War. War Never Changes.
Just as Wizards put an end to one RPG line with last week’s announcement that they wouldn’t renew their Star Wars license, they have announced that they will be reviving Gamma World. Gamma World, if you need a brief introduction, is an old TSR property from before my time that is set in a nuclear war ravaged Earth. It shared some similar rules to D&D, and it will follow that tradition by basing its new rules on 4E.
In my well-read research of Gamma World (thanks Wikipedia!), I’ve learned that referring to it as Gamma World 4E is a misnomer, since this will be its seventh reprinting. Seven is a lucky number, so I’m excited to check it out. More accurately, I’m excited because I’ve been in the mood for some post-apocalyptic adventuring after seeing Denzel kick ass in “Book of Eli.”
Wizards is releasing the game in a box containing: the rulebook, an adventure, two sheets of character and monster tokens, maps, cardstock character sheets, power cards, and a couple decks of mutation cards. That’s a lot of game for forty dollars, and I’m a huge proponent of tokens vs minis. They might not be as fancy, but they are more affordable and get the job done. I personally feel that any RPG requiring minis is required to provide tokens for the casual players. What seems to be causing much murmuring about the internet is how Wizards plans on distributing those aforementioned mutation cards. The rumor is that these will be provided in randomized CCG style booster packs, which would make it very difficult to get exactly the mutation you want. That would be terrible in most RPGs, but it makes sense in what I’ve read about Gamma World. One of the key features of the old game was a random mutation table with “non-negotiable” results, so it fits within the setting. I imagine the base game will have enough packed in that the booster packs would be discretionary for the GM. It may seem like a cheap money grab, but I don’t think their existence hurts the game.
Filling a box with a full RPG experience is the big trend in RPGs lately, and I’m all for it. Games like Dr. Who: Adventures in Time and Space and Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay look much friendlier on a shelf than rows of D&D books. With the miniatures focused gameplay that 4E has propagated, roleplaying is more expensive than it’s ever been. Having a full game in a $40 to $100 dollar package is much more approachable for a variety of gamers. With Dr. Who and Warhammer looking like the antidote to a stack of Player’s Handbooks, I’m surprised to see Wizards following the model.
That isn’t saying that Wizards is going to publish one box and be done with it. They already have two “expansion kits” planned. Legion of Gold and Famine in Far-Go will be sold in their own boxes as 160 page adventure books with maps and monster counters for $30. They are heavily marketing Gamma World under the Dungeons and Dragons banner, and to fall in line with that, all of the monsters will be compatible with fourth edition D&D.
The nuclear apocalypse looks like the new zombie apocalypse with the recent releases of “The Road” and “Book of Eli.” Fallout 3 is still being played and mentioned frequently, and a new Mad Max film is in the works. Wizards is primed to have a big hit on their hands this October, and they might even cement the model introduced by Warhammer as the new standard in roleplaying games. If they’re wrong, then you should clear a row on your bookshelf for Gamma World Eighth Edition.