Bottom Line Up Front (BLUF): This is not a complete product, but just about. The only thing missing is minor...spell lists for Space Magic (and setting changes for said Space Magic) Kevin Crawford is obviously a one man band and what he has produced is phenomenal given those constraints. There are some things missing such as the spell lists mentioned, and character sheets usable for magic using characters.
This is a good set of tools for GMs to create a scifi universe. I love "Scarlet Heroes" and "The Red Tide Campaign" the original version of Stars Without Numbers is an excellent starting point. This is a worthy successor. The rules streamline the game. Changing the way AC is used actually decreases the math over the previous system. I liked using the 2d6 for saves instead of a d20, but it is not a game breaker. (I prefer having skill checks with a known average roll, same with saves). Psionics is completely revamped for the better. It runs much more smoothly and seems more internally consistent than before.
In the interest of honesty a few months ago I bought a hard copy of the original SWN. I was not pleased to find out that a new version was coming out and that I had "wasted" 30 USD (and there was no disclaimer on RPGNow or affliates). This review doesn't reflect any enmity, just a cold appraisal of what you get with this product. (I have spent about 100 dollars on Sine Nomine products! I like what Kevin Crawford is doing even if I at first don't understand it)
I will call Original SWN OSWN for the rest of this review. With OSWN you got rules for making a sector. You get that with SWN:RE. What you don't get that you got with OWSN is the Hydra Sector (an example sector along with factions), along with 15 pages of information on the Hydra Sector. RE doesn't have the blank maps for sectors, or planets that OWSN has. It doesn't have blank forms for factions, alien record sheet, adventure sheet, starship record sheet that are present in the original. (There is space for Starship info on the character sheet, but it is just a empty text box). In the OWSN we get examples of Xenobeasts, not in RE. In OWSN we get examples of Alien races if you guessed you don't get examples in RE you would have guessed correctly. What you do get is Cyberware, Transhuman, Robot/AI campaign and character possiblities. I mentioned Space Magic before it just doesn't offer the tool kit available with those first three systems mentioned.
There is a section that discusses how to retrofit any of the previous products in this line. It is succinct and misses no major change between products.
There was a list of quick name tables and tables for creating new religions, heresies, corporations...not present in RE. In RE you do still get rules/tables for making factions. You also get rules/tables for making up societies. The latter give a lot more room for imagination. There are more tags for planets. This is nice but see my comment on gravity below.
You know that extra 20 USD you spent to get the extra goodies...? Well how about Space Magic? The character sheet has no place to reflect a character as Arcanist or Magister (or Adept). Psychics have several boxes dedicated to them (which is useless space for other classes). When you make up your spell lists you'll have to make up a character sheet as well. But I would have to say this is overshadowed by the completeness of the other additional sections. Definitely worth the 20 dollars.
As I go through the book, now for the second time, I see that many of the sections here are sparse in detail but long on verbiage. Not my cup of tea. Mr. Crawford is letting us as GMs and players make some decisions on our own. He even has a section of House rules that I greatly appreciated. I think he could have tightened up on word usage and found the room he needed to add some of the other areas he felt he had to drop.
One area where both OWSN and RE lack...rules for gravity. Gravity is mentioned repeatedly thoughout the rules, but it isn't discussed as a system anywhere. How does micro/zero gee change how you use a gun or melee, or movement? (Why would I care if I had a laser weapon or Void Carbine? Why do I care if I have thrusters on my suit?) I don't know. It isn't in either book. How does high gee impact encumbrance? Don't know. We are told that this is a hard sci fi setting, but without rules on gravity it seems that the author is playing at hand wavium not hard science. When rolling up a planet there aren't tags/rules for variable gravity worlds. I also miss Conditions. I understand the OSR ethos of house ruling everything, but just a few conditions would free GMs from having to rule on each individual situation.
This game is worth the 20 dollars. I just wish that the Space Magic section were complete...or not in there at all.
Note: I apologize for my first review. I wrote it after having done only a cursory read through. I missed sections that would have answered questions that I had and I would have avoided having panned this book in the first place.