This game squares off with FULL THRUST in the battle for the most versatile set of generic starship combat rules. The result is a very good game, but not without some quirks.
Lets just say the designers appear to be of the "design for effect" school and if you accept that thinking then the game systems make sense. If you can't get that through your head then this game may be real confusing!
Movement: Not a vector-based system, but not cinematic either. Does a decent job of making the user watch speed...too fast and manuevering becomes impossible. I like this - the DESIGN EFFECT forces you to think about manuvers. The system does take some getting used to, and a bit more math than usual ("absolute difference"??? Where is my daughters math help book...).
Combat: A little quirky. First off, the firing arcs are NOT your "traditional" 60 degree hexes, but rather offset by 30 degrees. A ship straight ahead is in both the A and B arcs. For an old grognard like myself this took some getting use to. The use of Accuracy and Impact ratings allows for "table-less" combat actions but some rules, like Minimum/Maximum Rolls
Ship Design: This is really the heart of the system, and my biggest gripe. First off, you have to accept (and really buy into) the "design for effect" philosophy here, which is not necessarily a bad thing, just takes some real thinking. For instance, the designers point out there are no POINT DEFENSES but if you want the EFFECT of POINT DEFENSES then just use SHIELDS and rename it. These leaps in logic are not too hard, but still need to be consciously made to get real enjoyment. But that is minor; the biggest problem I have with the design rules is the need for a scientific calculator to do anything. When the first formula presented is (Total Space Units = Hull Size to the 1.3 power x 100) well, I can't do that in my head. Fortunately, Majestic 12 Games provides an excel spreadsheet on their website that can do all the calculations for you and makes the design process very simple; but at the cost of not really understanding the process. Some (many?) will be comfortable with that, but I'm not one of them since the design system is supposedly the HEART of this game.
In the end, I like STARMADA: THE ADMIRALTY EDITION CORE RULEBOOK but just cannot award it a full 5 stars. I have to withhold one star for the "overly mathmatic" design system. I almost want to withhold a second star because the design system is what makes it attractive as a generic system that can be dropped into whatever universe you have, and if there was no online resources (like the excel spreadsheet) then I would of.
Buy it? Yes, but be ready for some thinking. FULL THRUST this is not. I feel SAE does not replace FT, but does deserve a place on your bookshelf.