Onslaught at Arda I Review
Once again, Fantasy Flight has taken the Star Wars ball and run with it! The first module set in the Age of Rebellion chapter of the most recent Star Wars RPG is very well balanced between railroad and sandbox, combat and exploration/investigation, and foot and ship encounters.
I’ll try and avoid spoilers for those who plan on playing this. While it is meant for a band of fresh rebel recruits, it can easily be adapted for rebels with a few missions under their belt, or fringer converts from Edge of the Empire. The book (like Edge predecessors Beyond the Rim and Jewel of Yavin) is divided into three acts.
From just the module’s description and art that accompanies it, things will not go well for the base at Arda I in the first act. Unlike individual adventures released for this system, but identical to previous longer modules, the action does not start in media res. The party is given some time to explore the base and the terrain surrounding the base before the battle.
The battle itself is almost a picture perfect example of a railroad, but necessarily so. It also introduces the mass combat rules featured in the book, which provide a great system to estimate large scale battles happening around the PCs based on troop numbers, experience or skill (i.e. regular rebel infantry or elite rebel commandos), vehicle assets present, and skill of the leaders of each force.
Also provided is a handy chart for using advantage/triumph and threat/despair that result from the mass combat check. It looks like a pretty handy way to simulate a huge battle without rolling a crazy amount of individual checks, and captures the cinematic feel this system strives for.
The second act is all about establishing a new rebel base on the swampy planet of Jagomir. This act offers an interesting balance of exploration in scouting the local fauna and points of interest, interspersed with investigating increasing disturbing evidence of a traitor in your midst back at base. I really like this approach, in that in a single session you could do a little of each, allowing both you combat PCs and your more social PCs a time to shine.
The third act is on yet another planet, allowing the PCs to cover more galactic ground than in previous adventure modules, and has a much more sandbox-like feel, allowing the party to explore different districts of a city in their efforts to thwart the traitor from reporting back to his imperial handlers. It offers a lot of different approaches for success to try and anticipate what the party will come up with, or nudge them along if they get stuck.
Throughout the adventure there are several sidebars for rewarding 2 or 3 duty points for especially heroic actions, and there is a suggested 5-10 duty award in addition to the regular XP rewards at the end of every act. Some of the sidebars are pretty vague about the success conditions, not setting a specific difficulty to convince a smuggler to aid in the evacuation for instance. I still need to read up and duty again before we play more than the beginner box so I can get a clearer understanding of the mechanic.
A lot of the scenes, especially the investigation, will require significant GM prep. I would suggest at least running the beginner box to become familiar with the system before running this. Not for novices. My only other gripe is that the big area maps of locations are way too small in the book. You can just barely make out they would be gorgeous in higher resolution, blown up. Hopefully FF will release high-res images on the support page. Those are pretty minor in the scheme of things. Overall, this will provide many sessions of varied, exciting adventure! I would recommend picking it up.