Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Busting Out Of The Box: Taking A Look At Gamma World 4e

Hello everyone and welcome to an opening edition of the Dispatch!

For this one we are going in a totally new direction as we bust open the box on a recent purchase I made. Hang on tight because things are about to get a little random!

Mutant Bastards Galore!
Unboxing the Gamma World RPG

Long, long ago in a state about three thousand miles away, I borrowed an RPG rulebook from a friend of my brother. The whole thing was crazy and bizarre with radiation and mutations everywhere! What game was it? A first edition copy of Gamma World by TSR Hobbies. I never did run or play a game of it but it always struck me as kind of cool in a very Flash Gordon kind of way.

Flash forward to the present.

It's been years since I've done any role playing but its something that I really want to get back to and I've finally found some people to not only game with but also do some RP as well! The big difference is that this time I decided that I'm not just going to play but also try my hand at running some games as well. The real question is what would I run?

One of the great things about listening to a ton of actual play sessions like I do is its almost like have a demo of a game. You can really get a feel for how a game works mechanically very quickly. Does it bog down in combat or flow nicely? Are the challenges in the game smooth or cumbersome?

Originally I was looking at bringing 3:16 Carnage Amongst The Stars to the table just because of how smooth the system seems (very straight forward mechanics and nicely interactive RP elements) when I heard about Dungeons and Dragons Gamma World. I was really intrigued at this idea though when I heard about the collectible card aspect of the game I was pretty disappointed. I had planned to just completely pass on the game until I listened to some actual plays that made me change my mind.

Basically it seems like the new Gamma World is a streamlined version of the 4e ruleset. Reduce the total number of skills, speed up the combat, and the system really seems to run much more smoothly then Dungeons and Dragons 4e.

Don't get me wrong. I am not one of the myriad of 4e haters out there. Personally, I have heard enough good games of 4e to recognize the fact that it is not a bad system if it is run correctly. One of the main problems that I've noticed in listening to games is the fact that it can get overly crunchy and really bog down at higher levels as you have to break out the accounting paper to keep track of the hundreds of hit points that are being dealt with.

The new Gamma World avoids that problem by putting its lethal nature on the table right away. With virtually no healing available in this post apocalyptic setting, if you get shot with a gun a couple of times then you're going to wind up dead, no two ways about it.

Another common complaint is that it is not a role playing game but a roll playing game. While it's true that combat is where the 4e mechanics really excel, I still think that there are possibilities for role playing that you can explore if you look for them. Of course I might wind up eating crow soon as I plan on running this game later this month for my friends but only time will tell for sure. Until then, let's take a quick look at just what you get in the box.

Rulebook: One digest sized rulebook with full color throughout. Nice looking and the layout isn't bad either but it can be a little hard to find things sometimes. For example, some of the critters listed in the book have special movement rules but those are not described in the movement section. Instead, those are detailed at the beginning of the creature section.

Counters: 96 counters to represent the players and monsters plus another 12 oversized counters for large monsters. These are really well done and are comparable to the quality you'd find in most of the better boardgames out there.

Alpha mutation and Omega tech cards: 80 cards representing various random mutations and technology that you'll find as you explore Gamma Terra. In stark contrast to the counters these cards are what I'd expect to find in your run of the mill mass market boardgame. I would definitely recommend getting some card protectors these as you'll be shuffling them fairly regularly.

One booster pack of cards: One pack of eight new alpha and omega cards. Yeah, this is the collectible part. There are a total of 120 new cards in this set and while you don't need to collect them at all, they can add a little something to the game. Personally I'm not sure how I feel out these. Given the lack luster quality of the cards and the very steep price of the boosters, I think I might pass on these for now.

Poster maps: Two double sided maps of various locations from the beginning adventure. These are fairly typical poster maps but the artwork is pretty nice on them.

Eight character sheets: Four pages with a character sheet on each side. Now calling these "character sheets" is actually pretty generous. These basically summarize each step in character creation and give you a small space to put in the information from that step. There are much better sheets out there on the web but these are at least a starting point if you really have to get to the table without taking a few minutes to do a quick search on the net for something better.

And that's it! All and all, not too bad for the price though the vastly varying quality of some of the components is kind of odd. Full color glossy rulebook, very nicely finished counters, low quality cards, and bare minimum character sheets. Maybe they were trying a little too hard to capture the completely random nature of the game with this bit of game design. Note to Wizards; quality throughout is not a bad thing!

As I mentioned, I'm hoping to get this one to the table later this month so I'll be sure to do a follow up once we have actually gotten in some game time. The game does come with a full beginning adventure but its designed for five characters which is more than I'm looking at having right now so I've got some stuff I'm working on of my own creation. But more on that later...

The Parting Shot...

And that's the new Gamma World in a nutshell! It will definitely be interesting to not only get this game to the table but just get back into roleplaying at all. I can see fun and exciting things in the future... mwah ha ha ha ha!!! As always, if you have any comments, complaints, questions, you can either leave them right here on the blog or you can email me at And I'm on Facebook as well (just like 90% of the population...) so click the link and like the Dispatch! Do it. Do it now!!! Until next time...

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