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Some tabletop roleplaying games are meant for you to create your own character and lead them on an open-ended journey with a personal arc that you craft through a combination of interactions with your fellow players and the roll of the dice. Eat the Reich, the latest game from writer Grant Howitt and artist Will Kirkby, is not that. It’s designed to tell one story: the final mission of a squad of vampires out to kill Hitler in Nazi-occupied Paris.

Through this game, a group of three to six players, along with a game master, will collaborate to tell a rip-roaring cathartic story of violently tearing supernaturally-enhanced Nazis limb from limb. Last year, publisher Rowan, Rook and Decard ran a very successful Kickstarter campaign, and now the book is finally being delivered in all its blood-splattered glory.

At some point the book’s text describes the game as a “big, gross, stupid evisceration party,” and that is an incredibly succinct way to sum up the game. It’s a slim book, clocking in at just over 70 pages, but its brevity is part of what makes it a special game. Filled to the brim with eye-popping art and macabre details, the alternate history horror-themed world of Eat the Reich feels like a fully-realized playground for your band of monstrous Nazi hunters. It’s written in a casual voice that never sacrifices clarity, conveying the tone of the game vividly on every page.

The core of the game’s action is the Havoc Engine, a resolution system that Howitt created for an older tabletop RPG called Havoc Brigade. The GM presents a scene with a certain number of threats and objectives, which each have a number that has to be reached for it to be taken off the board. As a player, you declare what they want to do, they roll a number of six-sided dice equal to the relevant stat and look at the results. Fours and fives count as a success, six counts as two successes, and the rest are discarded.  The GM will also roll dice based on the enemy forces threat value, keeping successes in the same way.

Once you have your pool of rolled dice, you allocate the successes in various ways, while narrating what each one looks like fictionally. Successes can be used to advance an objective, attack a threat, defend yourself from the enemy attack, feed on Nazi blood or activate one of your character’s special abilities. Once you’ve narrated all your dice, the enemy does damage to you based on their roll, which is reduced by any dice you spent on defense.

While this seems like it could make for a very dry, mechanical adjusting of numbers, the way each die you spend encourages narrative is extremely clever. Spending on the objective may be you deftly dodge between cars to advance on a museum that’s being guarded by enemy snipers, while allocating a die to an attack could be you swinging on a grappling hook and landing on an enemy soldier claws first. The game is built from the ground up to be a power fantasy, so you’ve heavily encouraged to add extra flourishes to the scene in order to be as over-the-top as you want in all the action.

Your actions can always be enhanced by equipment, either items on your sheet or things you’ve scavenged around the battlefield. In addition to their standard effect, each item has a bonus requirement that can yield extra dice if met. For example, a submachine gun may say +flanking after it, which means that if you describe using it in a way that bypasses enemy cover, you get an extra die. This once again provides another vector for you to add flavor to your descriptions, making the story you tell more dynamic and exciting. In order to encourage you to continue to use your items, the final use of a multi-use item always grants one additional die, keeping you constantly using equipment and scrounging for new toys to pick up along the way.

Instead of having an in-depth character creation process, you choose from one of six premade characters, each accompanied by Kirkby’s gorgeous portraits. All members of F.A.N.G., your special ops vampire unit, have brief descriptions, unique sets of stats, equipment, and a set of abilities that set them apart from the others. The book highly encourages you to expand upon the characters, giving them their own history and quirks that build upon the included information, so there’s definitely room for you to make things your own in play. They each fill fun archetypes like demolitions expert, necromancer, or cowboy gunslinger, making for a fun and varied party no matter which characters you choose.

There are additional mechanics in Eat the Reich that push you towards filling out elements of your character’s backstory. If you ever roll two or fewer successes when doing an action, you can trigger a flashback sequence that gives you extra dice and a chance to reroll. There’s a pair of tables to roll on to give you context for the scene, providing you with a prompt so you’re not on the spot to make it up out of nowhere, allowing you to craft a brief scene of how you and another member bonded during some sort of mission during the war. These flashbacks allow you to really make these premade characters your own while helping flesh out the dynamic of your unit.

Characters each have a unique set of injuries specific to them. There are three columns, each with two escalating injuries in them. If the GM still has attack dice that the player has not defended, you’ll roll a D6 to see which column you take an injury in. When you mark the second injury in a column, that will have some mechanical disadvantage that will be worked into future actions. These injuries can be healed by spending blood, but when you mark all six of your injuries, you’re dead. Fortunately, that’s not the end. Each character has a last stand listed on their sheet, which gives them one final thing to do when they go out. These are brief little narrative prompts like “final form” or “rigged to blow” that give you a way to go out in style. You’ll roll a whopping eight dice and apply those to objectives and threats, describing your final, heroic sacrifice before being eliminated from the game.

On the GM side of things, there’s a series of locations, along with a gloriously rendered map, that are provided, each with their own narrative setup, threats, and objectives. The game plays fast and loose with history in the name of fun, so while there may be real-life places in the game, they are presented in outlandish and over-the-top situations. In addition to lists of the standard threats, there are also miniboss enemies called Ubermensch that pose a massive threat to the players. These set pieces are meant to be big challenges with special rules that the players need to work around, providing a nice change of pace from the normal fodder enemies that you tear through.

Aside from the tight rules and great GM resources, Eat the Reich is a stunning book to behold. The art throughout is shockingly bright, eschewing the normal drab color palette you associate with war fiction, splashing the pages with wild dayglow colors and vibrant hues. Every portrait communicates so much information about the character that it makes it easy to find ways to embody them after just a glance at their image. Many of the pages look like cartoony versions of classified government briefings, with various objects, ranging from occult objects to lit cigarettes, sitting around the margins of the page. Blood splatter and fingerprints mark sections of the book, making it all feel so alive. It’s printed in a beautifully bound softcover binding with raised blood splatter on the cover, making it really stand out on the shelf.

Despite the game’s grindhouse-esque premise, they do a very careful job of trying to respect the real-life issues surrounding Nazis and World War II. Working with sensitivity readers, they made sure to come up with advice for players on playing marginalized characters, helping players responsibly navigate the tragedies depicted while still having a tastelessly violent romp through Nazi-occupied Paris. The book feels like a cathartic burst of violence meant to give players an outlet for their frustration with the current political climate.

I always find it very interesting when an RPG narrows its focus to such a specific story, and Eat the Reich is all the better for it. Every inch of this book is designed to maximize Nazi-killing, bombastic action. The art, the setting, and the rules all come together perfectly in an efficient and attractive package. Eat the Reich’s gore-drenched campaign can be played through in about three sessions, so it’s perfect for players looking for the tabletop equivalent of an over-the-top summer action blockbuster. Also, you get to kill Hitler in the bloodiest possible fashion. What more could you want from a game?

Eat the Reich can be purchased here.

4.5 out of 5 skulls

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