So, I'm one of those guys who grew up on Moldvoy D&D and Gygaxian AD&D, and I played or owned just about every system that came out prior to 1993.
I was curious about the new WHFRP 3rd edition because it looked -different-. I mentioned it to my non-gamer wife, and she gave it to me for Christmas. I haven't had a chance to play it or completely grasp the rules system yet, but I wanted to share some of my initial thoughts:
-The dice system is interesting, though I'm not too keen on the dice themselves. The D10s are very messy looking, and in some cases, I can't even tell what the symbols are. I think it was a major design mistake to put the most detail on the dice with the most (and therefore smallest) sides.
-The cards: in theory, I like incorporating cards into the RPG table, it's nice to have something tangible. The problem is that these cards are clearly designed to drive profit for FFG. FFG will keep putting out new cards with new powers, and players and GMs will feel compelled to keep buying them. Eventually, this will become unsustainable and frustrating for GMs and the system will die out (a phenomenon that also killed AD&D 2nd Edition, by the way). Also, a lack of duplicate cards creates a problem, especially with regard to Occupation cards. (I maintain that the best RPGs, the ones people keep going back to over time, are the most minimalist ones.)
-The package: FFG is selling the system as an all-inclusive package, but this creates a huge problem for game groups. Namely, the players are unlikely to have a copy of/ familiarity with the rules. The core rules cost over $100, so it is very unlikely that players will buy their own copy. Even then, its not always in the GM's best interest for his players to have a copy. Then you have to deal with issues of players having access to sensitive material (like the adventure), keeping track of who owns what cards and dice and counters and so on. The last thing a GM wants to do after a long session is count every little piece to make sure his package is complete.
The fact that the books are soft cover makes me very reticent to share the books with my players. They are, frankly, a slovenly bunch, and if I lend a book out, it's likely to get returned to me torn, worn and stained, or never returned at all. There are two stereotypical gamers: obsessive-compulsive gamers and slacker gamers. The obsessive compulsive gamers tend to be GMs, and as such, we don't trust our players farther than we can throw them. Having a big price tag increases our OCD behaviour.
The adventure: The adventure in the GMs book is really great and well laid out. I hope that its layout will be the model for future releases. However, I think the overall theme of the adventure is more victorian horror (Ravensloft/ Cthuhlu-esque) than the over-the-top inky-black medieval fantasy that I think has defined the Warhammer world for nearly 3 decades.
As an old-school gamer, Warhammer represented a very particular type of fantasy RP. It was gory and dark to an absurd level. In a way, the setting was like a satire of Tolkien fantasy. Whereas Tolkien-esque heroes were nigh-on indestructible, WH PCs experienced frequent and bloody deaths, and the nihilism was part of the joy of the game. Dismemberment, guts and decapitation was written as an integral part of the combat system, and after a few sessions, you were lucking if your PC still had all his limbs. I always saw this a reflective of a distinctively British sense of humour. That is, for me, the essence of the Warhammer RPG.
I was disappointed to see that the setting was mostly sanitized in this latest edition. It shouldn't have surprised me. FFGs, much as I love them, have never had much appreciation of irony.
I'm going to play the adventure soon, and then write back about how the system works. In the meantime, I'd like to offer the following advice to the designers at FFG:
PUT A FREE PDF OF THE RULES BOOK ONLINE.
Players need a copy of the rules, and they aren't going to drop 100$ just because their GM wants to experiment with a new system. In my experience, most new game settings don't survive past 2 or 3 sessions. If the system and the game do not capture the players' imagination after the first session, the game falls apart and gets catalogued forever on the Bookshelf of Forgotten RPGs. Players who know the rules are much more likely to have a solid playing experience at the outset of the campaign. If the game survives over 3 sessions, it's likely to continue for the long term, and players and the GM are more likely to buy additional products. Furthermore, potential GMs are more likely to buy the core rules box if they know what they are getting in it.