This is a beautifully-presented introduction to A Song of Fire and Ice Roleplaying - and indeed to role-playing games in general, as someone who likes the books the game is based on might encouter this product even if they don't role-play! (Just in case you don't know, the inspiration and setting comes from George R.R. Martin's epic stories which start with A Game of Thrones: a rich setting full of legends and intrigue and loads of political double-dealing, where debate is often done at the point of a sword!
Jam-packed into this book is a complete introductory adventure, six pre-generated characters and sufficient rules information so that you are good to go without further ado. To start, there's a useful summary of the current situation in the island continent of Westeros. For book fans, it is just before the opening of A Game of Thrones, about ten years since a revolution brought about regime change, a long-standing dynasty being overthrown and replaced by a new monarch called Robert Baratheon. Needless to say, not everyone is happy with the new king, and some of the former ruling dynasty would like to resume a reign that had lasted some 300 years...
The setting section ends with a quick run-down of the seven kingdoms that go to make up the land, then on to a summary of the rules and an explanation of the technical terms used to describe characters in terms of the ruleset. It is made clear from the start, however, that your character is a lot more than a set of numbers, these are just used to make the game work mechanically: you need to know your character as a living, breathing occupant of the shared alternate reality in which he is played. Basically, each character is described using a range of Abilities - which can be physical attributes like agility or endurance, learned skills like languages, or a reflection of his position in the world (status). Each Ability is given a rank from 1 (deficient in this area) to 7 (a legend in your own lifetime), and the appropriate one is used to resolve actions. Characters being pivotal in the stories to be told, you also have Destiny Points which can be used to manipulate the course of events. When you resolve an action, it is done by rolling as many d6 as you have ranks in the appropriate Ability, and adding the result in an attempt to exceed a 'difficulty' target set by the Narrator. Modifiers and penalties can apply, depending on the circumstances. There's a fair bit of detail on how to run combat as well. Next comes an interesting abstraction of intrigue - although if you don't like role-playing your intrigues this may not be the best game for you! It can be useful for determining how an NPC will react, or for handling off-scene intrigues when the result may affect the player-characters, though.
And so, on to the introductory adventure itself. The premise is simple: the characters are on a journey heading towards the city of King's Landing where the current monarch is holding a tournament when they get into a spot of bother and visit one of the inns along the way. As the tournament in question is central to the published adventure Peril at King's Landing, this can be used to launch your whole campaign as well as to introduce players to this system (or used as an incident en route if you begin that campaign another way, for example in the characters' home base when they decide to attend the tournament). Throughout, there are suggestions as to how to make the most of opportunities to try out different aspects of the rules, described clearly so that a Narrator new to the game ought to be able to handle them with confidence.
While it is a simple adventure, with the opportunity for a bit of interaction and a brawl, it serves as a good introduction both to the ruleset and to the setting of the game, being well-presented with an abundance of detail which you can build on for continuing adventures. If you don't feel inspired to rush out and grab the full game, then it probably is not the right one for you.
[4 of 5 Stars!]