X-Wing Miniatures Game – A Three Party System

Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures Game By Fantasy Flight GamesIt doesn’t take much to realise that I’m really enjoying the X-Wing Miniatures Game at the moment. I’ve been a Star Wars fan ever since I saw Return of the Jedi at the age of 2 or 3 and that love grown over the years with the introduction of the Star Wars novels, specifically the X-Wing series by Michael A Stackpole and Aaron Allston. If you haven’t read them do so, they’re awesome.

As Mat and I have grown our fleets Lee has found himself increasingly interested but was always put off by the fact that there was only ever two sides to choose from – The Rebellion or The Empire. Being a Rebel through and through, and the person he was going to play the most it left him with little option but to collect the Empire, which he didn’t want because, in his own words, he ‘had no love of the Empire and their ways’.

And that by rights would be that. He’d either have to collect a Rebel fleet and we never really get to play one another, or we have to play ‘training missions’ from now until the galaxy far far away collides with our own thanks to interstellar drift.

However, thanks to those wonderful novels mentioned above I was reminded of a third party that features often in the books and indeed one of the best loved characters fell firmly in their ranks for a while. I refer, of course, to scum and villainy. Smugglers, outlaws and raiders and pirates.

Granted, a certain degree of artistic license is going to be required as such ne’er do wells in the books and comics used Uglies, pilot slang for mongrel craft cobbled together from components salvaged from both sides of the conflict.

ZCeptorThey’re pretty cool but to recreate the craft above it would require the purchase, and subsequent chopping up, of an X-Wing a Y-Wing & a TIE Interceptor. And that’s £36 you could be spending on three ships and not chopping them up.

The point is this – a faction without allegiance is a faction that allows you to pick and choose whatever you want from the range. The transports and the Firespray are obvious places to start affording your fleet a solid core that’s entirely in keeping with its shady origins. A Rebel Transport suits the role of a mother ship or mobile base of operations just as fine as it works as its purpose for the Rebellion. And the fighters on both sides are fair game. Personally I’d set myself limitations – TIE Defenders, for example, are unlikely to make it into a pirate fleet. The robotic TIE-D – should it ever be released – would be almost impossible to maintain. The E-Wing would be too new and in too few numbers and in the likely event raiders did get their hands on one they wouldn’t know about the laser cooling issues.

But the most important piece of the puzzle if fielding unnamed pilots. This puts the pirates at a disadvantage in terms of skill but this tracks as few to none would have had military training. Plus the points saved by buying cheap pilots will mean you’ll have more of them. Coupled with the option of being able to mix the durability of the Rebel fighters with the speed and numbers of Imperial fighters and it becomes a very interesting fleet to go up against.

Moreover it represents the only truly legitimate painting opportunity for the X-Wing Miniatures Game. Whilst you can repaint the models you get for your Imperial and Rebel fleets, you don’t have to and generally the quality is gaming standard which suits most of us just fine. However with a pirate fleet there’s an opportunity to do some really fun stuff with your ships, making up for the fact that converting a fleet of Uglies would be prohibitively expensive.

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Throw in the fact that you have the pick of the Imperial and Rebel fleet lists (with the aforementioned limitations) and you’ve got a fresh set of tactical challenges along with the fun of painting up a truly individual looking force.

If your Photoshop skills can stretch to it there’s nothing stopping you from making up your own pilot cards to give your piratical dogs even more flavour.

Whilst somewhat of a bodge, putting together a raider/pirate force is relatively straight forward. It allows you to cherry pick all the ships you like from the Star Wars universe and use the various larger ships – with a groovy paint job – to add some real flavour to the force.

The X-Wing Miniatures Range is available from Firestorm Games from £6.29

 

 

X-Wing Expansion: E-Wing – A Review

Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures Game By Fantasy Flight GamesI’ve always loved the E-Wing. Ever since I read the Dark Empire comic book. At the time my brother and I were elbow deep in the Expanded Universe and the X-Wing game series on the PC. I waited and waited for a patch or expansion for the E-Wing but it never came to be. So when Fantasy Flight announced the E-Wing would be released I may of squee’d a bit. Just a bit.

Ewing_negvvThe E-Wing was designed to have the punch of the X-Wing with the speed and manoeuvrability of the A-Wing it was the first star fighter commissioned by the New Republic. With an enhanced sensor suite and engines, a large torpedo magazine and greater firepower it should have replaced the A-Wing but critical overheating problems slowed its roll out and in the end became a fighter that complimented, rather than replaced,

With this in mind I got my hands of two E-Wings to mirror the interceptor/fast mover role of my two A-Wings. With a solid core of 5 X-Wings and a flight of bombers in the form of Y-Wings and a B-Wing, they would give me the edge of Imperial players allowing  me to deal with nasties like TIE Bombers before cutting back and splatting the more troublesome Defenders.

I’d wondered how Fantasy Flight would tackle the E-Wing as the lasers were even flimsier than that of the X-WIngs and their locations would almost guarantee them breaking off.

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Rather simply they just tweaked the lasers, making them shorter and thicker so the model would be robust but not at the cost of the ship design. And I do love the design. It’s slightly crude and a bit of a shit kicker which is great because the Rebel ships always had that slightly rough and ready feel. But the model actually has quite a lot of detail faithfully recreated from the comic books including the the support strut from the hull to the stabiliser foil, the armoured hatch to the astromech compartment and the various bits of hardware on its flanks. It’s a very cool model.

Rule wise it’s not quite the stone cold killer I was expecting/hoping (delete as appropriate). Don’t get me wrong – it gets one more shield than an A-Wing and has overall better manoeuvrability it doesn’t come with terribly sexy upgrades. They’re useful but noting to get too excited about. The named E-Wing pilots are also incredibly expensive. To the point that I thought it was a typo. 35 and 32 points. Wedge Antilles, generally regarded as the greatest fighter pilot ever, is only 29 points.

The more expensive pilot is my joint favourite (with Wedge) character in Star Wars. Corran Horn. A former CorSec officer, he joined the New Republic as a member of the newly reformed Rogue Squadron under Wedge Antilles. He later discovered he had Force powers and became a powerful Jedi and staunch ally of Luke Skywalker. So quite why he’s flying an E-Wing I don’t know, but I’m delighted to have him in my squadron. His pilot trait allows you to make your next turn’s attack at the end of the current activation. This is extremely useful as it can mean the difference between taking return fire and not. Finishing an enemy and not or taking down two targets in quick succession. As traits go it’s pretty awesome. Throw in a skill of 8 and he’s pretty lethal. Partner him with any of other pilot aces – Luke, Wedge, Tycho – and it all gets a little bit unpleasant.

The second named E-Wing pilot, Etahn A’Baht lacks skill – only 5 – but it does get to turn a hit into a critical if the ship it’s targeting attempts to defend. Which is nice. But at 32 points, with the aforementioned skill of 5, he’s a risk as Imperials will get to shoot before him and that could be a problem. Although E-Wings get to focus, evade, lock-on and barrel roll so they are very nimble. This not only increases their survivability but increases your chances of getting in behind the Imperials to counter attack.

Whilst expensive the E-Wing is worth the points. The extra shield gives it that extra bit of survivability and the two pilot traits are very useful. Partnered with other craft and timed right they’d be invaluable. Moreover the do a fantastic job of not only taking the fight to the Empire but being able to double back and allow the squadron to encircle their enemies. This is a very good thing.

I’m fairly delighted with the E-Wing expansion pack.The model is way cool. The upgrades and cost of the pilots is a little disappointing but there’s no escaping just how useful the pilots are in a fight. Especially Corran Horn. 

The X-Wing Miniatures Game range is available at Firestorm Games from £6.29.

 

Warhammer 40k 7th Edition – A Review

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So 7th Edition has been unleashed upon the world. I’d like to say that I was eagerly anticipating its release but if I’m honest I felt fairly indifferent about the whole thing. Mainly because I do my best to avoid rumours and I really hate the way Games Workshop give people a week’s notice to find £50.

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Of course to avoid all the rumours flying around concerning 7th Edition I’d have to delete my social media accounts, not talk to any of my friends and quite possibly move somewhere fairly far away and possibly underground. The persistent rumour was that it would be Blood Angels and not Space Wolves joining Orks in the new boxset. Another was that there wouldn’t be a boxset at all. Well done Games Workshop you finally got one over on us.

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In a way I’m quite glad I ignored the rumours because when 7th Edition finally came out I had the opportunity to be surprised by a book I’d already owned 5 times previously. And that was quite a novel feeling. Of course the main change is that the Games Workshop have heeded the cries of its customers and split the book into three – hobby, fluff and rules. This is welcome news for gamers – particularly tournament gamers – who no longer have to lug around a chuffing heavy book with them wherever they go. They are also stunning to look at. It’s a real departure from the traditional with this iteration. It has new type faces, bold colour block, new stylised aquilas and groovy new art up the whazoo. Plus some of the best pieces from the previous edition. The books feel cyberpunk rather than sci-gothic which is actually a pretty clever. For the first time it feels like a work talking a bout the universe rather than a document from the universe. Which I think makes it far more relate-able for those who just want to paint some toys or play some games, not go balls deep into the fluff. And breaking it into three makes it more digestible. But, for me, harder to get into. Mainly because I do my reading in snatched hours so as I finished one part I was usually nowhere near the others.

A Galaxy of War – the hobby book – is, for me, a huge indulgence. It’s padded to hell and basically a hardback version of Warhammer Visions which is a bit poor. Lots of full page or double page photos which are totally unnecessary. It could be half the thickness, still look good and make just as much contribution to your hobby. I suspect it was thickened up because it would rather put lie to the principle that the wargaming is divided into three equal parts – painting/modelling, gaming and background. There are some new and pretty good hobby articles in there which is very refreshing considering the last couple of iterations have been rehashes of the ones before them. And it’s also cool to see a proper article about collecting an army and giving it some personality. It has nothing to with it being Ultramarines by the way. Although it’s nice to see Captain ‘Angryman’ Agemman getting some love considering he’s contributed almost as much to the Codex Astartes as Marneus Calgar. It’s the first hobby section in a while that I can see a seasoned gamer actually taking the trouble to read. I can’t promise they won’t get bored by the huge amounts of wasted space but at least there’s some value to it. Especially with the changes to the Citadel paint range in the last couple of years.

The book I was looking forward to most, it’s no surprise, was Dark Millennium – the background book – but it was the one that disappointed the most. Now I’ve been immersed in the Grim Darkness of the 41st Millennium for the best part of 25 years so I’m aware that the Imperium is not a happy or easy place to live but this book was so utterly bleak to the extent that when I reached the timeline I was questioning what the point of playing any more. In the past there was always an element of hope. Yes humanity was besieged on all sides and the outlook was grim but through strength or arms and sacrifice humanity had a chance. That has been replaced with a bludgeoning hopelessness that does beg the question why anyone would bother. And it lacks finesse. There’s no ambiguity which was always Games Workshop’s strength over its competitors. Everything was myth and legend and open to interpretation. Debating the background has always been a bit of a hobby within a hobby for me. 7th Edition just seems to be a bit…factual. Not bad by any chalk just factual. But I suppose that does tie in with the idea that this is a book about the 41st Millennium rather than a book from the 41st Millennium. Some aspects of Imperial society have been nicely fleshed out – the Imperial Knights being slotted in for one – but it does get a tad repetitive. And if you’re anyone but a lapdog of the Emperor then you may not enjoy this book because 88 pages of the 128 pages is given over to the Imperium. Granted it’s been padded with the usual large pieces of artwork but still. The Eldar – one of the most important players in a galaxy gone mad gets two pages. And that’s split between Dark Eldar and full fat Eldar. There’s a fair few pages about Chaos but even that is Imperium-centric. I stress it’s not a bad read but the old guard, those few of us that are left, may find it a bit of a direction shift.

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And finally the rules themselves. I’ve heard more than a few people call 7th Edition Warhammer 40,000 v2.1 and with good reason as it seems to have tightened up the rules that have been evolving since third edition and added in some of the best bits of 2nd Edition. They started in the previous version with Over Watch and the like but that face that unbound armies are back is very welcome indeed because for the first time since I collected it, I can now use my Ultramarines 1st Company without borrowing rules from another army. This is joyous news. There’s other big changes like a dedicated psychic phase bringing it back in line with Warhammer having spent 16 years making it different. There’s little rule tweaks particularly around cover and line of sight. There’s clarifications around Over Watch and a raft of other things. But most importantly: vehicles don’t suck any more. There’s been no real rule changes other than to damage table. As I said in my review of 6th Edition the studio completely failed to notice that mid strength rapid firing weapons – like assault  cannons – had become the most valuable in the game because they could glance vehicles to death. Whilst this is still true, they no longer can get a lucky kill in on a penetrating hit. The only way you can now outright destroy a vehicle is if you have a weapon that’s designed to do the job. Which. Makes. Sense. Suddenly lascannons and multimeltas are worth taking again. The best lesser weapons can hope for is to destroy weapons or immobilise them. A lot of effort has gone into the ‘gaming’ aspect, specifically scenarios and missions. Taking the throwaway after thought that was the 6th edition offering and making it a clear and digestible and, most importantly, good. The woeful, soul crushing, miserable Compendium of Special Rules has been thrown out in favour of something logical – rules grouped together by type. It actually means you can find rules too. Which is novel.

Overall the 7th Edition of the Warhammer 40,000 rules feel the tightest they’ve been…um…ever. The books are gorgeous and aside from sterility in the background it’s a strong offering from Games Workshop. The flyers are still over powerered – the Heldrake still being mental – and the fact that there’s still millions of special rules, however nicely they’ve been organised, means it can still frustrate but it’s not enough to put me off.

It’s been a long journey since 3rd Edition hit the shelves back in 1998 and it’s actually been fascinating watching that rule set evolve and see some of the facets of 2nd make a return. Not all the changes have been well received but then again you can’t please all the people all the time. I think there’s probably another iteration (or two) to go before Warhammer 40,000 hits that sweet spot where everything is working in harmony but for now I’d 7th Edition is pretty close.

For me the consideration that’s gone into the small details is what makes it good. Clarifying small but significant sentences cuts down rule flicking, arguing and prevents anyone from feeling hard done by when they lose the inevitable roll off. It’s just a far more well rounded offering and feels more robust because of it. It’s the first time in a while that I’ve felt confident in the rules I’m reading.

The Warhammer 40,000 7th Edition rules is available from Firestorm Games priced £45.00.

Sanctus Reach: Stormclaw Video

warhammer 40000 logoNow I’m the first person to admit that I’m a little out of touch with the 7th edition release. One minute there was no new box set and a rulebook with Dark Angels on the sleeve and now a new boxset with Space Wolves and Orks, putting lie to the persistent rumour that the box set would contain Blood Angels. Well done Games Workshop, you’ve finally managed to hoodwink us.

So here’s this new boxset with an add on campaign book which effectively catapults the start up costs from a fairly steep £75 to a stomach churning £105. Just a frame of reference – the second edition boxset from 21 years ago cost £40 with roughly the same amount of plastic. That’s an 87% increase in price. Granted it’s at least an 87% increase in quality of models but that’s still very rich tea.

Looking at the boxset whilst it may not wow many compared to the previous two boxsets, it’s actually not bad in terms of relative value. Grumbling above aside. By my sums there’s roughly £134.50 worth of toys in there, plus the slim rulebook. Which makes it fairly good value verses its price tag – if we ignore the over inflated prices in the first place. Oh and it’s just about legal on both sides for a change.

I also love the Space Wolves captain model. Many may not remember the cover art to the third edition Space Wolves codex or the Forge World display piece that was made of him, but I most certainly do.

SWvsOrksIt’s great to see the old boy still fighting the good fight with nothing more than a little less hair, one less eye and a lot more trophies…

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Warhammer 40k: Eternal Crusade Pre-Alpha Gameplay

Graphics aside, because it is pre-alpha, this so far looks like the Space Marine multiplayer. Which I personally thought sucked. One must assume there’s going to be some plot and many places to explore.

But right now here’s some poorly rendered Space Marines having fisty cuffs with some poorly rendered Chaos Space Marines…

Valhalla Review

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At Salute I saw a lot of wonderful things, but each game system seemed to follow a similar path of a needing a large rulebook costing about £20,  so it’s nice to see a different approach in Valhalla, published by East Street Games. A Viking era skirmish game, harking back to the idea of cheap rule sets, no fixed model range and an emphasis on modifying as required rather than sticking to the letter of the rules.

It also has a unique online component built into the game, whereby you generate your warband, record any experience gained, and can then watch it grow with each victory.

As for the rules themselves, well they’re pretty solid, albeit with a few glaring holes that, at times, may be irritating. The most interesting of them is that you have several lines of health boxes which means, as they are filled in due to injury, a fighter gets progressively worse at fighting to represent having taken a few blows.

Games focus around ‘benches’ – groups of warriors commanded by a powerful leader who sets the morale and tells the warriors what to do. Each turn models have three action points to use which each model must use before moving to another, making turns quick and fast even with a dozen models on the table. In a nice nod to realism, you set your warriors tasks at the beginning of the game such as ‘burn those houses’ or ‘capture those villagers’ which your warriors won’t deviate from unless provoked, so its even possible that games could happen and warriors not encounter a fight at all, or else a crafty defender could pick off an opponent from afar before they have time to react.

Sod the historical realism though I hear you cry- how good is the combat!? Pleasantly brutal I have to say. Evoking the fast and deadly nature of hand to hand combat at the time, heroics by single models will result in a quick death for them as they get surrounded by enemies. So players with lone models caught off guard have to resort to stalling tactics until their friends turn up, or else risk running away. It’s for a good reason that Valhalla insists you start a game together as one bench. Teamwork is the name of the game here.

Now to talk about the online component, it’s pretty easy to set up and generate your own warband. Upload pictures of your models, choose what nationality you would like (Cornish, Saxon, Viking etc), the type of warrior you want, generate your models stats and then choose weaponry and equipment. Each page is dedicated to a single task, so you are never confused about what to do or how to do it and its a pretty quick process, with my two bands of Cornish and Gailic warriors (each 8 models strong) being generated in 30 mins.

Now the online mode is handy, but it also reveals some of the drawbacks of the method. For one, it relies on the East Street Games having the time to update the game as it promises it will. The rulebook itself has no scenarios in it and none on the site as of this time, so it would have been useful to have a few in the rulebook to get peoples imaginations going and tide them over until East Street Games found the time to upload a few more to the website. The reliance on the site for keeping track of each models generation, growth and equipment may irk a few used to doing that with pen and paper after each game. There’s also a few formatting errors in the rulebook that were very obvious and should have been caught by someone before printing happened.

Overall though, Valhalla is worth your time. Its a game that will reward you the more time you put into it if you are willing to meet it half way initially. The solid base of rules and encouragement of modding and changing the game yourself is an attitude I wish more game developers had.

If there’s a Viking era skirmish game worth trying today, try Valhalla. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at both the depth to the rules and at how cheap the game is, probably being £50+ for the two warbands of 12 warriors a side (depending on where you buy them) and a core rules system that should only get better with time.

Not bad for rules that only cost me £5.

Valhalla is available from East Street Games.