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by yo go re

The main problem with the otherwise-great Stikfas has always been the pricetag. For $9 or $10, you get a plain little body, a slew of accessories and enough stickers to customize the look and feel of your new toy, but it still feels pricey. How is it then, that a Stikfas-style toy that comes with less stuff can feel like a better value?

The generic Stikfas body has constantly been evolving into new and varied forms, but none of the changes have really been very substantial - the bodies were the same scale and proportion. Now the Razorclaw idea of fully interchangeable figure construction kits have been adapted into the new game Xevoz.

Never corner a Razorclaw. Trained and designed specifically to serve as night guards for the Meta-Beast village, they are keenly intelligent, with an almost uncanny ability to sense their enemies in the dark. Their rtractable claws easily slash through armor and allow them to quickly scale trees. They are fierce fighters, skilled stalkers and exceptional hunters, but like all cats they are at a serious disadvantage in water. They also have a tendency to go a little berserk in battle. Razorclaws also have a serious personal issue with poachers and big game hunters.

Like Shadowrun: Duels, Xevoz is a game based around action figures. The rules are simple: both players build their figure as they see fit - bodyparts, armor and weapons in whatever combination they like. The only limitation is that both players must have the same number of pieces on their combatants; every little segment counts, so choose wisely.

(Actually, it doesn't matter how or what you choose. None of the pieces are special: blasting off your opponent's arm is no different than making him lose a shoe; decapitating him has the same effect as if he dropped his backpack. Numbers are what matters, which is one of the game's weaknesses.)

The Xevoz, unlike the Stikfas released so far, do not come molded on a plastic tree - the pieces are all loose - and have their own paint apps and colors on their bodies, so Razorclaw gets a few gray highlights in his fur. He moves at the neck, shoulders, elbows, wrists, waist, hips, knees, ankles and tail - balljoints all.

Yes, tail: as a giant cat, you can choose whether or not he should be a manx. Razorclaw comes with three different sets of hands (one spread open to slash with his claws, one to hold items and one silly pair wearing boxing gloves) and two heads. One of the heads features a moveable jaw, which adds another balljoint. The armor pieces all attach with large square plugs, very sturdy.

Once your figure is built, you assemble the "Battle Helix" - the large die that you roll to determine damage. Triangular bars represent the effects of the different pieces you're carrying and different styles of attacking: on one side is an image of the piece represented; on the other two sides are black and white segments that show the attack power and what effect a winning roll will have. Six of these power glyphs fit into the colored endcaps, allowing you to put your dice together however you like.

The attacking player calls either black or white, and both players roll. They compare numbers on that end of the dice, and the higher number wins. Symbols show what action should be taken, whether it's removing pieces from your enemy, healing yourself or rolling again. A player loses when he has no more pieces left of his figure, which means that you could theoretically win with just a hand or a head still on the table.

The Xevoz are in a larger scale than their Stikfas cousins: while they're interchangeable among themselves, you can't bring in Stikfas parts to beef up your figure; that's a bit disappointing right now, since there are so far only six figures to choose from, but could easily improve with future releases.

Razorclaw stands 5" tall, which has him towering over the Stikfas people, but leaves him just a little bit shorter than the Xevoz humans. His armor has an Aztec look to it, which is pretty cool. He gears up with a chest plate, shoulder armor, forearm guard, loincloth and one big piece for his thigh. The armor is molded in a slightly golden yellow and has purple highlights. By way of offensive equipment, Razorclaw has a large axe, a sword, some sort of clawed weapon and something that might be brass knuckles.

Like the Stikfas before them, the Xevoz come with a sheet of stickers to customize your figure. A chart in the instruction booklet shows you what goes where, but there's still plenty of opportunity to make your own decisions. More than one sticker design can fit on each part - you can turn Razorclaw into a tiger or a jaguar, for instance - and there are some stickers that are generic enough to fit anywhere.

Xevoz is a fun game, easy to learn and quick to play. Just a little cheaper than a basic Stikfas, the Xevoz figures seem to offer a bit more value, despite being a bit less modular. As one of the "monster" figures, Razorclaw integrates well with your Stikfas army, and he looks good on two legs or four. Once some more Xevoz reach shelves and you can really start to mix and match the pieces, the game will only get better. The rules of the game are simple enough that you could easily draft your favorite Stikfas creation into battle, as well.

These toys appeared out of nowhere this past Christmas - there was no advance notice, no promotion, just a new line on the pegs at Toys Я Us. But Xevoz are tons of fun, and have a lot of potential.

-- 01/06/04

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