Review – Starfinder Beginner Box

It’s pretty standard these days for successful roleplaying games to result in beginner set. Sometimes there isn’t even a wait for success (for example, the Legend of the Five Rings Beginner Game came out before the core book). Starfinder, however, gave it a respectable year and a half before adding the Starfinder Beginner Game to the mix. It was worth the wait.

Players are given the option of six species and six classes. The most straightforward way to do this is simply use the character booklets for the six iconic characters included:

  • Navasi (human envoy)
  • Quig (ysoki mechanic)
  • Obozaya (vesk soldier)
  • Raia (lashunta technomancer)
  • Iseph (android operative)
  • Keskodai (shirren mystic)

For those who haven’t played Starfinder, ysoki are ratfolk, vesk are burly lizardfolk, shirren are insectoid, and lashunta are mostly pretty cool, with innate psychic ability, minor spellcasting, and an appreciation for learning (ProTip: I may have a favorite core species in Starfinder). For those who have played Starfinder, note that there are also six theme options (which are already assigned for the iconics). Each iconic character is presented in a pamphlet with a character sheet, explanations for what’s on the sheet, an art-filled cover with a brief pitch for the character (for example, choose the soldier, Obozaya, if you’d like to be the toughest and use the biggest weapons), and a back with more art and a half-page backstory. Note that these are of necessity abbreviated versions of the characters’ full backstories (for example, you see that Navasi stopped being a space pirate rather than steal medical supplies, but there’s no mention of her partner). Those full backstories are, of course, available on Paizo’s website.

If players don’t want to go the easy route (or they want to customize after a first adventure), there are simplified rules for character creation in the Heroes’ Handbook (about 55 of the book’s 96 glossy pages are dedicated to character creation and how to go up to level 4). Blank character sheets are provided for this exercise. The remainder of the book is dedicated to a solo adventure and a very streamlined rules presentation. The six included player aid cards include page citations to the Heroes’ Handbook to help looking up things how to attack or cast a spell. There is, of course, only one set of dice, so everyone will have to share if you aren’t like me and don’t already have a giant bag o’ dice sitting on your shelf.

Reserved for the GM is a distinct 96-page Game Master’s Guide. That page count is split in thirds between an adventure, a bestiary, and other content (GM tips, rules like environmental hazards, and some information on the setting). Of most interest may be the adventure (Steel Talon’s Lair). Steel Talon’s Lair is intended to introduce the basic rules and concepts of Starfinder, so don’t expect complex adventure with tactical subtlety and social nuance – there’s a menace that has to be cleared out, and the player characters are just the folks for the job (not that there’s no chance to talk, but it’s fairly limited). There’s a few smaller combats, traps to be found, rooms to explore (some with environmental things, some with loot), and a deadly encounter to wrap it all up. Note that there is no starship or vehicle combat in the adventure (and no rules for such presented in the beginner box). The adventure

Plus, there’s physical production. Some beginner roleplaying products come in packaging that’s more sleeve than box, held in shape only by internal cardboard – but the Starfinder Beginner Box is actually a nice, sturdy box; the sort you could re-use to transport something else around (maybe all of these Pathfinder pawns I keep promising myself I’ll find a storage solution for one of these days).

Speaking of pawns, there are three sheets included in the Starfinder Beginner Box (one large per sheet, but otherwise medium), and a couple dozen bases to go with them (including one colorful base to go with the standard black). One sheet of these are various player character class-species combinations, including six iconics (note that, as there are six classes and six species included, not every one of the 36 possible combinations is covered on that one sheet). The other two sheets are antagonists, although some, such as “evil soldier” could be used for player characters as well. The most prevalent foes are a cluster of space goblins and things like security guards, gang toughs, and space pirates. All of the characters/monsters shown on the pawns have entries in the GM guidebook.

On top of that there’s a flip-mat, with one side depicting a space station interior (the map for Steel Talon’s Lair) and the other a blank grid. Unfolded the map is 24′ x 30′ and it has a glossy coating to it can be written on, cleaned off, and used again (just make sure to use the correct kind of markers).

Oh, and if you’re a fan of Munchkin, you will be pleased to find a couple of promo cards for Munchkin Starfinder and Munchkin Pathfinder.

Altogether, I liked the Starfinder Beginner Box. The production values were outstanding. The characters and rules introductions were presented in a friendly, easily-understood way. The pawns and bestiary content give a new GM the basic materials to run a few more adventures after the one that’s included in the box. I would have liked to see there be more of a chance for social interaction in the included adventure, but I get that – with all the rules that have to be introduced for a game like Starfinder – there just isn’t room for much on that front in an introductory product like this.

Promotional consideration was provided in the form of a review copy.

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