Sunday, September 22, 2013

Top Dog Reviews: Star Wars Edge of the Empire Beginner Box.

When I saw the Edge of the Empire beginner box, I got all excited. Four pre-generated characters, an adventure which teaches the rules, some nice maps, and lots of fancy dice. What's not to get excited about? So I picked up a copy a couple of weeks ago with some birthday money, and last night we gave it a spin.
Having read the adventure, I ran things with Matt and my brother Nik as players. Matt's done some role playing, and has plenty of game experience. Nik has not played anything since 2nd ed 40K, but held the rank of general in the old Tie Fighter computer game. So a good test of the game's teaching abilities and learning curve.
The adventure is really well thought out - each encounter takes up a few pages, and each of them teaches a new part of the rules. They each build on the one before so that everyone learns how things work as they go. Even the GM doesn't need to read the rules before hand, because it's all explained on the page. Having read things before helps, but you could grab the box, grab some mates, and jump right in.
The adventure itself is fairly short since you'll take longer than normal to play as you are all learning as you go. It took us two or so hours. That said, it's got plenty of action and there's even an interlude where you can level up and gain some experience. By the end of the session, we all knew what we were doing, and felt pretty confident with tackling more of the game. Except that Nik's wookie had been knocked out defeating the final bad guy...

Fantasy Flight's Star Wars games use special, fancy Star Wars dice instead of the more common numerical kind. They are covered in baffling symbols, but you quickly get used to the system. There are successes, failures, threats, advantages, triumphs and despairs. All of these interact to give a final result, and both players and GM can use the more exotic things (advantage, threat, triumph and despair) to do more interesting things, trigger special abilities, and generally make the game more cinematic. Half way through the adventure, the Fate pool is introduced. The players can spend light side fate tokens to improve their chances, and the GM can do the same with the dark side. Except whenever a point is spent, it gets flipped over and becomes the opposite! I really like this mechanic since it makes you think hard about using fate or not.

So, how does the Beginner Box stack up?
Well, it's about the most fun I've ever had learning a game system, it's probably the first time I've learnt a system by playing it without an experienced player, and it really does a great job of teaching the game. The down side is that you have to use the pre generated characters, and there's nothing in there about making your own. You can download two more free characters and an extra adventure from Fantasy Flight, and you can keep playing with the pre generated characters and make your own adventures, but you will be a little limited unless you invest in the full game.

Matt has a copy of the Beta release of the full book, which I have flicked through - it has some more mechanics and levels of detail, but apart from that the rules look basically the same, so the beginner box will get you started, but won't last you that long. Of course, it's pretty cheap, and you can use it to teach other players and get them to join in - I have some other friends who are interested in having a go, so I'll be running this again.

Over all, the Beginner Box is an excellent jumping off point for the hobby. It gets you up to speed quickly, and very enjoyably, and gives you the tools for your first steps. It doesn't give you the complete experience, but you could actually play a fairly long campaign using just the contents of the box and the free bonus adventures and characters online.

Star Wars Edge of the Empire Beginner Box scores:

Clarity of Rules:
Excellent. The only thing I was a little confused by was how to generate your own dice pools - I was very tired when I first read it. On a second read when wide awake it made perfect sense.

Learning Curve:
The whole game is designed around the learning curve, and it's probably the best 'learn as you play' RPG set I've encountered. A great way to learn, and you're supported and assisted all the way.

The starter adventure is quite enjoyable, and we got some good laughs and dramatic action. Especially the final epic fist fight between Trax and Nik's Wookie character in the corridors of the Krayt Fang.

Replay Value:
You can replay the same adventure as the GM, but once you've played it as a PC you know the secrets and know what to do, so it's not really worth playing again. That being said, you can then use the rules and stats included to create your own adventures.

Fantasy Flight have really got their presentation nailed. The art is great, especially rhe painting which has been slighlty photo-shopped to show Han and Chewie playing the game (Han's not doing well, Chewie obviously just rolled a critical hit...)