I have broken this review down into the good, the bad, and split (ugly but redeemable).
Note: I just got done playing Pirates of Drinax, a friend refereed it for me, this is the perspective from which I will be reviewing the Central Supply Catalogue.
Between the Core, Central Supply Catalog (this book), and High Guard you will have the required triumvirate to play a typical game of Traveller.
This book provides a large, practically essential, catalog of equipment that is a great aid when playing a game of Traveller.
This book remembers to consider game economy more than many games, this can lead to the world having a consistent feeling that can be lacking in other works.
This book considers things beyond weapons and other items of war.
The equipment rarely gives a new thing to do, it almost always gives a bonus to something the character could already do. This is an interesting predicament, as this is a skill based system if a character has a skill to do something gear can help this; however, this can also make gear dull, as it is either needed to utilize a skill, or adds a small plus to a skill. This can lead to gear being something that is placed on a character sheet modifiers noted and forgotten.
There is a decent amount of equipment that feels fringe, yet there were things that we couldn't find that didn't seem like fringe asks. This seems strange as we were playing Pirates of Drinax, with modifications, which is their big campaign; it seems they would at least furnish equipment for that.
There isn't much in the way of creative equipment, I see weapons from this and that sci-fi book, movie, or show. Traveller has been around for a long time, and I know many would say that Traveller inspired these other works. However, Traveller isn't D&D it is definitely known, but it doesn't have this large pop-culture effect; because of this, I feel that this is at best a weak argument. Also, Mongoose has not been making this game the entire time, nor is their room to sit on one's laurels when creating a game.
Organization is not great, armor and other protective gear, which is combative gear, is on the opposite end from weapons. Sections are monoliths making things hard to find things, but there is an index, so if you know the name you can find it. Then again if you're looking for a type of item you're going to have to go digging.
The setup of the items effects are a mess, some things are well displayed such as: name, tech level, and weight. Weapons are better described than most as they also show damage, magazine size, and traits. However, it is so frequent that there are important rules expressed in the description of the item. This can make gear a pain to reference as every item of text must be read to make sure that nothing is missed, this is not good in the middle of combat.
There is also this strange opinion that there are rules maintained in the heading of each subcategory that can abbreviate the language for each piece of gear. This would work well, if there was a greater ability to discern when an item comes from a certain category, without adding much extra verbiage in small margins, and if it was easy to find the place where the category specific rules were listed. At least they always seem to be at the beginning of their subcategory, but to make things worse you have to dig through super-categories to find the subcategories. This makes for an issue of having to dig through disorganized rules that the index doesn't help with.
The high end equipment is almost completely lacking for diversity; as the idea seems to be, the nice expensive gear will do everything that a few less expensive items but will do it better. This leads to tapering gear diversity, and with clever players, this can lead to rapid gear improvement as old gear can be sold to sponsor better gear as the band of options converges into a single item for that category.
This book, which is about as essential as the Core Rules, isn't part of the Core Rules. Mongoose seems to have decided that because they have a few items in the Core they can treat this like an expansion. Rather the situation is the players can get a starting character equipped and then they will quickly run out of gear, and in a game where character progression comes from a slow skill improvement process and gear this isn't an acceptable situation.
Breaking Down the Rating
This is where I will attempt to explain why I have given this product the rating it currently has, to do this I will give a running tally of the products total star count, out of five, after each argument is provided.
First a three star is an average rating, so the rating tally will be starting at this point. - 3 stars
This is functionally a necessary book if one wants to play, let alone run, a game of Traveller. While this is annoying this is not a negative or a positive for the product itself. - 3 stars
This books equipment can be almost essential to play in a smooth game of Traveller; otherwise, the referee has to build most things themselves, which with economical concerns is a lot of work. - 4 stars
This book respects game economy, mostly, which helps allow for trader type games. - 5 stars
The book has equipment that is useful for things beyond combat, or weird little trinkets. - 6 stars
The equipment is not imaginative or that interesting. These are the kinds of things that referees would likely have made on their own, if left to their own devices. This saves the referee some time, but doesn't help with developing a milieu. - 5.5 stars
The equipment options can be eclectic at times, which is strange as it is also not innovative or world building. The catalog reminds me as if it was a collection of refuse on sale from a Star Wars junkyard. This is largely copies from things that I love and recognize, but it lacks the interest of the setting of those originals, a cheap copy of them. This call to nostalgia is damaged as it is all combined without consideration to how they combine. - 5 stars
The organization is painful, it slows things down and lends itself to incorrectly utilize gear. This is because the player has to track down all of the rules impacting their gear, it isn't in one place nor is there a reference given to help find all the related rules. The player must instead have read the entire book and remember where all to look for the rules, there are some patterns but they require the player to remember a significant amount of details to follow. - 3 stars
There is a singular destination for each equipment type if there is a high end, this lack of diversity or lack of progression is disappointing for a book that is dedicated to equipment. There are interesting modifications, such as ammo that effects some things but this is typically a small modifier that must be bought over and over again. There also tends not to be enough room on the character sheet for these items, this often leads to frustration. - 2 stars
This comes down to this book does not perform well at the table. It seems to have a great amount of possibilities until the players started using it for a while, there were options that were straight down better.
This lead to a situation were after a certain amount of time players will have little to purchase, making the book useless later in the game, but essential for early game. This terminal effect, and aggravation that trying to get small efficiency gains, lead to this book being given a poor score.