17 April 2007

Agon by John Harper

Another new game, this one is set in the mythic Greece of the Iliad and Odyssey. It's also a competitive game, with all the player heroes gaining Glory for every successful roll made (and even for just rolling highest on your side of a conflict).

Character generation is fun, and seems perfect to capture the kind of character that you see in Homer. You get an epithet (with associated bonuses), for example. There's also a section in which you challenge each of the other heroes in a contest of some kind, the winner being owed an Oath from the loser (more on this later).

The basic system is very tight. It seems like it's moderately complex on the surface and has some deeper stuff once you learn it. There's some nicely balanced rules that highlight tensions between succeeding yourself and ensuring the group overall does well (e.g. any time you help another hero, you get a temporary impairment in the ability you used. And they owe you an Oath too, whether they like it or not).

Oaths are a nice touch. If someone owes you an Oath, you can call it in any time to make them help you in a contest, heal you in an interlude or follow your orders in the positioning phase of a battle.

The air of mythic Greece is evoked well, with the stories being essentially parallel to the Odyssey, as your hero band journeys from island to island after the war at Ilium. The gods are present, and they give the heroes quests that must be completed. Monsters and strange peoples inhabit the islands, so there will be plenty to fight.

Your hero will gradually gain fate points, too. These will lead to greater ability in general but eventually you hit the end of them and the hero is retired. What happens to them depends on the amount of glory they earned. They are finalized on the score sheet and you create a new hero. Yes, I did say a score sheet. It's explicit purpose is to record which hero was the best. There's also a sheet for great deeds, so you can keep track of things like the highest roll made, most damage done, etc.

The GM (here, Antagonist) has a big pool of Strife points to build opposition from. There's also a big section on building islands and quests, that looks like it will make Agon a good low-prep option.

Overall, looks fantastic. I spent a lot of time many years ago reading the Iron Crown Enterprises Mythic Greece supplement, and never played it. Well, never very successfully. Agon looks like it should deliver all the things that old game promised by failed to.


Luke said...

I ran Agon last weekend and next to Spirit of the Century is one of the most fun RPGs to run that I own.

FWIW you can pick up a box of cheap Greek warrior plastic minis for less than $20 at Wargame Supplies. I printed out the range band chart at triple the size and laminated it for use in the game. It adds to the whole basic D&D homage schtick the game has :)

The Gamester At Large said...

I was going to go looking for some little models, yeah. Thanks for the tip. I don't suppose they have little ancient Greek monsters in a similar pack?

Luke said...

Unfortunately they don't. I recommend grabbing a booster pack of D&D minis and using them as proxies.