Tabletop RPG Review: Over the Edge

Over the Edge

Well, that was mighty strange. Over the Edge was a very “outside the box” game way back in the first Golden Age of tabletop RPGs, the 90s (that decade was good for something). Taking bits of William S. Burroughs, ‘The Prisoner,’ The Weekly World News, general 90s angst, and who knows what, they created a strange Island of mystery and surreal terror. Anybody could show up on the island of Al Amarja, from exiled dictators to retired spies, from experimental psychics to extra-dimensional explorers. Pile on drugs and conspiracies, and you had a recipe for some really out-there gaming. Along with the strange, they created one of my very favorite game systems. Now available as WaRP, the game mechanics for Over the Edge are fantastically versatile, fast, easy, and they get out of the way of the story and character. I’ve used WaRP to great effect running a game of Cyberpunk 2020 and a game of Star Trek. And I have every intention of using it again to run Fading Suns or a number of other games I think it would work very well for.

Flash forward almost 30 years and Jonathan Tweet and Chris Lites have created a whole new game. It seems like the same game at first, but it’s different in unexpected ways. This isn’t just a 30 years later… reboot or relaunch. This is a total, ground-up rebuild. You’ll recognize some names and places, but they’ve changed. Even Al Amarja’s location and geography are different. It still has a drug-addled, Gen X vibe. It’s still super weird. It’s just…different.  The closest thing I can think of is the new ‘Battlestar Galactica,’ where you recognize elements of the original, but you wouldn’t mistake one for the other, and they’re not supposed to be related or “connected.”

It’s also got new game mechanics. Like Al Amarja, they too look the same at first, but the more you read them, the stranger they become. This is definitely not WaRP. If I’m being totally honest, I’m not sold on the new system. I’ll need to try it out to be sure. It seemed oddly non-intuitive while I was reading it, but perhaps in play it will make more sense. 

It’s sort of hard to recommend this game, even though I think it’s very good and has a ton of potential for good stories. It’s so odd, so specific in its strange tone, I don’t think it would be to everyone’s taste. Even for those who are into it, this edition in particular feels like it’s made more for shorter games. Not one-shots, necessarily, but mini-campaigns, maybe. As I read through the book, I found many interesting ideas, but when I was finished, I found myself thinking that while I’m sure I’d have a blast playing this new Over the Edge, I don’t know that I have any interest in running it.

 

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