The Rookies Guide to Block Wars. By Matthew Sprange. 24 pages. Mongoose Publishing. £4.99. ISBN 1-903980-37-2
Reviewed by Marc Farrimond

The latest source book for Mongooses excellent Judge Dredd Roleplaying Game is now out, with the company already equalling in less than three months the total releases that Games Workshop brought out for the game in over 5 years! The latest sourcebook is The Rookies Guide to Block Wars, a book that provides the GM with every asset they will need to create their own city blocks, populate them and then destroy them in huge running battles.

From the talented hands of Matthew Sprange we are given a detailed supplement that not only covers building your own city blocks, but also how and why block wars begin, methods used to control them, and even a section on the biggest block wars ever held in Mega City; Block Mania. This is an invaluable book for any GM who is serious about running campaigns set in the Big Meg, and more than manages to capture the feel of isolation and claustrophobia in one of the most over crowed areas on Earth.

Starting off simply with a rumble between rival gangs, things can often get out of hand extremely quickly and soon a rumble will escalate into a riot and then if not kept in check a full blown block war will ensue, and it is not unknown for sector wars to break out, with one sector fighting against another. Causes can be simple such as boredom or a juve being in the wrong place at the wrong time, or very complex, such as why one block gains special attention due to its demographical placement over another. Either way block wars are big trouble for the Justice Department and they try hard to stamp down on them before they get out of hand.

The majority of The Rookies Guide to Block Wars is devoted to running your own large scale combat encounters, building up the city blocks themselves and dealing with the fact that you may have hundreds if not thousands or hundreds of thousands of citizens and judges involved in a block war.

Mass combat is never easy to get right in a roleplaying game, you can go one way and make it too simplistic and it loses all credibility or the other direction and make it complex and you run the risk of losing your reader and giving them a headache in the process. Here Matthew has sprung for something in the middle ground that is still simplistic in its approach and easy to read, but yet remains complex enough not to become passť for more experienced gamers.

Every aspect of mass combat seems to have been completely covered here, and the rules given allow you to run combats from as little as eight or so a side to hundreds of thousands of combatants. Characters can play a vital part in block wars, from goading on the citizens out for blood, and planning strategic attacks against primary targets, or mobilising Justice Department resources and directing them to the right areas where they can do most good. The chapter on using characters goes into great depth about what the players themselves can do to shape the course of a rumble or even block war, and how leadership affects those around in many ways.

There are also some new prestige classes for your players to get stuck into. The Justice Department gets an all new class, the Riot Squad Judge, these judges are on constant standby to react and attend riots all over a city the size of the eastern seaboard coast of America at a moments notice. Trained to take more than ten times their number on in equal footing, the Riot Squad gets the best anti personnel equipment and riot armour available.

Cit-Def characters now gain the option of becoming Jaeger Commandos, the elite units who know no fear and will lead their block into combat, but normally will use their skills at subterfuge and infiltration to bring down enemy blocks. But perhaps the best of the new classes is the Block Champion. Every block has its characters and every block has those who will take charge of a situation and everyone else looks up to. The Block Champion is one mean character who instils fear into those around him and uses bully tactics to gain prestige and respect from the citizens of their block.

With the addition of pre-generated gang leaders, extra weapons and equipment, this is one of the most packed Dredd products to date, with so much for the GM and player alike. Though not mentioned in the product itself, Mongoose have plans to release a full range of card-stock characters and vehicles that would make this perhaps THE product to get your hands on after the core rules. An excellently written and researched book that gives the topic of mass combat in roleplaying games a much needed breath of fresh air. Most highly recommended.

My many thanks go to Matthew Sprange and Alex Fennel of Mongoose Publishing for the sample.