Posted on August 7, 2009 by spikexan
Available at RPGNow.com
White Wolf appears to be currently composed of scientists rather than writers. There is simply too much experimentation going on with these guys. They have released pre-generated characters for players who need that sort of thing. With Block by Bloody Block, they release pre-generated parts of a city. This isn’t a [insert city here] by Night book. No, these are the sections of any city, ready to be dropped into whatever city fancies your gaming group. The question becomes if the scientists are congratulating themselves over champagne or staring dumbfounded with charcoal-blackened faces and lab-coats.
The layout of this supplement remains true to the Hunter: the Vigil line (this game is intended for players of that game or the basic World of Darkness corebook). Readers get an upper border full of artwork on alternating pages. The remaining borders are the faded gray consistent with other releases. Sidebars are quite frequent with a third of the pages sporting one.
Artwork is also generous and well-laid out for readers. Only one fault exists for me with these supplements. Instead of ranting endlessly about it, you can see what that “want” is in my review for The Keepers.
As I’ve mentioned, the artwork in this supplement is surprisingly dense. Samuel Araya’s cover art depicts a man facing off against two skeletal figures. Armed with only a lead pipe, his future doesn’t seem so bright. This is a Hunter supplement, so . . . things aren’t what they seem.
Araya’s piece fits the book nicely as it keeps with the book’s concept–humans fighting supernatural beings for territory. Each fight (be it on the street or in a boardroom) appears so hopeless; nevertheless, the riches to be gained outweighs personal doubt. The interior artwork by Avery Butterworth wins points for consistency. I’m a fan of single-artist books. While multiple artists are generally required for larger tomes, these supplements are so focused on an area or situation that I feel the artwork needs to collaborate with that. Some pieces repeat in the book, but there is a good reason for it (relationship markers fill out a good portion of the book . . maybe too much). The pieces that fill up a third of each page are solid mood-setters fitting like puzzle pieces into the book. Some characters appear a little wooden, but then again some people just look that way. I’ve even seen some zombies early in the morning at my day job.
The brief introduction shares this supplement’s chief inspiration, which is Grand Theft Auto.
This is a game about getting your city back, block by block. They have even included a new system for making this happen. Holding onto territories offers benefits to groups, but makes them more noticed by those envious of what they possess. It works a little like Risk. You want to dominate the entire board, but you have to start small, building your forces as you build your influence. Another cool new system is Rapport, which allows individuals to establish scores between their relationships. I like the idea of this system, but feel like most groups should be maintaining this through role-playing those relationships. Applying scores to every aspect of the game undercuts all the time saved with pre-gen characters and settings. New powers and merits are also abundant in Block by Bloody Block.
The bulk of the book is given over to various territories and those who control them.
Each section shows off some history for that territory, along with chief minor locations within said territory, bit players, Big Fish Players, and story seeds. It’s a good mix that takes about five or six pages per section. The length of these sections seem spot-on, applying the right amount of information and leaving just enough blank for Storytellers to fill up with their own creations.
The appendix also helps Storytellers in regards to their own creations by offering step-by-step suggestions on creating new territories. It reads rather like character creation in most White Wolf corebooks.
When I received my copy of Block by Blood Block, I wasn’t sure what I was getting into.
Was it an adventure, breaking away from the SAS format? Once I realized it was (a) a Storyteller’s tool and (b) a damn useful one, I found myself right in sync with what Wendig did with this book.
Scores for Block by Bloody Block are:
Layout: Four out of Five Dice
Artwork: Five out of Five Dice (One artist/ One Writer combo keeps the focus tight)
Writing: Five out of Five Dice (Wendig flipped around a lot of ideas in cramped space,
offering something 99.99% unique in the process. While I am not sure this can be repeated like the pre-gen characters . . . I could be wrong).
Overall: Four out of Five Dice (Nice final package)
Review by Todd Cash