The Burning Empires RPG is based upon the Burning Empires comic book series by Christopher Moeller, set in a seperated era of worlds and start systems that are clawing their way back after a disaterous civil war. Much of the highly advanced technology of the Empire has fallen into disrepute, and the empire balkanized between various factions. However, this would not be a disaster, if it wasn't for the Vaylen.
The Vaylen are a worm-like creature, barely larger than a large earthworm. Without a host body, they are nothing more than...worms. But, inside of a host body, they fully awaken and become sapient, taking over the body and it's memories and becoming the full creature that they are.
And, humans are the host of choice. The sheer scale and complexity of the human mind put all other hosts to shame-and there are so many of them to be used and taken...
So, from the Galactic South, the Vaylen invade, infiltrating worlds, stealing bodies, and making use of the wonders and glories of their human hosts to take over worlds, and people.
People that you might love.
This is the heart and soul of the game, written and developed by Luke Crane. Players are on one side or the other of this war of shadows and of armored units, where the word is as important as the gun.
Tightly integrated with the Burning Wheel rules system, Burning Empires uses a D6-based dice pool system that is skill and stat-based linked. The system is well constructed, and players build their characters by selecting a homeworld, stats, then various Lifepaths, where the player's skills and abilites (called Talents) get adjusted. Then, players get dropped into their campaign.
Campaigns are based upon one of three possible stages-Infiltration, Ursurptation, and Confrontation. Infiltration is the classic spy story...trying to penetrate hostile defenses, playing spy/counter spy games, defeating and destroying efforts to make political inroads. Ursurptation is politics...Dangerous Liasons with the eventual threat of death and disgrace and dishonor. And, being used as the host for a Vaylen. The last stage is Confrontation-warfare, open battles, fleets burining in the night.
The game is high concept-tools and weapons are generic unless a player invests time and effort to customize them. Another high concept is Artha, which comes in one of three types-Fate, Persona and Deeds. Each is earned by characters in play, and can be spent later on specific things. This encourages gaming and playing, and the game is built along those lines. Combat and social interactions are handled all in the same conflict engine-combat is abstracted on a single self-drawn map that mostly gives ideas of cover and areas of vital control.
Graphically, the game is very good. The font is clear and the text is well-written, and the layout is well-done. There are page tabs on the side, but the color is not sufficently different enough to quickly find sections via the side. The nessisary handouts for the game are not in the book-but are online, which is a mixed blessing.
I like the game-it may never take over the "super-detailed" sci-fi RPG niche that Transhuman Space and Traveller hold, but it's an interesting take on sci-fi gaming in a gaming world that is over-saturated with Fantasy RPGs. I'm going to enjoy playing this game-and you should, too.
Rules-4 out of 5 (damn near perfect, some more detailed rules for combat and vehicles would be nice.)
Layout-4 out of 5 (great layout, excellent index, needed to be a bit larger and more contrast in side tabs would be great.)
Graphics-3.5 out of 5 (the art looks like it was used in the comic books, almost entirely. Useful...but some new art would have been good.)
Fun Factor-3.5 out of 5 (the game will intimidate new players. Be warned. And, it's a game with a definite start, middle, and end...)
Final Score-15/20 (Worth Getting)