I find it very difficult to write a preview on Brancalonia. I loved the idea of this setting before I even knew a single detail. I am so excited that I don’t think I will be objective. In some ways this is already a merit of the product. Interest and hype are a powerful fuel that helps a player to bind to a game and to facilitate its learning, identification and proficiency.
Brancalonia is having excellent feedback, but for those who still do not know what it is about, there is our presentation article and the interview with the creative director. In a few lines, it is a setting for D&D5e that describes a fantastic, scoundrelly and comical world that is an “upside down” map of Italy. There is a mix of contributions: from contemporary Italian literacy to references to the fantasy tradition and the Italian pop culture and folklore.
Who starts well is halfway through the work!
Shortly after the announcement of the project, a quickstart was immediately released, the foundation of this preview of mine. In anticipation of a Kickstarter campaign it is essential that a valid business card like the quickstart strikes and creates interest. Or, in my case, creates huge expectation, increases my salivation alternating with dryness of the jaw for extreme dropping.
Seriously, the quality shown so far is truly top notch. The 44 pages of the PDF provide an overview of the game, a description of the “Regno di Taglia” ( translatable as “Kingdom of Bounty”), focus on some original aspects such as the rules for the brawls in the tavern or the gambling games, among which “Le Minchiate” ( translatable as “The pricks game”) stands out. It is concluded by an introductory adventure, “The treasure of the Bigatto”. But let’s analyze everything in detail.
Art and layout of Brancalonia
Best quality. Classic two-column layout with text boxes, all very clear, masterful choice of fonts and text colors. The images are stylistically very appropriate for the setting and very evocative, as the map.
From a visual point of view, Brancalonia is exactly as I expected and it fully meets my expectations.
Writing: a delicious mix of styles
In addition to the graphic and creative commitment, there is a greater effort in this product, given by the search for a very specific writing style, which has a truly important impact on the performance of the game.
First of all, the text is very well written. In a nice, fluent way with many funny comical phrases, which incredibly help to step into the shoes of the gallows pendants that you will interpret, both as players and as masters. In addition, the names, the quotes, the details, in this work make all the difference in the world.
Braccio da Caprone (translatable as “Arm as Goat”), Fracasso da Trivelle ( translatable as “Uproar from Drills”), Buemondo il Grosso da Aurocastro ( translatable as “Oxworld the Fat from Goldcastle”), talking about characters. Or regions like Penumbria ( translatable as “Dimlight”, joking about the real Italian region of Umbria), or Turin, quoted in Tauringa and plagued by the Hunchbacked people (Hunchbacks is the satirical nickname given to Turin Juventus soccer fans). Each name opens a smile, each sound brings you closer to feeling truly in an atmosphere halfway between the Armata Brancaleone movie and the novels of Italo Calvino.
Of course, any translation into other languages will never match the level of the Italian original and the final product will certainly be deprived of one of the fundamental ingredients of the recipe.
The kingdom of Taglia
Italy is a splendid country, rich in art and traditions, as well as extremely colorful. Its Renaissance fragmentation in many states was the basis of its original heterogeneity, many places and many unique regions. This is also the case with its upside-down counterpart, “The Kindgom”, the inverted boot, which has become “The Kingdom of Bounty” because of all the gallows that have a size on their heads and that live on chores more or less legal.
The quickstart only mentions the various areas of the kingdom, dedicating a paragraph to each. There is creativity, there is humor, there are references, each region makes me want to set a campaign in it!
In this period before the launch of the Kickstarter campaign, the authors proved to be very attentive to the suggestions, recommendations and ideas of the group of followers that was created. They did it with humility and passion in collecting all the numerous ideas provided. I hope the manual therefore will truly be a rich longitudinal collection of Italian folklore.
The unique rules of Brancalonia
Some of the specific rules for Brancalonia are then described. Some games of chance, the almost constant presence of poor equipment on the characters, dealing with slightly pointed swords or armor full of holes. The tougher alternative of the rests, which makes recovery much slower.
But the rules for tavern fights dominate the scene. You don’t kill, you kick some asses. And the innkeeper lightens the pockets of all those who lose consciousness. There are moves to pour boiling soup on the opponents, to hit them by throwing them a bench, to get in the way by making their pants fall. All with great simplicity and immediacy. Fun is guaranteed!
The Treasure of the Bigatto
The introductory adventure can have a lot of weight. It is used to try the game, or to get inspired to start a campaign, but in any case the more a setting is particular the more important is a good introductory adventure. I had already talked about it in the preview of The Elephant and Macaw Banner.
I mastered it a few hours before writing this article. It is a simple treasure hunt with competition. End. Trivial? No! This is the point. If we go to the bone the short adventures on which the quickstart are based are often very similar, we cannot afford great originality or little linear textures. But “The treasure of the Bigatto” has the merit of being well written, and of presenting the strong points of the setting and the new rules.
Even the pre-generated characters, in their peculiar features, already show abilities and powers absolutely to try: the move “Alla pugna!” (translatable as “To battle!”) or the “Via della Divina Cinquina” (translatable as “The Way of the Divine Slap”) for the monk, for example.
Is Brancalonia a must?
Ok, I admit it, it was clear from the beginning where I would go to conclude. I really like this setting. Is it to be taken? In my opinion, yes, with my eyes closed. And I won’t tell you why I earn something, but because on the first day of the campaign I will be there to choose the pledge with the best “quantity of ignorance / price” ratio.
Analyzing Brancalonia as a whole, we have a game with a simple and famous system. So far, the new rules inserted fit in perfectly. Therefore it will be very easy to find players and quickly explain the particularities. The setting is full of ideas and contents, pleasant to dive in and very fun. The graphic quality is absolutely up to par and I find that in terms of style and writing skills there are few equals.
Also the price won’t be a bad surprise, nowadays the cost for quality manuals are not so high. The difference will be made by the eventual success of the Kickstarter campaign, because with a good financing the stretch goals will really make the offer even more unmissable.