Review: Imaginary Empire – Frontier of Fear (EPOCH)


Frontier of Fear
Frontier of Fear is a collection of sci-fi survival horror scenarios for the cinematic horror EPOCH; written by Igor Divjak, Dale Elvy, Liam Jones, and Andrew Millar and published by Imaginary Empire.
By Aaron T. Huss

Learn more about Frontier of Fear here
Purchase Frontier of Fear here
Find other EPOCH products here

Read the EPOCH core rulebook review here.

DISCLAIMER: I was sent a physical copy of this book for review purposes. Additionally, Dale Elvy, the mind behind Imaginary Empire, was interviewed by Roleplayers Chronicle.

Frontier of Fear is a collection of sci-fi horror scenarios for EPOCH. Although these, and probably all, scenarios for EPOCH are designed to be one-shot, they can ultimately be linked together as they revolve around the same basic background structure – the not-too-distant future where humans have started exploring other areas of our solar system and corporations have funded expeditions throughout for various purposes. The four scenarios are Red Gold, Space Station Icarus, Quintessence, and Hard Time. Each one is set within the aforementioned backdrop and all take place away from Earth. Although they are set within the same basic setting, they are not actually linked, although the GM could link them if desired. Frontier of Fear is also accompanied by a new set of cards that correspond to the scenarios.

EPOCH is an interesting game to define. The ‘CH’ within its name pretty much says it all: Cinematic Horror. However, do not confuse some forms of cinematic horror with what EPOCH recreates. Whereas cinematic horror may refer to a horror RPG that has qualities akin to a ‘slasher flick’, in EPOCH, you are actually creating a horror movie. Each player assumes the role of an on-screen character, fighting to avoid being the tragic zero that dies for no good reason. For a heroic death is good in a horror movie, as is survival, but a tragic death which doesn’t help the other characters survive leaves you wondering what that character was for. This is the ultimate struggle of a good EPOCH game: to create a memorable character that doesn’t necessarily have to survive.

With this in mind, Frontier of Fear creates the environment to produce four sci-fi horror movies through role-playing. The way these scenarios are presented is incredibly simple, straight-forward, and easily understood. It’s almost like watching a movie unfold, filling in the blanks as you go along. If I can get this effect from reading through it, imagine how awesome that experience could be when you slot yourself into those blanks with a character you created.

All four of these scenarios truly capture that sci-fi horror feel. However, each one does it in a different way without feeling redundant or even similar. Yes they tend to utilize some fairly mundane sci-fi horror tropes (think movies of the sort), but they do it in a great way that is not only interesting, but open enough for the players to exploit many possible means of surviving or experiencing a heroic death. I don’t want to go into too much detail about these scenarios as I don’t want to create any spoilers…

The biggest positive I can say about Frontier of Fear is how the ultimate problem to be overcome is presented. Sci-fi horror is often overcome by big weapons, fast thinking, and willpower. However, these scenarios take a different path and although there are possible weapons to be utilized and quick decisions to make, being able to solve a ‘puzzle’, observe all of your surroundings, and consider all of your options are just as important. In other words, you may not win with big weapons and quick movements, you may win with reasoning, being one step ahead of the threat instead of facing it head-on.

That, in my opinion, makes it truly more than just the regular, mundane sci-fi horror as players are given the chance to explore the full capabilities of their characters, not just how well they equipped them.

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