Friday, 5 July 2013
The Masters of the Universe Role Playing Game by FASA - actual play review
If you are anything like me, stop it! Stop it right now! I mean it! I know what you are thinking: "A He-Man RPG, by FASA. OMG! Take my money!" That's exactly what I thought when I stumbled across this one on Boardgamegeek.com just under a year ago. This is a bad thought that leads to dark places. Trust me. Let me tell you why:
The Masters of the Universe Role Playing Game was put out by FASA back in 1985. FASA is the company that brought us amazing games and worlds such as Shadowrun and Battletech. They published that Star Trek RPG I talked about a couple weeks ago. They are and were a trusted name in the RPG marketplace. This would be why I was shocked and amazed and immediately went to eBay when I heard that they had made this game. Come on now, how cool would a good RPG about He-Man be? The problem, this isn't an RPG at all.
In this game it's the players vs. the game (see Pandemic didn't even come close to doing it first). The players take on the roles of various Masters of the Universe characters that include He-Man, Ram-Man, Man-at-Arms, Teela, Fisto and Orco. The heroes are trying to break into Snake Mountain and steal the Jewels of Eternia. Attempting to stop the heroes are a wide variety of He-Man villains including Beastman, Trap Jaw, Evil-Lyn and of course Skeletor. The dungeon itself is also filled with a variety of traps and other lesser known monsters and defensive robots. Sounds cool doesn't it? Sadly it's not.
Gameplay starts by seeding the board. You have 10 treasures chits that are placed on the board on blue star rooms. These are randomized and only one of them has the Jewels the heroes want on it. This adds unpredictability and replayability to the game. Then the players take turns moving their hero standees on the board. Every hero has a character sheet with a ton of stuff on it, about 3 items of which are actually used. One of these is a movement rate. The board is divided into squares and it costs one movement point per square plus an extra one to move through a door.
Sounds pretty awesome doesn't it? Trust me it's not! This is what hurts the most about this game. It sounds awesome. It looks pretty awesome. It has so much potential. Sadly it's all wasted.
The first thing you will find when reading the rules, which are kind of neat and written like a comic book where your 8 year old self is represented in the comic as a generic boy outline, is that they make no sense by about page 1. By page 3 or so they make even less sense. Then you get to a rule summary, sweet! Oh wait this contradicts the stuff in the comic. Wait where's the defense chart? "This character only attacks by defending" wait what? "...attacks when a character enters the room... This monster never attacks only defends" huh? What the hell?
I'm being serious here. The rules make no sense. They feel like they are making a bit of sense. They actually feel enough like they are making sense that you may be tempted to put together a group and try to work through it, but trust me: when you actually try to play you will find you can't. That's right this game is 100% unplayable as written. It just can't be done. The only way to play is to just make stuff up as you go, as every 5 minutes or so you will go hunting for something in the rules only to find it's not there at all or is something as clear as "Spiders will always attack the closest player character. They will attack until dead. When defending they will use the attack option." then you will go looking for the Attack and Defend option. These are mentioned in every single monster description. Some monsters even roll to see if they Attack or Defend when defending. You won't find this. It's just not there. When attacking you roll 1D6 and add something. The defender rolls 1D6 and adds something else. I say something because no where in the rules does it tell you what to add to your rolls. You have a bunch of skills, stuff like Hand to Hand, we assumed that this is what you added and the bad guys have an Attack stat, we guessed this is what they add, but no where does it explain what you add to your die rolls.
So again I re-iterate: no matter how cool this looks or how cool it sounds, or how confidant you are that you can figure out these insane rules, just give up. If you are a collector, it's a cool item to own. Just save yourself and your players some stress and keep it in the box, forever.