The Saving Throw
Iron Tyrants 2010
I dig giant robots, you dig giant robots, chicks dig giant robots.

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Overall Review
published by Spooky Outhouse Productions reviewed by Scott Wachter
175 pages, 2010, $32.00 (print, pdf, and shipping)
Game Setting 4
Core Book 4
Art 3
Content N/A
Game Rules 4
Intelligibility 4.5
Review Scoring

Giant robots are awesome. Luke Meyer is pretty cool dude. If my timoric calculus is correct a giant robot game written by Luke Meyer should fall somewhere between those two rankings on the scale of coolness (which I believe is categorized as 'superlatively neato'). Unlike a lot of cool combinations I think up, this game does exist, it's called Iron Tyrants. This game is a change of pace for Saving Throw as a whole in that it is a minis-based tactical war game rather than an RPG, and yes it is superlatively neato.

The game's mechanics are quick and easy, fully expect to have a handle on the rules by the end of your first match, by contrast I spent 4 hours playing Warhammer one time in high school and still have no clue how morale works. Not that the game's simplicity gets in the way of the fun. The highlight of the game to me is the overload mechanic. You can at any point force a unit to move farther or fire extra weapons at the cost of giving that mech overload points that take a few round to dissipate, but while those are dissipating there's a chance you might fry one of your systems or have the whole mech shutdown. This creates a nice risk-reward dynamic in almost every turn, if youíre impulsive like me youíll find yourself a lot of overloaded mechs whenever you see an opening on the other side. Another mechanic that feeds that risk-reward tension are tactics dice, a pool of ten dice that can be added to initiative rolls (increasing the chances of getting to move two units in row) or fuel your commander abilities which can give you some awesome abilities. I also like is the variety of scenarios the book offers, combined with the fact that any match last 6+1d6 rounds long means that the game doesn't drag on and become tiresome as quickly as other minis games I've played.

Another perk over other minis games I've seen is how fast and loose it plays with minis themselves. You can use printed figure flats, tokens or coins to represent your tyrants, which leads to one of the few minis games thatís an easy sell to all your frugal gamers out there. Terrain also follows the same cues as minis, if you have a table with terrain, thatís great, if you don't you can you use a hex grid or kitchen table and whatever is lying around to represent to terrain. As a busy internet person I like the fact that I donít have to assemble dozen of tiny figures, paint them and then have to do the same for terrain, to think nothing of the loss of table space.

The campaign rules section is nice addition to the game. It adds options for structured play, as well as rules for support equipment, like artillery batteries. Campaign play also has achievements. Yes, I do believe this is the first tabletop game to feature achievements, it was bound to happen considering you can get them on dating sites now, but the option to score extra resources by bringing snacks is awesome.

The game's setting revolves around a sector of space cut off from the galaxy at large for centuries devolving into a three-way cold war between space feudalists, an amoral meritocracy, and a loose confederation of fringe systems, until the outside makes tries to make contact turning the war hot. Also: giant robots. The setting is very well thought out and well detailed. When I saw the table of contents and how many pages commander abilities took I expected to see dozens of powers, instead there were only nine but with a full profile of each commander that inspired the power. Not only does this reinforce the setting youíre playing in but gives each power personality. The chapter on factions itself is well put together giving you outlines of all three without portraying any of them as out-and-out villains or good guys while still giving players a reason to sympathize with any of them.

I would have mentioned this was an indie product earlier, but honestly, it doesn't feel like it, except for the art. Not that the art is bad, its actually quite good at conveying the action. The art is just sparse and only in black and white with very little character or setting art. The mech designs do a good job of hearkening back to late 1970's and 1980's ideas of giant robot design, each unit has a unique silhouette that makes them readily identifiable across a gaming table. The diagrams interspersed throughout the combat rules are clear and helpful. Worth mentioning are a pair of pieces of short fiction at the opening of the book and the start of the campaign rules section of the book, both do a great job of setting a tone and mood for the game and its setting.

In the end Iron Tyrants is quick-paced, high tension minis game with a intrigue-laden setting that makes me wish it had RPG counterpart. This is a stellar first effort for Spooky Outhouse Prouctions and I hope to see more from them in the future.

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