Originally printed at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2014/01/30/tabletop-review-numenera-creature-deck/
The Numenera Creature Deck consists of 100 foes, monsters and potential antagonists from the Numenera Core Rulebook and The Ninth World Bestiary. I’ve already reviewed the core rulebook and my review of the Bestiary will be coming shortly. For this review, we’re just focusing on the cards themselves as a resource rather that specific mechanics and the quality of the creatures. The latter with be in The Ninth World Bestiary review.
The Numenera Creature Deck consists of 100 various creatures that are commonly found throughout the Ninth World. Each card contains all the relevant information about the creature in question and can be used for a full encounter by the GM. Whether you’re using the deck as way to decide random encounters in your adventure, or it’s merely an smaller and/or cheaper alternative to The Ninth World Bestiary, you can get a lot of use out of these cards. The artwork is as weird as it is fantastic and I was impressed by the sheer amount of information that the dev team was able to cram onto each card. While a creature’s card isn’t as in-depth as their entry in either the Core Rulebook or the Bestiary, you have all the stats and mechanics needed to run one of these creatures in your game. About the only things missing are some of the GM Intrusion ideas and some background notes to help you play them. Each card does have a little corresponding icon in the lower right hand corner on the side with the stats. This icon gives you the page number where you can find the full entry of a creature in a book. If the blotch is colored blue, it is in The Ninth World Bestiary and if it is orange, it is in the Core Rulebook. So for example, the Blizter can be found on page 25 of the Bestiary. This is a really simple and easy to understand way of looking up more information on the creature in question if needed.
The art for the Numenera Creature Deck is the same art that you’ll find in both of the rulebooks that contains these creatures. There wasn’t any art made specifically for the deck, but that doesn’t make the art any less enjoyable. The pictures showcase just how alien the Ninth World is to our own, as well as how creative and outside the box a lot of the life forms are in Numenera. Plus, unlike the book versions of these creatures, the cards have the art on one side and the stats on the other, so you can use the art side as a handout without giving away any stats, powers or other GM-only information. The handout option alone might make the cards worth purchasing if you have a hard time describing the bizarre nature of life forms in this game setting.
So the cards are awesome. That’s pretty obvious. The question is – which version do you pick up if you’re a big Numenera fan? Well, my advice would be to go for the physical copy rather than the PDF/print and play version. Sure the physical copy is more than twice as much, but you’ll experience less of a headache and get a guaranteed level of quality with the professional printed cards. You can also start using them immediately instead of spending copious amounts of time on just making the cards. If you’re not used to print and play products (like the fine releases by Fat Dragon Games, for example) trying to get things right may be frustrating and the materials needed (a laminator, double sided printer, ink, utility knife, straight edge (not C.M. Punk), card stock, and more) will actually cost you more in the long run, especially if you have no plans for any other print and play items. However, for those of you who are already print and play veterans, you already have the materials and know-how, so there’s no reason not to save a bit of cash. It is worth noting that, at the time of this review, DriveThruRPG.com is having a special where you can get both versions (Print and Play and Physical) for only $19.99, a savings of roughly eight bucks. That’s a pretty good deal, especially when you remember that’s both for the price of the physical version.
So I’m extremely happy with the Numenera Creature Deck. Do you need it AND The Ninth World Bestiary? Well, it depends on the type of gamer you are. The cards give you all the vital stats, but none of the background or depth. If you want to just go hack and slash with your Numenera experience, the cards are a fine option. If you want to give the creatures a little personality, you’ll probably need both. It’s worth it though as the Bestiary is the equivalent of a game’s Monstrous Compendium and the cards are handy multi-faceted supplement. If you are looking at purchasing one of the Numenera decks, I’d definitely recommend this over the XP and/or Cypher decks. As I’ve said, these can be anything from a handout, a lighter weight option to carrying the Bestiary around, or even a way to speed up combat time as you’ll have all the creature stats on one tiny card instead of constantly flipping through your Core Rulebook for mechanics and rules questions and then back to the monster. At the very least, any Numenera fan is going to want to pick this up in addition to or instead of The Ninth World Bestiary, as it is a wonderful resource and highlights the strange imaginative land that Numenera offers its audience.