JP On Gaming

Friday, October 30, 2009

Moebius Adventures: A playtest review

Last Tuesday night, I took part in Brian Fitzpatrick’s Moebius Adventure Fantasy game. We had a great group of diverse players coming from a number of different “schools” of gaming. Just by looking at the players I knew the game would be fun and that a lot of ideas and thoughts would be generated by the game (which included Nathan, Shannon, Arpie & Johnnie (there was a new guy, Frank who proved to be a pretty cool guy too)).

Brian said that he wanted to test the adventure in a magic-less setting. I saw this as an opportunity to do some Conan-style adventure. No magic meant we’d have to rely on our heads a lot more. I must say I was initially very impressed. I sat down and was presented with a 4-pages condensed version of the rules (which I barely read) and a rulebook with art and everything. I was impressed! I was also wary that this would turn into a rule-heavy and clunky system (I was right).

I picked up a character almost at random (when Shannon arrived I handed her the girl I had picked and took another one) and ended up with the priest, Father Goul. Yeah it’s an awesome name! Me and the priest… a match made in heaven as I like playing priests anyway. So I began to look at the character sheet. SIXTEEN STATS! What?! That was just too much. Eight basic stats are about as much as I can generally tolerate. On top of that each sense had a qualifier. I had “Good Touch”… That made me chuckle…

I looked over my character. Nothing very exciting, standard Friar Tuck thing. No real combat capabilities to speak of. No great charisma-monkey. The biggest laugh I had was when I saw that my best skill was Fasting. When I asked what that was used for, I was told that it was to “make prayers more powerful”. Great… So I was a useless body! Well… when that’s no problem for me since I generally like to play the parts between combats anyways.

Brian’s adventure seemed interesting and could easily form the start of a campaign. The premise is simple: the Queen sends a party of adventurers to investigate this bandit problem in a small settlement on the border. For a play test, it was very acceptable. We had some immediate antagonists and something to do right off the bat.

The game started, we did some talking amongst each other. Good. Then Arpie picks up a dice to do some tracking. BANG! The game stops as no one can really say what he must do. Does he need to roll above or below a characteristic or a target number? The sheet showed two different systems that left everyone confused as all hell! We pitched ideas for the longest time and ended up changing the system completely.

When I first sat down and was handed a rulebook, I expected to find a game that was mature and established. Instead I then got the impression of a game that was just “getting tried out”. My interest at that point dipped further. Add the fact that, looking at my stats, I was completely useless in a stealth and infiltration mission. I had no useful skills and my characteristics were terrible enough that I would never succeed at anything! (Try rolling 4 or less on 2d6 to do anything physical).

As the game moved to combat, I lost all feeling of understanding. People were rolling dice to hit the bad guys (that part made sense) and Brian computed damage in his head. I still do not understand how damage worked as Brian was not able to give us a clear explanation. At that point, I completely stopped caring and became a lot more interested in the Warmachine game that was being played at the back of the Haven. I came home and told my wife that I would not be going back next Tuesday if there was another game.

Okay… that was how the session went for me. Not very good. Having had some time to mull over it (a snow storm in Colorado will give you time to ponder things, I identified a couple of things that really got to me.

  • When I saw the book, I set my expectation pretty high on the game. I expected a game system that had gone through a series of play-tests and reviews. Come to think of it, that book, and the image of a mature game might’ve been what really ruined it for me.
  • I had a character that was completely useless for the mission. He may have had uses in a full-blown campaign, but in a play-test, every player should feel he provides something to the party. My healing “skills” were terrible because my stat meant I would heal people very rarely. Good thing the party did not have to rely on me for anything! When the fight started I had no business getting anywhere near combat (again not great in a play-test).
  • The game is HEAVY. Sixteen characteristics, sense qualifier, skills, combat modifier for every weapon, hit locations, hp by location, hp for armor and a system of actions that made no sense to me. In all, the game felt very heavy and complicated to play with the rules. D&D is heavy, but the basics are now common D20+Modifiers >= Target Number (or opposed roll).
  • The one criticism I have about Brian was his inability to explain the rules to us. I remember asking him “how does damage work” and I only got vague “it’s the attack minus the defense” answers. No example, no clear presentation. I’ll sweep this to a “playing with unknown people” because I really like Brian but that felt frustrating. Since my character had no attack, I decided not to waste my time.

    Therefore, my personal evaluation of the game is that it is just too heavy and not mature enough to be playable. BUT THERE IS GOOD NEWS! Since the game is in play-testing phase, a lot of those hard chinks might be cleared in future iterations.

    Would I play again as is? No.

    Would I give it another shot once Brian has reviewed the game? Yes.


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