Today I have another review for you folks and this time it is a game produced by an indie developer. This is just the type of thing I have been hoping to take a look at and feature on the blog. The title of this game is Splinter by End Transmission Games, and you can find it over here.
Splinter is a unique take on things providing you with a singular setting that can run a gamut of genres. To boil it down, The Game has been going on for a very, very long time. It is a virtual reality of sorts, something so old that people have forgotten how to really control it. Of course, it is also possible that it isn’t a virtual reality but another dimension we are exploiting. Regardless, the games that take place in Splinter are what keep the world entertained and at peace. Think Hunger Games, Running Man, or the like.
What is wonderful about Splinter is that there are really two games in one. On the one side you have a classic story of resistance fighters bringing war to a entertainment-oppressed world. On the other, you have avatars driven by players who explore the game earning fame and fortune for the entertainment of others. Within Splinter you may be presented with futuristic lands or classic fantasy dungeons, sometimes a mix of both. Players at the table take on the role of a “player” and an avatar, effectively having two characters. The world of Splint really stands out to me as one with, not just endless potential, but really easy to genre-hop in.
End Transmission Games has not created a small game nor have they developed a world that uses a common universal rule set. Splinter uses, with adaptations, the publisher’s Dice Punk system. This is a relatively easy to handle d6 system featuring dice pools and target success numbers, at its core. Playing this game, explaining it to your players, is relatively easy. I pre-generated avatars for them to choose from and this allowed them to see options and learn the majority of how things worked as we went. Because everything is dice-pools and resources (life and what is essentially mana) my players did not have much trouble figuring things out. There were far fewer questions about what things meant than the first game of D&D.
There was, nevertheless, a learning curve. In order to play the game I did have to spend a fair amount of time discovering what attributes were, how math worked into final dice pool numbers, and how things like harmonics worked. While time-consuming, End Transmission Games did not make this difficult on me. Things were very explicitly laid out within the rule book. Equations were there and stood out among other text. After creating one character it was an easy means to go through the steps of another. Never did I have to leave a chapter or section to go find out what the hell the one I was working with was talking about and we all know by now that’s my biggest gripe.
In fact, I pretty much ignored a good portion of the game (for time’s sake). I exploited the idea that players might not know who they are and focused on the Avatars. While some stats are partially derived from the player, I gave simple across-the-board values. This allowed me to ignore the player driving the Avatar and room for the players at the table to develop those should we play again. Aside from deciding that base-line, I didn’t have to reference the “real-world” part of the rules at all. Except for my rewards of subscriber numbers and some descriptions of the universe, it was a chapter I needn’t have looked at, at all. Now, listen well, I don’t mean to say that chapter was pointless. On the contrary it is but one side of a complex world and game, but the publisher presented things well enough that when you are dealing with one portion of the game you don’t get bogged down searching in another!
As you can see, I found the arrangement to be quite well handled. The over-all presentation was pretty well done. Columns maintain through sections, not pages, and that caught me off guard at first, but was easily adapted to. Art was present throughout the book and rules, equations, and important items clearly delineated and/or labeled. All big bonuses for End Transmission Games. Perhaps the only thing I would have liked to see was some tidying up. There is so much within the book I would have asked for two that were less compact, but that would, of course, cost more and is a minor quibble.
This was a great game and we can’t wait to share the recording of our session with you all. The world is great and was a surprise for my players. The world was full of cliches but in the best way possible. When we read aloud the entry text from the book (guerrilla interrupted transmission and all) it really got everyone into the feel and purpose of Splinter. What was fun, was that the players began thinking about who they were in the real world despite the game being a one-shot (we will be playing a sequel for sure!). You can’t find a world like this in other games, and the rules allow so much to happen. All in all it was tons of fun, and the game is certainly worth checking out!
For the TL;DR, Splinter is a science fiction game that lets you take on a number of possible roles: movie star, gamer, resistance fighter, video game avatar. You can hurl spells and shoot laser guns. Almost any genre could be played with Splinter and End Transmission Games has created a great set of rules and mechanics to match the world. If you want something different, this is a game for you!