Review: FAITH: A Garden in Hell

FAITH: A Garden in Hell is a starter kit for playing FAITH from Burning Games. We’ve been watching the development of this game system over the last few years, and this starter set is a great place to get started with FAITH.

The Starter Set includes a rule book, an adventure book, four pre-generated characters, a deck for play, a deck with NPCs, gear, and robots, a deck with monsters, and some boss cards all neatly packed in an easy to transport box.

FAITH is set in a future where human civilization has fallen and the Earth is ruled by warlords. We would be fated to stay on earth, but an alien civilization arrived and offered a new option, to work for them as soldiers or laborers. These insectoid aliens are called Corvo, and need reinforcements to help in their fight against the Iz’kal, an aquatic race. I really like the touch that the Corvo required any humans that joined up with them be sterilized so that the Iz’kal couldn’t start a slave army of their own. The two societies were locked in something of a cold war, neither side gaining ground until the Ravagers showed up, a gene-stealing race intent on bringing new samples back to their Queen. The Iz’kal, Corvo, humans, and a fourth race called Raag are now tenuously united to fight against this new enemy. They also make up the four playable races in the game.

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You gotta have FAITH (The Sci-Fi RPG)

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Review:

FAITH is an innovative indie science fiction role-playing game (now crowd-funding through Kickstarter that is distinguished by the use of cards rather than dice. The art is stunning and the production values are solid. The character board and replaceable tokens, coupled with Gear cards, make character sheets obsolete and save time and room at the table; a ‘paperless pen-and-paper RPG.’

If you follow me or The Redacted Files on social media, you’ve seen me spamming, errr promoting, this game hard. I stumbled across an early announcement about a month before the Kickstarter and I was intrigued. Like many role-players, I have a few die-hard games I support but I’m always curious about new games. @TRFPodcast is always trying new things, and has broadened my RPG experience; I thought I’d give FAITH a try.

The beta print and play is free to download, and is a great intro to the gritty alternate universe one thousand years in our future. The game is very simple to grasp and fun to play, and probably a good intro to RPGs, especially if the prospective players enjoy board games.

Each player and the GM in FAITH has a gorgeous custom deck of cards (the standard box set comes with four) but a standard poker deck can be substituted- a nice compromise, and the updated core rulebook will be free to download. Characters are from one of three distinct races (more may be added as stretch goals or future expansions) and possess Attributes from 1 to 3. The attribute in play (say Dexterity to shoot a gun) determines how many cards from a hand of 7 cards (8 for Humans) the player can lay down in one action. Skills from 0 to 9 (in the previous example it would be Ballistics) are added to the cards in play to determine the Action Value, or who wins in a Confrontation. The Confrontation is one of the core elements of FAITH gameplay. Actions mostly automatically succeed unless the GM wants to challenge the PC or thinks it would be interesting for story purposes for there to be a chance for failure (or dramatic success.) This is a concept familiar to the Cypher System, where the rules get out of the way to focus on building the narrative, and come into play for brief periods of excitement. Confrontations are any opposed action, whether a firefight, hacking a network, or piloting a ship through a storm. Be forewarned that combat is extremely lethal, and a key part of success in any Confrontation is to convince the GM you have an Advantage, for example hidden from view/behind cover, or that your foe is at a Disadvantage (also known as Inferiority) to avoid death or drastic failure.

The really fascinating thing about cards vs dice is that the randomness of dice is gone, and it becomes less about luck and more of a resource management like GUMSHOE. Do you spend some low cards now, and hope to succeed or possibly draw a high card next, or do you throw down cards that ensure success this Confrontation and risk failure later in the mission?

In a nutshell, that’s all you need to know! I ran through some combat simulations with my seven year old; he enjoyed it, could follow the rules, and is eager to play a full game!

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So while the game is easy to learn, there is still a good deal of character customization available even before you add the high tech gear to include stealth suits and plasma rifles (special shout out to the ‘Diaperer’ gun- read the beta!)

The spin, and the reason for a sci-fi game to bear the name FAITH, is that in this game of amazing technology there is yet a group of Gods who exist within their followers and seek to expand their influence; follow your God’s rules and you may be blessed with powerful divine gifts, but know that your fate is in the hands of the God you follow. Failure to uphold the faith can cost you the favor of a God, often at the worst time. The Gods are also of course at the root of much of the sentient races’ struggles for dominance in the universe. Of concern for the PCs are the entropic goals of Ledger and its desire to bring about chaos and destruction.

The game of FAITH is open to any sort of high-tech adventure such as social intrigue, exploration, or military action but lends itself particularly to black ops infiltration, hacking, and espionage. The two powerhouse races, the Corvo and the Iz’kal, are locked in a cold war for control of the Labyrinth, a naturally occurring nexus of wormholes that is key to mastery of the known universe and expansion beyond. Humans are second class subjects, but respected for their strength, resilience and skill as mercenaries. We are wildcards and the ‘wookies’ of FAITH!

I enjoyed the sample beta materials that Burning Games provided on their website, and while it is notably very well written for a team whose first language is Spanish, I found some areas that were unclear or awkwardly worded. I contacted them offering to do some proofreading, and a collaboration was born! I’ve had the chance to make some small impact on the background and it’s been rewarding. The creative team is amazing; they are really eager to succeed, with a strong social media presence, and they are very responsive to questions or suggestions about their product.

From the revisions and evolution of gameplay I’ve seen, a great beginning is already shaping up to an excellent product that I am happy to back at the basic game level, which includes a box with 4 player decks & boards, NPC deck, Gear deck, a pile of tokens and the core rulebook for $70. I’ve never spent more than $15 on a Kickstarter before, so this should signify that I really believe in the game!

There’s no customs fee in the EU, and shipping is free in the US!

Please chip in and help a new company launch an awesome game so we can play (I promise a game on The Redacted Files Actual Play Podcast) and not only see FAITH get funded, but become a successful product line for the future!

As of this writing they are a little over 35% funded with 20 days to go; we can do this!

Thank you for reading

-John
(Known to have aided the ‘Human Liberation Front’)

Some links:

Official Website
Kickstarter Page
@burning_games
Google+
YouTube

Playtests podcasts:
@notaninn
@therpgacademy (features Carlos of the Burning Games crew!)