Rocket Age is a game that sort of came out of the blue for me; I don’t tend to keep up on forthcoming games until they’ve released (I find that being unhyped about something I’m not familiar with makes me more objective), unless it’s something that I’ve explicitly been waiting for like a game in a franchise I’ve loved previously. Rocket Age coming into my inbox out of the blue quickly became a bit of a pleasant surprise.
I’ve got a good respect for Cubicle 7; I’ve rarely been disappointed by them, and Rocket Age is no exception. It’s top-notch quality, but with some cautions. It is, after all, heavily entrenched within the pulp genre, and pulp is not exactly the most popular genre these days, what with the common focus on realism and simulation. Of course, that’s part of what makes it so incredible; it’s a remarkably fun setting and a break from the normal, ignoring plausibility for the basic pursuit of fun, adventure, and the exotic.
The setting takes place in an alternate late 30’s, with all the trappings you’d expect from the world powers at the time; for non-historians, players will be wedged in between over-the-top space versions of Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, Imperialist Japan, the United States, the United Kingdom, and France, as well as all the minor powers that were at play during the same eras. Pulp does not equal happy, and that’s immediately apparent-after all, space Nazis are just as hideous as their Earth-bound counterparts, especially when technologically inferior aliens are involved.
The game has a real focus on style and storytelling, which fits it well; the Vortex System was pretty familiar to me, but it works well here and really seems to fit the genre to a “T”. It’s a great example of mechanics and setting going well together, and I really have to applaud Cubicle 7 for that; I’m often really put off when the same system is brought out again and again, but it works in a way that leaves me with no legitimate gripes, so I really can’t complain about that here. It’s the perfect blend of relative simplicity and sufficient explanation and mechanic exposition that makes Rocket Age so perfect; you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to play, which means that the game retains the fast and adventurous feel it needs to pull off to really capture its pulp inspirations, but it’s got enough stuff that it doesn’t wind up needing constant arbitration and houseruling to satisfy players who like everything to be governed by a rule.
As far as the setting goes, it’s pretty expansive and well thought out; there’s enough stuff here to last a good long while, and enough unexplored space to make up your own adventures without having to just resort to the things that have already been written. All-in-all. I like the balance of the known and the unknown, and it’s a really immersive setting, made all the better by an adherence to art styles that, laced throughout the book, added a lot to the feel; it’s black-and-white art, but that feels like a distinction that hardly matters when it’s in context. The typesetting is pretty good; the fonts and page trimming have that perfect feel to them, though I do have to complain that there’s some kerning errors or something going on that puts apostrophes or “+” signs in weird places in the text as opposed to where they’re supposed to be-that may be on my end, but I’m thinking it’s a font issue, and it’s pretty inconsequential in the long run.
All-in-all, despite some slight issues with the typesetting, and the fact that while the setting is rich and engaging it is still very much a “pulp” setting, which may not appeal to everyone, I can whole-heartedly recommend Rocket Age, which provides a great sense of adventure and scale with game mechanics that complement its goals nicely.
You can grab it over at DriveThruRPG through this link.
Disclaimer: I am a featured reviewer at DriveThruRPG, and receive a portion of the sales from the above link.