GWs new Crusade of Fire book as soon as it was available to order. Two reasons, 1) I much rather to play campaign format games and 2) I have always been intrigued by the Planetary Empires set.
To be honest, I did not know the campaign system was a build on, or refinement to the planetary empires set. At least not when I bought it. That doesn't bother me, but it may turn off some folks. It kind of makes me think the book was a vehicle to sell more sets of hexes. (But that is why GW is in business, right?)
The campaign system presented in the book is really quite good, I think. The crusade covers two forces, space marines and chaos. There is a third faction, but Moreno that later. The campaign system uses the planetary empires sets to track the status of the campaign, but that is not really necessary. You can track it all using paper, or even computer programs. There is an iPad app I just got called Hex Map Pro that would work perfectly.
They really suggest using a GM for the campaign, and I tend to agree. They do show how the gm can be players as well. It's all well presented. They show how the the three turns, or phases of the campaign play out, and it is really quite engaging. For once, when reading something from GW, I felt like it was them having fun, and not just selling product or playing it a pre-planned battle report.
The campaign is a fight for a system that has just recently emerged from a warp storm. As the campaign plays out, more planets are revealed to be fought over. Very cool idea for changing the layout of homemade campaigns. What's very odd is the third faction in the fight. It feels tacked on, like a last minute change to a planned thing. Still, the third faction shows you how to shoe-horn a new player or faction into your own deal.
Overall, I think the campaign system is great, and the presentation is great as well. They show how to add all kinds of spice to the campaign system without bogging it down too much. The real beauty is how you can use this system to do your own campaigns using the ideas and building blocks they have given you in the book.
As a bonus, in the back of the book are rules for demon worlds, a gladiator combat system for independent characters and a dogfight system for aircraft in 40k games.
Demon world rules are great. Hands down the most bad-ass section of the book.
Dogfight rules are fun and look like they might play well. They don't seem like they will add too much overhead or extra time to a game, but they do add some time, so caveat emptor... Basically it's like challenges for aircraft. There are three sub-phases that get played out when a dogfight starts, and chances to make choices in each. A table is used to cross reference you and your opponents choices and see what happens. In the dogfight section is also special maneuvers and a few pages of upgrades you can buy in your list for your flyers. (pilots with mad skillz).
The gladiator combat system is comical at best. It would be a fun sideboard thing to do while your waiting for your next tourney slot or whatever. It is horridly balanced, but as long as you both approach it in good fun, it looks like it could be fun. You basically agree on a point value for an IC then go toe to toe in the ring. You use cards that you photocopy from the book to control the fight and how the crowd likes you. It's pretty simple, and might be a fun distraction for a while.
All in all, I found it to be a great book. My problem is the price. I generally don't knock gw for their pricing, but this book seems a little over the top to me. It's not all that thick but it does deliver on what it says it will. It was a limited release, and that's something I hope they don't make a habit of. I don't mind the occasional limited release, but this is a campaign source book? Why a limited release?
Well, that's about it. Hope it helps you decide if your gonna pop on that eBay auction, since that's about the only way to get it now...