Friday, October 16, 2015

Your Quest Begins Here.... (Intro Reviews)

These are three products that serve as introductions to larger game universes.  Today we'll be covering the Pathfinder Beginner's Box, The Dungeons and Dragons Starter Set (5th Edition), and the Classic Battletech Introductory Box Set.  These three products serve as introductions to two things for each product.  Each  gives the players the introduction to the game system (the rules and the mechanics for how actions are performed, determining success or failure of those actions, and what consequences result from those actions), and the larger shared universe that the game takes place in.  These are brief snippets of the larger gaming world designed to draw your interest and persuade you to take a look at a bigger investment of time and money.

For Each product, I look at four key factors.

Appearance:  This refers to both internal and external art work, as well as layout and ease of access.  I am a sucker for a product that looks as good on the shelf as it does on the tabletop.

Completeness:  Does this box have everything that i need in order to play the game? Aside from pencils and scratch paper, which few boxed games rarely contain, are there any other things that i will need to fully interact with the game and enjoy it?  (I really like a game that includes dice, especially as a beginner product)

Immersion:  Does this product engage me on a level where i want to find out more about this setting?  What are the hooks of this setting that make me want to dig in deeper. For me, this is a critical point in determining how involved i want to be with a product.  The Pathfinder line is immense, and the Battletech universe has 30 years of books and setting material to work with.  Does this introductory product sell me on investing the time, energy, and money into getting more involved with this product line?

Playability: (Not a real word, but i like it)  Does this product provide me with a game i can play right out of the box?  Are there pre-generated characters and adventures that i can play within five minutes of finding enough people to play the game? Do i have to sit down and make a character or fill in a sheet before i can get started?  (I do like products that give me the option of doing both, giving me a pre-gen character along with the basic rules of character construction so i can make my own). 

So let's start with the Pathfinder's Beginner's Box.

The Pathfinder Beginner's Box is the introductory product for the Pathfinder Role-Playing Game.  It is fantasy world, with brave warriors, nimble rogues, pious clerics and powerful wizards fighting against orcs, goblins, giants, and a plethora  (five Bestiaries) of monsters to encounter.

This Package contains:

64 Page Hero's Guide  (short form Player's Handbook) Which contains the basic rules that a player needs to create a character and play the game.

96 Page Game Master's Guide (short form version of the Gamer Master's Guide and Bestiary) which contains the basic rules for running the game and a variety of monsters.

A Basic Set of seven polyhedral dice (useful for starting out, but eventually, all players will need their own dice, as it speeds up game play)

An assortment of Monster Tokens.  Monster Tokens (and the four character tokens provided) allow players and game masters to track locations and movement from round to round during the game.

Four pre-generated characters (Ready to go out of the box with a full explanation on the sheet of how their abilities work, and a breakdown of how the numbers are utilized during the game).

Four Blank Character Sheets to make your own hero

Double sided playmat (For use with the tokens, each side represents a different area of the provided adventures so you can fully utilize the tokens to track combat from round to round).

By The Numbers

Appearance:  The Box itself is covered with artwork, and it helps to sell the feel that this is a fantastic adventure in a world of monsters.  The tokens are easy to identify and the dice are easy to read.  The character sheets for this specific product are not the standard issue ones that other pathfinder products use.  This is not a serious distraction, but more of a distraction when moving on to build your own character

Rating:  4 Gigawatts out of 5

Completeness:  For a group of people completely new to gaming, this product provides everything you would need to learn the mechanics of how the pathfinder system works. It includes both textual information and visual representations for the game, and trust me, the tokens can be very helpful for learning how to interact with the game.

Rating : 5 Gigawatts out of 5

Immersion:  The adventures provided with the box are quick enough to play in an evening if you're determined to, but the story components attached to it were interesting enough for me to go looking deeper into the setting.  Their are hooks suggested for further reading and overall, the source material gives me a direction to start looking for deeper reading.

Rating 4 Gigawatts out of 5

Playability:  As soon as you have your play group together, it will take you long enough to pass out the dice and for the GM to read through the introductory adventure section before you can start playing.  That can take anywhere as short as five minutes, to as long as a half an hour, but the game itself is ready to be played from the moment you have your friends.

Rating 5 Gigawatts out of 5

Overall, I think that this product is an excellent introduction to the Pathfinder setting and the system to play in it. It has as an MSRP of 34.99 for the print edition with the tokens and maps (and actual physical box) or 9.99 for a pdf format copy. 

Next on the tour of things most introductory is the Dungeons and Dragons Starter Set

The Dungeons and Dragons Starter Set is a gateway to the newest edition of the world's oldest role-playing game.  Set along the Sword Coast of the continent of Faerun in the Forgotten Realms campaign setting, the introductory starter set contains everything needed to learn the most recent edition of Dungeons and Dragons.

This Package contains:

64-page adventure book with a complete adventure for characters up to 5th level.  (This booklet also contains the basic rules for running adventures with this system)

32-page rulebook for playing characters level 1-5 (This is a short form player's handbook for learning how to play this game)

5 pre-generated characters, with character sheet (ready to play out of the box without any modifications other than adding names)

1 blank character sheet (for making your own heroes, once your comfortable with the system)

6 dice

By The Numbers

Appearance:  The Box itself has one of the most iconic monsters in the game setting.  It drew my eye immediately to the box, and i was not disappointed with the internal layout of the booklets.  Again, these layouts were well done, with art used appropriately to draw the eye and augment the text.  The character sheets used in this product, unlike the ones in the Pathfinder Box are similar enough to the ones used with other products that a new player will not have a difficulty identifying different sheets.

Rating:  5 Gigawatts out of 5

Completeness:  This box provides all of the mechanical rules needed to learn how to play four of the most basic character concepts up to 5th level.  The adventure enclosed The Lost Mines of Phandelver feels like a fully enclosed story for those characters.  This product does not come with tokens or a map, however, and for people who are unfamiliar with a game like this, those additional visual components can be very useful in figuring out interactions. 
Rating : 4 Gigawatts out of 5

Immersion:  The introductory adventure in this box has a lot more details and encounters than the counterpoint from the Pathfinder box.  It is firmly rooted into the setting material and pulls you into the Sword Coast.  This box set does a better job of pulling the reader into the setting, which is i think the key to an immersive product. 
Rating 5 Gigawatts out of 5

Playability:  This product has the same things going for it that the Pathfinder Box has.  Once you have your group of people together, you're ready to play.  This system is different from the pathfinder one, and i encourage you to try both and see which one you find to be more appealing. This box is ready to play as soon as you find some friends to play with.
Rating 5 Gigawatts out of 5

I think this product does a great job of introducing the mechanical changes to the most recent edition of Dungeons and Dragons, and with an MSRP of 19.99 it will provide many hours of fun for a group of new gamers.

The final item up for viewing today is the Classic Battletech Introductory Box Set.

The Battletech Introductory Box Set contains everything that two players need in order to dive into the world of Battletech.  Battletech is a futuristic game of tactical combat between opposing groups of giant robots called Battlemechs.  Unlike the other two products, This is a board game, not a role-playing game.

This Package contains:

24 unpainted, ready-to-play plastic BattleMech minis (These represent a wide range of battlemech units and can be used in myriad combinations against each other)

2 unpainted, premium-quality plastic BattleMech minis (These require some assmebly, and as of the most recent printing are a Mad Cat Omnimech and a Battlemaster). 

One 12-page full-color quick-start rulebook will have players into the action in minutes (This booklet has quick start sheets for learning the game and playing your first few games)

36-page book of pre-generated BattleMech Record Sheets (These are specific sheets for each Battlemech, and record damage, heat, and ammunition expenditure as the game progresses).

One 80-page full-color rulebook (This is an abbreviated version of the Total Warfare rules of battletech and has rules written explained for battlemechs).

Inner Sphere at a Glance, a 56-page full-color book of universe background and BattleMech technical data (This book explains the in universe details and explanations for the history and technology of the Battletech Universe)

One 16-page full-color Painting and Tactics Guide (The entirety of the units provided are supplied unpainted, giving the players opportunities to express themselves in a variety of artistic expressions)

Two heavy-duty cards of compiled tables (For quick reference of the necessary modifiers and costs associated with movement and combat)

Two 18” x 24” game-board quality maps. (These are high quality double sided cardboard maps)

Two six-sided dice

One full-color, poster-sized map of the Inner Sphere circa 3067 (This poster sized map folds out and shows the area of space controlled by the human race as of 3067)

By The Numbers

Appearance:  Battletech has stepped up its artistic game, and the cover of this box features an iconic unit (the Atlas, one of which is included in the box).   The miniatures in this printing of the game are of a much better quality than the one immediately preceding it.  The layout of the books inside are well done, and then art supports the surrounding material.  The charts and the sheets are well laid out, and with practice are easy to read.
Rating:  5 Gigawatts out of 5

Completeness:  There are two minor issues from keeping this from being a fully complete box.  Units have a modifier to hit based off of how far they move, and the box lacks a mechanism to ease new players into this.  Most players will need replacement sheets after their first few games, and without supplementary support, they're going to burn through a lot of erasers cleaning their sheets up.  Other than these minor issues, the box is a fully ready to play game for a minimum of two players.
Rating : 4 Gigawatts out of 5

Immersion:  This is the first product that actually has a setting book included in it.  The Inner Sphere at a glance has a rundown of the important people, places and factions that are available to use in 3067.  This is a well constructed primer which gives historical information and the basics of the science behind the game.  There are dozens of jumping off points in this book to further dig into the battletech universe.

Rating 5 Gigawatts out of 5

Playability:  With two exceptions, the models provided are ready to play right out of the box, and the quick start rules are designed to get you playing as soon as you find your first opponent.  The game scales up to larger groupings of units in the box set without needing to reach beyond this boxed set, and you can have hours upon hours of fun using just it.

Rating 5 Gigawatts out of 5

For a world as rich and complex as battletech, this box hits the right spots to introduce players to the thing that i always felt was the draw to the universe, the giant robots.  There are other units that exist ranging from unarmored infantry all the way up to interstellar transport craft designed to move large units from system (and the rules set exists to support that level of play, if you want to), but this box focuses on giant stompy robots that smash each other.  The MSRP of $59.99 on this product is higher than the other two, but the box has more components and includes miniatures.

So those are my three introductory boxes for the Month of October, If you have a product you'd like to hear about, or have any questions, feel free to leave comments below.

And because I love this in a way that's hard to describe with words

                                                    Photo Credit :Geek & Sundry

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