Edison Force presents a cool, adventurous setting that is an alternate to the standard Victorian-era "steam-punk" genre. Set in the Edwardian era, it's more "electro-punk" than "steam," with heroes battling giant robots using electrical rifles and aeroplanes.
Note: I bought the Edison Force PDF and POD copy. This review is based on the PDF.
Edison Force is a tightly packed 37 pages from stem to stern.
Contents consist of cover (1 pg), credits (1 pg), table of contents (1 pg), introductory story (1 pg), setting (4 pgs, including 1908 timeline), character creation (3 pgs), sample characters (1 pg, including Edison himself and three PCs), resources/equipment (3 pgs), vehicle rules (2 pgs, including three sample vehicles), GM section (4 pgs, including four possible evil geniuses and their stats: Luther Burbank, Marie Curie, Robert Goddard and .... Nicola Tesla!), sample adventure (13 pgs, Edison Force vs. the Martians), reference/inspirational material (1 pg), charcter sheet (1 pg and it's pretty cool) and an advert for Hobomancer (1 pg).
The layout is clean and easily readable. I appreciate the page numbers superimposed on Edison lightbulbs at the bottom of each page. The mass'o'gears borders are a nice touch for side-bars, timelines and character stat blocks. There are less than a half-dozen illustrations scattered throughout the text and their quality varies.
The cover is a fairly good illustration of Edison, holding a robotic hand, surrounded by members of his team: a boy genius, an Annie Oakley-esque woman sharpshooter, a big guy with what appears to be an electric mace and robotic glove, and a pilot with hat and goggles holding a mechanically-enhanced hawk. It reminds me of the style of Rick Geary.
The Introduction sets the feel of the game, heroic action and a nemesis defeated, without spending too much of the text on it. I'm happy it's short and to the point, so it is well-written enough for my tastes. Though the sentence "Lee turned a strange-looking rifle attached by a cable to his backpack towards the wicked machine" was the most stand-out clunky one in the story.
The Setting provides the basics and it well written. It starts with the 1907 invasion of south western Florida by technologically-advanced Marshovians, using Gatling guns, flame-throwers and a tank, all supplied by the mysterious Master. The baddies are defeated by the combined efforts of Edison's inventions and Henry Ford's vehicles.
A month later, President Roosevelt calls on Edison to create Edison Force to further combat any threats to America and the world by The Master. A nice touch was Roosevelt using this incident as the reason for The Great White Fleet's trip around the world.
The 1908 timeline gives some great events like the 1908 New York to Paris car race (the film The Great Race was inspired by this race), Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid's supposed death in Bolivia, and the Tunguska Event. If you can't look at this timeline and create a series of adventures based off of these events, you're losing your GM props.
A section on the world and Menlo Park is also included. There's a short aside on Edison and Tesla (and that Tesla was never proven to be The Master). In addition to the timeline, I came up with a half-dozen adventure ideas from the Setting text alone.
The Character Creation section was straight-forward, giving great ideas specifically for QAGS 2nd edition but written in a way that easily applies to other game systems. Fifteen archetypes are discussed and sample gimmicks, jobs, skill and weaknesses are provided. Characters also have a piece of signature equipment, that may or may not be Edisontech, which I thought was a nice touch.
As someone slightly knowledgeable about QAGS 2nd edition (I've yet to play the system), I found the rules understandable. I'm still not sure whether I'll use the game as written or my go-to game, Savage Worlds, but I thought up a few character concepts from the archetypes and attributes presented. The stat blocks of Edison and the three PCs were well done, and in the case of Edison, didn't pull any punches as to his "quirky" nature.
The Edison Force Resources section covered electric guns (of course!), electric trains and other vehicles, and communication. The best bit about this section is that the QAGS 2nd rules are minimal, so translating specifics to your favorite system presents few problems. There's even a side-bar on making up your own Edisontech.
The Vehicles section is much like the Character Creation section. The rules are fairly similar to character creation, so it seemed to me a way to make a robotic vehicle character, if modified enough. I'll have to mull that a bit more.
The GMing Edison Force section presents four diabolical geniuses, Luther Burbank, Marie Curie, Robert Goddard and Nicola Tesla. Each genius has a short history and a character stat block. This section alone is my favorite since there are many adventure possibilities. Other, fictional or real, diabolical geniuses are easily incorporated into the game, so don't take these four as an end but a beginning.
And, although the setting clearly states that Tesla is The Master, a clever GM can eschew that option and instead use the other three in a myriad of ways so that the blame falls on an innocent Tesla! He makes the perfect "fall guy" for whoever the real Master is!
Unfortunately, the sample adventure, Edison Force vs. the Martians, takes up 13 pages, fully a third of the text. I would have much preferred an adventure at half that size or less (removing the main Martian base), with the remaining pages used to further flesh out the Setting, Edison Force Resources and GMing Edison Force sections.
However, with that said, the adventure is pretty good. It provides some excellent NPCs, some historical (Perceval Lowell). The adventure starts with reports of giant robots in Arizona. Once there, the characters travel into the wilds and observe several Martian war machines, following them back to a training base. Clues in that base point them to a larger Martian base near Flagstaff. Venusian agents, Martian warriors and Edison Force mix it up, in a finale that could lead to The War of the Worlds!
In addition to NPC histories and stat blocks, and info on the Martian war machines, there is also a 1 page addendum to the Edison Force timeline. It proves to be a handy bit of information that I recommend repeating for any future adventures GMs come up with.
The remaining three pages of the text are the Inspirational Materials, the character sheet and the Hobomancer advert. I plan on checking out the reference texts listed on that page, as I'm sure my local library as some in their system. (I'm not sure how I feel about the whole Hobomancer concept as an RPG, so I'll ignore the advert for now.)
But I must say that the character sheet is beautiful, invoking the right mix of Edison Force feel (attributes are recorded in Edison lightbulbs!) and readability. Compared to the standard QAGS 2nd edition character sheet, this is the obvious winner for style and appearance.
On the whole, I am pleased with the purchase and, as I mentioned, while I would have been happier with a shorter adventure and more on the setting material, I think that this is a game that I'll run, hopefully soon, for one of my game groups.
[5 of 5 Stars!]