Cy_Borg: Review

Hip gamers will know that Mork Borg is the indie darling of the last few years (See Mothman’s thoughts here). It has spawned endless variants, settings, and add on rules. They even put out their own game license, and essentially let anyone remix and add to it. There’s a lot of stuff you can use to run your own game in the spirit of MB, but different (Pirate Borg for example), and a lot of its neat. Cy_Borg was released by Free League, the original publishers of MB, which adds a level of official-ness to it letting it bubble to the top of the MB stuff to check out bin I’ve got growing. There’s no real way to talk Cy_Borg without talking about Mork Borg, and so I’ll probably be doing a lot of comparisons.

I’ve had my eye on Cy_Borg for a while, since I’m a big Mork Borg fan, and a big fan of Cyberpunk in general. Lots, or maybe even most, cyberpunk systems go rules heavy, and I’m normally a rules heavy kind of guy. So, at first, I was a little cautious, but figured at the end of the day, I’d have another pretty coffee table book, at worst. Afterall, you’ll be hard pressed to find folks who complain about the artistic styling of MB, and after sitting down and going through it, Cy_Borg is visually at least on the same page.

Mechanically, Cy is still super lightweight and quick to play, but I noticed a couple of key differences. Whereas I wouldn’t run MB as anything but a one off, Cy seems to hold up to long form play a little better. Characters get a couple more hit points, there seem to be a few less auto-death or debilitating features. The NPCs and settings also feel a lot more dynamic. One big example of where Cy lends itself to longer form games, is the Miserable Headlines. In MB, you’ve got Miseries. After each (interval) the DM rolls on a chart to see if a prophecy occurs. If it does, a big world changing thing happens, after the 7th one, the world ends. It kind of puts a cap on how long your game could even go, if I weren’t just running one shots with it. This also reduces replayability for players who have done a MB campaign before “Oh its the 4th prophecy, the one where flaming rocks fall? Cool got it”. In Cy, you get Miserable Headlines. Same concept, but now, each of the potential 6 headlines has 6 potential variations (36). Further, the 7th prophecy is pretty trippy, and I’m a fan. I won’t say more because it’s a really good twist if/when it’s reached. Even for folks who don’t mind spoilers, go google it elsewhere. I’d love to be in a game where the DM dropped that one on players who didn’t know. When combined with the 6 variables we just saw, you can get a lot more length out of the game, in spite of its simple rules.

The setting for Cy is defined at the level I usually want, if I’m running a game in an established world. Very light touches, implications, and themes more than stat sheets telling me about the lore behind how Royal West got into shipping. Just tell me there’s a megacorp called Royal West, they are involved with logistics, and then throw a couple hooks at me about how their board might actually be a rogue AI, and tghey just recently expanded into the personal transportation industry. I’m an improv-heavy DM and giving me points to riff off is much better than asking me to memorize some encyclopedia. Especially when your setting is mediocre at best. Cy_Borg’s book is 134 pages, plus an adventure at the end. Realistically, I could probably get the mechanics down to 4-5 pages. That leaves the rest of the book for setting and lore, and with the imply not tell method, you get a lot of lore here.

One of the ways they build lore for Cy is through the use of random tables. You can roll on them one time and get a result, which is obvious. But, by reading the tables, rolling, deciding against, and rerolling, the book begins painting a picture of the sorts of things that exist in the world, even if you don’t use exactly what you rolled. Even the foe entries give that sort of indirect world building that helps sell the story. The generic SecOp, low level foe comes with a line telling you what a bribe runs. From a world building perspective, we learn a lot. Not only can they be bribed, the game expects and encourages you to try it. We now know in the Cy world, folks are handing out bribes to the cops as their go to solution. Well, if the cops are that corrupt (hard to imagine I know), what other areas of their job are they shirking? Do they actually fill out paperwork? Are they upstanding people outside of uniform? If private cops are the primary tool of the corps, and a low-level private cop is corrupt, what about their bosses? Are the corps also bad guys?

Lastly, I love the random quest generator. There is a 9 table long random quest generator, and it consistently puts out some really solid stuff. If nothing else, I’m going to directly use this for Shadowrun, Cyberpunk, and whatever other cyberpunk RPG I happen to be running. It’s awesome. Two samples for you.

  1. The PCs are contacted by a bodega owner acting on behalf of a renown hacker who promises them an in with a high-paying client if they escort a military officer. The officer can be found in a night club somewhere in the Arcs protected by a well-trained secop team. – So, our plot is a renowned hacker is using a local shop keep to maintain anonymity. They want a military officer escorted out of a nightclub in “the rich neighborhood”. The officer is watched by a well-trained team of cops, but if they can get him to the hacker, they have an in with a big client. Oh, and once they complete the job, another team of punks tries to hunt them down. This is about all I need to run any campaign, and the twist at the end pushes that multi-episode arc concept as opposed to one shots.
  2. The PCs are contacted by a mobster acting on behalf of a someone a PC owes money who promises them a vehicle if they steal a server from a corpo office in the Edges but is protected by a stealth-suit psychopath. – Ok, this one starts pretty generic. Crime boss wants the PCs to go steal a server and they have to do it as a favor to the guy they owe money. But the catch here is, the stealth-suit psycho, who I would say is guarding it, but has decided to use it as a lure to draw out specific targets related to the guy who they owe money (off the top of my head). The psycho should be an elite level threat, and play out like a slasher movie. To make matters worse the job has to be completed tonight.

We have 8 d20 tables to generate these, and many of the tables have an either-or option. So you can get a lot more than the 160 combos that an 8*20 table implies. And each output is plenty for a campaign seed to run an adventure off. You’ll have to improv some of the details, floor plans, names, etc, but you should be good to go.

Overall, I think I actually ended up liking Cy_Borg more than its predecessor Mork Borg. You can still do the one off where you and some friends break out the book, roll some PCs, roll an adventure, and dive into a game in a single 3-4 hour session, but the expanded world and small mechanical tweaks also open it up for longer form games, or just for me to get invested in the big picture lore a lot more. If you’re looking for an OSR style game, that isn’t set in a fantasy world, I highly recommend checking out Cy_Borg.

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