I flipped through a copy at a game store once, but it didn't grab me the way I hoped it would.
A few of my thoughts (based on a quick read, no actual play):
(1) Much of the book seemed to focus on barony-level play, after you hit "name level," and my current group doesn't play that way. My high school group was all about building baronies and then fighting each other, and I feel like they would have liked it.
(2) If I remember correctly, the combat system was based on THAC0 (which is my least favorite part of the AS&D/2E era).
(3) The big attraction to me at the time was (I think) that there was a claim that this game was supposed to emulate a certain style of play. I was thinking it was Arneson's but my memory on the thing a decade later is sort of dim. I do remember at the time not seeing what I had expected to be seeing.
This probably isn't very helpful.
Marv / Finarvyn DCC playtester (2011) S&W WhiteBox author (2009) C&C playtester (2003) Builder of the TrollBridge for T&T; Amber Diceless player since 1993 OD&D Player since 1975; Metamorphosis Alpha since 1976
"Don't ask me what you need to hit. Just roll the die and I will let you know!" - Dave Arneson
I'd heard good things about it and got a copy sometime ago. As far as DnD retro-clones go it is pretty middle of the road. Not bad, but nothing spectacular.
It encourages a style of play I'm not really interested in: players are working towards becoming lords and ladies in charge of a fiefdom. I prefer to focus on that period between 3rd and 9th levels where the characters have some capability, but aren't lords, barons, or demi-gods yet. And then retire from play around 10th level.
ACK does go through all the levels from a stumbling neophyte adventure to a mighty lord of a vast empire, however there isn't quite enough meat there for each of those stages that you can't get from any other off the shelf OSR game.
I don't mean to give a harsh review, it is fine for what it is. Perfectly average. 5 out of 10 stars.
As mentioned it focuses on that style of play that revolves around "name level" and having your own kingdom etc. I have zero interest in that aspect/type of play, but it seems well done if that is your thing.
I think there's a lot of focus on the kingdom-tier of play because all the rest is explained rather quickly. ACKS is closer to AD&D but has a (in my opinion) nice skill system*. It's clearly not made for the folks who want to quickly roll up a character and be going, because it's crunchier in its character options. Once you've chosen these Proficiences (also later at some levels), it's pretty much OSR. The Proficiencies either give a skill (bonus) or an entirely new ability.
I wasn't excited when I first got the ACKS PDF, but I really like it in combination with the Player's Companion as it adds a lot more class and proficiency options to the table which add to the "classic fantasy" setting.
We've played ACKS for a while and, personally, I'd like to play again. We've played from 1st to 6th level and it didn't feel any different to other games - we certainly did not feel pressed towards the kingdom-tier.
For more heroic play there's the Heroic Fantasy Handbook, but what's been more interesting for me was Barbarians Conquerors of Kanahu which shifts the game towards pulpy sword & planet style of play, which I enjoyed. We never played a campaign with that but we had lots of fun with some single quests.
I also have Domains at War, which is definitely aimed at the strategy players. It comes with counters, a map, and all the other stuff you need to fight big battles. It fits rather well with the ACKS roleplaying game rules, but as we never played in that top tier, I'm not really familiar with all the rules there. I've used it to run mass battles, but not often.
Edit: * The skill system is in a way which works with pretty much any other game: When you learn a skill, you have a basic success chance (like 17+), modified by race and class. So basically, skills are like saving throws here.
Last Edit: Mar 24, 2021 23:17:52 GMT -6 by hamurai
I participated in a year long campaign with ACKS and it was as many of others have mentioned, a middle of the road retroclone. We accelerated character advancement to give the domain rules a shot and it reminded me of similar play during the BECMI years. I'm not sure there was anything special or significantly different about the game to inspire me to run/play it again. In general I probably won't play/run many clones that are just that, a clone of original material. The original material has largely been made available and a system needs to bring something new to the table to usurp my interest