Weird type events for World War II? Yes please. Unlike Deadlands I think this pulls it off. That is not an indictment of Deadlands either. I like the concept surrounding Deadlands and some have even said "finally one can role-play in the Old West" I disagree, but that's another topic entirely. The topic at hand is the Weird War II source book from Pinnacle Games for their Savage Worlds rules.
Weird War II is a sourcebook for using the Savage World rules system from Pinnacle games for a twist on Word War II. Like Deadlands there is dark elements afoot and Europe is in deeper trouble then just Nazi Germany or Imperial Japan. Weird War as a genre has been around for quite some time but I think that this book really captures in well for the first time in an RPG.
I'm not delving into the Savage World rules here per say as if you are reading this you probably already know how the system works. Instead I'm going to focus on the book itself as source material.
Released in 2009, overall Pinnacle did a good job of capturing the feel of the genre and the character creation really shines from the perspective of each of the main nationality identities. Each of the main nationalities has an advantage that is typical to soldiers from the corresponding countries. While one could play the Axis side I think the best way to handle a team is the Allies, not only are the rules set up this way but the mixed nature of the Allies means there is a great deal of latitude to use military and civilians packages. I think female players can draw great inspiration from the illustration on page 12It's a great way to get the ladies into action. Who wants to play a WAC when you could be a French Mademoiselle with a penchant for explosives blowing stuff up! In any event the game concept of the Office of Special Investigations really does away with the worry of women in combat anyways. basically if one can handle the horrors of Weird War you're in regardless of gender. In a way it also harkens to the Twilight 2000 rule set where units can be very ad-hoc in nature.
As a quick aside the equipment levels feels just about right for the game.
Additionally the rules add the right amount of new skills and edges to round out the game. I also really like the mission generator as it will really get the game moving. If the Warmaster is having a hard time coming up with something all he has to do is flip through there, role some dice and he has the party moving forward with something in play. Another factor that can help is the Warmaster can always "pull rank" on the players by having a superior officer issue them orders. In way this is awesome for the GM as he is usually at the whim of the players wandering around complaining about "railroads" after said GM has prepared options A, B and C. Invariably the players ignore everything and try for option Z only to then complain "there is nothing to do."
The material here is quite scalable to, going from personal arms all the way up to fighters and bombers and ships from the various navies! Rules for fortifications, battlefield rules, artillery, dsease, parachuting, you name it. In short you can easily play out almost every aspect (and then some) with the rules and the Savage Rules Explorer edition.
Large sections of the book also hone in on the Weird War aspects of the game (this really gets rolling in Chapter Five). The rules also add monsters as well as spell casting (particularly Nazi blood magic) and Soviet Psychic rules. While the natural tendency might be to focus on the ETO (European Theater of Operations) the campaign in the Pacific could be equally as exciting. With the vastness of the Pacific Ocean there could be a multitude of chances to encounter many weird aspects to the game all in sweltering heat.
The last chapter deals with the Axis powers and the Warmaster will be using it often as well as the monsters that are introduced into the game. Some notables are the Axis Stitch (soldiers sewn together from multiple bodies), zombies (the mustard gas ones are particularly nasty) and wehr wolves.
In terms of graphic design and art presentation I give it high marks. Even with some of the art being recycled from the previous incarnation of the rules its still good and uniformly excellent through capturing the feel quite well. Both the front and back covers deserve praise as does my personal favorite of the book, the picture of the Axis Stitch on page 163.
One negative I have for it being a hardbound book the gluing is flimsy. My copy is already separating from the spine and I haven't opened it a ton. Perhaps I'm a bit it old school there and feel the bindings should be better.
If I were to run this with my group I'd probably rely a lot on the imagery from Return to Castle Wolfenstein as well. I think there is natural overlap (and for all I know perhaps the chaps at Pinnacle were inspired by the game). I think if handled right by the referee that weird happenings in WWII could be a fun an exciting jaunt away from the traditional sword and sorcery realm of AD&D.
Another point is that the previous edition was d20 based. But if you are anything like me you can make almost anything work so you'll have resources to pull from. As I get older I still am not a huge fan of the d20 style of gaming, but it does offer up a lot of material to adapt to ones game. The thing to keep in mind however is there is not much in the way of modules for Weird War so you'll be doing a fair bit of writing. I don't see this as a major problem when one considers Word War II was very well documented.
Another tactic to take soul be to use the Savage world rules along with the Weird War supplement and meld it into an alternative Earth. Or take it and combine it with the ideas presented in the RPG magazine the Familiar. In particular was the article in Issue #9 from 1996. The article entitles "Marxists and Magic" details the world of Zoor and the impact of Nazi science opening portals to the world of Zoor which is akin to more traditional RPG fare. The US and the allies follow and the Cold War comes to another dimension and or world. In any event the rules for Weird War II can be used in a multitude of ways.
In closing I give it 4.5 out of 5 stars.