This book has a few good points, such as the Anarch Manifesto. It provides plenty of background on the Anarch Free States for Storyteller use, although it is light on statistics. On the other hand, the additional combat rules can add detail to your Chronicle, if you're interested in that sort of thing. It details how to stage an Anarch uprising in the city of your choice, as well as a Who's Who section in the appendix describing several Anarchs, and Petrodon/Petrondon (they keep changing the spelling).
When reviewing this product, one essential question must be asked: was this purchase really necessary? My response: no. Not at the $15 cover price. Was this book necessary? Yes. To a large degree, the Anarch-Camarilla War ought to be a major component in many campaigns, but instead, the ST is left wondering what precisely the Anarchs are doing? It is apparent that they are for everything the Camarilla is against, but is that all? Are they merely playing a sick and twisted version of Tit for Tat? Such a book, dealing basic Anarch strategy, then is needed for those ST's who find it had to break from the stereotypes that plague the game. This product in particular, however, does a very poor job indeed in highlighting how one can transcend stereotypes.
Prelude, The Anarch Manifesto: Oh boy, yet another piece of apparent filler, the history of a mover and shaker in Anarch society. White Wolf does this in virtually every project, but strangely, this one works incredibly well. Finally, here is something I feel safe copying out and handing to my Troupe as a actual document they saw blowing away on the streets. It provides background that they can interpret for themselves, getting themselves, no doubt, into far more trouble than they could ever imagine.
Also, this chapter details the first Justicar we have seen, Petrodon, of Clan Nosferatu.
1: Joining the cause: This chapter, essential for a sourcebook on Anarchs in that it is here that they are defined, is an utter loss. Most of the information has appeared in numerous products, and that which doesn't ought to be self evident. There are quick and dirty lists of allies, enemies, and how the Anarchs are perceived in the WoD. Most of this is so cursorily gone over, it defies any attempt at freshness. However, if one was going to play a sourcebook on Anarchs alone, and never buy another book, this one had to contain this extraneous information to make it complete.
2: The Revolt: The first and last thirds of this chapter follow the first chapter in their pseudo-relevance and lack of new information. What is worthwhile, however, is in the middle. Anarchs have always existed. Since vampires were few and far between in the past, the rebellious nature never had to manifest. However, in these modern times, with its "Better to burn out / Than to fade away," mantra, Anarchs stick out like a sore thumb. They've already died once. What more can be lost in a second death? Thus, discussion on Anarchs preparing for the long haul is interesting to say the least, since it tends to fight the stereotype. Notes are made on avoiding blame, and redirecting the guilt on others, a decidedly unanarch thing to do.
3: Weapons for the Fight: I bought this book based on this champter alone. It turned out to be the most disappointing of the lot. Herein are cursory rules about firearms ("Automatic weapons are a standard Anarch sidearm. In some places, guns are hard to get. In others they are not. Check your area for more details" I paid $15.00 to be told THIS?!?!?), more references to the imcomprehensible and utterly useless "blast power" system for explosives, and information that Anarchs like movies, and sometimes write things. Wow. If I had only known.
What it DOES have is the much needed rules for Martial Arts. A friend of mine was going to write up his rules, but was beat to the puch by this "product." Basically, Martial Arts takes a Brawl of 4 to get. Once you have done that, you can buy, as a secondary skill, a form (karate, tae kwan do, and jujitsu are examples of forms). All forms entitle you to do is use the form's special move. Wow. Hold me back, guys. As you increase Brawl, you can get more forms, one at five, and so on. Yes indeed, 5 is no longer the limit for ability ratings. All this is quite silly, and I'm only going to apply it for vampires who know martial arts, for reasons that are, for now, mine own.
Also, it has a neat section about "anti-" rituals, rituals used to piss off that Thaumaturgist Elder. The three given are very inventive, and a lot of fun. There are rules for traps, poisons and alchemy, and which ones affect kindred through sheer trauma (poisons that affect blood WILL destroy vitae...a clever way to induce frenzy in your worst enemy).
Now this is what I was referring to in my intro. There was SO much potential in this section, and largely it went unrealized. A good ST can salvage it, (I'm going to give it the ol' college try), but for a new ST trying to bring in the Anarchs, I imagine him stumbling over himself trying to comprehend the "hit location" section, as his 13th gen anarch has just cleaved the head off the player's 7th gen ventrue, in what was supposed to be a pushover.
4: War!: A Mass Combat System for Vampire. [Insert Primal Scream]. I'm going to try it next weekend, but frankly, it looks silly. The rules for riots, however, are very good, and are worth more than just a look. The rest of the chapter is also very well represented, giving good ideas about how to take on figures such as Elders, Archons, and Justicars, as well as the inevitable clash with the Prince. Except for that suspicious looking Mass COmbat system, this is the highlight of the book.
Postscript: Pleading your case: I take that back. THIS is the highlight of the book. RULES FOR BLOODHUNTS! Yes! This chapter is all about what happens when you screw up, and have to pay the piper (and he doesn't take Visa). There are useful information for all campaigns, anarch or not, since at somepoint or another, all PC's get the Prince mad.
By far, the best part of this section is the last: rules for the Curses. Curses are ancient spells, more rituals than anything else, but rituals fueled by pure willpower that once spent, is gone forever. These can be used to spit in the eye of a prince one last time ("From the depths of Hell, I stab at thee!") I only wish that there were more of them.
Who's Who's amongst Anarchs: Some good stuff here. Perhaps the best Who's Who yet, but a few stats would be nice. Also, the art here is extremely solid. Fellwalker is an excellent portrait artist, but he should stay far away from Nosferatu.
The end result? As mentioned, this book is filled with so much potential, largely unrealized. That which it copiously covered had already been covered in several other supplements. That which it excelled at is merely cursorily gone over, to get back to the self- explanatory stuff. Further, I am caught in a quandry over this book. This book is supposed to be about the Anarch War, and thus, by its nature, must re-summarize the information I abhor. However, the really good stuff, strictly speaking, does not BELONG here! Martial arts (yes, I know I said they were bad, but the concept does not belong in a book about anarchs)? Rules for poisons? ALCHEMY?!?
I suppose that I have no Idea how the book could be improved. The new stuff doesn't belong, the old stuff is redundant. All I know is that $15.00 is WAY too much money to pay for this featherweight. Glance through it long and hard before you make that purchase, kids.