As a fan of the Dust Tactics boardgame and roleplaying games I was quite interested in this book, but overall it's been a disappointment so far.
Before I continue, I have to point out that I have so far only read the chapters dealing with the mechanics of the game, but not the later half of the book that deals with the background and fluff. I expect that second half to be stronger than the first, because the bad design and editing of the mechanics has been the main source of my frustration so far.
But first, I want to mention some positive points.
The idea to include separate flavor comments to the text is a nice addition and helps to quickly establish the pulpy action tone of the book even when rules are being discussed. The illustration, which are sadly rather limited in quantity, also do a really good job of conveying the flavor of the setting and are of generally high quality. Unfortunately the illustration are often supplemented with beauty photographs of miniatures from the board game, which are more hit and miss in their quality. I also found the overall layout and design of the book quite slick and visually pleasing.
Some of the mechanical concepts seem quite interesting. I found the way that "action points", which can be used to re-roll dice or alter details of the current scene, to character progression very interesting, since it encourages liberal use, which leads to that puply over the top action style, instead of hoarding them "just in case".
Sadly there's quite a bit wrong with this book too. Most of it revolves around the design, writing and editing of the rules. The further I got, the more I got the feeling that whoever worked on this book didn't put a lot of care and attention into it. Incosistent nomenclature, such as imporvement point being referred to as IP and XP in different parts of the book, are only the tip of the iceberg in this regard.
In general there's an unfortunate tendency to make mechanics needlessly confusing and compley without any payoff. The main example for this is the insistence on making special powers a sub-category of special abilities, which are in turn a sub-category of skills. There is no particular reason that requires this categorization, special abilities and powers could have been easily separated into their own character attributes, as it is done in many other systems. The system in use only makes calculating the cost of a power confusing, which isn't helped by examples that contradict the preceding rules text.
Another issue is that the rules texts often lack precision in the way they are phrased, making it diffcult to understand the mechanics they are trying to convey. At other times there aren't even any definitions for something as fundamental as weapon ranges to be found. Stats for weapons simply list a numerical value, typically between 10 for infantry and 35 for vehicle weapons, with no unit stated. Similarly, the mechanics for creating custom items includes options to increase the base range of a weapon item, but offers no base values when creating a weapon from scratch.
And while on the topic of weapon stats, some entries in the weapon tables lack values and are unusable without the GM taking it on themselves to figure out appropriate values.
Keep in mind that this is just some examples to illustrate the general issues with the rules that stuck out in my mind, and by no means an exhaustive list.
Other things that reinforced the general impression that not a lot of care was taken in the creation of the book are for example the repition of a whole flavor text segment two pages apart, or parts of paragraphs that lack any sort of context and honestly seem like an editor's comment on a development draft of the book that just got turned into text for the release version.
Overall, I was really looking forward to this RPG. I love the Dust setting, and the promise of a rules light system that I could quickly try out with some friends was very enticing. However, with the current state of this book, at the very least the GM will have to put a considerable amount of time into dealing with all the shortcomings of the rules. This goes so far that I would consider taking the setting and using it with a different game system, such as Savage Worlds. In that light the price tag of 20$ is hard to swallow.
Ultimately, the biggest disappointment for me is that the end product doesn't feel like the people behind it cared much about their work.
- interesting pulp-styled setting
- good and plentiful flavor texts
- good, evocative illustrations
- some neat game mechanics
- many mechanics too complex for a rules light system
- unclear and confusing writing
- sloppy editing
- incomplete mechanics