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.

Shell Case Shorts Anthology

Yes, it’s finally that time. A year on from when I ran a short story competition for a bit of fun, I’m pleased and proud to make the Shell Case Shorts Anthology available to download. The collected winning entries from the 12 competitions, plus an honourable mention or two and a little story of my own have all been made available in handy-dandy PDF format.

A massive thank you to everyone who entered, and congratulations to all the winners. And a special thank you to the awesome Gav Thorpe for writing an introduction.

The Anthology is completely free to download by clicking the image below. The file is a little big so give it a minute to load.

SCSAC2

Dystopian Legions Quickplay Rules Incoming

Curious how the upcoming Dystopian Legions will play? Well on the 25th October Spartan Games will be releasing a free to download quickplay version of the rules. Because they’re that damn nice. Here’s what Spartan had to say about it…

Our 80-page Quickplay Rulebook covers all areas of the game mechanics you will need to play a full game of Dystopian Legions, along with descriptive examples and colour diagrams to aid your understanding. This book can be used as a step-by-step guide, taking you from building your forces and setting up yourGame Board, through each phase of a Turn Sequence, and how to work out who has won once the game is over!

To give a quick overview of the Book’s contents:

Introduction: An Introduction to the game, and the world of Dystopian Legions
Game Basics: A rundown of the basic mechanics used throughout the game
Game Cards: How to use the deck of Game Cards that come in your Starter Set, and how to expand it
Game Set Up: A guide to how to get started with a game of Dystopian Legions
Force Building: How to pick your models and assemble a fighting force
Terrain Rules: A rundown of the effects of Terrain on the way that models can move and shoot
Sequence of Play: An overview of the order in which each Turn’s events take place
Command and Morale: The effects of Morale on your troops, and the role of your Officers and Characters
Movement Segment: How different sorts of models can move, and the different sorts of movement they can perform
Ranged Attacks: A full description of how models can shoot at one another from range, and the effects that these attacks have
Melee Phase: How to resolve close-quarters Melee combat
End Phase: How to wrap up each Turn, and how to check if the game has ended
Victory Conditions: How to decide who has won the game
Model Assigned Rules: A list of the special rules and Abilities used by certain models and weapons
Index: A comprehensive index to quickly reference any part of the rules

Pages from the Dystopian Legions Quickplay Rulebook

From our website you can download a digital PDF version of the rulebook and also Army Lists and Model Statistics for the first four nations. Don’t forget that each of the four initial Starter Sets all come with an A5 printed version of the Quickplay Rulebook.

Over the coming months, leading up to the release of the 196-page Hardback Dystopian Legions Master Rulebook in the early part of 2013, the Army Lists will act as living documents for the Statistics and Rules of the numerous new models we will be adding in the coming months.

Pages from the Dystopian Legions Quickplay Rulebook

The exciting arrival of the Master Rulebook will bring you a bunch of key new additions to the core rules, including a campaign system, modelling and painting guides for different units, variant Army Lists for each of the nations, new troop types, an extensive armour combat section and much more.

For now grab the Quickplay Rules, build your force and enter the ground war… you can download the documents from Thursday, October 25th.