One of the best ever. --- I've been playing since the early 80s; the systems I know well are D&D/ Pathfinder, Traveller/ T 2300, RuneQuest/ CoC/ BRP, HarnMaster, GURPS, BESM/ dX, FUDGE and Dungeon World. I've also bought and read others such as Savage Worlds, Cortex and Numenera.
Here are a few of the reasons why I think Crimson Exodus is one of the best of the lot:
The System -- just the right crunch for those of us who like mechanics that inform and help drive the story. This game really does sit at around the midpoint of rules-light to rules-heavy. A group will have to be willing to contribute their thinking power as well as their creativity with Crimson Exodus, but Claus Bornich, the writer, has a very good sense for what to detail and what to handwave -- even both at the same time. He has crafted excellent rules for many situations, but every rule is there to be used or set aside depending on the wishes of the group and the needs of the moment.
Skills testing in the Fantasy Dice system is such that greater aptitude is represented by an attribute number, and greater training by a "bigger" type of die. So a rough example, leaving out the nuances of the rules, might be:
"I have an Agility of 2 (average) and a Melee skill of d8 (pretty good), so my Melee roll is 2d8. It's a high-die mechanic, so all I'm looking for is the highest result to compare against either (a) a set difficulty or (b) a contested roll by my enemy -- how much I beat him by determines how thoroughly I kill his stupid face."
My favourite part is this -- I can also "scale" my dice pool in number or type of die. For example, if I have 2d8 as a pool, I can scale my roll up to 1d10 (increasing my absolute results ceiling), or down to 3d6 or 4d4 (decreasing my likely results floor). Especially with the new critical failure and success rules in this 2nd Ed, this scaling is important, and it very simply puts a powerful, informative and dynamic dice mechanic at my disposal. And this isi only the most limited example.
NO. My real favourite part springs from being the GM: I can write up an important NPC in two minutes, using two short lines, and that write-up will perform well in terms of both mechanics and narrative. There's nothing to it, once you get a handle on what, for instance, "3d10 Crazy Lady In Waiting" can mean.
The Setting -- just about as good as the system. If you only ever use your own setting, CX might not be for you -- in that case just buy Fantasy Dice: Same rules, no setting! But man, this is a well-planned and well-executed milieu.
Bornich has written a straight-no-chaser low fantasy, but one that doesn't bog down in self-important detail. With a hint (in the geography and names, mostly) of the Norse sagas, the Finnish Kalevala epic, and Baltic legend, the setting is one where the Elves are, for reasons unknown, abandoning their empire, and other races are rushing into the vacuum of power.
Magic is possible in the forms of Sorcery, Black Magic and Witchcraft, but the usefulness of each is very nicely "spiked" by the difficulties, practicalities, and dangers of them. Meanwhile, we have a plague that causes the afflicted to rise after death in search of the blood of all living things.
Bornich takes (almost, it seems, as a challenge) elves, dwarves, orcs and halflings and ends up with a pretty astounding, conflicted, DYNAMIC world. Stuff is happening everywhere, and the stakes are high. You certainly could just ignore it, really. But DON'T! Give this world a spin; it's really great.
As far as the new edition goes, I've found nothing but improvements on the first edition. There are still quirks of layout and language here, but nothing that should discourage anyone for a moment. Crimson Exodus is THE game for those of us who love to use and abuse a great set of mechanics in a dangerous world.
[5 of 5 Stars!]