Hello, and welcome to the last installment of RPG Evolution, at least as you know it. Things have been a bit crazy here at Games & Stuff over the last few weeks (opening a temporary holiday pop up store will do that) but today I’m here with the Q3 RPG report, albeit a few weeks later than intended. Why do I call it the “last one?” Well, early next year I’ll be launching RPGEvolution.com
You can go visit now although it’s just a placeholder. While I’ll still be doing these quarterly sales breakdowns, I also wanted a platform to discuss the business of roleplaying games in a way that allows me to a bit more freedom. So you’ll be seeing more frequent articles, and covering a wide variety of topics related to the business of RPG retail. Got ideas for me? Shoot me an email at Paul@gamesandstuffonline.com
And with that, let’s get to the numbers:
- Dungeons & Dragons (Q2 Rank #1)
- Pathfinder (Q2 Rank #1)
- Star Wars (Q2 Rank #1)
- Shadowrun (Q2 Rank #5)
- Dragon Age
- End of the World (Q2 Rank #16)
- Feng Shui
- Warhammer 40,000 (Q2 Rank #4)
- The One Ring (Q2 Rank #7)
- Dresden Files (Q2 Rank #12)
- Fantasy Age
- Cyper System
- Iron Kingdoms (Q2 Rank #13)
- Legend of the Five Rings (Q2 Rank #17)
- Dungeon Crawl Classics (Q2 Rank #6)
- Numenera (Q2 Rank #14)
- 13th Age (Q2 Rank #9)
- Dread (Q2 Rank #18)
- Fate (Q2 Rank #10)
- The Strange
Big news this time around is NEW HOTNESS. No less than four entries in the Top 20 that are brand new releases. Dragon Age, Feng Shui, Fantasy Age and the Cypher System all ranked this time around.
I honestly don’t expect the Cyper System to have much sales longevity, the market is simply too crowded with “generic” systems at the moment. FATE seems to have developed into the go-to, plus Cypher doesn’t have the weight of a Wil Wheaton webseries behind it like Fantasy Age does.
Additionally, most of the sales of the Cypher rulebook seem to have come from Monte Cook Games aficionados, and even Numenera and The Strange seem to be slowing quite a bit. Numenera was an eight units per release line for me, now it’s three. The Strange is even less, thought there’s a steady trickle of catalog sales from both of them. We’ll see.
Shadowrun continues to be really strong for me. It’s been very close to eclipsing Star Wars numbers a few times, which is saying something considering there’s a Star Wars movie coming out that you may have heard about. In my store Shadowrun is really benefiting from in store organized play. If you carry Shadowrun, and you don’t currently have somebody running the Shadowrun Missions program in your store, make it happen.
One Ring and 13th Age are both suffering from a lack of releases. They continue to have strong ongoing catalog sales, but without shiny new books to sell, they’re not gonna crack the Top 10. We’ve got a Gamemaster’s Screen & Resource Book coming for 13th Age, and Horse-lords of Rohan coming for The One Ring, so both lines should see spikes, that last one especially.
That’s it for now, short and sweet. Go make your stores successful this holiday, and I’ll see you in the new year with an all new all different RPGEvolution.com!
-Paul Alexander Butler is the Director of Retail Operations at Games and Stuff.
RPG Evolution is a semi-regular column in which I discuss the retail business side of selling role-playing games. In addition to periodic special installments, once every three months I break down the twenty top selling RPGs by sales volume at Games and Stuff.
Happy July everyone, and welcome to the halfway point of the year.
Today we don’t have any especially big surprises about our best selling RPGs, but we do have the reappearance of a few old friends, and we get to see if my predictions from spring have proven true. So here’s the Top 20 for the period of April 1, 2015 to June 30, 2015:
- Dungeons & Dragons (Q1 Rank #1)
- Pathfinder (Q1 Rank #2)
- Star Wars (Q1 Rank #3)
- Warhammer 40,000 (Q1 Rank #5)
- Shadowrun (Q1 Rank #4)
- Dungeon Crawl Classics
- The One Ring (Q1 Rank #6)
- Mutant Year Zero (Q1 Rank #15)
- 13th Age (Q1 Rank #8)
- Fate (Q1 Rank #7)
- Lamentations of the Flame Princess
- The Dresden Files
- Iron Kingdoms (Q1 Rank #17)
- Numenera (Q1 Rank #10)
- Through the Breach
- The End of the World (Q1 Rank #12)
- Legend of the Five Rings
- Trail of Cthulhu (Q1 Rank #14)
- White Wolf/World of Darkness
No big shocks in the Top Five, as Shadowrun and Warhammer 40,000 continue their tussle for the number four spot. The 40K sales are absolutely driven by the second edition of Dark Heresy and the new releases for that line, although the back catalog sales of Deathwatch and Rogue Trader are quite strong. As I’ve stated before, six months ago I would have never thought that the 40K games would still be in the top five, but the enduring appeal of the grimdark future of the 41st Millennium has proven me wrong.
Shadowrun for its part, didn’t have a core hardback release this quarter, so the flip-flop is expected, but with both Data Trails and Chrome Flesh releasing in Q3, Shadowrun should return the punches next time around.
It’s also worth noting that in April, for the first time since its release, the sales of Dungeons & Dragons were eclipsed by those of Pathfinder, but it didn’t last, and as you can see, it wasn’t enough to keep D&D from the top spot over the course of the quarter. In case you missed it, back in May I wrote a big article about my thoughts on the future of D&D and Pathfinder, which you can check out here.
My personal favorites The One Ring and 13th Age seem to have mostly firmed up their positions in the Top 10, although the appearance of Dungeon Crawl Classics in the #6 spot shook things up a bit. DCC has been in our list before, but my full time Assistant Manager George recently took a shine to the line after hosting the game for a Free RPG Day session, and his excitement for the game (and his own not insignificant purchasing) helped push it back into the Top 10. As always, never underestimate what your own passions will do for the sales of an RPG line in your store.
The big story this time around is Mutant Year Zero. Yes, I did in fact predict this back in May. This is the the post-apocalyptic game you’ve been looking for. Not as silly as Gamma World, and not zombie-centric, once we got a decent restock (thanks Aldo!) the thing has taken off and never looked back. It’s got some really cool “Ark” rules that detail the survivors’ enclave and how it grows and changes throughout the course of the campaign.
A lot of fresh and returning titles this month: Legend of the Five Rings makes its return to the list, thanks to a massive and long overdue line-wide reprint. Lamentations of the Flame Princess had four simultaneous releases in April, including the $42.99 hardback A Red & Pleasant Land. Dresden Files generated a pile of cash from the release of the game’s third hardback, The Paranet Papers, while the appearance of Dread on Wil Wheaton’s Tabletop drove sales of that game. For those of you that don’t know, instead of cards or dice Dread uses a Jenga set, and sales of that classic game have picked up as a result.
Of special note is Primeval Thule. This setting book from Sasquatch Game Studio (the creative team behind D&D’s Princes of the Apocalypse) is available in both Pathfinder and 13th Age versions. So while the sales of those books are included in their respective lines above, it’s worth noting that if the Primeval Thule setting was listed as its own game line, it would have ranked at #19. Similarly the Dragon Kings book, a completely system-free setting book which is a spiritual descendant of Dark Sun (from one of the original designers of that setting) just barely missed the chart at #22.
Looking ahead, I expect the Star Wars Force and Destiny rulebook release might potentially threaten Pathfinder’s hold on the #2 spot. I doubt it will actually break through, but it might be close. The second End of the World book, Wrath of the Gods will give that game a boost, although it’s unlikely it will reach the heights that Zombie Apocalypse reached, although with Cthulhu on the cover, even that’s not certain. (Not to mention, is there room for two Cthulhu Apocalypse RPGs? Pelgrane’s Cthlulhu Apocalyse for Trail of Cthulhu is will probably be out before the end of September as well.) Finally, if Cubicle 7 manages to release Horse-Lords of Rohan in Q3, The One Ring might see a massive influx of new players as the fan favorite Rohirrim enter the game as a playable culture.
Until next time,
-Paul Alexander Butler is the Director of Retail Operations at Games and Stuff. For those keeping score at home, RPG Sales at Games and Stuff are up 29.3% over this time last year. But August of 2014 was the release of the D&D Player’s Handbook, so NEXT quarter is when those year-on-year numbers will be interesting.
So there’s a new wave of starfighters coming out for X-WING… and this wave looks to be all about explosions!
We get two new Scum ships – the Hound’s Tooth and the Kihraxz assault fighter – one new Rebel ship – the K-Wing – and one new Imperial, the TIE Punisher. Three of these ships feature stuff that goes BOOM – primarily to the detriment of your foe.
Let’s start with the odd man out. The Kihraxz looks to be a well-rounded fighter which will fill a role in the Scum faction similar to the X-Wing in the Rebel faction. It does get one more upgrade slot though, so it’s slightly more flexible. With three attack dice, it should hit quite well, and with two evade, one shield and four hull, it should survive incoming fire well enough to make itself useful. No explosions though!
The new Rebel ship, the K-Wing, is probably the most bizarre of the three. It’s a flying saucer with weird jutting pylons loaded with bombs, missiles and torpedoes, for pity’s sake! This is reflected on its upgrade bar, which has multiple slots for bombs, torpedoes and missiles. It is also the first ship to both have a turreted primary weapon and a turret upgrade slot – which might be very redundant or might make it a very flexible ship for your Rebel squads. If you can find a way to shoot both in the same combat phase, this ship will be quite ridiculous. It also gets another new ability – the SLAM ability. Giving up your shot to get an extra move means this ship might rival the TIE Phantom for its ability to move in unexpected ways. The K-Wing looks amusing to fly, I just wish it wasn’t so ugly!
Then there is the new Imperial ship, the TIE Punisher. This upgraded version of the old TIE Bomber gets three extra shields, the ability to boost, an extra bomb slot, and a System Upgrade slot. It’s still a giant flying ordnance pod, but it’s a lot tougher and faster. It should be a lot more fun to fly than the old TIE Bomber. Given the Expert Handling Elite Pilot upgrade, it might even become a neat (if slightly unusual) arc-dodger! (Hey, an Imperial can dream…)
But the really neat one is the Hound’s Tooth. It is the one large-base ship of the wave, It’s very tough – six hull and six shields – though it only has one defense die to help it hold on to those twelve hit points. Three attack dice out the front arc means it packs a respectable punch, and the slew of upgrade slots (including three crew slots!) means there will be many, many ways to outfit this ship to a variety of missions. But the really unique ability is that, if equipped with the Hound’s Tooth Title card, should one shoot down this craft, it blows up – and a special Z-95 appears in its place on the table! You then have to shoot that down as well to get the model completely off the table. In a sense, this gives the Hound’s Tooth as many hit points as a Decimator – in a craft with more agility. I may not be a Scum player, but I still want to try this once or twice!
I got to try FFG’s IMPERIAL ASSAULT the other day. And I was impressed.
First, it is really pretty. The pieces are good quality, the board pieces are distinct and well colored without being obnoxious, and the minis cry out to the RPG and miniature player in me for some paint – they look awesome naked but a semi-good painter would make them look even better! The character cards were both appealing to look at and had clear text for how each character’s special abilities worked.
Second, the rules are simple and consistent. It helped that it is clearly based on DECENT: 2nd EDITION, another highly enjoyable game. Anyone who has played Decent will quickly see how the two games relate to each other and will have no trouble adapting to the slight differences between the two.
Third, modular board! While this does increase set-up time, the maps are small enough to not make this a negative. It does allow for a huge array of possible maps. There’s a fortified building, some jungle, a trash compactor…yes, a trash compactor, Death Star style. Hopefully no dianogas…
Finally, it plays quickly and you spend very little time out of play – there is nearly always something you can be doing, sometimes even during other player’s turns (this is particularly true of the smuggler character!). We did three missions in just about two and a quarter hours the other night.
I am actually playing the part of the Bothan sniper in the campaign we started that day, backing up an exiled Jedi and sly Smuggler in our efforts to restore freedom to the Galaxy. Our Imperial opponent (and GM) warned us that so far, he had not lost a match in either of his two other campaigns! We just took this as ‘challenge accepted!’
Our first mission was to destroy four transmitters in a fortified building in six turns or less – and, oh, by the way, the Empire knows you’re coming, so it’s probably a trap. Sure enough, when we arrived there was a big pile of Imps blocking the door when we arrived… but our daring trio barely had to slow down as we blasted and slashed our way through. By the end of the second turn we were at the door, and had disabled the first transmitter. The ambush was sprung – but even that couldn’t stop us. My Bothan and the Smuggler cleared a route for the Jedi, who raced through to get at the two transmitters furthest in, then the Smuggler followed as the Bothan’s precision fire forced the Imperials into a defensive pose.
But two Transmitters were still up as the final turn came up – but both were damaged, and the Imperials were too low on troops to keep us away from them. A glorious swing of the shockstaff by the Jedi wrecked one, and the Smuggler shot the other one apart. My Bothan, wounded in the furious assault, was medevaced back to HQ and made a full recovery in time for our second mission…
But I don’t want to talk too much about the missions; it’s currently the only campaign available for Imperial Assault, and I don’t want to ruin it for other players by giving away its surprises.
The other very good thing about this game is that it has a two-player mode: skirmishes! Both players can recruit heroes and troops for their side (Rebel or Imperial) and duke it out on a larger board as if it was a miniatures game. It uses the same rules as the skirmish, but units tend to be more fragile than heroes. You also have access to some more potent units you probably won’t see in the campaign – Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, Han Solo, Chewbacca…
In short, this game is a fine addition to our Star Wars gaming experience. I know I will enjoy playing through the campaign, and I look forward to trying the skirmish battle in the near future.
It’s finally here! STAR WARS: ARMADA has arrived!
We’re just going to throw this right out front: the promise this game held for an awesome Star Wars capital ship combat game has been fulfilled! It looks and feels like the ships you see roaming over Hoth, or slugging it out over Endor. Starfighter squads zoom around, covering their larger brethren or setting up extra attacks on bigger ships, or just tying down enemy squadrons so they can’t interfere with the contests between the bigger ships. Characters like Moff Tarkin or General Dodonna add new options to your fleet, as do upgrades ranging from Gunnery or Engineering Teams to Extra Turbolasers.
The new maneuver tool allows both big, lumbering Star Destroyers and small, mobile Corellain Corvettes to fly very differently. Watching Corvettes hurtle past the very dangerous frontal arc of my Victory Star Destroyer before I even got a chance to try and smash the pest was both thrilling and yet quite aggravating. You can even make more mobile ships ‘drift’ in space, changing their angle of attack relative to the direction they are moving – A trick I love doing in space combat games, and glad to see here.
Order dials, order tokens, and defense tokens give ships useful options for maneuver, attack, and defense. They are effectively a resource that is either an innate part of the ship, or that you can acquire as the game goes along. When to use them is one of the big parts of the game – timing is critical is getting the most out of your ship.
Timing is also critical in how you shoot and move your ships. And yes, it is in that order: shoot first, then move. But, the ship phase is effectively a back-and-forth of each player activates one ship at a time, passing whose move it is back and forth. So choosing when each ship activates for best effect is also a big part of this game.
If you’re getting the idea that you are always involved in the turn as ships and Starfighters duke it out, you’d be right. Despite how different this game plays from its cousin, the X-Wing Miniatures Game, there is one aspect that remains the same: you are always involved. You are always doing something, attacking, defending, moving, planning…. This was the secret of X-Wing’s success, and I am sure it will make Armada a success too.
Now that I’m done yelling in glee over the actual game, let’s look at the upcoming Wave 2 ships:
First, the Imperial Raider that will also be debuting in STAR WARS: X-WING as its first Imperial Huge ship will be a tiny escort ship in Armada. It looks like it will be roughly on par with its counterpart, the Corellian Corvette, in both games. I bet it will be distinctly useful as an anti-fighter escort for the bigger Star Destroyers, as most of the Rebel fighters look to have the Bomber special ability.
There is also the Mon Calamari Frigate, which should act as a fast, hard-hitting but both short-ranged and fragile attack ships for the Rebels. I suspect you will be using a larger ship to keep it shielded until it’s time to strike – preferably by outflanking those dangerous Star Destroyers.
The Frigate’s big brother, the Mon Calamari Cruiser, will be the Rebel’s counterpart to Star Destroyers. Big and very resilient, it will be one of the few Rebel ships able to stand in front of a Star Destroyer and trade body blows with some hope of winning.
There is also a ‘fighter’ pack of both Rebel and Imperial ships coming out that has a slew of smaller ships – Firesprays, Aggressors, YT-1300s and 2400s, and other ‘Large’ ships from X-WING, now acting as Squadrons in ARMADA. This will make for some nice variety in squadron choices!
But the ship I am most excited for is the mighty Imperial Star Destroyer. I’ve wanted one to call my own for years now, and at long last, one will be mine! I suspect this will be THE capital ship by which all other capital ships will be measured. As it should be! It’s the first Imperial ship we ever saw in STAR WARS, and they show up in every single film of the original Trilogy. Imperial Star Destroyers are in nearly every single post-Yavin publication. It’s one of the great iconic ships of the Star Wars universe.
So… who wants to come to Games and Stuff and play? Maybe you’ll get lucky and I’ll even let you play the Imperials!
A post by Jeff Hall
Today is May the Fourth, or Star Wars Day as many now refer to it. I heard someone on the radio this morning say it was one of the silliest things he had heard of in a long time. That really bothered me on many levels. Star Wars is a full on cultural phenomenon at this point in history. For over 30 years, it has captured the hearts and minds of millions of people. It is one of the largest grossing properties out there, and practically everyone in the country knows what you are talking about when you mention it. How is that silly?
In a time when geek culture has reached a level of mainstream, something like Star Wars (which is already mainstream) is an even better way to bring people together.
But enough about that – it’s Star Wars Day! This year has more and more Star Wars than most of us know what to do with! Besides Episode 7 coming out in December, there are more new comics, novels, games, and other amazing tie-ins slated for release.
Gamers have a wealth of products available to them making this a golden age for Star Wars gaming. X-Wing, Armada, Imperial Assault, Star Wars LCG, multiple Star Wars RPGs, and so much more lining the shelves of the store have everyone spoiled for choice. And the truly remarkable thing about all those products – they are all fantastic. There are no easy throw away licensed products there. Everything that FFG has put out is incredibly well done and fun to play.
So on this May the Fourth, grab your favorite game set in a galaxy far, far away and have a blast with your friends. Gaming is like the force – It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together.
Hello to all the retailers just joining us after we spoke at the GAMA Trade Show in March. I hope you find this little ramble of mine useful.
So, what’s there to talk about? Well, let’s start with the list. Here’s the Top 20 RPGs by sales volume at Games and Stuff for the period of January 1 through March 31. (With last quarter’s ranking where appropriate)
- Dungeons & Dragons (Q4 Rank #1)
- Pathfinder (Q4 Rank #2)
- Star Wars (Q4 Rank #3)
- Shadowrun (Q4 Rank #5)
- Warhammer 40,000 (Q4 Rank #9)
- The One Ring (Q4 Rank #6)
- Fate (Q4 Rank #11)
- 13th Age (Q4 Rank #10)
- Mutants & Masterminds
- Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay
- The End of the World (Q4 Rank #18)
- The Strange (Q4 Rank #14)
- Trail of Cthulhu (Q4 Rank #8)
- Mutant Year Zero
- Iron Kingdoms
- Dungeon World
- Monster of the Week
- A Song of Ice and Fire (Q4 Rank #16)
I actually have a lot of thoughts about Pathfinder and D&D these days, but it’s enough that I’m going to write a separate article about it. Keep your eyes open for a RPG Evolution Supplemental in a week or so.
So with that being said, what else is interesting this time around?
A huge surprise to me, the Warhammer 40,000 RPGs have climbed back up to their usual perch in the Top 5, largely thanks to increased interest in the second edition Dark Heresy stuff. Though we also did a bit of remerchandising, moving the games to their own endcap display to allow FFG’s Star Wars stuff to spread out. I was just talking about scaling back on this line in January! Funny how that works- we pulled 40K from a primo position on the FFG wall due to declining sales, and boom! sales go up in its new home. If you haven’t learned this counter-intuitive merchandising lesson by now, take it to heart. Move stuff around, and do it frequently.
Shadowrun continues to gain steam, now firmly ensconced in our Top 5, with new hardback releases typically selling as many as 15-20 copies in the first week of release. We’ll see periodic dips during slow release months, but viewed over time, it’s an incredibly important line for us. Sales of second-hand product is also great (and as a reminder, no second-hand sales are included in our sales rankings for the purposes of RPG Evolution.)
13th Age is also gaining traction. I love the crap out of this game and as I’ve mentioned before, I’m currently playing in a Dark Sun campaign using this system. (Nothing will increase your RPG sales like you talking about your home campaign at your store.) I’d like to think this game deserves a regular spot in the Top 10.
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay‘s appearance on this list is a complete anomaly. FFG has ceased publication of new material for this game, and I’d long ago stopped restocking it. But I have a lot of love for the game, and even wrote a memorial article about it. As stock levels on my shelves began to dip, I think fans of the game started worrying that it was going to disappear so snapped it all up. It’s all gone now, and at $49.99 and more apiece, that added up quickly.
There’s also a number of games on the list that have shown up in the Top 20 previously, but have skipped a quarter or two. It just goes to show how cyclical some of these games are, with sales spiking with new releases or when an alpha gamer or two starts a campaign in the store. These games include (for my store) Mutants & Masterminds, Numenera, Iron Kingdoms and Dungeon World. On a monthly or even quarterly basis, these games don’t seem that important, but given the long view, their impact on the bottom line reveals itself. Further evidence that a broad selection of RPGs contributes to the health of the department in unexpected ways. Think beyond your Top 5!
Finally, some games to watch:
The End of the World – this game continues to truck along and sell copy after copy. It’s a perfect pickup game, and the three additional titles forthcoming, we’re gonna see some volume out of this.
Mutant Year Zero – The newest offering from Modiphius (publishers of Achtung! Cthulhu and the forthcoming Conan and Infinity RPGs) seems to have caught the eye of a lot of gamers. My first batch sold out immediately, and with a hefty restock coming in and the seal of approval from my Assistant Manager, I wouldn’t be surprised if this title threatens to break the Top 10 when we’re back here talking numbers in early July.
-Paul Alexander Butler is the Store Manager of Games and Stuff. He likes to go to trade shows and loudly pontificate about how retailers could be selling more RPGs than they are.
-RPG Evolution is Paul’s quarterly column wherein he talks about the business of selling Roleplaying Games.
A Guest RPG Lab Report by Jeff Hall
In my first foray into running RPG Lab, I was lucky to run something I know intimately well – Star Wars Edge of the Empire. One of the reasons I decided to run EotE is that I have been writing for the game for FFG and I wanted to bring some of that experience to the table. With all the Star Wars hype that has been happening as of late, it was also prime time to get more people talking about this great game.
The Character Creation system for EotE is very well done. You are given templates to choose from and then a pool of experience to help you flesh out the character you want to make. The game does not use Levels, so this allows for a lot of flexibility in how you structure your character. Fantasy Flight has made a large number of player aids and specialization decks to have all the information you need right at your fingertips.
Character generation was simple and straightforward. with a level-less system you have a LOT of flexibility with creating your character. Understanding the cost of increasing various character qualities is a little tough at first, but there are numerous player aids that put all of the information on a page or two to assist with the XP calculations. Overall, I was very impressed with the amount of flexibility both in creating your character, and also in the many ways you could expand those options as you gain XP. If you can imagine it, the game will let you build it.
I was pleased with the simplicity of the process, and the speed at which someone (like me) is able to pick up the book cold, get the information necessary to make a character of a type they want, and put that all down on paper in less than an hour. And that hour includes some degree of table chatter, so an experienced player could probably do things in half the time.
Ummmm … It’s Star Wars. 🙂
That said, breaking down the Star Wars game into three distinct RPGs has allowed FFG to flesh out the game system and universe in many interesting ways. Edge of the Empire’s ability to explore the seedy, underside of the SW Universe allows for very interesting stories to be told. Heroes and Villains can rise and fall far from the battles against the Empire if the GM wishes. There are limitless opportunities for fantastic storytelling!
It’s Star Wars, so setting materials are both varied and plentiful. Our game took place both on planets that were iconic to the movies, and some that I had never heard of, but the tone of Star Wars remained consistent. The game system was also flexible enough that almost any Star Wars resource material could be used to create the world, city, or setting you desired without much effort.
The Star Wars RPGs utilize a unique dice system that is an evolution of the story dice introduced in Warhammer Role-Play 3rd Edition. While daunting at first, once you begin play the dice merge seamlessly with the story and help craft a very robust narrative. Achieved a success with some Advantage? Well then perhaps you shot out the door controls while blasting at those Stormtroopers! Made your computer roll but ended up with four Threat? Unknown to you, a silent alarm has been tripped and enemies are closing in. There are tons of great ways to interpret the dice in a session.
The custom dice are a wrench; to play properly you need two sets, but everyone at the table can use the same two sets. Beyond the dice, the system seems to be consistent whether working with interpersonal tests, personal combat, challenge tests, or vehicle combat (like spaceships), and this is a good thing. The system is also notable for allowing for qualified successes and failures (the “yes, and…” and “no, but…”), critical successes and failures, additional increase or decrease of difficulty through boost and setback dice, and stepping up dice through the use of shared force points (which sadly makes them available for the GM to use later in a cosmic balance sort of thing).
I think it’s a great system. At first the custom dice had me a little put off and intimidated (I’ve been tied to the d20, d10, and d6, for a long time…) but after a few rolls of the dice with the custom symbols and seeing how they represent success, failure, and additional narrative results, they were a lot of fun. Given the total flexibility of character generation it’s also important to make sure the group of players are diverse in their skills and abilities
I had an absolute blast running Edge of the Empire. I had a fantastic table of players who all really dove in and embraced their inner Star Wars fans. I would love to see these characters and players again in the future blasting off across the Outer Rim!
This was my second RPG Lab experience, and I think it’s a great program. These are the kinds of things that set apart Games and Stuff from other retailers. They are the reason I chose to spend a little more in the store instead of online to save a few bucks. It’s a fantastic program to expose players to new systems they’ve never tried, or maybe never event heard of. Four weeks is just long enough to get into a system and truly evaluate it. One-shot single session games are great, but they often leave new players constantly trying to play catch-up in a swirl of new mechanics. With RPG Lab, I’ve started to feel really comfortable by the end of the first or second game, so there’s still 3 more sessions to relax a little and enjoy the system now that I’ve got the basics down. Jeff’s module was fantastic, and kept the tone of Star Wars consistent throughout. It had a good blend of many game mechanics including combat, space combat, negotiations, and at one point pretty much pleading to a Hutt for our lives. It was balanced and challenging, but never so much so that we felt the challenges were impossible to overcome. It certainly felt heroic.
I was pleased with the players I got a chance to game with and the responsive GM. I’m coming back to the hobby after a decade-and-a-half away and this is just the sort of experience I needed to feel comfortable at a table. I’d definitely jump at the chance to play with everyone again.
Good, as usual. The best RPG Lab showcases the system and setting, and presents use cases for various aspects of the system (the aforementioned interpersonal, combat, or challenge tests), and this one did all of those.
“Interested in RPG.LAB? Feel free to contact us at: email@example.com to reserve a space in one of our upcoming games!”
I have a lot of stuff I want to talk about this time! Well, two items, but I suspect I’ll be rambling for a while.
First: I saw a feat during the March 2015 store event at Games and Stuff that, had someone told me I’d see it, I would have laughed at them and said “nonsense!” What was that feat? I watched an 86 point, two-ship build win the event. Yep, a list running with effectively an outrageous 14 point handicap not only won the event, but never lost a ship, and twice table-wiped the other squadron. It was undoubtedly helped that many of our regulars were ‘away’ at an official Store Championship so that it only had to do battle three times – but it was still most impressive.
And the list was very simple, too: Echo and Whisper, both running with Veteran Instincts, Recon Specialist, Sensor Jammer, and Advanced Clocking Device, if I recall it correctly. Points-wise, not even close to a maximum possible build. It was a great display of the power of high pilot skill, the unpredictability of Phantoms, and the sheer lethality of their four attack dice, coupled to a player who really understood how his ships worked.
This was also due to a reaction in the X-Wing meta-game caused by the other topic I wished to look at –Scum and Villainy came out! This new faction has changed the X-Wing landscape extensively and brought us a whole new faction’s worth of toys to play with. Some of these are familiar – Firesprays, Y-Wings, and Z-95s – while others are new – the Aggressor, the StarViper, and the M-3A Interceptor (hereafter “Scyk” since, to me, there is only ONE true Interceptor!).
The ‘older’ ships got a nice face-lift, for starters: I love the new paint job on the Z-95s that come in Scum & Villainy’s base box, and have to admit even the Y-Wing paint job is excellent, even if I can’t bring myself to like it – but then, I’ve always considered the Y-Wing an ugly ship, so I suspect that’s where my dislike comes from.
The Z-95 has secured itself a good spot as the Rebel Alliance’s swarm ship, often used to escort a higher- value ship into battle as a weak but still useful extra set of attack dice. I suspect it will serve a similar purpose in the Scum lists, able to pack a missile along as some extra punch should the list call for it.
Some of the new Scum pilots also look to be great fun to fly – N’Dru Suhlak in particular, since he’s all about being a Lone Wolf (another fun-looking upgrade card). The Y-Wing has gotten a huge upgrade – it had long been rendered pretty much obsolete by its cousin, the B-Wing, despite its turret upgrade slot, because the B-Wing’s 2-K turn had allowed it to keep three attack dice on target even in a close fight – far better than the Y-Wing’s expensive turret upgrade. But with the advent of the zero-cost BTL-A4 title, suddenly the Y-Wing can potentially attack twice per turn through the frontal arc. The addition of a Blaster Turret or an Ion Cannon Turret means that suddenly being stuck in front of a Y-Wing squad is similar to being stuck in front of a TIE Swarm – there is just a lot of attacks coming your way. You can also add a modification that allows Y-Wings to carry a bomb, as well, which was a detail many Star Wars purists have long felt was lacking from the Rebellion’s primary bomber!
We’ve not seen much of the Firespray since the advent of the B-Wing; she was too big and expensive of a target for tournament play. But for the Imperial, the Firespray was the way you got a good all-rounder ship with many possible upgrade combinations on the table. It was rendered utterly obsolete by the Decimator, but now some old faces have appeared in the new faction with new abilities – and I dare say the Firespray will find new life in play with the Scum. It makes a great centerpiece ship escorted by Z- 95s and the new StarViper and Scyks. Kath Scarlet in particular makes me smile with her extra attack die out her rear arc!
The ship making the biggest splash in the new set is the Aggressor. It’s got an insanity-inducing maneuver dial, astonishing ship stats, a huge array of upgrades, and comes with a title card (IG-2000) that lets the four different IG-88 pilots share their special rules. It’s also very expensive to field. And the nature of the title card means you want to have as many Aggressors in play as possible – but in a standard 100-point build, that is just two. This ship’s immense strength is also its greatest weakness – you have to choose if you want two very well kitted out IG-2000 ships, or play with one Aggressor with a nice batch of escorts, or two naked IG-2000 escorted by one or two smaller ships. Most folks I’ve seen have gone the two IG-2000 route and report that it’s pretty mean.
The new Scyk is also getting some attention. It can be fielded as a low-cost swarm ship like a TIE Fighter, with similar stats and slightly lower maneuverability, or you can add the “Heavy Scyk” title card and slap a missile, torpedo, or cannon on the little punk for some serious firepower. Since the Z-95 fills the swarm ship role better, most folks are going the Heavy route and adding Ion Cannons, Heavy Laser Cannons, or the new and quite nasty Mangler Cannon to the mix. The ship remains quite inexpensive with this upgrade – even with the Heavy Laser Cannon, a Cartel Spacer Heavy Scyk weighs in at a mere 23 points. You can throw 16 attack dice at range three – with no bonus defense die – using a build of four of these. That’s a crippled Decimator, or a dead Falcon, on the first salvo. I expect to see one or two of these little ships escorting a Firespray in many Scum lists.
The StarViper is not getting as much attention as I think it deserves. With three attack and defense dice, and four hull points plus a shield, it can take some good punishment and dish it back – plus it has a very solid maneuver dial. I think the lack of high pilot skill is where folks are getting snagged on this ship: the most elite pilot, Prince Xizor, has a mere PS of 7. In a game environment where you have PS 7 or higher Phantoms and turreted ships running around causing havoc, it’s just not good enough. So I suspect we won’t be seeing much of Xizor and Guri… but we will be seeing that PS 1 StarViper being used as a blocker and general troublemaker. Despite this, people will be buying some StarVipers…to get their hands on a pair of cards from the box: the Autothrusters! This powerful defensive modification is very useful against turreted ships, and I think will become a standard card on fast moving, elusive flankers in many competitive lists. Like my Interceptors… and it can be paired with Stealth Device using Royal Guard TIE for even more insane green dice antics. A-Wings, TIE fighters, E-Wings, and TIE Advanced will also all benefit from this new modification… and the domination of big, turreted ships has been greatly reduced, which will be good for the competitive scene.
Overall I really like the new faction; while I remain a primarily Imperial player, I look forward to using these new ships from time to time and suspect they’ll give me a good surprise or two on the table.