The Beginner Game is a box set designed to take players new to Edge of the Empire, or roleplaying in general, and introduce them to the concepts and rules before setting them on the path to telling their own unique adventures set in the Star Wars universe. The box set includes an introduction to roleplaying, a starting adventure, four fully built character folios for use by the players, a rulebook for continuing the game after the introductory adventure, a map that accompanies the adventure, cardboard tokens to use as markers on the map, and a custom set of dice for Edge's narrative dice mechanic. All in all, that's not a bad buy for $30, but let's delve a bit more into what each of these actually consists of.
On paper, the introductory adventure does several things right and several things wrong. It has a great, well-paced introduction to the rules of Edge of the Empire that is designed not to overwhelm players new to roleplaying and does as good a job explaining the narrative dice mechanic on paper as I think is possible. (The rules are more easily understood with hands-on experience.) There are a few rules sections near the end that get bogged down trying to throw too much at players at once in a mad rush to get the basics out there before wrapping up. Where the starting adventure goes wrong is with its internal logic. The adventure book features an odd sequence of events with several NPCs making rather illogical decisions to get the players to move in the direction of the plot. This degree of railroading is understandable for a beginner's adventure, but I wish it provided a few more options for player creativity and made a little more sense for those of us who aren't new to roleplaying, merely new to Edge and to set a better example for new players on how a game is usually run. In particular, I had a gripe with a few encounters that felt like the developers threw in a fight scene for the hell of it, when so far that doesn't seem to be Edge's big focus, even if blaster fights are known to happen from time to time.
The four pregenerated characters that come with the box provide an excellent party balance, focusing on several of the classic Star Wars concepts like the cocky smuggler (Pash), the bounty hunter (Oskara), the powerful Wookiee (Lowhhrick), and the independent droid (41-Vex). These character folios include a lot of supplemental information for players with explanations for the narrative dice on every page and diagrams that showcase what dice to add to a pool. These are fantastic ideas that should help new players out a lot with grasping the basics. Besides the characters' starting point, the folios provide a couple of level up opportunities, providing players with possibilities on how to spend their hard-earned XP rather than simply deciding on their behalf.
The rulebook is pretty solid, boasting a pared down version of the rules found in the Beta released last summer with the errata included. The Beginner Game provides all the necessary information for a GM to continue running adventures and for the players to continue leveling up their own characters but is missing some of the more fun RP rules introduced in the Beta, like Obligation and Motivations. Some of the skills are also simplified, such as Knowledge, which is a whole class of skills in the Beta book, but, overall, this book provides a solid foundation of the rules just a step removed from what the completed core book will undoubtedly contain.
Unfortunately, Fantasy Flight Games continues to produce products with glaring errors. I encountered several prominent typos in my read of the adventure book and the rulebook, and there are several huge statistics errors in the Character Folios where one character's base characteristics are completely swapped with another's after leveling up or a characteristic has suddenly been dropped to the impossible to achieve number of 0. These basic errors are disappointing to find, especially in a beginner's game, where they can sow the most confusion. GM's out there want to pay special attention to the numbers in the character folios, and be prepared to assure players of Pash and Lowhhrick that their characters did not completely change after gaining that 15 XP.
The other goodies in the box set are really great. The map of Mos Shuuta that goes with the adventure is well designed with some wonderful artistic details added at each of the locations. Better yet, this map is without grids and stresses that its use is meant to be more abstract, because Edge of the Empire is designed to support play without maps. The game also comes with a group of cardboard character tokens representing the player characters, the NPCs, and my favorite addition, Destiny Points. Unable to find a simple one side white and one side black poker chips myself, I really appreciate the inclusion of a counter that can be flipped back and forth as needed for this particular game rule which emphasizes the ebb and flow between the light side and dark side of the Force. Then, there are the dice. These dice look really great, and it's fantastic to have a group of narrative dice that weren't thrown together with stickers like with the Beta. I'm still a little frustrated at the inclusion of only one Challenge die since more than one would be necessary for the GM to make use of Destiny Points in most situations, but, overall, there's a good number of each die here perfect for a group and for the starting adventure.
Since the full rulebook is still a few months from release, the Beginner Game is a great way to get started for those who missed the Beta and are chomping at the bit to play a little Edge. As far as beginner's games to RPGs go, it's not the best, but it's a solid entry and a decent way to get started.
Next time, I'll dive into the online supplemental material FFG provided to accompany the Beginner Game. Until then, may your hunk of junk continue to be the fastest in the galaxy.