Sunday, January 2, 2011

The New Gamma World (play review)

This afternoon, Josh, Pat and Alex came over and we tried out the newest version of Gamma World.

Quick capsule review: It was fun, but...

More detailed review?  Oh, all right.

First off, character creation was not quite as simple as it could have been, but that's mostly because Josh hadn't had time to really digest the rules, we only had the one rulebook to share among us, and we didn't always just want to assume that things worked the way they do in 4E D&D (mostly they do, but that assumption was correct).

As you've likely already read about the game, you start out by rolling a d20 twice for your primary and secondary 'type.'  This determines one of the six ability scores to be an 18, another is a 16, and you roll 3d6 in order for the rest.  The types also give you some special traits, and your starting powers.

Everyone gets a 'standard gear' set (backpack, rope, rations, canteen, etc.), and gets 2-5 other random pieces of equipment, which may or may not be useful.  Then you select what type of armor you want (light or heavy, with or without shield), and one melee and one ranged weapon.

I'll take a little time out to say here that they basically just list a few types of weapon, rather than going through a whole involved list where lots of choices will be similar anyway.  You can pick a light one handed melee weapon, a light two handed melee weapon, a heavy one handed melee weapon, or a heavy two handed melee weapon.  Similar with ranged weapons, but ranged allow for 'weapon' and 'gun' where guns have better range (and for the heavy set, better damage as well), but if used more than once in an encounter they run out of ammo until ammo can be found again.  I'm not sure if that's really necessary, as the guns didn't seem to be so much better than the other weapons, but maybe in a longer term campaign they would be?

Anyway, back to character creation--You get two skills at a bonus (+4), then roll a d10 for one more skill which is just at your ability score bonus.  You get 12+Con score hit points, and AC plus Fort/Ref/Will defenses, like in 4E.  Everyone starts out drawing an Alpha Power (random mutation), and Omega Tech (crap left over from before) card.  That's about it.

We had some interesting combinations of origins, as you would expect.  My character was a 'seismic' 'doppelganger' which means he's made of rock like The Thing (from the Fantastic 4, not the John Carpenter film), and can pull doubles of himself out of alternate realities to help him.  Since he had a draft horse, pickup truck (but no gas), keel boat, and my starting Omega Tech card was a laser-firing robot dog that would occasionally attack me, I decided my character was Chesney McRocten, a Country Western singer.

Alex and Pat were both playing two characters each so we'd have the suggested 5.  Alex had an 'empath' 'plant' named Willow Whinderwhisperrainbowpolyandryhappenstancedottir III, a nordic hippy who was sort of a healer/controller type.  His other PC was Click Click Hiss, a 'rat swarm' 'cockroach' so in other words, just a big swarm of cockroaches, meaning he was mobile and hard to kill, with damaging vomit.

Pat was playing Bob Glowy, a 'radioactive' 'speedster' who, as you might guess, could move around quickly, and blast people with radiation eyes.  His second character was Raxalphian Smith, a 'mind breaker' 'telekinetic' or in other words our Jean Grey minus the boobs (at least I think it was supposed to be a guy).

It took us longer than expected to make these guys, but if a) we'd all played more 4E, and b) we had had a second copy of the rule book, things would have gone a lot faster, I think.

We played through the first three encounters of the starter adventure that came in the rule book. 


You've been warned. 

After a bit of railroad trying not to look like a railroad (do you want to press on to the ruins, or just go home?) we get to the ruined tower that is a known Badder stronghold and is now sending out robots after a group of Archivists headed into the ruins a short while back. [Hearing this made me think, "OK, this is Gamma World!"]

Outside the ruined tower are some guards--two Badders and two Porkers (orcs/gammorean guards).  They tell us to bug off, we decide to kill them.  And they went down pretty fast.  I was getting good mileage out of my Doppelganger ability.  I could make a copy of myself (minus alpha and omega powers) appear within 5 squares, who could then take a turn.  So I could move, create a double, have it move if necessary, then have it attack with my heavy two handed melee weapon (2d8+5 damage!).  It then lingered until the end of my next turn, so it could also soak up hits or just get in the way/provide flanking bonuses.  I was effectively using my melee attacks at range.

Pat provided a bit of entertainment in the first battle by switching minds with one of the Badders.  It left us with a bit of a problem, as the Badder-mind was then using the esper's body to attack the radioactive Flash.  But it all got sorted out in the end.

Inside the tower, there were some more Badders and a Yexil.  This was a bit tougher fight, but we got through it relatively unscathed.  The Yexil could do some damage, and the cockroach was hurt, but we managed to take it down.  We were a little beat up, so we decided to take the 'extended rest' and get our health back.

Finally we ventured down the stairs.  Some more Badders took pot shots at us (I took a little damage, but my rock body provided damage reduction) then fled into a larger chamber.  We followed, but made a tactical error.  Pat's psion had drawn a 'nasty stench' Alpha power for this encounter, which meant we all had to stay at least 2 squares away from him or be hindered.  Also, the Badders (a couple of whom had psychic powers) were in a room with a machine that damaged us but healed them.

We bungle things pretty badly by having Pat's stinker last in marching order, but then he wanted to get up and into the fight to cause trouble for the Badders, by getting our lines spread out, and by not attacking the machine to shut it down.  We ended up with a near TPK.  My guy was the last one standing, and since I had no way to revive the others, a few hit points, and 4 Badders and the machine still to deal with, I 'pulled a dwarf' and fled, as Josh had done in Pat's 4E game when he didn't like how things were going.

It was nearly time for Josh to leave and meet his wife by then anyway, so even if we had won, that's about as far as we'd have gotten.

As far as the rules go, from what I saw and experienced of it, they're not as fiddly as 4E seemed, but they're also not as well presented/organized.  It also seems like several of the cards we drew were poorly edited.  It was often unclear if some powers were one shot and done, or if they lasted for the encounter.  Josh even read us a bit in the rulebook, saying if you know 4E, this will be easier to understand because it's a cut down version.  In other words, for people who don't really know 4E like us, it was pretty vague in many places.

The game is also not a cakewalk the way 4E was designed to be, either (yes, I know 4E combats can be difficult too, but it's set up for the players to win).  With Alpha Powers constantly changing, and Omega Tech unstable and potentially used up at the end of an encounter, you can't count on knowing what you'll bring to the table in each encounter.

Anyway, this is getting pretty long (what, you said you wanted a more detailed review!).  I'll sum up.

We had a good time
Randomness in character generation/power cards
Gamma World feel (wild and wahoo is how I always played it anyway)
streamlined 4E rules

Poor presentation of rules
4E ruleset, to me (YES, my opinion), is too tactical and predefined

I don't know that I'd actually buy this for myself, but I'd definitely play it again.  And I wouldn't mind playing in a longer campaign too, just to see how things scale.


  1. cool. i think the scenario was pretty streamlined, but if you know anything about fallout (videogame), i think that it has quite a bit of potential. personally, i still don't like the whole map thing, but what i was thinking of doing was making predetermined 5x5 cards with more defined terrain that you stick together for the battles you do have to have. this would avoid the problem of being able to see all of the map as soon as the battle begins. i really found that took away from the game. also, this gamma world story hit the same issue for me that pat's game had. all fight, no fun. creating a living world for players to interact with should be possible in this game as well as it was in earlier editions and with the streamlined battle system, i think it could avoid the hours of battle that 4th seems to be mired in.
    my two cents,

  2. One of the things I loved about Gamma World when I first played it way back when was that you started off as a piss-poor tribesman with nothing but some bows and arrows and spears and you (hopefully)ended up driving hover cars and commanding your own robot army (or you ended up dead)... but there were a lot of steps in between and we were always on the hunt for batteries, bullets, power cells, etc... and every time you found something you had to figure out what it was and how to use it... so you might find something that looked like a really cool laser pistol but would end up being a cordless egg beater.
    I'm a little baffled and dissapointed that you can now start the game with a pick-up truck and a shotgun... but maybe they want to make it more like a game of Fallout.

  3. I recently grabbed this with some Amazon credit. Just came in the other day and I haven't done much more than an initial skimming yet. I was kinda curious about if I'd want to buy in to any of the Essentials stuff (I've skipped all of the 4E stuff so far) and thought that this would be a good way to test the waters because it looked cool.

  4. I liked the cards that would cause our mutations to flare up in new and interesting ways. Like you, the 4e rule set will preclude me from playing it again.