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Shadowrun: Duels
by yo go re

It's a shame that WizKids' Shadowrun: Duels game didn't catch on more than it did. The figures are detailed and the game is fun, but for some reason it just didn't click.

Set in a futuristic world where magic and technology co-exist, Duels is a spin-off from the regular Shadowrun RPG. Discarding some elements - like the need for a dungeon master or a continuing story - and adding others (a way to win), Shadowrun: Duels shares a sense of style with the old game without stepping on its toes or replacing it.

Series 1 was easy enough to find, but until Poe hooked me up, I didn't even realize that Series 2 had shipped. My first figure from the series is the self-proclaimed Navajo shaman Natokah.

Natokah arrived in Seattle a year ago and quickly blended into shadowrunner society. A quiet, thoughtful shaman, he has provided magical backup for a number of other runners and is always available for runs against corporations and other polluters. His spell lore is solid, his abilities sound and his rates reasonable. Deeply spiritual, he does not push his beliefs on others, seeking instead to lead by example. He does not care for flash or excess, treating spirits with caution and respect. He regards them as more than tools and less than friends.

The Shadowrun: Duels figures are all sculpted well by the guys over at Plan-B. Natokah is wearing buckskins and wool, two textures you don't get to see too often in action figures. The figure has lots of great little details all over: he's got a removable scarf and a pair of goggles, but his most obvious feature is the eagle-feather headdress. The barbs in each vane stand out well, as does the fringe on his clothes and the bones on his breastplate.

Unlike some toys, where a sculpt this good means a fear of articulation, Natokah is plenty mobile. He moves at the neck, shoulders, elbows, wrists, waist, hips and ankles.

Shadowrun figures' accessories play an important part in the game: called "gear," these items have a unique point value and give the player specific dice for as long as they are in play. Natokah's gear includes mundane items like binoculars and a crossbow, as well as more ceremonial pieces like a koo stick, a bird spirit familiar and... a big pile of rocks.

Okay, so the rocks are actually Natokah's "Shape Earth" spell, which ups his defense powers. The bird spirit has the look of a carved wooden totem, and includes a black plastic stand to hold it aloft. Originally, a koo (or coup) stick was used by a warrior to touch his enemy without killing him - a sign of the warrior's bravery. In addition to the accessories, Natokah comes with two extra hands that have pegs in the palms to help him hold his gear.

In terms of the game, Natokah is a good distance fighter: he's got a monstrous 16" range for his magic attacks, and his crossbow isn't too shabby, either. If you do have to get in close, the Shape Earth spell absorbs attacks.

The Shadowrun: Duels game is easy to learn and fun to play, so it's kind of sad to see it fail. Still, the guys at Plan-B did a great job making the toys, creating pieces worth owning even if you're not going to play the game behind them.

-- 11/27/04

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