TL;DR: Not the prettiest book, and more of a collection of factions than either a chronicle, scenario or setting. That said, the NPCs are excellent, a nicely diverse lot, and there’s some excellent ideas for how to manage a large, multi-faction conflict. Definitely worth picking up for idea mining.
Bloodwar: Auckland posits a situation where a large, isolated city is suddenly available for vampire domination, and sees multiple factions- each with their own motivations, reasons, and methods -coming in to try and seize it for themselves.
It does this not by trying to spell out a specific set of scenarios of scenes, but rather by outlining the factions, both in general and then in terms of major members, and outlines what each group’s goals, resources, and methods are.
In terms of style; Bloodwar: Auckland uses a single column layout, with no page numbers, table of contents, or interior art. This will make it tricky to quickly look up a particular detail on the fly, as it’s essentially just 60 pages of text. There’s also some grammatical/spelling errors, common enough to be a little distracting but not too egregious.
The majority of the book consists of character write ups. The characters and histories each range from about half a page to a page, then followed by a mechanical writeup. The histories are excellent, a solidly diverse set of portrayals for each faction. The mechanical write ups are fine- nothing too shocking -but a little let down by being presented in the same fashion and formatting as the rest of the book. This is especially frustrating when the character sheet is split between two pages.
Of the factions themselves, we have:
- The Camarilla Faction, the Expedition Coterie, is a brilliant concept; using both the fiction of 'the Camarilla Kindred's Burden' and the dark side of colonial atrocity. (The leader also brings us The Path of Shame, a Path of Enlightenment focused on emulating Victorian-era social propriety, order, and aesthetic style over moral substance- which is a solid idea, although the Hierarchy of Sins feels a little off; it focuses too strongly on the Victorian social hierarchy element, rather than the 'Do as thou wilt, but keep it in private' element.)
- The Kuei-Jin Faction, The Mad Dogs Wu, is interesting. Where normally Kuei-Jin are portrayed as more unified than other factions of the living dead- united by the shared trauma of escaping and opposing Hell -the Mad Dogs each want to shake things up, believing that the old ways are insufficient for the modern world. But when the main thing unifying them is a desire for change, their faction is not as cohesive as the others; a nice contrast from the normal 'Kuei-Jin marching in lockstep' presentation.
- The Laibon Faction, the Freedom Army, mentally slots into what might be the 'anarch' role in a traditional game; less experienced , less vicious, and younger than other undead factions- but more diplomatic, and accustomed to the modern world and modern technology.
- The Nagaraja Faction, the Cult of the Bloody Heart, is the closest thing to a clear cut antagonist group in the Bloodwar. But even here, there are wonderful gems, like Kasper Collins- every 1980s Slick Business Guy that is also a flesh eating monster.
Towards the end, there’s a handful of mortals that may also play a role, natives to the city that don’t want to see it torn apart by vampires. Of special note; the concept of the Wilsons- people born without souls, and whose blood is poison to vampires and kuei-jin -is wonderful and should be stolen everywhere. Are they a human evolution in response to the vampires? A sign of Gehenna? A freak accident that should be culled? Who knows!
Finally, the ready made Coterie for the players at the back, the Motherfuckers, are drawn from an earlier product. They don't really feel like a good fit for the story; a coterie of Baali with a common sire, a common desire for revenge against said sire, and no particular tie to Auckland or the other factions.
The content warning at the beginning ("This scenario contains scenes of extreme violence and torture, themes of colonialism, violence against children, positive portrayls of satanism, sexualised violence both explicit and in theme, and sexualised cannibalism") is significantlly overstated. While these themes and concepts could arise in Bloodwar, there are never made explicit.
[3 of 5 Stars!]