Simple Reviews: Gamma World

I was hesitant to pick up Gamma World. I had just bought Betrayal at House on the Hill and I didn’t want to spread my self to thin trying to play too many games at once. I’m glad I got over that fear though because Gamma World could be one of my most rewarding purchases of this year. I sat down this week and played it with my regular gaming group and now they are asking for more.

Rules Lite: Great taste and less filling right? Gamma world runs off the dungeons and dragons 4e rules set but with a much more stream feel. No more healing surges, no more daily powers. Recovery is simple and clean with no worries about how many more encounters the party can take before they need to rest. The character generation system has been reduced to rolling on a few random tables, and for some ability scores, then picking out a weapon and armor and done; character made. Most of the combat rules are the same for attacks, cover, bursts and blasts, but presented in a compact and easy to access book.

World Lite: It has been said about Gamma World that the world lacks in detail and I won’t deny that. Much of the rule book included in the box set is dedicated to getting you playing and not really on setting the world up for you. For players and GMs who enjoy rich canon and shared world history Gamma world might feel a bit hollow. For those who enjoy a blank canvas with rich colors whit which to paint it feels like a candy store to a small sugar addicted child.

Economy Lite: Equipment is not a huge focus in Gamma World so there is little information in the book about different tools the players can equip their characters with. There are random tables for what they start with and what they can find but how each item is used in the game is up to the players and the Gm. This creates a game where any form of economy must be defined by the GM. For many it’s a simple matter of only playing with what you find. For me it gets rid of wish lists and players who are upset because their gear isn’t where they feel it should be at their level.

For others though this lack of economy detracts from their game. Many GMs and players enjoy playing in a world with a rich defined economic system with a base of trade and a large list of goods that can be bought and sold. Allowing players to further customize their characters past their powers and skills, using their monetary rewards to better their characters. I’ll admit in some games I enjoy it, but I also don’t mind when it’s missing.

Characters taste great: One of the biggest draws for my group (my self included) is the creativity the player creation allows. Powers and character origins are meant to be re-skinned to fit the desired flavor each player wants. A player who rolls a rat swarm does not have to be a swarm of rats, they could be bugs, eels, or as one of my players suggested a swarm of living socks that shock enemies with static electricity. Character creation has almost no limits when it allows this kind of creativity. To DMs and players who want a bit more seriousness in their game, and a bit more control over the creation of their characters this can be a bit of a stumbling block. The system lends it’s self to a less serious creation and play style which might pull many people out of the immersion of the game.

Weapon and armor selection is given with the most minimal amount of information. This allows players to create their own weapons from their imaginations, fitting their characters with gear that further enhances their flavor. For some though it could be less enjoyable and many players are accustomed to having pages of weapon types each offering different tactical benefits. For players who are weapons aficionados the weapons and armor section might look a little lack luster.

Random Powers: A  new core mechanic of the game is the Alpha Mutations and Omega Technology. These are cards which add random flavor to the characters by means of attacks, utility powers or bonuses that allow characters to break some rules of the game in a fun way. The box set comes with a nice sized deck which you can supplement with boosters but you really don’t have to and you won’t miss out if you don’t. Using the cards in combat is painless and easy and adds an extremely interesting and random flair to the game play. As the GM it was interesting to not see the same powers being used over and over in each fight. For the players it was exciting each time a new mutation or tech was drawn adding new flavor and options to their character.

Everything you need: The box set has everything you really need to start running your own adventures. The rules, character creation guide, monster stat blocks, starter adventures, character sheets, game tokens, and 2 double sided game maps. It’s lacking one thing I was hoping would be in the box; dice. The box does say that dice are not included but to a new player, someone who has not played a game of this type, this could cause a problem. Inside the rule book there is a list of the dice needed to play the game. Anyone not knowing they need dice might think they are about to start a game but may actually be taking another trip to the game store.

Great for those who:

  • Enjoy 4th edition and want a faster more compact experience
  • Enjoy being creative and skinning the game to their taste
  • Like playing in a crazy wacky game in the hands with the players
  • Want to build a world with potential but little canon

Pass it up if you:

  • Don’t enjoy 4th edition rules
  • Play RPGs for character optimization
  • Want a world built with strong levels of canon
  • Don’t want to have to add too much creativity to your game

Me: I own this product, and I am having fun with it. I would strongly recommend it to anyone who is looking for a fun fast paced possibly wacky adventure. It’s not for everyone but it is for the majority of gamers and many non gamers. I agree with GeekKen that Gamma World could be an amazing gateway into the world of gaming. If you have friends who want to try out role playing games this would be a good place to start.


Part idiot. Part old man. All geek. Thadeous can't think of anything interesting about him self right now. Know this though if he could it would be creative and funny as well as thought provoking.


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About Thadeousc

Thadeous can't think of anything interesting about him self right now. Know this though if he could it would be creative and funny as well as thought provoking.
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4 Responses

  1. A swarm of living socks, shocking with static electricity? Oh man, I love that! For me, another big sell on Gamma World is the stage for creativity. Generally speaking, people who play RPGs are walking around with great big impressive imaginations, and here’s a place to really swing them.

    I’m totally in on the review and also the game. This is one I can imagine playing frequently.

  2. I played Gamma World last weekend. Lots of fun, and definitely to be played with your sense of humour engaged.

  3. I think it can also be a serious game but you lose much of the potential when you do.

    • Ohh… I have to strongly disagree with that. I don’t think you have to give up any of the potential to run a serious, ongoing game. In fact, I wrote the first of two articles on just that subject this weekend: http://angrydm.com/2010/11/taking-the-game-seriously-part-1/

      The second is coming soon and will deal with balancing comedy and drama in Gamma World and in games in general. I otherwise agree with your excellent encapsulation of the game.

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