It’s a great time to be a science-fiction role player. There are so many excellent Sci-Fi games available it’s almost hard to choose which one to use. There are “hard sci-fi” types, like Traveller and Star Frontiers, with interstellar travel and alien races, mutant post-apocalyptic games such as Gamma World and Mutant Epoch, future dystopian cyber epics like Cyberpunk and Shadowrun, pulp action-adventure like Rocket Age and Space:1889, and so much more I can’t even list them all. Most of the ones I did list are older games.
Some of these games are “crunchy”, with detailed rules for almost every occasion. Some play fast and loose with the rules. Most have extensive gear sections, and many have rules for building starships and piloting them around the galaxy. There’s a role playing game for just about every popular Sci-Fi movie or television show.
The earliest Sci-Fi games are still popular, and that’s due in some part to the excellent systems that they use. It’s also because for the longest time there really weren’t many choices, so the few that were available got huge numbers of players starving for Sci-Fi.
Recently, I posted a review of EN Publishing’s N.E.W. Science-fiction epic role playing game, and today I’d like to take a look at Frontier Space by DWD Studios. DWD is the publisher responsible for Covert Ops, the excellent reboot/update of the original Top Secret by TSR, and Frontier Space seems to be a reboot of Star Frontiers, judging by the fantastic front cover. Star Frontiers definitely is in this games heritage, even if they never speak it aloud.
If you’re familiar with Covert Ops, you’ll quickly recognize many of the same mechanics in Frontier Space. It uses a base percentile system, with the number to beat (i.e. roll lower than) based on the relevant attribute, modified by skill. They also use the unique system of naming skill after careers. For example, instead of having weapon skills, you have Marksman. Instead of having survival skills, you have Explorer. I really like how this works; it’s a simple change in terminology that expands the use of skills and makes it easier to adjudicate which skills to use.
The treatment of the alien races available as player characters is extremely well done. The background detail behind each race is quite unique, and has much more depth than seen in many games. The Novim especially, with their Ark culture, are different than any other alien PC race I’ve ever seen. Each race is treated equally, with real thought behind the species, and Frontier Space even talks about the reason why most sentient races in the universe are bipedal humanoids, instead of just depending on the “funny heads” trope.
One thing the original, Alpha Dawn version of Star Frontiers that got completely missed was starships. It was covered well enough in the Knight Hawks expansion, but the core game didn’t even really talk about them. Frontier Space has starships covered exceptionally well, with great examples of common ships.
And since I’ve mentioned combat, one thing DWD studios has shown in both Covert Ops and Frontier Space, is that they understand that combat is dangerous and deadly. The rules for combat in both games, while being very smooth and fast, are also quite deadly to characters. If you’re going to play either of these games, make sure you keep behind cover when gun battles ring out! It’s not overly dangerous, like you have no chance, but you do have to be aware that the lasers or blasters or slug-throwers pointed at you at some point do have the capability of putting you down in one shot. Be careful!
I also cannot say enough about the artwork. It matches the style used in DWD Studios’ other game, and it’s exceptional. The only thing I wish for would be more color art, but what is available is first rate.
Frontier Space is definitely a keeper and a player. If you’re interested in a great Sci-Fi game, but unsure of which way to go, give Frontier Space a shot. You won’t regret it!