Inside Pulse 12

Book Review: Iron Kingdoms Unleashed Legends: Blood in the Water

Iron Kingdoms Unleashed Legends: Blood in the Water
Publisher: Privateer Press
Cost: $1.99
Page Count: 49
Release Date: 3/18/2015
Get it Here: DriveThruRPG.com

I’m not really a fan of Warmachine, Hordes or Iron Kingdoms. The miniatures, I mean. I just don’t find them aesthetically pleasing (Only the Gatormen look remotely fun to paint/play with) and Privateer Press’ webstore is god awful ($10 shipping for a single mini???) so I’ve mostly stayed away, preferring to stick with Reaper, Games Workshop, Mantic and Knight Models for miniatures and games that use them. That said, I enjoyed Richard Lee Byer’s Murder in Corvis story set in the Iron Kingdoms, so I knew it was just there was definitely something good to be had in the setting. That said, I came across the chance to get the Iron Kingdoms Unleashed – Role Playing Game Adventure Kit, and it looked fantastic, especially since I snagged it for only $30. This would give me a chance to discover the RPG side of Iron Kingdoms and I absolutely loved the miniatures for Longchops (Gatorman with a big gun) and Lurk (shaman fishfolk!) so I thought this would be a good gateway to maybe appreciate the work Privateer Press does. After all, it was the RPG version of Warhammer Fantasy that eventually got me to pick up the Fifth Edition boxed set and look where I am now! Maybe this would have the same effect. It also looked like a quasi-board game to try with my wife, who enjoys those.

Unfortunately, I’m still waiting for my Iron Kingdoms Unleashed boxed set to arrive, so in the meantime I decided to pick up Blood in the Water. It was only $1.99 and set in the same game-verse as my boxed set, so this would be a good chance to get to know the characters better. I also downloaded the FREE Introduction to Savagery pack, which contains a digital version of the rulebook, game scenarios and the pre-generated characters that will be in my Boxed Set of Iron Kingdoms Unleashed, so that I could get a head start on understanding the game. It’s FREE so you should download it even if you’re only minutely curious about the game. Commentary on that though will have to wait for another day as it’s time to talk fiction.

Although the PDF for Blood in the Water is forty-nine pages long, the actual story is much shorter. The first nine pages are filler. You have the cover, title page, a page containing the Skull Islands Expeditions graphic (and nothing else), a table of contents(???), a map and a four page overview of the Iron Kingdoms world. The last seven pages of the PDF are devoted to an author bio and then lots of ads. Yuck. That’s sixteen pages of filler in all – a full THIRD of the PDF. Not cool. The story is only thirty-three pages long, which isn’t bad for the two dollar price tag and thankfully – it’s a really good one.

Blood in the Water is a prequel to the boxed set scenarios and features only two of the four characters in that piece. Thankfully it was the two characters I was most interested. You have Longchops, the honourable but constantly hungry Gatorman who is as crack a shot with his teeth as he is with his fists (and teeth). You also have Lurk who is a powerful but slimy shaman. Sure, I mean slimy in a literal sense, but also in a figurative sense. Think Thanquol from Warhammer meets Dr. Druid with a healthy dose of Starscream thrown in for good measure. There is a third protagonist in this story, a human monster hunter named Alten Ashley. Alten doesn’t appear in the boxed set version of Iron Kingdoms Unleashed, at least not in miniature form or in any of the free booklets. So I’m surprised he was used instead of one of the other two protagonists. It’s not a bad decision though as this means the author can focus on two of the main characters from the game instead of all four, while also creating their own piece of the IKU world. I’m pretty happy that the story focuses on the two characters that made me pick up the boxed set and I wasn’t disappointed at all. Even with only thirty-three pages to tell a story, author Aeryn Rudel really makes these two demihumans come to life. They are full fleshed out with quirks, notable personality features and obvious flaws that make them relatable to readers, even if they aren’t the biggest fans of humans. Alten is a little less nuanced as he’s just a monster hunter in things for the thrill of the kill and getting him name even more out there, but he’s a fun addition to the tandem of Longchops and Lurk. Alten also gives readers a human character for them to play off as well as a character more relatable to us. I mean, how man gator people or Deep Ones do you know, am I right?

The story’s plot is a simply one, but it’s very well told. A small fishing village is being terrorized by a sea monster. The village hires the duo of Longchops and Lurk, but also sends out one of their own to hire Alten. Hey, it doubles their odds of being free from the beast. The two sides decide to work together to defeat the creature (purposely not naming what it is BTW) although all three have different goals in mind. Lurk plans to use the creature’s remains to power his spells, Longchops plans to eat it and honor it via the glory of the hunt. Alten wants the renown for killing it. The fact all three are being paid by the hamlet is just gravy.

It’s not really a spoiler to say that the protagonists succeed. After all, we know at least two of them are in the boxed game in some fashion. However it’s the journey rather than the destination that makes this story worth reading and it really is a great short little read. Sure I’m still waiting for my boxed set of the game to arrive but if playing Iron Kingdoms Unleashed is even half as much fun as the story I just read, then I’m confident I made the right choice to give Privateer Press’ products another try. Who knows, maybe the Adventure Kit will spur me on to buy the core RPG book for Iron Kingdoms Unleashed. At worst, I’ll definitely enjoy painting the minis that come in this set. It’s too bad Privateer Press’ website doesn’t have a full catalog of what all they produce. I wouldn’t mind a Gatorman regiment of some sort. One thing is for sure, even though I haven’t cared for Warmachine or Hordes, I’m really enjoying the Iron Kingdoms fiction I’ve picked up.

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