Greyhawk Wars (1991)

The City of Greyhawk version of Greyhawk got 10 or so adventures under its wing before TSR decided to reboot the setting again, introducing a region-wide war and a jump ten years into the future. Two modules led up to the war, and the war itself played out in the Greyhawk Wars box set (1991), which is less an adventure and more a series of scenarios for a chit-based traditional wargame, in effect asking players to re-enact the course of the war.

I played this back near release and have very fond memories of it. Returning to it years later, I find myself fairly dismayed by the complexity of the rules  but my enthusiasm for the story remains undimished. The Adventures booklet provides a narrative account of the war that is so satisfying I see little need to punch the chits in this set. If you’re intrigued by the machinations of Iuz and the betrayal of Rary, that’s probably all you need. It is the opening act of what is, for my money, the most intriguing chapter in Greyhawk’s history. I don’t think most folks like Rary and Robilar’s murder of Otiluke and Tenser, or the turn towards 90s grim ‘n’ gritty storytelling. Which, fair. But I recall being shocked to have two well known NPCs suffer such a fate and, to be honest, Greyhawk never had much personality to begin with, so I welcomed it overcompensating with edginess.

The game was designed by Zeb Cook and I should note that just because I don’t feel like hashing them out doesn’t mean they are painful. In fact, they are surprisingly streamlined, weighing in at just 8 pages, which I feel is an accomplishment for a wargame. This sort of game is detail oriented and has lots of little things you can do, which is cool, but not something I want to dive into anymore. Its a young man’s war, I guess.

Roger Raupp delivers a pretty great cover that evokes some of the atmosphere of Middle Earth and Ken and Charles Frank’s interiors start to move the look of Greyhawk into something distinct and dark. I love their stocky, big-mouthed Orcs; they seem to have a bit of Rankin/Bass in them.

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