Thursday, February 21, 2013

First Impressions: Star Wars: Edge of the Empire Beginner Game

I recently had the opportunity to run a few friends through the Star Wars: Edge of the Empire Beginner Game by Fantasy Flight Games.  While I'm not quite ready for a full review, I thought I'd discuss what I liked, what I didn't like and what I'm wary on.

For starters, the components are excellent.  The pre-generated character folios have some great full color art right on the front.  It's easy to look at Oskara, the Twi'lek bounty hunter or 41-VEX, the droid colonist and get a good impression of what to expect from the character.

A nice spread of all the Beginner Game's components - look at them folios!
The proprietary dice are very nice, high quality polyhedrons in a set of color blind friendly shapes and colors that make them very easy to distinguish from one another.  The game also comes with a staggering array of cardboard tokens to represent player characters, non-player characters and ships as well as a full-color, double sided map.  Really, the only complaint I have with the components is with the box it all comes in.  I'm not sure if Fantasy Flight was just thinking folks would toss the box and keep all the tokens and dice in bags, but it's probably the flimsiest cardboard I've seen from them outside of their Print on Demand line of mini-expansions.

The adventure itself is a very simple affair.  It's extremely linear and introduces game mechanics slowly from encounter to encounter.  The core mechanic of the game is in building dice pools based on your character's abilities and proficiencies.  Once the pool is complete, players roll and see if they can get more success symbols than failure symbols.  If so, then they've succeeded and whatever task they were attempting.  However, the dice also have symbols such as Threat, Advantage, Despair and Triumph which have no direct affect on whether a roll succeeds, but may change the situation around a given roll.  The adventure slowly integrates new options for interpreting these additional symbols.

The varied results of the dice pool mean that a GM has to be on their toes to react and explain the action based on what is rolled, but the Beginner Game has plenty of tables and charts to easily identify all the options available to players and GMs alike.  The game also has a fantastic initiative system which allows players to decide who goes in which initiative slot during combat - a subtle change from more traditional RPGs that I think will have a positive effect on players all around.

So where do I stand?  Well, I'm definitely excited to play some more.  I haven't had this good of a time roleplaying in the Star Wars universe since Wizards of the Coast's Saga Edition.  I have a good track record with Fantasy Flight's RPGs and this one has potential.  I love the dice system and how it opens up a lot of options for players and GMs to interpret the dice pool.  However, I am anxious to see the rules for character creation and how deep they go.  Additionally, I have no idea how the Force is going to be handled and that can make or break any Star Wars game.

The core rulebook has a nebulous release date of "somewhere in the second quarter of 2013".  I've got one on preorder at my friendly local gaming store, but until then I'll be running a few more sessions with the Beginner Game contents just to put it through its paces and test these core mechanics backwards and forwards.

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