This article originally appeared in Pyramid #16
Published by White Wolf Game Studio
Designed by Mike Tinny and Stephan Wieck, with Mark Rein-Hagen, Bill Bridges and Andrew Greenberg
Starter Set: $7.95; Booster Pack: $1.95
A walk through the collectible card gaming section (usually a large chunk of counter right by the register) at your local game store reveals a plethora of games from which to chose. The sheer number of such games might tempt one to say, "enough already!" Amidst this crowded market comes Rage, the CCG based on White Wolf's Werewolf: The Apocalypse. With so many other games on the market, many gamers are asking, "What's Rage got that others don't?" Quite a bit, actually. The premier selling point for the game, one that has prompted many gamers to purchase at least a booster pack, is the card quality. Hands down, without question,
cards are the best looking cards I've ever seen. Most of the artwork is crisp, detailed, and extremely colorful. The cards themselves are constructed on a lighter paper than some other cards, but they have a glossy coating that, according to White Wolf, is supposed to protect them from such wide ranging horrors as skin oil, crayons, and burrito grease. White Wolf also geared the card layout to easy organization during play, but I'll get to that later.
Terrific, you say, the cards are pretty. But how does the game play? After all, pretty cards will make a curious gamer purchase a few boosters, but to seriously collect . . . Rage, as one would guess, shares much with its first cousin Jyhad (now Vampire: The Eternal Struggle). Remember, however, that Rage is put out by White Wolf; it is not a Wizards of the Coast Deckmaster game like V:TES. The similarities only go so far.
Like V:TES, Rage is centered around characters. Each character card represents one werewolf and that werewolf can be adorned with equipment, gifts, and rituals. These additional cards enhance the werewolf's abilities and allow it to do certain "special" things that aren't naturally associated with the character. The werewolf card itself is double-sided; the breed form side represents the character's "natural form," either lupis or homid, while the other side represents the crinos, or battle, form. Needless to say, the werewolf's attributes vary from side to side.
Werewolves are endowed with three attributes: Rage, gnosis and health. These attributes range from one to ten, though certain cards can allow enhancements above ten. Rage represents the werewolf's combat ability; the higher the Rage, the better the fighting ability. Gnosis represents the werewolf's spiritual ability and allows the werewolf to play higher value fetish and gift cards. Health represents the amount of damage the werewolf can take. In addition to the basic attributes, each werewolf has a tribe, a renown number, and an auspex, representing the werewolf's lineage, clout, and moonsign, respectively. Certain gifts and rituals can only be used by werewolves of particular tribes or auspices.
The remainder of the cards are divided into two major types: combat and sept. The sept cards are the general action cards, things like gifts, events, equipment, rituals, and the like. The combat cards are the actions and events of combat. Each player maintains a separate hand for each general type of card. Many of the sept cards affect a particular werewolf. These cards are the ones I mentioned above that are laid out for ease of play. When a werewolf amasses gifts and equipment, they are placed underneath the werewolf card with half of the enhancement card showing. Depending on what type of card you're dealing with, it will be placed either on the right or left side of the werewolf card. The enhancement card is divided in half vertically; the illustration is on one side and the text is on the other. That way, when the card is placed beneath the werewolf, all of the artwork shows and the game info is concealed beneath the werewolf card. Damage cards, discussed later, are placed beneath the werewolf card so that they protrude from the bottom. On these cards, the artwork is at the top and the game info at the bottom. This set-up lets the player see how much damage the werewolf has taken without covering up other cards attached to the character. The concept is pretty cool, though it does have its drawbacks, as I'll explain in a minute. First, lets talk a little about the mechanics.
Gameplay is different from many other games in that there are no "player turns." All the players run through the turn sequence together and when the sequence is over, so is the turn. Within the turn, actions such as calling moots (votes), regeneration, and combat occur. Within a phase, actions, including attack declarations, are generally resolved in descending renown order.
Once attacks are declared in the combat phase, combat is resolved in a series of rounds between participants in individual combats. Combat cards list any special effects and are rated for damage and Rage required. In general, to use a combat card successfully, a werewolf must have the minimum Rage listed on the card. If he or she does, then the amount of damage listed is inflicted on the opposing werewolf. The combat card used is placed beneath the werewolf to record damage. Once the accumulated damage reaches the werewolf's Rage level, the werewolf converts to crinos form and its abilities increase. Once the damage reaches the werewolf's crinos form health, the werewolf is dead and the killer receives the decedent's renown in victory points. Victory goes to the player who accumulates the required number of victory points, set at the beginning of the game, first.
The most notable features of the game seem to be also the most radical departures from Vampire: The Eternal Struggle. First, there is no tapping, untapping, and blocking. Victory comes from accumulating victory points which are earned in two ways: killing something and successfully calling certain votes. No bleeds. No torpor. No opponent elimination. This narrowness makes for a less intriguing and varied game than V:TES.
This simplicity has its advantages, however, most notably in allowing players to choose certain game aspects. Players decide on a renown level at the beginning of the game. Each player then picks that number of renown points worth of werewolves for his or her pack. That renown level also serves as the victory point level of the game. The end result is a player-controlled game length. If 15 renown points are chosen, the game can be played to a conclusion in one or two turns. Pick 30 and expect to play for an hour and a half or more.
The set-up routine also gives more player control than in V:TES. If each player gets 20 renown, then they immediately pick 20 points' worth of werewolves. No turns wasted bringing out characters, and you pick exactly which characters you want. How many Vampire players have spent untold numbers of turns and amounts of blood pool trying to get to their favorite vampire, who happens to be buried at the bottom of their crypts?
In addition to instantly picking and "bringing out" your werewolves, equipment and gifts are free. In short, the whole "resource management" aspect is missing. This absence can be seen as good or bad, depending upon your perspective. For me, it's a refreshing alternative when time is lacking.
The remaining aspect of Rage that differs from other games is card rarity. While some unofficial ratings are circulating in Cyberspace, no official rarity list exists. Card rarity seems to be based on some form of "slot" placement, but no one can say for sure. The only definite rarities established are the "ultra-rare" past-life cards. These cards come exactly one to the booster box. The downside is obvious: they are extremely rare; only 13 different cards exist. Admittedly, with only 12 cards to the booster pack and 24 packs to the box, a box only comes to about $45, but that's still a pretty penny when you only need a few ultra-rares to complete a set. The upside is that you are guaranteed an ultra-rare if you buy a box.
The only major drawback to Rage is that cards, especially damage cards, are frequently exchanged between players. This can lead to some confusion when the game is over. I've heard different solutions to this problem, most of which involve the marking of the cards with some type of "nonstick" adhesive (is that a contradiction in terms?). For me, the problem hasn't been great enough to discourage play.
In short (too late), Rage is a fast-paced, high production value, collectible card game. The cards themselves are, in my opinion, the best on the market. The game plays fast and furious with a premium on combat. The variable playtime and increased player control make for a refreshing diversion when you're tired of Vampire marathons. On the whole, I highly recommend Rage, especially to those interested in the White Wolf line.
- Jimmie W. Pursell
Article publication date: December 1, 1995
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