Reviews

Shadowrun: Sixth World Beginner Box – Beginning A Descent Into Cyberpunk Math Class

Shadowrun: Sixth World Edition is a cyberpunk tabletop roleplaying game with an incredible depth of mechanics. If you’re looking to dive in for the first time, Catalyst Game Labs put out a Sixth World Beginner Box to try and make the RPG more accessible.

I’ve never played Shadowrun before receiving this box, but I’m not unfamiliar with TTRPGs in general. I was immediately drawn to the art of Shadowrun and the Beginner Box. It’s got a wonderful neon cyberpunk aesthetic, but if you’re expecting an RPG without magic, you’d be wrong.

You’ll find guns and technology, yes, but there’s also magic in the darkened streets of Seattle. In the history of Shadowrun, multiple world-shattering events occur, including the 2011 Awakening that saw dragons and magic abilities enter the world along with babies being born looking like elves and dwarves. Then in 2021, people began spontaneously mutating, bringing orks and trolls into the mix.

Players can play as or encounter any of these “races,” also known as metahumans. However, these races aren’t like their standard fantasy counterparts. While there are some similarities, you could encounter a dwarf hacker (also known as a decker), a troll packing a rocket launcher, or even an ork throwing fireballs.

In fact, when you crack open the Beginner Box, you’ll find four pre-generated “dossiers,” character sheets with backgrounds for each character and a sample run that goes through how each character can be role-played and how each operates mechanically. You can choose to play a straight-up combat role, like the Troll street samurai, handy for if you like wielding melee weapons or want to shoot a lot of people. If you’re partial to spellcasting, there’s the ork combat mage. Then there’s the dwarf decker for exploring the cyberpunk aspect of Shadowrun.

Dossiers of pre-generated characters in the Beginner Box

Having such in-depth “dossiers” is especially helpful because Shadowrun: Sixth World has very crunchy mechanics. If you think of TTRPGs as being based around a handful (read seven) of polyhedral dice, Shadowrun is different in that it is a d6 system. All you need for rolling anything are d6s, and you’ll need a lot of them. The Beginner Box comes with “handfuls of d6s” as it says on the box, but we still needed to go out and buy more from our favorite local game store.

This is where Shadowrun can become quite a handful for people used to a d20 system like Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition. How many d6s you’re rolling is a combination of stats and equipment rather than rolling a single d20 and adding modifiers. Then you need to count your successes and glitches, compare your rolls to the opponents, consider edge points… and roll again for damage as appropriate.

Cyberpunk aesthetic dice included in the Beginner Box

For first-time players such as ourselves, we found ourselves spending more time trying to figure out how many dice to chuck than actually chucking them. We consulted our local gaming network on Discord to seek out experienced players for help. We consulted the amazing staff at our friendly local game store. We found encouragement, but no one was able to help us with the math and the nitty-gritty of the mechanics.

After you choose your character and familiarize yourself with the appropriate dossier, it is time for the included mission which introduces players to different NPCs, common gangs, and bigger political powers that operate throughout Seattle and the larger world. It’s broken down into scenarios that the players progress through and has plenty of tips for the game master. The final page of the quick start rules has Game Master reference tables that are invaluable. Amongst the tool cards, the Game Master will also find cards corresponding to the gangs and NPCs of the mission to help keep track of all the information.

After sitting down and working on the included sample mission, I’ve come to the realization that I have a complicated relationship with Shadowrun: Sixth World that the Beginner Box does not fully address. The artwork, aesthetic, and the idea of the game is incredible. It’s refreshing for people who are sick of fantasy settings for their RPGs. One of our absolute favorite parts of the game is that when you’re attacking in combat, how many more successes you have than the defender actually improves your attack.

In D&D, that would look like when you roll to attack, your attack gets better by how much you exceed the target’s armor class by. I personally love that mechanic, because it feels like you’re getting rewarded for a better attack, not just simply succeeding or failing.

Also, the idea of glitches is a really interesting idea. It’s where at least half of your dice that you rolled are ones. This means you can still succeed on a roll and glitch at the same time. It gives the opportunity to the Game Master to add interesting consequences rather than only during critical failure like in D&D.

The Beginner Box itself does a great job of trying to help work players and game masters alike through these mechanics. One of the best features of the box is the included “tool cards.” These correspond to the different pieces of equipment that the players and non-playable characters (NPCs) will use throughout combat and role-playing.

Tool cards included in the Beginner Box that offer detailed information about each item

If you’re looking to get into a different type of RPG, I can completely understand why you would look at Shadowrun: Sixth World. The world of Shadowrun has been around for decades, and the setting and overall aesthetic is cool. The Beginner Box does an admirable job of trying to make the game accessible to new players, but I feel like trying to find veteran players to learn from could make a bigger difference.

Tabletop Editor | [email protected]

Jeremy is a freelance writer covering multiple subjects from board games to sports to barbecue. He lives outside of Charlotte, North Carolina with his wife and their three kids. They love to play boards game together, ranging from Qwixx and Azul and Splendor to Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle Earth.

80

Great

Shadowrun: Sixth World Beginner Box

Review Guidelines

At the end of the day, the Shadowrun: Sixth World Beginner Box is a quality option for those interested in learning more. However, due to the complexity and depth of the game system, I still felt overwhelmed trying to run the sample mission as a first-time player. I'd recommend picking up the Box if you can find a veteran Shadowrun player or game master to help you learn the ins and outs of the mechanics. Otherwise, you might be better off looking for an RPG with a less-steep learning curve.

Jeremy Pike

Unless otherwise stated, the product in this article was provided for review purposes.

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