Originally posted at http://krazyivansrpgs.com/
Wreck Age is a hybrid RPG and table top war game set on a post apocalyptic version of Earth. Facing an ecological cataclysm the rich and powerful gathered themselves up into a fleet of ship and left Earth to colonize new worlds. Those who were not part of the privileged class were left behind to die.
After the Exodus, a term used to describe the abandonment of Earth; those that remained were witness to catastrophe after catastrophe. Numerous natural and man-made environmental disasters scoured the planet. Society collapsed. People found ways to survive however, and generations later the planet started to heal itself. Now humanity enters a new age. They refer to it as the Resurgence, but it’s also known as the Wreck Age.
The first section of the book details the setting for Wreck Age. It covers a great deal of history starting with events that took place from just before the Exodus to the beginning of the Resurgence. Bunches of notable settlements and other locations in the land of Merika (what used to be known and America and Mexico) are covered in brief. From there the idea of Communities (big C for a reason) is covered, and the settings factions are detailed.
In Wreck Age Communities are more than where a character comes from. The Community is a reflection of a character’s beliefs. It’s a character’s support structure. Mechanically speaking the Community actually dictates how character advances. This is done through the concept of ‘Resource Units’. Characters acquire Resource Units through play and return them to their Community. This ‘currency’ takes many forms: food, fuel, weapons, scrap, medical supplies, or even intangibles like trade relations with another community. A character advances by spending Resource Units and can advance their Community through the same kind of expenditure. This is important because the manner in which a community grows can affect what kind of advancement a character can take, and effect what kind of gear is available.
A total of ten factions are introduced in the book, but only four of them are given full detail:
Stakers: Insular communities that work to cultivate THEIR land. The land and the community comes is the most important thing in their lives, and they will fight and die to protect it.
Drifters: Barbarian hordes that take what they need to survive. Drifters value martial skill over all else and shun the technology of ages past.
Stichers: Remnants from the passengers of a medical ship that crashed back to Earth during the Exodus. Stichers are the bogeymen of other communities, and with good reason. You see, Stichers prolong their own lives through harvesting, and implanting, the organs of whomever they can catch.
Reclaimers: Technophiles who revere the technology of the past. The Reclaimers are based in several data caches throughout Merika where they have begun to rebuild the info-structure of the past.
The ARHK: Based in old Hong Kong, the ARHK is one of the few industrialized locations left on Earth. That industrialization requires fuel, so ARHK Troopers scour the planet looking for raw materials (and the slave labor needed to extract those materials).
The Church of Fun: The world sucks, let’s get high. The Church of Fun revels in emotional excess, however they can get it.
Unicephalon: Originally an organization left behind during the Exodus to monitor the planet and notify the colonies when it was safe to return. The organization has shifted its focus, and technological superiority, towards humanitarian welfare and defending those left behind.
The Vale: A death cult that believes that the time of humanity is over. They seek to kill as many others as possible before they themselves are killed.
Caravaneers: The big rig truckers of the Wreck Age. Caravaneers brave the wilds to travel from Community to Community in order to sell or trade their wares.
The Fringe: Everyone else who doesn’t otherwise belong to another type of Community.
The next section of the book covers game rules. Everything, and I mean everything, is covered through the lens of combat, and that includes social interactions. Combat will likely not be fast in this system, particularly for those who are unfamiliar with table top war games, but it will be brutal. A single hit can potentially kill a character. While this may turn some off, consider that Wreck Age is also a table top war game. There isn’t anything here that is a game breaker from an RPG perspective for me. I expect that combats will take a similar amount of time to RAW D&D 4e. Furthermore the rules present a great, character focused, war game
Character creation comes next. The system reminds me of older editions of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay as characters take ‘Archetypes’ that are basically professions and advance into new professions. The character stat line is even reminiscent of WHFRP. This system isn’t the most detailed, but in light of glut of minimalist RPGs on the market today it fits right in.
The remainder of the book is mostly consumed by copious equipment lists. All kinds of gear, armor, weapons, faction specific equipment, and Community enhancements are available for purchase…if a character’s Community is large enough to offer them. This is where we get back to character and Community advancement. To advance characters and gain access to new gear the Community has to be built up. All three consume the same resources however. So, beyond standard RPG and war gaming challenges Wreck Age provides a mini game in the form of resource and Community management. I see this as a strong point for RPG play because it requires that the party work together to decide how their Community will grow. While Wreck Age is no ‘rules light’ system, the Community building aspect of the game reminds me of Apocalypse world. I suspect that this will appeal to folks to play AP World Engine games, especially if they also happen to be war gamers.
The final sections of the book cover scenarios and charts to aide in play.
Overall the production value for Wreck Age is excellent. The book’s artwork is evocative of the setting and well done besides. Nearly all of it is in black and white, with the exception being the cover and a couple of pages that feature Wreck Age miniatures produced by Hyacinth Games. The PDF is easy read due to the crisp, clear typeface. My only quibble is that some of the section headers are not clearly differentiated from the rest of the text.
Organization is not one of the strong suits of Wreck Age. First, the PDF of the book has no bookmarks. There is an extensive Table of Contents, but none of it is hyperlinked. There is no index at all. All of that makes looking for specific rules within the PDF a chore, which leads me to another issue…rules terminology starts showing up fairly early in the book, in the setting sections without explaining what they are. While there are plenty of contextual clues that provide the reader with some idea of what these terms mean, actual definitions are hard to find immediately because of the lack of bookmarks and hyperlinks.
Wreck Age is a robust, war-band style, skirmish war game and a lightweight RPG rolled into one. The war game is reminiscent of old favorites like Necromunda and Mordheim. Your war band can grow, improve, and gain character over time. It’s a good war game. That said, while rules are include for narrative play, Wreck Age in RPG-mode still feels like a war game. The rules for narrative play are essentially the same as table top play, with the only real change being a slightly more free-form skill challenge system. The game is supported by excellent production values, but hampered by a lack of standard organizational features like hyperlinks and bookmarks.
There is potential for Wreck Age to be an excellent hybrid for the group that is willing to take the time to combine narrative game play with the table top game. That said, I am providing three recommendations for Wreck Age:
*For non-war gamers Wreck Age as a standalone RPG is average, and I only recommend it to the gamers who love post-apocalyptic settings.
*For war gamers Wreck Age is still an average RPG, but the mechanics will be a cinch to grok and will scratch the war gaming itch even when played as an RPG.
*As a standalone table top war game Wreck Age is well above average, and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys skirmish war games (particularly those who are fans of Necromunda or Mordheim).