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Review of ‘Wraith Recon’

May 13, 2013

There is one particularly strong case for the presence of gaming shops in the world of online purchases – the opportunity to walk into a shop and browse the shelves can reveal products that you would probably never have come across, let alone purchased online.

I was intrigued by the Runequest II version of Wraith Recon, a game of special forces combat in a fantasy milieu, an obvious nod towards Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon. It is a novel, yet oh-so-obvious idea that got my attention the moment I saw it. It is always interesting to discover a game that does something new with fantasy, rather than merely rehashing the pseudo-Tolkien tropes of D&D.

Reading through the volume, I felt as if I had purchased two games for the price of one. There is Wraith Recon itself with special forces and, then, there is the world of Nuera which, as presented in the background material, didn’t quite feel as if it belonged. Don’t get me wrong, I loved much of the background – there are some great ideas here, especially the descriptions of the new races – but it just didn’t really feel as if it went together with the central premise. Although there were a lot of great ideas, it all seemed a bit too traditional fantasy to me, overall. Part of the problem is that we are told there are these other countries in the world, but they are ‘too small’ to appear on the maps or be given write-ups. So, at a stroke, a vital part of the background is lost. Special forces games should be about situations analogous to Vitenam, Afghanistan and Iraq, with maybe a little James Bond thrown in, not rehashing the standard tropes of fantasy. My immediate reaction was that I would love to play a Wraith Recon game, but would need to tinker with, or change altogether, the background to accommodate it, whilst also being very interested in the world of Nuera and wanting to run a more traditional sort of fantasy game there.

Reading the supplied mini-campaign, The Heart of Tzarkesh, essentially Apocalypse Now/Heart of Darkness, it was clear that the setting could lend itself to the sort of game envisaged, so it is a shame that more wasn’t done to accommodate the correct style of play.

Overall, the physical quality of the product is good and it does avoid rehashing anything much from the Runequest II rules that are required to play, so everything between the covers is new. The spelling and grammar were a little slipshod and there was a peculiar discrepancy between the world map (in which the kingdom of Dardarrick, home of Wraith Recon, is about 2000 miles across) and the national map of Dardarrick where it is about 250km (approximately 150 miles) across; the former fitting with the concept of various pocket kingdoms, the latter doesn’t.

Wraith Recon is a brilliant concept and the book has lots of great ideas in it. However, it is flawed. Whether these flaws are present in other versions of the game, I do not know, although I suspect it might be a little less effort to play the Pathfinder version as the unit is heavily reliant on magic items and Runequest II doesn’t really handle standard enchantments. I don’t think there is really anything in here that a GM wanting to run a fantasy special forces game couldn’t devise for himself, but it is well worth mining for ideas. Recommended, with reservations.

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