Review: Wizards of the Coast – Gamma World


Gamma World
Gamma World is a post-apocalyptic sci-fi fantasy game written by Richard Baker and Bruce R. Cordell and published by Wizards of the Coast (7th Edition).
By Aaron T. Huss

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Gamma World is a decades old post-apocalytic sci-fi fantasy RPG, now in its 7th Edition. This new edition has the pleasure of being powered by the Dungeons & Dragons GSL, although that’s as far as I’d go. This isn’t sci-fi Dungeons & Dragons, it’s truly a unique setting and system using what I would call 4th Edition Lite. If you’ve ever seen the Essentials line for Dungeons & Dragons, Gamma World resembles that a lot more than it resembles the standard 4th Edition system. So what’s different? The characters are! Not just in flavor and theme but mechanically they are much simpler. Gamma World focuses on the use of the Alpha Mutation and Omega Tech cards to provide characters with powers and weapons. The implementation offers a multitude of fun and variation from game to game never knowing which card you’re going to pull next. Yes you can create your own deck, but it would be a lot more fun to just get a little crazy.

The relaxed rules of Gamma World present a much different atmosphere that embraces the chaotic craziness that is the presented therein.

CONTENT

How to Play is a wonderful, clean, and streamlined explanation of the core mechanics powering Gamma World. I hate to say it, but I find them to be better than the D&D Player’s Handbook, but then again Gamma World’s core mechanics only goes to character level 10 and a fair amount of the game-play is on the cards.

Making Characters is all about constructing your character and the advancement they follow through to 10th level. Character creation is significantly different than D&D as a character is defined by their race / origins which in-turn defines their basic abilities. All other abilities and weapons are defined by the cards drawn throughout actual game-play. Abilities and skills are also discussed here. Abilities are rolled-up or assigned as normal but bonus skills are defined by the character’s race / origins in addition to assigning one extra skill. Use of the cards are additionally detailed at the end of this section.

Gear is a bit of a let-down section by presenting all weapons in a completely generic method (it’s not a sword, it’s a one-handed weapon under Light Melee Weapon). This is done because weapons are not truly “defined” in Gamma World and are instead scavenged from whatever is available. Thus, anything and everything can become a weapon and given a definition based on this generic table. It’s fun, but a solid list of examples is NOT provided.

How to Run the Game is a short Game Master’s section with no shortage of information on how to assemble and run a series of adventures or a campaign. As with the rest of the book, it is nice and streamlined while containing a good amount of valuable information. Further core mechanics are presented here dealing with the various conditions common with monster powers / abilities and information about character rewards and using the playing cards.

Monsters is the Gamma World bestiary. It’s a good bestiary, but better yet, it has great art and a depiction of the associated monster tokens.

Steading of the Iron King is a location adventure designed to introduce the players and the GMs to the basic concepts and mechanics of Gamma World. This core box set has included a collection of battlemaps for each encounter in this adventure, an absolutely amazing value-add to the set.

OVERALL

I cannot believe how impressed I am with the streamlined and lite version of the 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons mechanics presented in Gamma World. Yes I play D&D on a regular basis and yes I am extremely familiar with the rules, but the presentation herein is nice and sleek, just like the Essentials line. Sometimes you can overdue it on core mechanic explanations… However, if this is the first time anyone has ever played these mechanics, it may not be quite enough. However, this can easily be remedied by picking up the D&D Essentials Rules Compendium, which is a great tool for new GMs to get if they want to run Gamma World and are not familiar with the mechanics.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 9 out of 10
The Gamma World book is beautiful. The artwork is awesome, the layout and formatting is excellent, at times there’s a bit too much white space, but it’s not that bad. The book is full color and the only complaint I have is the presentation of the gear, mainly the weapons. I think this section really needed to be expanded, even just a few pages worth.

Mechanics: 10 out of 10
I love this implementation of the 4th Edition D&D mechanics. It has a definite appeal for fun in how it’s being used with Gamma World. However, the best part of this game that stands out the most is the use of the Alpha Mutations and Omega Tech cards adding to the supposed chaos of the setting and the multiple realities. The system as a whole just presents itself as fun.

Desire to Play: 10 out of 10
Gamma World presents the post-apocalyptic sci-fi fantasy genre in the perfect way and in an enjoyable way. It’s not a very serious setting and games could run the gambit between scrounging for the oddest things or finding out how much fantasy is available in the setting. It’s not so much about survival as it is about discovery, another major aspect of the genre which can be quite appealing.

Overall: 10 out of 10
Gamma World is an excellent assembly of mechanics, setting, and fun. Anyone interested in the setting or genre should definitely take the leap and give it a try. Those who love 4th Edition D&D but would like something new will find lots of familiar mechanics with no shortage of unique challenges to be had. It’s one of those games that you just have to try.

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