Black Crusade review
Sunday 6th October 2013
So before Christmas I started a series of reviews, giving you my views on the FFG range of 40k roleplay games. I went through Dark Heresy, Rogue Trader and Deathwatch but never finished the series. So now here's the much-delayed Black Crusade review, and next week I'll go onto Only War.
Black Crusade is the fourth FFG 40k RPG and it departs rather daringly from the other games in the series by staring not loyal Servants of the Imperium but instead the insidious minions of the Ruinous Powers!
In Black Crusade you play either Chaos heretics or Chaos Space marines, trying to earn the favour of the dark gods of Chaos and avoid mutation and death in the process.
Like all the games before it, Black Crusade takes the previous game system (in this case Deathwatch) and updates and alters it slightly.
The BC system is pretty similar in many respects to its forbears, except that the rules have had a MAJOR tightening up. The Black Crusade version of the 40k RPG system is the best version to date; a lot has been stripped back and it makes running and playing the game so much easier.
There is also another major change. Gone is the skills-by-classes system; instead now any character can purchase any skill or talent they want. However, each skill, talent and even stat has an associated Chaos power; the more you buy of a certain set of skills and talents, the more into the sway of that god you fall. Subsequently the other skills in that set become cheaper, so the more you buy, so the more in the sway of that god you become. A deliciously downward spiral!
It's quite a clever system, in my opinion. If you want to play a close-combat specialist with a love of chainaxes and lots of strength you will invariably become a minion of Khorne. Social thinky characters are drawn to Tzeentch. And so on.
The only problem is, as we found in the Black Crusade game I ran, that this can lead to either one of two eventualities.
Eventuality one is that characters end up with very similar skill sets (i.e. all the Khorne worshippers become frenzied close-combat monsters), which I guess does synch up with the idea that most chaos worshippers end up very similar. The other possibility is that characters who spread their skills out across the skill trees end up with no allegiance to a god and thus end up paying a high price in exp for all their skills and talents.
Basically it comes down to deciding if you want to play a very specialised character and then dedicating yourself to a chosen god, or remaining a jack-of-all-trades and paying a high price for your skills. Again, I guess this does match up with how the fluff describes Chaos worship; you don't get anywhere sitting on the fence.
A new stat is also added to the game; Infamy. Infamy is a measure of how, well, infamous a character is. As you further your efforts to become a champion of the dark gods your Infamy increases, which can be used to cow lesser servants of Chaos, obtain equipment and so on.
One thing Black Crusade does marvellously is making Chaos seem like a damn good choice in the grimdark world of the 41st millennium.
Each of the Chaos powers is described from a very neutral standpoint; Khorne is laid out as the martial god of strategy, honour and skill in combat. Tzeentch is the god of freedom, wisdom and learning. Slaanesh is worshipped by idealists, artists and perfectionists and Nurgle is a caring god who lovingly watches all those in his care.
You can quite easily see people turning to Chaos for such reasons, only for them to slowly be twisted into the slavering heretics we know so well from the viewpoint of the Imperium.
One problem I did have when running Black Crusade for my friends is that the power level is on a par with Rogue Trader. Characters are assumed to be minor champions when they start play and as such can use their Infamy stat to obtain gear, weapons and services.
As I said in my Rogue trader review, I like my characters -whether I'm playing or running a game- to have to work to for their shiny toys. By just rolling against a stat to obtain new gear it feels a little too... easy.
I realise that the rolls are probably meant to be used in conjunction with some roleplaying to get gear, but I can't help feeling that there could have been slightly more added to the system to augment this.
The default setting for Black Crusade is the Screaming Vortex; a stable and massive warp-storm located between the Calixis Sector and the Kronos Expanse that is home to dozens of worlds under varying degrees of Chaos control. The characters are assumed to have come to the Vortex seeking glory and to eventually recruit enough followers to launch a titular Black Crusade into Imperial space.
While the Screaming Vortex is a very nicely detailed setting, with some cool proto-daemon worlds ripe for adventuring, I feel that FFG missed an opportunity. By default the enemies most Black Crusade characters will face will be other minions of Chaos, not Imperials. While this highlights the fractious nature of Chaos worshippers, most people I know would want to tear their way across Imperial planets wreaking havoc, rather than fight other Chaos worshippers.
Of course, there is a sense in having less powerful chaos characters limited to the 'safe zone' of the Screaming Vortex; a small group of heretics loose in the Imperium is quickly going to attract the attention of the Inquisition. But still, it would have been nice to have some more non-Chaos planets added to the setting.
All in all, Black Crusade is a great setting with a very nice system behind it. Never has playing a minion of the Dark Powers been so much fun!
Sunday 29th September 2013
Hah, I'm not dead! Here's a comic strip!
Yeah, I've managed to get back into the swing of things once more. Sorry for the completely erratic updates of late.
Sunday 1st September 2013
Yeah, I suck. No strip again. I'm suffering from a bit of writer's block right now, so rather than try to force myself to work I'm taking a break and hopefully I'll have something to show for it next week.
Want to get in touch? Contact me at: