Twenty Third and Twenty Fourth Issue: Different Worlds June 2014

The twenty-third and twenty-fourth double issue of RPG Review has been released. Either download the PDF or read online.

Twenty Second Issue: The Great Survivors December 2013

The twenty-second issue of RPG Review has been released. Either download the PDF or read online.

Twenty First Issue: Computers and Roleplaying September 2013

The twenty-first issue of RPG Review has been released. Either download the PDF or read online.

Twentieth Issue: Monsters and Aliens

The twentieth issue of RPG Review has been released with the following content:

Administrivia, Editorial, Letters many contributors p2-4
Hot Gossip: Industry News by Wu Mingshi p5
Bunnies & Burroughs by Lev Lafayette p6-11
Alien and Monster Reviews by Lev Lafayette p12-26
Aliens in Eclipse Phase by Martin Tegelj p27-30

Nineteenth Issue: The Apocalypse

The nineteenth issue of RPG Review has been released with the following content:

Administrivia, Editorial, Letters many contributors p2-3
Hot Gossip: Industry News by Wu Mingshi p4
End of the World (As We Know It) by REM p5
Review of Apocalypse Games by Lev Lafayette p6-23
Twilight 2000 Revisited by Lev Lafayette p24-33

World War III for Twilight 2K: How It Could Have Occurred

The background assumption is that the 1991 coup [1] in the Soviet Union was a lot more aggressive and successful than the historical version (which lasted two days and led to the breakup of the Soviet Union). In this alternate history a much wider section of the KGB and the Soviet Army backed the coup, and the State Committee on the State of Emergency was able to reunite the Soviet Union with force of arms following a demands by Helmet Kohl (and an increasing military presence) to renegotiate the Polish border from the Oder-Neisse line [2]. Moving rapidly, insurrections also occurred among hardline communists in the former Warsaw pact (such as Intermovement [3] in the Baltics), calling for Soviet intervention. Ignoring international protests, in 1992 the Soviets retook their former territories in the Eastern bloc, despite majority civilian opposition.

Review of Apocalypse Games

As a setting genre of roleplaying games, the apocalyptic has done moderately well. Indeed, the sheer number of games that have been realeased which can be considered "apocalyptic" is extremely large, although many of these are either small, independent publications that have not gained significant market traction or, as will be revealed, have a tenuous association with the genre. In terms of real history, the term used to mean a revelation. It is certainly the case that the scenarios described in biblical book of Revelations that has led to a contemporary association of the Apocalypse as meaning "End Time". It is this association that people understand the term, and therefore that is what will be used in these descriptions.

Eighteenth Issue Released: Cthulu Mythos

The eighteenth issue of RPG Review has been released with the following content:

Administrivia, Editorial, Letters many contributors p2-3
Valedictions, Lynn Willis The Chaosium p4
Hot Gossip: Industry News by Wu Mingshi p5
Three Cthulhu System Reviews by Lev Lafayette p6-17
Variant Cthulhu Settings by Lev Lafayette p18-30

Twilight 2000 (2nd edition) Review

Twilight 2K cover

"Few may recall today, but in the early 1980s, the world was fatalistic and paranoid about the prospects of nuclear war.

Introduction and Product

It was in this milieu that GDW released the first edition of Twilight 2000 in 1984. The PCs took the role of U.S. soldiers left in Poland after a brief limited nuclear war between NATO and the Warsaw Pact. The first edition came in two notably slim books with an equally slim game system which, whilst with its problems, was usable, and perhaps most memorable for the "Coolness Under Fire", which represented how many phases in a combat turn a character would effectively hesitate whilst bullets were flying around. The game was quite a success with a run of scenarios, although the real world engaged in its typical habit of interrupting the assumed history. By the time the second edition was released in 1990, the eastern bloc and the Soviet Union was on the way out. Nevertheless, the second edition looked representative of the game's popularity.

The new book was more than ten times the size of the first edition, suggesting that significant effort had been spent in elaboration and development. Consisting of some eleven sections, the game is presented with realist shaded ink-pencil drawings and a three column justified sans-serif font throughout. It looks attractive, but is actually quite difficult to get past the wall-of-text in actual play. Page numbers are clearly marked, but not sections. There is a good two-page table of contents and an index of equivalent length. The cover art by Dell Harris is but fair in technique and creativity, suggesting a certain wildness of behaviour by the mixed-force band of PCs represented, although the ugly yellow background is distracting. I will readily admit having preference to the cover art by Steve Vetners in the first edition. Notable is the "vehicle cards" and "weapon cards", the former consisting of on average half A4 sections and the latter quarter A4. Each provides an image and summary of the relevant item. Taking up some 65 of the new pages, they are nominally designed to be photocopied and distributed to players when they have such equipment, but this use in play is marginal at best. The book itself is softback and excellently bound with a strong glue.

The game begins with an official "countdown to armageddon", which shows a fair knowledge of the international geographical and politics. The cause of the official war is tensions between the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China, and is followed up a year later by conflicts between a re-united Germany and Poland eventually leading to a NATO and Warsaw Pact conflict (yes, once again Germany re-negotiates the Polish border). You may be very surprised to discover in the game history it is the Soviets that launch the nukes first, initially tactically against the NATO forces, but with far less restraint against China. There is much I find questionable about the official history, especially the notion of a "limited nuclear war" (more on that later) but the game is only weakly tied to the official history and it does provide sufficient detail for those who want an "out-of-the-box" back story.

GURPS Third Edition (Revised)

Of all the RPG systems I have had the pleasure to play, GURPS third edition must certainly rank as one in the top five which I have played the most over the decades. It still provides a default when a variety of setting choices even to this day. So whilst I could review GURPS first, second, or fourth editions (all of which I have also played), it is GURPS 3rd edition, and specifically third edition (revised) which is being reviewed here. One could accuse me of cherry-picking a particular edition that I have a preference towards, and to a certain extent I accept that charge.

With that caveat stated, GURPS is a game with high aims. It seeks to be, as the name suggests a generic (i.e., modular) set of rules, that is universal according genre, that emphasises roleplaying integrated into the game system itself, and provides a consistent system throughout. With claimed influences from Champions (certainly true), Empire of the Petal Throne (er, no), and Tunnels & Trolls for its appeal to solitaire gamers (some justification), GURPS is most heavily influenced by Steve Jackson's earlier game, The Fantasy Trip. Those familiar with both GURPS and The Fantasy Trip will very much see the lineage in core design elements.

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