Monday, March 31, 2014

Review: Torchbearer Player's Deck

While it's true you can play most roleplaying games with nothing but some pencils, paper, and dice, most benefit from a few play aids. Maps, miniatures, other things beginning with M, these enhancements are often optional and vary based on the needs of the group. Occasionally, one of these improve the experience of the game so much it's hard to imagine playing without them. The Torchbearer Player's Deck is one such aid.

Let's look at the physical product first. For $12 you get 42 cards in a sturdy little cardboard box, one for each weapon, piece of armor, type of light source, condition, and three copies of each conflict action. Additionally, there are two dividers to separate the cards out. Each one has a rumor/story on one side and a mini-dungeon map on the other, courtesy of Tony Dowler at Year of the Dungeon.

The cards are similar in quality to a Magic: The Gathering card. The art is comparable to what you find in the Torchbearer rulebook. My only real complaint about the presentation is that it's not possible to fit all of the cards in the box if you decide to sleeve them. Not a deal-breaker, but given the price I think they could have been packaged in a bigger box.

The reason these are so vital to the game is how they streamline play. Torchbearer has so many moving parts that juggling all of the rules is going to challenge even the most seasoned of GMs. These cards help ease the burden of taking notes by keeping the rules for light and conditions right in front of you. A particularly nice touch is the numbered borders on the light cards. To track how many turns your torch, lantern, or candle have left, simply rotate the card.

Their real value becomes apparent during conflicts, which are the hardest rules to teach new players in my opinion. Each action card explains how it fits into the rock-paper-scissors mechanics, allowing players to better understand rules interactions. The weapon cards break out the bonuses and penalties, as well as any special rules they might have. The armor cards are the same. Should it ever break, players can flip it over to the "broken" side to track what they'll need to repair later. Easy and intuitive.

I honestly can't recommend these enough. If you've been playing Torchbearer without these (which is likely seeing as they've been available for less than a few days now), pick up a deck and see how it affects play. If you haven't played Torchbearer before, make sure to grab a deck with the core rulebook. You won't regret it.

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