-On first impression the book seems very well laid out, and it is fairly easy to see where everything is. As you flick through it for the first time you see it covers a lot of ground. However, there are some issues too. The rule writers have throughout the book failed to give examples. In one or two rare places they do give an example, but you have to read and re-read some sections to try and fugure out what you are supposed to do, and I found in several places you had to make a decision on rule interpretation that simples example would have clarified in a second. There are also some ommissions too.
The first section of the book deals with character creation and then equipping him or her. There are several races to choice from that are failry standard RPG types. Dwarves, Elves, Orcs, androids, all thinly disguised are to be found! I would say that this game aims to provide a mechanism to play games in the Star Trek / Star Wars genres, and it is flexible enough to cover most settings from low tech near future to highly advanced ones.
The second section of the rules deals with the game mechanics. Tests are based on the core mechanism of dice pools being thrown to beat a difficulty target number, or beating an opponents dice pool score for an opposed test. All dice are D6. Attributes skills and equipment all provive dice pool additions. The level of the character acts as a dice pool cap, giving a less experienced character a smaller dice pool to play with. One really nice idea in the rules is a count down dice pool. This is a dice pool that is thrown at intervals, determined by the situation, and dice are removed from the pool on a 6 or f a quicker dice pool is required on either a 5 or 6. When the dice are gone the reason for the count down happens, the bomb goes off, the character bleeds to death etc.
Combat and space ship combat use grids, or what the game calls "Theatre of the Mind," which means no grid, and people have to calculate ranges from the grid based figures in the weapon tables. Combat also has some strange ideas added into it. A grid represents 5'. For me, this is where first major issue in the rules crops up. A ranged weapon gets a penalty for each grid over the first. So if you fire at a target 4 grids away you get a -3D6 penalty! This is the future, you are not firing inaccurate black powder smooth bore muskets or pistols! Add to the fact that from the dice pool you have to buy extra damage or effects I feel this creates a real problem. The rules do say that without buying extra effects and damage character will take a long time to take a foe down. As you have to spend two hit dice to get a dice of extra damage, you have to juggle between actually hitting the enemy at all, and whether to do serious damage or death by a thousand cuts! Death and wounding is dealt with not by one mechanism but two! It is not terribly clear whether the two methods effect eachother, producing yet another example of the lack of examples causing problems. hen damage takes a characters health to zero they fall unconscious and if it is below zero they form a dice pool and start a count down to die. The other system uses tracks which are start at mild and go up as more damage is accumulated. When you reach the end of the track you die. The concept is good, it provides a more graphic description for players of what their character is experiencing. I feel however extra clarity is needed. For instance critical hits move you aong the track for that weapon, but it is left to the GM to guess whether damage is also added as well as tack movement. I assume it is, but I can't be sure this is what the designers intended.
The final section of the books deals with world building, travel, and the the GM. It provides rules for travel, space combat and encounters.
Starship combat is a cross between a roleplay game and a miniatures game. It is time consuming to play and as this is a RPG and not a Wargame it seems a little out of place. It is not detailed enough to please a wargamer, and will soak up too much time in a RPG.
Space travel and journey times form another area of the rules where examples would make a huge difference to rule clarity. Add the rather clunky system of jump increments, to drive type, and an odd medical test, and whole series of tests you are supposed to make and space travel using ships becomes a nimber crunching chore. Crew always have a chance of suffering some penalty the longer they are in space. This seems a little strange, unless it is part of a characters makeup like sea sickness, but that is something that the rules don't provide. I feel a huge number of GMs will probably rework, tweak or ignore a lot of these rules.
There is a really short section of foes near the end of the rule book. These are humaniod enemies for the characters to have encounters with, like street thugs etc. Once you finish this section you realise there are no animals detailed in the system at all. There is a small reference to creatures in a section on size and characteristics, which actually tells you that creatures have their own stats are not covered by this, then it does cover them briefly!
The games good features are :
A comprehensive character creation system, that allows well rounded starting characters, and allows characters to improve as part of a career, or as individual skill/attribute training. It has an interesting trait system that can make characters more than just stats. There is a good selection of equipment.
The bad points are :
An almost total lack of examples. A few places where the target numbers for well described tests seem to be missing. A few failures to clarify how rules impact on eachother. Space travel calculations are a chore, they are poorly explained, and lack of examples, forcing the GM to read the section several times carefully. Space combat is not really quick enough for many groups, and is not detailed enough to satisfy wargame inclined players. Ranged combat penalties seem odd in the future. Also the idea of tying ranges to grids and forcing players to convert these to feet is inconvenient, when both figures could have been given in the tables. The lack of any real rules and guidence on animals is a shame. The GM has more work to do initially than is normal making decisions on rules targets, and interpretations.
In conclusion the game system has a lot of potential, but, a failure to provide examples, some odd penalties and tests, and the omission of rules for animals let the game down. All GMs tweak add or ignore rules to some extent, this game however will require more work before play to get the system sorted out, depending on what the GM intends to include. Combat will probably be the one area where everyone has to accept or tweak the rules. This can be a fun game, and many players will enjoy it a lot. It is not an original rules set, with nothing that I have not seen used in other game systems. As the rules stand they fail to live up to the promise of what might have been.
[3 of 5 Stars!]