A valiant effort with one fatal flaw.
WHAT IS IT?
StarSiege is intended to be an all-in-one science-fiction rpg from Troll Lord Games, the makers of the justly-praised Castles & Crusades fantasy game. As the name implies, StarSiege incorporates the same simple-yet-clever "Siege Engine" dice mechanic which lies at the heart of Castles & Crusades.
The problem is, in the well-intentioned attempt to create an all-in-one science-fiction toolkit, the very simplicity and modularity which makes the Siege Engine mechanic so useful to players and Game Masters in C&C here gets buried under an avalanche of new game systems, sub-systems, acronyms, and terminology.
The resulting game is a good game, to be sure. The problem is, it's also ends up functionally indistinguishable from the dozens of other medium-complex SF game systems inhabiting the rpg landscape: d20 Future; GURPS Space; 2320 AD; Reign of Discordia; Mongoose Traveller, Alternity, and all the rest.
Author Josh Chewning has done a valiant job here; l have to wonder, though, if the failure of StarSiege to carry forward the defining adaptability and ease-of-use traditionally associated with Siege Engine games like Castles & Crusades has to rest with Troll Lord Games editorial.
At some point, someone in the company should've noticed that StarSiege -- while a perfectly serviceable SF rpg -- doesn't actually adhere to the design spirit of the Castles & Crusades Siege system.
It's always easier for players and Game Masters to add on to simple game system, as needed, rather than to subtract elements from a complex one. This philosophy rests at the heart of Castles & Crusades' design.
In his well-intentioned desire to give players and GMs a fully-detailed SF toolkit, author Chewning has accidentally lost the defining difference (ease-of-use and core simplicity) which sets Siege Engine games like Castles & Crusades apart from the pack.
Again, I find Chewning absolutely guiltless -- he's done good work here -- the loss of the spirit of Siege has to fall at the feet of Troll Lord Games. Siege is their baby, in the end, and it falls to them to make sure its properly treated.
An author buried eyeball-deep in manuscript revision can't always see the big picture. That's what editorial is there for ...
As above, StarSiege is a good medium-complexity all-in-one SF rpg. If that's what you want, it stands solid among the many other similar SF game systems out there.
If, like me, you were hoping for a game which would do for science-fiction gaming what Castles & Crusades has done for fantasy gaming, then StarSiege is not the game for you.
My disappointment at StarSiege's failure to be "Castles & Crusades In Spaaaace" in any sort of practical, game-table way originally had me leaning toward a 3 out of 5 score -- but, thankfully, I realized in time that, while the game does not carry on the Siege Engine legacy in any strong fashion, if taken as a stand-alone SF game it's certainly worth a 4 out of 5 to those who neither know nor care what game engine it incorporates.
[4 of 5 Stars!]