Saturday, 2 May 2015

Expo Awards Day 1 - The Code of Steam and Steel

The first submission (literally, turned up two days after the submissions opened) for the expo awards this year comes from a long term stalwart of the UK games industry, Simon Burley, with his latest game engine, the Code of Steam and Steel.  It’s to be noted that while this is a complete game engine, it requires a world to work with, there is no world provided with the rules and no notes on how the author envisages the system working.

With that in mind, lets take a look at the system that’s been provided...

Three abilities that can be literally anything at all, these define the abilities and specialities of the character, what they are good at and what they aren’t so good at.  There is a list in the back of the book of examples of skills and ideas that can be put forwards for the character if the players can’t come up things for themselves.  These are generated from the numbers one to six and in turn are used to generate the other three statistics that determine the characters particular levels of resistance.  None of the judging teams had seen anything like it before, there’s points based generation systems and there’s freeform systems, but never something that makes a mix of both. 

System is D6 based, uses target numbers that are clearly defined, but also places a strong emphasis on narrative elements making all the difference when it comes to the game itself.  This was very popular amongst the more experienced playtesting teams, less so in the newbies.

There’s not much artwork in the book, and the artwork present is mostly clip art, it puts across the idea that the universe this was designed for was steampunk, but it doesn’t go beyond making that point.  The front and back covers are the only colour artwork and while they’re excellent images, the lack of specific artwork and images was noted by all the teams.  Layout is well done, there aren’t masses of white paper leaving holes in the product, tables are unobtrusive, and there’s plenty of content on how to run the game, how to make things interesting, how to build interest villains and plots, and how to keep players interested.

What there isn’t, however, is a world to play in...

We touched on this at the beginning of the comments, and while the book makes no apologies for the fact that it is a set of rules with only a single adventure in them to tide the players over with, the lack of a strong game world is felt, particularly so when the rules make playing the game so easy.  It was the considered opinion of all the teams that with a fleshed out world, this would be a product that could easily rival a number of the larger RPG houses, but with the GM needing to transplant their own world or use the setting from another system, it does present the a large gap in the appeal for beginners.

On to the Judges comments:

Less than a tenner for a truly original system that combines well dice and narrative playing, easily on my top ten purchases of the year.

Would be better with a whole world behind it, it’d be nice to know what world the author was thinking of when he wrote this.

I’d have liked more to start the players off with, but there’s enough for a good GM to work with.

Excellent game, easy to reference, fast to generate characters and faster to play, one for my group this year for sure.