Monday, April 11, 2011

I is for Icons


I enjoy Supers games. I don't get to play them as often as I would like, but I enjoy them all the same.  I had been playing M&M 2ed and just picked up BASH! so I was hesitant to also get Icons.  But Icons comes with a pretty good pedigree.  First it is written by Steven Kenson, who gave us Mutants and Masterminds and also worked on Silver Age Sentinels.  Steve obviously knows his supers.  It has Gareth-Michael Skarka of Adamant Entertainment and one of the minds behind "Hong Kong Action Theater". Walt Ciechanowski has a ton of game systems under his belt too including M&M, True20 and Victoriana (1st ed). And Morgan Davie, whom I'll admit I am not as familiar with.  But he is one of the guys that wrote Icons, so that makes him good in my book.

Comics are a visual medium.  Full of art and color and eye catching action.  Icons is the same.  It is a really good looking book, especially one that has such a "retro" or even "indie" feel to it.  It lives somewhere between the free flowing cartoon fun of Cartoon Action Hour and the slick, high production values of Mutants and Masterminds.  All three of these games are fantastic and their style really tells us a lot about what they are about.  Icons is a comic book game that is close to a Saturday Morning Super Heroes cartoon.  The art, which some people have disliked, I think sets the perfect mood for this book.  It is simple art, but it is good art and has a earnestness about that I like.  That is also true for the rules.

Icons, as you may or may not have heard, is powered by FATE. Though the typical FATE/Fudge trappings of naming the power levels is gone in favor of numbers (sort of a step backwards from the FATE perspective, but fine for me). There is the option for named levels too, and I think it would fit the style of comic book action, but I myself prefer numbers. The scale is pretty simple, 1 to 10, with 3 an average.  So very similar already to a lot of games I play.

The rules themselves are really simple.  It is a modification of the dF system.  Use 2d6 with one as positive and one as negative, roll and add, apply mods.  Easy.  You can be up and running in less time than it takes to say "Meanwhile back at the Hall of Justice..."

Hero creation is unique for a modern game, it is random.  Not that you couldn't do it as a "point buy" system, but the randomness is what I think sets it away from BASH which can fill similar needs.

I feel I must at this point call out the Character Sheet.  Long ago I was a reader of Marvel and I  loved their "Whos Who" of the Marvel universe where they would have bar charts to rank their heroes on various attributes.  It was almost very game-like and I loved them.  Icons does something similar and it really gives their characters a different feel.

I would be lying if I didn't see bits of pieces of Silver Age Sentinels or Mutants and Masterminds peeking out every so often.  That is fine with me.  That familiarity is a good thing in my mind.

Icons is not really the game I would use if I were going to run a multi-year, multi-arc long game; that's what Mutants and Masterminds is for.  But if I needed to run a supers game on a rainy afternoon or a convention or just something to have some fun with, then Icons is a great choice.

I also picked up The Mastermind Affair and it is a great little adventure that gives you the feel on how to run an Icons game.

1 comment:

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