Christian Sahlen & Johan Nohr’s Cy_Borg is sold as a reskin of the previous Mörk Borg. Well this is technically true karma and aesthetically true to the extent they both very much bring to mind a rough you occasionally disturbing metal feel, the book is far more than a retread.
This book is packed with information. Even the end papers are crammed with tables to randomise an assortment of features of the world. Even a “pocket lint” chart exists at the front. In the process of randomising however, a world becomes increasingly fleshed out. The quirky little details about how a “Viral memstick” can aid or damage ones cybernetic implants works well to illustrate the bizzare nature of such integration in this world.
The absurdism in the story is on full display as well, with retractable claws referred to as styled “Mollies or Logans” in a fit of bringing up the most obvious examples without dwelling on them. Other notes and references to relevant popular culture are sprinkled throughout, though rarely as blatant as those.
A special note should go to the artistic and design aspects of Cy_Borg. While quality Art is relatively common in role-playing books these days, this volume packs in the aesthetic to a new level.
So much detail is given to the style and design of the buck that the final section “Lucky Flight Take Down” is printed it on a rougher stock then the rest of the book. These pages also stick to a stark black and white Kama comparing to others where at least one colour was splashed onto any page alongside them. The narrative of this section is also one of the more straightforward karma a basic heist setup with multiple hints about the best ways for players to handle the problem.
An aspect of modern technology that much cyberpunk struggles with is wireless data transfer and the internet in one form or another. This volume handles it well, balancing the need for such technology to exist in a world to feel high tech to Modern readers with the fact that such interfaces can seem very clean to those without technical expertise. The mention of hazards like “Solar Storm Goliath Causes Comm Blackout” on page 34 illustrate both ways that wireless communication can be dangerous to players or simply people in this world.
The environmental and anti-corporate themes in this book are more obvious than they might be in a direct political treaties on the subject. The fact that the volume is small and tightly packed with wild information does not distract from this, instead seeming to reinforce it. Indeed the first “rule” given on page 37 notes ” player characters cannot be loyal to or have sympathy for the corpse, the cops, or the capitalist system.” It’s a pretty stark and direct message that one wouldn’t expect to find in even a lot of successfully published cyberpunk novels from the heyday of the genre.
The narrative of this book is mostly flushing out a world, detailing the various cults, corporations, and regions of a metropolis in a post-apocalyptic cyberpunk world. The details given range from overall geography down to pop cultural minutiae. Important details about the entire world are hidden in tables and randomization options, making it well worth going through every page. Furthermore the large bulk of the art is designed to evoke a disturbing and chaotic setting, integrating very well with the text. Even when the art is fairly simple, such as an error message on page 136, what it does with that simplicity is a clever reflection of the setting as a whole.
Cy_Borg has a lot of competition in the cyberpunk market for games or books. Still out of those released in 2022 it represents a fresh yet extremely appropriate example of that genre. There is a fear and griminess to it even as it uses bright almost neon style colors, and impressive pressure that well illustrates the classic social constructs of the genre. With other popular cyberpunk frequently looking to the past or introducing unquestionable fantasy elements, Cy_Borg represents a piece in the spirit of that genre more than most others released today.
(Free League 2022)