Review of Mutant Year Zero RPG

Mutations, guns, yeah, I'm good...
Mutations, guns, yeah, I’m good…

I was at a Michcon or Origins in 1978 when TSR released Gamma World.  I remember being in the huddle as they cracked open the boxes to hand out the first edition copies.  It was a magical time in the gaming business, when you just handed companies your cash and were satisfied with almost everything that was produced.  I only ran one campaign of the game, but it was pretty good.  I jumped into the Morrow Project RPG as a result (which I will cover in a future blog) but the original Gamma World was pretty awesome.

I started looking for a replacement about two years ago.  I was tempted to purchase the original book, but I stupidly assumed that the RPG industry would have improved on the original Gamma World (futuristic post-apocalyptic) setting.  I liked Degenesis, but it was almost too much detail on the universe and factions.  The D20 version was good but felt a little dry for my tastes.  The current release that Wizards of the Coast did to Gamma World in the seventh edition was, well, horrific.

When I was at Gen Con this year I picked up Mutant Year Zero in hopes it might be my cure for planet-devastating, people-mutating, sci-fi combat.  Apparently this is a RPG that has been around since 1984 with a strong background in Sweden.  The artwork is comic-book style, I understand there is a comic book series that is part of the mythos for this.  I was intrigued enough to plop down the $35 for the hardcover core rules.

This is a RPG with an uber-story arc.  Players begin in Ark’s, survivalist communities barely able to survive after an apocalyptic war which has left mankind sterile and mutated.  The people of the Arks search “The Zone” surrounding them in search of material for survival and to find the mythical Eden.

Eden is the big story arc and I won’t ruin it for you.  It’s rare to see a RPG with this incorporated into it and I have to say, it’s a novel concept.  At the same time, the Path to Eden campaign is a relatively easy adventure module with a few flaws in it.  I wondered if the game was worth playing once you go through that campaign.

The artwork is good – comic style, very consistent.  It sets a dark and grim tone for the game.  The game mechanics are pretty solid, though I found a few rules which were sufficiently vague as to cause problems down the road.  Back in the day you could have these kinds of fuzzy rules, with the knowledge that the GM could administer rulings.  Now though, where gamers devour rules like tax accountants consume IRS court rulings, there are going to be some issues.

This is not a game with futuristic weapons. In fact, the few modern day weapons in the game are usually cobbled together from parts of a rusting 1974 Buick LeSabre.  No lasers here.  Just rust, rubble and ruin.

The game mechanics work.  The game favors playability over realism, which works in this kind of setting.  While I was told that I didn’t need the custom dice for the game, the rules are written for them, so you should buy the dice.  I grumble about this (Thanks FFG!) since this is now a disturbing trend in the industry.  If I need the damn dice, why not just sell them to me with the book?

My take – it is a good game.  If I opt to run it, I’m going to trash their universe background and do my own thing.  The whole quest for Eden mega-arc felt hollow and frankly, limiting.  Overall, I give this a 3.0 out of five stars.  Not a bad game, a bit pricy.  There’s enough here to allow a good GM to put together a nice campaign.  I am not hearing a lot of players picking this up and running it, so I’m curious to see if there are any tournaments at Gen Con next year.  If you look on their game forums for this, it gets very little traffic, which is foreboding.

Check out the web site for more info:  http://www.modiphius.com/mutant.html

Something tells me I’m going to have to purchase a Gamma World first edition in order to

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