Mutant Year Zero is one of the games that took me completely by surprise. I faintly remember that I read that Modiphius was running a Kickstarter project for the game, but I for some reason I didn’t give it a closer look. Recently a friend reminded me of Mutant Year Zero. He has been one of the KS backers and was totally blown away by the final game.
So I started doing some research. Mutant Year Zero is the latest edition of a decade-old Swedish RPG franchise. The more well-known Mutant Chronicles RPG has actually been developed from an earlier edition of the Mutant game. The latest edition of Mutant has been created in 2014 and is published by Modiphius, which you probably know from Achtung! Cthulhu.
This review is based on the PDF version of Mutant Year Zero, which has been provided by the publisher for the purpose of said review. Thanks again, Chris! The digital edition is available from DriveThruRPG and contains not only the core rules but also several sheets, handouts, and two Zone maps.
The first thing you’ll notice when you pick up the game is that it looks totally awesome. The comic-style artwork fits the setting perfectly and the layout is top notch. I know that substance is more important than style, but in most cases style is what gets you interested in a game in the first place. The production quality of Mutant Year Zero is definitely on par with Fantasy Flight Games or Paizo products.
So what is Mutant Year Zero about? The subtitle “Roleplaying at the End of Days” actually gives it away. It’s the post apocalypse. Humanity has screwed up big time and the vast majority of Earth is a radioactive wasteland. But some pockets of humanity remain. The “People”, shephered by the Elder, have survived in a place called the Ark. In Mutant you play one of these people. And as you might have suspected every player character is a mutant.
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I don’t think I need to tell you about the importance of maps in roleplaying games. Even the most crudest of maps can still be a very helpful tool in any campaign. A great map might even help to immerse the players more deepy into the game.
An excellent example of such a map is the Traveller Spinward Marches map by the German oublisher 13 Mann Verlag. In its print edition it’s 96 cm x 68 cm, printed on both sides, and even laminated. I am not sure if you can use boardmarkers to write on it, but it should at least be protected from greasy hands or spilled drinks. As a physical handout the map is just awesome. It’s made to look like a product available in the actual Traveller universe. One side shows the scout map of the Spinward Marches, with every system detailed. You don’t need to look up stats in a book, everything you need is right there on the map.
The other side features the trade map for the same area, and features all of the information needed for crew of merchants trying to make a buck in this region of space. Especially the trade map can look a bit intimidating at first, but should come in handy during the game – especially if your campaign focuses on trade.
Some people may ask themselves whether a physical map still makes sense in today’s world. I have to admit, I still like having physical handouts at the table. And the map is definitely a great eye-catcher.
If you prefer a digital version of the map, you can get it as well – which actually contains one PDF for each of the two maps. The digital edition is a bit of a mixed bag to be honest. It looks great, is only 7 MB in file size and looks pretty good even on a tablet PC, but it’s just not as useful as the printed map – at least in my opinion. Your mileage may of course vary.
The print edition of the map sets you back €24.95 (about 31$) which is a pretty fair price, if you ask me. It’s available directly from 13 Mann or through local retailers. The PDF version is also available from DriveThruRPG and sets you back $15.55. If you are a fan of any edition of the Traveller RPG and if you’re playing in the Spinward Marches, you definitely should check this product out.
This morning I had three books that I ordered from DriveThruRPG a while ago in the mail. Initially I tried to order these books from a local shop, but it seems most German and UK distributors don’t have access to most of the Mongoose stuff anymore. I have absolutely no idea, why that’s the case, but that meant I had to rely on DriveThruRPG’s POD service.
The first book I ordered was the Traveller Core Rulebook. I already own a hardcover version of said book, but I was hoping to get the 2nd printing. But alas for some reason the POD edition is based on the 1st printing. I haven’t checked if the errata has been edited in, but the artwork is definitely from the 1st printing. This means that the PDF you get looks different than the printed book. This is no big deal, but it definitely feels wrong somehow. But overall I am still happy with the book. I like the softcover format more than the hardcover one and the price was reasonable.
The next book was Supplement 2: Traders and Gunboats. It contains a plethora of spaceship designs from small civilian ships to large military vessels. Each ship comes with a deckplan and an illustration. Alas some of the illustrations don’t seem to match the deckplans and look pretty nonsensical to me. Luckily this can be easily ignored. For me it’s definitely a must-have book if you plan to run a game in the Original Traveller Universe (OTU).
Last but not least I got a copy of Spinward Encounters, a book containing a large number of adventure hooks and several adventures set into the Spinward Marches. Instead of the other two books it hasn’t been written by Mongoose, but is from Comstar Media. The book is published by Mongoose and uses the Third Imperium cover and backcover design, but the interior doesn’t use the regular Traveller look. To be honest it reminded me more of my Traveller rulebook from the 80s. While the adventure hooks and adventures look interesting enough and will probably fit into everyone’s game easily, I would have preferred a slightly more professional layout. But aside from that minor quibble the book is definitely fine.
Overall the quality of the printing and binding is ok. The only thing that bothers me a bit is that the black text and large black areas in the artwork are pretty shiny. This is something I haven’t noticed in other POD books before.
I am still waiting for my copy of the Spinward Marches book to arrive and I recently got the Spinward Marches map by 13 Mann, which is as awesome as I hoped. So I might post short reviews of these products in the future. So stay tuned.