Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2014/05/19/tabletop-review-valiant-universe-rpg-qsr-supplemental-harbinger-wars-bloodshot/-
At the end of April, Catalyst Game Labs released the first of many free Quick Start rules sets for their upcoming Valiant Universe RPG. I reviewed it two weeks ago and liked what I saw. It took aspects of Savage Worlds and the few good things that exist about the Cortex engine and blended them together in what seems like it will be a fun game. The rules gave a quick overview of how to play, provided some PCs to try out and a full adventure comprising the first arc of the Unity comic. Now the second QSR has been released, and this time it focuses on one of the first four characters from the New Valiant – Bloodshot.
This twenty page PDF focuses on the Harbinger Wars event Valiant had last summer, which pitted Bloodshot, The Harbinger Foundation, the Renegades and the Hard C.O.R.P.S. against each other in an ECW style four way dance. There was a lot of death and violence to be had, but in the end, the Harbinger Foundation won. With the included adventure in this PDF, you and your friends can play as Bloodshot and the psiot children he is guarding in an attempt to either rewrite Valiant history or watch the events unfold in the same tragic way.
One thing worth noting is that the basic rules presented in the Unity Quick Start rules are not in the Harbinger Wars: Bloodshot release. So you will need to download BOTH PDFs to play the adventure provided here. Now, that shouldn’t be a big deal as both sets are FREE after all, but it does mean that if you download the Bloodshot set first, you might be left wondering how to play the included adventure.
While we are on the topic of the Quick Start Rules, I should point out that the mechanics in the Unity PDF are definitely less detailed that what you will see in the eventual core rulebook release. I mean, these are QSR sets after all, so don’t go looking for character creation sets or extremely detailed character sheets. What’s here is simply meant to give you a taste of the game and some idea about how the mechanics will work in the end product.
So what do we get in the Harbinger Wars: Bloodshot? Well we substitute out the rules for a longer adventure and more character stats! You get a brief overview of the Harbinger Wars event followed by a half page of commentary by Bloodshot describing his history (or what little he knows of his) and his goals. The adventure is then broken into four pieces, each of which could technically be an adventure on their own. This essentially makes this PDF a mini-campaign depending on how draw-out each of the four sections are. It’s also worth noting that the adventure is designed for four players, which means with four parts, each one will have a chance to play the Lead Narrator in addition to their character. The fact everyone takes turns running the game is one of the more unusual and potentially interesting aspects of the Valiant Universe RPG, so you may want to decide ahead of time the order each of you will run parts. Of course, as always, you can have one set Narrator. It’s totally your call.
The first part “Forced Entry” (like most of the scenes in this adventure) actually takes place before Harbinger Wars proper, and is when Bloodshot tries to save the Generation Zero kids from Project Rising Spirit (Who in the comics…he eventually ends up working for again. It’s a long story). This scene is interesting as the PCs are in two different groups – you have three PCs playing psiot children. (only the selected three are given stats here. The others will probably be in later PDFs) and one playing as Bloodshot. The kids know Bloodshot as a soulless killer and so have a flee or fight response to him. Meanwhile Bloodshot has to convince them he is there to help rather than murder them…as he did their families when he was under P.R.S.’ control. This does mean things can boil down to PvP and leave one side dead, thus preventing the other three scenes from being played. That’s not a bad thing though. You don’t have to replicate the events of the comic.
Part Two is “The Harada Protocol” where the kids and Bloodshot have to deal with the big bad of the Valiant Universe Toyo Harada. Of course, Harada seems himself as a hero, but that’s a story for another time. This is almost pure combat and gives players a great chance to see the battle mechanics in action. Savvy readers will notice the stats for Toyo Harada as a NPC antagonist are ever so slightly different from his stats in the Unity PDF where he was a PC. It’s simply to make running the game easier as NPCs have truncated stats from the core characters. The only real difference is he is missing the Luck stat, but that’s only for PCs anyway. Since you’ll have both PDFs, if someone really wants to play Harada in a PvP situation, just pull out that character sheet and use it instead.
Part Three is entitled “Promises Broken,” and it has the characters looking for an appropriate source of protein to refuel Bloodshot’s nanites. It’s combat heavy, but it’s also very quick. In our test run, Bloodshot got his nanites back by EATING THE CORPSES OF THE FALLEN OPPONENTS. Which is totally a way to get protein. Just a head’s up.
The final part of the adventure is “Showdown on the Steps” is the one piece that actually takes place in the mini-series. Here you again have Bloodshot Vs Harada, but Harbinger students come into play as well. These are generic students rather than the Eggbreakers from the comic. This is done for simplicity’s sake, although you could get Livewire from the previous QSR and have her as one of the Harbinger Foundation members if you choose. Overall, it’s a fun adventure that sticks closely enough to the Bloodshot side of Harbinger Wars while still being loose enough that players won’t feel they are on rails replicating the comics exactly. Another fun adventure as well as a fine way to continue building hype for the eventual Valiant Universe RPG release.
Again, these PDFs are free, so there is no reason not to pick them up. With each release I’m getting more and more excited for the eventual game and this will be the first super hero game I’m considering purchasing a physical copy of since Mayfair’s old DC line. I’ll be back in two weeks to cover the second of the five Harbinger Wars Quick Start releases. This release will focus on Generation Zero and when it hits on May 31st, it will be as free as all the others, so start making a folder on your computer for all these free Quick Start Rules sets!
[5 of 5 Stars!]