Saturday, 24 December 2011

Vikings & Valkyries {Reviews}

Sword and sandal epics like Jason and the Argonauts and Clash of the Titans are some of my favourite genres of film and when I stumbled across Legendary Game Studio's Mazes and Minotaurs a couple of years back I was over the moon. 


Mazes and Minotaurs is, and I use this term loosely, a 'retro-clone' designed to feel like the RPGs of old but set in a version of ancient Greece called Mythica. It's not a direct copy of OD&D, but definitely shows its influences and it works really well.

In January the first in LGS' range of World of Adventure series was released called Vikings and Valkyries, unsurprisingly offering a Norse mythological setting for the original game. The supplement isn't a stand-alone product, but can be found for free like all the Mazes and Minotaurs books on the LGS website. Instead it offers a new background, classes, weapons, magic and combat options for a Norse setting.

The writer's tongue-in-cheek style is still oozing from the pages and the books still retains the same easy-to-digest format from the main game. At only 51 pages, you'll get through it pretty quickly, which means you can get playing as soon as possible.

Like the revised M&M rules, the supplement offer 12 classes to choose from, under the three familiar categories of warriors, magicians and specialists. Warriors now include the likes of half-giants and berserkers while Skalds, Elves Hunters and Thieves fall into the other classes.
Part of the time, V&V feels like an acetate overlay for M&M, treating most of the new classes as exact copies of their Greek counterparts but with a few new traits thrown in. For example, the Skald is exactly the same as the Lyrist but instead of having Orphan's Voice, they have Skaldic Gift. This is great if you want to get the game off to a quick start, since you already know the classes, but if you're looking for brand-spanking new characters you're not going to find them here.

However, there is a lot of new stuff to play with and it's all really good. Take the new combat options that give characters and major NPCs the ability to main their opponents by cutting off a hand, skewering an eye or even flat out decapitating them. This blood 'n' guts approach captures the feel of classic Viking literature and movies and makes for fun, visceral fights.

When players are not hacking each other to bits, they can now take part in a range of Viking games like arm wrestling, braid cutting and shield running, all of which are given rules. Drinking contests are even included, with rules for intoxication. Awesome.

There's a hefty amount of setting information, from gods to geography, which will help anyone unfamiliar with Norse mythology and Viking life. This also includes new monsters such as troll and giant varieties, but many creatures can be taken straight from the M&M Creature Companion and given a lick of paint.

Vikings and Valkyries is a great addition to the Mazes and Minotaurs game system, including everything you need to start playing in a Norse setting. While it would have been nice to see brand new classes rather than carbon copies of old ones, it's a very minor gripe.