Welcome to Untold – a traditional RPG that uses the non-traditional mechanic of cards to facilitate game play, and does it well.
A few weeks ago I was offered a chance to review Untold: Splintered Serenity. This CBRPG (Card Based Role Playing Game) by Ignitus Innovation boils down all of the books, rules and character sheets into a series of cards. The goal is the easing of the management side of the game, and facilitating faster play with less page flipping. There’s also the added bonus of included roles for Untold: Battle – a CCG style card game, utilizing the same cards used for the role playing side of the game.
Untold bills itself as Fast, Flexible, Furious and Fun. I think they’ve got a good handle on the four F’s – utilizing the CB portion of this CBRPG does make it extremely agile. The fun I think lies as always partly in the setting and partly with the GM, but Untold certainly does much towards enhancing that aspect.
The first place you’ll really encounter the cards, and also see how they can shine, is in character creation. Your GM will dictate which races and how many UP points you’ll have to create your character. Every card you add to your character costs 1 or more UP points. There’s a great online tutorial on the Untold site which you can visit right here.
You use the restrictions (if any) decided on by the GM along with a point value to add different race, aspect and power cards to your character. Starting with the race and moving forward. This allows character creation to happen quit rapidly and with no actual die rolling involved. The goal is to create a viable character that fits your model, works within the GM’s framework and leaves you an UP pool.
Once your character is created, it’s time to learn how to resolve the sticky bits – combat, skills, bluffing your GM in to giving you free soda and more. Remember that UP pool? Well here’s where it comes in.
Say your GM’s given you 50 UP points to build a character. You do so, with 15 UP points left over. This is your Hot Swap Buffer, which also shows us that someone involved in creating this game has also worked with computers. You can use this to play extra powers. You can also use them as hit points. In the traditional sense, RPG HPs are removed as you take damage, and when you reach 0 or a level below that, you croak. In Untold, you have your HSB and when that becomes full, well you start removing cards from your character equal to the cost of the damage you’ve just taken.
It’s an interesting mechanic and frankly adds some new and fun aspects to gaming in general. Your character degrades before your eyes as they get battered about.
As characters move through their game world and experience what it has to offer, they too grow. Unlike the standard experience points paradigm, Untold utilizes it’s UP points again. The more stuff you do, the more UP points you’re awarded by your GM and the more you can expand your character by adding new aspects and powers.
On the GM side of the table, Untold offers minions and banes. Bane cards add negative conditions to characters (blindness, gimpy leg, etc.). Minions are just that – single card bad things that characters fight.
When you sit back and think about it, the system itself is really rather simple, but allows for an incredible amount of expansion. That’s one of the beauties of Untold – simple concepts, lots of ways to play it leading to situations as complex as the group wants them to get. What I’ve gone over above is the essence of the game.
This leaves us with Battle – the card game that can also be played with the same cards utilized in the CBRPG. Battle utilizes the Minion cards, aligned in two rows for each player. The front line and the rear line representing your troops preparing to battle each other. It’s a rather simple game in set up and execution but could certainly be a lot of fun as well. We didn’t have time to explore this side of Untold, unfortunately.
You utilize the same rules as you do in the CBRPG – except when you reach 0 UP points, you don’t downgrade the minions, you simply remove them from the game. Powers are still bandied about, combat works essentially the same and you can set an UP point limit to start with, so you know how many and what type of Minion to pick. Last player standing with any minions is the one who wins.
Untold’s Core game ships with the Splintered Serenity setting. This is a fractured world, featuring three distinct universes that have overlapped during a cataclysmic event. There’s the post-event Earth, which is a post-apocaclyptic setting based on our world and in our reality. Then there’s the Ai, a magic based world. Lastly you’ll find the Great Machine, a cog based, steampunk style world. It’s a great setting and allows for a lot of overlap between the three genres.
Really though, Untold can be used to play in just about any universe or setting you want, provided that you have the cards to do so. Nothing is stopping you from either grabbing an expansion from their store, or designing your own universe.
I’m giving untold 5 out of 5 stars – it’s a complete gaming system (two games, really), with a unique set of mechanics that facilitate fast, imaginative play. The only limiting factors are the cards you own, which in many ways is similar to any modern RPG system – you’re limited by the books you own. You can easily add to your cards for between$5 and $10 a pop. This is an interesting way to make a sort of collectible card RPG. When compared to other modern RPGs, the cost of entry is very low, with the exception of OGL based systems, which are generally available online for free in a less graphical presentation.
The core game retails for $29.95, comes with 189 cards and contains everything you’ll need to play. Also available – the Untold Primer via DTRPG (free!) for those who want to take a look at this new system, and the Untold starter set PDF for $9.99, also from DTRPG, as well as a number of expansions in PDF form.
[tags]untold, rpg, role playing game, cbrpg, cards, battle, review[/tags]