Review of Bulldogs!
Bulldogs! A FATE game that isn’t able to stop a bullet? Check. This book checks in 166 pages and is a standard RPG size. Does the book have an index and a Table of Contents? Yeppers. I personally have never seen the need for both, but that’s just me but people like to hear if that is the case. It doesn’t read like a text book does it? Nope, not at all. Some RPG books read like that and it annoys me. This doesn’t read like that. Does it really kick ass as it’s tagline says “Bulldogs! is sci-fi that kicks ass” ? Totally.
The quick review is that I like it. Quite a bit actually and I will get into more specifics. One more thing, I am going to assume that anyone reading this review is familiar with other FATE titles. If you are not, then I would check out one of the free versions out on the web or look at the FATE SRD over on Evil Hat’s website.
One of the things I love about this book the size. Since it smaller it is much easier to carry around to games. One of the main reasons I bought an iPad was to stop carrying so much weight when I went to game. This book is one which I could easily carry. It still has all the sections of a normal gaming book as well as typical sections of the various FATE books out there. Yes there is still art and the layout is not a text book, but it condenses the information. The aspect chapter is nine pages, compare that with Dresden Files RPG that has nineteen pages. Not that I am knocking Dresden (or other gargantuan size FATE books) as I love that game as well, I just like the size of this game.
The other cool thing is the default setting is more frame work than complete deal. It is set in a galaxy where two empires are in somewhat a cold war state with neutral space in between them. This makes all sorts of adventures possible but the default campaign is one in which the players work for a large shipping company. This doesn’t sound that kick ass, I admit; but it goes further than that. The company insures the hell out of your characters and ship all the while loading it with dangerous cargo going to dangerous locations. Does this mean the rules are tied to the setting? Somewhat but that doesn’t mean you could use the rules for a FATE Firefly game or a FATE Star Wars game; if you wanted to use it instead of the RPGs already out there covering those games.
A few other note worth things in this book. One, I really enjoyed the Alien Species section. The game gives nine default races with rules to create your own. Currently, my favorite race is the Urseminites. A race of ill-tempered teddy bears who are universally hated throughout the galaxy. Two, the why skills are handled is very simple but eye-opening. The skills are broken down to how they are used by within the game. Meaning if a skill has the ability to be used as a block, it has a sub-heading under the skill called block. In this sub-heading, it discusses how this skill can be used as a block and gives examples. Very nice. Crew creation, aka character creation, is also slightly different than other FATE games. The characters don’t have group character creation as this game wants a bit of party tension.
The book uses the character advancement methods first detailed in the Dresden RPG. It also has a stunt chapter and a gear chapter. Now, since this is a sci-fi section ships get their own chapter. This is great because it simply extends other portions of the FATE rules to ships. This chapter is 13 pages, compare that to Starblazer Adventures ship chapter which is 64 pages. Again, I am not knocking that book, it just that I like the brevity of Bulldogs!
After this you must think that I thought the book was the greatest thing since sliced bread. Well, I do have some quibbles about it. First, the campaign frame work that I like also could use a little more to it. Second, I wish there would have been an adventure included but since there now is a free adventure on Drive Thru, that’s cool. Third, the game has each character have 10 aspects. I really think that is over kill in all the FATE games. As a GM, I have enough to worry about that it is hard to keep track of all the aspects the characters have. Now, to be honest, the game encourages self-compels as well as other player compels, but if you have a group that has a hard time doing that, this makes it difficult. The last complaint is that my post man didn’t like me and damaged my book, nothing major but it still irks me when I look at my copy.
I have played the game with the designer at Gencon 2011. I played the free adventure that is currently up on Drive-Thru RPG. It was a great adventure that was only two hours of which my character was cryo-frozen for 45 minutes of it. I have also started this up with my gaming group, we have just created characters.
Overall, this game is a great implementation of FATE. If I was going to own only one FATE game that would be Dresden Files RPG; but if I was going to own two, this would be the second one. I really enjoyed reading it and frankly it is less intimidating than other larger versions of FATE. I recommend checking it out, especially since the PDF is only 10 bucks.