What The Average Joe Thinks: Star Wars-Age of Rebellion BETA

A short time ago in a column not very far away1, I was reviewing Star Wars: Edge of Empire (EoE), the new SW roleplaying book from Fantasy Flight Games.  While it introduced a new system, it focused on the edges of the galaxy, where the fringe settlers and smugglers did their thing… sort of mixing Firefly with the Star Wars universe.  Fantasy Flight’s new book, Age of Rebellion (AoR), brings the action back to the center of things with the galactic rebellion and the fight between the Empire and those who want to topple it.  Finally, you can play out the scenarios from the movies with your home groups, or you can focus on Rebellion efforts in other parts of the galaxy off-screen from what happened in the films.

With a new story focus come many new aspects to the game: new classes, new races, new vehicles & equipment, and new expanded rules for both ship-to-ship combat and Force powers.  Because they’re still not sure how these additions will mesh with the first book, they’ve released AoR as a BETA2 book.  You can buy the book now, which will give you the ability to give feedback to the Fantasy Flight developers as they hone the new product, giving weekly updates until the end of their beta test period in mid November.  This is a shortened version of what they did with Edge of Empire, shortened because the core rules have already been hashed-out with that first book.

So what’s new with AoR and why should you buy it3?  First off, there are the classes, which now include: Ace (Driver, Gunner, Pilot), Commander (Commodore, Squad Leader, Tactician), Diplomat (Ambassador, Agitator, Quartermaster), Engineer (Mechanic, Saboteur, Scientist), Soldier (Commando, Medic, Sharpshooter), Spy (Infiltrator, Scout, Slicer), and Force Emergent.  You’ll notice that a lot of these classes differ from the bounty hunters, colonists, and force sensitive folks in Edge of Empire.  That’s on purpose.  If your GM wants to mesh the two, they’re all designed to work together, and many even share some abilities from similar classes.  I continue to enjoy the multi-classing system of this game, which lets you effectively belong to multiple classes simultaneously without jumping through too many hoops… yet makes you split your advancement to keep folks from becoming good at everything.

There aren’t a ton of new races in the book4, but enough to keep folks happy.  Bothans, Duros, Gran, & Mon Calamari make appearances, though if you want to play a Wookie in your AoR game, you’ll need to incorporate the first book as well.  What there are lots of, however, are new ships of all shapes & sizes.  There are planet-bound things like speeder bikes & AT-AT walkers, starfighters like the X-Wing & TIE fighters, and every other type of ship you could imagine up to the Capital-class Imperial Star Destroyers.  Of course, if you want a more “smuggle-y” ship like the YT-1300, you’ll need the first book, but the new material in this book more than makes up for the absence of light freighters.

                                           FettVette

Sadly, Fett’s Vette is not included in this release.

Of course, with many new ships of varied sizes comes the introduction of enhanced ship-to-ship combat.  While I’ll need to see this system in action to make a final call, looking at the system out of the book seems to lead me to believe they’ve captured excitement of fast-paced space battles without the ridiculous rules that can sometimes get in the way of letting giant starships play with one another.  Sure, there’s a lot of abstraction and hand-waving to get past certain space maneuverability, but it’s all done in favor of a more dramatic story, which is what we’re all looking for in a Star Wars game anyway.  There are also expanded lists of actions for non-pilots to take during space battles, which will prevent the non-pilot characters from getting bored as their characters’ lives are determined by the single pilot’s rolls.

Force powers were very limited in EoE, and AoR does not necessarily blow the top off of that limit.  While the Rebellion has done what it can to protect Force Emergent characters from Vader & Order 66, they’re still not much more common than the Force Sensitive Exiles of EoE5.  It’s really more a sense of focus: the Exiles on the edge of the galaxy had utilitarian powers that focused more on surviving in uncivilized lands, while the Emergents working with the Rebellion tend to focus more on powers that enhance their ability to hide from the Empire.

As a Beta tester, you have the chance to have a significant impact on how this new product gets developed.  Having done the beta for the first book, I can tell you that several of the situations we ran into in our Modern Myths game lead to changes made in the final product.  Fantasy Flight encourages beta testers to share their thoughts, both in direct emails to them and on their extensive forums online.  They’re good about implementing changes that fix problems without drastically changing mechanics, which a nice change from certain other beta playtests I’ve tried in the recent past6.

If you’re interested in checking out Age of Rebellion play, there’s a group that meets at the Northampton store every 1st & 3rd Saturday of the month at noon.  This group started off with the beta of the first book, Edge of Empire, so they are all happy to help newcomers who may not be familiar with the custom dice system, and have a wide breadth of knowledge about the way things work.

  1. You can see that review here.
  2. You’ll want to keep your beta book on a separate shelf from the other fish, since betas are known to be aggressive towards other pet fish.
  3. I mean, besides the fact that you’ll be supporting the coolest gaming store in the known universe.
  4. Sadly, still no Noghri.
  5. Remember, depending on specific timing, the only two actual “Jedi” in the galaxy during the Rebellion are Obi-Wan & Yoda.
  6. *Cough*DNDNext*Cough*
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