I recently got to play this game for the first time, at the Roleplayers Guild of Kansas City Game Day, and I thought I would give you my impressions. I should say up front, that I have played two other FFG RPGs; Dark Heresy (love it) and Warhammer Fantasy RPG (hate it). I would also like to state that I generally love the look and feel of most every product that FFG puts out. The 40k line, in particular, I could almost buy for coffee table books alone, even without consideration for their value as an RPG system (which I feel is very high). The books are just that beautiful. Finally, I need to be completely forthcoming; I generally dislike dice pool systems and systems with unique dice. I find them confusing in interpretation and clumsy in action resolution. It's why I don't like World of Darkness Games, Shadow Run, WEG Star Wars (although I loved the writing and setting material for those products), and the afore mentioned WFRP 3rd edition. I would also like to say, that I don't think there is any such thing as a good or bad game. There are only games that you like, or don't like, and that is subjective to the individual.
Now, having said that, what is my own subjective opinon of this game? (ALERT: Adventure spoilers ahead. Read at your own risk)
The game was ran by a GM who, I am told, has actually written material for every iteration of the Star Wars RPG (I don't remember his name; please forgive me- I'm terrible with names). He produced several pre-generated characters for us to choose from. We wound up with a wookie mercenary, a droid colonist, a twi-lek bounty hunter, and a human smuggler. Since I like to play characters who are slick talking con-men, I chose the smuggler. I thought all the pre-gens were interesting and the artwork and background for the characters was excellent, and strongly evoked the feel of the setting (that being the Fringe culture of Star Wars).The game also came with a cool map of the city, with a layout of the cantina, spaceport control and docking by on the other side. We also got some spiffy cardboard counters to use for game tokens. The artwork and overall quality on these were generally excellent.
The adventure was Escape from Mos Shutta. The basic premise, is that we were a bunch of fringers on the run from the empire, who had recently gone to work for a local hutt lord, doing smuggling runs. Unfortunately, we had recently botched a mission for him, and now he was looking to take the credit loss out of our hides. That being the case, we had to find a ship to steal so we could blast off the planet and escape.
We started the game by heading to the local cantina to see if we could scare up some information. While we were kicking back a few drinks and soaking up the atmosphere (one of the players cued up the cantina theme music from Episode IV on his smart phone), a bunch of the hutts Gamorrean thugs walked in, looking for us. This is where I got my first taste of the dice resolution mechanics.
The GM had us all make rolls to try to look inconspicuous and blend in with the crowd. We all succeeded, except for the droid, who was standing by the entryway to the cantina, where the gamorreans walked in. The Droid decided to lob a stun grenade at the thugs, and succeeded magnificently, managing to knock all of them out. I then attempted a deception roll, by commenting out loud that, "The clumsy gamorrean fools had dropped a stun grenade and knocked themselves out." I also, succeeded admirably, and the bartender (who didn't like gamorreans and was amused by my quip), offered a bit of free information; a Trandoshan Bounty Hunter as docked nearby, with a vessel we could use to escape the planet. However, there was a catch; it needed repairs before it could make the jump to hyperspace.
The GM for the game was very skilled at roleplaying the NPC's, describing the environment and encounter and at improvising responses to our actions. However, he seemed to have about as much difficulty as the rest of us (all but one of whom had never played before, I believe) in interpereting and resolving the action dice. While the encounter, as designed, was very good and captured the feel of the setting, the actual combat and skill checking proved to be disappointingly slow and complex. The GM had warned us, prior to starting, that the dice rolling is a little confusing at first, but becomes easier with practice. Since this was only the first encounter of the game, I didn't worry about it too much, and figured I would pick things up as we went.
From the cantina, we decided to go to the local junk shop to try to procure the needed part for the Trandoshans ship (which we had, of course, decided to steal at the earliest opportunity). When we stepped outside, we discovered that the hutts goons were out in force, and that all traffice to and from the city had been shut down; the docking clamps on all the ships had been locked down from the spaceport security center. We continued on to the junk shop, where we attempted to fast talk the shopkeeper into believing that we had come to pick up the part for the trandoshans ship (he only had one part of that type- and the trandoshan had already reserved it, but had not yet come to get it) and succeeded, then attempted to negotiate a lower price for the part, itself (we all failed on that one). We managed to wrangle the part from the guy, after chucking and squinting at more handfuls of dice. Action resolution wasn't any easier than the first time but, thankfully, there was little dice rolling necessary. We gave the part to the wookie to carry, and moved on.
Next we travelled to the space port control center. We had to figure out some way to get inside and unlock the docking clamps on the ship, so we could steal the thing and blast off planet. At first, we tried to slice the lock on the rear entrance and sneak in the back, but we all failed miserably. Then we tried to fast talk the security droids out front into believing we were a crew coming to do monthly maintenance. This time, we succeeded. Inside, we conned the space port operations chief and his peons into believing the Hutt lord had sent us personally to inspect the premises. The GM managed the flow of the RP brilliantly but, once again, seemed to get hung up on dice action resolution (as did the rest of us). At any rate, we managed to unlock the docking clamps without provoking suspicion and continued on to the landing bay where the trandoshans vessel was docked.
When we stepped back outside, we discovered a squad of imperial stormtroopers waiting for us. Apparently, the hutt had ratted us out the Imps, he was that upset with us. I suggested we try to hotwire a nearby landspeeder to make our escape, but everyone else thought it would be more prudent just to make a break for it on foot. So, we made a run for it and, after some more dice checks (the slowness of which made the urgency of the scene somewhat less intense than it might have been- due to all the squinting and head scratching over resolving the dice rolls) we managed to slip away and make a run for the docking bay.
The next encounter was the most combat intensive of the game. We shot it out with some security droids in front of the docking bay, forced our way into the place, locked the blast doors to delay the stormtroopers, and attempted to persuade the trandoshan to give us a lift off planet in return for the part he needed. We failed at the last bit, and a firefight/slugfest ensued that was the longest combat encounter yet. It was here that the special dice really proved to be an impediment to the action. The trandoshan was also one tough nut to crack. We shot the hell out of him and he didn't go down. We chopped his arm off and he didn't go down. We tried to grapple and subdue him and he resisted. None of this (while enjoyable) was as fun or exciting as it should have been, due to clunky dice resolution, but we finally overcame the bugger when the wookie delivered a gruesome vibro-axe to the face. We then blasted off planet, and tried to complete the repair, while shooting it out with a squadron of tie fighters. Ship combat was interesting, with every character able to contribute in some fashion, with a special action related to space combat but, again, was bogged down by the numbers of dice and interpretation of the special symbols. In the end, we managed to blast our way free and make the jump to hyperspace; HOORAY! (cue the star wars theme music).
After playing the game, here is my final evaluation: The aesthetic appeal of the product is strong. All components seem to be sturdy and attractive. The art is excellent. The writing is tight and provides the appropriate feel for the setting. From a players perspective, with the GM doing most of the heavy lifting with dice resolution, I thought the game was fun, but not nearly as enjoyable as the D20 version of the game. From the GM's perspective (which is the more relevant one, for me- as I prefer to be the GM to being the player), I find the special dice mechanics frustrating and to actively impede the flow of the action. Given that, I will not be purchasing the game (or any other products in the series using the same dice mechanic), though I would consider playing in another game.