This is a heady swirling mix of steampunk and pulp written with a delightful whimsey and apparently suitable for playing in a tearoom over a nice pot of tea and a few cakes...
It opens with a discourse (there's no other word for it, style matches content so well here) explaining what steampunk and pulp and, yes, role-playing are, ready to set the scene. It's set well indeed, and is recommended reading even if you know (or think you know) what they all are. This is followed by a section explaining the alternate history on which the game world is based, beginning with Charles Babbage having actually built (rather than just designed) his difference engine which is, of course, in the late 1830s powered by steam. As Great Britain's technology developed apace, America and Canada embarked on a race to put the first man on the moon!
The basic rules are then presented. Character attributes take their names from the title of the game: with Cogs being mental and technical abilities, Cakes being social skills and Swordsticks being physical capabilities. Each attribute has a descriptive name that outlines the area of expertise, painted broadly and atmospherically. It also has a number associated with it, being how good the character is at that sort of thing. When a task needs resolution, the GM sets a target and the player rolls a d6 adding the appropriate attribute to it - if the target number is equalled or exceeded, the action is successful. If there's a brawl, of course, rather than rolling against a target each participant rolls against the other, the higher roll winning.
To get things rolling the next section is a basic scenario which you can play through - far better than the 'example of play' than many rulebooks provide at this point. Three characters are provided ready-generated, and there's a full, if basic, adventure through which you can run them.
And this is all chapter 1! Next comes Chapter 2, in which the rules are presented in full detail, with character creation, healing, combat and everything else neatly bundled up. Oh, and an 'example of play' if you want one! Onwards to Creating Stories, which provides useful advice for the GM in creating appropriate adventures, providing reasons for characters to get involved and all manner of useful stuff.
Following hot on its heels is Chapter 3: The Empire of Steam which goes into copious details about the setting. Firstly the history of engineering and science is discussed, followed by the social and artistic refinements of the time and finally the unpleasantness of wars and politicial machinations are touched upon, but in the most delicate of manners. Each section has details a-plenty and timelines so that you can refer to 'historical' events or indeed choose at what point your game is set, although they are taken through to 1901.
The final chapter, Devices and Designs, is a full-blown adventure set in the British Museum in 1880, where they are holding a gala opening of a new exhibition of treasures from the Orient. Come to admire, and hobnob with the cream of intellectual society, but beware... things begin to go missing. It sweeps you up in the style of this game.
The product rounds off with a couple of Appendices: some ready-created characters if you are itching to get going (with the potential for using them as NPCs if your players prefer to generate their own characters using the rules provided earlier). The second presents sample attributes - use them as presented or as inspiration in coming up with your own.
Beautiful stuff for when you fancy a light yet serious game... and a pot of tea.
[5 of 5 Stars!]