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Reviews - WEGS 101 Old Skool Redux
by Demian Katz

WEGS 101 Redux coverWEGS 101: Old Skool Redux (2010)
Published by Gamewick Games
Created by L. Willy Wickman
Editors: Jason Dietel and A. P. Klosky
Project editor: Alyssa Smith
Illustrated by Peter Mullen (cover) and Kennon James (interior)
Additional artwork by McKenna Andrews, Bradley K. McDevitt, M. Orensanz and J. Richmond
106-page perfect bound book and card deck in hang-hole bag.

It hasn't been all that long since I reviewed WEGS 101, so I was a little surprised when the revised edition of the product showed up for review. Given how much I liked the first edition, I wasn't sure that there was enough room for improvement to justify a second edition so soon. As often seems to be the case when I pre-judge WEGS, I was wrong.

The Game, In Brief
If you want a detailed review of the WEGS system, you can read my earlier review. Mechanically, very little has changed since then, and all of my earlier comments still apply. In case you don't want to read all the gory details, it probably suffices to say that WEGS is a low-fantasy RPG that mixes an old-school reliance on dice-rolling with more modern streamlined mechanics, its own distinctive terminology and a sense of humor. Through heavy use of poker chips and special target numbers for dice rolls, it brings a certain casino feel to the game table. A convenient deck of skill and spell cards helps to further streamline play. Though ideal for one-off convention play, the system is also fine for campaigns.

So what changed?
Given that the previous edition was a roughly 100-page book and the new edition is close to the same physical length, you might think the revision here was minimal. You would be mistaken, however. Perhaps the biggest change here is the font size – one of my biggest criticisms of the first edition is that the font was too big, so there wasn't a whole lot of content. By reducing the font, the new edition packs a lot more content into the same length. All of the existing descriptions (Arketypes, races, skills, spells) have been fleshed out significantly, and this expanded text gives a deeper feel of the game system and its setting.

Another big change is the organization. The first edition was somewhat haphazard, introducing concepts left and right and potentially confusing the reader the first time through. WEGS still has a learning curve – there are a lot of unfamiliar terms, and it takes a while to get used to how the game's basic rules apply to all possible situations – but the new edition presents the material in a more natural order, allowing concepts to build on one another and offering cross-references to other sections of the book when necessary. A fair amount of space is also devoted to guidance on teaching new players and catching common mistakes. This new approach is such a dramatic improvement that I'm surprised in retrospect that I didn't complain about the first edition more when I reviewed it!

It's not just the book that has gotten an overhaul. The accompanying skill deck has also been completely revised and expanded, with longer text, a new look, and nice rounded corners. Enough remains the same that you can still probably continue to get some use out of your first edition deck if you have one (it never hurts to have a spare on hand), but this new version is definitely an improvement.

The only change that disappointed me was the removal of the first edition's "Dwarf Walks Into a Bar" sample adventure. While this has been replaced with a detailed example of play that serves much the same purpose, I like it when games include a ready-to-run adventure, and "Dwarf" was a good one. Still, the fact that several full-length adventures are available for free download from the Gamewick website removes some of the sting.

What's new?
In addition to significant changes, the new addition adds a fair amount of completely new content. While the previous edition mentioned features forthcoming in something called WEGS Copper, this edition drops references to the Copper edition and adds some of the missing features: multi-level skills, character advancement ("rank bumps"), and mixing and matching character skills ("multi-Arkin'"). Humnz players now have several distinctive cultures to choose from when building their characters. Non-spellcasting Arketypes get one new skill each, and one spell ("night site") has been removed and replaced with something that sounds similar but is in fact completely different ("nightstalkers"). Combat has more explicit rules for common situations like attacks of opportunity. GM's, or Kreators, have a bestiary of 26 ready-to-run minions and guidelines on Trove to hand out as rewards for surviving particularly dangerous encounters.

It's important to point out that the new content, while nice, is actually not the main reason to recommend the new edition. The additions aren't completely insignificant, but they are a much less important part of the new edition than its reworking of existing content. If you are already totally comfortable playing WEGS and are only interested in brand-new rules, you might actually be disappointed by WEGS 101 Redux. Most players, however, will probably appreciate the way the product has improved and grown as a whole.

What hasn't changed?
As I've already pointed out, the game of WEGS is almost completely unchanged here from the first edition. That's a good thing – I would much rather have a better explanation of the same system than have to worry about changing what I have learned. Much (but not all) of the artwork is the same as before, but again, this is not a bad thing. The high (but not totally perfect) standard of copy editing also deserves continued praise. Of course, an unchanged WEGS brings with it all the previous caveats: the game won't appeal to all kinds of gamers, and some of its terminology may grate on you (I was disappointed to see that "for wegsample" is still being used here). If you are capable of appreciating the game on its own terms, though, there is definitely fun to be had here... and since it's good for one-offs, you really don't have to commit too much if you don't want to!

This is a surprisingly impressive revision of a surprisingly impressive product. Without changing the page count, the Gamewick team has managed to greatly improve the usefulness of their product while adding a few new features as a bonus. I don't think we'll need a third edition for some time, though I do look forward to seeing what other products get added to the WEGS lineup in the years to come!


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