Friday, December 28, 2012

Edge of the Empire Beginner Box!

Today I picked up the Edge of the Empire Beginner Box from my FLGS.  I thought a great deal about whether or not I would actually purchase this since between the Beta version that I already bought and the Beta updates that Fantasy Flight Games provides on their website for free, I essentially have the full game already.  This won't be a review, namely because I haven't really had enough time to go over everything in the box, and because I've already reviewed the Beta.  I will simply attempt to answer the question "what was I thinking?"  No, I'm not trying to rationalize the purchase, I'm just summarizing what the game offers.

First off, the dice.  Fans of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplaying Game (WFRP) have mentioned online that the custom dice for that game are pretty pricey.  Like, we might expect $15 a pop for a set of these Star Wars dice once they come out.  That's almost as much as the whole box set on Amazon, and half what I paid at my FLGS.  Can't remember the source, but in any case it's the only way to get the physical dice at the moment.  I put the stickers from the Beta on some dice but something about them just feels off.  Which I'm sure is mostly psychological, but still.  Having 2 sets of dice will be nice in play.

Next is the novelty of it.  I've actually never bought one of these "box sets" for an RPG before, so I was pretty curious exactly how a somewhat crunchy game could be distilled down for beginners.  The included adventure does a really good job of it, and even for the experienced roleplayers who are new to the custom dice thing that might be really helpful.  Besides, I've actually taught people brand-new to RPing how to play using various systems, so it's cool to finally see a product designed to do exactly that. 

Another motivating factor is my preference for more rules-light systems.  Not that Edge of the Empire is particularly crunch-heavy, but it's not quite as "clean" as it could be.  There are some subsystems that are a little more complicated than they need to be, and it can be tough to sift through everything to expose the bare essentials of the system.  That Beta book is 222 pages of almost all crunch, after all.  I really like having a bare bones, streamlined version of the system.  The "lowest common denominator" as determined by the designers themselves.  I can add in the more complicated bits as necessary, or simply use them to fuel my own improvisation from the "base." 

New and improved character sheets and stat blocks.  Ok, so the stat blocks in the Rulebook are still the crappy space-saving pieces of trash that were in the Beta book, but the adventure includes stat blocks that are easy to reference in combat.  They're organized and laid out in a much more user-friendly way, and most importantly include graphical representations of relevant dice pools!  Same with the character folios; there's a column in the skill lists that shows the dice pools (2 green diamonds and a yellow hexagon for Pash's Charm skill, for example).  Anything that helps players (and GMs!) quickly grab the exact handful of dice that they need to roll is great in my book!  When I ran a quick solo playtest combat I didn't like having to look at two different numbers (the characteristic and the skill rank), then the difficulty, etc. every time I made my dice pool.  Those numbers just don't jump out at you when you quickly glance at the stat block or character sheet.  These graphical dice pools do, and I'll be using stat blocks and character sheets that make use of them exclusively when I play.  By the way, here you can find revised stat blocks for the adversaries from the Beta book (much thanks to the author who spent so much time putting those together!).  I'm working on my own custom character sheet with hollow green diamonds and yellow "o"s in a column on the skills list.  These can then be filled in to represent the dice pool.  Perhaps not as visually striking as the character folios, but much more practical for character advancement.

Finally, tokens and maps.  I started using tokens instead of minis when D&D 4E launched its Essentials line (thank you Monster Vaults I and II!).  They take up less space and they're WAY cheaper, making it much easier to accumulate (and carry!) enough to have multiple representations of whatever creature you're likely to need.  Plus cats don't find them as enticing as minis (too bad the dice still aren't safe...).  Now I have some Star Wars tokens, which will be a big help for such a little thing.  The maps, while just a simple 4-folded sheet of heavy paper, have more value than just the included adventure.  The cantina is generic enough to be used over and over again, perhaps making note of any differences without having to draw out a separate map.  The Mos Shuuta street map will be useful for groups that return to the city.  Most importantly, however, is the large map of the Krayt Fang, the YT-1300 Freighter that the party acquires at the end of the included adventure.  Heck, even if you don't use the included adventure most groups will probably have a YT-1300 anyways.

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