I've no experience of writing reviews and similar, so if you have any comments before I post this anywhere let me know.
World on Fire
Publisher: Crafty Games (via Mongoose Publishingís ĎFlaming Cobraí imprint)
Page Count: 160 (B&W Hardback)
Price: $34.95 MSRP
World on Fire is the first setting book, and indeed the first print book produced by Crafty Games, through some weirdness from Mongoose I actually got this before release, as the book is being intentionally held back to be release along with the 2nd printing Spycraft 2.0.
Chapter 1: Little World Lost: (29 pages) This chapter covers the history of the factions inherent in World on Fire, if youíre familiar with the CCG, you may know some of this already, but as Iím not, I canít say how much. It does well to establish the world and give enough background to run with, while not overcrowding and drowning out a GCís own ideas, in one or two places it does actually call out areas that are intentionally not detailed to give the GC some freedom for their own plots.
Chapter 2: Traces of Terror: (21 pages) Essentially a state of affairs for the modern era of the setting. Again, Iím not sure how much of this is already explained in the CCG if any, but it seems to flow well, and to my eye seems somewhat compartmentalised, so itís easy enough to drop parts from the setting or drop organisations into your own setting without screwing the back-story too much. Despite this it does seem coherent, and despite not liking some of the names (while Alliance of Evil Geniuses is amusing, and Iím aware of its origins, it seems a little Ďcampí for my tastes) it is a good read, and inspires many hooks (which is after all the main point of RPG fiction/backstory).
Chapter 3: Tradecraft: (42 pages) Since Iím not sure Iíll be using the default World of Fire setting, this is probably the main background chapter for me, whereas the previous two chapters deal with the fictional, this deals with the real-world. Expanding quite substantially on the tradecraft chapter on the 1st edition of Spycraft we have notes on everything from the lifestyle of spies, tools of the trade (cover IDís, cryptography etc), jargon, notable operations, and more. As a newcomer to the genre, only picking stuff up from around the last year or two of 1st ed Spycraft I can see myself finding this chapter invaluable. The one flaw is that the ĎRecommended Sourcesí section isnít sorted better, while it is divided into Books, Movies & Television, it wouldíve been nice to differentiate between fictional and factual sources, as itís not always obvious from reading the title.
Chapter 4: New Rules: (54 pages) I admit to being a rules-person, I get disappointed if I donít get my dose of crunch in a book. Objectively this book doesnít disappoint, offering new crunch across all the major categories. Iíve been anticipating this book a long time, and was expecting a more comprehensive rules chapter, but on the other hand, canít see anything obviously missing Ė so Iíll put that down to over-anticipation.
The only completely new rules, are those for Allegiance, which add another layer between Faction and personal goals Ė though these are simple rules which donít add any more mechanical complexity to the game.
There are many additional character options which Iím not going to go into them here, they all seem to balance well against each other and the options in the SC2.0 core book. Initially daunting is the number of ďinstant deathĒ feats, but on comparison I donít think they are actually overpowered Ė serving a purpose similar to the ďinstant winĒ dramatic conflict options Ė getting rid of those opponents that donít pose much of a threat anyway. As a note, I feel that many of the feats donít really belong in this book, as we have 6 pages dedicated to Melee combat feats (26 in total) which I donít feel add that much to a traditional espionage game, these could easily have been dropped into a .pdf supplement Ė either one focussing on melee styles or one of the faction .pdfs.
Itís initially disconcerting that only the villainous factions have options presented, but this is due to a series of .pdf supplements detailing the heroic factions more fully than would be possible in the printed book.
The additional Contact options in the book are more clarifications than actual changes, though I admit that it gives a nice set of guidelines for using Contacts, which is a game element I have tended to avoid using too much so far.
Quality/Appearance: The book is a fairly solid hardback book, and has survived a week or so being carted around in my backpack without suffering any marking or loose pages. I realise I may be alone in this, but I prefer the book in B&W to the colour offerings, which in my opinion are a little bit over-coloured for a gaming-book. The art is the same recycled art from the card game as is in the core book, and indeed many pieces of art are straight out the Spycraft 2.0 book - an art style that Iím not a fan off, it jumps out as being very Ďcomic-bookí. On the up-side I find the art less of a problem in B&W as I did in colour Ė a couple of pieces in my 1st printing SC2.0 I found really too bright and colourful.
Summary: A solid second book for Spycraft 2.0, and one I think deserves to be brought along to Spycraft sessions regardless of setting, though espionage settings are sure to benefit most. It wonít add anything to radically change how you view the game - if you have Spycraft itís not going to convert you, but perhaps until the more esoteric settings come out I think little will.