Monday, May 27, 2013

Review: Necropolis 2350 (for Savage Worlds)

Let's start at the beginning.  I originally came across Savage Worlds (SW) because of the relentless torrent of reviews of SW material on the Game Geeks channel on YouTube.  Kurt Weigel, the host, seems like a really nice guy and I really enjoyed watching the reviews on his channel back when he was active.  A large proportion of his review vids were of SW games and supplements.  (Certain viewers complained mildly about the lack of system variety, but I digress.)  I was intrigued by the simplicity of the basic system combined with the wide selection of interesting settings in which to play.  Each setting added a certain number of customized rules to the original set in addition to the game setting material.  Several of the settings appealed to me but I wanted to start with just one.  At the time I was playing around with some ideas for a Warhammer 40K game and so Necropolis 2350 seemed like a good fit.  It also seemed to have similar elements to the Warzone Mutant Chronicles miniatures game which I found appealing as well.  As usual I read some reviews, then went and ordered it.

Setting

The setting is a planet which is the last outpost of humanity (the only race in the game BTW).  An enemy from another dimension composed of undead types has invaded and occupied portions of the planet.  The defenders, their backs against the wall, are generally allied against the threat but not without some serious inter-faction tensions.  Prominent is the Third Reformation Church, closely modeled on the Catholic Church.  And the church has several religious fighting orders in the war against the enemy.  The structure of the orders is modeled very closely on the original European christian religious fighting orders of the middle ages.  And this is where I got a bit disappointed.

Warhammer 40,000 and other games borrow freely from historical precedents too, but you want them to add some interesting twists and combinations to create something fresh.  Necropolis 2350 could have been so much more if the author had put more time into adding more cool, twisty stuff to each fighting order.  Perhaps the aim was a relatively "realistic" theme--fair enough, but it's not as interesting that way.  And the church is really just a tweaked version of the usual stereotype of the Catholic Church.  But this church is supposed to be one which replaced all earlier religions on Earth (mysteriously destroyed).  For me it's a hard sell having a neo Catholic Church somehow absorb or eliminate all other faiths.  But, it does make for a simpler setting, ties in with the military orders, and lets you get on with the main thrust of the game: military campaigning.

[As an aside I constantly wonder, as someone brought up Catholic, why game designers are always drawn back to the Catholic Church.  Is it because it is so iconic?  Is it because they think protestantism is bland and boring?  Do they think that including a non-christian religion will result in a suicide bomber coming to their house?  Do they think including a non-Catholic christian religion will result in a non-suicide bomber coming to their house?  Are they just too ignorant about non-christian religions to work them into game design?  Are they just out of ideas?  I really don't know.]

Gameplay

One thing to be clear about up front is that this is a military combat oriented game.  Characters are part of the ecclesiastical (or  possibly corporate) armed forces literally battling evil on the front lines.  Yes, you could probably make it work as less a military/combat oriented game but that's not the aim of Necropolis 2350.  Mind you, as someone who started in wargaming I'm totally cool with a military game with lots of tactical scenarios.  And this brings up a really good part of this book: the scenarios.  There are charts for generating random mission types, then a campaign built using a nice flowchart type campaign matrix, and then a bunch of additional one-shot encounters you can add to anything.  For a veteran wargamer like myself it is fairly easy to come up with this type of material but I'm glad they have a lot of it tailored to the setting.  For newer GMs or people not into all that military stuff it will be really useful.  There are lots of rules covering pretty much everything you'll need, including calling artillery, tanks, vehicles, lots of weapons, armor, equipment, etc.

So, overall I'd say that this is a well done setting for Savage Worlds.  I really don't like the setting, but I'd definitely use the military rules for a future/sci-fi military-oriented game set elsewhere.


2 comments:

  1. Excellent review; I'd been thinking about getting this game, but I was also put off by the setting. I'll probably go for the Deathwatch rpg instead.

    Personally, I think a lot of game designers go to the Catholic Church stereotype because it has been related to so much conflict, "purges" and hate in general, which they probably think works great as a setting for a wargame. I was also brought up catholic and went to catholic schools almost all my life, what I saw and experienced there was not pretty.

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  2. Glad it was useful! I haven't bought any of the 40K RPG books yet but they look really interesting.

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