Victoriana and I have a long and complicated relationship. I find it interesting that to date I have not done a review for this game. So let me fix that now. I discovered Victoriana, 1st Edition around the time I was writing Ghosts of Albion. I picked up the game, but since I was deep into working on and playing Ghosts at the time I didn't look at it much. Finally, I did and then learned a 2nd Ed was going to come out.
I spent some time reading the 1st Edition rules and thought it was interesting, if odd. For starters, I am not sure why there was no U.S. Civil War. I was also not a fan of the Fuzion system. I liked all the odd races for the game (even if it did lead to the infamous Orc from Africa debate) and felt like it was, as it has been later described as Victorian Age Steampunk.
The thing that struck me though is how similar that cover is to the Ghosts of Albion BBC logo. In particular the silhouettes of William and Tamara. I am sure it is nothing but coincidence, but I could not help but notice it all the same. Save for the pointy ears on the Victoriana cover that *could* be Tamara and William from Ghosts.
I went into the 2nd edition with a lot of preconceived notions of what the game was. That is until Gen Con 2007. Friday night I ran a Ghosts of Albion game and a lot of the authors and playtesters for Victoria 2nd Ed came. I later joined them on a 8:00am Saturday morning game. I was hung over, battling the oncoming con crud. I played an Ogre butler with a Wits (intelligence) score of two whose saving grace was a giant shotgun that he wielded like a pistol. I had a GREAT time.
Victoriana is a perfect example of why you need to play a game instead of just reading it to do a full and proper review. Reading through the rules the first few times gave me a bit of headache, but playing it was a snap.
Victoriana, 2nd Edition is a 286 page book. Color covers, black and white interior. A couple of words about that. The art for this book moves between D&D-esque fantasy races and vintage photographs. Many of the photos are of author Andrew Peregrine's own family. I think this gives the game a unique touch. Personally, I do not want color art in my Victorian-era games. This is a world in black and white.
Vic is best described as a Victorian "cyberpunk" game; not just in terms of ethos, game design and play but also mechanics. The game is based on d6 dice pool with the extra advantage of a "black dice" to add more random flavor. Roll your pool of Characteristics, Skill, and Specialties and see how many successes you have.
The system that powers Victoriana is known as the Heresy system. Maybe an allusion to the game company that published Victoriana 1st ed.
The real feature of this game is the ability to play a number of fantasy races in a magic-is-real and in-the-open Victorian London 1867. The similarities to ShadowRun continue here. You can play dwarves, ogres, elves (Eldren) and other fantasy races. It could also be described as Steampunk ShadowRun or even Steampunk D&D. To call it that would really be selling the game a little short to be honest. I often described it as most Victorian games turned up to 11.
The game won a Silver Ennie for Best Writing and there is a ton of great material in this game, if viewed from Victoriana's own lens.
Appendix 3 Source Material is a great read for any fan of the Victorian era. Six pages of great and pretty exhaustive material.
The supplements for Victorana are all top notch with the same artistic style and flare of the core book.
Victoriana is one of those games I always seek out to play at conventions when I can. I have always had a great time.
If this sounds fun to you there is a free preview of the game here.