Continuing on from looking at the second edition rules, it seemed only right to take a look at one of the Fleet Guides released by Spartan in answer to the recurring grumble that there were no defined army lists or background.
Never let it be said that Spartan don’t listen. Whilst not the cheapest of books, it’s a nice touch that they opted to divide the books by allegiances rather than individual fleets. This does mean there’s a strong chance you’ll get a fair chunk of book you don’t need or may even not read, and it’s debatable how cost-effective that is to get the full picture. Or at least the full picture of half the story.
It’s a very pretty book. I really dig the minimal cover and it feels very premium throughout. Some of the models in the photography could have been better painted but that’s not the fault of the book.
So the book is divided up into the various powers that make up the Kurak Alliance. Simple enough. Each with its own brief history and fleet lists. There’s a little bit of repeated content from the rulebook but fortunately the writing is better. It’s still not as polished as it should be and Spartan still have a flair for sucking the gravity out of a dire situation. But hey-ho. It’s getting better and that’s something.
The fleet lists in the Guide are nicely laid out, a huge improvement on the fleet cards which always irritated me for having important information on the reverse and thus almost always got forgotten. The improvements around the ship upgrades – weapons, hardpoints etc – pretty much require a proper fleet roster but it’s a good thing, it makes the game feel more thought out. It recognises that the array of ships on both sides of the conflict should be more than a swap of a statistic. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still the case, but the options and the new fleet structure really makes a big difference.
And it’s actually kinda fun pouring over the options, rather than a chore or a functional step between you and rolling huge piles of dice. And we know how much fun that can be. It’s a bit of a shame that the different classes of ship types have all been lumped together but again it comes back to swapping round columns but some special rules could have done the job just as well. Bit of a shame but there we are.
One of my stand out favourite bits of the Fleet Guide are the example colour schemes and fluff about the various fleets. It goes a really long way to flesh out the conflict and gives gamers the option to apply some narrative to their fleets which is something that is always quite lacking in non-Games Workshop games. What can I say? They just get that stuff nailed down.
From a hobby point of view having some example paint jobs in the Fleet Guide is a huge boon. The Spartan gallery only has a couple of examples at most – that’s not a criticism just how it is – so it’s good to get a better flavour of how they see the fleets looking. And of course it makes it much easier for hobbyists to come up with their own having that solid jumping off point.
The big downer for me in the book was the lack of race specific special rules. Heck even fleet specific rules would have been cool. Other than the tactical bonus and command distance and the upgrade variations there’s nothing that really adds some narrative to the game. Something like Preferred Enemy or some for the Dindrenzi against Terrans for example, or a regeneration rule for the Aquans would have been way cool.
I do appreciate that there are differences on a ship level but that’s true of any unit in any game. It’s a bit of a missed opportunity considering all the effort that Spartan has gone to improve the writing, rules and flesh out the fleet lists in the Second Edition rules and Fleet Guides.
The Fleet Guides are a good idea. I like the fact that you get all the good guy fleets and all the bad guy fleets in one place because the game does encourage taking allies be they from the major races or the Alliance members. I’m not wild about how much background is left out of the rulebook so you’re almost compelled to buy both Fleet Guides if you want the whole story. It makes for quite an expensive outlay when you’ll read them through once and then one fleet list repeatedly.
But to take the Kurak Alliance Fleet Guide on its own it’s a nice book. It looks great, reads well and it’s so good to have the ships laid out sensibly with all the options and MARs in one place. The background is still a bit woolly and there’s a couple of typos that tarnish an otherwise professionally produced book but that aside it’s a worthy investment.
The Kurak Alliance Fleet Guide is available from Firestorm Games priced £18.00.