The New Gamma World

OK, we all know I’m a 4e hater so just take this in that spirit.  I was prepared to not buy but not hate on the new Gamma World.  But I saw it being played in a game store today and noticed that they sell card “booster packs,” randomized and with “rares” just like Magic cards or whatnot, to players.

A stack of cards for random effects comes in the game box.  But if you buy your own, you can construct your own “player deck” of mutation powers from them.  Now, this is brilliant from a revenue stream point of view.  They have always made great bank from CCGs and this means you can convert RPGs into that kind of a stream.  But something in me balks at “players that spend the most money do better.”  Maybe I’m just being old and grumpy. But I don’t like it in computer games either, the new “micropayments” where you can pay RL cash for better weapons or whatnot.  Of course, I think the South Korean economy pretty much runs on that now, maybe it’s the wave of the future.

I didn’t actually like the old Gamma World – I played it once with Jim Ward GMing, no less, and its goofy and pointlessly random nature really put me off (I don’t mind that per se, I like Paranoia, for example, but there seemed to be a disjoint between the tone and the results).  So it’s not like this is ruining memories from my youth or whatnot.  I don’t know, I put my couple thousand dollars into Magic and then I swore it off, so maybe that’s the problem.  Am I just being a grumpy grognard?  Or what?

19 responses to “The New Gamma World

  1. It’s an attempt to keep things moving and cash flowing. I know it will suffer from ‘rich kid syndrome’, but at this point I would rather the little dears poured their money into Gamma World boosters than another item on WOW.

    I never liked the random nature of GW either, but it was a step up from its daddy, Metamorphosis Alpha. I never cared for Villains and Vigilantes for the same reason.

  2. I had much the same reaction 15 years ago, when White Wolf tried to cash in on the CCG craze by asking players of Changeling: the Dreaming to buy cards to use in its horribly borken Cantrip system.

    I enjoy CCGs, and I enjoy MMOs, but I think there should be a sharp divide between the two. At least in the case of Changeling, the public agreed with me, because the cantrip cards had a sudden market death and the 2nd edition of the game made no mention of them whatsoever.

  3. You are being old and grumpy… and uninformed. There is no need to ever get another booster pack after buying the game. Ever. Most folks I’ve heard screaming about ‘they guy with the best cards wins’ hasn’t looked to much over the cards in the box.

    Sure you could strive to make an ultra cool tech loot deck, you’d only get about a 50% chance to use it each time you gained some treasure (otherwise you get stuff from the same deck everybody else uses). All the mutations are pretty much the same across the board. I guess someone could spend a ton of money to make a super efficient deck based on certain skills and stats. But pretty useless given your character is randomly generated (and lethality is pretty high in the game). Your character gets whacked the first encounter, you’ve got a mutation deck that might not work for your newly created pyroknetic ratswarm.

    The gear and mutations turnover is fast. Like after every fight fast. I guess you could dump cards for rolling on tables. But then you have to decide what is available for each player, then give them time to write out all the effects and abilities of each item/mutation. Maybe after 15 minutes of paperwork you’d be ready to keep playing. No thanks. I’ll stick with simply handing out a card with all the info right on it, so the player has all the info at their fingerstips and can keep playing.

    For what it represents, a game with characters constantly in flux, tongue firmly planted in cheek, and rule emphasizing the GM should quickly arbitrate and just move on, I’m surprised you (as a self admitted grognard) aren’t finding the game attractive. I think very few RPGs out on the market today have that frivolous, fun vibe Gamma World has.

  4. Geek Ken, then what are the booster pack for, if the game absolutely definitely doesn’t need them, and according to you, it’s difficult to integrate them anyway?

    • That’s a serious question, not trolling, by the way.

      • Yeah, these all sound like valid reasons you can play Magic with just the starter deck, too. We know how that turned out.

        • The problem with this statement is that Magic is a player-versus-player game, as opposed to a cooperative like D&D or Gamma World. My perspective of the boosters is that it allows you to potentially generate a deck of thematic mutation powers or items that you like (which could potentially mean high-powered items). Regardless, the DM is within her rights to force players to draw from another deck.

    • Pretty much they are to add flair to the game. I think the cards are less like MtG than they are like Munchkin… Munchkin plays fine stand alone, but you can buy the other types and put them all together for some really wacky shit if you want.

      Oh, and I don’t think the cards are difficult to integrate, that wasn’t the point there… it’s more that as cards it’s pretty easy to just hand someone a card (or have hem draw one) where as if you have it all on tables you need to spend time explaining it every time someone rolls it on the table, and as there are a lot of churn with these powers/tech you’d end up spending a lot of time reading off charts.

  5. Oh, the booster format is a cash grab, no question about it. But then, when you consider it, isn’t every RPG product? Supplement books, with more feats or powers or character classes or magic items, they’re created for the sole purpose of enticing players to open up their wallets. The only difference between these boosters and the supplements is that instead of paying 15-20 dollars for a new book, you’re paying $3.99 for a few new cards.

    But the error that most people are making in their assumption is that they think of these boosters like ones in Magic, where in the more you buy the bigger your advantage. In the new GW, this simply isn’t true, because it is still an RPG, you aren’t competing against other players. It provides you more options and variety, but it isn’t the case of the person who spends the most money gets the best character any more than saying that someone who has a bunch of supplement books makes a better char than someone who just uses the core book.

    • it isn’t the case of the person who spends the most money gets the best character any more than saying that someone who has a bunch of supplement books makes a better char than someone who just uses the core book

      This is not true. I’ve seen plenty of games — AD&D2, Shadowrun and Vampire spring to mind from personal experience, and I’ve heard D&D3 was the same — where a player with access to the splatbooks could make a character that was far better than any core-rules-only creation.

      The analogy with splatbooks just doesn’t hold true, not least because you know what you’re getting in a splatbook, but the boosters are random, so to get the good stuff, you will likely spend more than $3.99 unless you’re lucky.

      All that said, I ran a core-rules-only game of Shadowrun for years, and it seems one could do the same with Gamma World and just ignore the boosters.

      Of course, those who went to the try out days for the new game didn’t get that choice, as they had to buy a booster to participate.

  6. Chitown seems to exactly capture the feel for the cards. Heck, even as a GM they may want to eventually get a booster or two for the game and add them to the deck everyone uses.

    The route of making a personal player deck though, I see that not being worth the investment. Sorry, but going through the cards, I don’t see this as a rampant CCG. I see them as something completely optional, and not even really needed to enjoy Gamma World for a long time.

  7. Oh, that’s it. Take the wind right out of poor Mixy’s sails.

    What a bunch of spoilsports.

    But seriously, the Interwebz spoiled the original concept of the booster packs, and their ability to sway a game depending on your spending habits is seriously overrated. You *could* shotgun a few booster boxes. Better to buy what you need online, however. The amount of cardboard I have consigned to our wood stove over the years is considerable – being all the cards we could not find a use for after cracking booster boxes for my son. And we play variants like multi, EDH, peasant, five color and ironman.

    And after watching my son climb the local shop ladders, I have concluded that it is at least 60% skill. Yeah, you are not going to win a tournament with common cards, but I have seen very good players beat the living hell out of lesser players doing just that.

    This does not sound like it will suffer from ‘rich kid’ syndrome, as you cannot reliably control what you get as a mutation. It just opens up the pool of what’s available at any given time. And since it’s an RPG, as was said, the emphasis might not even be on combat performance.

    • Well, but again that sounds like an argument that can apply to building custom decks in Magic. No, you don’t control exactly what comes up, but you certainly can constrain it to a desirable set. And you can buy Magic boosters looking to get lucky, or hit the singles market.

      I mean, props to those who still play CCGs, but I don’t and don’t want to. And RPGs are certainly competitive for spotlight time and success among PCs – as every discussion about “we have one guy in our party who way outmatches us” on Internet forums attests. It ends up provoking an arms race – and, happily for Wizards I guess, an arms race that gets them money.

  8. We play CCGs casually now. Once upon a time my son was competitive, but the day he reached the top spot in a local tournament, he donated half the packs he’d won to the guy in last place and retired. I watched him do it. He was thirteen at the time.

    Sometimes I admire that kid so much I could bust.

    Anyway, I cannot see this appearing on the singles market because the game is so small and because the results, unlike CCGs, have no money in them. Yes, your pool is controlled by you, but it appears the character may not always find what is in the pool to be very useful in every given situation.

    I think you have done enough CCGs that I don’t have to wax pedantic on the various reasons these two instances differ. The main difference here is that the player is changing often enough that a selection of GW cards which is too carefully optimized will be useless if that character dies. Which, from what I read here and in other places, is often enough to neutralize the effect of the rich kid and his deep pockets.

    And in any case, the GM can just disallow their use.


  9. If I may be bold, but I think the money grab exists, but it doesn’t exist in the way people are thinking about it, because they are missing where the boosters will be sold.

    I fully anticipate Organized Play doing a Living Gamma World setting, where the cost of playing is buying a pack every week, for new random powers that your character gets. This is a win for WOTC, who gets to sell a obscene amount of cards if it launches. It’s not going to be the person who wants “The Perfect Character” that will drive the card sales, but formats where you pay for product to enter. Since they were aiming the boosters for Pick Up games, anyway, the idea that they introduce a Pick Up format makes a lot of sense.

    I don’t see this really as a bad thing, as that does leave the people who buy just the box set a way to enjoy the game without having to make a large card investment, and I see this as a good thing for your Local Game Stores as it helps provide actual sales associated with RPG events. If it plays out like I would like it to, it would be a boon for your premire stores, and I can’t see this as a bad thing, per say. The question really is are RPG’ers willing to play like that?

  10. I do think you are being grumpy for grumpy’s sake here so I’m just going to point you at another blog, because he is a lot more verbose on the subject that I really care to be.

  11. I am not so concerned about the boosters in this….but I do admit that I never liked the randomness of Metamorphasis Alpha and played the 1ed GW as a serious sci-fi holocost game fighting for survival….but what turned me off wanting to buy this game was the fact that what most everyone was going on and on about was the character gen and its silly random nature. I like making up various character for almost every game I own, but not that random….sure V&V was random but we played it using a house rule to minimize some of the zany power combos and the challenge became making a theme to capture all those into one power (and we only had one person who rolled something so wackey he felt he could not make a hero out of it….but this is not about the aging and venerable V&V).

    Gamma World is just a pass for me this time around. I like my GW a bit more gritty and people striving to keep humanity alive…not to keep plantism and porpisity alive.

    • Players can choose their origins by the rules, so you can greatly reduce the randomness if you’re going for a more serious tone. Additionally, if you were okay with houseruling V&V then you could do the same in Gamma World, having players maintain Alpha mutations for a longer period of time (perhaps changing when they level, or at a specific interval in the game, such as through exposure to radiation or wormholes or whatnot).

  12. I know I’m horribly late to the game, but I cross-referenced Gamma World and New Hampshire, and found this blog entry.

    Anyways, the booster packs don’t really add any kind of advantage; rather, it lets a player tailor their mutation deck towards their character concept. For instance, an Octopoid player would probably want something like the ‘Tentacles!’ mutation in their alpha deck, and maybe omit anything REALLY random, like sprouting wings or something. The sequence is random, but a player building their own deck gives them a chance to make their mutations ‘fit’ their character better, if that matters to them. This is, at least, how my players build their personal decks. It really depends on how seriously you want to take the game. I run cartoony, over-the-top campaigns, but the characters like to fit a specific concepts.

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