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Ring Side Report- RPG Review of Starfinder Adventure Path #1: Incident at Absalo

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Originally posted at Throat Punch Games, a new idea everyday!

Product- Starfinder Adventure Path #1: Incident at Absalom Station (Dead Suns 1 of 6)
System- Starfinder
Producer-Paizo
Price- $23.00
TL; DR-Not the brightest star, but a decent start. 83%

Basics- ARE YOU READY FOR ADVENTURE!? Incident at Absalom Station kicks off the first Starfinder adventure path. Players step off the ship and into gangland warfare as their contact is gun downed within seconds of seeing him. Why? What dark secrets are at play? Who is involved? Also, this book contains a gazatier on Absolom station, several new monsters, and a whole new world for your players to play in.

Mechanics or Crunch-Ah the intro adventure! What can a level 1 nothing do on their first day? Not much, but LOTS OF SKILL CHECKS! Paizo has a history in their adventure paths of having players do lots of checks to get past those first few levels. This adventure is no different. It’s not bad, but once you get past the first fight, its checks. And, if your party doesn’t have the right checks, then its a slog. Past that its balanced and fun. After the checks, there are some simple space fights to get those mechanics out there, an exploration with some progressive fights to get those mechanics out there, and then we’re off to the next adventure book. Overall it’s balanced, but the standard paint by numbers of a new RPG needs to really get players into the system and teach them the rules can be a bit boring. 4.25/5

Theme or Fluff-Repeat after me-PLAYERS HATE FIGHTS WHERE THE ENEMIES SHOULD RUN AWAY. I’m not talking big bads, I’m talking regular grunts above the player’s level. Players want to KILL! This adventure starts with gang war above the players pay grade, and the players want everyone dead. It’s not supposed to happen, but my players are always EVIL, SPITE-FILLED MONSTERS who must kill EVERYONE! If that describes your players, then as written, they will be mad. For check section I mentioned above, the players need to talk to people, and if your party decides Charisma is for suckers, then that is a SUPER slog as my Cha 10 fighter attempts to talk to people as the -1 to -2 modifier other players hope for 20s to even get the middle of the ground information. Past that first fitful start, it’s a fun adventure as players can find the roles they need and better understand what they should do next. This adventure runs like a train-slow, clunky start but then smooth sailing the rest of the way. 4/5

Execution-PDF? Check! Hyperlinked? NOPE! Why not hyperlink this book? It’s 60+ pages! Next, Starfinder isn’t going to get the 64 page world building books that went with the Pathfinder line. That’s ok, but now my players don’t get as much world building as before as unless I print of sections and hand those out, they players either can read the book or spoil the adventure. The items are nice, the monsters are interesting and have great pictures, and the layout is well done. But, no new races! Part of the fun of Starfinder is if you want to be an intelligent mist, then we got stats for that baby! But, I’m not seeing that here. Throw me a new playable race each mod! There are a few other issues as some things just don’t fit well. The water world of Heicoron IV is ok, but there are no mentions of how I can play either of the races that live there. It feels thrown in. It’s not bad, but reference your other books or give me stats, so I can have a whole adventures with the fish people. This is a good but, but it has some flaws that do knock it down a bit 4.25/5

Summary-I’m ready for more, but I have some notes. Overall, I like what’s here. It’s done well, readable, and a good introduction to the mechanics of the system. The story itself has a few issues, but those issues are part of every adventure path’s start. I have more notes on the new execution of the Starfinder line. I want separate books and changes to how they are produced. New races, new tech in the books, and some focus will help improve this line. Will I get that? Most likely not. But, as a GM running a game, I think this is a good way to get your players rolling dice and understanding how to play Starfinder 83%


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Ring Side Report- RPG Review of Starfinder

*****

Originally posted at www.throatpunchgames.com, a new idea everyday!

Product- Starfinder Core Rulebook

System-Starfinder

Producer-Paizo

Price- $60.00

TL; DR-DND 3.5 IN SPACE!  94%

Basics-SPACE WIZARDS!  Starfinder joins the Pathfinder universe in the future after a massive, mysterious catastrophe.  Mankind’s homeworld has disappeared, and other races have joined us as we explore the cosmos looking for new peoples, places and our lost world.  Let’s break this down.

Base System- This honestly is Pathfinder 1.5.  It’s a little bit DnD 5e, a little bit DnD 3.5, and oddly enough DnD 4!  The basics don’t change.  Everything is roll a d20, add your ability modifier, then add your ranks in a skill or base attack bonus.  If you want to hop into a Starfinder game but don’t have any experience, you can easily get into this game with about three minutes of reading the rules.

Combat- If you know Pathfinder combat, you know Starfinder combat.  Characters still roll initiative to find who goes first, then when they attack they still have a base attack bonus and add damage based on stats like before.  But there are two major differences, and those deal with hit points and armor.  For hit points, a character now has three pools to draw from:  hit points, stamina points, and resolve points.  Hit points are the same pool of life we all know and love.  They are healed by magic and time.  Stamina points are new, and they represent you getting banged up but not broken.  When you rest, you can spend a resolve points to completely heal up your stamina points.  Resolve points are also spent when a character is knocked out and they want to wake up or stabilize.  However, you can’t regain stamina points through the standard mystic cure (the not cure wounds or cure minor wounds of this edition).  Armor class is also slightly modified.  Now you have two armor classes: elemental armor class (eac) and kinetic armor class (kac).  If the damage has slashing, piercing, or bludgeoning damage types, alongside anything else, the attack goes against kac, otherwise it's against eac.  Done!  It’s just that simple.  This also causes a reduction in rules, as now all combat maneuvers go against kac instead of having to figure out combat maneuver defence, and honestly, it’s a good trade off!

Technology-This is hands down my favorite part of what changed between Pathfinder and Starfinder-ITEMS HAVE LEVELS!  This doesn’t seem like a big deal, but now technology and magic can compete on an equal footing.  In most magic heavy games as soon as the wizard learns fireball, any alchemical/technological items are instantly useless.  Technology in those games seems like a crutch to get to level five and FIREBALL!  Here, you have your fireball, but I have my level 7 grenade.  Its damage values increase and so does the DC to dodge the attack.  Instead of having to guess about what the DC of an item identify check would be, now you can just do extremely simple math on an item's level and have a DC in seconds.  Everything has a level which corresponds to a price, which corresponds to DC and a whole host of other things that make the system work.  Outstanding.

Magic-And here is the low point of the system.  Magic now caps out at level 6.  The save against magic is spell level + ability modifier + 10, so it maxes out at 16+ ability.  The save against character powers is half character level + ability modifier + 10, so it maxes out at 20+ ability.  I’m going to be honest and say this feels wrong somehow.  The system works, but it's different in a way that you might not like on first trying it, akin to a fine wine.  It’s good, but might not necessarily be the tasty thing you hoped for on the first pass.

Spaceship and Vehicle Combat-This is the new, big thing of this system as running around in a vehicle is essential to Sci-fi.  Vehicle combat isn’t hard, but it mostly works by using zones where characters move between using their speed values.  Overall, its an easy system to use.  Spaceships are much more involved, but no less easy to use.  BUT, THIS ASPECT OF THE GAME ADDS FACING TO AN RPG!  That is a sentence the fills me with dread as now I have to spend HOURS fighting over how defenses work on different sides.  However, this system fixes most of that and simplifies it well.  Ships do have facing arcs for weapons and for shields, but it's pretty simple.  Combat rounds are broken down into three steps:  engineering (science scans/moves shields, engineering fixes stuff/supercharges stations), helm (pilots make checks and loser goes first), gunnery (ships shoot at one another).  Honestly, it’s pretty easy to do, and since there are lots of different things to do, EVERYBODY gets to roll dice during a turn from the captain who can yell or ask nicely for another crewmember to do better/get a bonus to gunners lighting up the other ship.

Review Time!

Mechanics or Crunch-Starfinder is a damn good system, but it’s going to suffer a bit because it gets compared to Pathfinder.  If Starfinder came first, then it would not be an issue.  There are things here like the magic DC compared to item and class DCs that are just a half bubble off.  It works, but it's not as clean as Pathfinder.  Magic seems much less powerful as well.  That might be a style choice, but it's a style I don’t enjoy as much right now.  Maybe after playing this game much more, I’ll see the light, but now, I’m having fun but also confused on some choices.  Also, this book needs a solid chapter describing the differences between Pathfinder and Starfinder to get experienced players up and running in minutes.  Small things like shooting into melee doesn't have penalties, but attack of opportunity to shooting in melee still occur are important and need to be explicitly told to the players.   Overall, this is a solid RPG and system, but I want just a bit more in their already massive tome.   4.25/5

Theme or Fluff-PATHFINDER IN SPACE,.... but it’s not!  It would be really easy for this book to phone in dwarves on a mountain planet schtick and call it a day, but this one has races where your puberty now encompases choosing to grow up super smart or super strong, insects who are addicted to individuality as a community, and even a fleet of undead that are disavowed from the other undead because they are too evil.  The book does have your old races, but they take a back seat to new ones who now are exploring the galaxy alongside mankind.  It’s got a mix of old magic from Pathfinder, the technology feel of Star Trek, and its own universe to draw you in. 5/5

Execution-Look, this book was put out by Paizo.  You can say that some of their books might not have been the best, but it's hard to argue that they don’t put out a quality constructed book.  Lots of awesome art, diagrams to walk you through, nice text spacing so I don’t hate it when I read it.  My only problem is I’d like a bit more in the index, but those are only minor concerns on an otherwise great book.  4.9/5

Summary-Starfinder is an awesome book that has a few minor problems.  In terms of execution, it's top notch and a phenomenal resource for how to make other books.  The book tells an amazing story that will draw you into the world and give you ideas on what stories to tell and what characters to put in it.  My one place where I am slightly put off is the mechanics.  This isn’t to say the mechanics are wrong, but they don’t feel completely right.  That’s a minor difference, but it's an important one.  I will happily sit down and play a Starfinder game, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the next major source book they announce is something called Ancient Magic that brings back the nine levels of magic from Pathfinder.  That said, this book is an amazing addition to the Paizo family of products and one I’m glad to get at GenCon.  I can’t wait to have more adventures across the galaxy, stomping space goblin ships and battling reptile wizard people on the moon!  94%


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Ring Side Report- RPG Review of Pathfinder Society Scenario #7–14—Faithless and

*****

Originally posted at Throat Punch Games, a new idea everyday!

Product-Pathfinder Society Scenario #7–14—Faithless and Forgotten, Part 1: Let Bygones Be
System-Pathfinder
Producer- Paizo
Price- $4.00
TL; DR-Instantly one of my favorites! 97%

Basics-Cheliax is back! This Pathfinder scenario is the start of renewed relations with Cheliax as the Pathfinders move from the shadows and are asked to investigate a few choice locations in the country. However, along the way you find that not is all it seems as you have to deal with an oppressive dictator, unfriendly towns people, and horrors from days gone by that have subsisted on the most foul of meats. Will you survive the horrors of town and the horror long forgotten?

Mechanics or Crunch-This adventure hits all their right marks for a PFS adventure-exploration, social challenges, problem solving(non-fighting),and problem solving(fighting!). Every character gets a chance to be awesome in this one as you can simple fight everything everywhere as a way to win, but if you think your way through the problems, you can find some awesome solutions that are rewarded. The fights that are here are all balanced and felt fun with enough threats to keep the players interested but not enough challenge to destroy the level 1 party. The social still has the Pathfinder problem of “fail by 1, no help” that all Pathfinder adventures will always have, but overall it’s a blast to play that is well balanced for any party. 5/5

Theme or Fluff-This adventure has the feel of a Cheliax adventure, but does have a slight problem with the end. Overall the part of the scenario that takes place in town feels like a town adventure where you must help the townspeople survive in their dictatorship. The rural exploration is fun, as you get to interact with some often unused monsters. The end boss is a bit strange. It makes sense for the DM who gets to read the behind the scenes bit of the adventure, but most adventurers might not see that and will be a bit confused. Overall it’s fun as the left hand turn parts don’t distract from the great story. 4.75/5

Execution- I like how Paizo prepares their modules, but I’ve also become a little estranged from theme as well. I like that they now place stat blocks at the back of the adventure, so I don't have to have almost 10 books open to run the game. However, I’d like a little more consistency with that. The main NPCs get stat blocks in the text, while the rest of the monsters are at the end of the adventure. That’s a pain to flip through, so I would prefer to just have all the encounters together in a clump at the end or put them together throughout. That’s my only real complaint about these adventures though. I love how Paizo puts together their stories, so this one is no different. 4.75/5

Summary-Everybody loves to hate on Cheliax, but it’s always fun to play there. Throwing the halfling bard to the Order of the Rack wolves is always a great way to start some roleplaying as well as draw the player's interest deeper into the game. I love what I’m seeing here, and I think I most players will as well. This isn’t a perfect adventure as the ending is a bit strange, and I’d like some minor format changes. But taken together, this is one of my favorite adventures from this year. 97%


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Ring Side Report- RPG Review of Pathfinder Society Scenario #7–12: The Twisted C

***( )( )

Originally posted at Throat Punch Games, a new idea everyday!

Product-Pathfinder Society Scenario #7–12: The Twisted Circle
System-Pathfinder
Producer- Paizo
Price- $4
TL; DR-Too many ingredients spoil this soup. 70%

Basics-A Pathfinder has vanished, and you must solve the mystery of the xenophobic town! This adventure delves into the Mana Wastes as you try to uncover why a small town is prospering while all around them die, and they must hide their children. Will you find the lost Pathfinder before it’s too late?

Mechanics or Crunch-This adventure is somewhat short and doesn’t add a new mechanic like some other PFS scenarios. However, the fights that do happen here can be a real pain. This is designed for levels 1 to 5, but the first fight is a swarm. That right there can wipe a party of level 1’s, and that fight is for the low tier. Aside from that, the adventure isn’t bad, but it’s a pain to have to pull punches if the players are new to the game or if they are new Pathfinders in general. Also, this mod does some good things like providing the characters with scrolls they may need, but without a caster or the sense to use the tools they get, players will miss 70% of what going on as plants and talking to them play a big role in this one. 3.5/5

Theme or Fluff-The story of this adventure is a bit scatter shot. Nothing here is horrible, but some parts involve a random evil bad guy, another involve some plant monsters, and finally, the town has it’s own strange role to play. It feels like this adventure goes into too many directions instead of focusing on one group of monsters or theme. As a GM, I was a bit lost. There is a lot of fun stuff here, but as a GM you have to keep a ton of balls in the air to have a payoff. And, if you team isn’t on their game they might miss too much to really get the main beats. Too many ingredients spoil this soup. 3/5

Execution- Overall, this has all the standard Pathfinder Society polish. Everything get’s laid out well enough to keep you running quickly and efficiently. I think there are a few too many pages of just text to bore the reader and prevent quick skimming, but overall this is a decently laid out adventure, Paizo’s bread and butter. 4.5/5

Summary-This isn’t bad, but this won’t be on the top of any of my lists. It’s a simple enough adventure that has possibly bad enemy choices as well as a bit too convoluted plot. It’s easy enough to run, but not something that you may want to run. If you LOVE the Mana Wastes and Pathfinder Society, you will enjoy this. If you just want a 4 four hour adventure for your local PFS group, this might not be the best adventure for you to pick out. 70%


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Ring Side Report- RPG Review of Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide

****( )

Originally posted at Throat Punch Games, a new idea everyday!

Product-Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide
System- DnD 5e
Producer- Wizards of the Coast
Price- $36
TL; DR-A doughnut-great fluff, but no crunch! 87%

Basics-Welcome to the Forgotten Realms! The Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide is the first player and dungeonmaster book for DnD5e. It focuses on the world of the Forgotten Realms and more specifically the Sword Coast. The book builds the current Realms and provides the standing of the world, as well as giving players some new backgrounds, class archetypes, and race options.

Mechanics or Crunch-The best description of the mechanics in this book is “What mechanics?” Most of the crunch in this book is confined to one chapter. It’s a decent chapter, but it only supports a few classes with some classes not receiving any new toys. They do get some Forgotten Realms specific story, but no new crunch/mechanics to drive it home. This book also only has one feat in it, and that is an optional feat. There were high expectations for this book, and I feel it didn't meet them. What’s here is good, but there is just not enough here to really make this worth it for every crunch heavy gamer. 3.75/5

Theme or Fluff-I love the Forgotten Realms, and this is a decent introduction to a part of it. As the title suggests, this book focuses on the Sword Coast. What the book focuses on is great! Each area gets a great description really building out the world in interesting ways and telling how the Realms have changed since 4th edition. However, it mentions the rest of the world. That’s good, but they don’t provide a map the the rest of the world. That’s my main problem with what is here. There are parts mentioned in a sentence that are not shown. The previous editions’ Realms books showed me the world,gave it a one line description, and then left it at that. This book doesn’t even give me the geography past the coast. This wouldn’t be a problem except the novels, adventures, and the Adventurer’s League all take place in the parts of world not covered in depth by this book. 4.75/5

Execution-This book covers a ton of ground, and it does it reasonably well. Everything has pictures, which is awesome, so the book sufficiently breaks up the text. There are a few walls of text though. The art is good, the font is nice, and the maps are amazing. I’d like this book to be a bit thicker to give space for more breaks and more information, as well as to justify the price a bit. However, I liked the way this book was laid out and built overall. 4.5/5

Summary-I wasn’t thrilled with this book. The theme is great. New players in the Realms will get a ton out of this book. Even people from 4th edition will have a lot to learn about the new realms. The overall execution of the book is great, if a tad pricey. However, the biggest problem is the lack of mechanics. This is the first real expansion to the system, and it doesn’t do or provide much expansion to the system. This book isn’t bad, but stacked up against the core books, I wasn’t impressed with this book. 87%


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Ring Side Report- RPG Review of Pathfinder Society Scenario #6–22: Out of Anarch

***( )( )

Originally posted at Throat Punch Games, a new idea everyday!

Product-Pathfinder Society Scenario #6–22: Out of Anarchy
System- Pathfinder
Producer- Paizo
Price- $ 4
TL; DR- Too many ingredients spoil the soup! 78%

Basics-The society never leaves a man behind-they just might take five years to help him...and it might be someone's pet project as well…. In this adventure, the Pathfinder Society sends in new recruits to find a long forgotten Pathfinder in a blockagged town in Cheliax. There, the young Pathfinder have to navigate several different rival groups, find their target, and get him out...all while not starting the third burning of the city! This adventure is designed for level first to fifth level characters.

Mechanics or Crunch-What’s here is good, but there is just too much here! This adventure has some serious roleplaying opportunities (which is great) and some serious combats (there are over four!). That is too much for a four-hour time slot! Each part isn’t bad as the roleplaying characters get some time to shine and the combat monkeys can take center stage at different points, but in a four hour adventure slot at a con, this adventure simply is too long. GMs will have to drop part to keep this one going fast enough to cover all the ground. 3.5/5

Theme or Fluff-So, not only is there a lot of mechanics, there is also a lot of story to cover as well. It’s not bad, but it’s too much! First is a missing Pathfinder. Then,there are four factions to contend with. Next is trying to get out and get help. And lastly is dealing with other enemy groups in the city. That is too much talking! I love good roleplaying in a Pathfinder Society adventure, but with so much going on here, it’s hard to make all the pieces shine. If you don’t ham up each group, then players don’t notice them. If you do, then it takes too much precious time that you won’t have for the fights and talking to the different groups later. It’s too difficult a balance to walk-especially for a 1-5 level, four-hour scenario. 4/5

Execution-Overall, this adventure has the Paizo polish. Lot’s of pictures to help describe things, lot’s of included information to make running this easy, and a decent amount of breaks to make the text flow better. However, the organization isn’t perfect. This adventure is about 40 pages! Some pages are copies of Bestiary books to help run the adventure, but I would like a few more breaks and a table or two detailing how different groups interact with the players at different locations. Those little things would help speed up the pace of this adventure and possibly get it out close to the four-hour runtime. 4.25/5

Summary-If I had eight hours with a single table, this would be a great adventure to put them through. They could really dig deep into the roleplaying, and the combat-crunch players would have an absolute blast as well by being able to paint the town red with their enemies. But, this is written with the goal of four hours. For that time limit, there is just too much here! It’s written well enough, but will all the twists, turns, and fights, you CAN’T get this adventure done and be on time. And any adventure I can’t run in a time slot at a con, written for a con, isn’t one I run a second time. 78%


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Ring Side Report-Board Game Review of New Dawn

*****

Originally posted at Throat Punch Games, a new idea everyday!

Product-New Dawn
Producer-Stronghold Games
Price- $60
Set-up/Play/Clean-up- 90-120 minutes (2-4 players)
Type-American
Depth-Medium
TL; DR-Eclipse by way of Among the Stars. 90%

Basics-We’ve gone Among the Stars, Expanded the Alliance, sent Ambassadors, and now have a New Dawn for the galaxy. In New Dawn, players take the roles of the same alien races from Among the Stars, but now have moved from the joint space station to exploring the galaxy for resources.
In terms of overall play, New Dawn plays a bit like Eclipse. This game has three resources that players must spend to dominate the galaxy: economic, science, and military. Each race/player starts with a player board with 15 bases in their color. Each base covers up a resource of that type with the fifth base covering up a resource and a victory point. Players choose one base to uncover and place on the central alliance start point. Then, each turn goes as follows: 1) draw up to four tiles to explore 2) place one tile and get its placement bonus 3)buy a research card 4)Move one of your military headquarters to any space 5) take three actions in turn 6) Send aid to the alliance. The tiles are the different sections of space to explore and are split between science, military, economic, and hostile (a mix of all three that is high risk/high reward). Each tile has a placement bonus which ranges from getting resources, placing more tiles, or attacking a tile for free. Research is interesting as each race has its own deck of cards that allows each player to customize how each race plays in each game and allows limited responses to other race's/player’s actions. Military headquarters are the main movement pieces of the game. You start with one and use it to buy or conquer other tiles. You never lose them, but you can buy more to give you extra power and points. This all said, the main game itself is the actions. Actions are as follows: gain one resources of any type, buy a tile, seize a tile, use an ambassador, or buy a new military HQ and move all the HQs you have. The resources are self explanatory, but the ambassadors are new. Ambassadors are tokens that you place on any tile and then do the ambassadors action. These actions are all written on the cards themselves, but are mostly better versions of the actions discussed above. Of the actions you have, the two biggest and most important are the buy or seize a tile. Buying a tile is simple. Each tile has a cost in economic resources and a victory point cost. You just pay the economic cost. Seizing is more interesting and MUCH more random. If a tile is is not controlled, you add the victory points and the cost and then roll dice according to where your Military HQ’s are. For each military HQ’s on a tile you roll the yellow die (a d6 with numbers 2,3,4,5,5, and 6) and for each military HQ adjacent you can roll the white die (a d6 with numbers 1 through 6). Some powers and abilities give you a green die (a d6 with numbers 0,1,1,2,2, and 3) or the RED AWESOME DIE (a d6 with numbers 3, 4, 5, 5, 6, and 6). The attacking player must beat the defence, not tie. If he/she wins, then that player places a base on the tile of the same type as the one from his/her player board. Combat against a player works exactly the same way with a base on a tile giving you a yellow die in addition to all the Military HQ on or around the tile as above. This can lead to some epic dice roll offs as player can also get rerolls and bonus dice from other powers as well. If the defender loses, the he/she takes his/her base of the tile and covers up the right most resource on the player board and the winners get to place a base as before. In addition, at the start of the game four random bonuses are placed around the board. These bonuses range from extra defence, free movements of Military HQs, to rerolls and extra dice. Each tile typically has some arrows on it. When a tile is bought or seized, the player gets to change the direction in which it is facing, and the arrows the tile points to give a bonus to the owning player. The last action of each turn is to send aid to the alliance. This is buying victory point cards using the three different resources as printed on the card. After five rounds, the points for bases, aid, uncovered resources, and purchased tech and military HQs are added up, and the player with the most has conquered the galaxy and provided the most aid to the alliance!

Mechanics-First thing first, let’s deal with the elephant in the room-Eclipse. Eclipse is a great game, but not my favorite 4-X space game. This game and Eclipse both have the multiple bases and resources concept, tech trees, exploration, and color-based dice combat. And all of that is done a bit different but well by each game. However, Eclipse goes about one turn too long. This game is MUCH shorter, easier to recover from some early game problems, and actually provides much more player control. AND, this game at it’s highest price is $60 while Eclipse still retails for about $100. How New Dawn handles everything is fun, fair, and a great way to manage a galaxy. It’s something that new gamers can handle, and older gamers will enjoy. It’s not perfect as the randomness can honestly destroy your enjoyment of a game and combat is a bit more powerful than other strategies, but if you play American-style games, you know that pain all too well! Don’t let those minor problems keep you from this game. 4.75/5

Theme-This game changed a few key things that I think hurt the game a bit. The theme of the first game was alien races working against each other, but not on an overly aggressive scale as the war was fresh in their mind. This game is all about combat. It will be extremely difficult to win the game without conquering a single base or engaging in combat. It’s a massive departure from the first game. The second is the race descriptions. The first game Among the Stars is a pretty simple drafting and tile laying game, so the designers spent the second half of the rulebook describing the universe and the races within. This game is a bit more complicated, so the rules need a bit more description. But the races and world only get about a half pages description on the first page. I really miss the world building of the first game. The game itself is well done and you do feel like you're conquering space and your friends’ bases. But, I’m not sure that’s exactly what I wanted from the second game in this series. 4.25/5

Instructions-I mentioned in the theme section, the rulebook doesn’t have as much description as I would like, but overall the rules are well explained by the book. There are a few problems that I think need a tiny bit more explanation like the arrows on location cards. The rules tell you about the different cards placed on the board at the game start, but they don’t give you as deep a working description of that mechanic. You will figure it out on your first play, but it’s a slight problem. If you can apply your best logic to the game, you will do fine with the rules in the box. 4.5/5

Execution- This game doesn’t come with a ton in the box, but what’s there is done reasonably well. To see all the pieces in the box, see my unboxing video here The board is two sided with a simple and complex game, which is a nice added layer of gameplay and replay-ability. The tiles all look like the same tiles from Among the Stars which is a nice call back to the first game. I even like the new plastic tokens in the game. What I don’t like is that the gameboard isn’t big enough. There are spots for some tiles but not others. I’d like one more row on all the sides to give enough places to place all the parts that game has. Also, I’d like the box to be a little thicker cardboard. Stronghold Games typically makes their game boxes of a lighter material which is nice when I carry five of them to a con to demo them, but the boxes don’t stand up to too much punishment. These are minor quibbles, but there are things to consider. Overall, it’s a beautiful game that has some good parts to it. 4.5/5

Summary-This might not be my favorite 4x game, but it’s quickly made a spot in the top few of them. It’s got all the things I love in a game: strategy, depth, speed, and ease of learning/teaching. I’d like a bit more story and cardboard, but that isn’t any reason to not pick this one up. If you like Sci-FI games, 4x games, or simply want a good game to play at any gameday that won't eat the whole day, then this is an excellent game to buy. I can’t wait to play this again and to see the expansion that will come and further develop the ideas that came out of this game. 90%


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Ring Side Report- RPG Review of The Served Brandolyn Red

*****

Originally posted at Throat Punch Games, a new idea everyday!

Product-They Served Brandolyn Red
System- DCC
Producer- Goodman Games
Price- $7
TL; DR- An awesome starter adventure! 95%

Basics-It's a good day for a white wedding! Until the groom's head is chopped off and the bride is poisoned. Then, players and the guests of the wedding have to find out all the twists and turns in this adventure and recover the groom's head to properly bury the man. Why did this happen? Only you can find out!

Mechanics or Crunch-Ah, the DCC RPG funnel! Hit the players hard and see what falls down. It’s a time honored tradition. This adventure has all the great pieces of one, and the mechanics match enough to challenge first and zero level players as well as bringing enough weird to the party. 5/5

Theme or Fluff-This adventure is one that you as a GM have to bring to life. There is a lot going on here, and it kind of goes in two directions. Only one direction gets the PC’s paid, so they won’t care about family struggles as longs gold happens. If you can bring that part to life, it's a fun side of the adventure. But, most parties and games won’t even care about some below the surface details that the adventure has due to the second part being a bit off base. It’s fun, but a bit too unwieldy with the second story not bringing as much to the party as the first. 4.25/5

Execution- This is a DCC RPG book put out by Goodman Games themselves, so it’s going to be good! The art is great, the pictures are phenomenal, and the layout is simple enough to help every GM run a fun adventure. The book even has detailed family trees that you can use to enhance the substory that I complained about in the theme section. Even the hex crawl simple map is a great addition to the game! This simple adventure has the tools and talent needed to really help you make a great time for the players. Also, it’s out in time for Halloween, so get this now! 5/5

Summary-I love this one so much it might become my new favorite funnel. My players get a place to explore. I get some story to build off with a subplot that is fun, if a bit of a strange addition. The mechanics of the adventure are built well enough that it’s got enough challenge to keep things interesting, but not a killer curve to destroy a party. From the art to the layout, this is a phenomenal adventure and an excellent introduction to DCCRPG, and if a group was looking for a place to start, this is probably the best adventure to throw your friends and yourself as the GM into. 95%


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Ring Side Report- RPG Review of Pathfinder Player Companion: Melee Tactics Toolb

***( )( )

Originally posted at Throat Punch Games, a new idea everyday!

Product-Pathfinder Player Companion: Melee Tactics Toolbox
System- Pathfinder
Producer- Paizo
Price- $12
TL; DR- a one-feat-book 77%

Basics-Why do it from afar when you can hurt them up close! Melee Tactics Toolbox provides every up close and personal character with several new options ranging from spells, items, feats, class options, and even new archetypes much live every other player companion product.

Mechanics or Crunch-This is a major crunch book for players, but I wasn’t amazed. There are several new options, but nothing here immediately made me want to build a character based around that theme. Some of the new options seem like new expectations just for expansion sake as the archetypes underwhelmed me like the rogue archetype that strips out all the rogue powers that make a rogue a rogue. Nothing here is objectively bad, but it’s not as amazing as I expected. 4/5

Theme or Fluff-This book has a bit of theme, but not as much as I wanted. You get a few bits and pieces but not near as much as the world books the Paizo puts out. It feels light. 3.5/5

Execution- This book has a ton it it, but it feels a bit overstuffed. There are many things in the book, but it feels a bit like things were thrown in because of the melee thing and that was the sole reason that they made the cut. So, things didn’t flow as well as other books. Also, much of the execution was a bit off as there were a few too many walls of text to really draw me into and through the book. But, as a counterpoint, the book does have a nice font, decent layout aside from a few too many text walls, and some nice art. However, as a counterpoint to that, the book still has the standard Paizo price for its splatbooks which is a little high anyway. 4/5

Summary-This is my least favorite Paizo Pathfinder book to date. Overall, it’s not a horrible book, but compared to Paizo’s other products, I wouldn’t suggest you start with this one. Honestly, this is a one-feat-book meaning that you will find exactly one thing from this book that might, sometimes, help you PFS character. And, you will buy it so you can show your PFS GM the feat/spell/item, so you can legally use it in your game. But, truth be told, you can pass this book by and be ok even if you are a greatsword only fighter. Too many options that are not worth the price, little world and character story, and a less than stellar execution make this a book that won’t find its way into many Pathfinder collections. 77%


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Ring Side Report-Board Game Review of Pathfinder Adventure Card Game—Skull & Sha

*****

Originally posted at Throat Punch Games, a new idea everyday!

Product-Pathfinder Adventure Card Game—Skull & Shackles Adventure Deck 6: From Hell’s Heart
Producer-Paizo
Price- $ 20
Set-up/Play/Clean-up- 60 minutes per scenario (1-6 players, 5 scenarios)
Type-American
Depth-medium
TL; DR-The ships paid off! 98%

Basics-Do you have what it takes to take the crown? From Hell’s Heart is the conclusion of the Skull and Shackles Adventure Card Game, and it’s a doozy. Players have to contend with an invasion from the devil worshipers from the north, then fight it out to become rulers of the Shackles. To play, you will need the base Pathfinder Adventure Card Game as well as the first five adventure decks.

Mechanics-SHIPS! If you’ve played the first five adventure decks, you keep getting ships. From the outside, they just look like another way your character can level up as you become increasingly awesome. However, when you get to second scenario in this pack, you get to fight all the ships you DIDN’T take as they are invading the Shackles! That right there makes everything completely forgiven. This adventure pack has many of the same mechanics you’ve come to expect, but the crazy sea battle is just phenomenal. It’s quickly done, easy to pull off, and an absolute blast. This pack isn’t a slouch by the way. No monsters will pull their punches here. You have to earn the crown, and it feel glorious when you do! 5/5

Theme- I keep complaining that this isn’t the most theme orientated American style game out there. However, the mechanics really drive home some of the more awesome points. Sure you don’t get a full introduction of all the people, but the varied encounters and the setup of each scenario really provide the atmosphere that will keep you in the game as a pirate. It’s not perfect, but it’s as good as you’re going to get without a guide. 4.5/5

Instructions- The game has set itself up well, and at this point is just taking a victory lap. All the previous adventure packs and base game set up the pieces and instructions, and this one just knocks it out of the park. All the rules are easy to follow, and the scenarios fall into piece from there. 5/5

Execution-I like the art to this game, the cards are in good shape, and I don’t have to destroy the packaging to get at the components. That’s all I can ask for in a card game! 5/5

Summary-Paizo had me hooked a long time ago when I bought this adventure path’s starter set. Once you’re in for $60, unless something is completely horrible, you’re going to pay the additional $100 across five other packs to get the whole game. Since I was $80 in before the last pack, this one could have been absolute crap and I’d most likely still have bought it to complete my set. However, this one is the best part of the whole path. You have ship battles, you have mass naval combat ( something I didn’t think i’d see!), secret missions into the heart of the fortress, a stalking dragon (that makes the blessing deck a terrible, mind numbing, scary ordeal!), and an epic final battle with the pirate king. This is everything I wanted this AP to be, and I got more. If you were not sure about playing the Pathfinder adventure card game before, this is the reason you play this game. I promise you will enjoy it! 98%


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Ring Side Report-Board Game Review of Pathfinder Adventure Card Game—Skull & Sha


Originally posted at Throat Punch Games, a new idea everyday!

Product-Pathfinder Adventure Card Game—Skull & Shackles Adventure Deck 5: The Price of Infamy
Producer-Paizo
Price- $ 20
Set-up/Play/Clean-up- 60 minutes per scenario (1-6 players, 5 scenarios)
Type-American
Depth-medium
TL; DR-Fun, but a bit more of the same. 94%

Basics-It’s time to end this! In the Price of Infamy, your constant enemy Harrigan is bringing the fight to you. Now, you’re going to end this once and for all. Can you gather enough friends to destroy his armada and go to his base to wipe him out in time? This expansion uses the base rules from the pathfinder adventure card game-Skull and Shackles.

Mechanics-Much of this game will play out like the other scenarios. You have scenarios where you have to beat bosses in an order, you have scenarios where you have fewer locations than normal, and scenarios where you have more than normal . Overall, it's not the most novel of the quests, but it is fun. The major addition to this pack is the final fight where you replace every ally at any location with more monsters. That is fun and new. It’s good, but not much more than you’ve seen before.. 4.5/5

Theme-Theme is something the Adventure card game struggles with. It’s hard to tell a story on less than 30 cards. This one does add some interesting twists, but if you don’t have the cliffsnotes version of the plot, you won’t get as much as you might otherwise. This back does have some good locations like Dagon’s Teeth. In this location, you divide the location deck into two smaller decks-just like the islands themselves from the adventure path. It’s the little touches that really make this a fun game. 4.25/5

Instructions- The rules for this pack are great. I wasn’t confused at all, and I was able to assemble my location decks quickly and easily. 5/5

Execution-Ever since Paizo produced side opening backs, I have been in absolute love with this game. The cards are good stock, the art is great, and the price is right. 5/5

Summary-Here is the thing with a mid-path pack-unless I tell you that this pack sets your cats on fire, you are most likely going to buy it if you've come this far. If you like the Skull and Shackles path, you will like this part of it. It’s a bit samey as the mechanics can only go so far, and I want a bit more story for the game. But, overall it’s done well and was a blast to play. It’s five good scenarios that play quickly and are great to run though. It's produced excellently, and the instruction do their job well to teach me how to play. My only complaint is I’d like more, and of the complaints there are, that’s the best kind to have. 94%


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Ring Side Report- RPG Review of the Advanced Class Guide

****( )

Originally posted at Throat Punch Games, a new idea, everyday!

Product- Advanced Class Guide
System- Pathfinder
Producer- Paizo Publishing
Price- $40
TL; DR- This books walks the balance, mostly. 90%

Basics-Why not a wizard/sorcerer? Why not a ranger/rogue? The Advanced Class Guide is the book to make that happen. This book has 10 new classes, archetypes for almost every class, feats, and new spells. This book is a giant resource of new ideas and abilities for the Pathfinder RPG focusing on hybrids of the other classes. Here are the new 10 classes and the classes they come from:

Arcanist (wizard/sorcerer)
Bloodrager (barbarian/sorcerer)
Brawler (fighter/monk)
Hunter (druid/ranger)
Investigator (alchemist/rogue)
Shaman(oracle/witch)
Skald(barbarian/bard)
Slayer(ranger/rogue)
Swashbuckler(fighter/gunslinger)
Warpriest(cleric/fighter)

Mechanics or Crunch-This book has a hard job here, but it does it pretty well. Every one of the new classes feels balanced if a little more powerful than the original classes. It’s a fine line to walk, but overall it did it well. Sometimes a few concepts are thrown in that muddy the water, without adding as much as you would expect. A key example is panache, grit, and luck. All three of these subsystems are almost exactly the same with characters gaining any combination of the three are able to combine the three into one giant pool. That's good for theme, but bad and confusing when players have to build characters. The other extra additions like feats to splash new half classes into the original classes are done well, and the new archetypes and spells all feel fresh and new. 4.5/5

Theme or Fluff-This isn’t a book full of stores for the world of Golarion, but it does have some fluff. Each class has a bit of story to it that helps introduce and mold the class and its use. However, the stories are in a bit of a vacuum. What’s there is great, but this book is designed to be plugged into any world. It works well in that respect, but it’s a bit sterile. Other books from Paizo focus on the story of each class in Paizo’s world, but this book doesn’t really do that. 4/5

Execution- It’s Paizo-they know how to make a book. Maybe a few more pictures, but for the amount of information, it reads quick and is entertaining. Paizo-they make good books! 5/5

Summary-I liked this book, but as the system grows, it get’s a little heavy and unwieldy. This book adds an astounding amount to the system and keeps it all in balance relatively well. This is not a book to build stories off of though as what's here is ok, but think of the addition in this book more like Legos-no real ideas by themselves, but together and with your own imagination they become awesome creations. As for the book itself, it’s a Paizo book, so it’s done well. If you want more character options in your pathfinder game, this is most definitely an awesome addition to your game but something that might upset the power level a bit. 90%


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Ring Side Report- RPG Review of Pathfinder Player Companion: Familiar Folio

****( )

Originally posted at Throat Punch Games, a new idea everyday!

Product- Familiar Folio
System- Pathfinder
Producer- Paizo Publishing
Price- $12.99
TL; DR- Useful if you already like familiars. 88%

Basics-Every great wizard has a familiar, why can’t you! Familiar Folio is a Pathfinder Player Companion book discussing familiars, how to add them to new characters, and how to improve them. Like every other book in the companion line, it adds new feats, archetypes, items, spells, and other options for players and their familiar’s alike.

Mechanics or Crunch-This book is amazing, if you already like familiars. This book won’t really win you over if you didn’t already have a character concept for familiars. Every option added in this book is great, but familiars tend to work just like alchemy in Pathfinder, great if you love them, bad if you don’t. After seeing what’s here, I can say that if I played a character who wanted a familiar, I’d absolutely want what's here. However, if I played someone who had the options of not having one vs having one, I don’t think this book would win me over to the familiar side, even with a mascot (familiar). 4.25/5

Theme or Fluff- This book discusses some of the story aspects of familiars, but it doesn’t really go out of its way to add them in deeper. The book covers topics like how to roleplay with them, and it does have a bit of how different locations in Golarion would use familiars and the types in those locations. But, it’s not much beyond that. This is primarily a crunch heavy book. 4/5

Execution-This was put out by Paizo. For anything you can say about Paizo, the unarguable truth is they know how to make a book well. It’s got great art, great layout, and was a pleasure to read. 5/5

Summary-The simple question to this book is, “Will you use or want a familiar?” If you said yes, then you get this book. If not, then don’t. Like I said with alchemy, familiars are extremely divisive. You love your familiar, then you will love this book. If you couldn’t care less about your wizard friend's odd toad in his pocket, then you don’t want this book. What this book is is well written, a bit light on story, but overall well put together. Just decide if you want a tag along before you begin. 88%


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Ring Side Report- RPG Review of Pathfinder Society Scenario #7–01: Between the L

*****

Originally posted at [url="www.throatpunchgames.com"], a new idea everyday!

Product- Pathfinder Society Scenario #7–01: Between the Lines
System- Pathfinder
Producer- Paizo
Price- $3.99
TL; DR- DnD-NOW WITH LSD! 92%

Basics-You’ve been summoned to help procure an item. Fortunately, you know where it is, and even better, who has it. They will even sell it to you! What happens when you get what you want, and it does way more than you hoped for? What happens when you play with an ancient box that stores the mental history of all who used it before?

Mechanics or Crunch-This is two adventures in one. The first adventure is the standard one you know and love. Run some errands, and then you get what you were searching for. That’s all par for the course. The second half is crazy, out there fun. You enter a mental landscape. That’s fine, but the map and the monsters are a bit off, and a bit more front loading and modifying of stat blocks would help GMs run this on the fly. It’s not horrible, and if you read ahead (like you are supposed to!), you will be fine. However, if you’re running this after just printing off your adventure, then you as a GM will be a bit lost. 4.5/5

Theme or Fluff- As I said in mechanics, this is two adventures. Half is in the regular world, and that is something your players can easily grab onto. This part is here more to help draw your players in. The real meat of the adventure is the second part. Here is where things go on and off the rails. On rails because the players progress through a linier dream landscape, but have to do so in a specific order. Off rails because this adventure plays like a LSD trip-and it is amazing! Lot’s a crazy imagery and fun ways for the GM to really ham up the crazy, psychic nature of the adventure. I absolutely love this adventure for that. 5/5

Execution-This adventure has your usual Pathfinder Society polish. What I don’t like is how the monsters are not customized to the adventure. The players fight some crazy dream monsters, but the monsters are not really customized to the purpose at hand. It’s ok, but it wouldn’t take much to really fix up the monsters here, so you’re GMs don’t have extra math to fight with. This adventure will be a bit long if the players and the GM are slow. Honestly, its about ¾ of two different adventures, so if your GM doesn’t manage his or her time properly, you will be done late if this is run at a convention slot. I’m complaining that there is too much here, which is a good problem to have, but it can be a major problem if not dealt with properly. 4.25/5

Summary-Occult Adventures kicked off this season of Pathfinder Society, and it shows in here. This isn’t completely a psychic adventure as it got strange occult influences, and I hope this keeps up through the entire season of Pathfinder Society. This is a crazy adventure that really provides some great roleplaying opportunities as well as some great scenes for players and GMs to just go hog wild with. I love what I see here, and I can’t wait for more. It’s not perfect. I’d like a bit of customization from Paizo for the monsters as a GM who has missed some important information might try to throw CR 6 creatures at a level one party if the miss the section detailing how the encounter changes. It hurts the overall presentation a bit, but honestly, I had a blast running this adventure. If this is any indication of what’s coming next, BRING ON THE STRANGE! 92%


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Ring Side Report-Board Game Review of Diamonds

*****

Originally posted at Throat Punch Games, a new idea everyday!

Product– Diamonds

Producer-Stronghold games

Price– $ 25
Set-up/Play/Clean-up– 30-45 minutes (2-6players)

Type-Euro

Depth-Light

TL; DR-Best parts of several trick tacking games. 92.5%

Basics-Time to throw Eucker, Hearts, and Spades into a blender! Diamonds is a trick taking game that combines the best of all of the above. Players are dealt 10 cards, and the dealer will decide to trade one to three cards. All players then choose that many cards from their hand and pass them to their neighbor. Next, the player to the left of the dealer will place one card down. These cards have values between one to 15 and have the four suits found on any normal deck of cards: hearts, spades, diamonds, and clubs. Each player then has to place a card of the leaders suit, if they have any, or play any other card, if they don’t have the same suit as this trick’s lead card. Here is where the game becomes more than just a trick taking game. Each suit has a power associated with it. Diamond cards place a diamond behind a small screen called your vault. Hearts place a diamond in front of the vault in your vault. Spades take a diamond from the front and place it behind your vault. Clubs steal a diamond from in front of another player’s vault and places it in front of yours. Whoever played the highest card with the lead’s suit gets to take all the played cards and set them next to his or her screen and then take that suits action. If you couldn’t play a card with the lead’s suit, you just take the action associated with your suit. Playing off won’t get you cards for the round’s end, but it does get you whatever power the card you played has. Whoever won that trick then becomes the next lead player for the next trick. After 10 tricks each round, all players separate their cards into four piles based on the suits. Whoever has the most number of each suit gets to take that suits power again. If you didn’t get any tricks, and thus have no cards, you get two free diamonds placed right into your vault instead. Play then continues with a new dealer. After each player deals one or two times, depending on the player count, each player counts their diamonds with diamonds in your vault worth two points and those in front being worth one. The player with the most points wins!

Mechanics– I’m from Michigan, so I knew this game from another game called Eucker. Eucker is fun, but it lacks depth. This game is amazingly deep for a trick taking card game. Sometimes you do better by playing off than ever winning a single trick. Sometimes, you need to win every trick. That evolving strategy is amazing. Also, the game isn’t hard to play. I do love me some 8-hour, math fueled, Euros where I build cars, but you will learn this game in under 3 minutes, master it in 10, and have a chance of winning in 15. Honestly, this is a well done game. 5/5

Theme-Theme is a hard concept in your average trick taking game. What’s here is ok. There really isn’t a story here. But then again, I’m not really looking for one. I’d like more, as I’ve seen some reskinned trick taking card games with more theme, but I didn’t expect too much going in. The components are nice and do build a bit of a world, but don’t play this game if you need something like Dark Moon’s story. 3.5/5

Instructions-That paragraph above is all you need to play this game. The rulebook is as short as it needs to be. The game is an extremely simple to play game, so the rules don’t have to be too difficult or cover too much territory. The extremely helpful thing included in this game is a cheat card for every player giving some quick iconography on how the different suit powers work. Honestly, this is a slick, simple rulebook that will get you playing in about 5 minutes even if you’ve never played a trick taking game before. 5/5

Execution-This game is a small game, but not a poorly put together one. You can see all the components here . The game is about a quarter the size and weight of most of my other games, but that doesn’t hurt its delivery. The game comes with cardboard standee vaults, a deck of cards, and plastic diamonds. What is here is well done and beautiful. The art is distinctive, but not distracting. The diamonds are nice plastic pieces that you want to collect. It’s a power-packed box. 5/5

Summary-Diamonds is the game I bring with me when I hang out with my family in Michigan. It’s got the simplicity of Hearts, but the depth I need in a great board game. It has great components and instructions. My only real complaint is the theme, and the only reason I ding this game on theme is I play too many RPGs, and I want theme in everything I play. If a games story isn’t the most important thing to you, then this is an amazing, easy to play trick taking game that’s a great game to add to any collection. 92.5%


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Ring Side Report-Board Game Review of Game of Crowns

*****

Originally posted at Throat Punch Games, a new idea everyday!

Product- Game of Crowns
Producer-AEG
Price- $ 25
Set-up/Play/Clean-up- 30-45 minutes (4-9(!) players)
Type-Euro
Depth-Light
TL; DR-Love Letter Evolved. 94%

Basics-In the Game of Crowns, you manipulate, scheme, triumph or you die! Game of Crowns is the next step in the evolution of Love Letter. Players take the role of one of several different noble houses trying to take the top spot in the kingdom. This is done over the course of three turns. Each turn, a player will play one card or attempt to trade cards. Trading is simple. The active player offers one card. Then, all other players have to offer a card in response. The active player can add a second card to his/her offer, and all players have to follow suit. Any player can sweeten their deal by offering crows (the main currency in the game). Finally, the active player chooses one other player, and they exchange cards. Playing cards is equally as simple. On a player's turn, that player selects one card from his or her hand, and plays it for its action. You start with coinage and knights. Coinage is just choose a player, steal a random card, and then give them coinage. Knights are the main combat power of the game. When you use a knight you choose a player. Then, all players choose secretly if the defender or the attacker is the winner. After all players reveal their chosen side, all players can then spend crows to increase the power of their chosen side. Whoever wins gets to look at the other player's hand, choose one card, and steal that card or to take a card from a random deck of cards that provides new ways to score points. The knight that started the fight is then discarded, and the losing side gets all the spent crows. After three rounds, players score points based on the cards in their hands. Some cards only give you points such as the trader (coinage), princess (knights), and castilian (crows). Another card, feud, gives you points if you have the most of it compared to all the other players. Who ever has outmaneuvered their opponents the best and has the most points at the end is the winner and the new king!

Mechanics-This game is simple and quick. It’s the the speed of Love Letter’s draw one, play one, and the added depth of microgame Dominion. I like the variety of different ways that players can play this game by focusing on the different paths to victory. It’s not perfect; if your group of friends just won’t see how you losing to your other friend makes them all lose, you won’t enjoy the combat much. Pick your battles well, but keep in mind that the people shape this game to a high degree. 4.5/5

Theme-AEG is a great company for theme. Sure, you could play this game and ignore the theme completely, and some players will. However, AEG builds on this game by having a few pages that must describe the families in the game. They didn’t need to do that, but those touches help draw me in that much more. It’s not perfect as you’re still only do some minor story things in game terms, but I do feel like a noble family maneuvering through intrigue in this game. 4.5/5

Instructions-The game has great instructions with only one fault. I wrote the instructions out in one paragraph above, and that right there is all you really need. The rule book does that well, and give you a bit more. The only real problem is the Feud cards. There is some debate if Feud provides exponential points or just increases as you gain more cards. If you check Boardgamegeek, you find that those cards are just scored according to the most cards, but other sites say the opposite. I’d like a bit of clarification, but overall, if you decide among your friends how that is played, you will easily be able to pick up the game and play this out of the box no problem in under 10 minutes. 4.75/5

Execution-I’m going to complain about something I thought I would never say-the game box is too big! That’s pretty weird to hear me say, but this game almost fits in a Love Letter bag no problem. That said, that’s an awesome problem to have. Too many games don’t fit in the box they came in. This game has great card art, good card stock, and crow meeples! Top notch work, AEG! In fact, if you want I’ve made an unboxing video here if you want to see all the components of the game. 5/5

Summary- I love AEG. They constantly put out top notch games that don’t require hours to play. Sure I love my 4 hour Euros, but this one is a simple game that plays quick, and can even include non-gamers without spooking them away like a round of some other games. And the player count is amazing! Up to nine people can play this game. That’s a true blessing. I’ve had way too many game days at the local store where they couldn't handle the fifth player. Now you can run that fifth player and his friends. Good rules, great mechanics, and some well-written, if slightly flawed, rules all make this game a pleasure to play. This game isn’t that expensive and if you want a bit more meat on the bones then Love Letter gives you, Game of Crowns is an excellent addition to your library. 94%


Ring Side Report- RPG Review of Steel and Fury: Combat Maneuvers of the Mighty

*****

Originally published on Throat Punch Games, A new idea, everyday!

Product– Steel and Fury: Combat Maneuvers of the Mighty
System– Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG
Producer– Purple Duck Games
Price– $7
TL; DR-A must have for the Dwarf or Fighter at the crawl! 97%

Basics-Cry havoc and let loose the dogs of war! Steel and Fury is a Fighter and Dwarf supplement for the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG. This book focuses on the Mighty Deeds of Arms for both of those classes by adding several new deeds that are specific for the type of weapon you are using as well as expanding the deeds by adding mighty criticals and mighty fumbles.

Mechanics or Crunch-Hands down a home run. Every mighty deed gets its own page with descriptions of what happening. Also, the addition of mighty criticals and fumbles really adds to the dice rolling crunch of this system. And, the book has an amazing resource- an end of the book table showing which weapons can do which deed (MORE BOOKS SHOULD DO THIS!). As the cherry on the sundae, even the old deeds get a revisit by adding the critical and fumble rules to them as well. This is well done and slick. 5/5

Theme or Fluff- Again, another home run. Every deed has a ton of story to it. Not only does each deed have a description, but also the deed has a quote from an appendix N fantasy story. That right there is awesome. Also awesome is the art. I honestly didn’t expect much art from a small publisher, but it’s here and well done. You will feel every crunch from this one as Steel and Furry builds on to a solid foundation of carnage. 5/5

Execution-We’ve had two home runs, so it’s time for a foul. I love the book. It’s got great spacing, great writing, text, tables, and great art. What I don’t like is the price tag. This book is $7 bucks for about 60 pages. That’s a bit much as much of this book is pages with tables. $7 isn’t enough to keep me away, but I think this should be around $4 to $5 to keep up with other publishers’ prices. 4.5/5

Summary-This is a great book and addition to the DCC rpg. Purple Duck Games really made a top notch product by supplying quite frankly a ton of new content to the system. Every weapon get some love. At the back is an amazing chart detailing what each weapon can do with the new and old mighty deeds. Even old deeds get new additions with mighty criticals and mighty fumbles. The story this book tells is great proving that a straight crunch book can bring some story and panache to the table. I think the book is a bit over priced. But, if you can stomach the price, this is a necessary book for any fighter and dwarf that hits the table. 97%


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Ring Side Report- RPG Review of Pathfinder Society Scenario #6–18: From Under Ic

*****

Originally posted at Throat Punch Games, a new idea everyday!

Product- Pathfinder Society Scenario #6–18: From Under Ice
System- Pathfinder
Producer- Paizo Publishing
Price- $4
TL; DR- A THINKING humanoids mod. 97%

Basics-Chase a skykey under the ice of Irrisen! The Pathfinder Society is looking for traces of a Dwarven city that disappeared many years ago. Can you find where the dwarves went or will you anger either the Linnworm Kings or the Witches?

Mechanics or Crunch- This is a many angled mod that can be done in a straight forward way. Like most of the mods, there is a counter mechanics for determining how well the PC's succeed on their job or secondary tasks. It's not hard, but the mod isn't so much about crunch, but how well the players think. It's well done and fun when you see the players analyze and understand a situation. If the players are smart, canny, and show the proper deference, they will go through almost the entire mod without swinging their swords! That shows the mod is awesomely stretchable, but some players, the kick-in-the-door-and-eat-some-goblins players, will be vary bored if things are going well. 4.5/5

Theme or Fluff- This is where the mod truly shines. Sure, it's got the necessary fights and counters that all good mods need, but how the players go about this mod really makes the story. Are you simply smash and grab Pathfinders or are you social dilatants? Do you understand your mission or are you simple out there to kill a bunch of people? As a GM, watching that play out is a great roleplaying experience 5/5

Execution- Season six is the absolute best season for how these mods are put together. Need the maps? Here, we have blank maps for you to resize and print. Need monster stats? Here in the back of the mod are all the monster stats, so you don't have to have 10 books open to run the game. It's still four bucks, but right now four bucks for ~ 30 pages seems to be the norm for most companies. Well done! 5/5

Summary- First, the elephant in the room-If you play this mod smart, you will not have many combats. And, that's what the success condition hinges on. That right there will turn some players away. You can't make everybody happy, but in a mod that's mostly going across borders and meeting people, combat is a many terrible thing! The story makes world sense. The mechanics work as well as they can. The execution is absolutely fantastic. As a GM, I enjoyed this mod. My players did as well. Just make sure you know what your players want to get. Hack and slash need not apply! 97%


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Ring Side Report-Board Game Review of Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Skull & Sh

****( )

Originally posted at Throat Punch games, a new idea everyday!

Product- Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Skull & Shackles Adventure Deck 4 – Island of Empty Eyes
Producer-Paizo Publishing
Price- $18
Set-up/Play/Clean-up- 45 minutes per scenario (5 scenarios in the game)
Type-American
Depth-medium
TL; DR-Great theme in this one. 90%

Basics- You've joined the upper ranks of the pirates of the Shackles, and now it's time to prove you're the best. You and your friends have been given an island. Can you clear the former inhabitants from the island, uncover its secrets, and throw a killer party for the other pirates of the Pirates Council? This game uses the basic Pathfinder Adventure Card game mechanics, so I'll focus on what's in this box alone.

Mechanics- Things are as fun as they can be, but the mechanics are not varied as much as I like. Several of the locations on the island are the same, with several of the same locations used repeatedly. Now, it's an island, so there are only so many locations to use, but it did feel a bit stale. Also, maybe it's just my impression. This adventure pack gives you a new option for one scenario as you can become possessed to fight the monsters, but only a few of the characters can really use that ability. Overall, it's fun, but once you have a working strategy going, the island encounters tend to get a little over-repeated. 4/5

Theme- This is an interesting mix. Overall I love what I'm seeing with this expansion as it does add some fresh ideas to the game. You get to have an island clearing adventure, with some piracy, and an awesome final encounter as you throw a party, have to stop a secret bomber, and keep your guests happy. You even can get possessed by a ghost to get extra powers in one of the scenarios. This adventure has the most theme homerun I've seen yet for a ship-the Bloodmoon. Across both this set and the previous set of the Adventure Card Game, were-creatures get a bonus when the top card of the timing/blessing deck is a blessing of the gods. As this is a werewolf ship, when you use this ship, you too get a bonus when you use the Bloodmoon when a blessing of the gods is on top. However, I only know that this ship is from the werewolf captain since I played the adventure path in Pathfinder. If I didn't have that extra information, then I wouldn't know that and this would just be another ship. So, I love what's here, and it feels great to be a pirate. But, I still think extra information beyond the cards is needed to really bring me completely into the story. 4.5/5

Instructions- The cards work well at adding new information to the game. Almost everything was clear, except for one location-the teleportation chamber! This room has a thread on the Paizo forums (http://paizo.com/threads/rzs2rsrq?Rules-Question-Teleportation-Chamber#1) that is way too long for a card with less than 100 words! Since you'll see this car a lot, it makes every time you see it a bit of a headache! If you can get past that one card, then the rules are well done though. 4.5/5

Execution- Overall, I like what's in this box. Sure, you might want card sleeve for your cards if you plan on repeated use, but overall, the cards are of decent card stock. All the art is well done and evocative. The thing that makes me so happy though is what they did since the first expansion of this season of the Adventure Card Game-SIDE OPENING FLAPS to the boxes. Since I don't have to destroy the boxes to get the cards, this is hands down an improvement. 5/5

Summary- This was a fun expansion to play through. I like what's here, but what is here is a bit repeated. That does cost it a bit of fun; however, it's still got enough action to keep me in the game. For the theme, it's got a great story, and I do feel like a pirate. But, I still feel like those who haven't played the Pathfinder adventure path won't get as much as they should. This is still a great game, but a bit more will make this a grand slam. 90%


Ring Side Report- RPG Review of Dungeon Crawl Classics #84: Perils of the Purple

*****

Originally posted at Throat Punch Games, a new idea everyday!

Product- Dungeon Crawl Classics #84: Perils of the Purple Planet
System- DCC RPG
Producer- Goodman Games
Price- $50
TL; DR- A good hex crawl, but I'd like a bit more guidance as a GM. 97%

Basics- Can you survive a blender of Appendix N other world science fantasy? On the Purple planets a race of ape men fight under the guidance of strange alien powers for control of a desert world full of timeless technology as well as giant worms. It's every single awesome old school fantasy book, movie, and song rolled into one-the way any DCC RPG product should be made. Will you solve the secret of how to survive the world and find a way home or will you die in the dust?

Mechanics or Crunch- This is a great expansion for the DCC RPG. The kickstarter added a ton of extra content to the adventure box set. Among the different add-ons are a ton of adventure locals, race and class write ups for the kith (the ape men), new technology, an entire world to play in, and much more. Overall, it's all well done. There are a few issues such as how often encounters happen and other small details I don't think were as well explained as they could be. Also, I think encounters happen far too often to keep move the story along. It's not going to end the game by any means, but there are some small issues that did keep me from fully enjoying the product. 4.75/5

Theme or Fluff- What is in this box set is very much amazing. The set comes with a ton of world building. Honestly, there is more world building than in the base book! From a full right-up on kith cultures and a kith class, to the different kind of alien masters, this set is full of stories. My one issue in this book is the players and the GM doesn't really get an introduction to how to run this thing. Unlike the other DCCRPG adventures, this is really a free form adventure. Players can literally go anywhere, but the boxed set didn't give me enough directions to keep the story moving in a good direction. It does give a simple base idea of the adventure, but GMs are really on their own to determine what happens on the purple planet and to build a cohesive story there. 4.75/5

Execution- This is a gorgeous boxed set full of tons of amazing books. There are books on crypts from space warriors past, a setting book, the adventure, a player book, a handout book, and even a GM screen. The base DCC RPG doesn't even have a GM screen! I'd like a bit more spacing and art in the adventure, but honestly, that's the same thing I complain about with the other DCC RPG adventures. This one makes up for it by sheer volume of well done material. You will learn an impressive amount about this world from the awesome books in this set. 5/5

Summary- I do love me some hex crawling. It's a great experience to just let the players go and explore the world. This has even more than normal as the players get to explore a completely alien world. This whole adventure box set has not only the named adventure but a ton of extra stuff to get players into this world. It's all amazingly well done. If this adventure were just the adventure itself, it would not have rated is as high as I did. The extra care put into this set really drives this over the top. My only problems with this set were the lack of guidance as a GM and some minor issues with the mechanics of the set. However, none of that takes away from how impressive this box is. If you want to play in a world where Frank Herbert, Robert Howard, and Jack Vance all mixed their ideas in a blender and poured that over a base of old school D&D, then this is the product for you. 97%


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Ring Side Report- RPG Review of PFS Scenario #6–06: Hall of the Flesh Eaters

****( )

Originally posted at Throat Punch Games, a new idea everyday!

Product- Pathfinder Society Scenario #6–06: Hall of the Flesh Eaters
System- Pathfinder
Producer- Paizo
Price- ~$ 4
TL; DR- A short dungeon crawl. 87%

Basics- Time to go to the Shackles! Among the Gloomspires rests Sevenfingers' treasure hoard. A new finding by the Pathfinders will allow the explorers to find the proper shifting island where the hoard is buried. Can the Pathfinders survive the island the treasure is hidden on and explore the dangerous depths of the cavern below it?

Theme or Fluff-This adventure was a fun one, but the fact that it was in the Shackles or dealing with pirates wasn't a main focus. It is more of a dungeon crawl. But, the dungeon isn't that large, so it's hard to get going as you're done before you almost start. It's fun, but you will have to add your own pirate focus to get the theme of a dungeon crawl for pirate treasure to come through. Also, this is the first part of a few adventures on this island. There is a record screeching halt in one area as the map basically give the equivalent of an invisible wall to hid the next adventure. This will be filled in in later adventures, but I really don't like having to tell my explorers not to explore! 4/5

Mechanics or Crunch- As I said in the theme, this is mostly a dungeon crawl. Before the Dungeon is a short above ground section, but there is not much to do after an encounter happens up there. In the dungeon there are some unique events and traps that make some of the later encounters more interesting. The encounters that do happen are well balanced. But, as a dungeon crawl, it's pretty short and easy. 4.5/5

Execution-What is here is well done. I like the spacing of the text, the maps, and the general layout. I've written before that I would like more description in these encounter blocks, but that is a general issue I have with all the PFS documents. 4.5/5

Summary- This is a short, fun dungeon crawl. It's pretty linear, but that doesn't make it bad. If your players want to start some adventures in the Shackles, this isn't a bad adventure to start a quest line off of. I would have liked a bit more as it felt short, and a down to business party will get through this in less than two hours. As a GM, it ran smooth, and my party had fun. That's the mark of a good adventure. I don't like invisible walls in an RPG, but I am curious what the next adventure will be. 87%


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Ring Side Report-Board Game Review of Skull & Shackles Adventure Deck 2 - Raider


Originally posted at Throat Punch Games, an new idea everyday!

Product- Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Skull & Shackles Adventure Deck 2 - Raiders of the Fever Sea
Producer- Paizo
Price- ~$20
Set-up/Play/Clean-up- 30 to 60 minutes per scenario (1 to 6 players, five scenario)
TL; DR-BEST AD SO FAR! 98%

Basics-Let's be bad guys! In the last adventure deck, the pirates get their first ship. Now it's time to be real pirates. Loot as many ships as you can, earn the favor of Tidewater Rock, and go on an adventure in the deep sea!

Mechanics- The game really ties the theme to the mechanics. It still has the randomness that somewhat hurts the theme, but the new mechanics really hit the theme hard like a sledgehammer on a tack. Pirate hunting with the chance of catching the attention of the authorities? Awesome. Having to find a particular villain to open up a dungeon? Even better! It's a well done adventure deck! 5/5

Theme- This game really hits home the theme. It has lots of piracy with the mechanics to back it up. Also now new mechanics for the specific missions are introduced to really make a dungeon crawl come alive. Well done! Do this more often! 5/5

Instructions- The base instructions are all you get besides the stuff on the cards. I still want a sheet with more story and instructions for the game. What is on the cards is good, but I still want a bit more. Also, explaining who the characters are, especially the allies, would help me get a bit more into the feel of things. 4.5/5

Execution- Tell you what, Paizo has heard some of what I've said and this proves it. It's a card game, so it's got good card stock and art. Fine, I expect that. But you know what, SIDE OPENING FLAPS! I can open up the package while not destroying the box. Here is your five for that. 5/5

Summary- This adventure deck is the best adventure deck so far for either season of the card game. I felt like a pirate. The mechanics are slick. The theme is awesome. THE BOX OPENS ON THE SIDE! Well done! 98%


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Ring Side Report- RPG Review of PFS Scenario #6-08: the Segang Expedition

*****

Originally posted at www.throatpunchgames.com, a new idea everyday!

Product- Pathfinder Society Scenario #6–08: The Segang Expedition
System- Pathfinder
Producer- Paizo
Price- ~$ 4
TL; DR- A good mix of combat and roleplay. 90%

Basics-Time to hitch a ride! Funds for the Pathfinder Society are low after the adventures in the Worldwound. Now Pathfinders are working with new allies to find old archeological sites. Can you find and explore a new site while working with and befriending some new patrons?

Theme or Fluff-This is an interesting one. It's two separate missions. Befriending one of two patrons while still finding what you want in an island Jungle. As a dungeon crawl alone, it's not that best one I've played. As a pure roleplaying experience, it's not complete either. But this one combines the two well and really does have something for the combat monkey and the thespian in your groups. It's not perfect in either, but it does a good job balancing the fun. 4.5/5

Mechanics or Crunch- The adventure provides a new mechanic for how to befriend one of two wealthy backers. My players constantly tried to keep finding ways to secretly befriend both. You will have to think on your feet with this one. The combats are quick, and the adventure does give some extra mechanics fun for allowing players to go hunting from a hunting lodge. For its fights and non-combat encounters, it's reasonably well done experience. 4.5/5

Execution- My main problem with this PFS scenario is the same problems I have with all of them. Paizo only publishes PDF adventures for the society. Paizo try to keep all the adventures a set length, but honestly, the PDFs could be infinite length providing all the rules I need to run the adventure from how the spells work to basic random dice rolls. This adventure lists a bunch of different creatures, and I have to have the books to look them up. Why not just give me the full stats? It won't hurt to expand a few extra pages and give me those stats, since I know more and more people are now running adventures as PDFs off tablets. It's just a pain to have to dig up all my books to get one stat for from one book and another stat from another book. Otherwise, the text if sized fine, the art is good, and generally, I have what I need to run this adventure. 4.5/5

Summary- I liked this one. A father and a son-in-law are off hunting and the players act as guards while still trying to be Pathfinders. I can see repercussions from last year's Pathfinder's affecting the future, and I like it. The adventure itself is fun, has roleplaying and combat well done, and fits neatly within the time frame for a PFS game. I had a blast and so did my players. Well worth running at your tables. 90%


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Ring Side Report-Concert of Europe

****( )

Originally posted at Throat Punch Games, a new idea everyday!

Product-The Concert in Flames
System- Victoriana
Producer- Cubicle 7
Price- ~$20
TL; DR- Great adventure, but only for the GM. 87%

Basics-Can you stop Europe from burning? An ancient evil is being awoken by a small group trying to upset the tentative balance of Europe and bend a fiend to their will while the fate of the Concert of Europe rides in the balance. This book also provides GM with extremely detailed notes on the geopolitical standing of the Europe countries in 1856.

Mechanics or Crunch-This is NOT an option book, but that doesn't make it a bad book. This book adds some new mechanics like new races and a new country specific creature or enemy for each of the different regions discussed. It's good, but you should not expect some new options and creatures each page like a player's option book or monster manual. The countries do have great write ups describing the make-up of each country, so you can quickly create things like a group of upscale Russians if you need them at a moment's notice. The adventure has simple stat blocks for each enemy which will make running the adventure easy and quick. What's here is well done, but you cannot go into this one hoping for tons of new crunch. 4.5/5

Theme or Fluff- This is where the book truly excels. Just like the base book, this book could almost be an excellent historical reference if you strip out the steampunk and magic elements. Each country in 1850's Europe gets an in-depth write-up. The adventure itself has a ton of depth as well as a great story for your players to run amuck in. The story has elements of government intrigue, magic, religion, and some trans-country train adventure. It's great steampunk fun. 5/5
.
Execution- While the fluff and crunch are great; the execution has a few problems. There are some art to break up the text, but there are too many pages with just black text on grey background. This is a classic case of textbook problem. I do like some the way the book is divided. But, the font is a bit too small. And, there is just too much of it. This book also makes an inexcusable error for any fantasy book discussing geography. There is NO detailed map of Europe! Nor is there a map of the adventure train routs. While the countries are basically the same as real world 1856, a better map would have really helped with adventure design and the adventure in the book. I do like the pictures from the adventure as you get some nice hand drawn pictures of some of the major characters. All together, this isn't a badly executed book, but some flaws do hurt the overall presentation. 3.5/5

Summary- If you want to take your players across Victoriana Europe, then buying this book is a no brainer. GM's get all the information they need to make each European country feel distinct from one another with far more depth than there is in the base Victoriana book. If you want crunch options, then this book isn't for you. The adventure in this book is a fun romp across Europe as the players try to keep the Concert of Europe from falling apart. If that's the kind of adventure you and your players want to play, this is a great adventure. However, if you don't want to control the fate of the world and just want to play a game in London, then this is one to pass. There are some concerns I have with the execution, but those won't prevent you from enjoying this book if you want some excellent write ups describing Europe. If you want some cross European intrigue and a great adventure to start that controversy, go get this one. 87%


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Ring Side Report-RPG Review of Pathfinder Society Scenario #6–05: Slave Ships of

****( )

Originally posted at Throat Punch Games, a new idea, everyday!

Product- Pathfinder Society Scenario #6–05: Slave Ships of Absalom
System- Pathfinder
Producer- Paizo
Price- ~$4 here http://paizo.com/products/btpy9985?Pathfinder-Society-Scenario-6-05-Slave-S hips-of-Absalom
TL; DR- Some problems hurt a good story that's part of this year's metaplot. 83%

Basics-Someone is selling tainted slaves in the Inner Sea! A slave at a party had a spell cast upon her that allowed someone to eavesdrop on the guest. Can you and the rest of the Pathfinder Society make some friends by discreetly finding out who is behind this?

Mechanics or Crunch- This is a reasonable short adventure as it's designed for Pathfinder Society play. However, some major missteps happen over the course of this story. One is the players can fail a few rolls and be completely out of luck when it comes to the mystery. In addition, like most PFS modules, there are some roleplaying and 2-to-3 fights. However, one of these fights is pretty tough and can easily wipe most parties if the GM doesn't pull a few punches. This isn't a bad module, but some of the Pathfinder mechanics work against the fun your players could have. 3/5

Theme or Fluff-Overall, I liked the story of this one. There is a decent amount of roleplaying that can happen while still having the combat that some players crave. However, some of the story seems off. A character won't help the players even after the players save that person's life! That kind of seems out of the realm of believably even with magic and elves about. Also, this module is about slavery, so some players won't like working for NPC's who openly own slaves. 4.5/5

Execution- This is done by Paizo. They know how to layout a book. It's easy and quick to read. The art is good, but as always I'd like a bit more. What is here is well done. 5/5

Summary- This is a short, fun adventure that isn't without its faults. I enjoyed running this for my players, and they enjoyed playing this adventure. It has the standard problems that can plague a Pathfinder game: combats based on CR alone and rolls killing investigation/roleplay. Those are some problems that can really gum up this adventure's gears. Also, this is a module that deals with slavery. If you're players are not comfortable with that, then this will not be fun for them. If you want a module set in Absalom where you have a decent mix of investigation and combat, this is a better than average module. Also, if you want to get deeper into the Year of the Sky Key, then this an good start to the metaplot. 83%


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