Whoops! Feels a little light. I nearly threw it across the room picking it up. Still, it’s a pretty deep box… what… two and a bit inches deep?
Why is the R.Talsorian logo on the front?
Never mind that, let’s have a look.
Dragon! Excellent. That makes for a good cover – always. It’s a little… brown and washed out, but that’s the look of EVERY COMPUTER GAME EVER MADE these days so ‘the kids’ won’t care. No dungeons in evidence but there’s a washed out brown coloured dude fighting the washed out brown coloured dragon and that’s pretty good!
OK, let’s flip it over…
Still feels a bit light.
EXPLORE! PLUNDER! BATTLE! Sounds rad!
What do we get in here… adventure book (64 pages), rulebook (32 pages) or characters of level 1-5 (slightly better than Moldvay managed!) and 5 pregenerated characters – play from the box. A set of dice! Awesome, possibly destined to become the totemic dice of a new generation.
That can’t be all, can it? I mean, from the looks of the box there’s maps and a hint of a grid map. They must have forgotten something.
OK, let’s open it…
Bag of dice! Woot!
Pre-generated characters… OK… useful for reference material on the back but they’re a little… unexciting. Would it have been so difficult to add a bit of art to these? That would have helped a massive amount with making the sheets look exciting. Why not a tear-pad of blank sheets too, damn it?
OK… what else? D&D Encounters advert? What bloody stores? Where? Not for bloody miles. Support online play, finally, you flamin’ nongs. Get some online GM tools sorted out or buy someone else’s, goshdarnit.
Rule book… ok, let’s have a look at that. Well, it’s heartening that the basic rules can fit in such a small book but I’m not finding it especially inspiring. It’s still so, so, so brown and washed out. 3rd Edition had ‘dungeonpunk’ as a style, 4e was a bit over the top but this is just… I don’t know…. dull? Sorry whoever you are, art person, but this isn’t inspiring me in the same way the new rules are making me hopeful. It’s got nothing on Iron Kingdoms or the (now sadly defunct) output Rackham had. This is just… dull and inoffensive, lacking in discernible style and – judging from the way some of these characters are drawn and dressed (with no discernible style or gender) I’m going to guess that’s deliberate.
The adventure book is bigger than the rules. So what do we have in here? In the ‘Lost Mine of Phandelver’. Well the art’s a bit more lively, especially the monsters but really, what’s the point of these tiny, tiny gridded maps? Couldn’t you have put in some play-posters or tiles? If you’re producing tons of plastic minis for your board games, couldn’t you half-inch a few for this? Failing that, Gamma World and the Monster Vault had some really cool round tokens that people should make more of as a cheap alternative to minis. Wouldn’t hurt to make this look a bit more exciting!
Wait! There’s a white thing on the bottom of the box! Maybe there’s hidden treasures underneath!
Nope… it’s just filler. I suppose you could put other stuff in the box later on… but this is just disappointing.
Style: 2 (Meh… on the plus side, I might play Wizball as a character concept because of the lack of colour)
Substance: 2 (Disappointing as hell)
Final verdict: It’s serviceable, but dull, boring and artistically uninspiring. I don’t think as a kid presented with this I would be inspired or interested. It plays it safe and boring stylistically and, well…
I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.
– Bill Cosby