Shadowrun Sixth World Beginner Box

Shadowrun is one of the pillars of the tabletop RPG community. Established as a classic in its own right, the game shares just as much of its heritage from fantasy archetypes as it does from gritty 80s cyberpunk. Set in a near-future in which corporate powers control the night and cybernetic gangsters roam the cities, it hurls magic and fantasy races like elves and dwarves into the mix to create a game that has endured for decades.

Now into its sixth edition (dubbed the Sixth World), Shadowrun is ready to once again set the streets alight. We received a copy of the Beginner Box of this brand new edition of the game, so let’s crack it open and have a look at what data we can hack, eh?

The biggest question that people will have is what new material is in the box. The first thing you’ll discover is an instruction sheet which gives a summary of all of the contents. Like most of the material provided, it’s written in a tone that’s intrinsically Shadowrun-esque – for instance, it describes the dice (also included in the box) by saying “get to know the six-sided dice. You’re going to be rolling these a lot as you play Shadowrun, so introduce yourself. Love ’em. Treat ’em well, and hopefully they’ll return the favor.” Oooh, you can just picture yourself speaking with a gnarled old orc street dealer in the back of a dingy Seattle nightclub as you read that!

An Instant Guide to the Sixth World

The next thing that your grubby, eager little fingers are going to find is a four-page guide to the setting. As you may have guessed, Shadowrun is not your standard fantasy world full of dragons and wizards (although dragons and wizards are all present and accounted for. Especially the dragons. Be careful with them!) and has certainly moved with the times. Each edition of Shadowrun has pushed the game’s setting further ahead, creating a world that feels both alive and flowing. The first two pages of this booklet summarises much of the culture and atmosphere of this world. The third page summarises several of the largest events that have formed the history. The fourth covers the mega-corporations, vast warring kingdoms in their own right. This is a solid piece of lore for new players, easing them steadily into the game’s world while summarising much of the history that veteran players will already be familiar with.

Character dossiers

New players will be delighted to then find four dossiers, each one tailored to a playable character. The cover page of each dossier outlines the character nicely, with in-character quotes (including one that is simply “(long-suffering sigh)” – it’s like this character knows me) and a handy ‘play this character if you like’ section that will chime well with people who who had the good fortune to play through Pathfinder’s beginner box. The characters range from a troll street samurai, an orc frost mage, a dwarven decker and an elven covert ops specialist – there’s also a decent amount of representation in these groups with two female characters and two of non-caucasian ethnicities, which is definitely appreciated. Inside the dossiers you will find two pages that include your character sheet, and summaries on how to play the game. It explains your attribute scores, how to take actions, summaries of combat turns and how to use your character’s edge (their disposable points) to improve their chances of survival. These pages are wordy and full of details, but with your GM on hand even new players should have no problem in understanding how to read the data.

The rest of the dossier booklets are packed with nice additional material specifically for the players – an entire page discussing their character’s backstory, tactiics and how to roleplay them, and a rather enjoyable three page outline of what a typical mission for that character would look like. The closing page contains a bunch of useful reference tables for the player. The dossiers are great resources for players – basically miniature Player’s Guides. The information contained in them is a lot, though, and I would recommend handing them out to your players in plenty time before starting your adventure. The example adventures contained in the booklets are a fantastic read and a great resource, outlining both the events in narrative format and the dice rolls that the player would make. For new players there is a lot for them to get into, and this is a chance to really fall in love with the cast of the adventure. But now it’s time for the GM to have fun! Let’s see what’s in the box for them…

Quick Start Rules

Shadowrun is all about pushing the odds. You are left with that strong feeling from even a cursory glance through this lush 26 page booklet. Neatly laid out and with a good pacing and detail to each step, the quick-start rules explain everything starting with how to take actions n the game. As one of the first games to truly push the dice-pool mechanic (building a large ‘pool’ of dice to roll to determine the player’s range of success rather than opting for a single dice’s binary success/failure roll), this new edition covers the basics of that in a straightforward way. One thing I did notice is that far more detail and depth is given to Edge, the game’s resource points, than I remember from previous editions. It feels far more important, allowing you to do a considerable amount of cool things, and leaves me eager to see how it works in play.

The rules for combat are laid out simply and in a manner that feels streamlined. There’s a lot less book-keeping required to keep track of the initiative order as compared to previous editions, and combat flows much faster than before. The rest of the book is divided into segments for the Matrix (Shadowrun’s in-universe internet – when everything is connected and online, hackers are extremely powerful), Riggers and Magic. For GMs who are fairly new, magic is always a bit of an issue because you often feel that you have a whole wealth of spells to memorise – but don’t worry, because this box has you covered! How, I hear you ask? I’ll tell you later! Because now we have an adventure to look at…

Battle Royale adventure

So this is Battle Royale, an evening-long adventure for your group to play. This booklet is 26 pages, with the adventure covering about half of that. The second half is all juicy setting info – enough details on the Seattle Metroplex for the GM to be able to come up with a series of their own adventures too. The booklet begins with a variety of good tips and advice for the GM, including some very good advice on finding the right style for you.

The adventure itself is, frankly, quite excellent. Without giving away too much in the way of details, it takes what would be a typical rescue mission and involves it so heavily into the geo-political landscape of the Sixth World that it truly feels unique. The writing is excellent, ensuring that the GM will have everything he needs to throw the players head-first into Seattle’s grim gangland turmoil. This is a lovely introduction to Shadowrun and is sure to keep the players wanting more!

You also have a nice, hefty map of the Seattle Megaplex in the box, which is poster-sized and doubles as a map for the included adventure. It’s a solid map and I do like it.

Reference Cards

Hey, so remember how I said that you didn’t need to worry about equipment and spells? Well, this is a lovely bonus. The box includes 55 reference cards! These cards include all the numbers and stats for your players, including their firearms, melee weapons, magic spells, drones, programs, contacts and more. These are extremely useful and I would love to see this idea catch on with other beginner boxes across the industry. It’s so handy to have these details usable in this way – picture the simplicity of having one character hand a friend a shotgun before they head into a room full of elf gangers, only without having to grab an eraser to edit your character sheet.

Final Thoughts

Shadowrun Sixth World is off to a very good start with this box, that’s for sure! New players will find a lot to get their teeth into, and returning players will find themselves stepping back into a world that feels both familiar, vibrant and very Shadowrun-esque. With the new core book due out in the next few months too, I personally can’t wait to see what the future holds for the Sixth World!

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