Friday, 4 December 2009

Star Wars D6 Products Review

WEST END GAMES STAR WARS PRODUCTS

This material is, of course, out of print but there are probably a lot of collectors who wish to add to their mass of books through trading or personal ads. Of course the choice is limited making the buyer choose carefully before purchase. What is good enough to use and what may be a bad buy?
I have played D6 Star Wars with a variety of groups in a variety of settings (mostly our own creation - the Setnin Sector) and therefore I have a good idea of what is helpful and what is not. This list is based on nothing but gaming experience.
What I will try to give is a clear idea of what is good and what is bad for the average gamer. I cannot help but allow a bit of personal bias in what I present and you’ll have to forgive me for that. And yes, I did own all these products and have read them thoroughly.
Each entry will be accompanied by a short description and maybe what the book may do for you. It will also be followed by a brief rating out of five - 1 being bad, 5 being favourable and 3 being average.

CORE RULEBOOKS

Star Wars - The Roleplaying Game: The first book on the shelves and possibly one of the best. The rules are laid out clear and are easy to use, written in a manner that makes it a good read amongst other things. It would be easy to dismiss this book - the rules are now virtually unused in any of the later West End products, utilising instead the Second Edition rules, but the format is surprisingly atmospheric and lays out everything in an easy to follow beginners format. This is highly recommended for those first time gamers, and even more so for those players who want to get a taste of Star Wars Roleplaying and yet not get all fussed about the rules. (4)

Star Wars - The Roleplaying Game - Second Edition: Basically an expanded edition that adds extra rules to help the GM manage more detailed games. Even though it has a lovely cover it is badly laid out and disjointed in parts, with entire sections placed where you’d last expect to see them. The good thing about the First Edition was the fact that you could pretty much flip through the pages and get to the section you needed in seconds. This edition is convoluted and if you are a bit of a fussy rules person you’ll find it a bit cumbersome to use during play. The book, in many respects, is overburdened with extra rules that make the otherwise free flowing game unnecessarily complicated. (3)

Star Wars - The Roleplaying Game - Revised and Expanded: This is the book that any self-respecting gamer, Star Wars or otherwise, should buy. Beautifully laid out in full colour with excellent presentation, the book is what the Second Edition should have been. An absolute must buy. Each section is clearly marked, and although the rules use most of the Second Edition it streamlines the application of those rules to allow for a fast playing game. Its well suited for both experienced and novice gamers alike, with the rules being both well presented and yet not too simple for those players who want a little bit more. Highly recommended. (5)

SOURCEBOOKS

The Star Wars Sourcebook: Covering all the main points of the Star Wars universe, this book gives the GM an insightful look into the workings of the most important things in the galaxy. Well presented with lots of little extra text that adds depth, it’s a good book for those little details you want to add. There are stats for all the main starships, weapons, aliens, vehicles and plenty of background material so that you can add the detail you want to the game. It doesn’t try to go into pointless technobabble either but explains things in a straightforward manner. It looks good on the shelf next to the original rulebook, too. Later sourcebooks expand on the material within but this one is well suited to beginning gamers. Dated but helpful. (4)

The Rebel Alliance Sourcebook: Although at first it may seem interesting to know what goes on in the Alliance, it soon becomes apparent that are a lot of unnecessary details in this book that turn it into a long winded narrative. There are some helpful parts, but knowing the exact workings of the Rebels is not what most gamers will be sat around the table to experience. It is a good source of material if you want to know the history and workings of the Alliance, but it’s a little let down with no helpful hints on how to insert the material into a campaign. (3)

The Imperial Sourcebook: As with Rebel Alliance Sourcebook, the Imperial book is little more than a collection of details and lists that present to the reader the inner workings of the Empire - if the players want to get involved with that sort of thing. A good read but not really necessary. (3)

The Movie Trilogy Sourcebook: A simple collection of stats and details of all the major things in the Star Wars movies (Episodes 4 - 6). Although an interesting read, it’s not really practical as far as the average gaming group goes. All the stats within are well laid out with histories and descriptions, but all these stats re-appear in later products and you have to wonder whether its really that useful, or whether you’ve paid good money to read what you’ll probably get in later prints. (3)

The Movie Trilogy Sourcebook - Special Edition: Same as the above but with any extras that the Special Editions threw in. Although well presented with decent colour pictures, it’s still limited as to its practical use in a game. (3)

Shadows of the Empire Sourcebook: Although not a great fan of the novel and the material produced, I was pleasantly surprised by this book. Its clear and concise, but quite short as far as useable material goes. Its difficult to imagine exactly how useful this book is, but it gives some very interesting histories and descriptions. It only really details the novel and there’s little or no real use, unless you want to run a game that intertwines with the actual story. (3)

Tales of the Jedi Companion: The best thing about this book is the detail it presents to allow gamers to play hundreds of years before the movies as described in Dark Horse Comic’s series. With a decent presentation of Force Skills this is good book to have if you intend on running a game with that ‘little bit of difference’. Its atmospheric and well produced with plenty of artwork from the comic to inspire you to write your own history. It makes good reference material in games set around the trilogy, also, with tables within that allow you to use Force skills ‘at a glance’. (4)

The Jedi Academy Sourcebook: The novel was a little uninspiring with its convenient plot and ridiculous super-weapons and this book is no different. A boring presentation with little or no usable material this is only for completists. Its far from practical as a gaming aid - as with other sourcebooks based around a novelist’s creation its a little more than a list of stats that may interest a gamer as far as what things are capable of but little use in a campaign. (2)

Dark Empire Sourcebook: Its nice to read a book with material that can be put to good use. This one, based on the Dark Horse Comics series, is a good read with settings and places well described in a very interesting era of the Star Wars universe. It gives valuable insights into certain workings of the era and will help the average GM create stuff set on these famous locations and use them to their fullest. (4)

Han Solo and the Corporate Sector Authority Sourcebook: Need a new place to game, with a new power-hungry organisation to mess about with? Then pick up this sourcebook. Although it does tend to waffle on about nothing, there are decent pages in here that will help a GM build up on a new setting. Although it is filled with notes and ideas it may seem a little convoluted, as the stats and details are laid out following the progress of the Brian Daley novels. If you like the books you’ll find the tome helpful but it may take a couple of reads to get used to the material if you’re unfamiliar with them. (4)

Heir To The Empire Sourcebook, Dark Force Rising Sourcebook, The Last Command Sourcebook (three separate volumes): Not a big fan of the novels and I’m afraid that the same goes for the sourcebooks. They are little more than a collection of stats concerning all the elements of the trilogy. Once again we are presented with reproductions of statistics for the main characters and you wonder whether the paper you’ve spent your money on has been wasted. Lets face it; you’re not going to use the new stats in your game, are you? How many times are your players going to meet them? Unless the GM is doing an alternate timeline sort of game the books are pretty useless. No doubt a GM wanting to run a game set around the happenings may find it useful there would be a lot of work involved to make it any help. (2)

The Truce at Bakura Sourcebook: More of the same, I’m afraid, with more stats and figures, although it does detail the Bakura incident so that a GM can run games during the conflict. There’s little in here, however, to fuel a long-term campaign. (3)

GALAXY GUIDES

GG 1 - A New Hope: If you’ve got the Movie Trilogy Sourcebooks then there’s very little in here you’ll find useful. More character stats that provide good guidelines for templates and little else. As with most of the first Galaxy Guides it was the first print of its kind and many gamers may have found it an interesting read to see what the main character’s stats were - and then left it gathering dust on the shelf after a couple of games. (2)

GG 2 - Yavin and Bespin: If you intend to spend a lot of time on these planets then you’ll find these details useful. Unfortunately, even well known locations can become boring. There’s enough information in here to allow a GM to run games within these settings and its full of information regarding the workings and mysteries of the planets. (3)

GG 3 - The Empire Strikes Back: Pretty much the same as GG 1 - A New Hope. A collection of details and stats that amount to virtually nothing. (2)

GG 4 - Alien Races: A collection of stats and details detailing many alien creatures, which the GM may find useful. Full of things already presented in other books and some uninspiring creations, this book will help the fledgling GM with visuals and quick-grab stats. It does include stuff that details some main aliens from the films and how to use them in a campaign but later tomes render this book obsolete. (2)

GG 5 - Return of the Jedi: Do you want more main character profiles and stats? Then dole out your money. Nothing in here is very helpful. (2)

GG 6 - Tramp Freighters: One of those books that the GM can’t do without. Its got all the details you need to play and maintain a free-trader campaign, with helpful hints on ship creation, modifications, law and order, trading, and even a little mini-sector to use all these new details. The sector itself is very useful, not only as a decent place to game but also as a good template for creating your own stuff. An excellent book which in some places you wish was a little more detailed but still manages to give you enough information to run a long campaign. (4)

GG 7 - Mos Eisley: Its not a bad book with some very interesting details as far as the history of the place goes, but continually roleplaying on Tatooine can’t be a good thing. From what I understand, though, it is a popular place to be and if your players want to go there (which they no doubt will) you’ll find this book useful. (3)

GG 8 - Scouts: It’s like the Star Trek of the Star Wars universe. This book gives helpful details on how to run a game of explorers, but it has short-term appeal. The players usually want to kick some rear and flying about doing surveys isn’t what they have in mind. Books like this tend to want to add extra rules for extra situations, but its good material if you want to run that kind of game. (3)

GG 9 - Fragments from the Rim: This book gives some decent enough insights into the rim worlds, with political and business viewpoints and places and people to add to your campaign. Not a bad addition, and handy if you already have GG 6 - Tramp Freighters. The two books combined give you the location and ability to run a decent trader game. (4)

GG 10 - Bounty Hunters: With details on bounty hunter procedures and a whole list of actual hunters to send after players, this book is a good addition. Not only is it good for the player or NPC who is doing the hunting, its good to know where you stand and how much you can get away with when running a hunter. (4)

GG 11 - Criminal Organisations: Take GG 6, 9, 10 and 11, mix thoroughly and add players. What you have is an excellent setting for a long campaign. Recommended to increase your playing pleasure in conjunction with the other three books. And excellent source material for creating your own enterprising businesses. (4)

GG 12 - Aliens - Enemies and Allies: More creatures. More beasties. More aliens, basically, but giving a little more insight into their usefulness. It is a little pointless, in some cases, because its basically telling you how each being acts and that makes them predictable. Not what your players want to interact with. (2)

INFORMATION/CAMPAIGN RESOURCE BOOKS

Hideouts and Strongholds: With some pretty pointless rules (or maybe I should call them ‘guidelines’) for creating locations and bases, this book gives some details of several places that the GM may find useful. Ultimately, when you’ve spent more than a couple of games at these locations they become boring. (3)

Players Guide to Tapani: Disregarding the silly book cover, this little tome contains an entire setting for those players wishing to get a little politics into their lives. It details Houses and Lords that are constantly bickering, with the players adding depth by getting involved. A little convoluted and only accessible by players who like that sort of thing. The detail is expanded in the campaign setting Lords of the Expanse. (3)

Secrets of the Sisar Run: With a little Black Sun background this book gives an interesting trader/smuggler campaign setting with plenty of material to keep a game going for a long time. Again, players’ preference, but you can’t help but feel that this product was a little rushed with minimal detail to be useful. (3)

The Black Sands of Socorro: Although the setting is interesting it is uninspiring and not guaranteed to keep the player’s attention. Recommended if the GM doesn’t have the time to create their own location or campaign setting. (2)

Rules of Engagement - The Rebel Specforce Handbook: A very militaristic book that will only appeal to those who want to add a little specialist spice to their games. With limiting appeal it still has enough information to detail certain parts of an in-depth Rebellion campaign. If your players want to sneak about, shouting strange phrases during combat and gesticulating at one another whilst creeping into secret bases then this may be what your looking for. (3)

Shadows of the Empire Planets Guide: It does exactly what it says on the cover, which, unfortunately, isn’t much. There’s nothing in here to inspire the average player. (2)

Heroes and Rogues: Contains some very handy hints that will help a GM run a campaign where the players will meet a lot of different people, and how to roleplay different types. Ultimately, it’s a collection of character templates, which give new players a lot more choice as far as characters go and is handy when you need an off-the-cuff NPC. (3)

Gundark’s Fantastic Technology - Personal Gear: Although handy in some respects, and very appealing to players, the GM may find some of the stuff in here will unbalance the game. Some of the designs are nice but it appears to mostly drawings to add window dressing to a game. (3)

Cynabar’s Fantastic Technology - Droids: It’s a bunch of droids. What more do you want me to say? If you’ve got the core rulebooks and some of the other sourcebooks then you’ve got what’s in this book. There are some good rules as far as implementing and designing droids goes, but GM’s may find them a little over enthusiastic on the designer’s part. (3)

Galladinium’s Fantastic Technology - Guns and Gear For Any Occasion: It’s handy for all those little details you might want to put into your game and very little else. Handy if you don’t want to spend the time designing new stuff. (3)

Stock Ships: Some very uninspiring designs (some downright awful) make this book a little more than a quick-grab tome to show your players what ship someone flies if you don’t have anything else to hand. (2)

Planets of the Galaxy - Volume One, Volume Two, Volume Three (three separate volumes): A nice collection of planets and sector details that a GM will find useful if they need a quick place for the players to go to, or if they have a campaign design they want to fill with details. There’s enough detail about each planet to plan and execute a small campaign. (4)

Cracken’s Rebel Operatives: An interesting collection of characters but you do wonder whether you’ll use them all, and if you do then it may be a case of making space for them. Unusable unless you need NPC’s to hand, and unless you design your scenario around the character its hard to imagine using the stats for what they were created for. (2)

Cracken’s Rebel Field Guide: Interesting but ultimately useless. Lets face it; if the things here were available to the average rebel at any time then it would make the game boring. Anything else is just unbelievable co-incidence. It really depends on what kind of game you run, and its difficult to remember what’s usable when in a high-energy part of the game. (2)

Wanted by Cracken: Need something for your bounty hunters to do? Then get this. It’s got some interesting contracts and decent locations to keep your hunter campaign going for a while. It does become difficult to maintain the interest, though, so it’s only handy every now and then. (3)

Cracken’s Threat Dossier: Want a location or object to review? Then check out this, although there’s hardly any practical use for the locations - their use has already been exhausted by the novels they appeared in and if the players have read the books there’s no real surprise. (2)

Alien Encounters: A well-laid out tome that details many aliens that will populate your campaign. Its handy and comprehensive so you’ll have no problem grabbing a quick alien if you need one. Filled with all the details you’d expect from a brief xenobiologists report it makes a good read and excellent source material. (4)

Creatures of the Galaxy: What every GM wants is a couple of little monsters to annoy the players with, and this book has plenty. Handy, not only for giving quick details but also helps with designing and creating your own little beasties. This, really, is the only book that covers decent creatures that populate a variety of ecologies. (4)

Alliance Intelligence Reports: If you want to put your players up against some NPC nasties this book is handy but it only really helps if you’ve run out of your own ideas or you’ve used up what’s already available. (3)

Wretched Hives of Scum and Villainy: Want to lie low? Make some contacts? An interesting collection of places and people for those less than honest players, and even good for players to visit in the course of the game. Short-term appeal, however, with the small number places presented. (3)

Death Star Technical Companion: It’s a technical companion. About the Death Star. What exactly is a GM supposed to do with this? Apart from read it, I mean. (2)

Pirates and Privateers: A good collection of ideas and designs for the enterprising capital starship captain or player. Recommended for those games where the players like going ‘har, har’ and doing less than honest things on their vessel. A good little addition. (4)

Platt’s Smugglers Guide: More of a personal viewpoint than a practical one, but helpful if you want to go into more detail than is necessary when running a smuggler campaign. (3)

Platt’s Starport Guide: Very few decent starports, but it does have some good charts and tables concerning costs and other stuff for the discerning trader. (3)

SCENARIOS AND CAMPAIGNS

Tatooine Manhunt: The first scenario produced and it’s an excellent little game set in and around Mos Eisley. There’s plenty to do and see around the deserts of Tatooine as the players hunt for the almost hermit-like hero Adar Tallon to help them in their fight against the Empire, with the first appearance of Jodo Kast. A decent plot. Quite entertaining for first-time players. (4)

Starfall: If you want to run through the bowels of a collapsing Star Destroyer then this could be the game for you. Oh, and as luck would have it the ship’s designers are on board. An interesting plot but overly convenient. (3)

Battle for the Golden Sun: It’s really just an excuse to get the players underwater to get across a different setting. A powerful coral (the Golden Sun) is wanted by both Rebels and Imperials. I defy anyone not to laugh at the AT-AT swimmer. Although the plot is interesting it isn’t acted upon very well. (2)

Otherspace: It doesn’t feel like Star Wars, it doesn’t play like Star Wars, but if you want to run a dark mysterious game in another galaxy (or dimension, or whatever it is) then this may suit. The players are thrown into another dimension after a hyperspace accident and come across the biomechanical Charon, an insectoid race of evil. It does try to build atmosphere but its a little off the mark, though. (2)

Otherspace 2 - Invasion: More of the first but in the Star Wars galaxy. Or dimension. Or whatever. As far as sequels go, this isn’t much better than the first as the Charon try to invade realms beyond their own. (2)

Strike Force - Shantipole: Does rescuing Admiral Ackbar and the B-wing project sound like fun? Then pick this up. It’s interesting and rather enjoyable, but strangely lacking in depth. With dodging asteroids and Imperial squads you’d think it would be exciting but the small location limits the adventure. (3)

Crisis on Cloud City: After Tatooine and Ackbar, it would be nice to stray away from the Star Wars settings, but here we go again. This one is set on Bespin, and has a weak plot concerning a nasty droid intelligence with an un-exciting ending. It does have Sabacc cards, though, which is cool. (2)

The Game Chambers of Questal: It would be fun if the plot weren’t so thin, as the players go hunting for a missing operative during some kind of carnival, and the art was better. It can’t be recommended. (2)

Riders of the Maelstrom: An enjoyable little romp on a luxury liner beset by internal problems and pirates. There’s a lot for players to do and its good fun. Even if the game isn’t run there’s enough detail about the liner to fuel your own stories. (4)

Scavenger Hunt: A ridiculous plot and absolutely awful interior artwork makes this scenario one of the worst. The players go into a junkyard and find a piece of the destroyed first Death Star - and amongst other things, Darth Vader’s spare suit. Are they trying to be funny or creative? (1)

Black Ice: An interesting plot concerning the infiltration of a huge transport ship that’s moving fuel about but its let down by a pretty basic sequence of events. When you get to the end you wonder whether your fate was really in your own hands. (2)

Operation - Elrood: A decent plot which starts out as an intriguing conspiracy-type game but which finally degenerates into a simple blow-up-the-badguys type of thing. I know that’s what Star Wars is about but I like to think that when you establish a game’s atmosphere you try to stick to it. (3)

Mission to Lianna: Quite an entertaining little romp that’s kept moving along at a nice even pace, a collection of decent setting and Rebel threatening drama as the players try to stop the manufacture of a fully operational cloaking device. (4)

No Disintegrations: Only really good for bounty hunter players, this collection of adventures is entertaining and well though out. Limited appeal, sadly. (3)

Instant Adventures: A nice collection of short adventures, some of which you wish were a little longer. Fun but slightly impractical. It says that you can insert these into an on-going campaign but its more useful if you need a quick one-off that won’t really matter much in the grand scheme of things. (3)

Graveyard of Alderaan: A ridiculous plot set in what’s left of the doomed planet that is basically a bad idea. The players enter the wreckage of the planet where they find the remnants of the planet’s palace. Hmmm. (1)

Death in the Undercity: An interesting plot that concerns Calamari, concerning good action sequences and a decent story idea. An Imperial plot to divide the forces of the Mon Calamari and the Quarren is well thought out with several key moments that make it worthwhile. (4)

The Isis Coordinates: A simple run through a series of encounters to track down Imperial Agents who have stolen the location of a Rebel stronghold and are trying to alert their superiors. There are some encounters which seem a little pointless but it is fast paced. Ultimately run-of-the-mill. (3)

Planet of the Mists: A nice little story that includes elements of moral and tactical decision. The Imperials are poisoning a planet with an Industrial plant and the heroes are thrown into the thick of it. You do get stats for Imperial Swamp Troopers, and then wonder if the creators are going to invent a Stormtrooper for every occasion. Good for the more ecologically minded players. (4)

BOXED SETS

Lords of the Expanse: A box set, which details more of the Tapani Sector. It’s a lot more detailed and has some very handy stuff in there to expand on the original book - if you liked the original book, that is. Plenty of extras and details that may or may not be useful. (3)

The Darkstryder Campaign (incorporating four volumes - the Darkstryder box set, the Kathol Outback, the Kathol Rift and Endgame): As far as huge, all encompassing campaigns go this little beauty just about covers everything. You’ve got intrigue, action, character interaction, mystery, suspense... the whole campaign is spread out over four publications and takes a long time to run through, but it is worth it. The only problem is that it’s designed for characters supplied with the game. The players are required to choose one of the characters and then get into the plot. Some people may find this a little constricting, but if you want epic roleplaying designed to bring out the best in plot and design then you can’t go far wrong. With a lot of work the GM may be able to redesign the campaign to suit his own player’s characters, but in reality the game is designed for the characters included. It’s recommended but, as stated before, some players may consider it linear, based on the fact the story is designed around pre-created player characters. There is a lot of design and detail here that the GM can incorporate into his own campaign, anyway. (4)