I am a big fan of the Marvel Heroic Roleplaying game. I have reviewed the basic game as well as the premium edition of the Civil War event book. So, it should come as no surprise that with the release of the Annihilation event book that I would be posting a review of it as well.
I have mentioned this before but I really like how Margaret Weis Productions has two version of an event book. The essentials edition of the book gives you everything that you need to run the event in question. It comes with a broad selection of data files for heroes that would be appropriate for the event. All you need to get started is a copy of the basic game itself and you are ready to go. If you are like me and with a group that never has a copy of the rules, then there is the premium edition. The premium book includes all the the information of the basic book so that the rules are at the beginning of the book and the second half of the book is all the information that you need for the event. This allows me to bring both my basic rules and the premium event book to the game and have enough copies of the game to make for a much better experience. Yes, the premium edition does cost more but it is an upgrade well worth it for my group.
The book itself is a beast in size with a hefty 386 page count. As I’ve come to expect from the Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Game, it is a gorgeous book. The layout, just as it was in the Civil War event book, is well done and makes for an easy read. The pages are chock full of art ripped right from the pages of the comics themselves. The text is well written and easy to understand with plenty of sidebar references scattered throughout to make for quick transitions when going from scene to scene in the event. I also really appreciated the appendix referencing the issues where this story line could be found. As with civil war, I had not read this story and it is nice having something pointing the way to the source material.
In the rules department, there was one optional rule that was added that I appreciated. This was the timed action complication. During this event, there are points where time is of the essence. This is represented by a Timer complication. During play, the watcher can spend a die from the Doom Pool to add this complication. This complication starts at a D6 but can vary depending on the urgency with which the characters need to move. This complication gets a place in the Action Order. Every time it comes up the die progresses. Once the die reaches a D12, there are normally two options. It will either trigger a specific outcome as delineated in the event book or it will progress through action order again to the point where it will double. This will then provide the Doom Pool with 2D12 which can be used to end the scene as per the rules. I love this option. It really allows the Watcher to ramp up the tension while also giving the players other options as they look at actions that can roll back the timer die to give themselves more time.
I love the cosmic level heroes and threats that are present within the Marvel Universe. This made this book a joy irregardless of my familiarity with the story. Seeing the likes of Galactus, Silver Surfer, Firelord, and Rocket Raccoon was enough to elicit a delightful squee from me. If the cosmic arena is not something you have ever had an interest in, this book gives a good overview of the section of the galaxy in which this event takes place. It explains the Kree, the Skrull, The Shi’ar as well as the less powerful alien races that would be encountered during the story. It also provides an abbreviated primer on the creation of the Marvel universe giving the Watcher a nice foundation to begin running the event. There are plenty of nice additions thought out this section. The stat blocks for the different variations of the aliens being just one. A plethora of Milestones and unlockables are also presented here as well. Milestones are guideposts for how to play a character throughout the story. The ones presented in this section present themes that connect a character to the story line as it progresses or to a more general cosmic feel over all. The unlockables are characters, gear, and assistance that will be useful throughout the event and can be purchased with XP. The ones pertaining to Galactus were my favorite. Who doesn’t want to call in a favor from him?
The Event is broken down into a three-act structure. Each act is further subdivided into action scenes and transitions scenes. Instead of being a set of rails, the event is designed to provide the watcher with a large degree of flexibility. Yes, the event is very much designed to go in a certain direction but there are plenty of spots along the way where the train can jump the tracks. The biggest points for this are called out explicitly in the text and advice is given on where to go with the story when this happens. The nice thing about this advice is that it isn’t the standard “Do whatever you want.” It actually presents options for where to go from this point while still acknowledging that this is your game and you can do whatever you want.
The highest form of praise from me for this book comes in two forms. The first is that I really want to run this event. I love the vast scope presented here and would love to share it with my gaming group. The second is that it takes a story that I am unfamiliar with and makes me want to run out and give it a read. What more can one ask for?
More Rocket Raccoon, but that goes without saying.