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    Central Supply Catalogue
    Publisher: Mongoose
    by David G. [Verified Purchaser]
    Date Added: 06/08/2021 21:17:24

    I have broken this review down into the good, the bad, and split (ugly but redeemable).

    Note: I just got done playing Pirates of Drinax, a friend refereed it for me, this is the perspective from which I will be reviewing the Central Supply Catalogue.

    The Good

    Between the Core, Central Supply Catalog (this book), and High Guard you will have the required triumvirate to play a typical game of Traveller.

    This book provides a large, practically essential, catalog of equipment that is a great aid when playing a game of Traveller.

    This book remembers to consider game economy more than many games, this can lead to the world having a consistent feeling that can be lacking in other works.

    This book considers things beyond weapons and other items of war.

    The Split

    The equipment rarely gives a new thing to do, it almost always gives a bonus to something the character could already do. This is an interesting predicament, as this is a skill based system if a character has a skill to do something gear can help this; however, this can also make gear dull, as it is either needed to utilize a skill, or adds a small plus to a skill. This can lead to gear being something that is placed on a character sheet modifiers noted and forgotten.

    There is a decent amount of equipment that feels fringe, yet there were things that we couldn't find that didn't seem like fringe asks. This seems strange as we were playing Pirates of Drinax, with modifications, which is their big campaign; it seems they would at least furnish equipment for that.

    The Bad

    There isn't much in the way of creative equipment, I see weapons from this and that sci-fi book, movie, or show. Traveller has been around for a long time, and I know many would say that Traveller inspired these other works. However, Traveller isn't D&D it is definitely known, but it doesn't have this large pop-culture effect; because of this, I feel that this is at best a weak argument. Also, Mongoose has not been making this game the entire time, nor is their room to sit on one's laurels when creating a game.

    Organization is not great, armor and other protective gear, which is combative gear, is on the opposite end from weapons. Sections are monoliths making things hard to find things, but there is an index, so if you know the name you can find it. Then again if you're looking for a type of item you're going to have to go digging.

    The setup of the items effects are a mess, some things are well displayed such as: name, tech level, and weight. Weapons are better described than most as they also show damage, magazine size, and traits. However, it is so frequent that there are important rules expressed in the description of the item. This can make gear a pain to reference as every item of text must be read to make sure that nothing is missed, this is not good in the middle of combat.

    There is also this strange opinion that there are rules maintained in the heading of each subcategory that can abbreviate the language for each piece of gear. This would work well, if there was a greater ability to discern when an item comes from a certain category, without adding much extra verbiage in small margins, and if it was easy to find the place where the category specific rules were listed. At least they always seem to be at the beginning of their subcategory, but to make things worse you have to dig through super-categories to find the subcategories. This makes for an issue of having to dig through disorganized rules that the index doesn't help with.

    The high end equipment is almost completely lacking for diversity; as the idea seems to be, the nice expensive gear will do everything that a few less expensive items but will do it better. This leads to tapering gear diversity, and with clever players, this can lead to rapid gear improvement as old gear can be sold to sponsor better gear as the band of options converges into a single item for that category.

    This book, which is about as essential as the Core Rules, isn't part of the Core Rules. Mongoose seems to have decided that because they have a few items in the Core they can treat this like an expansion. Rather the situation is the players can get a starting character equipped and then they will quickly run out of gear, and in a game where character progression comes from a slow skill improvement process and gear this isn't an acceptable situation.

    Breaking Down the Rating

    This is where I will attempt to explain why I have given this product the rating it currently has, to do this I will give a running tally of the products total star count, out of five, after each argument is provided.

    First a three star is an average rating, so the rating tally will be starting at this point. - 3 stars

    This is functionally a necessary book if one wants to play, let alone run, a game of Traveller. While this is annoying this is not a negative or a positive for the product itself. - 3 stars

    This books equipment can be almost essential to play in a smooth game of Traveller; otherwise, the referee has to build most things themselves, which with economical concerns is a lot of work. - 4 stars

    This book respects game economy, mostly, which helps allow for trader type games. - 5 stars

    The book has equipment that is useful for things beyond combat, or weird little trinkets. - 6 stars

    The equipment is not imaginative or that interesting. These are the kinds of things that referees would likely have made on their own, if left to their own devices. This saves the referee some time, but doesn't help with developing a milieu. - 5.5 stars

    The equipment options can be eclectic at times, which is strange as it is also not innovative or world building. The catalog reminds me as if it was a collection of refuse on sale from a Star Wars junkyard. This is largely copies from things that I love and recognize, but it lacks the interest of the setting of those originals, a cheap copy of them. This call to nostalgia is damaged as it is all combined without consideration to how they combine. - 5 stars

    The organization is painful, it slows things down and lends itself to incorrectly utilize gear. This is because the player has to track down all of the rules impacting their gear, it isn't in one place nor is there a reference given to help find all the related rules. The player must instead have read the entire book and remember where all to look for the rules, there are some patterns but they require the player to remember a significant amount of details to follow. - 3 stars

    There is a singular destination for each equipment type if there is a high end, this lack of diversity or lack of progression is disappointing for a book that is dedicated to equipment. There are interesting modifications, such as ammo that effects some things but this is typically a small modifier that must be bought over and over again. There also tends not to be enough room on the character sheet for these items, this often leads to frustration. - 2 stars

    This comes down to this book does not perform well at the table. It seems to have a great amount of possibilities until the players started using it for a while, there were options that were straight down better. This lead to a situation were after a certain amount of time players will have little to purchase, making the book useless later in the game, but essential for early game. This terminal effect, and aggravation that trying to get small efficiency gains, lead to this book being given a poor score.



    Rating:
    [2 of 5 Stars!]
    Central Supply Catalogue
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    Traveller Core Rulebook
    Publisher: Mongoose
    by David G. [Verified Purchaser]
    Date Added: 06/08/2021 16:48:16

    The Traveller system has some very high points and some very low points when it comes to quality. For this reason I had a hard time rating this product.

    Let's start at some of the high points.

    The character creation is what I want out of a system, it made interesting characters and rooted them in the game in a better way than most tailored backstories. It deals with a problem that I have had at multiple gaming tables, which is non-veteran players take a long time to create a character and are often bored of the game before it begins. This character creation system is a game. There will be some that prefer handmade characters, but in general this was an improvement.

    The threat that comes with violence, is intense and pushes players to take alternative routes to success besides yanking out their Gauss rifle and firing. This threat comes from the death spiral of temporary attribute loss from damage; however, this death spiral can be really intense, which lead to some amount of undo player paranoia. Even so we still fought things, it just was very discouraging to any murder hobboism. This is mostly a plus, but can lead to player cowardice if they are not prepared for character death.

    Some middle of the road points

    There is a great capacity for character differentiation, as this is a skill based system. There are sixty-seven skills on the character sheet, meaning that mathematically there should be a great amount of character diversity with it being rare that characters overlap much. Unfortunately, things are a bit more restricted; given that there are skills that are going to be commonly used and those that are rarely of benefit. After all if combat is common, the weapon skills will be focused by nearly all characters. If the game is predominantly in space it seems rare that seafarer will be used. Also, skills don't give the character new things to do, rather a greater capacity to do what they already can do without the addition of any interesting mechanics. This is not purely negative, it keeps the game simple and the character is significantly better at their favorite tasks, but this can make the player feel like their stuck in a groove, never to do anything else.

    Money, Money everywhere. This is a game that greatly concerns itself with credits, they have decent trading rules and well documented ship costs. This is great, unless the players ever get a windfall and all those credit based drives disappear. This can lead to credit tracking to be a laborious task, instead of the "can we get into the black this month" tension that it was meant to be. At the end of the day, make sure there is at least one calculator at the table or trading can drag on as they add or subtract three or four multi-thousand credit sums by hand.

    The Low Points

    RPG rule books are not typically known for their masterful organization skills, Traveller takes the bad organization to a new level. "Hey Ref, how do I recover from damage again?" should not be a hard question to answer. I should be able to open up the book to the section on healing and read it off to the player who decided that they were incapable of doing the same. Table of contents, not overly surprised that I don't see a section on recovery. Flip to the back of the pdf for the index, there isn't one! Medic is a skill, I'll look there: a description of how to do first aid. By now every one who has a book is looking for it; I check combat, no dice. I'm using ctrl+f by this point I finally find it under: encounters and dangers. Why is it there? Why is there no index? Why does it feel like the earlier parts of the book are organized, somewhat, but then the writers just decided they had no idea how to organize the book and just threw it in where there was white space. It's not just healing, its most things beyond character creation. I have to ask one more question: beam and pulse laser turrets get a bonus to hit, its not listed in the weapon statistics, it is in a random table that was made for this purpose alone; why? Why, is there a separate table that isn't on the same page as the turrets statistics?

    The art: I know this is subjective, but every person I have shown it to dislikes any art that shows a person (human or alien). The equipment and landscape scenes are normally approved of. The problem with the art may be the artist, but the consensus was that the art, like the rest of the book, was rushed, which greatly shows.

    Ship design, I will not be discussion ship creation as that is High Guard so this will be mostly art critique. Why does this matter? While art quality is subjective, ship design is engineering. I should specify that most of the groups I play in are composed of engineers and computer scientists. So when we see asymmetric ship designs we have a decent idea on how poorly it's going to handle, etc. It got to the point that the Referee would try to avoid showing any kind of ship art, but it couldn't be avoided entirely, which lead to just about everyone being ejected from any kind of immersion. This point alone has spawned a number of jokes about how super advanced human civilizations are incapable of building functional spaceships.

    Breaking Down the Rating

    This is where I will attempt to explain why I have given this product the rating it currently has, to do this I will give a running tally of the products total star count, out of five, after each argument is provided.

    First a three star is an average rating, so the rating tally will be starting at this point. - 3 stars

    Character creation is amazing, this is what I would like to see become much more common in Role-Playing Games. Especially how this improved immersion. - 5 stars

    Combat feels violent, dangerous, and non-trivial. - 6 stars

    The skill based systems does little to differentiate Traveller from other skill based systems, which tend to be akin or more interesting. - 5.5 stars

    Money management is done better than a number of games that I could mention; however, it can quickly become trivial if a large sum is acquired, or can bottleneck a game if the players are unlucky at trading. - 6 stars

    The organization is terrible this is the kind of thing that without ctrl + f can put a game on pause for tens of minutes, even with ctrl + f the game is greatly slowed, killing tension, excitement, and the mood. Replacing it with irritation and arbitrary rules that no one can quite agree on. - 4 stars

    Art is a subjective element to design, for this reason I feel that, even though I and my friends are not fond of it, this detail should not effect the rating as this is bad not terrible. - 4 stars

    Ship design is integral to a space opera game, which this is typically played as. If the designers would have determined some method of ratifying the design without images then the ship art would be just art, thereby subjective; however, they did not find such a method. Therefore, the ship art also doubles as a three dimensional layout suggesting at a blueprint. In this light it can be found, by a table surrounded by engineering and computer science students, to be abjectly terrible and immersion breaking. - 3 stars

    At the end of the day, I felt like taking off more stars for ship design, but I am to understand that this is not problematic for most. Then with our overall assessment of this game aligned with this breakdown, as long as ship art is hidden away, this is a game with high and lows that come out to average.



    Rating:
    [3 of 5 Stars!]
    Traveller Core Rulebook
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    High Guard
    Publisher: Mongoose
    by David G. [Verified Purchaser]
    Date Added: 05/17/2021 12:38:43

    I have decided to break this review down into good, split, and problematic. As a note: I just got done playing Pirates of Drinax, a friend refereed it for me, this is the perspective from which I have used High Guard the most.

    The Good

    This book brings a significantly sized ship catalog. Between the Core, Central Supply Catalog, and High Guard (this book) you will have the required triumvirate to play a typical game of Traveller.

    The Split

    There are many options when it comes to designing your own ship, that is once you have the basics: hull, j-drive, m-drive, fuel, etc. which have few customization options. However, few of these options are particularly exciting; there are things such as mining equipment, great if your a miner, and some interesting cargo hold expansion solutions. But, outside of that there are options that have little to no mechanical effect, such as holographic hull or game room. In the end the ship will be closer to what was desired, but we never could get a ship that truly felt personalized to us, no matter how long we tinkered with it. There is a degree of modification, but it is within a tight band of what is provided.

    The ship catalog is large and provides deck plans, which are in isometric view. This can be good and bad, it helps with lining up what is below on a multi-level ship, but is very hard to use. These simply are not good for using as a game grid. They do provide some 2D maps, but they are only of the most common ships from the Core and not part of this product.

    The book discusses mining, my tables haven't used mining yet. So I will not speak to its material, but at least they include this, unlike some other important details discussed in the next section.

    The Problematic

    No boarding, the Core says that boarding will be discussed in High Guard; I haven't found this. Maybe it went missing in the disorganization that is this gaming product as a whole, but I haven't seen hide nor hair of it. This would have been greatly helpful while playing Pirates Drinax, after all you are playing as a pirate.

    Fleet combat is broken for smaller vessels. There was a fight with multiple ships that we the players got ourselves into while fighting for Drinax, not finale, we decided we would like to try fleet combat. We quickly learned that our ships did as much damage as they ever did, but each ship only had a tenth of the hull points and the percentile armor didn't make up for it at all. Ships that would have been hard to handle beaome tissue paper as long as you got the first shot off. The system was completely unbalanced, it was so bad that after the first shot we had killed an enemy ship while still having some weapon systems that hadn't fired. It was so bad that players and referee all said, nearly simultaneously, that we should backtrack and fight the battle from square one using the normal system. I have never seen players so quickly give up a kill.

    There is little in the way of interesting sci-fi ideas. So much of space operas, which Traveller is, are about interesting ideas that push the limit. Star Trek and Start Wars had revolutionary ideas that has lead to some modern technological devices. If you think that I'm being to hard on Traveller because I'm comparing it to movies, let's look at Cyberpunk. It's not even a space opera, rather a neo-futurist dystopia setting, it has had ideas that have become reality and still has enough creative juice to push the limit. Now, not all sci-fi has to push the technological bubble, but can instead question, the question can be about as diverse as the authors and their audience. That doesn't seem to happen here, either this is more of a setup with a space setting or its gone even deeper and is questioning what is sci-fi. Either way I really want to see something that sets this setting apart. Why am I saying this here? Because sci-fi loves tech, if a sci-fi setting's tech doesn't distinguish it from other sci-fi settings there are few other staples left to fall on.

    Ship design, its just bad. It's true the only design that we're truly given is the ship's art that comes with each stat block. After all a ship isn't just a collection of components, its also how you connect those components that make it work. This is where being an engineering student, who runs for and plays with mostly STEM students and graduates, becomes a problem for Traveller. Most of these ship shapes do not work, this goes back to many people thinking that the moment drag and air resistance are gone they can do what ever they want. Things couldn't be further from the truth than this. The moment designs become asymmetric making the ship move in a consistent desirable way becomes difficult. Long and slender beams focus strain into themselves, making a stress point.

    There are places were there are obvious errors. Such an example is in the weapon bay section, where as far as I can tell the large weapons bay has the same damage and traits as the medium weapons bay while requiring more power, tonnage, and credits.

    Unorganized rules make this book hard to use as a reference during a game. Rules tend to be smattered around in clumps and clusters, with a lose fungible logic that can be truly hard to follow and near impossible to look up quickly mid game session.

    Conclusion

    This game book has potential and is practically essential for playing Traveller, but it is missing edits, organization, and entire sections it was advertised to have.



    Rating:
    [1 of 5 Stars!]
    High Guard
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