More Dystopian Legions Previews

Man oh man I’m going to be so broke. Damn you Spartan!

Empire of the Blazing Sun

“The lives of your men are a valuable currency, and only by care and prudence will they buy us our rightful place in the world. Use this wealth well, for Her Divine Majesty abhors the spendthrift.”

Tetsuo Kojima, High General of the Crucible Army, ‘Reflections on Military Life’, 1868

The junior officers of the Blazing Sun are well-versed in the combined arms military doctrine of the Empire’s Three Armies. They are well-trained with a combination of traditional battle techniques combined with the latest in military thinking from armies around the world. This has proven to be a particularly deadly combination.

The Empire’s military academies in Edo, Osaka and Niigata turn out classes of officer-graduates trained in these combined philosophies. These new officers then receive additional training from the ‘finishing schools’ of the Sword or Shield Armies, if they are assigned to a Division in one of these institutions.

During this additional period, officers of the Sword Army Divisions frequently receive more specialised tuition in offensive storming tactics. Conversely, Shield Army officers are often given extra training in defensive warfare techniques, such as creating trench-lines and effectively garrisoning fortifications.

Blazing Sun infantry battle plans typically rely on keeping the opposition off-guard with feints and deceptive thrusts. These are aimed at attempting to manipulate the enemy’s actions as much as to marshal the Blazing Sun commander’s own forces. Only when the enemy has been left totally unbalanced does the killing blow fall, the officers leading their troops to strike hard and fast with devastating force at the point of decision.

The field officers of the Blazing Sun are very flexible in their tactics. Blazing Sun infantry frequently adopt looser formations when carrying out general manoeuvres, the better to take advantage of cover and minimise casualties from enemy counter-fire, especially when advancing across open ground.

However, unlike the Americans, who also employ such tactics, Blazing Sun troops who come under attack will often choose to mount a ferocious blitz in response, sweeping aside their enemies with fierce short-ranged firepower and gas attacks.

Blazing Sun field officers are well versed in exhorting their charges onwards with timely forced marches, bringing the full strength of their forces to bear on the enemy’s weak points before a strong defence can be mounted.

Unlike other nations, the appearance of Blazing Sun field officers can vary somewhat. Some more traditionally minded individuals, notably those with samurai connections, go into battle in ancient regalia redolent of an earlier age. However, the majority of newer lieutenants and captains choose to dress in more modern uniform, often with styling modelled upon the fashions of foreign armies – a living embodiment of the Blazing Sun’s determination to secure its future as a great power in the Sturginium Age.

Tactical Use:
Blazing Sun Commanders place considerable importance in their Lieutenants, as their Ashigaru Sections do not have access to NCOs like their foreign equivalents.

This means that for these Sections to use Command Points to fight to their fullest potential they must stay near to their Officers. For this reason it is a good idea to keep your Lieutenant near your Mainstay Infantry – leading the charge from the front! However, remember to keep them close to their charges, to prevent dishonourable and unscrupulous enemies from picking them off!

Keeping your officers close to their infantry Sections also gives the Ashigaru access to the Lieutenant’sCommand Abilities. The Forced March Command Ability is invaluable when it comes to pressing the advance, whilst the Focus Fire Command Ability makes the Infantry’s weapons even more deadly, allowing them to totally annihilate their enemies at Effective Range!

The Blazing Sun Lieutenant is also a powerful warrior in his own right. Although not able to combat entire Sections by himself, by adding the firepower of his Kappon pistol to a Ranged Attack, or Charging in alongside the Ashigaru, his aid can often tip the balance in the Blazing Sun’s favour. His equipment can also give him the edge in honourable duels with enemy leaders, but be careful not to risk him too often in seeking such glory – his Command Abilities are too valuable!

“Though we command the power of many mighty machines of war in the service of Her Divine Majesty, always remember that it is still the humble Ashigaru who forms the beating heart of the Three Armies. By his skill and courage are battles won, ground held, and enemies kept at bay.”

-Tetsuo Kojima, High General of the Crucible Army, ‘Reflections on Military Life’, 1868

Many years ago, the term ‘Ashigaru’ or ‘Spear Carrier’, denoted a rather humble soldier in the armies of Japan. Not so in the Sturginium Age. The modern Ashigaru infantryman is a tough, highly trained and supremely motivated fighting trooper.

As with their large war engines, the infantry and light armoured forces of the Empire of the Blazing Sun represent a unique combination of an ancient martial traditional paired with some of the most cutting-edge weaponry in service anywhere in the world.

Although not wholly eschewing conventional rifles, most Ashigaru are armed with the Kawachi-Kanpon Type 4 automatic shotgun. Nicknamed the ‘Dragon’s Breath’, this fearsome drum-fed weapon fires a hail of shells filled with incendiary materials developed by the Imperial Alchemical Institute. The ‘Dragon’s Breath’ is very short-ranged compared to conventional rifles. However, within that distance, it is one of the hardest-hitting infantry small arms currently in service anywhere in the world.

The limited range is not normally an issue in the circumstances under which the Ashigaru are most often employed – namely, supporting more heavy armoured units in close terrain or urban areas. The Type 4’s burst fire and destructive projectiles make it very forgiving of being fired from the hip when the soldier is moving. This means it is perfect for the kind of hard-hitting assaults favoured by Blazing Sun military doctrine.

Like the Americans, the Blazing Sun military also favours high mobility warfare, but they prefer a far more aggressive approach. They are not berserkers, however, and attack with a great deal of cunning and foresight, making maximum use of terrain and environmental features to win out over their opponents.

Blazing Sun infantry attacks frequently consist of simultaneous assaults on multiple fronts. Some of these attacks will be feints, intended to draw the enemy’s attention away from the true objective at the key moment, allowing the true attack to break through.

The Ashigaru, like many other Blazing Sun units, also bring the most deadly of the Imperial Alchemical Institute’s offensive weaponry to the fore, in the form of poison gas grenades. Although infantry-issued gas bombs cannot match in any way the terrifying destructive power of massed gas bombardments by heavy artillery, they are certainly capable of causing localised panic amongst opposing infantry, light vehicles and gun crews. The insidious vapours give the Ashigaru a vital edge, especially against well dug-in or heavily armoured enemy troops.

Blazing Sun troops have traditionally fought in many areas where heavy armour has not played a key role. Although increasingly equipped with armour of their own, Ashigaru are taught to face enemy tanks without fear, even when lacking their own armoured support. Ashigaru sections almost always contain specialists trained in the use of the notorious Type 7 Rocket Projector.

Called the ‘Okha’ or ‘Cherry Blossom’, this tubular weapon projects a powerful explosive warhead capable of cracking open a tank or blowing apart a machine gun nest. Combined with the Dragon’s Breath and gas weaponry, this allows well-led Ashigaru to make short work of most opponents.

Tactical Use:
The Blazing Sun Ashigaru are at their best in a well-defined role: getting up close to the enemy, and letting rip with their mighty “Dragon’s Breath” shotguns!

These weapons, when in Effective Range, are the most deadly of the standard small arms currently employed by any nation’s Mainstay Infantry. However, their raw power is offset by their very short-range.

Therefore the main tactical focus for any commander is to get your Ashigaru into close range fire-fights with the enemy without taking too many casualties on the way in.

Thankfully, the Ashigaru go into battle with the best armour protection of any Mainstay Infantry, making them quite resistant to long range pot-shots by the enemy.

However, no matter how well protected, if a Section of infantry takes fire every turn it will quickly lose potency, and so making effective use of terrain and movement bonuses is vital.

Using their ‘Banzai!’ and ‘Double Time‘ Game Cards, Ashigaru Sections will soon make their way across the Game Board. Such speedy advances will quickly confound opponents who rely too much on hunkering down.

When they have closed to Effective Range, the Ashigaru should blaze away with their shotguns, brutally eradicating exposed targets. However if they find their enemy loitering behind Hard Cover, or a useful combination of Game Cards presents itself, a supported Charge using their Gas Grenades can be decisive.

“They are our hidden blades, invisible until the deathblow falls. They march with us unseen, bringing terror to the enemy, and reminding us of our duty. Honour and fear – they are worthy of both.”

Ashigaru Odo Hanamura to his troops, during the march on Havana, 1871

Wherever the armies of the Blazing Sun march, they are accompanied by teams of deadly Shinobi infiltrators. The guardians of an ancient tradition of stealth, spying and assassination, the Shinobi Houses of today are the personal servants of the Her Serene Majesty the Empress Shinzua, and their loyalty to the throne is absolute.

The Shinobi Houses serve as the Empress’ silent enforcers and secret service, both within the Empire of the Blazing Sun and beyond its borders. That they hold enormous influence is undoubted – one of the seats on the Empress’ Council of Seven is reserved for the de facto representative of the Shinobi Houses, known as the ‘Faceless Lord’.

However, none but the Empress Shinzua herself and her aged great-aunt and predecessor Empress Maya, know just how far this influence and surveillance extends – and this is just as it should be. To emphasise this, the Faceless Lord’s seat is perpetually left empty; a powerful symbol to the Council and visitors to its presence that the Empress’ deadliest servants could be anywhere, or indeed anyone – no one is beyond their scrutiny and, by extension Her Majesty’s knowledge.

The skills of the Shinobi are without a doubt, almost the last word in espionage and infiltration. Virtually no target, no location, no security measures, are beyond their ability to breach. Shinobi agents are even thought to have successfully infiltrated the inner organisations of nothing less than the Covenant of Antarctica.

However, given the extreme secrecy of both the Shinobi themselves and the near-unbroken silence of the Covenant in recent years, the truth about this potentially masterful feat of infiltration and whether or not it continues must remain a matter of conjecture.

Near-invisible and silent as death, Shinobi Strike Teams infiltrate hostile ground ahead of conventional Blazing Sun forces. There they will sow terror and discord, assassinating key personnel, ambushing unwary units and committing acts of sabotage that can cripple enemy forces even before they are brought to battle.

Once full combat is joined, the Shinobi continue their deadly harassment, picking off stragglers, shaping the battlefield with well-placed smokescreens to conceal friendly troop movements and generally creating chaos amidst the enemy’s lines with misdirection and confusion.

Shinobi are lightly equipped, as befitting their role as agile and deadly insurgency troops, armed with the traditional blades and other weapons of their deadly trade. Expert martial artists and unequalled in their ability to stalk targets and evade capture, the Shinobi have a reputation for almost supernatural skill in combat among foreign troops.

No enemy commander can sleep securely, and no sentry can afford a moment’s peace when fighting the forces of the Serene Empress, for the death’s shadow may fall over them in an instant in the form of a Shinobi’s deadly blades.

Tactical Use:
Shinobi Assassins are one of the most interesting and tactically flexible Sections available to any player in Dystopian Legions.

As you would expect from a ninja, the Shinobi are physically powerful, fast, hard to kill and blessed with an almost supernatural skill-at-arms. They also have some very influential Model Assigned Rules that allow them to manoeuvre around the Game Board with unparalleled ease – virtually invisible to the enemy. All in all, if you can get a band of Shinobi Assassins close enough to charge , don’t expect the enemy to last long!

However, Shinobi are worlds away from a simple blunt combat unit. They can be used in a great multitude of ways. If they want to advance with the Bulk of the force they can – using their Smoke Pellets Model Assigned Rule to support their comrades advance, laying Smoke Screen Markers that will impede the enemy’s fire.

If they want to go it alone that is an option too. Used with subtlety, they can cross the Board at high-speed to attack the more vulnerable elements of an opposing force. Playing their Special Game Card, Ninjitsu, they can even attempt one of their legendary assassination attempts and potentially take out an enemy Officer!

“He is as inscrutable as a statue, cold as an icy dawn – I doubt that anyone has ever named him a friend. Yet few are deadlier with a blade, and his deft plans and curt orders lead us ever to victory. For these reasons, I march with him gladly.”

Captain Kensuke Sato, on Master Kozo Okinawa

The senior officers of the Blazing Sun land armies are almost invariably Samurai – warriors who owe their loyalty to their superiors in a strong chain of command that reaches right up to the Empress herself.

As fighting men steeped in the traditions of bushido, many Samurai even in the Sturginium Age disdain most conventional modern firearms, preferring instead to take to the field armed with more traditional implements – the katana and wakazashi blades that are their most potent status symbol are also their most common war implements.

Master Kozo Okinawa exemplifies this tradition. The son of an ancient family whose antecedents go back centuries to the dawn of the old Shogunate, Kozo was raised practically from birth to eventually assume the mantle of high military office.

Though he came from considerable wealth, his upbringing was harsh, with virtually every waking moment dedicated to the study of swordplay, military philosophy from inside and outside the empire, and the core tenets of bushido by which he would live.

This intense and rigorous upbringing for such a singular purpose left little time for cultural pleasures or other distractions. While Okinawa’s martial expertise was beyond question even as early as his mid-twenties. He acquired a reputation as a bleak and joyless man, aloof and distant from even his most trusted colleagues. Nonetheless, his skill at arms assured him of rapid success in the field for which he spent so long honing his mind, body and spirit.

Holding the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel of the general staff of the Blazing Sun Sword Army, he is regarded with awe rather than affection by the soldiers under his command. A calculating rather than an inspiring leader, he treats his forces like the cogs of a finely-engineered machine, enacting his complex and subtle battle plans with the detached assurance of a chess grandmaster.

However, when the time is right for the enemy to fall, Okinawa enters the fray himself with the force of a stroke of lightning. A swordsman of fearsome skill, dressed in fine armour of traditional style but thoroughly modern materials, he transforms himself in an instant from shrewd tactician into steel whirlwind, scattering before him any enemy soldiers fortunate enough to avoid his killing blades.

But even those who escape death upon the end of his sword are not safe, for Okinawa, like many of his peers, is adept with the dread poison gas grenades so beloved by the Samurai of the Sturginium Age.

Okinawa is part of the Army of the Sword’s general staff, an adjutant and close ally of High General Uematsu himself, and a former staff officer to the infamous General Oni. He was transferred from the old Wani 3rd Division of the Sword Army only two months before Oni’s fatal mission to Singapore. Since that time, he has spent most of his postings with the Sword Army 5th Division, now based in the occupied Malay Peninsula and heavily engaged in fighting off Britannian counterattacks in the region.

Okinawa has relished testing his skill against the Britannians, and views the widening of the war with perhaps the greatest enthusiasm he has shown for anything in years – soon the whole world shall be an arena, where Kozo Okinawa can measure his skills against the best and brightest of the enemy’s military minds on the fields of honour.

Tactical Use:
Master Okinawa is quite possibly one of the most physically intimidating characters in Dystopian Legions – a great asset for a Blazing Sun forces, and a deadly opponent for their foes.

Although a superb Commander, he does not have any Command Abilities, though he still contributes to the Force’s Command Point Pool.

Although this may appear to be a disadvantage, it is more than compensated for by his battlefield effectiveness as a fighter. Okinawa is without a doubt one of the most powerful Characters out there for sheer combat ability. Leave the bulk of leadership to your other Officers, and use the Master as the warrior he is. Leading an Ashigaru Section charge, he will rip the enemy apart.

However, the Master is not just a deadly weapon in his own right. Rather than simply hacking up a few common line soldiers this character is a superb duellist. When Master Kozo Okinawa challenges an officer in the midst of a Melee, they have two equality undesirable options. Accept and face the mighty Master, or cower behind their own men, weakening their resolve as they do so.

Okinawa’s Special Game Card is perhaps his greatest asset, however. Playing The Divine Blow gives a great Melee bonus to every Section nearby. Using this card at the right moment can turn a losing battle around, or transform a close victory into an utter enemy rout!

Dystopian Legions Previews

It seems that Spartan Games is determined to take all of my money in exchange for large piles of awesome looking toys. I can’t complain too much, it’s a fair exchange I suppose.

Below is a couple of previews for, the soon to be released, Dystopian Legions. I rather suspect I’m going to have to sell a kidney…

Empire of the Blazing Sun

The Imperial Alchemical Institute is well known for its bizarre creations, made all the more unbelievable by their exceptional and reliable performance, even in the heat of battle.

Of all of these, amongst the most astonishing are the Ryuma Steambikes; mechanical steeds which can skim a few feet above the ground on steam jet enhanced repulsine gyros, and propel themselves at astonishing speeds. Although some have questioned the efficiency of these ‘hover’ machines, the ability to traverse almost any ground, no matter how treacherous, is proving invaluable in battle.

Once perfected, these unique engines were quickly adopted by the armies of the Empire of the Blazing Suns, as their advantages over more conventional cycles or traditional horse cavalry were evident. Samurai, already adept at mounted combat, quickly began adapting their tactics and techniques to take full advantage of the machine’s potential.

Empire of the Blazing Sun Ryuma Steambike

The armies of the Empire of the Blazing Sun have long been famed for their shock assault tactics – be it from the renowned Ashigaru regiments with their Type 4 ‘Dragon’s Breath‘ shotguns, or the Shinobi Assassins who use stealth and infiltration to conduct brutal lightning raids.

However, now that the Ryuma Steambike-mounted Cavalry are growing in notoriety, the Empress’ enemies have a new threat to fear. Faster, and more manoeuvrable than anything else on the battlefield, these Samurai are expert at hit-and-run attacks.

Cutting through enemy formations at breakneck pace, they scythe down their stunned targets with a combination of Katana and ‘Firefly‘ Quad-Barreled Kanpon Type 12 machine guns. Whatever foes remain after these blitzkrieg attacks are often too shocked to react, and easily dealt with by the Ashigaru advancing in the cavalry’s wake.

Kingdom of Britannia

The Knights Templar are an ancient Order, which traces its origins back to the 12th Century. However the Society today is a very different entity.

Since its expulsion from continental Europe several centuries ago, the Order has receded into the shadows somewhat. Most of its efforts have been focussed on furthering the expansion of the Britannian Empire, and it is a common belief that they are the real power behind the ‘Knights’ faction within Britannian politics.

Kingdom of Britannia Knights Templar

Since the outbreak of the World War, the Order has galvanised its military arm. Equipped with the finest technologies that the Royal Society can supply, the distinctive tabards of the Knights Templar are becoming an increasingly common – and ever welcome – sight amongst the ranks of the Line Infantry.

Kingdom of Britannia Knights Templar

The Knights themselves are very different in aspect to the feared Teutonic Order Armsmen of the Prussian Empire. They are patriots to a fault; fighting for the safety and prosperity of Britannia with a fervour and dedication that sets them apart from others on the battlefield.

Kingdom of Britannia Knights Templar

The Knights Templar are an intimidating presence on the battlefield. Although smaller than the hulking armoured suits of the Teutonic Order, with their personal Shield Generators they are nearly as well protected, but with a much smaller sacrifice in agility.

Their offensive comes primarily in the form of the Adams No. 10 Auto-Revolver, an immensely powerful weapon which only the Templar’s in their motorised combat suits could hope to fire with any degree of accuracy.

The Adams No. 10 Auto-Revolver lacks the long range capacity favoured by the Britannian Line Infantry, but compensates with close range devastation. The weapon is even powerful enough to punch holes through the more vulnerable side or rear armour of some Ironclad vehicles.

“See, lad, that there officer is Colonel MacDonald VC. Legend in his own lifetime, that chap. He might be gettin’ on, but he’s seen more battles in his time than every man in this platoon and lived to tell the tales, so mind your manners around him.”

-Sergeant Reginald Chaplin, 18th Royal Somerset Rifles, to a young recruit

Colonel Samuel Horwood MacDonald is one of the Kingdom of Britannia’s most celebrated soldiers. A descendent of Anglo-Scottish gentry, his first stint on a battlefield was as a 13-year old drummer boy at First Waterloo itself, but his first military service for the Kingdom was as a young subaltern in the last of the Britannian-Burmese wars in 1826. Even at this early stage, he already displayed the attitudes that would become his hallmark – leading from the front, bellowing encouragement to the men under his command and apparently heedless of danger.

Colonel Samuel H. MacDonald

In his lengthy career, he served all over Britannia’s vast empire, serving as a captain in the crown’s forces during the Australian mutiny of 1842 and French-sponsored Portuguese rebel mercenaries in south-east Africa in the 1850s. It was during this rather obscure campaign that he would earn the highest honour, the Victoria Cross, for leading an ambush of an enemy column approaching the Limpopo River, and routing them with a force only one third their size and composed mainly of local militias.

Promoted to Colonel of the 18th South Staffordshire Fusiliers in 1857, MacDonald’s last official action took place during the Britannian intervention in the American Civil War. The then sixty-two year old Colonel MacDonald led the South Staffordshires on the ground during the Britannian offensive into the state of Michigan in 1864 to threaten one of the North’s key industrial heartlands.

Colonel Samuel H. MacDonald

Following the end of that war, Colonel MacDonald returned to Britannia to take up an appointment with the General Staff, regarded by Horse Guards as a purely ceremonial post. He was expected by most to do nothing more trying after so many years’ service than to settle down in well-earned retirement on his country estate. However, the General Staff were in for a rude shock.

Colonel MacDonald refused to go quietly to pasture. He became a constant feature at Horse Guards, trundling up and down the corridors in his specially adapted Brunel-built bath-chair. He submitted endless demands and suggestions to the war planning department, especially after the tensions in South-East Asia boiled over in the late 1860s.

Colonel Samuel H. MacDonald

Eventually, his insistent ‘advice’ grew so aggravating that Lord-Admiral Tillinger, Chief of the Imperial General Staff, became personally involved. There was no question of sacking MacDonald, with his fame and immensely popularity among the common soldiers, especially the thousands of ‘Short-Shrifter’ volunteers who had signed up after the London Raid. His public appearances and speeches had drawn audiences of hundreds and vastly increased recruitment numbers wherever he went.

So Tillinger hit upon a plan. He offered the old Colonel a field commission. To the joy of the Kingdom’s regular infantry – and the abject relief of the General Staff – MacDonald eagerly accepted. Since then, he has seen extensive service, leading once more from the front from a special armoured wheelchair, roaring out his orders. The troops under his command never fail to rise to any challenge, scything down the enemy with torrents of hot lead!

Colonel Samuel H. MacDonald

Tactical Use:
Although Colonel Sir Samuel ‘Big‘ MacDonald has only recently returned to active service after a leisurely decade in retirement, his presence is being felt all along the Britannian Line – but not always for the right reasons.

Only a fool would underestimate this great man, although perhaps past his physical prime, his mind is as sharp as it ever was – making the Colonel a superb commanding officer.

Although his tactics are firmly lodged in the pre-Sturginium age, they ring as true today as they ever did. His Focus Fire Command Ability makes a Line Section even more deadly at range, and his Mad MinuteCommand Ability can lead to a section putting out as many dice as a full Machine-gun Battery!

Despite his age, the Colonel is still a fair combatant. Although he’s not able to put up ‘the old fisticuffs‘ like back in the old days when he helped to build the Empire, which was when he acquired the moniker of ‘Big MacDonald‘ because of his huge physique. Instead he now goes into battle with carrying his trademark Blunderbuss – a huge weapon that will soon see off any enemy that comes too close.

The armour of his plated bath-chair (and many layers of blankets) provide enough protection to the Old Colonel to ensure that he’ll be around to fight many more battles to come.

Even if he does rub other officers up the wrong way from time to time, few officers can hope to match Colonel MacDonald’s abilities to keep his men in line and fighting at their best.

Covenant of Antarctica Reinforcements

Just when I thought my Covenant fleet was completed Spartan Games have gone and released a preview of two new units including a submersible. It looks like the 5th Fleet will be getting a submariner detachment…

The Fresnel Class Support Cruiser is a new and terrible weapon that has only recently been encountered amongst the fleets of the Frozen South.

The warship is, in most respects of a conventional design, if you can ever call a ship of the Covenant Ghost Fleet in any way conventional. However, the rather considerable exception to this is the energy weapon mounted atop the its spine.

From what can been gathered from photographic aeroplanes, this weapon is far more than a mere up-scaled energy weapon. Upon closer inspection one will see that the objects along the broadsides are not the unusual gun-spheres, but some kind of strange electrical apparatus. Likewise, the great turret atop the ship is not as it appears, whilst it has clearly been seen firing beams of radiant energy, it is not an energy turret, but a great, articulated assembly of lenses.

The only rational conclusion that can be drawn with these facts is that the Fresnel is nothing less than a water-borne focusing array for Covenant Energy Weapons. The beams fired from other vessels entering the ship by its sides, before being focused, refined and amplified into a single attack, far more powerful than the sum of its parts.

Annonnax Class Submersible

The Annonnax is without any doubt one of the strangest, most inconceivable and technologically advanced machines yet seen to come out of the Covenant of Antarctica.

The fighting machine’s existence has only been confirmed in the past few weeks, with multiple sightings of its use in combat along the northern cost, however for several months now there has been reports of weapons shipments coming under fatal attack from supposed ‘sea monsters’.

From the information that has been gathered, and from ample speculation by the scientific community, the following has been established. The Annonnax is a submersible, yet able to come aground and move like a writhing snake – making it equally at home travelling overground or underwater.

Although details are still uncertain, it appears that the great machine strikes at its prey – be it a warship or a tank – by ramming it and attacking with its great mechanical maw.

It also appears to have some kind of powerful energy weapon, although any exact details of this are unknown at this time, as regrettably, no one who has yet encountered the weapon at close range has survived to report back.

Annonnax Class Submersible

Annonnax Class Submersible vs. Ika Class Mechanical Squid

Floating Trader Town – A Review

A slight change of tact and my first review featuring some from the Uncharted Seas range. Granted it’s a piece of scenery but it just looks awesome.

The Floating Trader Town came out a little while ago but it’s always been a kit that’s had massive appeal to me because although intended for Spartan’s fantasy game it looked to me like it would fit in with Dystopian Wars as a Whaling station or an abandoned fishing village in the icy waters of Antarctica.

When I first got the pack I didn’t really appreciate just how big the model is. It’s massive. As the image above suggests the kit comes in 9 sections  the form a broken circle easily 8 inches across.

Even though only a piece of terrain it does look ace and you’d be forgiven for thinking it a touch Water World, but as the floating towns were the coolest part of that turd of a film it can be forgiven.

The casting quality and detail is really sharp it’s probably one of the most premium pieces of terrain I’ve ever owned. Yes there’s only two different sections which is a bit of a disappointment but because of its size I can certainly see the benefit of keeping it simple especially as each section does have little details that’ll need painting like gun emplacements, portholes, doors, ladders (yes ladders!) and crates and boxes. The walls were also chunky enough that it feels substantial and like a community lives there which is awesome.

 

The thing that struck me about the design is that it’ll be relatively easy to Steampunk it up as there’s plenty of exposed strut work and thanks to the scale none of it is textured so it can be iron and copper all the way. It did, however, have flash up the arse. Lots and lots of it. And because it was all around the jetties forget filing, it’s a scalpel job all the way. As it’s resin it wasn’t a long job but a bit of a faff. On the upside there wasn’t a mould line in sight and, as I say, the detail was faultless. If you want to keep it as a single piece you’ll have to mount it on a scenic base as the surface area that touches probably won’t be strong enough to hold itself together.

But on the upside, because it is in segments, you can use it with other scenery kits to make coastal defences, harbours or if you’re feeling cheeky you could quite easily make a couple of wrecked trader towns.

In terms of game use it makes the perfect objective for either a take and hold or a snatch and dash. Where it’d get tasty, however, is that only a support ship could make it into the town which would make it agonizingly tactical and I can’t fecking wait to give it a go.

As value for money goes it’s pretty outstanding at just £15. It looks awesome, it’s versatile, doesn’t over crowd the board but offers tactical challenges either as an objective or as a hazard to navigation. It may seem a bit sad to get this excited about a bit of scenery but honest to God, this is the tits. Yo.

 

Covenant of Antarctica Flyers – A Review

A few weeks back I wrote an article about my fully painted 5th fleet for the Covenant of Antarctica. In it I made a note about the request made by the fleet’s Commodore for a Daedalus Class large flyer. Well it looks like the Admiralty was feeling generous as they not only assigned the Daedalus, but an Epicurus class sky fortress too.

So let’s kick off with the Daedalus Class.

I looked at the Daedalus when it first came out back in October 2011 and it was this model that convinced me to collect the Covenant in the first place. It’s little wonder, then, that I love this model. I love its elegant galleon-like design and how it clashes with its obviously scientific and industrial construction.

It’s vaguely reminiscent of a paddle steamer with its large, wheel-like, positional thrusters on the sides of what is, ostensibly, a ships hull.

As usual, it’s got lots of lovely detailing, although mine was slightly miss cast so home of the detail around the base of the smoke stack housing is a little vague but once it’s painted black it won’t really matter.

In game terms she’s a bit of a beast. As hard to damage rating as a battleship and a critical rating of an armoured cruiser, she’s a toughie to be sure. Combined with an extra point of speed and the Daedalus is formidable and just fast enough to be a pain in the arse. Armament wise it’s really only at its best once it’s in the thick of the fighting having just forward and aft turrets and broadsides. However 3 shots at range band 4 does mean it can start sniping at smaller vessels right from the word go.

Once it closes to range and gets abeam of something then pain will ensue. At range band 2 it’ll be lobbing 10 dice from the turrets and 6 from the broadsides at you. And then dropping mines on your head. Although I kind of feel this design was intentional by the chaps at Spartan. In my mind’s eye the Daedalus would cut an elegant but threatening shape through the sky, weapons batteries loosing as all around it the sky is filled with flak and exploding shells all the while seafaring vessels below slug it out. Which is all very cool.

In reality you wouldn’t want it to be on its own for long because it would get torn to bits but, hell, it’s certainly make for a dramatic game, the elegant curving hull swooping into view amongst a hail of enemy cannon fire before laying waste to all brave enough to steer too close…

That’s when the Epicurus Class Sky Fortress would rock up and things would get really unpleasant. The Epicurus Class Sky Fortress is an absolute monster of a model. Really huge.

In many ways to relates back to my original review of the Covenant starter fleet when I made the comparison between the energy turrets and the Death Star in Star Wars. Well the Epicurus is the Death Star. It’s big, it’s round, and it has a massive gun bolted to it. Although in the Epicurus’ case it isn’t a planet destroying laser but a launch turret that, if you wonder too close will fire 9 drones at you. Which is just fantastic. It also reminds me of the ‘tripods’ from the 1953 film adaptation of The War of the Worlds. So like other elements of the fleet it’s an homage to science fiction of all stripes.

In the game it is an homage to pain. As tough as a battleship and nearly as well armed, it’s quite the adversary. As with the Daedalus, it’s going to be most effective in a broadside actions but it’s Launch Turret means that if anything strays too close it’s going to get taught a harsh and short lesson. Left to drift alone on in a game I’m sure it’ll make good account of itself but put it at the heart of a flying formation and it all gets a bit unpleasant as it also has 6 tiny flyers too. Throw in your 10 freebies and the fact the drones never run out of fuel and actually you’ve got a pretty horrible formation that has range, lots of guns and enough tiny flyers not keep an exclusion zone around your big stuff. To coin a phrase; I love it when a plan comes together.

Once I’ve got these two monsters painted I shall write an additional fluff post to go with the 5th Fleet explaining their background and how they became attached to the Night Watch.

Dystopian Legions Release Details

Dystopian Legions will be shipping on the 31st October. Initially just the Prussians, Empire of the Blazing Sun, FSA and Britannians but fear not the Covenant won’t be far behind (hooray!). IT’s all very exciting and finally I have something to put on my Christmas list. Starter sets will be going for around the £40 mark which and will include a quick play version of the rules. Not indications yet how much the rule book will be but I suspect £20. Unit boxes will be £15 for 6 and musicians £7 for 2 so not bad really. It’ll be interesting to see how much the tanks go for. I suspect around the £30 mark a they’re solid resin. And massive.

Full release info for each faction can be found via the links below.

PE nation intro

EOTBS nation intro

FSA nation intro

KOB nation intro

We Are Legion

Prepare yourself for another Nerdgasm as Spartan shows off some renders from the upcoming Dystopian Legions. Absolutely love the FSA Treadbike, the Prussian Lucifyre and the Lord Flashheart-esque Britannian Officer. And yes the Air Cavalry Officer has huge boobs.

Britannia Rules the Waves

Well they like to think they do. Those damn Brits and their silly delusions of global dominance. The Covenant know what’s what.

Anyway, I thought I’d take a look at some of the goodies beyond the starter fleet and the dreadnought available to the tea drinking, stiff upper lip having, salty seamen (oh yes I did).

So first up is the Avenger Class fleet Carrier.

Now one of the thing I love about the Britannian fleet is, more than any others is that sense of improvised ‘it’ll do’. Good enough is good enough. The designs are low-budget and the contractors bid even lower than that to build them. They’re all crude steel, ballast tanks and prows akin to 1940’s bras.

The Avenger Class is, essentially, two Ruler Class battleships lashed together with a flight deck on top. Which is just awesome. Actually it’s batshit crazy but that’s what makes it awesome.

The great thing about the Avenger class from a modelling point of view is that it is, in fact, two Ruler Class battleships lashed together which means you know what to expect from that point of view. The rest of the model is pretty straight forward to put together with minimal faff and the flight deck is a nice thick bit of resin which holds the struts nicely.

My only gripe about the model there’s nothing to fill the two holes beneath the flight deck where the smoke stacks would normally go. To be fair it can’t be seen when you’re playing the game but you’ll know it’s there and cringe every time someone picks up the model to take a squizz at it.

In game terms she’s a bit of an expensive old dame considering how quickly she’ll fall to bits. But what she lacks in resilience she sure does make for it with bite. Toting no less than four weapon systems, two of which are torpedoes she’ll not only give you a bloody nose but she’ll do so at range band 4. The problem is that she’ll be most effective at range band 2, like most ships. And most ships are far more effective in a straight up fight, although 11 fore torpedoes is not to be sniffed at.

The Avenger Class is a genuine warship, unlike the FSA carrier that’s for girls. She won’t take a lot of punishment but the torpedoes means she’ll keep fighting to her last. If it were me I’d take two battleships and stick the Avenger in the middle.

On to the Agincourt Class gunship.

Now these suckers are a bit tasty. 20 points more than a Tribal Class cruiser it has an extra point of damage, critical rating and hull. For those 20 points you also get a slightly improved turret and fore torpedo battery. The gunship however, swaps out its torpedo broadside for a rear mounted torpedo turret. I’m not too sure about this as the cruisers enabled you to sail through an enemy formation and dish out damage all the way through and out the other side. The torpedo turret has a 180 degree arc to the rear which rather suggests that the tactic is deterring anything that’s survived which it will because you’re initial volley won’t be as punchy.

Tactically gunships rely either on a protracted flanking action so they can hammer a larger target, or work in concert with a unit of Tribal Class, one punching a hole, the other sailing through and delivering the killing blow. Just bear in mind they’re still British and will explode from a strong breeze.

The models themselves are a bit mixed for me. They’re kinda like someone put a Tribal Class in a car crusher for a few minutes being shorter and stockier than its sister ship. But I suppose its kinda the point. It’s a blunt instrument. Well, a blunt instrument by the usual blunt standards of the Britannian fleet.

The Swift Class Corvette is quite the contrast. It’s sleek, it’s sexy and…pointless.

Perhaps a little harsh but at 20 points a pop they’re soft and squishy and have a pretty shit gun. What makes them scary is when a unit of 5 mob something, but even then they’ll be outclassed by most opposing models of similar class. However, they are mad fast – movement 13 and they’ve got the Elusive Target special rule. Which I guess is the point of Corvettes, they’re the sacrificial lambs of the Britannian fleets. Not very sporting really but they’re great at getting up close and making a nuisance of themselves.

The models are seriously lovely. As I say, they’re sleek and look as fast as they play. If I’m honest, they’re my favourite models in the Britannian fleet next to the dreadnought (which is the automatic favourite of every fleet – it’s the law).

The Orion Class destroyers, on the other hand, are awesome. The big brother of the frigate and 10 points more it’s essentially the support ship equivalent of the gunship. And like the gunship its the bulkier option. Purely in the looks department you understand, in-game terms it’s no tougher.

What you get for the extra points is one fewer turret but an extra 2, 3 & 2 torpedoes at range bands 2-4. Which is actually bloody horrid. To put it another way, a unit of 4 Orion class destroyers at range band 2 will throw out 15 dice. Fifteen. Fucking. Dice. For 140 points.

They are the ultimate mob unit and worth every penny and every point. They’re just horrible and smell and they are bum faces. But for all their scary mobbing power they are still support ships and made from paper mache and positive thoughts. They will die. But if you use their firepower and 11 inch move wisely they will take something much bigger down with them.

 

 

 

The Spartan Age

It gives me great pleasure to present to you the first Shell Case Contributor article. So without further a do, Chris offers up his thoughts on the recent rash of news from Spartan and it’s impact on the market.

August has seen an almost volcanic explosion of exciting news from Spartan Games. To start with there has been a flurry of previews for both Firestorm Armada and Dystopian Wars. This has included a fantastic variety of new minor faction units for DW including Canadian and Indian tanks, Polish sky fortresses, Belgian land ships and Danish minelayers and destroyers. Each is a fantastically characterful and detailed model (as you would expect from Spartan) and the very existence of these models wonderfully expands the world of Dystopian Wars and really helps bring the world to life by making the game about more than the struggles of the ‘big’ nations and helping give the impression of a full, living world at war. The rules for these models should be in the Hurricane Season/Storm of Steel expansions, though I notice that these expansions are showing on the Spartan online store at a higher price than the core rulebook. I can only hope that this means they are packed full of cool rules and exciting fluff.

Meanwhile we have seen a lot of previews of new Firestorm Armada ships for the upcoming Marauders of the Rift expansion. These have included ships for a whole range of pirates, raiders, gangsters and other kinds of low life and ne’r do well as well as a very interesting prison ship design. Marauders of the Rift will be out soon and is a snip at £10 compared to the DW expansions.

But these previews, exciting though they undoubtedly are, were eclipsed by last Thursday’s announcement of Dystopian Legions, a 28mm battle game set in the world of Dystopian Wars. This came as a huge surprise to many observers, but overall the buzz on the interwebs seem to be optimistic. The previewed images look pretty impressive, especially in terms of detail and there are some very characterful designs such as the FSA tread bike and the Prussian Lucifyre walker.

Dystopian Legions could be a big hit. Victorian steampunk games are not new but most of the existing ones lean much more towards the Gothic and the macabre end of the spectrum(Empire of the Dead for example), while Dystopian Wars and Dystopian Legions are much more toward the sci-fi end. Dystopian Legions is also a full-scale battle game rather than a small-scale skirmish affair. The closest competition for Dystopian Legions are probably Warmachine (though again, that is very much towards the fantasy end of the steampunk spectrum) or something like dieselpunk war game Dust Warfare by Fantasy Flight.

When the news about Dystopian Legions broke, I immediately wondered what the chances were of a similar game being introduced for Spartan’s Firestorm Armada universe. Just a few hours later the Spartan announced the formation of their Studio Sparta subsidiary and their Firestorm Invasion project.

While one certainly wonders why this project has been assigned to a subsidiary – and we all have to wonder if Studio Sparta will turn out to be Spartan’s Forgeworld, or their Fanatic Press – this is certainly going to be an ambitious project, and certainly the one I am most excited about. Simultaneously developing 10mm, 15mm and 28mm games including all the assorted factions of the Firestorm universe is an enormous project and one I sincerely hope Spartan Games/Studio Sparta are up to. So far all we have seen images of are them ideals from the Dindrenzi and Terran 10mm starter sets which are already available from Studio Sparta’s online store, plus a few previews of 15mm Terran infantry. The previewed models so far are a fairly limited selection, but what we have seen so far looks pretty good.

I find it interesting, that stuff for Firestorm Invasion – Planetfall is already available, in contrast to the Dystopian Legions announced the same day which are still some months hence. Perhaps this is the advantage of having a separate division working on the project or maybe a cunning way of helping the new division make a splash from the get go.

Spartan are certainly throwing down the gauntlet with Firestorm Invasion. Each sub-game (10mm Planetfall, 15mm Conquest, and 28mm Special Ops will be competing with other manufacturers. Special Ops for example will have to contend with both Warhammer 40,000 and Warpath (and also to a lesser extent, Warmachine) although as Spec Ops will be skirmish focussed it may escape direct competition from 40k.

Planetfall however will taking on the recently released Dropzone Commander by Hawk Wargames for the lions share of the 10mm market. Somehow I doubt it is coincidental that this particular 10mm game has been launched so soon after the other, especially as 10mm is a relatively little used scale. Maybe the hype surrounding Dropzone Commander proved that there is a market out there. Certainly, the fact that Planetfall has been released with no lead up and only a very limited model range could be taken as signs that Spartan is jumping on a bandwagon. Though realistically, even Spartan can’t conjure a project like this out of nothing, so even is they have opted to accelerate plans they must have had the foundations of this laid for some time. The fact that Hawk are currently struggling to meet demand while also maintaining their quality control is as good an example as any about how you shouldn’t overreach or rush into anything in this industry.

It would be difficult to judge which of the two games might come out on top. Spartan has the advantage of lower prices and having the rule book included with the starter forces, but Hawk has the benefit of a much more comprehensive range of models being available across four distinct factions and a separately available rule book. The rulebook will be available separately in the near future for Firestorm Invasion but for now it’s only available in the starter sets. And there’s certainly an advantage to being able to see if you like the look/sound of the game without having to invest in a full starter set.

A lot of people are likely to hold off on Firestorm Invasion until they know when their favourite factions from Firestorm Armada will come out. Hawk, on the other hand, have everything from the rule book already for sale. However in light of the severe supply problems, unfair pricing strategy and keeping the bigger army deals exclusive to the Hawk website it’ll be interesting to see which game ends up on top. And while Hawk models are more expensive, they are made from a more flexible resin mix which mean they will stand up to wear and tear better and in theory makes them better value for money. Whether that counts as a deal maker or breaker probably comes down to personal preference.

Anyway, the news over the last few weeks show that Spartan are clearly a company with big ambitions and the potential to make good on them. I’m looking forward to adding some Firestorm Invasion stuff to my collection come pay-day. With luck I’ll eventually be able to carry through a campaign with my Terrans (and their allies) from the orbital battles all the way to the final ground campaigns and decisive city fights.