11 Dec 2015

The Unleashed Reviews – Table Top

With the holiday's around the corner there is a seasonal shopping binge and folks who are not nerds have a hard time looking for new toys. So here is a set of reviews I've had on the burner for a while.

Before I get into this pair of reviews I need to address a new scoring system that I’m using. Charging Pun suggested to me a while back that instead of using STARS or a numerical score to use a statement score. I used it way back when I reviewed some of the major miniature wargames currently in style. Sadly since that post Anima Tactics is no longer a supported game.

In all of my upcoming reviews I will be looking at the following:

Form – how well the book is bound, durability of the book, choice and quality of hardcover or soft cover, page stock, quality of accessories

Art – Coloured or black and white, well drawn, inspirational, shows the setting, coordinated well with the rules

Ruleset – Game play design, easy of play, depth of play, mechanics, conflict resolution (combat, social, etc), character generation, character development

Fluff – Background information, is there enough info to role-play in the game, inspirational, setting history, current events, various racial or social POVs.

LOAD – Layout, Organization, Aesthetics and Design; how well the book is organized, easy in finding information, display of information, use of sidebars, index and tables.

Synergy  – How well does this book work with other products of the same setting or with other products in the same game

Standalone – Is this product enough by itself or does it need other products to work

FUN – How much FUN a player has.

A while back Privateer Press released a starter box for their new game Iron Kingdoms: Unleashed. A few months back I got the full core rule book Iron Kingdoms: Unleashed and Unleashed: Skorne. I want to review all three products and go over how this new core rule set matches with Iron Kingdoms: Full Metal Fantasy.

Iron Kingdoms: Unleashed is to Iron Kingdoms: Full Metal Fantasy as Hordes is to Warmachine. It focuses on the wilderness aspect of the setting with large Warbeasts, tribal races, and theme of survival and exploration over armed conflicts and material gains. It uses the same game mechanics which are a more granulized set of rules taken from the table top game.

Players will taken on the roles of savage races with careers focused on survival, foraging, and tapping into the inate savagery of the setting. It really sets itself apart from Iron Kingdoms: Full Metal Fantasy by looking the 'monster' but making them so approachable that players can devle into a truly different mindset leading to a greater gameplay experience. The idea is fresh and avoids the whole evil party and having players fight each other - they may still do so, but at least it's for a reason and not because they are 'team evil'.

Lets take a look at what we have.

Unleashed: Starter Box

Form
Art
Ruleset
Fluff
LOAD
Synergy
Standalone
FUN
BRONZE
GOLD
SILVER
GOLD
GOLD
GOLD
SILVER
GOLD

The Minus
The ruleset needs miniatures and so the box comes with 2D boards that have rivers, hills, buildings, and other terrain. It also comes with unpainted miniatures. Sadly the miniatures are subpar. They are detailed enough and have the facing on the bases but they are made of a soft plastic and they are made with their bases attached. I wish Privateer Press would have gone with proper hard plastic miniatures with a simple, more forgiving base slotting system. Instead painting and rebasing these minis is a pain. The ruleset provided is very good for being a simple intro adventure but I would have made the rulebook a full on resource for players to use once they bought the main book. It would have been great to have a book designed to be a second easy to search, full copy of the mechanics. Having two rule books is always better, even more so when you look at the size of the core book. This boxset is a great game to play and walk away from but it’s even better when you take it to the next level into the full game.

The Plus
The character folios are awesome, with great background fluff and plenty of room to navigate each character’s abilities without having to share a main book. The art is on par with the high standard that Privateer Press puts out. The LOAD is well done and in some cases better than the full core rulebook. I still dislike the way spells are displayed but otherwise it’s a fantastic layout, and my gripe is so minor and only applies for such a small portion it didn’t affect the score. After getting half way through the adventure I and the three other folks I was playing with had adopted each character as our own and we were having a blast.

Iron Kingdoms: Unleashed
Form
Art
Ruleset
Fluff
LOAD
Synergy
Standalone
FUN
GOLD
GOLD
SILVER
GOLD
SILVER
GOLD
SILVER
GOLD

The Minus
Ruleset needs miniatures for the full effect, which also means terrain, templates and measuring devices. You can play without miniatures but it’s not the same experience and you’re falling away from the strengths of the system. The LOAD is great until you get pages of spell lists, they are simple and curt. Also I’m not fully set on splitting the Warbeast info and having the Training Warbeast templates apart from each other, players will need to go back and forth in the book when they play Warlocks. Most RPG’s you can just pick up the book and get into the game, without the miniatures Unleashed loses too much luster.

The Plus
A beautiful, heavy book that seems as tough as its predecessors that uses art taken from a decade of the Hordes table top game with a good mix of new art. I also appreciate the use of converted miniatures in some of the pictures instead of stock Hordes miniatures. The fluff takes up a lot of space in the book but none of it feels like it’s a waste of space and time to go through. With all the strange non-human races and savage mentality of many of playable cultures the fluff is needed to really get players into the right headspace. Being able to tap into the material and miniatures from the Hordes game is brilliant and the rules are the same as Iron Kingdoms: Full Metal Fantasy. The game is as much fun as Iron Kingdoms: Full Metal Fantasy which is a brilliant RPG that has good streamlined mechanics and the best use of miniatures in a RPG ruleset. Epic fights have never been so easy to pull off and it really helps keep everyone honest in game with none of the players getting frustrated from confusion.

Unleashed: Skorne

Form
Art
Ruleset
Fluff
LOAD
Synergy
Standalone
FUN
BRONZE
GOLD
SILVER
GOLD
GOLD
GOLD
 
GOLD

The Minus
First of all this product is small (short in page count) and bound in soft cover. I took the book with me when I had my face surgery and the edges did not fair well in the Montford ICU while I rested in a bed. I would have liked a copy akin to the hard cover versions of the current Hordes Forces books. Secondly this book is limited in use, as so far that the Skorne are one of the two antagonistic forces in the Iron Kingdoms setting. It's a great book and resource on one of the more interesting fantasy races of the genre for quite some time. The Skorne are my favorite Hordes faction and the content inside is a wealth of information... but Game Masters will use this more than players because the default use for a book about a race or faction like the Skorne is to generate interesting bag guys. It will be hard for Game Masters to wrap their head around the concept of Iron Kingdoms: Unleashed and allow players to go forward as Skorne. The battle is uphill already taking away the Skorne as a 'bad guy' race will be hard for some Game Masters. If this could be avoided this book will serve very well.

The Plus
The pure amount of info and game rules. Right after my first reading of the book I was itching for more info. It inspired me and re-enforced my attraction to this strange alien fatansy race. I was building characters in my head as I poured through the pages. I really feel that this book is a great standard to live up to when Privateer Press decides to follow up with another race book like the Iosan (Elves), Rhulic (Dwarves), and Ogrin (Ogers).

Final Score

All of the products are fucking great, I'm giving the Unleashed Starter Box a SILVER, you don't need it and if you do want it it's a good pick but not perfect. New gamer groups will find this a far more usefull product and it's a great way to introduce non-human role-playing out your players.

Iron Kingdoms: Unleashed is a fantastic product and continues the level of quality and quantaty of content that we've seen in previous books; Iron Kingdoms: Full Metal Fantasy Core Rules and Iron Kingdoms: Full Metal Fantasy - Kingdoms, Nations, and Gods. I mentioned in a previous post that after awesome book that is Iron Kingdoms: Full Metal Fantasy - Kingdoms, Nations, and Gods, Privateer Press earned enough good will for me to trust their choices with the Iron Kingdoms RPGs. Iron Kingdoms: Unleashed is huge and lumbering but it is worth every fucking dollar.

Iron Kingdoms: Unleashed as a whole game system is GOLD, a top shelve role-playing game that everyone should give a try.

- Cheers

Dozer