Introduction and Disclaimer:
I have been fortunate enough to have a sneak peek at a new RPG coming to Kickstarter (tentatively) on February 23rd, 2017, and I’d love to share my thoughts on it with you! (And some pictures!)
I’ve read through the basic rules (unfinished pdf version), got a copy of the cards and tokens, and have played many iterations of the game at various conventions.
I need to throw a couple disclaimers at you lovely gamers before we continue, as I solidly believe in being open and honest about biases in reviews.
I am personally related to the game designer (um, how cool is THAT?!).
I received a free copy of the game so that I could review it.
My copy of the game may vary compared to what you receive, especially depending on which tier of the Kickstarter you buy into, and what the stretch goals (if any) are. Here is a visual of some of the game elements that might be available for your purchase:
Even though family is very important to me, so is gaming and spending money wisely on gaming products. So I’m going to give my honest opinions on aspects of the game and the materials you get in the box.
Here’s what some of the cards look like:
I refer back and make comparisons to some of the gaming systems I know best: Dungeons & Dragons (D&D), Pathfinder, and Dungeon World. Keep in mind these are the reference points from which I use as a jumping off point.
Your gaming needs and goals are going to be different than mine, so as you read my review keep in mind how you usually game, what your group dynamics are like, and the amount of prep time you (or your GM) usually has for a game day.
Pros & Cons List:
- Rulebook and cards are extremely fun to read (cheeky and amusing)
- Character creation can be simple and quick or in-depth: your choice!
- Group dynamics created from day one
- Great ideas for character, group, and world creation (for ANY game)
- Game uses only six-sided dice, which are easily acquirable (no need to spend a lot on dice sets)
- Art style is fun and fantasy-epic
- Cards are easy to read (icons are simple and prominent, text is inclusive and comprehensible, combat actions come with a map diagram of area of effect)
- Even on a failed roll characters have options to direct the story
- Rather than hit points, Gatekeepers uses “marks” and “scratches”, which is an interesting twist on an old mechanic (some marks can even be beneficial to the player, allowing them access to an icon they didn’t have before!)
- The “stance dance” (switching out items and abilities for new ones) forces the player to think critically about the battle or task before them and make clever choices
- Rather than straight-up dying when your character receives too many scratches, you pull from the injury deck which has bad consequences (e.g.: “Bleeding Out”, “Broken Arm”, etc), but won’t always end in death, and may give the story a new direction!
- A full copy of the game (read: everything you need to play) runs about $40 plus shipping during the Kickstarter (after the Kickstarter the price will be around $55), which is how much you’d pay for ONE rulebook in D&D or Pathfinder, or one board game
- Optional rich world to explore with your characters (think Forgotten Realms, with detailed organizations, races, factions, cities, ancient mysteries… I LOVED the Forgotten Realms campaign setting, so I can’t really give the lore any higher praise than that!)
- New system to learn (uses a lot of gaming-industry standard ideas, but new implementation could lead to confusion, as with introducing any new system to your game table)
- Cards and stances as characters and the tokens as wounds and rewards make playing over long distances difficult
- The “stance dance” (switching out items and abilities for new ones) isn’t my favorite mechanic as it can be frustrating to have the “wrong” ability or item equipped, or not have access to everything your character can do
- Suspension of disbelief required for some stance changes in order to balance rules (e.g: Fairy card allows a character to fly, but if it’s covered to use different abilities, the fairy character loses the ability to fly — story explanations can be created, like you have to plant your feet to use a sword or a crossbow, but if the fairy only has magic spells and abilities you have to do a bit of hand waving)
- Price: I’m listing this as both a Pro and a Con because $40 is a substantial investment for some, and there are cheaper systems out there (Dungeon World comes to mind at ~$20 for the one book you’ll need to play) — and don’t forget that after the Kickstarter the price goes up to $55(ish)!
- a fresh take on role playing games
- an RPG meets storytelling meets board game
- a great option for game masters who don’t have a lot of prep time
- a system for beginners or experts
- a game that gives you more rules structure than Dungeon World, but all of the storytelling capability
- versatile: quick rules for a fast paced game, or more in-depth for campaigns
- a rich world with history, factions, and mysteries (think Forgotten Realms!)
- probably not for those who game strictly online with friends around the world
- fairly priced for the gaming industry (there are cheaper systems, but this is an entire game for the price of one D&D or Pathfinder rulebook)
- creative and fun
- visually appealing with cheeky anecdotes