Is this purchase worth your money? That depends on a number of things. If you are planning on purchasing both box sets then the $20 off coupon for both box sets pays for this purchase. If you only end up getting the Alphaware, then you only get a $10 coupon.
What about the content?
Edge of Now will be included in both box sets, but for digital distribution is only in the Beginner Box Set. This PDF is a rough re-layed-out chunk of the chapter Everything Has a Price (section 1.0) of the 5th edition corebook. If you already own the corebook, most of it will be material you have already read, with just over 2 pages worth of Seattle content that I don't think is in the corebook. It is a solid introduction to the setting of Shadowrun for those who don’t have access to the corebook though.
This is intended for those who do not have the corebook. The Quick-Start Rules are the same Quick-Start Rules which are offered for free already on the website, but the character's have been replaced with new premade characters, which fill out the rest of the PDFs in this box. The character sheets do have beautiful art and are more fleshed out than the ones included in the free version of the Quick-Start Rules and there is also a single page which includes all the character's stats for easy reference for the GM. One of the characters includes a booklet that fleshes her out and includes a premade solo adventure. This is a taste of what’s in the Alphaware toolkit for those who enjoy it.
I wish the Quick-Start Rules would have included a new adventure they didn't already give away, but the value of this bundle is not in the Beginner's Box.
This is the real meat of this product, with real character sheets of the premade characters from the Beginners Box. I want to emphasize that the Sheets in the Beginner's Box have all the stats compressed to make room for the art while the sheets that come in the Alphaware Content allow for character growth and XP (aka, Karma) expenditure. Having the PDFs to reprint premade characters for future groups is a plus.
Each premade character also has their own booklet which fleshes out their story and includes their own solo adventures, like the one in the Beginner's Box.
Rule of the Street appeals to me since it helps me teach others the core mechanics without them getting lost in the catalog of spells, abilities, & equipment cluttering the corebook. It covers the core mechanics in 90 pages. I wish this book was a Print on Demand since I would like each of my players to have a copy at the gaming table.
The Alphaware cards are nice but make me eager for owning the physical product, since just having a PDF of the cards doesn't help much. If you happen to be a PDF guru though, the PDFs are DRM free, so you can extract the ones you need for easy player access.
Plots and Paydata is going to be the most valuable PDF for the GM next to the Rules of the Street. It offers many adventures, Sprawls, and NPCs to use for many game sessions. I am certain that players will have made up their minds about purchasing the corebook long before the material in this PDF runs out.
These box sets are designed for those who want try Shadowrun or introduce Shadowrun to new players without intimidating anyone with a massive neigh 500 page corebook. The learning curve is easier to approach in partitioned chunks presented within.
For anybody interested in the Alphaware content or those who are going to purchase the physical boxes, I think the product is worth it. The best way to view this purchase is as the Alphaware Content with the Beginner's Box Set as a dollar add-on. For those who are not certain if Shadowrun is for them and are just interested in the Beginner's Box Set, I still recommend the free Quick-Start Rules.
[4 of 5 Stars!]