One week on from my review of the main game I now have two achievements: I have played the game and I have finished reading the Antagonist Archive. I will try and get my thoughts on both of these out in this post. If you have not read the original review on the base game, I suggest you take a look at it here.
I was about to write this review after having played a single game but I got distracted. Last night was game night so now I have even better insight for writing this section. It is a good thing too as Fragged Empire is a generic sci-fi game but it is different to most games. Sure, it has the GM and characters with stats and the like but the way it is approached is different.
First of all, the game likes to use miniatures and a battle map for combat. This is something I am not a fan of in general but in this game it feels good. The way that they want you to approach theatre of the mind role playing is not a solid system. You just make skill rolls (yes with description) and once you have succeeded twice per player you win the combat. Not a solid system for me. Plus I wanted to try the system the way it was intended so I broke out the battle map and the Star Wars figures and we have been using their system.
The only other real time that I did this in another game was D&D fourth edition. That soulless hollowed out beer and pretzel tabletop game haunts me to this day. I am pleased to say that the system that Fragged Empire has is solid and works really well. Characters may take two actions a round and these actions are all spelled out on a combat sheet of the character sheet. Each action has a little bit of shorthand telling the player what they can do when utilising an action which I find very useful. The players are still finding their way with the shorthand against each action though I am sure that the concepts will gel soon.
I designed a mini adventure to start the game and then, just in case I was doing it all wrong, I went to the Fragged Empire website and downloaded their free adventure in the downloads section. Surprisingly the adventure I had written and the one I had written were very similar but theirs was a lot more fleshed out so I downloaded it and decided to run their adventure The Ghost Ship Carthage.
I was surprised at the depth in this game. Using the miniature rules I had thought that it was going to be too mechanical for my tastes but the opposite seems to have occurred. The system rewards descriptive narrative with bonuses and punishes the lack of it with negatives. This really pushes the players to role play what their character is doing. It also acts as a reminder to the GM to be descriptive of everything. The first night we played I found my self having fun role playing an autocannon! Last nights game was full of similar stuff. And as the rules are getting bedded down we are really beginning to flesh things out.
The secrets at the moment for me are to pay attention and use the information sheets that are attached to the characters. They really hold a wealth of assistance. I have to say that having the official GM screen is a massive boon too as all of the actions etc. are on the back of it including the stripped down versions for NPC’s.
Despite this game heading along a similar tangent to those of the Era Consortium that was played in store, I can see this game bringing a lot of enjoyment to the players. I was going to crack out classic Traveller but this is a nice system and will work for a nice campaign. Only problem with this game is you can’t die during character generation!
Antagonist Archive I
The second book that was not a module in this game was the Antagonist Archive. I, like many others that saw this on the shelf of the store thought that it was a monster manual for the game. In a sense they were right but also very wrong. I myself had only ever flicked through this book and seen images of the Mechonids and Nephilim that were contained in its pages. I was very wrong to believe this was a monster compendium though.
In reality this book is full of source material. It fleshes out a massive amount of companies and organisations that exist in the Haven system. It also details a bunch of new locations and introduces the Var system (where the Corp race were interred before the war). Amongst all of this information there are some fantastc snippets of information in the form of stories and detailed summaries of other groups and powers that inhabit the black.
I actually thought that the core rulebook was overflowing with hooks but the Antagonist Archive takes those hooks and weaves them into a more cohesive whole. I feel like I “get” some of the meta that is going on in the game and I know that I am a whole heap more comfortable in role playing members of different groups now.
There is a section that fleshes out the Mechonids and the Nephilim, which is why I thought it was a compendium of monsters. They needed the fleshing out too – there was too little in the core book. Through the descriptions you begin to understand the Mechonids a lot more too. I think I can see where this trail is headed, which is great – because I really want to pursue the Mechonid trail.
Apart from the Mechonid and Nephilim there are a bunch more fleshed out NPC’s like pirates, Legion and a heap more. Finally, there is a really handy expanded bunch of variations or traits for NPC’s that the Games Master (GM) can take and adjust their own designs with. Not to mention the numbers of spaceships that they also have at the back just to add to the variety!
I thought I had it all with the core rule book. But I now see that after reading the Antagonist Archive I can not imagine the game without it. The writing of the source material in this book is a lot less dry. The information is excellent and allows for deeper planning by the GM. In fact I easily imagine running an espionage or social engineering style game in this universe. I could not exactly imagine that after only the core book.
While not essential to enjoy Fragged Empire I would strongly recommend this book to GM’s at a minimum. I do think that it helps players see the bigger picture though so would suggest that if you truly want to get to the heart of the game that this is a very worthy purchase! Keep rolling!