Edge of Space, by Matt Jackson, is a rules-light role-playing game heavily influenced by such movies as Aliens and Starship Troopers. The premise is that the players are Space Marines on the ass end of space killing Bugs to protect human colonies.
Characters don’t have ability scores as such. Rather, each character is defined by their skill set, which is randomly determined depending on your starting profession (somewhat reminiscent of the Traveller RPG). Your profession doesn’t lock in your skill set, so even if you’re say, a scientist, you can eventually pick up the Rifle skill and blast Bugs in the name of, well, science. Surviving scenarios grants 1 to 3 XP, depending on role-playing, which may be used to improve existing skills, or acquire new ones.
Tasks are resolved by rolling 2d6 and adding the appropriate skill rating to the roll. If the total exceeds the difficulty assigned by the GM, you succeed. If you’re trying something in opposition to another character, each side rolls 2d6, adds the appropriate skill rating, with the side rolling the highest total winning the contest. It’s a simple enough resolution system, though the game suggests six different levels of difficulty, which seems a bit excessive for such a light game. In my view, three difficulty levels, maybe four, should be more than sufficient. However, it’s a minor quibble considering how easy it is to adjust the rules to suit your tastes.
The equipment list is rather sparse, listing just six weapons and three pieces of equipment (including Trooper armor). The weapons are clearly inspired by the Aliens movies, right down to Cpl. Hicks’ Ithaca pump-action shotgun. Considering the nature of the game, however, the sparse equipment list is no detriment. After all, the characters are government employees, using equipment issued to them; there’s no need to waste time playing Dungeons & Shopping when the Corps just hands you a pulse rifle and kicks your ass out the door. And you don’t need an exhaustive equipment list to simply assume that characters have the gear they need to do their jobs.
Rather than using hit points, EoS uses a five-step health track, ranging from Healthy to Dead. Most successful attacks move you one step down the health track, though a few may move you two, or even three, steps down the track. Trooper armor absorbs the first point of damage you take. This set up is fairly similar to the way 3:16 Carnage Amongst the Stars handles damage and, in my view, is a good representation of the cinematic combat style EoS (and 3:16) is trying to emulate.
Ranged combat is handled as a standard dice roll, while hand-to-hand combat is handled as an opposed dice roll. My only quibble with combat is the hand-to-hand system, where combatants trade off turns as “attacker” and “defender.” If the attacker rolls high, the defender takes damage, while if the defender rolls high they dodge the attack. This seems like a lot of unnecessary dice rolling to me. A simpler mechanic would be a single opposed roll with the high result winning the battle and inflicting damage on the loser; a tie would result in a stalemate, neither side injuring the other. Though, again, the rules are easy enough to modify as desired, so it’s not the end of the world.
The Bugs are described in four broad categories or types: Grunts, Shooters, Scouts and Brains (recognizable, for the most part, to anyone who’s seen Starship Troopers), overseen by the Masters. Each category has four random traits that further define them, determined by rolling a d6 and cross referencing the bug type. For example, Grunts can have mandibles, fangs, can infect or have armored exoskeletons, whereas Scouts might have wings and Brains can use psionic attacks. I’m assuming the bug’s abilities are rated like skills, but this isn’t made explicit in the rules. Nor is it specified how many times you roll for each bug. Just once, or four times as you would for a new character? Or is it the GM’s discretion, depending on the difficulty of the scenario? Just one additional sentence here giving a little guidance on the bug abilities would make a big difference.
Something else not specified is whether the Bugs use the same health track that player characters do. The rules seem to imply this is the case, though it would be far more cinematic if most Bugs only took one hit to kill (just throw more of them at the players). That way, the players can feel like badasses, blowing Bugs away left and right, but still need to be wary of being overrun by shear numbers.
EoS includes a sample adventure, and there are two additional free adventures available (Horus Adrift and Battle of Kaylen). Each adventure follows the tried-and-true horror-action setup of Aliens and countless other movies: an isolated outpost, lost contact, possible alien involvement, and the PCs sent in blind to investigate, followed by lots of bug blasting and, sometimes, a desperate race against time before something blows up permanent-like. Some of the adventures suffer from poor spelling and grammatical errors, but on the whole they are perfectly serviceable Bug Hunt style adventures, good for a night’s play.
If you’re looking for a simple, Beer & Pretzel game of ass-kicking, bug-stomping colonial marines, Edge of Space is probably the game for you. There are a couple of areas that could be more clear, but nothing that a good GM couldn’t fix with a little judicious house-ruling. EoS is less suited towards long term campaign play, at least not without a bit of work. And if you like to house-rule and tweak games, EoS is perfect for you, for the rules leave plenty of room for customization. The PDF is available for just $1; it’s hard to go wrong at that price. Cheers.