The retro-futuristic work of Swedish artist Simon Stålenhag has inspired many things over the past five years. Several published collections, an award winning video game, and now a live action streaming series on Amazon Prime Video. This summer we've been given perhaps the most accessible way of playing in the world he's built with the Tales From The Loop: Starter Set from Fria Ligan.
This starter set was my first exposure to the roleplaying game, despite it being out since 2017. It uses the Year Zero engine, in which a pool of six sided dice are rolled to accomplish things. Every six rolled counts as a success. It's a simple and elegant system that's ideal for those brand new to roleplaying games.
The starter set is packed full of goodies: A condensed rulebook, a one-shot adventure, five pre-made characters called Kids, a double-sided map of the two areas around the Loop (Sweden and the US), and a set of 10 custom six sided dice. For the price, you get a lot of great high quality stuff in this boxed set.
The rulebooks have everything a player needs to get the hang of the rules and the unique setting of the 80's that never was: In the 1950's the US government started experimenting with particle accelerators and advanced robotics. The result was a Loop station at the border between Nevada and Arizona. Years later, the Riksenergi corporation in Sweden created a similar particle accelerator in Mälaren. Both locations form the alternate settings for Tales From the Loop, two small towns with massive cooling towers on the horizon, surrounded by decaying robots and otherworldly technology rusted over.
The world of Tales From The Loop is a lot of fun, and the system the game uses is perfect for creating your own science fiction comedy or family movie premises straight out of the 80's. Films like Flight of the Navigator, Explorers, The Goonies, The Sandlot, Ghostbusters, Back to the Future, and Short Circuit fit perfectly into the atmosphere these rules create, and the setting is broad enough to play around in and make your own stories, which I love. It feels a lot like Stranger Things, but with more wonder and adventure than horror and chills.
The included adventure "The Recycled Boy" definitely feels like a premise straight off the cover of a VHS sleeve. I won't spoil the ins and outs of the story, but it reads as being right at home with Disney original movies of the period, or the intro to an ongoing TV series of junior high kids who have to keep a secret world hidden from their parents.
The thing I love most about this starter set is the quality and the production values. For what you pay, you get a lot of high quality stuff in this box. The double-sided poster map is durable waxy card stock. The books are glossy and thick for saddle stapled books. The dice are gorgeous and perfect for the game. Even the character sheets and their art and design is charming and well made. A ton of work was put into this starter set.
If you've ever been curious about Tales From The Loop, or you've finished the Amazon Prime series and are looking for more stories set in that world, the TftL Starter Set is a real good get. I'm running it for friends soon and so far I'm loving the quality of it. It's a really fun and simple system set in a unique world. Definitely check it out!