Tuesday, 21 July 2015

[WFRP Review 2] More than a dice mechanic

So, I've talked about the basic dice mechanic of WFRP and it is pretty good. Not anything astounding or groundbreaking, but it does the job and generates the sort of results I like a system. But a system is a lot more than just it's basic dice mechanic. How is the rest of it? Well, the system has a couple of good ideas:

Action cards

One of the key ideas that wfrp did well, and then a lot of people slagged off was how it dealt with player powers. One of the things that a lot of systems, in my opinion do badly is that they make combat a long process, but with very few meaningful decisions. There have been a great many games I have played where my combat procedure was simple; approach the enemy, attack them and then get attacked back. Repeat this until one side runs out of hit points. Call the fight done.

It was dull. Lots of games make it optimal though, as you have one attack that is your best one to do. So you do it. Over and over again.

But! WFRP did this a lot better. Most of your powers, attacks and special maneuvers in social conflict come in the form of an action card. You stack them up in front of you and choose which one to use, One like this:

Image result for fantasy role play action card
See how he rules for each result are right there on the card? Also the rules on what you have to roll it? All in one place, that is obvious when you need it.

If you want a crunchy, rulesy game this is great. Because instead of having to learn what each spell or dot of gift does, I have a little card in front of me with all of the rules. It all ties into the universal resolution mechanic, so I can read immediately what it does. It also has something that came as a bit  of a revelation for me: timers.

When you use a card, you put counters on it equal to its refresh value. At the end of your turn, you remove one counter from each card with counters on it. This was so easy and intuitive. It meant I could juggle how long it would be until I could use a power again. I could plan what i was going to do in a fight, and since a load of powers could count what was recharging, I had a strategy rather than doing the same thing over and over again.

In fact, if I wanted a move more advanced than the basic attack, then I couldn't use it very turn. So I needed to make choices, every turn. It also gave non combat options on the cards, and it was how wizards and clerics handled their spells. It has made playing a fighter in two games I have played a distinctly different in feel and use, and made them as fun as playing a mage.

But there is a downside: you cannot play this game without a table. They released a traditional form where everyone ran it out of the book, with no cards and it does. Not. Work. You can't handle all the information. The information economy is overloaded. You need the cards. I cannot emphasise this enough.

But this has a second disadvantage. It looks a little like a board game, which means a bunch of players will not look at it. Which makes the game a harder sell. I mean it looks like this in front of you:

Image result for warhammer fantasy role play action card setup

and some people are not happy with that. I can understand that, but I don't agree. I don't usually play a lot of crunchy games, but it was nice to play a crunchy game which had thought about how to display and manage its information such that you can use it properly.

So, I am obviously somehow not done yet. But if you can take anything from this review it is this:

1)If a game wants you to remember a whole bunch of rules, I suggest you ask it what it is doing to help you use that information. It should be making your life easier.
2) If a game is going to be crunchy, is it making sure all those rules are making the play a more entertaining experience? If not, why not. I appreciate how this game has worked to give me a choice all the time, and that is not a choice that is wrong and one which is right, but genuine options.

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