Oh Yes, the Return of the Overseers is here! Huzzah! As you can see, the box is exactly as would be expected from Spartan, a lovely full-colour card sleeve wrap around a sturdy corrugated card box to protect all the resin goodness...as you've probably all already seen, this one has some great artwork of the battle above Proteus Prime on the front, and a shot of those gorgeous studio models and contents on the back. So, without further ado, let's open up the box;
Yes, it is suitable stuffed with resin, as we also expect from Spartan these days - you can certainly see where your money is going with these sets.
On the left we've a lock-bag with rulebook, scenario book, token sheets, TACs and the acrylic for the "Dimensional Gate". Then we have the models, and on the lower right another smaller lock-bag with the SRS tokens, small pieces and micro dice (I haven't bothered with the bag with the bases in - no one get's excited about acrylic bases!). Now let's get that resin (all protected in the usual bubble-wrapped bags that have become standard) out and on the table.
OK, that's a lot of resin! Those of you familiar with the Aquans and Directorate will be able to judge sizes from the frigates in the centre here. Let's just say the Oannes and Anarchist are HUGE! What's also surprisingly large are the parts for the Dimensional Gate.
The two other new things for us are the scenario book and the soft-backed "man bag" sized rulebook. I must say this is a very welcome addition, and complements the full-size hardback extremely well. Lugging the hardback around to games is a bit of a chore, so this is great (but I wouldn't want to part with my hardback either).
Now, back to the models, and as I'm a Fenian man, I'm going to start with the loveliness that is the Anarchist class battleship:
Now that's a sexy piece of resin. instantly recognisable as a Directorate ship, but also noticeably different - it looks more advanced, and the large circular depression on top is covered in detail for the cyberwarfare focussing array to cover. What really surprised me is...
It's RESIN! In fact, EVERYTHING in this set is resin, there's not a spot of pewter to be found. I was quite dumbfounded, I'd expected this piece to be metal.
Looks good when its in place too. Cyberwarfare turret...oh yes, come to me my little fishes....
Underneath the Anarchist has the distinctive Directorate turrets, laid out in distinct broadsides. The front underside armour makes her look sleek and deadly, and the fore fixed weapons of the Eliminator are replaced by vertical wing bays...she's a truly multi-purpose ship.
Moving onto the mediums, these are very clever models, utilising common side pieces around a dedicated central section for the Annihilation gunship and Turmoil R&D Cruiser. Each of these has positive and negative locking areas for a positive fit (although there is a little play here, so be careful when you're making them or you might get a model that looks a little "off").
Anyway, the pieces are very well cast and carry some eye-waveringly precise and subtle detailing as can be seen (especially if you've good eyes!).
Next up is the Turmoil R&D cruiser, one of my personal favourites of this set. Here is the central core of the Compressor Beam weapon that the Directorate black project works have been working so hard on:
Again you can see the negative depressions for the positive key sections on the side parts to go into. As the core here is triangular, they give the Turmoil a very distinctive v-shaped profile despite using the same side parts - as I said, very clever.
Here's the underside of the section, showing the area for the underslung gunrack:
And here is the detail on the emitter end of the Compressor Beam - stunning detail level, which is really going to benefit from good painting:
The set uses the existing frigates, which are probably my favourite frigate design, but as they're not new I'm not going to spend any time on them here (lovely though they are). Same goes for the Aquans, so I'll move straight to the new Heavy Carrier, the Oannes:
The Oannes is HUGE - or at least that's the impression she gives. Actually, she weighs 67g to the Anarchists 86g, so she is substantially smaller in displacement, but she doesn't seem that way! In fact, she's scalloped underneath, so she doesn't have that clamshell bulk of the Directorate.
Hopefully this picture shows that - in fact the ship gives a lovely effect of being swift and elegant despite her seemingly huge size. Here's a straight down shot of her underside:
So she's more like a Turbot than a Tuna! Once again though, Spartan have excelled themselves in making this ship, with amazing detail and undercuts I just wouldn't have thought possible in a two-part mould. Here's the front of the ship and that iris-hanger opening (plus a rather fearsome array of forward-facing laser blisters):
The Aquans don't just get this new monster carrier, however, but a gunship and heavy cruiser too. Both of these utilise the existing hull of the standard Isonade and Namazu cruisers, but with different add-ons. First is the Shiva gunship:
This starts with a funny little resin "beak", onto which you add two panel sections:
These look complex but actually I think they're going to be quite easy to put together. We shall see! Next up is the Sulis, the Heavy Cruiser which gives a very similar ability to Armada Aquans as their crystal formations do in Planetfall:
The Sulis add-on is really a huge cruiser body onto which the normal hull is an add-on, rather than vice-versa! Again, it's an incredible piece of casting - how Spartan consistently turn out models like this from their moulds is beyond me! Here's another shot showing the part that the hull attaches to (and a whole load of undercuts etc that confound my mind in terms of mould-casting!):
Now with the two factions dealt with, we can move onto the Overseer models. The first is the anathema Probe, a simple three-part model with features a central core and two "wing" add-ons. The detail on the little central component, however, is unreal:
It's lovely! The two "wing" add-ons then attach to the central rim bit.
Next up is the Dimensional Gate, which turns out to be enormous! It consists of five pieces -a central core:
Two side stabilisers:
...and two long pieces:
As you can see here, these again have fabulous detail on them, allowing those of us with even basic dry brushing skills to make them look great. There's another great thing about these though - all have been made so they sit on the table unaided;
See that little ring of dots? They act as a base for the central section without taking away from the form of the piece. Likewise the other sections both have "feet";
These are incorporated seamlessly into the designs, and make them sit solidly on the table:
This means the whole gate can be constructed and assembled on the table without the need to glue it together - making it easy to store and transport - that's in stark contrast to the Battle for Valhalla set with the fragile legs of the Valhalla Station. The station looked great, but it was a nightmare to move without the possibility of breaking one or more legs. The Dimensional Gate is entirely different:
It's a really nice thing to see that Spartan have created a (very large!) scenario piece that looks great and is also very practical - well done chaps!
Ok, excitement over the resin done, next I had a look at the new size rulebook, which is exactly the same as the hardback, but smaller and more convenient for club gaming, and also has some really nice maps of the Firestorm Galaxy and Storm Zone in the back, something we've not seen for quite some time.
Next it's the Scenario book, which features that lovely artwork:
Inside you get contents, a nice piece of fluff to tie into and build on that in the Planetfall Battle for Proteus Prime book, and then 7 missions which demonstrate the rules of Firestorm incrementally for new players. This starts with a simple frigate duel in Scenario 1;
To a full-on boxed set slugfest in Scenarios 6 & 7 (where the overseers also make an appearance);
This is very much in the same vein as the Battle for Valhalla booklet, and I still think its an ideal way to bring players into any new game. Of course existing players don't have to do this, but I'll think they'll find them fun anyway, especially the later missions. After the missions, there's an Epilogue, and then you're into the stats for the different models, starting with the extremely powerful Overseers ("Masters of the Dimensions", as they're quoted as being!).
After this you have stats for the new Directorate and Aquan ships, including descriptions of the new MARs (with an example for the new "Energy Locus" of the Aquans), and then standard descriptions of the other Mars used by ships in the book so you don't have to reference the rulebook if you're in a hurry.
So, there you have it - The Return of the Overseers in all its glory - it's a hell of a starter set, and I think anyone thinking of or who has already taken the plunge and ordered it will not be disappointed. It feels like an extremely well-polished and professionally produced product, the models are stupendous (and well worth the retail price alone), the man-bag size rulebook is really handy, and the scenario book adds depth to the storyline as well as introducing new players into the Firestorm game in an easy and logical fashion.
I know I'm horribly biased in this, but it's a really excellent product, and I can't recommend it highly enough..