Here's the Skinny on Rust Hulks: If I wanted to play PBTA Firefly, Cowboy Beebop, Killjoys, Dark Matter, or The Expanse, I'd play it in Rust Hulks
If I wanted to play Star Trek? Probably not. It's too clean and optimistic.
Star Wars? It depends on the Era. Stick to the Empire, it would be fine, But if you're looking some sweet Jedi on Jedi action, you're gonna have a bad time. There aren't really mechanics for emulating mystic stuff like the Force. The lack of any kind of 'mystic-space-magician playbook is kind of a drag.
If I wanted to play Alien, I'd do it in Rust Hulk. Which is odd to say, since there no aliens in Rust Hulk. Its humans only - no playbooks/moves for aliens.
I can't speak to the hardcover, but the PDF is built for ease of use. It's in a single colunm format with easy to read black text on a white background (this contributes to the books 270+ page count). and the page numbers of the document match the page number sin the TOC and Index. It's perfect for consuming on a tablet. The only art is in the playbooks.
In general, each new PBTA game has a 'secret' sauce' that sets it apart from those that came before. In Rust Hulks the 'secret sauce' is a realtionship matrix. Where Apocalyple World has Hx, and the Sprawl has Links, Rust Hulks has 'Chains and Heat'. To crudely simplfy the mechanic: Characters assist each other which results in relationships getting tested - If things get 'tested' enough, the Captain ends up throwing Jayne out the airlock.
If I had to compare it to any other PBTA Game, I'd say it is most strongly influenced by The Sprawl. It's has a strong mission based feel to it. It's got 'Get a Job'. It's got 'Get Paid'. If you liked the Sprawl, you'll like this too.
- Mission Based.
- Chains and Heat.
- Simple PDF Format.
- Missing a 'jedi/mystic' playbook. How can you do Mass Effect without Adepts? Or Outlaw Star without Psychics? Or Staw Wars without Jedi? It's not possible.
- Where's the aliens? How can you do Mass Effect without bird men, frog men, talking dinosaurs, and gender-fluid tentacle-headed space vampires???
- The default setting is our solar system...which is boring.
- The Rules want the group to draw their Ship as part of world building in session 0. The people I game with really can't draw. We skipped that step.
Make sure the download the 1.0.3 version of the PDF. The author initially dorked out and uploaded a versioon withoug hyperlinks. It's fixed now, but the cursed 1.0.2 version is still in my library begging me to dowload it by mistake.