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Friday, 14 August 2015

System Wars Review Part 3 - Scenarios

The next part of the System Wars overview are the Scenarios - we get four, bringing the "official" set of scenarios for Firestorm Armada to 10. These are more prescriptive than the six core rulebook scenarios, essentially because they're both coming into a mature game with more options and more fleshed out than at release, and also because they're achieving very specific aims. The original development scenario for invasions was much more open, and it quickly became apparent that this was very open to abuse.

As a project, developing and introducing invasion fleets, model stats and scenarios all at once was the most challenging project I've worked on to date, primarily because there were no boundaries - where everything is fluid, it becomes very difficult to build on anything - how should the ships score? How can they work in the scenario? Should the scenario change because of the ships or vice-versa? How do the ships we haven't yet designed interact with existing ships in the scenario we also haven't designed using a scoring system that we also haven't defined? The simple problem is - too many variables!

Designing ships for Firestorm is actually relatively easy - you already have a lot of stakes in the ground for reference, it's just a matter of creating something appropriate and flavourful that doesn't invalidate existing designs...ok it's not THAT easy, but comparatively it's OK. What actually happened for System Wars was we started with ships, put together a basic scenario and then started shaping both together. The ships firmed up more quickly than the scenario, which evolved over the course of a year, changes then reflecting back on the ship designs.

Scenario 8

The initial Scenario designed was Scenario 8, Planetary Invasion, and I'll cover this one first since it is the original one and many of the design elements were forged here. now, as a scenario it had to fulfil various requirements;

1) Be fun to play
2) Give the "feel" of an invasion, so the roles of a Defender and an Attacker
3) Be balanced and scaleable
4) Fit into existing canon and work with all existing models

Now this is actually an SOB to achieve!

During development, it quickly became apparent that Terrain was very important, and actually needed controlling much more precisely than laid out in the Core rules - this was also partially because the original Terrain rules were never designed to handle tournament play, and Firestorms massive increase in popularity have made it much more of a tournament game now - so it's not really a System Wars phenomena, more of a state of the game one. 

Secondly, there were lots of ways to "game" an invasion scenario - shunt deployment and gravity weapons being two obvious ones, Battle Shunts, the Ambush MAR and the "FSD Calculators Networked" TAC being less obvious ones that cropped up. This is why it's very important to work with a group of playtesters who can try to break things as much as possible.

Third, there were creative design elements that needed to be included - like the ability for normal ships to assault the planet. This is a tough one, and we started with the planet having a large PD & AP value to represent its defences, with the margin of success affecting the Battle Log, but that made things VERY swingy, and favoured assault-heavy fleets (sorry Aquans!). Having the defence scaled (but capped) to the attack means assault is viable for any squadron, and represents smalls mounting stealthy entries that attract smaller defences, whereas dedicated assault squadrons have a greater chance of success. The +1 BL for a successful assault makes it a small reward, but these are boarding troops, not dedicated ground troops, so their value in the overall offensive is not high....still, success from a large number of squadrons can give you a few valuable BL which might just swing things your pay's your money....

This is actually very indicative of the entire way the invasion scenarios work - they are balanced on tough choices - do you try to clear paths for invasion ships or just go for it and then take on the defending fleet while they draw fire? Do you assault the planet or try to take enemy ships? As the Defender do you focus on combat ships or invasion ships that can net Planetfall points? 

Ok, so back to the scenario - you have a very well defined description of terrain, and also how ships are deployed, all to catch the loopholes discovered in playtesting. You've also some special rules around Battle Stations and Defence Platforms - if you're defending a planet, there should be some reason and advantage to having these squadrons (because without the Orbit MAR, gravity weapons could just push them back into the planet). 

Next you have Scenario rules, which define what you can use to build your fleets, and what extras you get - this is scaled so Attackers get 100 points of Planetfall ships per 400 MFV, but can't take Defence Platforms or Battle Stations, whereas the Defender gets less extra points but has more freedom - with the exception that you MUST take as many Squadrons of defence platforms as possible.

Now I know stipulating what people can/can't take is somewhat controversial, but in this case I feel it's entirely justified, has little effect on the freedom of fleet building and is very thematic - if you're the defender of aggression, you seldom get to pick where to fight! One thing I am not keen on doing is dictating what models people HAVE to buy, so all Invasion ship boxes carry kiss-cut scenario terrain of a couple of planets and four generic Defence Platforms, so if you don't want to buy them, you don't have to - I don't think Spartan can be much fairer than that!

So, the scenario has a lot more rules and stipulations than the 6 in the core rulebook, and that is intentional - both to prevent ambiguity (several of the core rulebook scenarios have lengthy discussion threads on the community and probably need a bit of FAQ around them) and also to set tone and balance. Once you get into the actual gameplay, this all goes away, and you become very focussed on the game and your objective - I've personally found invading or defending a planet some of the best games I've had in Firestorm.

Scenario 7

So now let's go back to Scenario 7: Interception - which takes us to a pre-emptive strike by the planetary defenders to destroy the invading fleet in space shortly after fold-space arrival, before they reach the planet. This is a slightly less prescriptive scenario than Planetary invasion, and it seems deceptively simple - all the invading force have to do is get to the table edge...through the opposing force sent to attack them.

Now, 24-48" doesn't seem much on paper to get ships home and dry, but believe me when I say its far from as easy as that. I presided over a relatively large (1500 point) game using this scenario, and the invading ships were actually sent packing by a narrow margin in that instance.

Scenario 9

This is a very similar setup to Scenario 8, but without the Defence Platform requirements, so if you really hate them or refuse to play them, this is a good alternative that plays out very similarly, so I won't go through this in great detail. Instead, I'll talk a small amount about the links between the scenarios.

So each scenario is designed so you can play a game of Firestorm, then a game of Planetfall (with the exception of Scenario 10, which is the other way around). However, one consideration with this release was "What if someone doesn't want to play Planetfall?". Maybe they're a space-nit, don't like ground games, haven't got into Planetfall etc - whatever the reason, we wanted the scenarios to have a small cookie to them if played in series - much like the Battle for Valhalla or Return of the Overseers books.

So, the "Optional rules" on each of the three last scenarios allows you to link in with your last Firestorm game, in a similar way to the Planetfall rewards - providing small boosts that are nice, but by no means auto-win; for example you MUST place an additional squadron in reserve as the Defender in Scenario 8 if the Defender won Scenario 7 (the booklet actually has these reversed - always check the PDF for any updates or errata!).

Scenario 10

The final scenario in the System Wars supplement is Withdrawal, and it covers either the expulsion of defending forces from a planet or the repulsion of an attacking force, and it is a little like planetary invasion in reverse. There are some different rules which govern how ships are deployed and leave the planet, and targeting them whilst they are doing so. Ships this time have to reach a long table edge or perform a shunt escape after getting 18" away from the planet.

This is the only scenario where a prior Planetfall game has an effect on the Firestorm game - in this case, the percentage difference in the Zero hour trackers is taken into account, and an example of how this is worked out is given if you're unsure. It is not (as some assumed) the actual difference in Zero Hour tracker, as this would assume huge games! These are also cumulative, so if you won big in Planetfall you get several effects in the Firestorm game.


So overall the Invasion scenarios are very specific - they are designed for a certain purpose, and I believe they do that pretty well. Having had an extended play-test period on them, they have been probed for weaknesses and "gaming", and been adjusted accordingly. Personally I think they work very well, and I've enjoyed all the games I've played of both Firestorm using these scenarios, and the Subsequent Planetfall games we played leading from them. I've won Planetfall games after having my ass handed to me in the Invasion scenarios too, so winning one does not make for an auto-win in the other.

Will the scenarios be to everyone's taste? Possibly not, but I'd encourage people to try them, they are a lot of fun, and I feel they bring a very cinematic experience to the game - you really get the feel of urgency on both sides as you strive to land your ground forces, and the defender pushes to prevent that. We've had some epic moments where the game has hinged on the failure or success of a single ship, and with swings positive and negative around the zero point of the Battle Log - just as it should be! 

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

System Wars Review Part 2 - Planetfall Rewards Table

The second part of the review of the new System Wars Supplement for Firestorm Armada covers the Planetfall rewards table. This is split into three sections covering two pages of the booklet. The first page covers General and Scenario Rewards, the second page Factional Rewards.

The basic premise here is that whatever your Battle Log scores in Firestorm, you "spend" these BL points to gain additional effects (or penalties if you've a negative score) in the Planetfall game. Why your Battle Log?

Well, initially the thought was to use a separate tracker for Planetfall points, but two things came out of this - it was possible to get utterly trashed in Firestorm but still manage to put positive Planetfall points down, and it also was rather cumbersome tracking two separate numbers simultaneously. As we're already tracking BL during a game, it made sense to link into this since it also reflects how the wider game played out. 

From a background perspective, if you land a lot of stuff on a planet, but lose the space conflict, those forces are going to be isolated and vulnerable. On the flip side, if you tear up the enemy defences, your forces - even if small - are going to be easily reinforced, resupplied and supported from orbit. So using the Battle Log seemed an elegant and familiar tool to use here - the trick then was to get the balance of Planetfall MAR points right! The additional benefit to this method is that even if you don't care about invasion ships or missions, but want to link the games, you can. Play your favourite Firestorm Armada scenario, then link it to a Planetfall battle - no extra purchases, ships or investment needed - so it's a very inclusive mechanic.

So let's take a look at the first table;

So the format of the table has confused some, since it is consolidated and covered by the phrase "Where a negative score is shown in parenthesis, this is the cost to wither reverse the effect and grant the bonus to the opposing player, or apply a negative effect to the owner's forces". Of course, the lengthy way to write this table out would have been to list the negative modifiers separately from the positives, like so;

Disrupted Supply Lines:      Increase the cost of Logistics points by +10 Points:    -2
Secured Supply Lines:         Decrease the cost ofLogistics points by -10:               +2

Maybe that is for a future amendment/errata, but as it is when you understand the concept of the table (negative points do the negative things in brackets), it's not so hard. The intent here is to give small but manageable boosts or reductions to a force that reward or penalise a player for winning or losing a prior Firestorm Armada game, without making any of the effects auto-win/auto-lose. The effects have to be worthwhile, otherwise what's the point in playing the Firestorm game, and they have to be subdued, because otherwise why play the Planetfall game?

From my personal playtest experience of using these, I've found they have an effect on the game, without making the conclusion foregone, and winning a Planetfall game when you lost the Firestorm game is great kudos, and feels very thematic - yes the horrible aliens breached your defences, but they were fought back by the brave men and women of the 401st....

That segways nicely into the Scenario Rewards - at the moment there are no "official" scenarios for Planetfall (but watch this space!), but making this table have very generic "Attacker" and "Defender" slots means you can use it right off the bat - I attack an Aquan planet in Firestorm using my Pacification Fleet, get some troops down and then play a Planetfall game - I'm the attacker by default, simple.

Now, you do need to win big to make good use of this table, since the rewards start at +12 points, so you're not getting these if you're only playing Patrol Fleet games. Background wise, Patrol fleets aren't big enough nor attacking important enough targets to get to these.

Finally, we have the Factional Rewards. These are designed to give some racial flavour to the table, and make it less generic. Now there have been some mis-conclusions drawn from this table (for instance, you can't put Carbantium Plating on an Hyperion Leviathan - the effect specifically states an Armoured Squadron, and Leviathans are Elevated), and there are also some errors/omissions that need addressing (Perfect Cloak should also have this "A single Armoured squadron" wording), but overall the intent of the effects are as before - to add small but manageable buffs to existing gameplay.

Of course, the way this is handled makes it a very easy format to release campaign and even scenario specific modifiers or replacements for these tables in future - and as Planetfall is an evolving game that is exactly how it should be - there are no aerial helix bonuses, for instance, as there were no aerial helixes released at the time. So, just like Planetfall is a living ruleset, so the Planetfall rewards tables are meant to be a starting point, rather than a finished entity. They allow linking of ANY Firestorm game with ANY Planetfall game, and hopefully tie the two together in a loose and flexible way, rather than a restrictive manner - this is certainly what the design intent is.

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Cleaning painting palettes

Acrylic paints are extremely popular, and for good reason - they have good adhesion properties, good coverage, sensible price points, low odour and toxicity, are water soluble and so on. Of course, when you're painting minis you frequently use small quantities of paint for specific tasks, then move on etc. If you're using a plastic palette, this means you often end up with this;

This is actually one of the cleaner examples of one of my palettes! Now some acrylics will obligingly come up in a single piece if you pull at them, others flake and crack, some others need real work. If you've little pieces anywhere, they will always find their way into your next lot of paint and you end up with flakes of different colours adhered to your models in a wash or something, usually in the worst place possible!

So to avoid this, I use a method I discovered by accident, which in retrospect is obvious - PVA glue.

Simply pour normal white PVA glue into one of your palette cups

Then spread liberally all over your palette tray. Don't be afraid to add more glue if you need to,

You should end up with something like this. Now all you need to do is find somewhere safe to put the palette and leave it until the glue dries. Overnight is usually fine, though if you've got a lot in the cups it can take 24h or so.

When it's dry, it will look something like this - it's not that easy to see here, since PVA dries clear, but you should be able to see the matt finish. At this stage you can repeat the glue application, which will result in a better and easier paint removal - the surface of the PVA grabs the new application and leads to a better, more even film.

Anyway, now all you need to do is peel the PVA glue off - the paint adheres to the PVA, and the PVA is flexible enough to pick up the paint and not flake off etc. Here you can see the PVA lifted up on the edge, pulling the paint with it.

Here its coming off across the palette...

First pass - don't necessarily expect one single sheet of glue/paint - this is easier when you've done a secondary application. Above you can see where isolated cells haven't pulled off, but you go back and pull these out separately - they come off in the same way.

And voila! One almost-new paint palette ready for further abuse! I hope this very simple trick helps you to keep your tools in good shape and continue to paint better models.

Friday, 7 August 2015

System Wars Review Part 1 - Terran Ships

Last in this first look at the System Wars ships are the Terrans - those whiny, nuke-toting imperialists who always complain about their stuff. Well, here are a few things they can't moan about.

First of all, the Solar Carrier. To start with, it's straight-up tougher than the Ares, with a 5/9 compared to the normal 5/8 and the same HP and greater PD (6 vs 5). It's faster, but has less crew and AP, and also no mines (though these are hardly a great Terran staple anyway).She only has 5 WC compared the the Ares stock 9, but she has an extra shield, making her equal to the Tyrant or Titan, and of course she gets the usual Terran trick of Sector Shielding.

Her weapons are turrets rather than the for fixed and broadsides of the Ares, but they are pretty substantial - in fact they're battleship level, and with the exact same profile as the Apollo, with the strongest RB close in at <8". So at first glance the Solar is a tough pocket battlecarrier.

Into Hardpoints, and you can give the Solar another hull point or another shield - yes these cost the Durable MAR and 1" of movement, but this makes the Solar a real tank - that's 5 sectored shields on the favoured side and still 3 in other arcs! Alternatively, you can add 1" of movements and increase the Planetfall MAR if you feel like a quick dash to the objective. For non-planetfall builds, you can upgrade her Turrets it Nuclear weapons, and even if she's caught in the blast from her own guns, she's got the shields to deflect it!

Upgrades are typically Terran, with Weapon Shielding and upgrade to Beam weapons as standard, but she also has the option for Decimator Warheads, which could be nice on those close-approach ships that are looking to board.

It's in the accompaniments though, that things really start to look interesting for the Solar. She can take the same Aegis accompaniments as the Ares, but with the option to upgrade her turrets to beams, they synergise with her much better - giving a fore weapon profile of 17/15/7/- for a full squadron. The Aegis will also synergise well with her layered shields, making it even more difficult to punch through them to the tough ship below.

She can also take a Hauberk, giving her a 14/12/5/- nuclear fore as well as some additional arcs for a non-planetfall build, or a primary linked AD of 17/15/5/- max out of one of three arcs, backed up by Bomber or assault craft attack runs. As a shunt-bomb that sounds substantial. It's also very hard to deal with - the Hauberk may be fragile, but the Solar certainly is not and its throwing out a lot of short-ranged dice by itself, and so will demand attention.

Ah Terran mediums - the worst in Firestorm? Well, despite some people decrying the Hermes and Hauberk, the Horizon is a slightly different beast. It's tougher than other Terrans Tier 2 ships at 5/6, it's fast (by Terran standards), has great PD and good CP. AP is low, but the Planetfall version you can boost to 5. In addition, it has 2 shields base and can take a third, or a 5th hull point - again making it the tankiest Tier 2 ship the Terrans possess.

What really might interest Terran players, however, is the cost - it's CHEAP. 35 points - a base Hermes is 50. A non-planetfall version checks out at 40 points, so for the same price as a Frigate Squadron you have a 15AP assault bomb. 40 points is HALF the cost of a base Templar, and most other races heavy cruisers too. It's a steal.

You can upgrade the beam weapons and give it weapon shielding, but with turrets weaker than the Templar I'm guessing most will only do so if they've spare points left over to burn. You can also give the squadron an Aegis cruiser, which does make the shield-heavy version even harder to destroy. What I expect to see is plenty of these making appearances as non-Planetfall ships in Terran fleets.

Finally, the Nadir is another 4/5 SH1 Frigate at 15 points, designed to get troops on the ground quickly. You can even make it SH2, so they are going to be hard to nickel&dime to death, especially if you've Aegis in your fleet for them to hang around. You also get the option to boost their PD, or de-planetfall them and change them to escorts. This option gives you an incredibly hard and durable escort, potentially boosting the longevity of Terran Capital ships even further. Tehy're not going to be wholesale replacements for the the Guardian or Squire, but in selected cases I can see them taking preference.

System Wars Review Part 1 - Sorylian Ships

Back to the Alliance of Kurak now, and the Sorylians. The lizards differ from the other fleets in using Battelcruisers as their primary invasion ships, which ties in with their expertise in making excellent cruiser-sized and down ships, but not being quite so hot on the Large side of things. Splitting their forces into fast Battlecruisers seems like a logical and pragmatic step for them, so they lead their assaults with the Amentum.

The Amentum is very comparable to the Hasta, it has one less HP, an extra AP and PD, but otherwise it's the same. In second-line stats it has no WC like the Hasta does, but it packs an extra Shield - the highest baseline shield stat of ANY Sorylian ship - they're serious about protection on the Amentum! It's weapon is a standard Sorylian Fore-fixed scatter gun similar to the power of a heavy cruiser, but more of a gunship type profile. It also has the Reinforced (Port/Starboard) MAR, which is very Sorylian and helps longevity.

So far, the Amentum is looking OK, but then you see the big sell of this unit - the price. The Amentum starts at 85 points. Then you look at the Hardpoints and Upgrades, and things get nice very quickly! First, it gets to choose up to TWO Hardpoints, and it has a lot of options - it can get faster, turn better, get that 6th HP, more Planetfall or more AP - that's a lot of variation, making it a very flexible ship. The non-Planetfall version exchanges the MAR for a decent set of Fore Torpedoes.

As for Upgrades, this again makes the ship builds even more interesting - you can change those scatter weapons for Kinetics, which changes their threat profile a lot. You can also buy them Weapon Shielding, and add Bigger Batteries - a nice thing when they start with a base 6PD.

You also get accompaniment options for both Planetfall and non-Planetfall builds at lower points. Firstly, you can take a Katar, which both boosts the potential planetfall value, increases the offensive and defensive power of the squadron and thus makes it harder for the enemy to kill the squadron and swing Battlelog. The Falcata does a similar thing for a non-Planetfall build, especially with some weaving to join its broadsides and torpedoes with the Amentum. A non-Planetfall Katar also makes quite a boarding threat for either form too (remember non-Planetfall accompaniments don't come out of your extra Planetfall ship points...).

Anyway, I don't see Sorylian players complaining about the Amentum, it's a solid ship in many ways and for Heavy-Cruiser cost, it feels like a bargain. For a non-Planetfall force you could even take a base Amentum and reserve it for Shunt-deployment, and maximise your Tier2 and 3 build options. I get the feeling, however, that we'll be seeing quite a lot of the Amentum in fleets going forward!

The Katar is a pretty straightforward vessel - it's a Heavy Cruiser without the HP, CP and weapons. It has the same fixed fore as a Falcata, giving a squadron decent RB2 AD. Hardpoints are simple - make it a bit tougher, a bit faster, or a dedicated assault ship for non-Planetfall. With 5AP stock, it can provide an impressive 15AP assault, which with Thermal controls will hurt a lot - It feels very Sorylian!

The Corvus is another incredibly tough small, with cruiser-like stats and a shield. As it's Sorylian, it has a high movement and large squadron size, which makes it good for a swarm approach to invasion missions. As a non-Planetfall build it gains PD Barrage. Not particularly useful by itself, but with an extra PD, it becomes both an excellent SRS sweeper (something the Sorylians don't really have), but also an additional anti-small potential

Thursday, 6 August 2015

System Wars Review Part 1 - Relthoza Ships

The final Zenian force in the System Wars Invasion ship release is the Relthoza, who I think got some amazing designs for their models - how do their stats stack up?

Now the Relthoza were a particular design challenge for invasion ships, because their cloaks give them a hellish advantage in trying to get to a position unmolested. So making tougher ships would be difficult, since it's already difficult to kill a cloaked Relthoza carrier. It's no surprise, therefore, that the ootheca is VERY similar to the stock Hive/Theridion - in fact she only differs in having double the AP in terms of headline stats. She also only has 2 WC compared to 8, so you'll probably be fielding interceptors or maybe support shuttles, and her weapons are much less prevalent being in just a single arc - Fore, where she's heading!

So, why would you take this ship? Well, MARs for one start to show the differences. The Ootheca has the Planetfall and Durable MARs, of course (the latter making her that bit less vulnerable to SRS which ignore cloaks). She comes stock with Self Repair, highlighting the durability aspect of the ship, even if she's few reasons to decloak normally. Also looking to Hardpoints, Stealth Systems is free rather than +10 points, again emphasising the defensive nature of the ship. That's fine for Planetfall, but what if we want a non-PF build?

The option here gives +4WC and also Quick Launch - that's a pretty massive reason right there. As the Relthoza have a huge 8" command distance, you're now talking about a 20" threat radius from embarked SRS...Ouch! You can also give her Second Assault, so now we've a permanently cloaked 20" SRS monster with 2 x 8AP boarding (and take a couple of Stinger/Wolf escorts and you can make it 10AP a time) if you also take a Theridion with Shunt Matrix (4), you're really going to mess with your enemy in terms of their assessment of how to defend against you. So, alone the Ootheca is a dark horse, but combined with other ships she suddenly becomes very interesting indeed.

The Cotesia is not a particularly rugged ship - again having the same base stats as a Gila or Assassin, but with +1 HP, twice the AP and more PD. Her weapons are close ranged and rather weak, and she has the standard Invasion ship MARs. As an invasion ship she will probably take +1 HP and make for the planet, but non-Planetfall? Well, the Relthoza have approached the Asasault cruiser from a slightly different angle, and her option is to take +3WC, but with a restriction on only taking Assault craft).

Now, for those of you who don't know what Cotesia means, they are a species of parasitic wasp - and that's really what this ship is. It skulks around the edges of the battlefield or shunts in, and performs boarding strikes while cloaked - it really has little reason to uncloak, since both its SRS and boarding assaults can be launched from the shadows. It preys on targets of opportunity, it's not meant to try to tough it out against other ships 1-2-1...that's not the way the Relthoza play. Is it going to be everyone's cup of tea? Most likely not, since the Relthoza can be a tricky force to get right, but used carefully this squadron could snatch a large ship late game and seal victory.

The Ichneumon (another parasitic wasp) is another tough little invasion ship, also with 3 Hull Points, making it difficult to remove with crits. It additionally has the Relthoza Systems Network MAR, granting it Stealth Systems from other Cloaked vessels, meaning you need to get in close to really have a chance of taking it down. It can take an additional PD, giving it almost invulnerability to long-range torpedo snipes when combined with SS granted from SN.

For the non-Planetfall version, it can take a cloaking field. This was dismissed by a lot of people (including me, when I first saw the proposal, I thought "What's the point?"), but read those MARs again. The ship has Systems Network, which grants Stealth Systems to other Systems Network ships in Command Distance. This has traditionally meant Relthoza smalls have to cluster around capital ships (since no prior smalls had SN). The Ichneumon breaks that tradition - for 75 points you gain a 16" x 48" band of Stealth Systems granting cover to your fleet on a 4/5 Cloaked Difficult Target with no reason to ever decloak - that's an ability I'd really like, and will be, taking advantage of in my Relthoza fleets of the future - Terran nukes? Who cares???

System Wars Review Part 1 - Directorate Ships

Next in the line-up of System Wars invasion ships are the nefarious Directorate, and we start with their Assault Carrier, the nicely-named Integration;

The Integration is a typical Directorate approach to invasion ships. Standard Carrier type hull with DR5 CR9 and 7 HP, but with a cruiser-level speed of 9". Also, instead of a cloaking field she has a respectable 2 Shields and 6PD, plus the Durable MAR. You can remove the latter for another Shield, giving her Terran-levels of protection, or go for broke by boosting her Planetfall value and knocking off a single shield. This gives you a wide range of basic builds in terms of protection/utility balance.

She only starts with 3 WC, but can boost that to standard carrier level of 6, and her weapon systems are respectable but short-ranged, similar to the Heavy cruiser. Base AP is actually lower than a standard carrier (as is CP), but you can boost this to 10AP in a non-Planetfall build, and upgrade these to Special Forces with a Second Assault option.

This makes for some interesting builds - you can make a non-Planetfall shield heavy (and this very durable) close-assault option with interceptors or support shuttles, or go for less protection and increase the WC and go for Assault Craft too - that's now quite a scary boarding threat.

Her accompaniment is a couple of Liquidator Class Frigates, which then give her a 15AD RB2 beam attack, which you can make Biohazard too - not shabby. In either of these forms, she makes a pretty lethal shunt-bomb. Planetfall wise, she's fast and hardy, and able to protect herself from most threats.

Next is the slightly more aggressively named Appropriation assault cruiser. The model is almost as big as the Integration, and she reflects this with base stats almost as high as the carrier - Dr5 CR8 is better than the much-lauded Justice heavy cruiser, though HP5 reflects the more modular nature of the craft compared to that ship and the Integration.

She comes stock with a single shield, and can either boost this to 2 or make up that 6th HP. Her AP is relatively low at 3, but the non-Planetfall version of this boosts it to 5, again the same as the heavy cruiser. In fact, many comparisons will be made to that ship as she stacks up very favourably. In non-Planetfall build, you can make her pretty similar for 65 points compared to the Justice's 80.

Now the Justice is more survivable due to her cloak, but the Appropriation brings higher CR plus a shield, and no attenuation of her weapons for less points. So once again we have difficult choices, and with decent weapons (5/6/3/-), a squad puts out decent mid-level firepower in a very hard shell, with a scary boarding threat to finish. I could see commanders running a squad of each, which would be difficult to face to say the least.

The Induction...your culture's first step into the Directorate way of life...sounds so organised and efficient, doesn't it? :-)

The Induction is a cruiser-hard hull with Reinforced Fore, Durable and Difficult Target (this makes it more difficult to kill than a Directorate cruiser!), standard Directorate Frigate movement, good PD and 2 AP. You can remove the Planetfall MAR and give it Bigger Batteries, which make it quite an efficient SRS sweeper. It's also cheap. Having the unmanned MAR protects it from decrewing, and whilst it makes it theoretically vulnerable to boarding, it will always get 3 dice from PD and AP to defend itself, and who's going to waste a boarding action on them?

Now I think I saw someone pick up on this, but with 2AP each they give you an 8AP shunt board you're paying 80 points for. Pay 100 points and the PD threat to SRS is even greater, and their durability against them and torpedoes much higher. That to me is an interesting option. In fact, I'd not bother shunting them, I'd have them on the board, because if someone wants to waste firepower on them, they're welcome, they can shoot down enemy SRS quite efficiently (a squadron should take out, on average, at least 1 wing per activation), and they're a constant boarding threat. That's not a bad threat profile for a small investment. I may well be adding another box...

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Aliens Vs Predator: The Hunt Begins Unboxing

Keeping the theme varied, yesterday I took delivery of a weighty package care of Wayland Games, which was the Aliens vs Predator: The Hunt Begins board game. I'd wondered about whether to buy this or not, ummed and ahhed, and then finally sold some old model stuff so that I could justify the "net neutral" cost to myself, and went ahead and did it.

So here's the box, all in its shrink-wrap...

The rear has a nice colour spread of the contents (now minus shrink-wrap!);

And then we opened it up...

So we're presented with a very full box, including three boxes of cards, a mass of cardstock, rulebook, instruction sheet and a sub-box containing models.

Of course we're desperate to see the shinies in the form of the models, so that box gets opened first;

Actually the box contains bases, bases for the door elements in the game, dice and the models as well. So let's have a look at the models in detail.

First up, you get 10 aliens, in a few poses. These are referred to as "Infant Alien Warriors" in the rules, and they're basically modelled on the original Alien film alien.

Looking closer, this has some really excellent detail, with sharp moulding and little flash.  What's even more impressive is that these are single-piece bodies, with only the tail being separate. The injection points are in some odd places (like the underside of the left hand), but then where this occurs the loss of detail in removing probably won't be seen anyway.

Next are the five "stalker" aliens - essentially taken from the dog alien in Alien 3

These are slightly more multi-part than the infant warrior, with one sides legs being separate pieces.

Nevertheless, they show the same excellent detail (and odd positioning of injection points) as the others.

Moving on to the next set are the 5 Colonial Marines. These come with a "Smart gun" (the massive thing two of the marines had in Aliens), Pulse rifle, flamethrower and motion tracker.

Proportions, poses and detail on these guys is, once again, superb.

The various weapons and arms carry on this theme, and are all extremely good.

Last are the three Predators.

These are agin incredibly well detailed and some of the casting is hard to believe - the fangs on the open mouth of the top predator here are staggering!

The Predator arms also highlight this - there's a little flash, but things like the finger detail and blades are just gorgeous. However, the quality of the castings is really summed up to me in the Predator arm holding the "Smart disk".

This has fingers going through it, but it's also incredibly thin - scalpel-blade thin...that's what I've shown in the lower of these two pictures here - that's deeply impressive!

One thing Oscar was worried about was that they got the scale of the minis right - here is a comparison between the three model types, clearly showing the alien and Predator standing literally head and shoulders taller than the marine, which is spot on. The aliens have that emaciated, skeletal look we're familiar with, whereas the Predator is a much chunkier creature as we'd expect.

So the first impression of the models is quite awe-inspiring, my only worry is that my painting skills will not do them justice!

There's a simple one-side sheet of instructions for putting the models together, but I don't think anyone would have difficulty with them.


Next up for a look over is the rulebook. This is a nice, glossy book, with a turn summary on the rear and full-colour artwork and graphics inside.

Flicking through, there are various sections describing the tokens used, rules on the gameplay (obviously!), model stats etc

There are a number of narrative missions to play

and also a section which describes making your own heroes etc - so it seems there is a depth to the game beyond the base board-game play, which looks interesting.

Roster sheets at the back of the book are a handy addition too.

OK, so now we look at the bulk of the weight and volume of the box, which are the card corridor and room sections, doors and tokens. These are double-sided, pre-cut card of substantial thickness (3-4mm), and very nice full-colour graphics.

here you can see both sides of the sheet with the flamer/acid spit, showing the two different sets of graphics.

Once everything was removed form the twelve (yes, twelve!) sheets, we had a veritable mountain of stuff!

Finally, we have the contents of the three card packs. These break out into mission cards, environmental cards, and strategy/stat cards for the three factions. 

The next challenge was to get it all in the box again, which I wasn't confident of doing. However, a lot of stacking and packing later and there it all was...

So thats the AVP:THB unboxing...all in all its a really nice set - fantastic models, great card stock, nice rulebook - you feel like you're getting your money's worth. We'll have to see how the models build up and the game plays, but that's for another post I think. Overall I have to say the first impression is a solid 9/10.