Monday, 24 November 2014

Mindjammer second edition review

Some time back, I was ranting about everything in the world being nothing but second editions of things that have already come out and games that have been out before.  But there are a few out there that actually manage to be most of the things that a second edition should be.  Having just come from Longcon where I ran this game, I felt compelled to review it.

Welcome to Mindjammer

The original Mindjammer was interesting, but it didn’t touch on the wider aspects of the worlds and universe that made the field we were playing on more interesting, it didn't give you what you needed to expand on these things.  The new edition is bigger than the original in a number of ways, devoting sufficient space to all the things that needed fleshing out.  To put some perspective on that, the original Mindjammer was 160 pages of background that needed the Starblazer adventures game to get it to work.  The new edition is 500 pages and has everything you need to play a game, rather than being just a setting for another game, and that’s not the only difference that’s been made.

Whereas the original book was almost completely background, this one has a massive number of rules, and the background and nature of the universe in which you play is interspersed with those rules.  As an example, the section that deals with culture and cultural differences starts with a brief description of how cultures differ in the universe, and then moves straight on to how you create a culture and how the different rules of the culture make a difference in the universe.  Most of the sections follow a similar pattern, with a brief explanation and then all the rules that you could ever need to deal with it. This presents an interesting quandary, because the original was based around all the information you could want to put something together, and the new game is very much on how to play the game without giving you all the background in the first place.

This is not to say that there isn’t a massive amount of background in the sections as presented, but it’s not presented as concisely as the first game (Which is understandable given the increase in rules), the problem inherent with this is that if you already have some idea of the game and the universe, the second edition will certainly enhance the game that you’re playing, but if you’re picking this up and coming at it fresh, the rulebook didn’t do much to get your mindset into the game before throwing rules at you.  Five of us generated the characters for seven people on Saturday evening, and from start to finish, it took us three hours to get everything sorted for the characters.  It’s worth bearing in mind that four of us were beginners and one of us was experienced at both character generation and the world in which we were about to play.  If we’d done it with a book for each person, things would have been faster, but we only had three copies of the game between us and that’s more than most groups will have.  Obviously as you get used to the game and setting, character creation will speed up, but the amount of time required to make a character and integrate it with the other characters in the game is large, large enough to take up a normal gaming session in the making of the party. 

That brings us to the game and the playing of it.  The scenario I ran was one that was designed to run on any system, all you have to do is transplant the system into the game, and then run the game from there.  I took into account the differences in the world, particularly the mindscape implants, and then ran it from there.  In playing, the game plays very much like a regular Fate Game, with the use of aspects and stunts for the players and compels and complications from the GM using fate points.  In comparison with similar systems such as Fate Core and Fate Accelerated, once you get past character creation, there’s hardly anything to differentiate between them

There’s around 500 pages of rules and information in the book, and when you get past the initial amount of time required to make a character, the information available would be a great boon towards both beginning GM’s and those who’ve been playing for years. 

The overall impression given by the system is similar to that given off by Traveller in its many incarnations, but this is more complete because it also takes into account the different ways in which civilisations (other than humans) work and doesn’t present new races as merely a set of statistics. The races and civilisations presented here are given completely different mindsets and cultures as well as being different in their physical appearance and capability.  The book itself has all the rules you’ll ever need to make science fiction gaming at any level your players could want, from gritty level cybernetics and street scum to high level politics and courtly romance...

All you need to supply are the ideas...

1 comment:

  1. Indeed, and from a players pov....

    I am still undecided on FATE, pros are that everyone has a chance on doing everything - maybe not a good chance but at least some chance, something I heartily approve of. I like the Fate Points, as someone who is hated by dice everywhere I appreciate the opportunity to stack the odds in my favour when its important to me.
    The book itself, very pretty, with nice artwork and readable typeface - I suspect I would get on with it when I've had the chance to sit down with it and read from cover to cover. Going in cold I didn't find the index tremendously useful, but at least it isn't as badly organised as Dark Heresy

    Downsides are the dice, maybe I am getting older but I don't want to buy 'special' dice just to play. Yes I have D20, D8 D4 et al kicking around the place but at least they are used in a wide variety of systems - if I buy Mindjammer and I might, which would be my first game purchase since Dark heresy came out, then I have to buy the dice too.

    The setting was okay, but the nature of the session means we didn't get to explore much of it, certainly a setting that I can deal with.

    I'm not overly sold on compulsion, but I'm still open to the concept.

    Which leaves me with race. Mr Dodd had kindly given me the most alien of the characters, the Arachnid. Reading the brief race description I found it difficult to play as a party member, The way it is written the arachnids whose actual name escapes me come across as a Klingon mindset which views the rest of the party as lunch.

    While most parties will accept some characters that cause conflict, and some will tolerate characters who kill other player characters I cant think of any that would willing deal with a character that killed and ate another party member because they argued with it,

    Maybe more of non-player character race. I am more of a team player than a roleplayer these days so I adjusted my characters out look to something a little more like a ravenous Vorlon which worked.

    I've just realised that during the entire session I 'achieved' nothing; no plans, no critical dice rolls and no combat but I still had a good time and want to play again so actually I might pick Mindjammer up and some new dice....