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Review: Civil War Essentials Event Book

civilwarThe first supplement to be released for the Marvel Heroic Roleplaying system I was curious to see what form these event books would take. I was hesitant as I usually like to design my own adventures and find creating character an easy task.

I’m glad to say that this book exceed my expectations. There is a wealth of information, stacks of new character datafiles and intriguing new rules that I’m hoping to use in my own games.

As the title suggests this event book centres on the ‘Civil War’ storyline. It was good choice as it is an event that raises lots of possibilities, as well as giving a valid reason to have heroes fight each other.

The book gives advice on different ways to run the Event, either focusing on the Pro or Anti-Registration sides or using the new Troupe play to switch between different characters to explore both sides.

I can imagine that this gives this book a lot of life, since you could run through the Event several times, playing it from both sides. It was an exciting time, when heroes were trying to fight crime with the added complication that they would either be arrested or have to apprehend their former allies.

The book explains the issues involved, with a selection of alternative outcomes should the gamesmaster wish to change things up or the players are able change what happened in the comics.

The scenes presented in the Event itself don’t just limit themselves to the main book but the tie-ins as well. So of these aren’t essential to the plot and so a gamesmaster can decide what he actually wants to include.

For example page CW50 covers Dr Doom’s attempt to wield Thor’s hammer. This doesn’t have any connection to the Civil War itself but would be cool scene to run. The section includes notes on what would happen if a hero proved worthy to wield the hammer and gain some of Thor’s power. This would certainly have a dramatic effect on the events of Civil War, depending on which hero underwent this transformation.

There is a lot of material here, with 88 pages of Scenes. That should keep any group going for several sessions, even if you don’t want to run every since scene. Not every event is covered, so your favourite tie-in issue might be missing, but nothing that wasn’t essential to ‘Civil War’.

One of the things I like about this book is that it does what I’ve tried to do, not just report what happened in the comics but explores other possibilities. This gives players much more freedom than if they were required to follow the events of the comic exactly.

This extends to the coverage of the various factions involved, including suggestions for different members of the Illuminati. Would they have been destabilised if Hank Pym had joined? Would their influence have grown with guidance from Nick Fury? Would they have had more morality if Black Panther hadn’t refused membership?

Not only do we get details about the Illuminati but also AIM, SHIELD, the Daily Bugle, Atlantis and HYDRA. Each group is briefly described with datafiles provided for important members and a selection Milestones.

There is also a section of Milestones provided for the event as a whole. This allows players a wide choice to choose from. Another way in which the system highlights the ability to customise your playing experience.

The book contains a variety of unlockables that you can spend XP on. Unlockables are a strange idea for a roleplaying game, being more associated with computer games. Yet when I read the unlockables and realise that player characters could have their own personal Life Model Decoy, requisition the services of the Thunderbolts or have a special Stark made costume to upgrade their powers I can’t help but think how cool that would be.

In addition to the character datafiles in each scene there are several more at the back. Strangely the selection of foes include heroes, presumably for the PCs to fight if they are on the opposing side of the Registration act dispute. This means that while datafiles are available for Hulkling, Penance, Doc Samson players will have to create their own Milestones if they want to play them. This is, however, a minor complaint.

The fully developed Hero datafiles don’t disappoint, covering all the major players. I did question the wisdom of including characters already provided in the main book but they are suitably updated. For example Spider-Man has a Iron Spider power set.

A variety of locations are provided, and while they may be familiar to Marvel fans, the write-ups include highlighted sentences that can become location distinctions. This is a clever idea and one I might adopt.

Visually the book has the same distinctive style as the core rulebook, illustrated with appropriate artwork from the Marvel comics in question. This makes the whole thing a pleasure to read.

I think that after the corebook came out a lot of people were wondering how to run the game and how to design events. This book is a great guide and suggests that future supplements will be equally worth while purchases. In particular I’m looking forward to the 50 State Initiative book.

Whether you’re planning to run through the events of ‘Civil War’, looking for more rules and characters or just want to know how to put together an adventure this book should leave you satisfied.

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2 comments on “Review: Civil War Essentials Event Book

  1. Great review. I got my PDF, but am sorry to say I have had little time to do anything with it beyond page through the full hero datafiles in a cursory fashion. Your review really makes me want to set aside time to read through the book.

    Thanks for taking the time to write this up. You have a terrific blog!

    • Thanks! I’m glad you like the blog. It is nice to see the effort appreciated. The Civil War pdf is worth your time, if for nothing more than an idea of how the system can be used to adapt the comic stories.

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