Untold from Wandering Men Studios here. I have been working with these guys since the play-test of the system. Since then I have seen it coalesce into the game that the designers had envisioned.
What is Untold? Well the blurb at the web site states it as thus: designed to combine all the best elements of Role Playing Games (RPG's) and Collectible Card Games (CCG's) and toss the rest. Untold is a CBRPG (™): Card-Based Role Playing Game. It is exactly the same as any other RPG, but the primary physical "tools" of the game are different. Instead of rulebooks and character sheets, the only "tools" you need in Untold are cards!
So Untold is a role playing game similar to Dungeons and Dragons and GURPS, with a toe in the card based world of Magic: The Gathering without the blind collectability, but is wholly its own creature with its modular mechanic and card based rule set.
Untold uses cards for building a character deck within is found the skills and statistics to allow the player to create a hero is the Splintered Serenity campaign setting created by the Wandering Men. All skill resolution is determined with the use of a twenty sided die, which has become a staple in many game systems based on the “d20” model. The cards themselves provide rule information and statistical information for resolution.
This not a d20 variant system like True 20 or Pathfinder, but rather its own unique concept. Untold allows for a unique story telling element as well as character customization process. Untold allows for changing character statistics by creating a story to effect that change. For example, a hero needs to have a greater Body stat. (Body, Mind, and Soul are the three “stats” of a character called Aspects) The player might weave a story at the table that by divesting themselves of useless equipment they become quicker and more sure on their feet. The point based building system and modular card mechanic allow for this shift on the fly, by the player removing equipment from their hand and turning the Body card around to show the new advanced number. (Some cards like the Aspect card, are divided into four quadrants allowing for more versatility in the game and few cards to keep track of) The cards are generally divided into three categories for the player. Story, Site, and Hot swap cards, which dictate when such cards can be substituted of “swapped out” during a game. Story swaps can only be switched out as the example above, by telling a role playing story, Site swaps are usually equipment and can only be switched out at certain locations determined by the game master, and an example would be a town or base. Hot swaps are the most versatile cards and usually represent powers or skills that the hero possesses. Allowing the character to have as many as there are available points for. These can be placed into the hand at the beginning of each action to allow access to the ability.
The game does play quick, with minimal start up time, or resolution of action once a player is familiar with the abilities their character possesses. Damage reduction, or hit point calculation is actually the deck points in the player's possession. As your character takes damage you lose cards, you physically watch your character get whittled down. This can be slightly frustrating as well as disconcerting as you take damage and your ability to respond to continued threats is diminished through attrition. The math challenged, like me, might have some difficulty determining what cards to discard to make up the damage they sustained or when healed or regain equipment adding back into their hand. But this is usually as minor inconvenience as using a scratch pad as in other RPGs to tick off damage sustained.
As I stated it plays quick, in one game I played we had twelve players in a multi-tiered adventure, with complete chaos. Different factions were working against one another, some players were novices, and others were wily veterans who could meta- game a system back to the stone age and still others were there to revel in the said chaos. Part of the success was the GM's skill at running, but it was also the ease of the mechanics in play.
Artistically the game is gorgeous, the cards are quality stock with great art from up and coming artists like Tom Babbey, John Gonzales, and Patri Balanovsky. The accompanying website offers free content in the way of adventures, plot hooks, and rules. There are ecologies and personalities to help a game master flesh out there own realities, not just Splintered Serenity. Fiction by Ben Lee, Nathan Ellsworth, and Corey Blakenship give the world of Splintered Serenity its own life.
The setting itself is a post-apocalyptic sword and planet version of Earth with other realities encroaching, with creatures and races of the Elder Dark planning humanities utter downfall. There is super science and sorcery, high adventure and gritty doom. Gotta love a package like that!
I recommend to gamers that are looking for something a little different, even if a card based mechanic does not thrill you, look at the setting, and the content. The world of Untold is worth the time.