In this 35-minute video review, long-time Cyberpunk player, Seth Skorkowsky, does a deep dive into Cyberpunk Red, the tabletop RPG update to the first cyberpunk RPG, Cyberpunk/Cyberpunk 2020. It was this TTRPG that inspired the video game, Cyberpunk 2077.
Seth has been playing Cyberpunk since the first edition, and is so intimately familiar with it (and Cyberpunk 2020), he wanted to spend some time with Red before doing a full review.
His thoughtful review shares the biggest criticism I’ve seen elsewhere, that the massive, over 450-page rulebook is unwieldy to use, poorly organized, and repetitive.
He loves Cyberpunk’s critically-acclaimed Lifepath system which has been expanded here and the much-improved Netrunning rules. The only drawback is that to play a Netrunner, to prevent your brain from getting fried, you have to really know your programs, your gear, and how to best use it all. And the GM has to know all of this, too. Combat has been greatly streamlined from the older editions, but there are some weird, infuriating rules changes, like there’s no longer partial cover and being prone offers no advantage. You are either 100% behind cover or you aren’t.
One of the cardinal sins of Red (as far as I’m concerned) is the dissociation of the brand names of the products, e.g. the firearms, from the items purchased. When you’re shopping for weapons, you’re no longer buying a Militech Arms Avenger or a Dai Lung Streetmaster, you’re just buying a Medium Autopistol. Hundreds of pages away, you learn which manufacturer made which weapon. As Seth points out, in the previous editions, knowing the brands and which ones were good, mediocre, terrible was both useful in kitting out your character, and it added color and backstory to the game. Anybody who knows anything about the cyberpunk genre knows that brand-saturation is a big part of the aesthetic.
Ultimately, after spending some time playing Red with his gaming group, Seth rates the game good, but not great. He loves many things about the new edition, but some of what was sacrificed in modern streamlining and with some of the bizarre and unhelpful book design choices have lessened his enthusiasm for the game.
I haven’t poked my head into Cyberpunk since first edition, but Seth really seems to know the game and his criticisms make perfect sense to this aging cyberpunk. I hope R. Talsorian takes note.