “Action Scene” product from Vigilance Press. As the singular “scene” implies, the product essentially presents one encounter, although the players’ choices and the heroes’ actions could actually stretch it out to two or three distinct encounters. The authors have taken care to anticipate a variety of possible player responses to the situations presented, and they’ve given the GM several ready-made options for adjusting the encounter on the fly.

A substantial number of new NPCs populate this adventure, from the big bad guy (in both “superheroic” and “demigod” modes) down to his lowliest minions (who include cultists, animated museum mannequins, and mummies). The module also includes stat blocks for three clusters of NPCs—government troopers, robots, and ninjas—that aren’t involved in the actual adventure but that illustrate the possibilities of the new Summon power presented in the module. The Summon power alone is worth the purchase of this product, and I’m sure that the Summon power will find its way into the ICONS campaign world that I share with my sons.

Unfortunately, the copy editor(s) let a number of errors and inconsistencies slip by. Those errors (including subject-verb disagreements, extra or duplicated punctuation marks, missing punctuation marks, missing space between paragraphs, slight capitalization and spelling mistakes, and a single, initially confusing reference to the “Minion” power rather than the “Summon” power) don’t inhibit use of the product for gameplay, but when you’re averaging one to two such errors per page, you need better proofreading. Also, I was perplexed by the positioning of the coat check at the opposite end of the museum from the front entrance. A coat check normally goes near the front entrance; you don’t want patrons traipsing through the museum in soggy raincoats to get to it (never mind the potential for theft). But these are minor annoyance rather than serious problems, and I enthusiastically recommend “Museum Mayhem” for all ICONS GMs, and even players interested in the Summon power.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Action Scenes: Museum Mayhem (ICONS)
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Alien Planets
Publisher: Wydraz
by Christopher H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/02/2012 11:26:09
This product is basically a stock art book featuring ten alien (from an Earthling’s point of view) planets. Each planet has been given a name and a brief description, though of course you need not fee bound to these. The pictures are attractive, but the author seems to have emphasized an exotic feel rather than realism or verisimilitude as far as habitable planets go. Also, you’d think that proofreading a product with so little text would be easy, but even the “front cover” exhibits very odd if not outright erroneous capitalization, and the abbreviation “RPG” becomes “PRG” after the front cover. The low price is a point in the product’s favor, though.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Alien Planets
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Alien Sci-Fi Space Scenes
Publisher: Wydraz
by Christopher H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/02/2012 11:25:10
This product is basically a stock art book featuring twenty-one space scenes, usually of a planet with some kind of natural or artificial satellite. The scenes are colorful and most are attractive, although the rendering of the artificial satellites/spaceships is “chunky,” resulting in 12-sided polygons where you’d expect to see circles. Also, several of the space stations are nearly identical, although presumably developed by different cultures, while others are obviously rearrangements of the same basic components as one another. These weaknesses are counterbalanced by the low price, though.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Alien Sci-Fi Space Scenes
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Fantastic Maps: The Sand Dragon Inn
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Christopher H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/02/2012 11:23:17
The maps are well drawn in Jonathan Robert’s signature style, and I want to like the set, but the map confuses me. I just don’t know what I’m looking at. This is one printable map product that really needs a key of some sort.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Fantastic Maps: The Sand Dragon Inn
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