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     " A retarded clone birthed in the rock bottomed shallow end of a very slimy gene pool. "

      Title: Cobalt-1 by West Wind Productions

      Format: Table Top Sci-Fi Miniatures Game

      Reviewing Monkey: Our Ape Master

      The Hype: Ever since the sci-fi tabletop genre was monopolized by 2 or 3 lead games, smaller companies have been shelling out set after set of rules to try and appeal to the ostracized players who are turned off by the big guns. Cobalt-1, West Wind's foray into the fray is blatantly designed to appeal to a specific group of them.

      What This Monkey Thought...

      Playability: Cobalt's system exists under a very simple concept: rolling dice is bad. I don't know why, exactly, they feel this way but evidently it was the 1 thing about tabletop gaming they most desperately wanted to get away from. I say that because realistically, once you get past the fact that it is a diceless system, Cobalt-1 really plays no different from any of the myriad of other sci-fi games out there. It has the same basic and limited stats, the same basic modifiers, the same basic tech, the same basic everything. Now, I'm not saying that's a bad thing, per say. I'm just saying that it's very, very standard. As a matter of fact, after taking a week off after playing the game before writing this review, I had forgotten almost all of the distinguishing factors about the rules…except the diceless aspect.
          Which means that, in short, the dicelessness is the main and only notable selling point of the system. So what is it? Well, simply put, each weapon or tested action has what's called "The Solution". The Solution is a range of numbers from which each player chooses 1 and writes it down on a piece of paper. In order to be successful, the attacking (or testing) player must match the defending player's choice for that Solution. So, for example, if a Solution is listed at 4, each player chooses either a 1, 2, 3, or 4 for that Solution. If player A chooses 2, player B must also choose 2 in order to succeed. If he instead chooses 1, 3, or 4 the test fails. Better characters will have lower solutions (1 or 2) and worse characters can have solutions ranging as high as 8 or 9.
          Now, on the one hand it makes a certain amount of sense. It gives you the same random element as dice but it also lets you add a bit of strategy. The theory is that, typically, players will stick to a theme of numbers and, if you keep good track of your hits and misses, you can start to pattern your foe. Sort of cool…in a geeky math freak kind of way.
          On the other hand, though, this is just frickin' dumb. For starters, just like you can pattern your enemy so too can they pattern themselves, and we found that the potential advantage was worth exactly nothing. Next is the time it takes to do- with every action, every shot, you are writing down numbers, waiting for your opponent to write down numbers, comparing numbers, making notes, and so on. It takes for frickin' ever. Then there's the jump in averages (I'm not going to bother to talk about the math here…You can figure it out), the lack of smoothness, the obscure modifiers that this system by necessity lends to, and so on. It ends up being completely inane, entirely uninspired, and ultimately forgettable. We actually, just for the novelty of it, compared the time of "guessing" numbers with the time of just rolling them (still using the same matching concept) and found that the dice is about 10 times faster and produces comparable results as far as randomness goes.
          So, here we started with an average "me too" system and added a hokey gimmick difference that ended up being little more than an annoyance, and what did that get us? 1 out of 5, that's what.

      Layout and Presentation: The layout and presentation of this book made me so angry I'm not even going to bother to rant about it…Or at least not as much as I actually feel like ranting about it. For starters it is among the most illogical and painful layouts I've found in a gaming guide. Sure, it has a reasonable (though certainly not nice) table of contents, but that's all it has. There's no sub table of contents or index to point us to specific rules, no easy to use quick guides or accessible reference page, and the army and weapon layout in the book is down right laughable. What's most infuriating, though, is that the entire book is laid out not by subject or concept but in the order the writer thinks your going to want to learn them. That means that instead of having combat all in one section it's spread out over 100 pages, or instead of doing something reasonable like lumping "wounds" and "long term injuries" together, they're in sections 50 pages apart. You will, swear to high monkey, spend half your time just flipping through the book trying to find what you're looking for because there is absolutely nothing- and I do mean nothing, to point you to it. And that's just the layout.
          When you get into the presentation, or the general aesthetics of the book, you find things that actually still making me angry even as I type this (and I got to put the game down and never touch it again over a week ago). First off, I mentioned in Playability that this is a "me too" game- which it is. Same concepts, same types of rules, etc. Though it's not until you look at the graphics and illustrations that you really realize exactly how much. Because the entire game, from front to back; with every beast, every piece of tech, every race, and every weapon, is a complete and total RIP OFF of Warhammer 40K. No, I don't mean it's inspired by. I don't even mean it's similar. I mean it is 110% ripped off. The good guys are Space Marines, the bad guys are Genestealers, the outsiders are Elves, and the thugs are Orks…and they're not even creatively disguised. If you take a Terminator from Warhammer and a Cobalt Mercenary and set them side by side the only noticeable difference is the helmet, which on a Terminator is a cool dog faced mask and on the Cobalt Mercenary is a lame ass frickin' bubble (like the 1950's aliens used to wear). That's it! They have the same armor, the same weapons…Hell even the colors and markings are similar! So much so that when I first got this book to review and looked at the cover art I sincerely believed it was a Warhammer 40K book.
          And as if that wasn't enough of an insult, this complete lack of any originality in the characters portrayed by the game, West Wind didn't even bother to spend the money they must have saved on design to buy some descent, or even finished, artwork! That's right, the entire book, from front to back, is illustrated with little more than completely unfinished concept sketches. And, just so you don't misunderstand me, I'm not talking about the sketches having a cool and abstract look to them or being a little rough around the edges…I mean they're unfinished. Half assed. Done by the developer in their spare time between Baywatch reruns. I mean they're atrocious! And it's not like the book is free or something…It's 20 bucks! So they're charging you for this crap! Unbelievable. -2 out of 5
          Yes, that's right kiddies…it's a MINUS TWO. It sucks that much.

      Value vs. Cost: Well, I just got done saying it's 20 bucks, so let's review what you get for that. Original concept? Nope. Neat rules? Nuh-uh. Expansive universe of neat tech? Well, only if you don't have any Warhammer stuff to look at. Good artwork? Not compared to what my 12-year-old cousin does. 0 out of 5

      The Verdict:

       Man it pisses me off that companies do crap like this. Unoriginal, uninspired, and ridiculously inane, Cobalt-1 reminds me why people don't like to "take chances" and pick up random games off store shelves…They might end up with crap like this.

      The Good: It almost qualifies as a clone.

      The Bad: A retarded clone birthed in the rock bottomed shallow end of a very slimy gene pool.

      The Overall Ugly: Cobalt-1. Yup, really, really ugly.

      What it's Worth: I'd give you my copy but I've already burned it, vacuumed up the ashes, and force-fed them to Rosie O'Donnell.

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