[Editor's Note: Thanks to an agreement between BITS and Steve Jackson Games, all BITS supplements are available in North America through Steve Jackson Games. You can find contact information for Steve Jackson Games in the Traveller FAQ in the Freelance Traveller Information Center. Ordering information for all BITS products can be found on the Steve Jackson Games Catalog page.]
The Long Way Home was published in North America under the Imperium Games imprint as two volumes, titled The Long Way Home and Gateway. This review is based on the original BITS publication, before availability from Steve Jackson Games.
My initial reaction after perusing it the weekend I received it was "it looks terrific" but after a closer look I'd have to revise that to "it is terrific".
BITS's first publication has certainly set a high standard to follow. (I've yet to find a typo or missing table!) But what, specifically, is so great about it?
The cover for a start. Nice glossy front and back that captures the eye and is relevant to the contents. The authors were a bit shy and retiring with their names but evidently they were saving the space for the "With foreword by Marc Miller" line. (One teensy complaint is the brevity of the foreword but no doubt MWM is a busy man. If it hadn't been in such a large font size, I might have missed it.)
Moving along to the innards, it still looks great. If you didn't like the sans serif body text of the main T4 book, nothing much has changed here but the titling is attractive and suitable, and the main text is clear. The natty bar across the top of every page is the icing on the cake. Just one possible complaint here are the very tight margins. Don't expect to ever see an 'annotated' copy!
As for the contents there's about 10 pages of introduction and overview of the adventure, 60 plus pages of 8 scenarios, 16 pages of system/world data, 9 pages of library data and 3 pages of a new ship description/layout/deckplans. All in all, 100 pages cram-packed with excitement, detail and fun.
The adventure concerns a 'lost' survey team endeavouring to get home. I don't want to spoil any of the plot here and won't say any more except to say that if you're worried about a Star Trek: Voyager re-run, have no fear - this is far more interesting.
A major plus for me was the return to the 'nugget' format of MegaTraveller which I've found enormously helpful and could have only wished for the little 'black box diagrams' showing their overall layout within a scenario. Still, you can't have everything.
The system/world data at the end concerns itself with some 50 odd worlds but I won't say where in case future players are reading (e-mail me privately if you're desperate to know). Not all the worlds are detailed to the same level. What is there is very clearly presented and may yet become a 'standard' way to present system data. Best I've seen to date.
The library data is delightfully idiosyncratic in the style of classic Traveller material. You never quite know what might be worth looking up or not; a couple of entries depended on having read the appropriate scenario for full comprehension but there was nothing really problematic and some delightful details were included that could be used for any referee in any setting. If I were to quibble with anything here, I would suggest that several entries could have been shortened by taking some of the material and making it a separate entry. (For example where a particular religion is detailed, it could have it's own entry with some sort of "q.v." reference. And while I'm thinking about it - if you're going to detail religions with what is obviously either WBH or Grand Census, why not add the URP?)
The new scout ship design does not suffer from the "not another one" that was my initial reaction. This one is suitable for the setting, well designed - even down to the design 'quirks' that make life, the universe and everything so frustrating. The plans are clear and printed in a small annotated version as well as a page sized player handout version.
Desperately trying not to sound like a 'fannish enthusiast' I could find nothing really negative to say about the book - which says a lot. My only real gripe, and this really is so minor it says more about me than the product, is an acknowledgement line on the imprint page. The authors refer to "this damned book" - I sincerely hope not.
While I appreciate the sentiment, my idea of heaven is every Traveller product ever produced and I'd hate this one not make it!!!
In short: definitely not a Traveller adventure to be without. If you liked The Traveller Adventure and/or Knightfall - to suggest just two comparisons - you should enjoy this. The authors' love for Traveller as a game shines through from every page and I sincerely hope there's more where this came from.
I look forward to getting the chance to playing it, and for me it sums up what Traveller is all about: adventure, mystery and sheer fun.