Jeremy's Reviews Blog

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Wolves on the Rhine (first draft)

The Romans. A very popular subject, especially if you watch the History Channel (probably second only to WW2), but also among historical fiction and movies. There have been quite a few roleplaying sourcebooks (AD&D, Gurps, d20 among others), and even one game still in print (Roma Imperious). But I can't actually recall any Roman themed adventure. Until now.

Wolves on the Rhine is a "programmed" adventure from Dark City Games. "Programmed" basically means you can play it solo if you like, although nothing is keeping you from running it the traditional way, and unlike typical (at least not from metagaming or Dark City Games) solo adventures, you run a party of 4 characters.

As you might guess from the title, the adventure is set at the Rhine river, the border between Gaul and Germania. You are members of Twentieth (XX) Legion (who later would became famous for taking part in putting down the revolt in Britain). While not exactly a peaceful area, things have gotten worse lately, with the local barbarians raiding forts and towers and such. You've been assigned to talk to some friendly barbarians and see just what is going on.

Some of the adventures from Dark City Games are pretty complicated. This one is pretty easy, as apparently it was written by a first time author. It lacks even plot words (basically where if you find or do something, you write a word on your character sheet, and if you have that word later on, it can change things somewhat). This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it does rather cut down on the replay value. There are actually still a lot of choices, but most seem kind of minor, and the consequences are immediate, rather that happening later on.

If you are a fan of Conan (like I am), you probably can't help but notice a similar feel to some of those stories, the ones where Conan is on the frontier of Aquilonnia and is up against the Picts. Indeed, the plot is close to one of those (without giving too much away).


Previously modules from them featured some snazzy looking cover art, then some average quality black and white interior art. Usually the same art as used on the counters. This does that, but the art is in full color, including on the counters (and the map sheet is in color as well). This dramatically increases the look of the art and the module itself. I actually usually use figures for the characters and foes when playing these games, but to not use the color counters in this made me feel guilty.

They use their own rules set for the game, which comes in a small booklet. The closest comparison is The Fantasy Trip, basically a system similar to GURPs, but simpler and less headache inducing. Characters have 3 stats, usually around 10-15 or so, and various skills. To perform a skill, you roll under that on 3d6 (or rarely 4d6). It's gritty - in that armor stops damage, and characters don't have hit points, but take damage to their ST stat.

Most of the previous adventures used the same set of fantasy rules, but as the one in this is purely historical and tailored for Romans (complete with Roman armor and weapons).

Playing through was a little tougher than the previous ones, because there is no healing magic. But at the same time, the Romans had a lot more armor, which actually made it rather tough to be injured in most combats (except the one with the bear. That was tough).


Maybe I jumped the gun about Gamefly...

Their shipping times do really suck, but apparently the secret to get new games is to keep your queue empty of everything but the new games. And it seemingly works.

Also the "Keep it" feature is pretty nice, since you get a game which is quite new (the case/book are) and the price is nice.