'Tachyon Squadron' is a setting for the Fate Core system. If you aren't familiar with Fate Core, you probably should be-- it's one of the easiest, fastest-playing, most versatile systems out there. If you already play Fate Core, you know what a fantastic system it is, and you should check out 'Tachyon Squadron,' too, especially if you grew up loving the tropes of rebellious hotshot pilots from TV shows like "Baa Baa Black Sheep" or "Battlestar Galactica" or films like "Top Gun" or even "Star Wars."
And man oh man does this rules set capture those tropes! There are a lot of tweaks from the default Fate rules set, and they all work together magnificently to facilitate a roleplaying game about the fighter pilot genre.
First off, character creation is slightly modified from standard Fate Core, using a streamlined skill and attribute set, but the biggest change is in the use of a 'decompression' Aspect. If you're already familiar with the Fate system, you need no introduction to Aspects, but for everyone else, we're talking about short descriptors of your character which define his or her personality and have an in-game effect during play. In 'Tachyon Squadron,' players have healthy and unhealthy means of decompressing, or dealing with the stress of constant stressful missions. One character might decompress in a healthy manner by spending quality family time with her husband and kids, but decompress in an unhealthy manner by drinking a bit too much on weekends. Another character might get healthy decompression working out between missions, but decompress in an unhealthy manner by raging and getting into fights with anyone who crosses him.
Another minor innovation is the ability to 'minimize' or 'maximize' an individual die in the Fate dice pool. While the rules for minimizing or maximizing die rolls seemed a little gimmicky to me upon first read, in actual play the system works swimmingly, allowing players to 'stack the deck' a bit by playing to their strengths. In other words, this mechanic allows players to think tactically and make strategic decisions during gameplay, splendidly setting the mood for dogfighting ship-to-ship combat.
And that last bit is where 'Tachyon Squadron' really shines-- dogfights. In a game about pilots and the fighter craft that they fly, you obviously need a great system for dogfights, and 'Tachyon Squadron' manages to raise the bar here. Using a pretty simple zone system, author Clark Valentine created a really nifty mini-game within the game, where events are completely random and chaotic, yet players can make tactical decisions to gain the upper hand. This system is now my go-to for starfighter combat in any game; it really is THAT good.
Fate Core is a great roleplaying game because it plays fast and easy at the table, but still has a lot of gears and levers that GM's can adjust to change the way things work and feel during play. 'Tachyon Squadron' is a prime example of how those settings can be adjusted to create something new and innovative. If you're like me and your toes curl at the thought of playing a hotshot pilot in a game of starfighting combat, you're really missing the boat if you aren't playing this game!
[5 of 5 Stars!]