Werewolf: the Wild West
Role Playing Game
White Wolf Games Studio
298pp - [sterling]16.99???
Continuing the age-old tradition of turning old rope into hard currency, here's
the second of White Wolf's historical settings for their World of
Darkness games and, as with last year's Vampire: the Dark Ages, what
you get for your money is a complete RPG system that stands alone. For Dark
Ages Vampire, this represented a real departure. Why some one would
want to shell out so much lucre for Werewolf: the Wild West is less
clear, but more of that anon.
Back to basics. WW:TWW is hardbound with an attractive bullet-hole
running right through its thickness. Pages are weighty and sepia-stained and
the art, type-face and style are all atmospheric enough, maybe a little too
much of the "Get-off-yer-horse-and-drink-yer-milk" shtick for the Savage
West motif that the authors are trying to get across. Just like its furry
forebear, this game has the werewolves, or Garou, as self-appointed
guardians of Gaia's last wilderness, the Pure Land, raging against the
encroaching tide of civilisation. The frontier-setting throws the game's
themes of environmental and cultural rape into sharp relief: the West is still
pure, but we know that, within a generation, it'll be washed away by pioneers,
gold rushes and genocidal cavalry actions; it's all very tragic.
The differences are where the interest lies. In the Savage West, the Pure
Ones (the Garou of Native American tribes) are pitted against the colonial
European Garou who are stealing their caerns and territories. The Storm
Umbra is a very dangerous place crawling with chaos-spirits, umbral storms
and ruled by the Storm-Eater, a godlike demon. The Storm Umbra breaks
onto Earth, forming nightmarish Broken Lands. There's no Pentex or FBI,
but werewolves better watch out for the mage-assisted lawmen of Armbruster's
Detective Agency as well as a lot of high profile demons.
Different, sure, but hardly different enough. There's not enough detail on
Native American culture; the Uktena and Wendigo tribes get little
more coverage than they did in the original rules. Frankly, if you own
Werewolf: the Apocalypse and are willing (and able) to sit through
"Dances With Wolves" a couple of times, you'll be equally equipped to run a
Savage West chronicle. Vampire: the Dark Ages really explored the
Medieval setting and reworked the rules to do this; Werewolf: the Wild
West has some cosmetic alterations, but is basically the same game in a
different century, hardly warranting the price-tag for pages of reprinted
character generation rules and an expanded system for GMing gunfights.
You see, the irritating thing isn't what this game is, but what it's not. Jump
back another century or two and you'd have a really interesting
Werewolf setting, with religious fanatics, wars between colonial powers,
witch-hysteria and the Croatan tribe before they sacrificed themselves
to destroy the Eater-of-Souls.
Overall: As a Werewolf spin-off, there's just not enough here to
justify a complete RPG. The Native American setting isn't sufficiently
explored to offer a really unusual gaming experience. Moreover, once
your players have tired of wearing ponchos and chewing cigars and generally
indulging in Western-kitsch, they'll probably hanker after the 20th-Century
setting which, after all, lets you do much the same sort of stuff and a whole
lot more besides.
Reviewed by Jon Rowe
Supplied by Mark Johnson