Not too long ago now, John W.S. Marvin over at Dread Unicorn Games released a book called Gods and Icons. It’s a supplement for 13th Age RPG with a myriad of new Icons, class abilities, player races, and to augment it all, player races. Well, Mr. Marvin is back with a vengeance, with the accessory for the setting, the Icons and Conditions cards. Just for full transparency reasons, John was kind enough to send me this copy of the deck specifically for review.
Just to describe what these are: This supplement is a deck of cards, but not just any cards. Some have the Icons from the Gods and Icons book, while others have the standard conditions for 13th Age (hampered, stuck, etc.). They’re made of similar material to regular playing cards and seem sturdy. Additionally, there’s a card in the deck telling you where to find licensing info. When I first opened these, I was a little underwhelmed, but only because I saw the back of the cards (as seen in the featured image). It looks cool, the blue is interspersed with some black with some shades in between. I mean, after all, it’s just the backs of the cards. When I flipped it over, I saw the face of Commander Tyrvek, the Icon that essentially replaces the Orc Lord, sneering at me menacingly. The art from the Gods and Icons book translates really well to this tiny format.
Each card is formatted like a normal playing card, with the figure depicted on them both right side up and upside down. This serves a function though, as Icon relationship points aren’t so black and white as a king of spades. We can have a five or a six relationship rolled with each Icon, and depending on which way the card is facing, you can remind yourself of what you have. I honestly thought this was a brilliantly simple idea that makes them utilitarian but still visually appealing. There is one minor gripe that I harbor towards these cards, and it’s that only two of the Icons on the cards have a backdrop. This is probably due to the original art, but I wish that every Icon had something interesting going on in the background. This easily makes Tyrvek and Aurum Rex my two favorite cards out of the bunch.
In the realm of practicality, these cards simply make sense. There’s two copies of each Icon card included in the deck, which is reasonably priced at about $14 US for the entire shabang. While this may immediately seem to fall a little short, it’s sensible in the light that you don’t have overlapping Icons between players too often. The only time I could see this happening is when my players decide to collaboratively create a party, which is honestly never. If that day does come, however, I can just pick up another deck. There’s a reason why I’m so quick to jump to that conclusion, and it has to do with conditions.
The conditions cards are a tad boring to look at, but they serve their function one hundred percent. The layout of the information makes finding the condition you’re looking for to hand to the victim player easy. Being one to quickly overlook things, it’s convenient that the title of the condition is in big letters to see while hastily shuffling through the deck. I keep track of conditions using the little rings from plastic bottles to place on miniatures, which is great, but I often have to remind players of what the conditions do. This makes these cards invaluable, as I can take the heat of running the game off of myself a little by handing the affected player one of these bad boys.
If you’re a sadistic GM like me, and enjoy stacking up the conditions on players, the number of which may be problematic. There’s three copies of each condition included in the deck. In my group, I have six players. If each of those players end up getting the same condition, two players will have to share a card. Much like the situation with the Icons cards though, I feel like most groups don’t have the same condition going out over the whole party. My group is a little special in that regard (no offense, guys), so this could very well be a rare problem for people. In the first play-through I had using these cards, it never came up; so this problem is strictly hypothetical as of right now. Watch my Twitter account to see if it ever comes up.
All in all, the condition cards alone pretty much make this worth picking up. It saves you an insane amount of table keeping by thrusting some of your job into the hands of your players. Hopefully when my campaign wraps up, I can explore the loose yet deep setting presented in Gods and Icons to take those cards for a spin.
Stay Metal \m/