We were given the opportunity to review the Animal Adventures: RPG Starter Set as well as Dungeons and Doggies Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 by Steamforged Games. Animal Adventures is a 5e compatible RPG Starter Set. For those of you who aren’t familiar with RPG’s, it is a role playing game wherein you pretend you are a specific character in a specific world that is built as you play (more or less). 5e compatible means that you can play the game while using the ruleset for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition (D&D). This game takes the rules of D&D and instead of playing as humans, elves, dwarves and the like, you can play as Beagles, Chihuahuas, Boxers and many dog breeds. We will discuss how exciting the game can be while avoiding any spoilers about the story itself.
Upon opening the box you find yourself immediately excited to find the miniatures. Steamforged is known for their highly detailed minis and Animal Adventures does not disappoint. With a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Bard, a Boxer Paladin, a Labrador Retriever Fighter, a Sphinx Sorcerer and more to choose from. The starter set itself comes with 7 pre-built characters; 4 dog breeds and 3 cat breeds. Each character comes with its own miniature and character sheet filled with a backstory, pre-built stat blocks, abilities and a cute little picture of what they look like. The character sheets are incredibly simple, making it very easy for beginners to get into the massive world of RPG’s and Dungeons & Dragons.
For the Game Master (GM) they come with a short and simple story book, tokens that represent some of the various baddies you will encounter throughout the adventure, a set of dice (more on this in a bit), a double sided map and a compact GM screen that has a lot of pertinent information for the GM. The collection feels like a lot and it is. It is quite a handful of items for an RPG Starter Set and it all fits nearly in its box without having to sacrifice organization. Most RPG Starter Sets have a small adventure book, dice, and a GM screen (sometimes just a small adventure book). The one criticism about the book is that it does not have the basic rules. While experienced D&D players may have memorized how to create new characters from scratch, the rules included in the starter set do not have any instructions on how to create new characters or the basic rules for what distinguishes classes and breeds. However, that said, Steamforged does have this information available for free on their resources page for Animal Adventures. So it is easily accessible should you want to make your own character from scratch.
The adventure itself is well written and is very short in comparison to most D&D campaign books. This is both a pro and a con and depends on if you like shorter campaigns or longer campaigns. We were able to playthrough the entire campaign over the course of about 2 hours. For beginning GMs this provides a short, fun campaign that can be continued after the finale but offers little in support or options for inexperienced GMs that may have difficulty coming up with story changes on the fly. D&D campaign books offer the GM options for situations they may come across throughout the adventure and they are usually large times with multiple possible scenarios they are likely to encounter, many monsters stat blocks, many locations with detailed maps and descriptions of what happens on specific squares of the maps. Animal Adventures offers an abbreviated version of these campaign books, simplifying everything down to a few what-if situations and the main storyline. It can become difficult to assess whether the previous scene truly affects the ending scene by simply reading through the campaign. There has to be some work on the GM’s shoulders and the players shoulders to work out these details as a group. So while the rulebook does not assist the GM a lot, it does offer the GM an opportunity to improvise new situations.
The maps offered are small and compact. Battles feel a little limited because of this but players can have fun in tight quarters as they battle through the baddies. The maps themselves are brightly colored and help you feel immersed in the story. It can be a little difficult to assess certain terrain squares as some of the areas are foggy or have crystals on them which can make it tough to see if you can climb or hide behind certain objects. The layouts of the maps flow well and are great tools. There are 4 maps included in the Starter Set but each map is not used equally. This is true of almost any type of game and really depends on what your players like.
The set of custom dice is very well made. It is a set of 8 purple-blue dice with the highest roll on most dice replaced by a paw print. A d4, d6, d8, d12, two d10s and two d20s. All beautifully crafted and incredibly cute and exciting to roll high.
The GMs screen is a hefty, short and compact screen that will keep your information hidden while giving you important information on the characters, actions and enemies. You can keep all your enemy tokens hidden and surprise players at the last second by keeping all your tokens hidden behind this sturdy screen. Our only improvement upon the screen is that you are given the info on the enemies abilities but not their attack details. This info is given to you in the adventure book but having to flip back and forth if you haven’t memorized the stat blocks can be a little cumbersome.
The Dungeons and Doggies Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 come with even more miniatures to allow for more breeds to join in on the adventures. Included in these are Cornelius the Golden Retriever Wizard, Tedric the Chihuahua Rogue, Svetlana the Beagle Barbarian, Tobias the Corgi Warlock, Monty the Spaniel Bard and many more. In total the two volumes span 12 breeds and 12 classes. There are pre-built character sheets that are available for download in the Steamforged resources page but they do not come in the boxes for either volume. The miniatures are all very well made, highly detailed and can be painted very easily. The figures hold onto paint very well without need for being primed first. They immediately take on paint and will take inks once painted as well, allowing for shading and highlights.
Overall, Animal Adventures by Steamforged Games is a great game to play with experienced or inexperienced players. Having the freedom to create your own animal filled campaign is more exciting than you think. Everyone always pretends to be their pets and now they can play as cats and dogs in their high fantasy adventure. Who doesn’t want to play as a Beagle Bard or a Boxer Fighter? You aren’t limited by the pre-built characters. How does your dog wield their sword? How does your car play its lute? How common are talking animals? Are humans still around? These are all questions that you and your players can answer as you play through your adventures. We even found ourselves wanting to replace some of our previous D&D characters with dogs and continuing our campaigns as dogs instead of humans, giants and Aarakocra (a type of humanoid bird).
Language Barrier Playability: This game needs to be played in a way that everyone speaks the same language. The story or rules can be translated by the GM but it would be difficult to get everyone on the same page if not everyone speaks the same language.
Replayability: Great in terms of the game itself. The game can continue endlessly after your campaign, however the campaign itself is more or less a one shot and you’d be hard pressed to play the same campaign with the same group more than a couple of times.
Artwork: Cute and whimsical. The artwork on paper is very cute, cartoons and reminds you of old 80s animation. The maps are very well made and brightly colored and nice to look at. The real shine is the modeling done on the miniatures.
Strategy: Strategy is important for players as they fight but this is not really a strategy game so it’s not applicable for this one.
Quality: Excellent. Sturdy materials, sturdy dice, beautiful miniatures, and one of the best Starter Set GM screens on the market.
Instruction Manual: Good in terms of the campaign. It is lacking the basic rules, classes, breeds and character creation. But again, this is all available for free on the Steamforged resources page.
Organization: Great. Everything fits nearly in the box and all the doggies have a specific spot that’s easy to find. If we are being incredibly nit-picky: a baggie to hold tokens would be helpful.