I like crunchy things. When I have a sandwich at lunch time, I like to have a packet of crisps with it (that’s chips if you’re in the US of A) and eat it with my sandwich because it adds a touch of saltiness and a lot of crunch. What can I say, I am a crunchy kind of man. But it has to be the right kind of crunch. For example, the crunch from pork crackling or cheese and onion nachos (I don’t like cheese and onion) wouldn’t be right. Also it has to come in the right dose. I don’t to have to have a huge slab or crunchiness, I want bite sizes.
This product is to D&D 4E what a packet of crisps is to my sandwich. It adds that extra bit of crunch.
The problem some people may have, though, is that 4E is already quite crunchy and this product might prove to be a bit too much for their deeply stuck in the game teeth.
Enhanced 4E is a collection of extra rules that have been designed to work specifically with D&D 4th Edition. They take concepts already present in the rules and take them further to create a more realistic experience. Or at least bring it a bit closer to reality.
The advantage of that is that it makes the game a bit more believable. It can sort out a lot of arguments and, generally, make things clearer. The disadvantage is that it adds complexity to an already complex system.
No, 4th Ed might be easy to understand, but it’s complex. More than some and less than others, but complex nonetheless.
The presentation of the book is the standard of officially published D&D books by Wizards of the Coast. I will say from the start that I haven’t seen the physical version of this book and I am writing this review based solely on the PDF, which, although is unlike me, I thought I’d make an exception.
The physical book can be obtained through Lulu. I haven’t had any particular issues with Lulu’s books in the past, but I haven’t blown away by them either. I know people who are super happy with books from Lulu and people who are disappointed. I’m afraid you’ll have to buy this book to find out what group you fit in.
The layout is the typical two columns. There is nothing special about it and it is fairly easy to read for a rules book. Caution, don’t read the whole thing in one go… more on that later.
There were some things I really liked about the design and some that made me feel “meh!” about it. The “meh!” bits were when I saw the text inside some text boxes touching the edges. Sorry guys, padding. You need padding. I don’t care if WOTC started the trend of making the text touch the sides of the text boxes. It looks sloppy and it should not happen. There were other minor details, but they are more about having missed a chance to improve rather than having done things wrong, so I won’t go into them in this review.
The illustrations are excellent, I have to say. The book is well stocked of both illustration for purely decorative and ones to showcase the execution of the new rules. Both are pretty stunning. The decorative illustrations are either photographs of game sets. The sets, mostly made out of paper cut buildings and ornaments are terrific. Whoever has put them together has spent a long time cutting, pasting, assembling and generally taking good care of it. The photos have been well taken and treated in some software to make them look consistent throughout. Something a lot of companies with a lot more experience should take good note of. The pencil drawings that dot the book here and there were also really good. Some of the 3d renderings of creatures brought back that feeling of “meh!”, but there aren’t that many, so don’t worry about those.
The editing, although is not bad, could do with some TLC. There is a huge amount of word repetition and, although I can understand this is rather unavoidable, like the use of the word “square”, a watchful and careful editorial eye could have gone a long way to make it better.
The content is, simply put, superb.
The book is separated in 7 chapters, each chapter covering a different area of the ruleset. The first chapter introduces paces instead of, or rather as well as, squares. Yes, now you can measure distances in steps in stead of squares for more precision. Good thing? You’ll know exactly how far your spell or your arrow gets. It will add to the arithmetic and measurements.
Chapter two deals with motion states. This was my favourite chapter. It delves into what happens if you finish an action in a move state, or in a static state. Now this might sound like something you don’t need, but when you read what the consequences and how to use the in-motion state to your advantage, it’s actually pretty sweet.
Actions get attention in the third chapter with the introduction of off-turn actions (amongst other thing). The aim of this chapter is to add rules that allow players to actually do things while it’s not their turn. This can help the problem some groups experience when there is a combat in which only one player acts and it can take a while until you get to act again.
Chapter four expands on chapter two with special in-motion movement. I won’t go into detail on this one, but I’ll mention two things: Spring and Vehicle Movement. I will only say that I’ll be using both in my games from now on. Yes, they are *that* good.
Chapter 5 is all about counter offences and defensive actions. Again more rules are added for concealment, riposte, a new way to look at health points and healing surges to make combat quicker… For my money this was the weakest chapter. Don’t get me wrong, it is full of great ideas and they make sense, but, whereas the other rules jumped at me and some of them really made me excited to play 4E next Wednesday, this one left me lukewarm.
Chapter 6 deals with terrain. The rules in here were terrific. They really add some depth to the way can use obstacles, ledges, asses fall and how it can affect combat. Some of the rules are truly excellent!
The last chapter is basically a collection of pieces of advice to help run the game with the new rules. However they also apply to the game without these rules.
In a nutshell, this book takes 4th Edition D&D closer to a wargame. This is not a bad thing, though.
The way the book has been designed allows you to implement the rules as you learn them. If you like something, great. If you don’t like something, great too. You don’t have to use it and it will not affect the outcome of the other rules. Being able to implement them at your own pace maximises its usefulness. Vastly.
I didn’t want to like this book when I first started to read it, I will be very honest. I thought it was going to be yet another supplement from people who think they know better and want to turn 4th Ed. into the game they thought should have been in the first place, and then make a hash of it.
Well, they are the type of people who think they can make the game better, but they actually do a pretty good job out of it. So I had to like this book. Gladly.
It has to be said that it is not for everyone. If you don’t like crunch in your game, ignore this book. If you want more depth and enough information to turn your D&D evening into a squirmish sort of game, hurry up and get this book.
Overall I think some the rules will truly enhance the game if you think you can execute them quickly enough. If you’re quick at arithmetic and measurements, the paces will fit you very well. If you are like me, with little arithmetic ability, ignore. And so on and so forth.
The level of thinking and detail in the rules is truly smashing, though, and credit has to be given to the designers for really picking on the details that can seriously improve the ruleset.
Totally happy to give 4 stars to this book and give it a hearty recommendation.
Enhanced 4E: Combat in Motion is available from: