The Fortress of Solid-Rules

The unofficial Supercrew fansite

Supercrew is fun, charming, and surprisingly brilliant – review by Bailywolf

If you like Supers games, and you don’t own a copy of Supercrew yet, do yourself a huge favor and snag it. It’s extremely reasonable in PDF form, and would make your weekend that much better.

Why am I shilling for a game I didn’t write?

I’m a supers fan from way back. Champions, Heroes Unlimited, Marvel, Marvel SAGA, Truth & Justice, M&M, Wild Talents…. there’s more.

I have a keen eye for new supers games which approach the common tropes and themes in different ways, and I’m quite impressed with Supercrew’s angle – it’s about using superpowers creatively. Need to get information out of the mob? Only have shadow-control powers? Come up with a cool way to make that work.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

There’s so much that’s right about this little game, it’s hard to start my gush, but I’ll geek out on the presentation a bit. The whole thing is presented as an illustrated comic book format, done in a clean amusing style which reminds me of indie or well-done web comics.

The basic game structure assumes the players run super version of themselves, and each sessions opens with them sitting down to play an RPG with the GM, when they get word of a disaster they need to do avert. They then need to duck out on the GM (who becomes the Supercrew rpg gm… oh, meta), and play continues thusly.

The rules-as-comic format is amazing – the concepts and examples are clear. The writing is also clever and in several places hilarious- as are all the in-jokes and visual gags going on in the background. This is especially impressive because (I assume) this game was written in Swedish and then ported to ‘Merkin.

On the Sweden thing… there’s a few references in here that had me floored. One of the pregen characters used in the examples in the book is Captain Sweden.

This guy:

He’s got a super-suit that rates as his least-potent ability (your worst rated power is the one you can’t use without some complications), and it gives him Lagom super-strength… he’s adequately superhuman. He’s not too super-strong. Charming.

I’m losing focus…

The system reminds me of something which might evolve from WUSHU – in fact, I wouldn’t be too surprised if WUSHU influenced the design.

Characters are described in terms of their superuhuman abilities (broken into lose categories describing areas supers typically excel in, like the possession of super-gear or a natural ability taken to superhuman proportions ect). Characters get three, ranked with 1, 2, or 3 dice. The 3d ability can only be used by spending a hero point. The 2d ability can be used any time you like. The 1d ability can be used any time you like, but comes with complications, and gives you a hero point. So, to use your best power, you need to also use your worst one sometimes. You also get a hero point if you get knocked out in an action scene.

You then have three tricks which let you alter how the dice roll, and represent refinements or special applications of your abilities.

Since the focus of the game is on creative uses of powers, that bug in some games where players are motivated to try and stretch their best abilities to cover any situation is actually the point in Supercrew. Boomstick diplomacy or investigation-by-eyebeam. Make it cool, make it work, make it fun.

Where in WUSHU you generate dice via description, here you use description to justify rolling the dice for your preferred ability. A failure of your Super-Strength ability doesn’t mean you fail to be strong, just that your use of physical powers fails to resolve the conflict you’re in, progress you towards a goal, or threaten an enemy. Try and stop a fleeing car (diff 3) and generate no effect, and rip the bumper off as the car speeds away.

Dice are d6’s, and you’re looking for 4, 5, 6 for successes (“effect” here), and 6’s explode. Difficulties (the total Effect a team of heroes needs to generate) range from 3 to significantly more than three. It makes a great GM pacing tool. Foes (and menaces) are given stats sort of like a hero, but less formalized. Arch villains have abilities which are explicitly cheats too (which reminds me of videogame boss design).

Everyone has 3 Toughness within a scene (again, hearkening to WUSHU’s three Chi), and can take a reflex defense (1d) or a power defense (abort your attack, and roll a power to defend). Damage is attack effect minus defense effect.

Like tricks (which can be used once per scene), you can get a 1d Anecdote bonus if you relate a little story relevant to the current scene. “Ah, he’s using poison-fist technique! I’ve beaten this style before…”

There’s nothing in the rules about using timers on threats (like, “Get 5 effect in 2 rounds or the space plane will crash into the stadium full of concert goers”), but it’s as easy as writing that sentence to use them in Supercrew, and I’d most certainly do it as that was one of my favorite WUSHU mods. In fact, many WUSHU mods and plugins would work with Supercrew.

The mechanics are extremely simple, yet they cover pretty much everything you’d need for a light-hearted pickup game. This one is in my bag now, for times when the scheduled game flops for whatever reason, and we need something to play fast. There’s no advancement rules, but I’d adopt something like those in Over The Edge (a similarly trait-light game). You earn a pool of experience dice you can add once per session to a roll. Get enough and buy a permanent extra die in one ability or an additional use of a trick.

I’ve rarely been so wholly taken by a game. It’s thin, but not emaciated. It’s light without being weightless. The art is stylized but clean and well-done. If written with the same wit and drawn in the same style, I’d buy a Supercrew comic or graphic novel. I’d buy any further games done in this style too, or any supplements for Supercrew. If the author is reading this – please, make more game for me to buy.

I snagged the PDF from Lulu, because I like instant gratification, so I don’t know what the printed copy might look like, but thanks to the laser printer here at work and some creative stapling, I have a serviceable hard copy which can live in my bag.

Other than some nice review on the game, it doesn’t seem to get much buzz here on, and I think others need to share my nerdon for this game.


One response to “Supercrew is fun, charming, and surprisingly brilliant – review by Bailywolf

  1. Johnny March 27, 2013 at 8:16 pm

    I enjoyed your review and feel the same way. Just bought the game myself and am also impressed by these ‘kiss’ (keep it simple stupid) rules. I’m planning on running a BASH campaign but this has quite a hold on me. I’m always fascinated by how sparse you can make a set of rules and still have a great game, and this is probably the best example I’ve ever seen. Like you, I’d like to see what other ideas the creator could come up with. That being said, the rules mechanics as are could be adapted to almost any setting with new descriptions of powers and abilities, with the game mechanics doing its thing behind the scenes. I’ll probably wait until my son is a little older before I pull this out for him and his friends and inculcate him into this addictive lifelong hobby.

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