Forbidden Lands – The Bitter Reach Review

09 August 2021
Scratch that melancholy itch

If Forbidden Lands’ fog-shrouded aura of doom hasn’t been quite bleak enough for your tastes so far, The Bitter Reach may well be just the thing to scratch that melancholy itch. Straddling the gulf between setting guide and full campaign, the beautifully built book paints a snow-dusted portrait of frozen wastes, evil kings, and rampaging demons in a land where the weather can kill as surely as any monster’s claw.

In many other games this would probably come across as a rather niche product – a supplement designed for the hardcore survivalist who relishes the idea of losing characters to frostbitten toes. In Forbidden Lands, however, the howling wilderness simply feels like a different flavour of misery. Yes, it’s very cold in The Bitter Reach, but at least the mist isn’t trying to eat you.

In truth, despite the almost comical amount of gloom hanging about the book, it exudes a perversely inviting air of possibility that makes the prospect of a fresh campaign exciting rather than intimidating. Part of this is probably the simple result of having a fresh map of unspoilt hexes to explore, but there’s no denying that the setting and story play their part too.

The entire campaign is based on a frozen continent and the book comes packed with plenty of new rules governing firewood, snowfall and numbed fingers that strike a fair balance between experience feeling unique and turning the game into one of logistics rather than adventure. It leans more towards an open-ended sandbox than a more traditional linear adventure, but it also makes sure there are always important events ticking along in the background.

This wonderful combination of open-world gameplay and bubbling plot can be tough to execute neatly, and certainly requires some thought on the part of the GM, but when it goes to plan it offers a truly delightful bit of gaming and an excellent expansion of Forbidden Lands’ gloomy fantasy adventures. 

Richard Jansen-Parkes


Designer: Various

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Publisher: Free League

Pages: 314


Price: £35

This article originally appeared in issue 46 of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.

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