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.

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.

X-Wing Expansion: B-Wing – A Review

Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures Game By Fantasy Flight Games

I’ve always had mixed feelings about the B-Wing. When it dove into view in Return of the Jedi I was fascinated by the design. Of all the Rebel fighters it looked the least like a conventional/modern/atmospheric craft. But this had a lot to do with it being designed by Admiral Ackbar, a Mon Calamari who has no reason to think like a human and therefore design like one. In the movie it seemed to keep up with the fighting and the squadron did themselves proud in the Battle for Endor taking down two Imperial Star Destroyers.

When I got my hands on the X-Wing game for the PC and my opinion soured slightly. Whilst undeniably well armed, the B-Wing was a turd to fly. Slow and lazy in its turns, it was a pig to fly in a dog fight. Whilst I appreciate it’s a bomber and shouldn’t be in the middle of a furball it was an often inescapable situation in that game. Especially if you were a young, aggressive rookie pilot like I was back in the day. I can’t say I’ve mellowed in my piloting style but I do now, at least, appreciate the combat role the B-Wing is supposed to play which is that of a ship killer. How convenient that two are now available…

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Similarly with the X-Wing Miniatures game I wasn’t sure about including a B-Wing in my rag-tag interpretation of Rogue Squadron. Especially as the majority of the unit is made up of fast-moving X-Wings and even faster moving A-Wings & E-Wings (the latter are on their way and a review will follow). That was, however, until I read the rules for the B-Wing.

Whilst slow and alarmingly prone to stress, it is as well shielded as the Millennium Falcon and nearly as well armed. And for near enough half the points. That’s incredibly good. Partner a B-Wing with the Falcon, or a couple of Y-Wings and you have an incredibly capable killing blow after the fighting wedge of your fast movers punches a hole in the enemy formation.

Whilst I can’t see myself taking one (or more) B-Wing in every game I can definitely see the pros in taking one at all.Especially against larger craft. Aside from its crazy resilience to damage and meaty amounts of basic fire power the two special rules on offer from the character pilots are incredibly good. Being able to either prevent a critical hit from being cancelled or being able to re-roll a dice when under stress (which will happen al lot!) is very useful. Not cheap however. 31 and 28 points respectively. But this has something to do with the B-Wing being nails and able to take piles of upgrades including two missile types which is just as well because the expansion comes with both proton torpedoes and advanced proton torpedoes. For 6 points (ouch) the advanced torpedoes gives you 5 dice and allows any blank results to be turned into focus results. Which if you’re smart ensures you utterly destroy whatever you shoot at.

To be honest, you’d be mad not to take all the upgrades for the B-Wing. The Fire Control System being a must for 2 points, giving you a target lock on the ship you just fired on. For. Two. Points. Chuck in a focus action and advanced torpedoes and that’s a heady mix and shaves a turn off delivering the aforementioned destruction. However, all this kitting up will set you back around 15 points. On top of the 28-31 points for the pilot and ship. Or to put it another way, roughly the same number of points as the Falcon. The only saving grace being it’s harder to hit.

The model itself is actually pretty cool. And massive. It’s significantly bigger than the X-Wing and dwarfs the A-Wing which makes the B-Wing pretty good value for that reason alone. Fantasy Flight did a nice job of work around the design of the ship and the flight stand. And already I’ve seen conversion were gamers have worked the stand loose and rotated it 90 degrees to get the horizontal pose which actually works better.

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The B-Wing is a bit of a surprise choice for me. I was expecting to be indifferent at best but I can actually see a real benefit to taking them in your fleet. Whilst very high in points they have more than potential enough to make those points back thanks to the prodigious amounts of damage it can do. Its lack of speed isn’t such a problem because targets will be flying towards it. The hard part will be keeping it  alive once the Imperials get behind it because it lacks the ability to turn and face. I’m not sure how it’ll fit in with my aggressive playing style but if used correctly the B-Wing is a devastating asset.

The X-Wing Miniatures Game B-Wing Expansion is available from Firestorm Games priced £10.79.

Deep Cut Studios Space Battle Mat – A Review

deepcutstudioYou may remember a little while ago I took a look at the Ice Planet battle mat from Gale Force 9 for use with the X-Wing Miniatures Game. I came across Deep-Cut Studio and their wide range of game mats not just for X-Wing but a wide range of tabletop and RPG systems as well.

I got my hands on the Deep Space mat, again for use with X-Wing with the idea of making a direct comparison against the GF9 product.

miniature_games_mat_space_2The Gale Force 9 mat had converted me to game mats. They’re a great all in one solution for those that lack the time or the skill to create something similar. The best news about the Deep-Cut Studio mats is that they’re available in sizes between 3×3 and 6×4 which is fantastic. This means games of all stripes can get an awesome looking gaming mat for not lots of money.

And awesome is the word. My first impressions were that it’s really very pretty. Whereas the GF9 mat felt photoshopped, albeit still looking pretty cool, the Deep Space mat from Deep-Cut was more like looking at something taken with the Hubble Telescope. It’s incredibly good-looking to the point it’s almost a shame to put models on it. And that makes it completely beautiful. The richness of colour is very impressive. The standard of print is exceptional. Whereas the GF9 mat felt slight over saturated with ink, Deep-Cut’s feels like a press quality item. Which is what you want for something you’re paying cashy money for.

It’s thinner than the GF9 mat which means it rolls out easier but takes a fair bit longer for the ends to settle flat but it’s not a massive deal. Just give yourself a few extra minutes when you unroll it. And because the PVC seems to take the ink better there’s no signs of wear or rubbing which was my big peeve. The thinness does make rolling it back up a bit of a faff because it lacks the rigidity to tapped into a tidy roll but again, it’s not a big deal but extra care is needed.

But going back to the look of the mat, it’s just a joy to play across. The models look fantastic and thanks to the sizes available it means Gothic players get to enjoy gorgeous playing spaces as well. And this makes me extremely happy. It doesn’t mean I’m going to spontaneously start painting my Gothic fleet but it’s nice to know the grey plastic will have a good-looking backdrop.

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Come on! Look at it! It’s just epic. And it makes anything you put on there look epic. And considering what I put on there are Star Wars ships which are, by definition, epic; there’s a shit tonne of epicness in that photo.

The battle mat from Deep-Cut Studio is an excellent product. It looks fantastic, it’s produced to a high standard and the 3×3″ mat I got is cheaper than the GF9 version and I know which I prefer. I’m really keen to see what some of the other mats look like, particularly other space mats and ones that could be used for Bolt Action.

The mats are available direct from Deep-Cut Studio priced £22.90.

Bolt Action: Assault on Normandy – A Review

boltactionlogoAs part of our ongoing efforts to review and write about more games I drew up a list of games and models I wanted to look at. Fairly close to the top of that list was Bolt Action. Being the extremely lucky buggers that we are, Lee and I managed to get our hands on the starter set, Assault on Normandy, by those fine folks at Warlord Games.

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Having already done a bit of research I knew Bolt Action was going to be a lighter option than Flames of War. This isn’t a criticism, but – and I got this from Warlord themselves – a necessary simplification to keep the game quick and fun. A rifle, during the Second World War was more or less just like any other rifle. There are no shortage of hairs to be split surrounding that statement but that’s the point. It’s hours of debate for, ultimately, sod all difference to the outcome of the game. It’d just mean a lot of tedious rule checking.

But I digress.

The game also differs in scale and level of engagement. Whereas in Flames of War you can field battalions with lots of tiny tanks and blokes, Bolt Action is 28mm company level engagements. Which, to be honest, is much more my cup of tea. I was obsessed with Second World War history after watching Band of Brothers because I was far more interested in the actions of specific units and soldiers than I was the war as a whole.

So what’s in the Bolt Action box? Well lots of lovely multipart soldiers with tiny guns. Now I’ve built some fiddly models over the years but the models you get in the starter box take it to a whole new level. To be clear: they are way cool. The breadth of choice as well as the number of accessories you can stick on to your guys is incredibly impressive. And particularly with the German models, considerable thought has been given to what weapons are available to allow players to tailor their forces to an early or late war unit.

However, because everything in Bolt Action is to scale and because the weapons sit in the soldier’s palms it does make for a very time-consuming build. To do 20 US Infantry took me hours. This was partly down to the arms being designed to match certain guns. Once I’d figured the sprues out (the little diagram you get in the box is invaluable) and worked out a system I did speed up. But don’t expect to smash the models out an hour before you’re due to play. Because you just won’t. Plus you’ll need to read the rules before you build them so you know what’s worth giving your blokes and what isn’t. And of course unit upgrades and limitations. And…well, you get the idea.

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But, as I say, they do look the business when they’re built. And the arms and leg poses are varied enough that you can have some pretty interesting poses going on with your GI’s or Germans. Just remember, whatever you stick on must be painted. I kept my Americans down to backpacks and ammo pouches, but there are options for bayonets, water bottles and additional pouches. As someone who doesn’t have time to paint much this is a mildly horrifying prospect for me. But for the hardcore, they’re absolutely perfect. The detail and the scale is bang on. And, on a personal note, building a dude firing an M1A1 is very satisfying.

On top of the uber infantry you get the full Bolt Action rules, order dice and two excellent ruined buildings. Once again however, I hit a snag. Aside from part of the roof on the hamlet being slightly miscast, my box didn’t include any instructions on how to build them. I’m assuming this is an error as I have no other frame of reference and it doesn’t seem Warlord’s style to include itemised diagrams of the sprues and not include instructions for the house. The scenery, whilst only two buildings, are brilliant and very cleverly designed with piles of rubble used to reinforce corners or stabilise the frame of the terrain itself. It also looks brilliant on the board. The nice thing is that a fair amount of fantasy cottages etc will tie in, albeit only just, whilst you build your 28mm French cottage collection.

The rule book, as one would expect considering the writers behind Bolt Action is beautifully presented and logically laid out. It sounds silly but I can’t stress enough how important the layout of a rule book is. It all just flows naturally and whilst there’s the odd ‘but more on this later’ at least it gives you the page number so you can skip ahead should you so choose. The artwork is taken from various Osprey publications so whilst it lacks some of the punch the more conceptual artwork you see in Games Workshop publications, it does fit in with the aesthetic of the book and the feel of the 40’s. It is also kinda fun flicking through the book and looking at the art and the units depicted in them.

The rules themselves seemed quite simple at first reading. Units are given a single order which can be move, shoot, move and shoot, run or try to crawl inside your helmet. Shooting, as one would expect, is a prettyvital partof the game. Hitting a target is not an easy thing to do, and the ability of your troops allows you to mitigate that (or not). If you are lucky enough to hit, killing folk is a straight forward dice roll. There’s no strength verses toughness it’s just a bullet hitting a body and that usually ends body parts falling off or being suitably mangled that they don’t work properly. In short, a bullet makes a mess of you regardless of what colour uniform you wear. So if you’re not careful, your blokes will die in droves. Which is why all the other orders are so important.

As is the most seemingly insignificant rule in the game. Pinning. Every time you take hits (not damage) you receive a pin marker. This makes it less likely for your units to follow orders. The more pin markers they have the greater the chance the unit will keep its collective heads down rather than follow your damn fool orders to return fire or some such. This does two things. 1. Bolt Action will brutally, relentlessly and bloodily punish the foolhardy. 2. Force you to consider everything you do. Lee and played our first game like Second World Warhammer: with us trying to knock seven bells out of each other at range and it quickly degenerated into two of our units hammering our others units into submission until they were so pinned they were combat ineffective. Whilst very clever we completely missed the point of the game.

Which is tactics. Bolt Action is brilliant tactical. Fire and manoeuvre are paramount. Pinning. Flanking. All the things shouted at one point or another in Band of Brothers are all viable and vital actions to carry out because as soon as you get pinned it’s a fast and slippery slope towards being overwhelmed and wiped out. Or worse: attacked in close combat. Because my goodness me is that a short, violent, bloody and immensely fun affair.

Bolt Action is am immensely enjoyable game. The system is streamlined enough that you avoid all the tedious hair-splitting and get down to the business of kicking people in the face. The mechanic means that the introduction of tanks and other vehicles doesn’t break anything – they’re formidable but not unbeatable. The army lists allow for suitable yet significant differences in load out which gives the armies their point of difference. And makes it impossible to beat the Germans at a shooting game.

There will be some who like the hair-splitting. The precise definitions, movement classes and the like and that’s fine. There are games out there to scratch that itch. But for straight forward, yet inspired rules and some pretty sweet models there is no other Second World War game I’d look at than Bolt Action.

The Bolt Action: Assault on Normandy box set is available from Firestorm Games priced £63.00

Mailfaux – A Review

Malifaux

Well actually it should technically be Malifaux 2nd edition – a review but who wants to get bogged down in semantics? So this review has probably been a long time coming, especially as I can’t resist a skirmish game and it must be said that with so many great games out there we did sort of let the 1st edition rules pass us by. That said good things come to those who wait and when Phil dropped the rule book off to me I wasn’t disappointed.

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So for those of you that don’t know, Malifaux is a skirmish game designed by Wyrd Miniatures for 32mm scale models. If you are anything like me then I am sure you are saying nothing new there (because I know I did). However that reaction was short-lived. The game, like many others, is based on an alternative version of Earth and is heavily focused on magic, but describes itself as a collection of Gothic, Steampunk and Victorian Horror with a dose of the Wild west thrown in. Now I’m sure you will agree that is quite a combination and makes for a game with a fairly unique feel.

With this mish-mash of genres the game has a really diverse background and brings with it some very unique factions and given Wyrd almost unlimited possibilities when designing the characters for each. This has resulted in some great miniatures and some really likeable characters that I am looking forward to collecting.

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Perhaps likeable is the wrong word…Mal img 2 Mal img 3 Mal img 4

For Malifaux 2.0, Wyrd has increased the number of factions so there are now 7 to choose from and with each one being very different. It means there is almost definitely a faction for every brand of mayhem. Wyrd have also been clever as there are different groups within each faction meaning that you can even take the same faction in several different directions.

With such an original background to get excited about I was initially surprised when the premise of the game was quite so standard. A city in ruins begins to be repopulated and opposing factions are fighting for territory and resources (in this case Soulstones). For any Mordheim player (or for that matter any skirmish gamer), this is nothing new. But don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that is a bad thing. There is a simple reason why so many games use this formula…because it is fun and it works. What Wyrd have done well with Malifaux is thinking up a variety of scenarios to play, including a lot of character driven stories, that will keep things fresh. And I must say some of them sound quite cinematic, which I always like.

So onto the book itself, I am pleased to say that my first impressions were positive. The print quality is pretty good and the book doesn’t feel cheap, which is one of my biggest gripes with some other gaming around, especially when you consider the price you are expected to pay for them. Considering the variety of styles Malifaux incorporates, most of the artwork has done a really good job of capturing the feel of the Malifaux universe and life through the breach.

The book is set out in a logical way which makes sense to read, taking you first on a journey through the background. There are a lot of great stories, setting the scene for each faction and some of their main characters which helped me decide which faction was for me. It also gives you all the profiles and rules you need for each faction so there is no need to buy a separate army book which is always a win. But it’s a two-edged sword as background can be sacrificed on the altar of page limits.

Wyrd have split the Malifaux rules into 3 parts, starting with the basics then going into more depth on the game’s core mechanics and then working examples of all elements of a turn within the game. Examples are well explained and although more diagrams could be useful, it seems that Wyrd have fine-tuned their explanations since version 1 as most of them are very clear. This methodical approach will hopefully prevent a lot of aimless flicking through the book for the one rule you really need but can’t find.

The game has some quite unique game mechanics that make it feel different to others with the biggest difference being that Malifaux doesn’t use any dice. At all. Instead you use a fate deck based on a standard poker deck, and if I’m honest I am not 100% sure of how I feel about this. Call it naivety or delusion but I always feel as if I have some influence over a random dice roll whereas with a card deck you know you will only ever score four 13’s and you are quite likely to score four 1’s. It certainly is an interesting way of ensuring a levelling the playing field, that is unless you want to cheat fate. Once I had read the rules I was interested to see that Wyrd have added a way to cheat fate by allowing you to have a small hand of fate cards you can choose to play instead of drawing from the main fate deck.

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The rules seem to work well and make for a very enjoyable game or short campaign, especially if you play one of the character driven story lines but there does seem to be one factor that other skirmish games may do better and that is character development. Malifaux hasn’t completely neglected this as they have included some faction specific upgrades that can be purchased for characters. Whilst this does help to slightly improve your characters I’m not entirely sure it will be enough to really get you attached to you heroes as they develop new skills or issues which is something that Mordheim, for example, really excels at. This could only really prove to be a real issue in long-term campaigns and certainly doesn’t stop it being really enjoyable for one-off games, or short campaigns and it is definitely a game I can’t wait to play more.

The Malifaux 2nd edition rule book is available at Firestorm Games priced £25.19.

- Neil

X-Wing Expansion: A-Wing – A Review

Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures Game By Fantasy Flight GamesThis review is rather later than planned and, for a change, it had nothing to do with me. It’s fair to say that Fantasy Flight have been victims of their own success and have struggled to keep up with demand for the X-Wing Miniatures Game and as such all but the wave 1 range was unavailable.

But rejoice fellow X-Wing gamers, for the restock has hit and you have the briefest window to buy what you can before unscrupulous bastards buy it all up and put it on eBay for three times the price. I’ve been able to get my hands on the A-Wing at long last. Well two actually. I can hear Mat soiling himself from here.

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When I was formulating an idea of what to include in my squadron I knew that I would need something in the rapid response column to either scythe through fast-moving flights of Interceptors or, God forbid, Defenders or to blast past the main enemy line to pick off the TIE Bombers.  A-Wings and E-Wings tick the box most effectively. I’ve always loved the E-Wing ever since it blasted its way across the pages of the Dark Empire series. However, it isn’t out yet. But A-Wings will more than make do for now.

The A-Wing’s always been a bit of a funny one for me. Whilst I appreciate its speed, and being able to out pace and out turn a TIE is appealing, I’ve never liked how soft and squishy they are. However, you can’t knock the speed or its potential punch and in X-Wing it’s a necessity for two very good reasons. One: it performs a vital intercept and engage role that nothing else in the Rebel fleet can. Two: The general lack of pilot cards means that if you want to field a dozen fighters you have to a couple of each type.

But on to the A-Wing itself. Of all the models I’ve seen so far it’s probably the most disappointing. Not because it’s not a loyal representation or anything like that but the pre-painting on the two I got was poorer than on the other ships I own. The additional colouration feels rather arbitrary and does nothing to make it feel like I’m recreating Return of the Jedi. But the thing that really ticks me off is the stupid spots of red paint on the tips of the lasers. There is absolutely no need for it and for the first time since properly collecting and playing X-Wing I’d consider repainting one of the model. Or at least paint over the lasers.

The board it’s blisteringly fast. Speed 5 makes it the fastest thing in the Rebel fleet (so far) and with a wealth of green manoeuvres on its wheel, it is very agile. The down side is you can only make Koigan turns at speeds 3 and 5 which means you could well put yourself out of range of a target if you wait til you’re on top of them to pull the manoeuvre. This does mean it’ll suck in a dogfight and you’ll be far better off performing hit and run attacks. But considering how little armour they have, it was some what of a given anyway. The plethora of missiles it can take as upgrades rather backs up this theory as the ability to strike with concussions missiles or homing missiles on the way in, lasers in the thick of it and then blast out the other side with the handy-dandy boost action. So despite its two armour points it’ll take a big bite out of the Imperials before its shredded to tin foil. Because it will die. Especially going up against the vastly superior TIE Defender. But the Rebel’s strength has always been combined arms…

And it’s pilots. Those that know their Star Wars novels will know that Tycho Celchu is a bit of a badass. His pilot card is no exception. Aside from being comparable to Luke Skywalker with skill 8, he’s allowed to still perform actions with stress tokens. This means he can perform a Koigan turn and lock on, focus or evade. This makes him pretty lethal. To be able to turn to face an attacker and potentially ignore a hit as well as roll 3 dice to evade is nasty. Only two shots in return means he’s still not likely to splash a TIE, but in a pair or in a coordinated attack with an X-Wing or Y-Wing and you’ll be laughing.

You get the usual pointless generic pilot cards which I’d never take. Ever. You also get Arvel Crynyd who allows you to target a ship you’re in base contact with – normally against the rules. With such a fast-moving craft, and in the role it’ll likely be performing, it’s an incredibly useful skill to have and make you slightly happier to have your A-Wing in the thick of it.

Whilst the A-Wing will never replace the X-Wing as my go to fighter, it performs a vital role in a squadron. Especially as the games grow in size and the variety in the Imperial formation increases. The speed and potential punch it can deliver to the back of the Imperial formation is too valuable to pass up, especially taking them in pairs. Which of course you’d do. Because you’d be mental not to. I still dislike their flimsiness and I dislike that they force you to be careless with pilot lives – because it’s not the Rebel way of doing things – but they’re just too damn useful.

The A-Wing is available from Firestorm Games priced £10.79.

KR Multicase X-Wing Foam – A Review

Many will know that we like a bit of Star Wars at Shell Case towers. Many will also know that we’re a bit mental for the X-Wing Miniatures Game as well. Because it combines two of the greatest things known to man: wargaming and Star Wars.

Having acquired some sizeable fleets Mat and I had both outgrown our home-made figure cases – I especially as the Falcon is massive. So we got in touch with our friends at KR Multicase to see if we could take a look at the X-Wing custom cut foam range they have available. Happy to oblige us, we got to take a look at foam cut for both Rebel and Imperial heavy forces.

Rebel Fleet

I’ve been using KR cases for a couple of years now and I can’t rate them high enough. I only have two Games Workshop cases remaining and that’s purely because they’re still fit for purpose and too badly battered for anyone to buy them off me…that and they’ve got Phil’s Ultramarines written on them in gold pen. What? Mat on the other hand is new to KR.

I mention this so as to emphasise the impartiality the review comes from.

Now I’ve always been dubious about custom cut foam. Not that it wasn’t up to snuff but because I use to have a lot of the aforementioned Games Workshop cases and so was use to cutting rectangular slots to fit anything and everything from cavalry to yhetees to tanks to winged daemons. So to have something that was done for me was both very satisfying and disconcerting all at the same time.

Mat and I had similar configurations with the deviation being he had capacity for a Lambda class shuttle and I didn’t. Which suited me fine. What I did have room for was the Falcon. Now, to cover off a common query quickly – why does the Imperial sponge have a slot for the Falcon? Because the Rebel players don’t have exclusive ownership rights. Imperial players can use it as just a YT-1300 transport for scenarios or, if you’re feeling cheeky a small games with the Imperials versus the Falcon. What’s not to love?

What sets the foam apart from regular cases or even regular custom cut foam is that it offers a complete game storage solution. There’s a variety of compartments for your manoeuvre wheels, cards, counters and turn templates. Other than the former and the latter it’s not abundantly clear what each compartment is for. Whilst not a major problem because I was able to figure out homes for everything, it would have been nice to have a sheet pointing out what is what.

The important aspect is, of course, the fit for the models. KR very cleverly designed a system that would allow you to house just about every fighter configuration in the game which is pretty clever. Better still it was designed so the models would be on their flight stands. This may seem at odds with the experiences of anyone with a Battlefleet Gothic fleet but it does, quite amazingly work. Through in homes for larger ships, the larger flight stands, and everything else and what you have is an incredibly useful miniature storage system.

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There are niggles though. Aside from not knowing where everything’s supposed to go – apart from the obvious – the storage for the turn dials isn’t sufficient for the number of models the case can carry. I’ve filled mine and I’ve got two dials spare. And that’s only 10 models. The compartment for the upgrade cards whilst is deep enough, doesn’t take into account the piles of cards the larger ships, like the Rebel Transport, come with so that’ll quickly fill up as well.

This isn’t the end of the world as you can find homes for them elsewhere in the case but it does slightly defeat the purpose of custom fit foam. However it’s worth noting that this was a foam bundle and KR does off you the freedom to mix and match the trays however you like. The important thing is that it performs its intended function incredibly well and Mat and I are extremely pleased with the cases. They keep the models safe and all the counters, templates and cards stay where you leave them. What more could one ask from figure cases?

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The foam is flexible yet supportive where the ships are concerned yet it does an excellent job of keeping all the (many) bits of cardboard in one place. I can’t stress how important that is to anyone not familiar with the game. There’s quite a lot of cardboard. But the bottom line is this: it keeps my very expensive models in perfect condition which allows me to transport and game with them without fear of them arriving smashed into tiny pre-painted fragments. And that’s an extremely good thing.

The X-Wing foam and carry cases are available from KR Multicase priced at £32.99.

Amera City Block Ruins – A Review

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It’s been a good few weeks since Salute and now the excitement of building all of the things has worn off slightly, it’s about time I put fingers to keyboard and typed up some reviews. First up is the City Block Ruins from Amera Plastic Mouldings.

City Block Ruin (with Buttresses cut to fit)

City Block Ruin (with Buttresses cut to fit)

I’ve never had the pleasure of assembling one of Amera’s kits before, although I have played over a number of them, so building one was going to be a new experience for me. For those of you who don’t know: Amera’s kits are made from vacuum formed plastic sheets which are very durable and almost act like a frame-work, or blank canvas if you will, for you to put in as much or as little effort as you wish into getting the piece ready for the table top.  Some effort does have to go into cutting out the pieces from these sheets, but it’s nothing more than the trimming you have to do with any kit, and you can be quite rough and ready depending on the look you’re going for.

This was one thing I found myself having to get accustomed to as I’m so used to carefully trimming and assembling each piece so as not to do anything wrong.  The Amera kits are quite a departure from that and allow you to go cutting pieces all over the place and so alien was this concept to me I actually had to consult the website to check how I was supposed to use the buttresses, only to find out you just cut them to the desired length and put them wherever you want – which left me feeling slightly silly at not having surmised this myself [He even checked with me. - Ed].

The kit itself is surprisingly big, topping out at just about 4 levels if you include the ground floor and is significantly wide enough that it almost accounts for an entire building itself and thus needs less supporting scenery to represent a complete building footprint.  Equivalent kits from other companies often don’t cover enough ground and need at least another full kit to complete what could be considered a realistic structure – whereas you could get away with just adding some piles of rubble with this just to show where part of the building had collapsed. Or seeing as they’re half the price of comparable kits you could just get two and make one even bigger ruin, whatever you want really – and therein lays one of the pieces biggest strengths, its cost.  At less than £10 a pop you don’t have to compromise with your scenery coverage on a board as you’ll generally be getting double the amount, and this enables you to do some pretty epic looking boards without breaking the bank. I’m sure many of us have gazed across a fully modelled board in awe and then resigned ourselves to the thought we will likely never come to owning such a pretty set of matching terrain – but with Amera you can.

The blank canvas approach makes owning a an entire board’s worth of matching scenery a reality by keeping it simple and giving you the option of adding as much or as little detail as you want.  Only got time for a basecoat and a drybrush – no problem, it looks fine.  Or sand it up and add some flock? Now it looks even better.  Or you can go to town and start adding in details like interior walls and extra structures like scaffolds to make it look really good.  The point is it’s up to you and it does the job no matter how much effort you put into it. I personally love building terrain – it was one of things that really drew me into the hobby when I was a kid.  Back then it was all on you to find interesting bits and pieces that could represent structures and then detail them to look realistic, and this is an evolution of that. It brings back some of the creativity that has been somewhat lost with the growth of more complex scenery ranges which has taken away the need to be inventive.

Amera - City Block Ruin (painted)

£9.95 for what is almost a complete building is great value, and it’s almost a victim of Amera’s cheap prices across the range – the same price can also get you even more impressive pieces.  But like I said, as they are so reasonably priced you don’t have to compromise, you don’t have to go straight for the biggest pieces you can afford because you need to stretch your budget as far you can. Instead you can pick the right piece for the right job without worrying if you’ll have enough, which means you should assemble a better and looking and better playing scenery set as a result.  And if you need a ruined building that is versatile enough to suit almost any 28mm game that uses a gun then look no further, this one does the job perfectly well.

The City Block Ruin is available from Amera Plastic Mouldings for £9.95.  Additional City Block Buttresses Sets are also available priced £1.50.

-Lee