Boardgame Review: Genesys

Review by Godfrey Blackwell

Name: Genesys
Game Designer: Sam Stewart
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
Rating: 5 stars (out of 5)
Summary: A wonderful "generic" role-playing game system with a unique "narrative dice" mechanic that allows for hugely entertaining, cinematic adventures in any setting a gaming group may choose.

Strictly speaking, role-playing games aren't usually boardgames, and Genesys certainly isn't since a board is definitely not necessary. Some groups may choose to use one for simulating combat scenarios, but the core rules certainly contemplate no boards, just old-fashioned "pen and paper" (and dice) to play the game. That said, I'm reviewing this as a board games since that's the closest thing that fits ... and I must say that Fantasy Flight Games has knocked another one out of the park with this offering.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I played a fair bit of role-playing games in my youth and found them a lot of fun. I decided to try out Genesys since, as a"generic" system that was not tied to any particular setting, I could use it to make a game that was enjoyable for all of my children. I certainly made the right choice as the Genesys rule system excels and being truly generic and compatable for any setting one might imagine. For our first "campaign" (series of linked adventures) I created my own space opera-ish setting heavily inspired by the Alien movies (but without the eponymous and terrifying creatures).  The rules have worked really well for everything we need to do from astrogation, to firefights, to deciphering strange ancient glyphs

The games I found, and especially the combat, really feel like fight scenes from movies -- realistic, but not too realistic, with mechanics like "narrative points" for the players to spend at key moments to ensure that their "big darn heroes" don't meet an untimely end. The game is still very intense though and have had players on the edges of their seats. There's also been a fair bit of hilarity.

This is all acheived by the unique "narrative dice" system, that seemed a bit strange at first, but once we started using them I think they're fantastic. Most role playing game systems use various numbered dice from six-sided to 20-sided. Genesys uses these same shapes of dice but instead of numbers have symbols to denote "success" or "failure" as well as bonus "advantages" and their opposits, "threats" (we tend to call them disadvantages). You can read more about the mechanics here: https://www.fantasyflightgames.com/en/products/genesys/

For the purposes of this review, suffice it to say that it really makes the game creative and dynamic. Instead of having to pore over tables or have charts for this-and-that weapon in this-and-that setting, the game master just assigns a difficulty (and a corresponding set of difficult dice) and the player roles against it with ability and proficiency dice. Plus there are boost and setback dice that can be added for extra flavour -- so for example a rifle shot at long range would be a certain difficulty, but if its raining the GM can add a setback dice to reflect this.

Just as an example, something that I had occur a number of times in sessions is where a player would actually role more failure than success results, meaning they had not succeeded in their task, BUT, they rolled three or more "advantages" so as game master (with assistance of the players) we had to interpret how they could fail to do what they intended but with a whole pile of positive benefits. Usually we had the character succeeding but in an unexpected way (for example, a character trying to climb a cliff failed and therefore stumbled but in doing so, they swung on their rope to a spot that ended up being better and made the ascent faster than they would have on their initial course).

As such, I give the system a full 5/5 stars and we had an immense amount of fun with our first adventure which lasted about five or six sessions, with the Blackwell children begging dad every Saturday if we could play another session of Genesys. Albert took notes and we hope to have some session reports up soon to demonstrate the sort of fun we had!



By Anna Blackwell (June 2019, age 11)

Once there lived a proud noble and a simple beggar who both lived in the LAND OF CHOICES. Now I bet you can easily find out why it’s called that because you had to make a lot of choices -- if you made the right choice you might get good luck.

Now the noble I was talking about was not a good chooser, she always said “ o bother “ then called on her helper Perrier who apparently would just say “dear me again!" and would pick the easiest. The weather nymphs, unicorns and the path fairies were very upset about this wanted to punish her.

On the other hand the beggar was very careful about it, she would think over it and then chose the one that she thought was right.

Now one day the King who reigned over the land was inviting everyone to his birthday party. Everyone had to bring there best dishes. This wasn’t to hard at all for the beggar, who had been saving money, and who was going to bring a turnip salad, freshly made bacon and her best homemade lemon cupcakes.The noble was going to bring Honey glazed ham, Greek salad and chocolate cake with blueberry icing .

This gave the fairies, unicorns and nymphs an idea: they were going to get the noble in trouble . It came to happen that the beggar and noble were traveling on the same path to the castle, after traveling for some time they came to a fork in the road. The beggar decided to follow the road on the right

“Fool,“ said the noble “that road is too long and It looks like it will rain on that side.‘’

But the beggar replied, “yes it will take longer but at least I’ll now I am going the right way.“

The noble sneered and went her way. But in fact it didn't rain. The weather nymphs were pleased with the beggar and made the sun appear. The fairies were glad she picked the right path so they made no trouble come her way and the unicorns came and let her ride them because they were proud of her good choice .

But the noble didn’t have any good luck at all. She ran into bad weather , lost her way once and got very tired .The beggar got to the castle at the right time while the noble arrived late . After that the noble learned her lesson and was much more careful in her choices the next time. As for the Beggar she lived happily in her cottage for the rest of her life .



Movie Review: Apollo 18 (2011)

Title: Appollo 18
Director: Gonzalo L√≥pez-Gallego
Producer: Dimension Films
Starring: Warren Christie, Lloyd Owen, Ryan Robbins
Excellence: 3 stars (out of 5)
Summary in a Sentence: A solid entry into the sci-fi/horror genre featuring a classified Apollo mission to the moon as told through decades-old "leaked footage".

This is yet another film that's been dealt with fairly harshly by the critics (25% at Rotten Tomatoes), but which I quite enjoyed. By no means a masterpiece, it was a more than satisfying experience. Many critics didn't like the use of the "Blair Witch Project-style found footage" format but I thought that it was very effective for this particular piece. The plot synopsis from the official webpage states:

Officially, Apollo 17, launched December 17th, 1972 was the last manned mission to the moon. But a year later, in December of 1973, two American astronauts were sent on a secret mission to the moon funded by the US Department of Defense. What you are about to see is the actual footage which the astronauts captured on that mission. While NASA denies its authenticity, others say it's the real reason we've never gone back to the moon. 

It was not an intense, edge-of-your-seat sort of thriller. Perhaps since I don't see movies very often (I watch them about as often as I review them, i.e. once per month) I have not been so inured to bursts of adrenaline and was able to appreciate the more measured and realistic pace. The last ten minutes were appropriately suspenseful, but I thought that the real treasure of this film was the feeling of desolation and being utterly alone and cut-off that was given. I thought that the scene where they come upon the abandoned Soviet moon lander was especially chilling.

The realistic portrayal of a moon mission added to the enjoyment for me. As one who was born too late to live through the space race, but who studied it avidly as a youngster, I thought this aspect was particularly well-done. It wasn't a high-tech adventure and it was very easy to suspend disbelief. I thought that the actors all gave very credible performances. The eerily beautiful moonscape was well-done; the special effects overall made it all seem real -- although I'm really not sure what point a BluRay/HD version of this film serves, given that it is all purposely in 1960s quality.


Antiheroes (and why Godfrey doesn't like them)

The antihero -- defined by Wikipedia as a protagonist whose character is at least in some regards conspicuously contrary to that of the archetypal hero -- seems to be all the rage these days. In fact, it almost seems mandatory in modern fiction that the protagonists fit in with this (rather broad) definition in some way.

Of course, there are antiheroes and there are antiheroes. It is good fiction in many ways to have characters who are flawed, because all human beings are flawed. The ones who have a some obvious flaws but are otherwise decent, sane individuals who perform heroic acts (characters like Han Solo, Conan the Barbarian from the short stories, Mal Reynolds, and Winston Smith from 1984), I have no problem with -- other than that they can be tricky to write. Well, I find heroes in general a bit tricky because one must be careful not to over idealize them while still keeping them heroic.

But then there are the antiheroes who have little or no redeeming features and are near psychopaths. These I do not like one bit. I stopped reading the first of the Chronicles of Thomas CovenantLord Foul's Bane, very early in the novel because I just could NOT root for a guy who's willing to outrage a totally innocent girl who was only trying to help him, just because he felt like it. I was unable to finish reading the last two books of Game of Thrones because, as far as I could tell, there were no protagonists such was the "antihero" extremes of every character left alive by that point. Everyone in that series who outlived A Storm of Swords was concerned only for himself and thought nothing of murdering/betraying their own family. Then there's the fact that serial killer Hannibal Lector is considered the protagonist in a series of novels/films! This is the stuff that "Sophia's Favourite" calls "soul-rotting uninspiring garbage".

It's really a shame that these latter have gained so much traction -- which is likely a testament to the power that critics still have over the average reader. But there's definitely an upside: the archetypical hero is so rare these days, that one might be able to pull-off writing one in such a way that it gets praised as "original" or "out of the ordinary".
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