Classic Traveller. The game that started it all. One of the first SFRPGs in history. Sure, it is rough around the edges, and its rules have many "holes" in them (vehicle combat comes to mind), but the game itself is a thing of beauty, from both a game design and an old-school play perspective. It is a work of art; returning to it after playing many other and newer games is refreshing. But to truly appreciate it, one must see it as its own game, maybe even take the first three Little Black Books (or the Traveller Book which is an edited and improved version of them) as their own thing, apart from later, supplemental Classic Traveller or later Traveller rulesets.
So what is the beauty of Classic Traveller?
The beauty of Classic Traveller is a character sheet which is a few rows of text on an index card, smaller in size even than the typical old-school D&D character sheet, yet describes a complete character. From these few stats, randomly generated, one can infer a very interesting and complete character, all without needing too many rules to reference. HERE is an example of such inference from the Ancient Faith in the Far Future blog - the character is three short rows, yet the experienced player, or Referee, can easily extrapolate much background and personality details, enough for years of play.
The beauty of Classic Traveller is generating a complete character in 5 minutes (believe me, I've tried this with a timer). Sure, your character may die during chargen. But who cares? You "wasted" a few minutes of your life playing a game. No harm done - five minutes more and another character will spring forth. All of this while allowing for much diversity of characters.
The beauty of Classic Traveller is building a starship in twenty minutes; this starship has no "stat block", but rather a paragraph of readable English text, which is enough to run it. Much variety is possible, and the "building block" simplicity of the ship creation system allows for the Referee to quickly add new components (say, hydroponics, a shipboard hospital and so on) to Book 2 ships. One ship in a paragraph - this is beautiful, especially when compared to the long strings of hex digits serving as the "stat blocks" of ships in later iterations of Traveller.
The beauty of Classic Traveller is that a mere 2-3 pages of tables create a wonderfully complex world of weapons, each with its own nuances, each fitting a niche. No need for ultra-complex penetration rolls; all is included in these simple tables. CT weapons have their own "character", and their own uses. The emergent complexity here is breathtaking.
The beauty of Classic Traveller is that a few digits define a world, and are enough to infer much from them, all while allowing for much nuances and for an endless variety of worlds. The stats suit adventurers and their needs - What starport services are available? Can I take my laser rifle ashore? Which politics will I have to deal with? Can I breath the air? Can I refuel from oceans/gas-giants/glaciers? All of this is very quick to generate and very fun to infer from.
A beautiful system, isn't it?
A beautiful system, isn't it?