There’s a conspiracy, and you’re the only one who can help unravel the source! In the Critical: Foundation tabletop roleplaying game, you’ll be diving into bite-sized, 30-minute episodic scenarios to solve the details of this corporate thriller. Not bad for a Sunday afternoon, eh?
Designed by Yohan Lemonnier and Kristoff Valla, Critical: Foundation shrinks down the typical overhead that you’d experience with learning a new tabletop roleplaying game (TTRPG) while putting the emphasis on the narrative that comes out of the collaborative storytelling. Combined, the rules for players and gamemasters only take up 12 pages, and lot of it will be familiar to people who have already played various TTRPGs.
So grab your 12-sided dice (d12), pick a character, and see if you can help put the Icarus division on the map!
Critical: Foundation Gameplay
When you play Critical: Foundation, one player will be the Gamemaster and everybody else will take on the role of one of the characters. You can name your character whatever you like, thanks to the included dry-erase name boards, and you can also select your equipment and background as well. It’s a much quicker process than building a character from the ground up, while also giving you some flexibility.
And just like that, it’s time to get into the scenario! As mentioned above, each scenario is about 30 minutes long, with there being 9 total scenarios included in the box. If you’ve played tabletop roleplaying games before, much of the gameflow is determined by success and failures on checks. The GM sets the difficulty level, and the player (or group) rolls to see if they hit the Difficulty Level. If so, it’s a success, otherwise it’s a failure.
The GM then goes on to help narrate the story and explain the consequences of the check. Certain characters are going to be better at certain skills, so understanding what your character excels at will be vital to the group’s success.
At the same time, the players are free to pretty much do whatever they wish to progress towards the objective and progress the narrative. They might need to sweet-talk their way into a secure location or cause a distraction to give others the time to acquire the mission objective. The world is your figurative burrito!
Our Thoughts on Critical: Foundation!
Normally when we’re reviewing board games we’ll follow our CLAIM format to discuss components, Luck, Aesthetics, Interest, and Mood. However, Critical: Foundation isn’t necessarily a board game persay, so we’re going more free-form here.
First, let’s talk about the overall story in Critical: Foundation. I’m not going to give away any spoilers, because I want you to experience it for yourself, but I really like what’s been done with the world-building. You play in this semi-cyberpunky, dystopian, mega-corporation future, out in 2035. The synopsis sheet gives you a smattering of bullet points that serve as a baseline for you to build the world from. They’re so random, but also breathe a ton of life into the setting. I totally understand exactly what they’re going for.
The episodic nature of Critical: Foundation should also be lauded. I haven’t played a full day of tabletop roleplaying games in a long time. We all have busy schedules and it’s hard to block off an entire day to game. These bite-sized episodes are ideal for those among us who need to get their daily workout in, enjoy a nice home-cooked meal, and still have time to game in the evenings.
Plus, I should have mentioned that you can very easily SAVE your characters between sessions! Just slide your equipment and character cards in the provided envelope and you’re all set! The setup and tear-down is exceptional, and even the bookkeeping is kept to a minimum. The focus is on the gameplay and tracking Mars Inc.
The last thing that I want to mention about Critical: Foundation is that it’s perfectly approachable for anybody who wants to dip their toe into the tabletop roleplaying game genre. Games like Pathfinder and D&D come with a lot of rules and a lot of baggage, but Critical: Foundation strips out all of the extra frivolity to make sure you only have to worry about the basics. It’s also a really good first stepping stone for first-time Gamemasters! I was surprised at how easily the scenarios flowed and provided the necessary framework for the GM to be successful.
Critical: Foundation – Icarus Needs You!
Critical: Foundation is a perfect foundation for budding gamers eager to hop into the TTRPG scene. With a thrilling story, streamlined ruleset, and quick-bite episodes, it is a fantastic game for newcomers and seasoned veterans alike.
The Icarus agency needs your help to stop threats that are beyond the capabilities of government agencies. Join them and root out corruption wherever you can under the discreet guise of Icarus. This may be the first trial assignment for the agency, so do them proud!
[Disclaimer: Nerds on Earth was provided a copy of Critical: Foundation by Hachette Boardgames in exchange for an honest review.]