We have been approached to do a pre-kickstarter review of Maximum Apocalypse – the RPG! Honestly, I had never heard of Maximum Apocalypse which is a board game released by Rock Manor Games. The board game is about a world torn apart by pretty much every apocalyptic occurrence possible – all at the same time! Zombies, virus, aliens, kaiju and no doubt numerous others. The board game looks reasonably good and now it seems that there is enough demand to consider creating a role-playing game (RPG) for the setting. The people at Rock Manor Games have supplied me with a quick start set of rules you can pick up at DriveThruRPG and also a sneak peak at the rulebook that you would be putting your hard-earned money into if you support their Kickstarter.
I love a good Apocalypse game
It is true that I love me a good apocalypse game. But it is also true that I tend to compare most apocalypse RPG’s to Apocalypse World, which I have run several times. There are stark differences between these two games though, so how does Maximum Apocalypse differ? The most obvious is the apocalypse part. In Maximum Apocalypse pretty much every apocalyptic setting you can think of happened. In Apocalypse World, an apocalypse happened, but it does not really matter what it was and nobody can really remember anyway. This allows you to directly interact with the apocalypse in multiple forms with Maximum Apocalypse as opposed to Apocalypse World where it is more about the environment and characters directly.
Maximum Apocalypse is much more your traditional style RPG. You make characters and the referee/games master will create the world that you operate in. This will no doubt eventually lead to adventures facing off against the bringers of the apocalypse. Apocalypse World is a very different feel to this “norm” of RPG’s so it is hard to compare them. Once I realized this I ploughed into the core rule book that they provided me – it is incomplete (hence the Kickstarter) but gives you a good feel for the game.
What impressed me the most?
Hands down, the initial reaction to this game was how professional it looked. The existing artwork and layout really bring the game to life in a pulp and action vibe. The art is evocative and the layout makes the game easy to read. All stuff that you want in the core rule book of a game. In fact, when Cameron Corniuk and I were working out who would review the game on here I realized I had read about half the game already because it reads well and is so well laid out.
I also liked the basic system. For those of you that use the latest installment of Call of Cthulhu it is very similar. A percentile based system that has thresholds of success built into the rolls. Plus there is the concept of bonus and disadvantage dice added to a roll (making you take the best or worse dice appropriately) which I find really good in play. Their skill system also has an abstraction to it that gives you bonuses based on how proficient you are with it – not just an arbitrary increase of a number, which is nice.
Is there anything I want to see improved?
Look, it is a hard thing to be critical with a product in Kickstarter phase but there were a couple of niggly things that I found that I would like to see addressed. The first was in character generation which is a process where you build your character through steps. There are archetypes that you choose in the game and also a bunch of choices you make about what Apocalypse is the most personal to the character that builds the character up. This is all fun and a nice system but then the further you go it seems there are steps that some archetypes take and others don’t. I really don’t think this is clearly denoted and I became confused. In the end I gave up because it was just a test on how to build a character. The generation is fun but needs work – which I suppose is where the Kickstarter comes in.
The other thing that I kind of like but don’t at the same time is some of the mechanics are very board/video gamey. Now, that probably should not surprise me seeing it is based off a board game. The one example that I will lay out is there is an enemy attraction gauge mechanic. This is in place to determine if “enemies” take note of the characters actions and appear. Sort of like building in a random encounter I suppose, that is reactive to the player actions. I am a person that is focused on making a games master’s preparation and in play experience as simple as possible. Having to have a gauge built around each player’s actions seems too much work on top of everything else you have to do. I like the concept, but find it works well in board games and video games, not so much when there is one person running the world, all the non-player characters and the like. You should see if there are ways you can reduce what they have to do, not increase the load.
I like the look and feel of this game. The quick-start rules seem to go over and above what they need for you to play a game. They give a really good feel for what the game may become. The part of the main rulebook shared is very good. Great to look at and on the whole well written. There is a fair bit of it missing right now (mainly the GM sections) and it interests me how that will all turn out.
Back this Kickstarter if you are the kind of person that wants to interact with the Apocalypse elements in game. There are apocalypse games out there where the apocalypse is a background to the survival element of the game. In this the Apocalypse (all of them you can possibly think of) are in your face. You can interact closely with the elements of it through your character. The production quality is high and a lot of the content is already in place. I am not certain when the Kickstarter starts but here is a link to their pre-Kickstarter page. Grab the quick start rules (link in the first paragraph) then let me know what you think below! Keep rolling.