#TheVoxmanPledge 2014

In between recording podcasts and working in real life, I often get into lengthy conversations about miniature wargames on Twitter (My handle is @ATT64 if you wanna say hi). The other day I made an interesting comment (for once lol) and I would like to explain in further detail what I have planned.

“We live in a golden era of miniature games, go forth and play ‘em all!” (The Voxman Pledge)

It should come as no surprise to any avid miniature wargamer that there is an absolute colossal ton of games now available to buy. With dozens of successfully fundraised kickstarter projects and entrepreneurs looking to make a name for themselves in the industry, its an exciting time to collect miniature games. The competition between these new games is frantic and often brutal as the general population dictates the ultimate fate of these new projects. We have the power to change the landscape of miniature wargames for the better

Over the break, I thought about my relationship with the games I currently own and play:

Warhammer Fantasy: Empire | Skaven | Dark Elves

Warhammer 40,000: Tau | Orks

Warmachine: The Protectorate of Menoth | Convergence of Cyriss

Firestorm Armada: Terrans

Dust Warfare: Sino-Soviet Union (SSU)

I realized that my relationship with games has changed significantly over the years and the free time I have available to me is much more restricted. I started off playing massive battles of 40K with 4 childhood friends on a ping-pong tale, using cardboard boxes to create expanding cities. I eventually transitioned to playing Warhammer Fantasy, which allowed me to further design detailed ranked up miniatures in the form of my Empire Averland State troop focussed army and my 210 Skaven horde. Overtime I desired more variety in my gameplay and tired many things both in 40K and fantasy, but I always found that it felt the same regardless.

I tried multiple small units, monsters, all cavalry armies and even using only one Hellpit Abomination (rebel). I discovered Warmachine around 2010 and even though I slowed down playing Fantasy, I still retained a deep love for that game. Now with regards to 40K, I really found that while I still appreciated the universe and the built-in complexities within the established codices. I didn’t like actually playing it. I am a firm believer that the fun focus of that game is around list construction (for tournaments or causal play) or potentially creating a thematic army. I just felt that the game was usually over in 30 minutes, but played out for 2 1/2 hours. Keep in mind that I don’t hate 40K by any means, I just realised it wasn’t the game for me.

I have played Warmachine for several years now, but for some reason I have been beginning to feel burnt out. Maybe, its the sole focus of the competitive scene or the sheer flood of new miniatures being added to the game, but for some reason I entered a hobby slump. Don’t get me wrong, if you phone me up and have an army I will play you! I love the game, but I guess I am tired of it’s one direction approach and needed some more variety. I played Dust Warfare and Firestorm with varying degrees of success, but with their scattered release schedules and rule hiccups. I have decided to wait and see.

Recently though, I have had a rather profound realization about my hobby. I want to try everything. That’s really it, I am tired of trying to be “The Tournament goer” or “The Hobbiest” or even “The Fluff Gamer”. I want to have fun, it’s really that simple. For so long, I have prided myself by bringing the best list I can make for a tournament or building an entire army around a narrative or trying to be a better painter/modeller. But where was the fun? When I played Blood Bowl, Dreadball and even to a lesser extent X-Wing, I realized that I had been so focussed on a particular aspect of this hobby that I ignored what makes a game fun and engaging.

I don’t have to own an entire complete range of miniatures or even be a hobby completest, I just want to have fun like I have always done playing miniature games.

So I say unto you fellow Wargamers and Warmongers, that I will try to play every and any game I can during 2014. I don’t have to own or buy every miniature, heck I don’t even have to be that good at playing the game. I just want to have the willingness to try to open my mind to other experiences that these new/old games are offering. At the very least I want to trim down my collections and gradually have a variety of miniatures from several game systems. Now of course, common sense and reality are also important here. I’m not throwing pots of money at every game system. At the heart of my goal is to at least try every game and if I like it, then perhaps collect a small amount for that game. Simple, nothing complicated.

So I ask you then? Are also going to take the Voxman Pledge? Are you going to investigate other games and explore what makes them fun and enjoyable?

If not? That’s ok too, because there’s always a variety of ways to have fun in this hobby, just promise yourself to try to have fun during 2014.

Cheers!

Adam, aka Mr Voxman

What Kind of Year Has it Been?

The Shell Case has had its third Christmas and 2014 will see the site turn 3 years old. It’s been an eventful 2 and a half years and that certainly goes double for the last 12 months.

So, to repeat the question: what kind of year has it been?

A very mixed one.

In March I became a father. Whilst being a dad is awesome it inevitably had an impact on The Shell Case in so much as I couldn’t write as much as I wanted or as often. I did my best but inevitably I lost readers, some of which never returned. Between my time being hammered more than Charlie Sheen and some truly twatish comments on the posts I did put up I seriously considered closing the site. Until Erin (@sixeleven) suggested that to take the pressure off writing a post a day – which I was doing and then some – I bring in contributors.

It was a painfully obvious solution to the problem and have the added benefit of discussing topics and parts of our wide and varied hobby that I have no experience in. Bringing in contributors has seen mixed success with the initial team signing on and then almost immediately leaving again after they realised that when I said 1 article a week I actually meant it. We’re not quite there yet as all our contributions are a little up and down (mine included) and I’m still on the hunt for a couple more talented people to round off the team, but progress is being made and we’re slowly clawing our way back to where we were. And hopefully beyond.

Three months ago Lee and I, rather ambitiously, began A Tale of Two Armies. It’s been a lot of fun, if slightly stressy at times, to get back into Warhammer and actually do hobby and play games with any regularity. The narrative is developing nicely and as you’ve hopefully seen, Lee and I have been working hard to flesh out the entire thing. Check out our ‘Genesis of a’ posts.

I do have to extend huge thanks to Reece, Mat, Lee & Adam since coming on board. They’re all integral parts to the grand plan for The Shell Case and I’m not joking when I say this site wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for them. And to Jason, Ashley, Adam (again), Nate & John for agreeing to take part in my hair brained scheme to create a multi-national podcast. 10 shows in we’re starting to find our feet and the new year should bring some more exciting changes and possibly some TSC exclusive content.

I also owe a huge and un-payable debt to my sponsor, Firestorm Games, for supporting me these last 18 months. Again, without them I wouldn’t have been in a position to keep pace with our ever-changing hobby or have been able to run A Tale of Two Armies.

Thank yous also go out to Amera, Chris Wraight, Gav Thorpe, Nick Kyme, Sarah Cawkwell, Megalith, Studio McVey, Ainsty Castings, Avatars of War to name but a few. Getting to know you all has been a pleasure and your support of my humble site rather mind-blowing.

I’d planned on spouting on about the state of the hobby and all that had happened over the last 12 months but actually, what’s done is done. The next 12 months is what interests me with some big releases from the Games Workshop, Spartan Games, Megalith and many others. I can’t wait to get to Salute 2014 and go batshit crazy for the up and coming games. And I can’t wait for my daughter to sleep through the night so I have a bit more energy.

All that’s left to be said is to thank readers of the site, old and new, as you’re the reason I’ve pretty much given up sleeping. I wish you all a happy, healthy & prosperous 2014 with many toys, games and, occasionally, some painting.

How to Breach Hulls and Influence People

The other week Spartan Games released new free PDF downloads of the Six core Fleet Manuals for version 2.0 of Firestorm Armada. Having had a look through the new files, I’m quite impressed, and there are clearly a lot of new ideas in the new version of the game.

So far, we only have Fleet Manuals for the six core factions (Aquans, Terrans, Sorylians, Directorate, Dindrenzi and Relthoza), but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before the Alliance of Kurak and the Zenian League (not to mention other factions like the Syndicate) get their own treatment. These free downloads contain the key rules for choosing a fleet and the ship stats and options. For background material or shiny artwork however you will have to wait (and pay for) the shiny printed versions to be released in early 2014. It will be interesting to see how this pairing of premium book and free bare-bones download works out for both Spartan and the players. Certainly it means not having to lug a heavy book around when you can just look up stats on a phone/tablet; or carry around a printout and not get your nice book all scuffed.

The fact that the downloads are intended to be ‘living documents’ which will be updated as rules errata come up or new ships are released. This is undoubtedly a good thing, though I can imagine a few people being narked about having to download an updated PDF every so often.  I have to wonder how people with the hard copy versions will be updated. Whether Spartan will take the GW route of releasing updated manuals every so often or the Privateer Press route of releasing periodic anthologies with new toys for all factions. [Or downloadable paragraphs that you can glue over the redundant paragraphs. -Ed.]

Looking at the Manuals themselves, it’s clear that the fleet selection rules have been expanded and refined. Ships are now chosen from one of three Tiers, with minimum and maximum selections for each. Tiers group ships roughly according to size and the what falls within a particular Tier changes based on the size of the game, so large ships are heavily restricted in small games but are more widely available in larger games. The minimum and maximum choice restrictions for each size Tier both also scale with the size of game so fleets should have a reasonable balance of small, medium and large ships at all game sizes. That said, the gap between the minimum and maximum choices at each tier is quite narrow and I would not be entirely surprised if some players ran out of slots before they ran out of points.

Most importantly to some players, it is no longer possible to build a fleet with a token single squadron each of small or medium ships and spend the rest of your points on dreadnoughts.

The rules covering Alliance Fleets in the Fleet Manuals are clear and straightforward. While Alliance fleets do face some penalties in terms of Tactical ratings and access to cards, this is presumably to balance out the fact that including allies can be used to offset the perceived weaknesses of a particular fleet. Interestingly, each core fleet now has a ‘Natural Ally’, a minor faction whose ships can be taken in greater proportion and with slightly reduced penalties, for example Terrans with Hawker or Dindrenzi with RSN. This is a nice touch as it is evocative of the background and helps encourage players to vary their collection without having to take too great a wallop  from the nerf bat.

Interestingly, in very large games, you now assemble your force out of multiple separate battlegroups which are considered independent for a lot of rules purposes. Again this has a nice evocative feel of distinct formations coming together in common cause, but it also appears to be another way of including allies without the same penalties you incur when you are simply lumping allied ships in with a single detachment.

Looking at the ship rules themselves, the most obvious change is that virtually everything bigger than an escort now has at least a few options. I’m sure this will please anyone who has ever felt that playing Firestorm Armada felt a bit samey after a while and longed for the chance to make their personal armada just that little bit more theirs. The options seem to be thematically consistent throughout each fleet list and combined with the fact that ship weapons are now broken down by type (scatter weapons, beam weapons etc) means that each fleet has a lot more personality now. The only question is how to represent these options on the model as most FSA ships lack any kind of options in the kit. Players may find themselves having to concentrate very hard to keep track of which squadron of cruisers has the overcharged engines and which has the juiced up guns.

Coupled to this is the fact that in most, but not all cases ships of the same type (for example the Terran Razorthorn and Apollo battleships, but not the Tyrant battleship) have been rolled together and are  covered by a single profile and options list. This is slightly disappointing as it seems like they have missed of on a way of introducing more opportunities to vary and/or theme your force. Most of the ships affected by this are the MK1 and Mk2 cruisers, carriers and battleships so perhaps there is some reason for similar capabilities, but to potentially have them running with entirely identical stats – and even identical upgrades – seems a bit of a shame. I can appreciate that you can in principle use, for example, Sentinel and Hermes class cruisers to represent cruisers upgraded to different capabilities, but I can imagine unscrupulous players keeping their opponents guess about what they are facing, maybe luring the enemy into a trap with a ‘humble’ mk 1 cruiser.

Overall these are pretty impressive documents. All the more so given that they are being offered free to download. I’ve not had a chance to read the version 2.0 rules yet but what we see hints of in these PDFs suggests big changes and a lot more investment in making the game more diverse and characterful. I think FSA players have a lot to look forward to.

Firestorm Invading at Last?

Almost a year ago I reviewed a starter set for the Studio Sparta game Firestorm Invasion: Planetfall. I enthused about what had the potential to expand on the Firestorm Armada universe and finally break the company out of their habit of overly abstracted rules, shit writing and horrendous amounts of pointless bold copy.

At the time I had a chat with the people in the know at Spartan and they said that the Directorate and the Sorylians would be hot on the heels of the initial Dindrenzi & Terran Alliance starter sets. Well…they weren’t wrong. Almost a full 12 months later they’re finally releasing those two factions. And the indications are that they’ll be a proper boxset and some proper rules on the way too.

It’s been a hugely frustrating 12 months watching Spartan devolve into an early version of Games Workshop with rising prices, a scattergun release schedule with things like Spartan Scenics popping up despite no 28mm games actually being out yet from Spartan. Which is all part of the longer term plan for Firestorm Invasion. Which is why it’s odd that they’d release all that stuff so early.

I promise this isn’t sour grapes. I just don’t get it. The erratic releases, the supplements that push an abstract game system to its absolute limit and taking a year to roll something out that they’ve outwardly ignored. I have no problem with a company taking time to develop, or raising capitol to develop. Credit where credit’s due, they haven’t done a kickstarter. But I do feel that if Spartan had spent less time and money developing some of the iffy supplements they could have properly developed Firestorm Invasion rather than lose all momentum by taking a year.

Anyway, this is what Spartan had to say about Firestorm Invasion – and there’s some sexy shots of the Terran vehicles. I’ve also included all the stuff about the Sorylians and Directorate.

As I say, I really want this game to be good and successful. And I really want Spartan to regain its focus and get back to doing cool stuff rather than bodging, improvising and generally messing with a mechanic that was too precise to allow for it…

Spartan Games…

It has long been a part of the plans for the FA Galaxy that your space fleets could fight their way to planets and star systems ready to deploy ground forces with which to capture or destroy vital strategic objectives. Having watched our community of 10mm scale gamers grow, and beavered away in the background on new models and enhanced rules, it is a pleasure to tell you that all of the six major races will be coming to a tabletop soon.

Having listened to feedback and read your Wishlists, Firestorm Planetfall has taken shape and will be rolled out to as follows:

• All six major races
• Boxed Sets designed to make army building easy and cost-effective
• Hardback Rulebook
• Alliance Books
• Range of high quality scenery – from bunker complexes to entire cityscapes

For those players who already own Terrans and Dindrenzi we have not left you out. An entire set of new, highly detailed models have been created to complement your existing forces. From brand new tanks and aircraft to gigantic Prime Movers capable of transporting entire units of infantry across the gaming table, we’ve worked on it all.

So to end, please have a look at concept art for some of the new Terran models. Over the next few weeks our web pages will be changed to reflect the enhancements to our spaceships and ground forces, and we’ll keep detailing the new models across the range. Check back soon to see images of the Sorylians, Relthoza, Aquans and Directorate at the ground scale!

Terran Concept Artwork - MBT (Main Battle Tank)

Terran Concept Artwork - Heavy Tank

Terran Concept Artwork - Prime Mover Troop Carrier

Sorylian Collective

Sorylian Collective

What you can see here are concepts for just three of the Sorylian models: the Medium Walker (think Main Battle Tank quantity wise on a tabletop, the FA version of a Sherman), the Heavy Walker and a Small Strike Drone. But there is a myriad other models for this race, from the Small Flyer right up to machines that block the sunlight on a battlefield.

Chris added: “Their fundamental characteristics were to be resilient legged tanks that would lumber across the battlefield with less haste and more of a juggernaut archetype. With this in mind I started to think of the silhouette and sense of the weight of these mighty mechanical mechs piloted by a lizard-like race. Their centre of gravity would be extremely low to help them feel sturdy and immovable and I drew reference from the body language of various reptiles and similar creatures to create a leg setup that was appropriate. Having arrived at these wonderfully mechanical dinosaurs of war I am very pleased with the outcome. They feel technologically advanced yet prehistoric in their physical presence.”

The fighting vehicles of the Sorylian Collective are primarily comprised of bulky, resilient walkers. Slow and ponderous, but very well protected from all forms of incoming ordnance, these stoic vehicles shrug off enemy attacks whilst their return fire punctures hulls with ease.

Sorylian Collective

Sorylian Collective

Sorylian Collective

Filling the sky around these walkers are swarms of much smaller aircraft. Incredibly agile, they dart around the larger vehicles, knocking out enemy aircraft attempting to strike at the walkers from above, or driving off light vehicles trying to outflank their charges. In this way the Sorylian ‘Sphere’ formations grind across the battlefield, maintaining their defensive stance whilst they roll over objectives and crush enemy wrecks beneath their giant metal feet.

In the next blog we’ll delve into the ideas behind the Directorate ground forces. Sleek, fast, deadly – I know it sounds clichéd, but it’s the ideal way to sum this force up.

As the most technologically advanced race in the known galaxy (in their own minds at least!), we felt that the Directorate in Planetfall needed to capture that sleek Hi-Tech sci-fi look, whilst still feeling like working military vehicles that can take a beating and dish out some brutality in return.

After an exciting design meeting with lots of reference pictures (and sci-fi gun noises) an eager Chris Peacey set about bringing to life the Directorate ground forces, and the units he came out with are some of the most stunning Planetfall models yet.

Chris Peacey explains: “The Directorate have the best gear, the best resources and the most advanced technology of all the races in the Storm Zone, so it was only fitting for their ground and air vehicles to have an air of elitism about them. Superior offensive and defensive technologies manifest themselves in the form of plasma weapons and ablative armour, cyber-attack capabilities and intimidating air support. Ground units are swift and employ first-strike tactics. It is rare that a Directorate force is ever cornered or taken by surprise. In this unlikely event, air support is devastating for the opposing forces as large and impressively armoured gunships can promptly deliver a barrage of suppressive fire.”

The Directorate

Pictured above are three concepts for Directorate vehicles: a particularly mean looking Battle Tank with reinforced armour cladding and a giant plasma weapon, an aggressive Gunship that perfectly hits the balance between functional military and sophisticated design and my personal favourite – a sleek cyberwarfare vehicle that screams speed, stealth and advanced tech.

Chris Peacey explains: “The Cyber Warfare tank is the personification of the Directorate’s slick approach to conflict. Its smooth lines and hexagonal cladding give an appropriate feel to a vehicle that changes what is necessary to secure victory over enemy forces. You can expect future Directorate units to share this striking aesthetic. In contrast, the main battle vehicle and heavy gunship have a contemporary science fiction feel; armed to the teeth and equally armoured. These vehicles built for pure offence are the true fist of the Directorate military.

I hope that Directorate players of Firestorm Armada are looking forward to seeing these vehicles realised as 10mm scale miniatures as much as I am!!”

The Directorate - Battle Tank

The Directorate - Gunship

The Directorate - Cyber Warfare Tank

On the battlefield, the ground forces of the Directorate take a ‘right tool for the job’ approach. VTOL craft of varying sizes provide manoeuvrability and heavy firepower, Tank Destroyers and automated gun platforms deadly fire support and Battle Tanks occupy the enemy’s attention, shrugging off their shots with high-tech armour systems.

Meanwhile elite infantry and powerful augmented mechs perform a crucial “special forces” role, supporting the larger vehicles, clearing ground and seizing objectives. Across the board, the Directorate supplement their arms and armour with unmatched cyber-tech. Capitalising on their supremacy in this arena, they shut down defences, overload systems and sow havoc and discord throughout their inferior enemy.

Firestorm Armada Second Edition

After a very long wait and no shortage of pissing and moaning I’m pleased to announce that the start of Spartan Games’ second edition rules are starting to come out.

First up is Firestorm Armada. Although the game that needs it the least, it suits me as it’ll serve as a motivator to paint my Terran Fleet. All the information is lifted from the Spartan Games website, including the images. It all sounds rather interesting and providing they sort out their truly woeful layout issues and their obsession with making words bold for no obvious reason we may well be on to a winner…

RANGED COMBAT

As you would expect, Ranged Combat still forms the meat of the Firestorm Armada game, and its core principles remain very similar to the existing system.

However, we have added various layers to Ranged Combat with two central aims in mind: to further differentiate between the warring Races of the Firestorm Galaxy and to increase the tactical options available to players during the heat of battle.

These ‘layers’ include:

Different Weapons Systems

We have expanded out the current Primary weapons class to encompass different Weapons Systems, including Kinetic Weapons such as the high energy Dindrenzi Rail Guns, Beam Weapons like Aquan laser systems and Nuclear Weapons such as the infamous ‘Decimator Warheads’ used by the Terran Alliance.

These Weapons Systems can be used in conjunction to gain bonuses, for example focused Beam Weapon attacks are better at bypassing enemy shields. This gives a greater range of tactical flexibility; players will need to use the right weapons at the right time to overwhelm their opponent’s defences. Furthermore, as each race has a predisposition for particular Weapon Systems, it instantly gives every race its own distinct feel on the tabletop.

Targeted Strikes

We have also given players the option to make ‘Targeted Strikes’. Declared when a Squadron makes an attack, this allows you to target particular areas of an enemy ship, in the hope of taking a specific system offline.

Again, this adds tactical nuance to the game, as you use Targeted Strikes to set up favourable situations. A Strike against an enemy Battleship’s defences could take out its Point Defence, leaving it vulnerable for a crippling Torpedo volley. An attack directed at a fleeing vessel’s engines could leave it drifting whilst your ships close in for the kill.

BOARDING ASSAULTS

Given the vast distances involved (and the hard vacuum of space!) characterising Boarding Assaults without losing the hard sci-fi vision prevalent in Firestorm Armada is quite a challenge. However, the image of elite marines or deadly boarding robots stalking enemy ships and sowing havoc amongst their crew is far too evocative to abandon.

As such, we have kept the Boarding Assault system streamlined so as not to bog down a game which is primarily focussed on big ships with big guns. We have also made Boarding difficult, but potentially very rewarding. This is to encourage players to use their varied tactical options, such as ‘Targeted Strikes’, to set up a successful boarding action that can cause heavy damage.

The principle with the new system is that your boarding teams will be heading for a particular area of the huge enemy vessel, aiming to knock out certain systems whilst they disrupt the enemy crew as much as possible.

TACTICAL MANOEUVRES

Squadrons now have the option to perform special ‘Tactical Manoeuvres’ when they activate. The idea being that ships can divert power from certain areas in order to boost up a particular system. For example, a vessel might be able to deactivate its Weapons Systems in order to gain a sudden burst of speed, or it might drain its engines to reinforce its Shields against an incoming attack.

FLIGHTS or SHORT RANGED SPACECRAFT

Flights, now referred to as Short Ranged Spacecraft (‘SRS’ for short) have also undergone some changes.

The primary aim here was to keep these craft a fun and effective tool, whilst boosting the role of the Carriers that bring them to battle. With this in mind, SRS are now kept orbiting their carriers until they are able to dart out in an ‘Attack Run’ against an exposed enemy vessel. This emphasises the need to get your Carriers in to the fight, so that their attendant SRS are in place to attack when the opportunity arises.

TACTICAL ABILITY CARDS

Replacing the existing Game Cards are a set of ‘Tactical Ability Cards’. These are special ‘orders’ that your Fleet Admiral and their bridge crew can give, to provide your fleet with certain bonuses.

Rather than drawing from a random deck each turn, you will be able to select a number of Tactical Ability Cards before a battle commences, which you can then employ at crucial moments throughout the game. This gives an extra level of pre-planning, and allows you to tailor your special abilities to the sort of fleet you like to play.

TERRAIN

The role of Terrain within Firestorm Armada has also been expanded, to include more varied effects and increase the impact that the battlefield has on the game being played.

Whilst the majority of space is an empty void, there is relatively little to be gained by fighting over a vacuum! As such, we see most space battles taking place ‘in system’, around space stations and asteroid fields and near objectives that are worth committing vast resources to capture.

In turn this will make your games of Firestorm Armada more varied and engaging. You will need to plan your tactics to take advantage of asteroid cover, gain slingshot speed boosts from planetoids and avoid particle clouds that can disrupt your communications networks.

FLEET BUILDING

The way that Fleets are constructed has been altered to make the process quicker and easier, without invalidating your existing Fleet builds.

On top of this, we have also put more flexibility into the models’ Statistics Profiles, in the form of ‘Upgrades’ and ‘Hardpoints’.

Many models will have access to particular Upgrades; additional special rules that a Squadron can purchase which will increase their points cost but make them better suited to a particular battlefield role.

The larger models in your Fleet will also have a number of Hardpoints that they can fill. These will allow you to tailor these models to suit your play style – allowing you to create a tougher Battleship to soak up enemy fire, an assault oriented Dreadnought with increased boarding potential or a faster Carrier that can quickly deliver your Short Range Spacecraft to the fight.

VICTORY CONDITIONS

The existing ‘Orders’ system is being replaced with a rounded set of Scenarios. This should help to make your games even more varied and exciting, and continually present you with new challenges to overcome.

To coincide with this we have introduced the idea of a ‘Battle Log’. This is an easy way to track the progress of a battle, and various effects will kick in as the Battle starts to swing one way and the enemy’s morale begins to crumble.

SUMMARY

As you can see, we’ve made a number of exciting enhancements to Version 2.0 of Firestorm Armada. We have aimed to maintain the simple and easy to pick up nature of the current game, whilst adding even more sci-fi flavour and tactical flexibility. The core elements of the game (i.e. moving your spaceships and firing their weapons) should remain very familiar to current Firestorm Armada players, but the additional layers we have added will keep your games fresh and exciting.

Marauders of the Rift – A Review

motr-coverAnother day, another review. And this time I look at the Firestorm Armada supplement, Marauders of the Rift.

There are two things that stand out most on first impressions. 1. The cover is reminiscent of the earlier days of Forge World when they discovered photshop and 2. no one in the wargaming business, it seems, knows how to proof read.

But putting poor spelling and grammar aside, the book is nicely presented and is consistent in styling with the current rule set. It’s also reasonably well written by Spartan’s usual up and down standards. The introductory background to the Rift (within which the Marauders live) is coherent and paints a detailed picture of the part of space, its inhabitants and where events fit in against the backdrop of the main game.

Interestingly they’ve opted to have fluff take us to the start of the Dindrenzi War rather than during, like the main rule book. It’s not a bad thing as such its just a bit of a rough fit especially as the mkII ship variants of the main fleets were in response to the war, but you can take them as looted vessels for corsair fleets. But the fact that the option is there at all is immensely cool.

The book focuses on seven new sub fleets and campaign rules. Yes, ladies and germs, campaign rules. Finally. At long bastard last. Some campaign rules and scenarios which, with some tweaks, you can use using the core fleets. But the important thing to note that players now have a choice of game beyond lining up fleets and sailing them in to one another’s guns. This is extremely welcome news and worth the price of the book all on its nose. And the scenarios themselves are pretty damn good too.

The fleet sections, again, are tidy representations of each faction and their interests in the Rift without getting too bogged down. Although there are a few clumsy paragraphs in there which does rather spoil the flow but it’s not the end of the world. But to rub salt in the wound I do have to say that it’s a little frustrating, when considering the aforementioned proofing problems, when the models in the photography are not only averagely painted, but they’ve also used a miscast as the focus of a shot. Not awesome.

What is awesome is the fleet lists themselves. They’re all pretty well-balanced without too many MARs muddying the waters or slowing play down. In fact they’re actually extremely characterful and go a long way to giving what are quite limited fleets some serious punch. I’m especially impressed with the OmniDyne from both a rules and hobby perspective.

Omnidyne-dreadnought

The nice thing is that there’s actually a point in taking the fleets in their own right rather them making them additions to the core fleets. In truth, the main protagonists of MotR – the Syndicate and OmniDyne – are nasty. As in proper nasty. As in could be a real headache for a core fleet. Especially if they were complacent which it would be easy to do.

That’s not to say that the other fleets are without teeth. The Corsairs are distinctly average but they’re cheap and they can take looted vessels from other fleets which gives them not only extra muscle but makes them very unpredictable. It’s also a great opportunity for those gamers that like models from different factions but not enough to do a specific fleet. Now gamers can buy what they want and shoehorn it in around the core of Corsairs. And I think the result could be really quite striking. It’s immensely cool that, if you’re feeling cheeky, you can field a floating supermax prison and it’s attending fleet.

Supermax01

I guess the point of Marauders of the Rift, and what makes it so good and worth the money is that it breathes life into Firestorm Armada’s slightly fuddled background. Granted it’s not specifically set in the Storm Zone but the scenarios just means that your games will instantly become more interesting, more enjoyable, and hopefully more violent. Which is nice.

And for this reason alone it’s absolutely worth the punt.

Marauders of the Rift is available from Firestorm Games priced £9.00.

Ryushi Previews for Firestorm Armada

I don’t know. I say nothing about Spartan Games for months and now they’re practically all I talk about. Well, not really but still.

The Ryushi are on their way and my goodness me they look a little bit lovely. They’re a Kurak Alliance fleet so most likely what you see is all you’ll get but they’ll make an extremely pretty addition to most fleets. Like mine…

FAAT17-2

Ryushi Fleet set – £45
FAAT18-2

Battle Carrier Set – £30

The prices of Spartan’s stuff is starting to creep up a bit. To get both sets it’ll set you back £75 which isn’t cheap. Off puttingly so I’d say. But either way, they’re released on August 21st and below is some fluff from the site.

Ryushi military doctrine focuses on large, durable craft; combining unequalled defensive technology with powerful weapons systems. Huge versatility is offered by their heavily armed Onnisha Carriers, whose Flights can swiftly be tailored to offensive or defensive situations and kept operating at full capacity by highly trained deck crews. Torpedoes and enemy craft are swatted aside by matchless point defence systems, whilst the Carrier’s heavy-grade primary weapons and guided torpedoes tackle the toughest of long-range targets. The Ryushi are one of the more prominent members of the Kurak Alliance.

Dystopian Wars Russian Coalition – A Review

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As it’s been a while since I looked at something from Spartan I thought I’d take a look at the Russian Coalition starter set because, well, I think they look ace. And ace they are. Weirdly, for me, the tiny flyers are a stand out favourite. They’re just a very cool looking plane. Equally the rest of the ships  ooze that perfect balance of steampunk technology and the bludgeoning, relentless design aesthetic we’ve come to expect from anything Russian. So the hulls are very sleek and sharp but with ablative armour welded all over the place and the crudity of heavy industry evident along its flanks guns, bridge and engine room with dirty great smoke stacks, ugly piping, corrugated steel roofs and boilers on the outside. It’s a fantastic contrast which is carried through to the gun turrets which are much the same.

You’ll also notice that the frigates are round. Based on the poorly designed and ill-fated Popovkas the design is amusingly similar which rather suggests it would have the same catastrophic tendency to catch fire, spin itself around when firing its guns or otherwise just be a bloody nightmare to move or keep afloat. They’re very much a Marmite model and if I’m honest, I kind of like it. Unlike the bombers which look like, if I’m brutally honest, a steampunk fleshlight. And I suppose Sputnik. You can add your own jokes there.

Like other Spartan models the detail is very good and cast well, although not quite to their usual standards as I had a couple of tiny flyers that were miscast. Still usable but still. The larger ships had a bit of flash here and there but it was nothing to worry about and those models that require assembly all go together seamlessly. Which is nice.

As with all the non-core fleets, the starter set comes with a booklet containing a bit of background and the fleet list. I’ve always been a bit sceptical about Spartan’s ability to write fluff. It’s always felt a bit all over the placed and cobbled together because their focus has always been the models. The Russian background however was rather well done. It set the scene well, and read much like a Codex or Army Book. High praise indeed. Well almost. Just as it was getting good they decided to spoon feed us why Russia was at war with certain nations which thoroughly ruined the flow and feel of the background. But as it was at the end it could have been much worse.

But what of the ships themselves? Well, at first glance they look horrid. They’re not not horrid mind, but they’re not the unstoppable vessels of slaughter one might assume. Their guns throw out a lot of dice but only in range bands 1 & 2 but the sheer weight of fire will mean that if anything is unlucky enough to get caught will be tin foil and match wood before you can say ‘by Jove!’. The obvious response would be to soften them up at range or hammer them with torpedoes or rockets. Well no. Because the other thing the Russians have is special rules and generators ups the arse. Pages of the blessed things. It rather highlights the limitation of the mechanic if this many special rules are needed to make the faction different.

The Russians get generators to inhibit missile attacks, generators to inhibit torpedo attacks and, just to be cheeky, a generator that allows you to mimic the effects of another generator nearby. Oh and they have a glacier generator just coz. Throw in ablative armour that raises its damage rating to be the same as its critical rating until it sustains that first level of damage and Russian ships are unpleasantly tough nuts to crack using the obvious tactics of keep your distance and chip away at them, because it just won’t work. Which is rather bad news for the FSA.

They are, however, slow and not quite as tough would first appear. They have lower than average critical ratings and utterly shite ack and concussion charges. Againt, the obvious tactic of chipping away with rockets and torpedoes would have rather limited success considering the generators but they’d get absolutely battered by a strong air force. I can also see fleets like the Covenant and French making life unpleasant for them with particle cannons and thermal lances, providing they can get close enough, but their respective generators should give them a degree of protection and the redoubtable special rule for the French would help further still.

Equally their chunky broadsides and fairly decent fire arcs means that outflanking isn’t so straight forward either. However, if a Prussian flotilla were to bide its time and draw the Russians in they could easily get behind them and be able to harass them with impunity. And that’s where the Russians are vulnerable if they don’t keep their formations. The gung-ho, all guns blazing, approach won’t work despite their incredibly short-range.

The Russians are a nasty fleet, especially for the points. They’re hard to hurt and hard to handle when they close to range. They do, however, have easily exploitable weaknesses if your opponent knows their fleet and compared to other fleets they are horribly under armed. Only the weight of shots they can chuck out evens it up, although the ablative armour is perhaps over egging the pudding somewhat. But equally there are ways round that too.

I’m pleasantly surprised by how the Russians play. I honestly expected them to be a crude, cheap, and explosively violent fleet but actually it’s very considered that attempts to provoke its enemies. Then it becomes explosively violent. Interestingly I can see the Russians being good for beginners because they are, essentially, straight forward to use, but an experienced gamer would also enjoy the challenge they represent, particularly when it comes to all the rules.

The Russian Coalition starter fleet is available from Firestorm Games priced £29.25.

New Firestorm Armada Fleets

It’s been a long time since I had anything to say about Spartan Games. I almost put fingers to keyboard when I saw them releasing a range of HDF scenery for 28mm sci-fi games when they don’t have a 28mm sci-fi game. It’s yet another knee-jerk, ‘hey wouldn’t it be cool if’ idea from a company that is becoming increasingly scattergun and increasingly expensive. That’s not to say it isn’t cool, but sets for Dystopian Legions is perhaps a more logical way to go, I would have thought.

But moving on to something more positive. Coming out at the end of July are two new factions for Firestorm Armada. The Hawker Industries fleet and Works Raptor fleet. Both say Alliance on them but I’m not sure whether that means Terran Alliance, Alliance of Kurak or the Zenian League, although Hawker Industries definitely fall into one of the first two. But I tell you what; I don’t care because they look amazing. It’s the first time since I got my Terran Alliance fleet at Christmas that I’ve really felt drawn to anything from Spartan. The £45 price tag is a little steep mind considering 18 months ago starter fleets were £33. Although, providing they don’t go up any more, I’ll not rant too much about it.

Anyway, feast your eyes on these…

Hawker Industries Alliance Fleet

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As conflict in the Storm Zone intensifies, Hawker Industries readies its famously reliable vessels for front-line service once again. From the mighty Excelsior to the hardy Endeavour, these tenacious hulls are now outfitted with new shielding technology, state-of-the-art sensor arrays and devastating weapons systems. Emerging from space-docks across the galaxy, they stand ready to remind the Zenian foe that Hawker is still a name to be feared.

Works Raptor Alliance Fleet

FAZR16-2The name Works Raptor has long been synonymous with arms design and manufacture. Single-minded in their pursuit of the science of war, the vessels of the Works Raptor fleet are uncompromisingly lethal. Utilising unmatched stealth systems and powerful drive engines the Attrition Class Assault Carrier will always deliver its payload of Space Craft Wings, deadly torpedoes and elite, genetically engineered boarding marines into the enemy’s heart. In turn the Interdictor Cruisers and Tyranny Corvettes sow chaos through their fleet, dissecting their prey whilst evading retaliation with ease.

ODAM Episode 6 – The Bitterness Show

Another month and another show. This episode we’re all full of bile and bitterness and it’s all about rants.

It seems that we’re all a very grumpy bunch of wargamers. We’re probably over tired and need a nap. Or maybe rum. Anyway, hold onto your fan rage gland and get comfy for a rantapalooza of pissing and moaning about GW, Spartan, Mantic and more.

As usual expect adult language and humour from the start.

ODAM – Episode 6