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Review of Critical Hit & Fumble Card Deck by Geek Corps Productions

Since the days of R.E. Howard’s famed Conan stories, fantasy combats have been messy affairs at best. In fantasy novels, comics, and movies, limbs get hewn off, blood flies everywhere, and monsters are incinerated, frozen, or otherwise disintegrated with a range of magical effects. Even in movie spoofs of the fantasy genre, like last year’s Your Highness, there was still plenty of gore and...

Since the days of R.E. Howard’s famed Conan stories, fantasy combats have been messy affairs at best. In fantasy novels, comics, and movies, limbs get hewn off, blood flies everywhere, and monsters are incinerated, frozen, or otherwise disintegrated with a range of magical effects. Even in movie spoofs of the fantasy genre, like last year’s Your Highness, there was still plenty of gore and body parts being lopped off and mangled… including the unfortunate “special parts” of an amorous minotaur.

But paper-and-pencil fantasy role-playing games tend to be much more prosaic about bloody mortal combats, with many relying on a hit point system which is not particularly evocative of brutal attacks or terrifying magic. Losing a huge amount of hit points to a dragon’s is unfortunate, to say the least, but it hardly calls to mind how savage an attack like that would actually be.

Recently, a company called Geek Corps Productions have produced a product to add brutality and mayhem back into fantasy combats. Designed with D&D and Pathfinder in mind, the Critical Hit & Fumble Card Deck offers a whole new level of carnage for your fantasy role-playing game, whenever that natural 20 or natural 1 comes up on the attack dice!

Critical Hit/Fumble Card Deck

  • Design: Chuck Alvarez & Tim Adams
  • Publisher: Geek Corps Productions
  • Year: 2012
  • Media: PDF (160 pages)
  • Retail Price: $5.99 (PDF from RPGNow.com or Full Deck available from The Game Crafter for $15.99)
Critical Hit & Fumble Card Deck is a deck of 60 cards usable with any fantasy role-playing game to depict the brutal effects of combat whenever a critical hit or fumble is rolled. There are 30 critical hit cards and 30 fumble cards available in the deck, with instructions and recommendations for their use in a game session. The deck can be purchased in PDF format, and has directions for printing and assembly, or it can be purchased as a stack of poker-sized playing cards, ready to be used right out of the box.

Production Quality

The production quality of the cards are quite good, with clear and concise writing of the effects of the critical hits and fumbles, and some nifty iconography to make them easy to read and understand. I cannot speak to the nature of the quality of the actual cardstock used, having only a PDF of the cards to review from, but I have investigated The Game Crafter website and it this company appears to use fairly decent materials for their print-on-demand products.
For gamers willing to print and assemble their own decks, the designers did a solid job with directions, and even include some recommendations to make the cards more sturdy so they last longer.

The artwork on the back of the cards is pretty nifty, and it is definitely easy to recognize a critical hit card and a fumble card just looking at their appearance. On the front of the cards, icons are provided to differentiate the text for the types of attacks causing the criticals and fumbles (see below), and the overall design works well to make a spiffy looking card.

The Critical Hit and Fumble Cards

As I mentioned before, the 60-card deck is really two 30-card decks: one for random critical hits, and one for random fumbles. Ostensibly, the decks would be shuffled and placed in a handy spot for all the gamers during a role-playing session of your favorite brand of D&D or Pathfinder, ready to be pulled from when a critical hit or fumble roll is thrown. Other fantasy role-playing games could also use the cards, but might require a bit of adaptation for the “crunch” bit of a crit or fumble.

The cards offer flavor text for all three types of attacks that can occur during a combat: melee, ranged, and magic. This applies to both the critical hits and fumbles cards, and the text is subtly different for each attack type, so a critical hit by magical effects is sufficiently different from a melee crit.
The cards also have entries for recommended “Damage”, which can range to normal critical to some that give bonus damage, or even a bit of “splash” damage to nearby foes. The cards also have an “Effect” entry to describe what the critical hit or fumble did to the foe, and how it might affect allies or others nearby with possible bonuses or penalties. A “Condition” entry uses the D&D 4E combat conditions, where appropriate to the type of card, and can be modified if using Pathfinder or an earlier edition of D&D, or some other game system.

As far as the cards themselves go, the writing is pretty imaginative, and quite often humorous, if not downright zany, despite describing maimings, mutilations, and maulings that can occur in a combat. Even the titles of the cards themselves are a bit tongue-in-cheek, with cards like “Hammer Time!”, “Did You Order Ribs?”, and “Can You Give Me a Hand”. And yes, in case you haven’t guessed it, the latter two cards represent critical hits which crush a foe’s ribcage by shattering bone, and lopping off a hand or paw of your enemy.

To illustrate the kind of ghoulish humor found on the cards, here’s an example of the text for a critical hit from a melee swing, ranged attack, and spell blast for a card called “Look A Candy Dispenser!”:
Melee: “Your attack is with precision. You hear the jaw crack as you slice through. You stifle a laugh as your target spins from the attack with their jaw flapping wildly.”
Ranged: “You shot flies through the air, goes through the targets mouth, and unhinges their jaw. The jaw flaps around as the target’s head spins from the attack with the body following.”
Spell: Your spell slams into your target’s face, dislocating the jaw. The jaw flaps as the target spins on their heels from the force.”
It should be noted that there are fumble cards with equally grisly results such as “All Out Of Piggies!” and “Doing the Van Gogh!” which causes a character to lose his fingers or lop off an ear, respectively, when they fumble an attack.
Sadly, it seems that the designers failed to realize that making critical hits and fumbles this powerful, and with having long term results such as lost limbs and other permanent injuries, would quickly transform a fantasy role-playing game from a heroic adventure into a particularly gruesome episode of House. I suppose that a DM could decide that only heroes get to use the Critical Hit cards, and only NPCs and monsters get to use the Fumble Cards, but this would tend to make combats a bit one-sided given the number of critical hits that can come up during a session of multiple combats. And the zany card-wording, coupled with the non-fantasy references in the card titles, has a tendency to take the heroes out of the “fantasy” setting and plunged back into the “mundane” world all too often.

Overall Score: 3.25 out of 5.0


While the Critical Hits & Fumble Card Deck might seek to fill a missing gap in heroic fantasy combats, it comes off as more appropriate for a game of Paranoia or Toon than for Dungeons & Dragons, of any edition. When critical hits and fumbles occur 5% of the time each for any attack roll, and that it takes dozens of rolls per encounter to complete a fight, the odds that heroes will be maimed beyond recognition by Level 5 is almost a dead certainty. The mad-cap writing on the cards, coupled with the non-fantasy references in the text does no service to a keeping a fantasy role-playing game on the tracks, and would most likely derail it into an Out of Character riff-fest that most DMs strive to avoid if they want to get anything done.

And while the price of the PDF cards is quite reasonable, they require assembly to use, which takes its toll in printing costs, ink, and assembly time. But the POD cards from The Game Crafter is a bit more than I think most gamers are willing to spend on a novelty accessory, particularly an accessory that is unnecessary to the way many role-players run their Fantasy RPGs.

So until next review… I wish you Happy Gaming!

Grade Card (Ratings 1 to 5)

  • Presentation: 4.0
  • - Design: 4 (Good presentation of the cards; easy to read and use)
  • - Illustrations: 4 (Nifty card backs and icons on the card front)
  • Content: 2.75
  • - Crunch: 2.5 (Mainly designed with 4E in mind; damage and effects weak for the injuries described)
  • - Fluff: 3.0 (Good writing on the cards, but often more spoof than heroic fantasy)
  • Value: 3.0 (Decent price for the PDF but requires assembly; pricey if you’re buying cards POD)
Author’s Note: This author received a complimentary advanced copy of this product for use in writing the review above.

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