Kurak Alliance Fleet Guide – A Review

firestorm-select copyContinuing 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.

FARB05-2 copyIt’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.

Storm Zone: Battle for Valhalla – A Review

firestorm-select copyPart 2 of my Firestorm Armada second edition review is finally here. Apologies for yet another long delay. There’s a lot going on in my world at the moment and it’s pulling me away from the site far more than I’d like.

But anyway…

Storm Zone: Battle for Valhalla is the starter set released by Spartan Games at the same time as their second edition Firestorm Armada rule set. I was really pleased to see Spartan go down this route for their games because starter sets are such excellent point of entry into a hobby. Games Workshop has produced some stonkers over the years – with the exception of one or two – and I’ve bought and loved just about all of them. And there’s no shame in copying something that works.

FABB01-2

In the Battle for Valhalla box you get two fairly modest fleets – Terran Alliance (yay me) and Dindrenzi (yay Lee) – and a space station to scrap over. I wasn’t wild about the models. There just aren’t enough of them and yes you basically get the station (that’s a bit poor), the flyer bases and the rules for free but it’s an £80 boxset and if I’m honest it doesn’t feel great value. Unless you’re going halves with someone but as you’ll inevitably end up buying a second rulebook there’s not really much in it. That said at least you get the full hardback rules in the box rather than a slimmed down version. Big tick for Spartan on that one.

The rulebook I’ve covered already so I’ll focus just on the models and other odds and sods.

So why is the space station a bit poor? Well my main issue is that it is the least exciting thing in the box. For a centrepiece it should be as pant tightening as something out of Star Trek. Plus the armatures for the dock are clear acrylic. No detail, no nuthin. And because Spartan wanted to keep them in one piece whilst in the box, none of the arms were fully lasered through the frame which means an agonising and slow cut through each join. 10 armatures, 2 cuts per arm. That’s a lot of time wasted especially when it could crack or shatter. And to add insult to injury, as far as I can tell, there’s no stand for it. So you have to sit it on the board each time you use it. Not awesome.

However, where Spartan redeem themselves is in the area that drew me to their games in the first place – the spaceships. The thing I like about Spartan Games is that they release new models but allow you to use the old ones – even writing rules for them to give a sense of time and technology progressing. It’s cool that my Terran fleet has two classes of Battleship and Cruiser in it. However I was a bit surprised that the starter set featured yet more new models when the mkII’s hadn’t been out all that long and are gorgeous. Plus it would mean painfully subtle rule differences in a game that already had a lot of painfully subtle rule differences. However they are all utterly awesome. Especially the Dindrenzi battleship. It’s a superb example of design and casting. It’s a glorious, beautiful thing that almost makes me want to start a Dindrenzi fleet. Lee is a very lucky chap to be getting his hands on that model.

Although the Terran models aren’t exactly ugly. Whilst I’m not 100% about all of the design tweaks moving it on from the Apollo Class battleship, there’s no denying that the Tyrant class battleship is a big, beautiful, ball buster of a ship. Albeit inappropriately named considering the Terran’s are supposed to be the nicer bunch of the two factions. My only real gripes about the models is the two halves of the Terran cruisers don’t sit flush, which is a shame as the gap is noticeable, the parts of the model that the flying stand goes into are separate on some models which makes me doubt long-term stability, and the thrusters on the Dindrenzi Praetorian Class battleship aren’t a brilliant fit.

But all that said, there’s no denying the quality of the detail and the superb casting quality. And in-game terms – as one would expect – they’re pretty evenly matched. Terran have less armour but shields. The Dindrenzi chuck out more shots but still have to put up with gun racks. The Terrans also get slightly more stuff which presumably is geared around the campaign book that’s also included in the box.

From a gaming point of view the Battle for Valhalla box is a bit of a deal as there are scenarios in the main book and then the campaign book on top. So from the point of view of smashing out a campaign – or just playing multiple games with some variety – it’s pretty good. The booklet itself is good. Some nice fluff at the start followed by some lovely scenarios (which make sense) and then the ship details at the back so you can get down to some face kicking without having to go online to download the data cards or buying the fleet book.

The other welcome addition is the counter sheets. This may seem a slightly inane thing to bring up but for me it’s very important for two reasons. 1. They’re pre-cut so none of that painstaking cutting out of counters that were printed on photo paper from Boots. The other is they’re all pleasingly designed. They’re all labelled which is a huge help but the design of each one is so simple that I just love looking at them. Especially as Spartan have been extremely clever with their use of colour palettes. They’re excellent and, for me, nicer to look at than the campaign book. But I’m a design nerd.

Overall the Battle for Valhalla is a good starter set. It’s not the cheapest starter set going but it’s not the most expensive either. The models are all gorgeous – the disappointment with the station not withstanding. The fact that you get the full rules and a campaign book is very good. I do have some reservations about the way some of the models go together but until they get regular use I can’t really say it’s a deal breaker. I would advise extra care though, especially as the battleships are heavy.

If you and a friend are looking to get into the Firestorm Armada hobby or you and friend want the new rules and some cool new ships for your existing fleets, this really is a path worth considering. Especially if you can survive on just one copy of the rules.

Firestorm Armada – Storm Zone: Battle for Valhalla is available from Firestorm Games priced £72.00.

Firestorm Armada 2nd Edition – A Review

First an apology for being so quiet for so long. I was on holiday for a week which should have warranted an explosion of writing on my part. But there was no wifi. Heck there was very little phone signal. And chasing a toddler around acres of woodland, it turns out, was rather knackering so even writing offline proved too much as I was too wiped out after the little cherub went to bed. The review itself has taken a while to pen because I wanted to make sure I did the game justice. There was a couple of false starts where I began to write with no real direction which warranted the Ctrl-A, Delete bomb. So this review signals my return and I hope it was worth the wait.

firestorm-select copyIt’s been a wee while since I’ve reviewed anything from the Firestorm Armada universe so what better way than to look at the second edition rules and the new starter set? I’ll cover the rules in this article then look at the starter set and its bevy of toys later.

I’m a real fan of Firestorm Armada and the awesome models that accompany it. It was Firestorm Armada and its sister game, Dystopian Wars that I popped my non-GW-gaming cherry with. And it was a pretty easy decision to make as both games had gorgeous, reasonably priced, models and generally positive feedback from wargamers on Twitter.

FARB04-2 copy

For me, other than the sexy models, what makes Firestorm Armada, for me, such a brilliant fun game is the utterly embarrassing amount of dice you get to roll. When Firestorm Invasion (sort of) came out a while back it used a revised mechanic and I half expected Spartan to go that way with the second editions of Firestorm and Dystopian Wars. And I’m delighted to report that it isn’t the case. Because honest to God, starting an attack with 12 dice and ending it with 36 is immensely satisfying thanks to the exploding dice mechanic.

For the uninitiated the exploding dice mechanic works thus – any natural roll of a 6 counts as 2 hits and then you roll another dice. If that extra dice is a 6 it counts as 2 hits and you roll another dice. Repeat. It is, of course, a two-edged sword. What you can inflict on your enemy than can inflict on you but the trick is to get in first. And thanks to the retention of the alternating activation that’s still possible. It does mean that turns still take a while and big games will take half a day rather than an evening but that’s not the first game to be guilty of that.

So what’s new? Well quite a bit actually.

The main thing is upgrades for ships. There are options to swankify your weapon systems as well as hardpoints for system upgrades that give you largers ships extra armour, extra movement etc. It’s a big and important change for Spartan who did everything they could to keep the ships ‘factory standard’ to keep the game simple. But when you consider the variations across classification by fleet and by model was tiny and even non-existent something had to give beyond piling on more MARs special rules. Which I’ve always been irritated by and rarely used in any of the gamers I’ve played.

It’s great to see these options being opened up because it allows for real fleet building as well as applying some tactics to the process. Up to now every fleet list I’ve ever built has been entirely geared around the volume of dice I got to use. Because nothing else mattered. Whilst the upgrades won’t change the outcome of a game they’ll certainly make things more interesting. It’s also good that not all upgrades are available to everyone and allows you to tailor units into a specific combat role ala Battlefleet Gothic.

Another new addition is the battle log which is a poorly named means of tracking the game’s progress. If I’m honest it just doesn’t work. It’s based on morale which is a very iffy premise and fails to take into account how massively varied morale can be not just species to species but navy to navy, fleet to fleet and ship to ship. It’s a staggering over simplification that’s immediately made more complicated by the scoring system which forces you to take large squadrons of everything or face losing very quickly as it’s based around units being wiped out. Personally I think it’s just easier to total up the points the ships are worth. Fucking about with tier 1, tier 2 and tier 3 ships and how many were wiped out which determines how many points is…well…fucking about.

There’s also some proper background in this book. It is, sadly, still quite poor. It lacks subtlety and presence. It just feels very safe whilst failing to really deliver any kind of impact. Yes it’s a big improvement. Yes I have a better idea of what’s going on. But does it shove its hand down my pants and have a good rummage? No it doesn’t. And that’s very frustrating for me because I’m a fluff gamer and I’ve always liked the idea of Firestorm. And with so many games out there with detailed background, there’s really no excuse for 15(ish) pages of background that felt like they were as much of a chore to write as they are to read. However it is an improvement, it is more detailed and it is more interesting than before. And the section on the planets is a nice touch too.

Overall though it is a huge improvement on the previous versions. The book is better presented for one thing – although there’s a few too many glossy photos – with examples that actually relate to the text around them. They’ve also finally done away with the profoundly irritating arbitrary use of bold that plagued all the other Spartan Games rule books up to now.

It all feels very tight. Rule explanations are clearer to the point that I didn’t have to read and re-read them to understand just what the hell the developers were on about. I still have that concern that there are too many steps to each stage so game play still won’t be as slick as it should be. But thanks to the standard of rule writing increasing at least there’ll be significantly less time wasted arguing over rule interpretation or spending an age flicking through an appallingly laid out book. Second edition is pretty bang on in that respect. It’s a much more natural, logical read. Thank the Lord.

One of my big buy bears about Firestorm (and Dystopian Wars) was the woefully vague rules for tiny flyers. Par of the problem was that explanations were dotted throughout the rule book and with no index it was all but impossible to find what you were looking for. All the rules are in one place now (huzzah) but they’ve also been hugely improved on to the point that one full understands how to use them. They’re still far too complicated for what should be a minor aspect of the game but it’s a big improvement. Improvement enough for me to buy more carriers? No, but at least I’ll make use of the one I have.

There’s also some scenarios. At last. It was badly needed in the core rules and far better than adding them into supplement books like Spartan did with Dystopian Wars. It was a frustrating move motivated by money rather than putting right a mistake. But the important thing one can feel like a campaign is no possible. Eventually anyway. The fleet lists have been taken from the book and put into two separate books costing £20 each. Comparatively cheaper than a Codex but that £20 covers all the good, or all the bad, species. So pence per page the value isn’t awesome if you only collect one fleet from the entire. book. But more on that another time.

The second edition rules for Firestorm Armada is a huge improvement on versions 1.0 and 1.5. The writing is stronger, the rules are clearer and have been – for the most part – logically improved upon. Not all the ideas work and it’s now a slightly more expensive game to get into but don’t let that put you off because it’s well worth it.

Firestorm Armada, second edition, and the Battle for Valhalla starter box are both available from Firestorm Games priced £18 and £72 respectively.

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 Invasion – A Review

It didn’t seem all that long ago that Studio Sparta and with it Firestorm Invasion, the first in a series of ground war games set in the Firestorm Armada universe was announced and here it is out released to the world. I, for one, was extremely excited not only because the models looked absolutely pimp but because it further expands the background of a top game. Which is a good thing.

Let’s kick off with what you get in the starter boxes. In short…lots. A decent sized force (over 20 models a piece), dice, cards, tokens, stat sheets, rules and a natty little measuring stick. And all for £45. Which is a fricking steal.

The models themselves are awesome. Each force is distinctive both in aesthetic and playing style. Put simply; the Dindrenzi get all the cool shit and the Terran Alliance get shields. And lots of big scary tanks. The designs reflect their influences nicely. The Terran Alliance are, unsurprisingly, current in influence whereas the Dindrenzi stuff doesn’t so much feel alien, although it kinda is what with the awesome grav tanks, as it feels refined and ultra advanced. And a little Manga.

The casting quality is up to Spartan’s usual standard. None of the models needed a major clean up and all the pewter components fit nicely in their various turret housings etc. And did I mention they look pimp?

I wasn’t entirely sure what I was expecting when I started reading the rules but one thing I didn’t expect was how much strategy would be involved. I know it’s a strategy wargame but the one of the most fundamental parts of the game is assigning a set order of unit movement to your force at the start of the turn. Once you’ve locked in that order that’s it, they’re moving in that order regardless of what your opponent does.

This means you have to be even more aware of the bigger picture than ever before. It’s a superb idea and catapults the game to Chess-like levels of forward thinking. The only gripe, if any can be made, is that the cards that determine the order of unit activation are blank and you have to write on them with a white board pen. Which, if I’m a little honest, is a bit cheap and it’d be nice to see pre-printed unit cards that go into the stack. But that aside the point is that you’re effectively playing your opponent’s stack. Which actually kinda makes it like poker.

What it also makes it is realistic. It’s about holding your nerve, sticking to a plan in the face of enemy guns and hoping to the almighty that it works. Mistakes are costly and mocking from your opponent will follow shortly after.

The other new idea which I can see being rolled out across Spartan’s other games when second editions are released (1.1’s don’t count) is a colour coded dice to represent the power of a weapon. This is an evolution of the exploding dice mechanic which you either love or hate. Low powered weapons roll on Black dice and a roll of 6 is a single success. Mid powered weapons roll on Blue dice and a 6 counts as two hits. And finger of God weapons roll Red dice counts as two hits and you get to roll again.

It’s an interesting rule development which I can see being refined further for the likes of Firestorm Armada and Dystopian Wars but works well with Invasion especially as it incorporates effective ranges. So, for example, the Terran’s main battle tank gets 3 Blue dice at effective range. This means it can cause a maximum of 6 hits. At long-range it gets just 3 Black dice, so the potential damage is cut in half. The Dindrenzi counterpart however gets 3 Red dice at effective range making it, well, fooking horrid. However at long-range it drops to an alarming 1 Black dice. So big scary 127mm cannon scary generally. Big scary laser only scary at range if you’re a tin of beans.

Between deciding what order to move your units and checking the number of dice you get your first few games won’t be mega quick but  the rulebook is sensibly laid out (no really) so any rule checking will not be the utter misery it can be with Dystopian Wars. It’s nicely presented albeit a little on the thin side but a full and swanky version of Invasion is on the cards if it proves popular enough. But, like other starter sets, there’s nothing wrong with a stripped down gamers rule book. But they managed to cram in a couple of scenarios which is pleasing and long overdue. Only 2 mind but that’s two more than other books had.

The rules are concisely written and devoid of the abundance of bold copy that crops up in Spartan publications and they make sense. No upper range limit makes complete sense, the reserve rules are fantastic and a critically important card up your tactical sleeve rather than something to fuck over your opponent like it often is in 40k. In Invasion it’s as much about shoring up a line or preventing a breakthrough.

The force organisation does feel a little vague and the faction list is can barely be called that but I’m going to be charitable and say that it’ll get sorted in the big version of the book as at the moment they’re only lists for Dindrenzi and Terran forces which would be awkward when the Sorylians and the Directorate hit the site in the coming weeks. There also feels like a lot of phases but I suspect it’s broken down for clarity rather than because they actually take a long time to do.

Firestorm Invasion is not only a fantastic looking game but stunningly strategic. The rule evolution and move away from the existing Spartan mechanic is brave and I think pays off. It makes 10mm ground warfare what it should be which is a gruelling series of tactical decisions that leave the lives of the men under your command hanging in the balance. It harks back to the days of Epic and order counters hidden deployment where it was anyone’s guess what your opponent was going to do and at best you could make an educated guess. And that’s exactly how it should be.

The bottom line is this; it’s a good game, well imagined and well written. The models are absolutely stunning and the starter set costs you a whopping £23 less an a certain other company to get started but you get more of it. And, best of all, you get to combine it with Firestorm Armada. And yes I’ll be putting a Terran fleet on my Christmas list.

Firestorm Invasion kickstart sets are available direct from Studio Sparta priced at £45

Firestorm Invasion Unit Run Down

So excited am I about Firestorm Invasion that I’ve decided to rob the unit lists from the Studio Sparta website and share them with you. If you haven’t had a look at this game yet then I strongly urge you to. The models look pimp and on the value for money scale it’ll take some beating. I shall be getting my grubby little mits on the starters sets in a week or so, so expect a full (and hyperactive) review…

Terran Alliance

Dindrenzi Federation

 

Studio Sparta

The second bit of big news is the launch of Studio Sparta. Much like the Specialist Games range from the Games Workshop – only with support – Studio Sparta will be rolling out models and games that fall outside the primary focus of Spartan Games. It’s a very exciting move on the part of Spartan, aggressively diversifying into new systems.

The first big release is Firestorm: Invasion. A 10mm ground war game set in the Firestorm Armada universe. Kinda interesting that this has come out so shortly after Hawk Wargames’ – founded by former Spartan employee Dave Lewis – Dropzone Commander.

But I tell you what, the models look freaking awesome. Only the Terrans and Dindrenzi are available at the moment. Starter sets are £45 which is staggeringly good value, especially considering how much you get in there (20 models, rules and some other bits). I think we can expect a pretty rapid release schedule to capitalise on the stir all the new Spartan is throwing at us will cause. I for one am massively excited and will be getting my grubby little mits on a set of rules just as soon as I can.

WANT!

And were that not enough, Studio Sparta have also released the Invaders for Dystopian Wars. Remember this…

Some may have seen it on this humble blog back in April and I was poo-poo’d no less for suggesting the Martians were coming. Well all I shall say is…

…BOOM!

That’s right, aliens have made their legged bad ass way to Earth and they’re bringing some heat ray pain.

The range is available now so if you’re a Dystopian Wars ground battles player then not owning this stuff would just make a mentalist.

 

Firestorm Armada Previews

Not content with dangling a fleet of awesome for Dystopian Wars, I’m also showing off some images of new releases for Firestorm Armada. The Dindrenzi and Terran carriers are both getting a badly needed reworking and the mysterious Oroshan Imperium are getting some ships at last.

These models will be available from the 25th July.

Terran Alliance MkII Cruisers – A Review

A slight change of pace from my more recent Spartan Games reviews. This time the Terran Alliance get my attentions and they’re rather lovely looking Hermes Class MkII Cruisers.

The MkI Sentinel Class Cruiser was one of the first models I saw for Firestorm Armada and I always liked it, if for no other reason than they looked like Battlestar Galactica. This is, of course, is a good thing.

The lack of detail and the comically small turrets combined with its woefully inadequate armaments in the game, however, put me off when compared to the cruisers of the other fleets – both in terms the model and the game. They were also pretty flimsy and tended to go boom a lot. So breakable, and a little bit toothless, which for a ship of the line makes the Terrans harder to use than they need to be. So when I saw that the Hermes Class had come out  I was really pleased from both a design and gaming aspect as it gives me an excuse to collect the fleet, at last.

The kind of player I am, I actively seek out the good guys. Specifically the human good guys. I have somewhat of a romantic ideal of the potential of humanity so cool looking human ships push my button in a big way.

One of the great things that Spartan are doing with the MkII ships is not replacing the MkIs. This means that as gamers develop their fleets they can accumulate ships that look and perform differently to their sister classes. Long term you can have a sizable fleet with multiple classes in it which gives the fleet a history. You could even paint the earlier versions slightly more battered than those fresh off the production line. It’s an exciting move from Spartan. It’s a lesson a certain other company could learn, adding to model ranges rather than constantly replacing models altogether. The only downside, at the moment, is that the starter fleets become less viable – particularly with the Terrans – as the new models are so much stronger than the originals.

The Hermes Class is sooooo much prettier than the Sentinel Class. Heftier, and far more detailed than its predecessor, it is an entirely more beautiful craft. It actually feels like a warship as not only are the armaments more impressive but it looks like it can take a hit without snapping clean in two.

What’s nice about the model it is that Spartan took the best elements of the Sentinel and married them with aspects of the Templar Class heavy cruiser and the Titan Class dreadnought. It all adds up to a great looking model.

In game terms it’s Terran so it has a glass jaw but the shield will help plus it has a pretty decent array of weapons including torpedoes that has a 360 degree fire arc that you get more shots with at range. However, at 75 points a ship they seem a bit pricy and I’d be surprised if they last the battle.

The Hermes is a great looking model but seems a little expensive for punch it’ll dish out or receive. The Terran fleet has always relied on co-operative tactics and the Hermes Class is no different, which is fine but it would have been nice to have something a little bit meatier.

Spartan Spectacular

Anyone who visits this blog, Paint and Biscuits or the Spartan Games website will know that the fine chaps at Spartan have been very busy lately, with a bevy of sneak peaks hitting the blog pages.

Amongst the plethora of toys was the Firestorm Armada Dreadnoughts. Slowly leaked over a number of weeks, players of this fine space combat romp have been scouring the interwebs to find out when they’ll be coming out. Well I can tell you it’ll be next month. Just in time for Christmas so reserve a portion of your present budget from the wife/husband/girlfriend/boyfriend – delete as appropriate – for you dreadnought of choice. Prices start at £17 and go up to £23 in the case of the Aquan ship, but if you’ve seen size compared to the battleships, that’s still excellent value.

And before anyone asks, yes I’ll be getting a couple for review. And in case anyone’s interested, the destroyers will be out the same time in packs of 2 for between £9 and £10.50.

In other Spartan news Phase 3 of Uncharted Seas is rolling out with yet more choice models some of which can be seen below…