Monthly Archives: April 2013

Iron Kingdoms RPG: Marginally Different

ImageThis has been out a while, but I don’t get a sampler platter of RPGs like I did back in the ’80s when my friends would get games and run them for us all.

But maybe those days are back? Because a friend of mine has gone to the trouble of pirating the Iron Kingdoms rule book to run a game. As we all know, I am basically anti-pirate for common-man reasons. But I have a troubled relationship with enjoying the fruits of others’ piracy, in that apparently I will do it.

New fantasy RPGs are seldom as awesome as I want them to be, because we have D&D. Therefore, each new fantasy RPG must answer the awful questions of every dichotomy: How is this different from the precursor?

And the answer in fantasy RPGs: Not very. A student of the form can point to the differences, but to non-students, the differences range from negligible to non-existent.

(Bizarrely, 4th edition D&D was its own distinguished counterpoint in this regard, being markedly different than previous versions of itself, though not demonstrably better.)

Iron Kingdoms is sort of interesting in that it has advanced knock-off provenance. Born of the 3rd edition piggyback rush that also richly benefited Green Ronin and Goodman Games, it is literally a D&D clone, down to the DNA.

But its clothes were different enough to garner a following. Using their Witchfire trilogy gains, Privateer Press launched Warmachine, a miniatures skirmish game that faced the same dichotomy issue with the superbly established Warhammer from Games Workshop. How is it different? Not very.

Meanwhile, Warhammer has its own RPG history, and Privateer’s contender is a reasonable mishmash of D&D and WFRP and related games and terms and ideas and ephemera. It acquits itself about as well as one of these games can vs the dichotomy question. It’s only slightly different. Elves and dwarves and swords and spells? Got it.

That’s not even a knock on the game. If it doesn’t have elves and dwarves and swords and spells it might not be a fantasy game. If you can’t compare it to D&D, then it might not be an RPG. It’s just that your new thing never gets to be fresh.

But I’m polyamorous when it comes to games, and I am a student of the form. I got me a gun-wizard dwarf and we’re playing around with it. I expect to have fun, even if it’s not very different fun.


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Wizard’s Brew Drive-by Thoughts

wizardsbrewPlayed an advance copy of a soon-to-be-published game last night with Jason.

Wizard’s Brew is a game by Alan Moon (of Ticket to Ride fame) and Aaron Weissblum (of doing-things-with-Alan Moon fame*).

It’s an auction game, which I am normally disinclined to like because they require more calculation that I enjoy. Wizard’s Brew, however, mitigates that by throwing in a lot of luck and being short.

The Kickstarter campaign for this game ended last month. And there you learn that this is a reprint of a modestly successful game printed in Germany over a decade ago.

For a small, selective business like Gryphon Games, it’s the ideal Kickstarter, and the sort of thing small game companies all over are looking for–not necessarily a home run, but a base hit. Wizard’s Brew was likely to fund, it’s a decent game, and has about zero unpredictability for an experienced game company. Nice.

This reminds me of another short post I want to write about “decent” games. I’ll try to get to that soon.

* Weissblum is also a co-founder of, and a puzzle maker of some repute, I hasten to add.

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Meltdown: The Melting Game

Meltdown is an eco-themed co-op game where you move polar bears around a track made of ice. The board melts in real time.


There’s meant to be lessons and opportunities for conversation, and I support that sort of thing.

But a board made of ice! That’s fertile ground for more games. I want to try making a game with melting elements as an exercise.

See more at the site: Meltdown.



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