Not another new game! I guess like everyone, I’ve gone a bit Star Wars lately. I’ve just picked up the beginner box for Edge of the Empire, part of the Fantasy Flight Star Wars RPG. While I’ve not had chance to play it yet, I thought I’d do a summary of the game, and my thoughts so far.
New Game, New Dice
There have been Star Wars RPGs as long as there’s been Star Wars, but this is Fantasy Flight’s version, first released in 2012. There’s actually now three ‘core’ rulebooks -along with three beginner games- and whole load of supplements and adventures. I’ll get to that in a minute.
What separates this game from all other RPGs, is the dice (well, I hear the Warhammer one uses the same mechanic, but we’ll ignore that). Most RPG players are used to rolling dice, and adding some numbers to it, trying to meet a target number to see if they succeed (even Fate/Fudge is essentially this, even if the dice are a bit weird).
The Star Wars dice don’t have numbers on them, but symbols for success and failure. If you get more successes than failures, you did the thing you were trying to do. More difficult things add more negative dice (increasing the odds of failure) and having better skills or other advantages add positive dice, which help you achieve success. So far, so simple.
However the dice also have symbols for advantage and ‘threat’ (disadvantage). These are also compared to see if you have more advantage than threat. While they have no effect on whether you succeed, but give a different ‘axis’ to determine the effect of what you did. So you now have five outcomes:
- Succeed with advantage
- Fail with threat
- Succeed with threat
- Fail with advantage
- Everything cancels, so you fail with no other effects.
While I haven’t had chance to try it out properly, it seems like a brilliant idea! Let say you’re trying to hit an enemy. You roll the dice and get 3 successes, 1 failure, 1 advantage and 3 threat. Hence you succeeded with threat (net 2 success and 2 threat). Now you and the DM need to decide what that means: maybe you shot the enemy, but gave away your position, making you a target for counterattack? Or you got your blade stuck in them, so you’ll have to spend a manoeuvre next turn getting it out?
It’s a neat way of making every action matter, giving everything a narrative feel, rather than just reaching the target number or not.
Ok, so the dice mechanics are cool, what about the rest of the game?
While I don’t own all the rulebooks, I have had a look through, and they’re pretty great. Pretty much all the races, ships and weapons you could want are present, there’s a nice spread of careers (classes) and specialisations, and the whole thing is just beautiful. I hear there’s a few inconsistencies and problems with the details, but it also seems like everyone ignores them anyway.
The main problem is that in order to play the full game you need to buy the core rules three times…
The game is made by Fantasy Flight, who are fairly notorious in boardgaming for producing excellent games that cost a fortune and come with a billion expansions. And it seems they’re keeping up with that principle in RPGs.
The game is actually 3 separate games or systems:
- Edge of the Empire – scruffy nerf herders making a living on the edge (Han)
- Age of Rebellion – Empire vs Alliance (Leia)
- Force and Destiny – those religious folks with the cool swords (Luke)
Each one has its own ‘core’ rulebook, which covers the basic rules and contains a selection of races, classes, etc.
So let’s say we buy Edge of the Empire, learn the game and enjoy it. Now we want to move on and try some different characters, who are fighting the Empire as part of the rebellion? We’d need to buy the ‘core’ rules again, for Age of Rebellion!
I appreciate there’s a lot of content in the books, and that D&D also requires 3 books (PHB, MM and DMG), but as each book is ‘core’ a good 40% of it will be covering the same basic rules each time, when all you want is more options. I don’t mind buying expansions to get more content, but I resent being sold the same thing in a different package.
I want to end on a positive, because I’m actually really looking forward to running this game.
The beginner box is pretty cool. It contains a set of dice, some tokens and maps, basic rulebooks and a great starter adventure to help you get to grips with the game. It’s all written as if you’ve never played an RPG before, which I think is a nice approach, although it might be too much of hand-hold for experienced gamers.
If I had one gripe, its that there’s not a massive amount in the box for the money. There’s extra characters and an adventure you can download from the website, but why not just print them and include them?
Anyway, let’s see how this goes…