Let me start out by explaining what this game is, so that you know what you'll be getting for your dollar. "Echoes of War" contains basic rules for the 'Firefly' RPG, stats for the characters from the TV show, and four complete adventures for the game. In short, it contains everything your crew needs to do a job, get paid, and keep flying.
The 'Firefly' RPG itself is a great game, with strikingly different gaming philosophy than you see in most other RPG's. It's also worth mentioning that the game mechanic used in the 'Firefly' RPG is significantly different from the system used in the 'Serenity' RPG a few years ago (which was also published by Margaret Weis Productions). This system is different enough from most other roleplaying games, in fact, that experienced gamers often struggle a bit with its basic concept, while people new to roleplaying often 'get' it almost immediately. Essentially, the difference is that die rolls drive the game's narrative-- creating character advantages or complications in the process which can become major plot elements in their own right-- instead of simply determining success or failure and leaving it to the GM to weave that result into his or her existing narrative. This does a couple of interesting things. First, the prospect of gaining complications actually makes the game better-- don't ask me how, but the game just seems to get better and better the more your character gets hosed by multiple complications. This is the thing that veteran players seem to have the most difficulty with when they play 'Firefly' for the first time, but if you've ever seen the TV show, it makes perfect sense: the show is at its best when things don't go as planned. You don't get to be a big damn hero unless you face unexpected wrinkles and complications, and building random setbacks into the game somehow tends to make characters all the more epic. This runs against the grain of most gamers' experience set, since in other games players try to stack the deck so that their characters always have the winning hand. The other thing that this mechanic does is that the process of assigning assets and complications through gameplay gives the players a degree of agency within the storyteller's overall narrative, which isn't as disruptive as it might sound, but also invests players in the way that story develops and unfolds. This system has a unique feel to it, making roleplaying a much more collaborative experience, but admittedly it isn't for everyone. People who take a very analytic, numbers-oriented approach to roleplaying-- experiencing it as a game-- will probably like it less than narrative- or character-driven players who primarily see roleplaying as a story.
That "not for everyone" quality is part of what makes "Echoes of War" such a great way to experience the 'Firefly' RPG for the first time. The buy-in price for this product (currently $12.99) is relatively cheap for a roleplaying product. While "Echoes of War" doesn't contain the full rules set, it's still more than just a quickstart adventure featuring a streamlined version of the system. Everything you need to play the game is contained within these covers-- and with four complete adventures included, you and your gaming friends ought to have plenty of material to cover to decide whether this game is for you.
The adventures themselves are above-average, with fully fleshed-out NPC's and settings and enough background information provided that the GM is well-prepared to handle situations which don't go quite as expected. As the title suggests, the adventures in "Echoes of War" are all built around the theme of how the Unification War marked and continues to haunt each of the cast members from the TV show. Since they're written for players and storytellers who may not be familiar with the game's full rules set, these adventures also do a great job of suggesting how to apply the game's rules to any number of circumstances which might pop up while playing them.
Browncoats unite! This product is a great way to try out one of the best games around right now, allowing you and your players to step into one of television's greatest science fiction settings ever. So pick it up, do a job, get paid, and keep flying today!
[5 of 5 Stars!]