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Thursday, 24 September 2020

Updates in FSA v3 (beta 0.03)

Warcradle are moving pretty fast in the open beta to FSA with some amendments to 0.02. Warcradle have reiterated that they are only taking feedback through their Beta feedback form, which is fair enough, but will not, of course, stop my unofficial breakdown - I've cited the reasons before so they should be pretty obvious, so my comments are meant to encourage discussion. Feel free to drop comments below to correct anything I may have got wrong or misinterpreted.

Importantly, if you care about the game and don't like anything you're hearing, or want to get into the action yourself, make sure you get involved and submit that feedback form!

So, what's changed from v0.02?

Point Defence

This now removes successes from hits, not dice...the latter mechanic is such a bad one that I'd actually missed that in v0.02, so thank god it's now what I had assumed previously! Good catch everyone!

Unit Special Rules (USRs, the new MARs)

Aft Vulnerability has been added in a number of flavours, along with tweaks to some others - Burn retros, Come to New Heading and Squadron all affect movement, addressing some prior exploits. Command Ship added, which buffs command ships a bit (though apparently this is also "baked into" bigger ships...which leaves me scratching my head a bit....)

There are a few minor bits then which shore up some of these changes, and then we have;

AUTO DESTRUCT!!

At first I thought this might be a cool, last-ditch suicide mechanic like the old ramming, but no, basically if a ship can't maintain unit coherence, it just blows up. Wow.

The section on Manoeuvres has been re-written, preventing former move exploits and explaining benefits from being in squadron formations. I didn't mention these last time, but basically now there's almost no reason I can see to NOT have groups of ships in formation - you can ONLY link this way, you get boarding and defensive buffs etc...and I'm not sure how I feel about this...I guess continued playtesting will tell.

Catastrophic Damage is now twice the Mass value instead of three times. For me this is a bit...odd. For such a fundamental property I would prefer to see Mass being the value (like HP), not having to do some calculation - so doubling up all these values...you know what else that does? Opens up the design space...A heavy Cruiser or Battlecruiser could be Mass 5, a light frigate Mass 1 etc...know as Boarding and Cyberwarfare also work off this, you'd need to do a bit of tweaking here, but that's easy - especially with variable TNs.

There are some tweaks to Weapon Qualities, the biggest being the change to kinetics now being affected by Armour. One comment here is that having all of the qualities and what they do here is a bit confusing...I really hope there will be a summary table or something. Once again, I don't really see the advantage of moving from Weapon Types here, as having a weapon with the Torpedoes and Kinetic quality just means two things to look up. I know it means you can have "overlapping" qualities, but the way things are that could also make things very odd - potentially you could have a Beam Torpedo, which sounds cool but also has the potential to be as confusing as hell - what happens when the Quality types both affect the same thing? Now Warcradle could say that this won't happen in design of the ships - so the why have the option???

I guess I just think the Weapon Type plus occasional MARs is just a better, more elegant solution in my mind. Your opinion may be different - again, different strokes for different folks.

End Phase

The end phase has been substantially re-written. Now, I initially liked the idea of moving boarding and SRS to the end phase to prevent some shenanigans with (mostly) SRS and boarding that were technically possible in v2....BUT, there are a couple of issues. In this phase, one player does ALL their stuff, then the other does ALL theirs, like 40k. Now because models are IMMEDIATELY removed from play if they get 2xMass markers of a single type, then it's possible for an alpha-strike here, which I don't think is good. I need to try it out, but that's a concern. The other is that in larger games, especially with carrier-heavy or boarding heavy builds, one player could be doing nothing for quite some time - well, not nothing, but let's say having reduced player agency - something which is always bad. I would MUCH prefer either an I-Go-U-Go system here, or the far simpler option of having all the resolution of the boarding and SRS phase resolved in the Round End phase. Depending on where you have the Repair phase, this could have 2 outcomes;

(1) Repair Phase after Boarding/SRS - You could potentially save a ship from attack effects - representing desperate shoring up of specific areas targeted by the enemy. In-game result is likely to be to make ships more durable and lengthen the game a little.

(2) Repair Phase before Boarding/SRS - An attacker could specifically target areas that are not repaired, in an effort to kill ships - representing those targeted strikes up close and personal, that overwhelm a ships ability to cope as they're repairing stuff caused by main weapon impacts etc. In-game result is likely to kill ships quicker, and probably to encourage Boarding and SRS strikes to finish off damaged ships - would also give a different feel to carrier and boarding-heavy factions (if such things will exist in v3, I hope so).

What's still there that I'm unsure about (in no particular order);

1) Template weapons (No, you will never convince me these are any sort of improvement to the game)

2) Boarding Range is still 2"

3) What I'll call "token stacking" - even with Mass x 2 for same-system tokens, that's up to 30 tokens on a Battleship (admittedly, that's going to be VERY unusual), but 15 or so would be fairly typical I would imagine - again, play will show more.

4) Weapon Qualities - yeah, I think you know how I feel

5) The whole variable TN, slightly variable exploding mechanic, stacking effects....it's just...a lot. Others have commented, but there is no single STRONG CORE MECHANIC. For a new game, that seems...odd. You want to make this easily explainable, and I really don't think that it is in current form. I would HATE to try to run a demo game of this iteration to a group of kids and their dads (which, from experience, is the most common run-through at shows I've attended). 

6) Formations. I'm just not sure. I like the concept, but from my limited experience so far, it feels like the game cripples ships that aren't in formation from a mechanics PoV (other than the biggies, of course). That may be the intent, but then I'd just force that, as "choice" when there really isn't a choice is...pointless.

7) Planetfall "Influence". I know Stuart assures me that it's coincidence, but the similarities to PF mechanics are undeniable - someone in the design team or alpha feedback or somewhere along the line is either a PF fan, or has mechanics subliminally inlaid in there or something, because you don't get this much similarity from coincidence, sorry, I just don't buy that - I've never seen it before and I'm not seeing it now. If it looks like an orange, it smells like an orange and tastes like an orange, guess what...it's an orange. I don't think Stuart is lying, he's probably just unaware on the influence - by his own admission his day is not just involved with FSA...and even if he was/is, who's to say where the influence comes from. In any case, it IS there, plain to see, and I don't like it. Again, not because I didn't enjoy PF, but because it wasn't a finished ruleset etc (I've said all this before...).

TO BE VERY CLEAR HERE (added because some think this is an attack on Stuart)

I am NOT "having a go", "calling Stuart a Thief" of anything else personal here (Go back and re-read the paragraph above). What I'm talking about is the "end result", wherever that influence has come from, and as also stated, it's a PERSONAL VIEW. I could go and show all the similarities, but the point is just to make it, and then people can judge, make their own minds up, see if that's important to them etc, OK?

8) Does it still feel like Firestorm? Again, I'm not sure. No, I'll reiterate that - at the moment, no, it doesn't feel like Firestorm. It feels Firestorm-adjacent....I think it still needs a lot of work.

So, in summary, PLAY GAMES AND FEED BACK TO WARCRADLE!

Until v0.04, admirals...

Tuesday, 22 September 2020

Firestorm Armadafall - First Impressions of FSAv3 (beta 0.02)

Well v3 is here and...I missed it...despite being on the Facebook group and subscribing to Warcradle's blog, somehow I missed any notifications of the release of the public beta for FSA v3. Unfortunate, but then both home and work life is still incredibly busy and stressful, so from my side not too bad...I just hope the buzz got around to more fans in a more comprehensive manner than for me. Anyway, I downloaded the rules and force lists and...with the caveat that whilst I haven't yet played a game, I have some initial impressions - some good, some bad...and maybe some ugly....

The Good

1) Well, a few things - the rules are free, available for everyone, and that's going to be true for the finished rules as it is for the beta - great to see and Warcradle are to be commended on this.

2) Next, the rules are BRIEF (at least for the beta) - just 22 pages, which includes 2 front sheets and a bunch of pictures, so the core ruleset is much slimmed down...of course this is a beta and I expect (and hope for - more on that in a minute) inflation come the final release, but it's a good intent.

3) More space FEEL...movement is now varied by thrust, meaning you have to slow as well as speed up, which is very Full Thrust like (without the insane algorithms!). I think this should give the game a more "spacey" feeling, and separates it from the naval-game-in-space that FSA has always been.

4) Fleet building uses a Helix system - I always liked the Helix system, it's a nice mechanic and has some good potential - the devil, of course, is in the detail...and that I've not delved into yet. Watch this space.

5) Turn structure - the turn structure has been altered, with some things (like SRS deployment and Cyberwarfare) now taking place for both players at the start of a turn. Whilst I think this is a good idea as a general statement, again the detail is important, and I have some reservations right off the bat here.

6) Tokens - there's less of them...Yay! Warcradle also provide PDF downloads of them - thanks, guys!

7) Linking - Now you have a secondary value in parentheses after your main weapon value for linking...something I and the group was working on before, so nice to see here - it provides much more flexibility in rules design and enables different implementation of different weapons, which leads to differences in how factions "feel", which is a good thing.

8) Boarding & SRS - Now both moved outside of the "core" of the turn, and addressed at the start and end instead - that's not a bad move at all. It's cleaner, stops a lot of shenanigans that could be pulled off before and will make turns (I think) a bit more strategic rather than tactical (meaning you'll have to plan more during your turn).

The Bad

I'll try to start small to larger as I see them.

1) Bases. OK, not really a bad, and I can almost feel the pushback here, but when I heard about the Hex bases I was sceptical but wanted to reserve judgement - after all, it didn't seem like a cash grab from Warcradle by the way it was introduced, so I imagined interesting new mechanics involving it....but no, unless I've missed something major here, it just complicates the firing arcs. Now I will say I can see some possibilities with this, but so far I don't see any real gameplay advantages.

2) Clarity. The beta rules may be brief, but they are NOT clear. Several areas need seriously re-writing and examples and pictures (like the old FSA rulebooks) would all help, especially for newcomers to gaming. This seems minor, but in fact it's massive, as if people can't get into the game quickly nowadays, they'll be onto something else - that was oine of the keys to X-Wing's success. However, this is in beta, so I expect this one to improve hugely prior to official release.

3) Initiative. I don't really get the mechanic, or what it adds to the game. The ability to reroll your lowest dice alternating each turn between players who lost the last initiative...ugh, what's the point? It's a minor thing, but it seems unnecessary complication for no real tactical effect. For me, if you can remove a rule and it makes no effect on the play experience, then it's superfluous.

4) SRS & Cyberwarfare. SRS needed sorting somewhat from v2, they were the most argued-about element in the game. Warcradle have massively simplified them...I think maybe too much. Now they're all just one thing, SRS take each other out 1 for 1...it just feels a bit too token-like rather than wargaming. It may be my personal feeling, others may like the simplicity, but I would have preferred at least an offensive and defensive type to give a bit more here. Cyberwarfare is (on the whole) improved I think in terms of the language and mechanics (I like the "casting" verb use), but I don't know why it needs to be resolved all at the same time...for me it could remain a discrete weapon system as before. 

5) Templates. In space. Ugh. Just, no. I could leave it at that, but it's not that helpful, so here's the extended piece. Templates mean you need things, more things is more complexity, templates are often hard to use, especially where models are on flight stands, and this really DETRACTS from the "spacey feel" - These templates would cover millions (or more) of cubic kilometers...<sigh>... I know we don't expect accurate physics, but this makes it feel MORE like a naval wargame (or even a ground wargame). It seems what Warcradle gives, Warcradle also taketh away....Also, there is STILL A TURN TEMPLATE! If there was one thing I was hoping for with the new Hex bases, it was the ability to do away with the need...that (to me) would be an excellent reason to change them...but no...it just seems like a missed opportunity.

6) Goodbye Weapon Types, hello Qualities. Oh dear. Weapon Types were one of the great improvements in FSA, and I didn't see any great call to change them., whereas Qualities are a Planetfall thing (which I'll address later too). The problem is twofold, that these "Qualities" now apply to everything, so instead of a weapon being "Kinetic" it now has the Kinetic Quality. That seems a small difference, but what that means is you end up with weapons with lots of qualities, rather than having a general "class" of weapons that you can then layer with other things if you want. That allows you to make some bulk changes to the type, or keep the rules separate, rather than having to look up the quality every time you need it. For example, a weapon with the Kinetic Quality;

"Target Number is determined by the distance between the Model with the Lead Weapon System and the Initial Target. Up to 5” the Target Number is 2. After each full 5” of distance thereafter the Target Number increases by 1, so an Initial Target 24” away would have a Target Number of 5." 

You have to look that up when you fire with that weapon, rather than having a set of ranges and values on your ship stats. Now, you may think that's a small thing, but you're reading this as a seasoned gamer. Now go and ask your 14 year old to explain it....see what I mean? 

The second thing is that this means weapons just have a single value, which limits design space - it makes me sad.

7) MARs...There are still more rules you can apply to things, such as Experienced Engineers, which means you get a lot of "stuff" on a stat card that is just words referring to other rules. No MAR bloat was a question in v2, but now with Qualities to content with as well....hmmm

8) Boarding - Yes I know I said there was good here, but also bad...the bad is the models need to be within 2" - just cram those models up on the table!

9) Faction Flavour. Yes, I know this is a reboot, but the two provided races for the beta are Dindrenzi and Sorylian....the Dindrenzi have shields and dorsal beam arrays, the Sorylians have things like "Broadside Particle Storm", which is a kinetic weapon (?). I hope they get good feedback from people in the beta. Yes, it's your universe Warcradle, but why change things like this? What does it achieve? Again, if it's not broken (or doesn't add anything new/exciting/interesting), then don't do it. Now if the rules NEED ships to have shields that's a different thing, and should either be covered in the fluff or thought about in the rules. Also, I don't know who is naming these things, but by god please change them - "Heavy Sunder Barrage"? Maybe it's just my filthy mind, but I immediately thought of a Sorylian after a particularly heavy curry night.... 

The Ugly

OK, here's were the crux of things lie for me....

1) There is an obvious and strongly present smell of Planetfall here, and Planetfall was a f*cking mess when Spartan folded. It was rushed out, not tested properly, imbalanced and more fluid than the alien in The Thing. Sure it was fun (at times, depending on which faction you were at which moment), and I have a massive amount of PF minis, but I'm not sure taking so much influence from it was/is such a good idea, compared to Firestorm which was stable and well developed with some flaws that needed fixing. If anything, Planetfall needed to take some tips from Firestorm more than the other way around (not that there wasn't good in there, and a union could have brought great things, if mixed in the correct ratios).

2) Does it feel like Firestorm anymore? This is the big one for me...I can play Planetfall if I want a hot mess of a game that's quick and dirty, I can play Full Thrust if I've a weekend free and I want to dust off my slide rule and scientific calculator. I can play X-Wing or Dropfleet for a space thrill, but I still have an FSA itch that isn't scratched. I'm not sure at the moment that this is it. Now that's fine, Warcradle said it was rebooting the game, and it's their IP now, they can do what they want with it, but I hope they do make it FEEL more like Firestorm than this first impression on reading through the rules gives me....I was very open to what Warcradle was going to bring us with what they'd already done with WWE, but...well, let me put it this way - I wasn't excited to break my models out to try the new rules, and that feels like a fail to me.

Summary

It's an open beta, and I suspect from Warcradle's other betas that it's going to be a reasonable length, which is good, because my overall impression from the release is a strong C- "must try harder" or "disappointing". There are some interesting things in there, for sure, but there are also a lot of things which seem retrograde and/or simply missed. Players of v2 had main themes of complaint;

1) Games took too long (I will caveat that this was biased towards NA player feedback), mostly due to movement, but also with things like opposed rolls in shields, PD etc. I can't comment on what the effect of the changes is here until I play, but I'm not sure games will be much shorter based on first read-through.

2) Movement - Which has changed, but still uses a template for turning, currently has abuse potential and I still don't see it being much quicker than before.

3) SRS - Which have now been simplified in a way that (for me at least) makes them seem much less interesting, though the core concept of moving them outside of the "core" of the turn is a good one.

4) Cyberwarfare and boarding - These were very "marmite" (people loved them or hated them). I think the boarding mechanics are interesting, and having a discrete boarding phase is not a bad idea at all (along with the SRS). I'm not sure that applies to Cyberwarfare, and we still have to see what the rules are for the effects of these. 

5) Difficulties in placing models, especially in the "knife fight" end stages of the game. I don't know if anything here addresses that, but certainly requiring boarding to be within 2" is NOT going to help.

So if I look here some of these have been addressed, but then other things have been introduced (like blast templates) that no one ever asked for and I don't think are a good addition to the game in any way, so I'm left scratching my head a bit with it all.

Now, I'm an evidence-based scientist at heart, and in experimental design you change one variable at a time - same with engineering and problem resolution, and a whole bunch of other things. I don't know if that's been applied here, but I'm not seeing the results I would expect had it been. Alternatively, you design a system from the ground up, and that doesn't seem to be the case either. What appears to have happened is a lot pf Planetfall (also know as Planetfail by many people because of the instability and unbalanced nature of the rules), with some Firestorm mechanics and a bunch of other things. Let's see what happens with all of that...

Friday, 22 May 2020

New Firestorm Backgrounds

Warcradle is pushing out a fair amount of content on FSA of late (hey, it's what has got me to post again!), and a fair bit of it has been mixed concept art/background pieces. I'll cover the concept art on another post (I think it deserves it) but I'll go through the background pieces that have been put out so far as they foreshadow more than pretty pictures.

Terran Directorate

Yep, Warcradle led with this one out of the dock on their new Black Ocean Facebook page, and here's the first of the bigger departures from pre-existing fluff (let's call it "Spartan Lore"). The new Terran faction are a melding of the old Terran Alliance, Directorate, Works Raptor and Hawker. I kinda get why Warcradle did this, but as a former Directorate player, I can't say this fills me with joy. Now, without a Spartan Lore historical perspective, this is fine - it makes the Terrans a much wider faction with a LOT more ship options (as a core faction), and the Directorate were, at one time, part of the Alliance anyway, so you could almost view it as an "alternate timeline" evolution of the game. Again, as a former Directorate/Zenian player as my first choice, I'm unsure about how this will play out in terms of the game, so I will have to wait until we see some beta rules until I make further judgements.

Dindrenzi Federation

The Dindrenzi still mourn Dramos, they still use big electromagnetic rail guns and they still have big armour plates. There is some detail in here about their society and so on, but overall the flavour has not changed much as far as I can see.

Sorylian Congress

The Sorylians were always clever military tacticians, and this wasn't terribly well reflected in their gameplay on the board. Their ships were fast, in order to bring their scatter cannon into range as soon as possible, and their squadron sizes were larger due to their superior tactics. Sorylian small and medium ships were their strength, with their battleship seen as a bit of a lumberer. They weren't good at the more personal three-dimensional experience, so didn't use SRS as much as other races (consider they were waging war against the Aquans and Relthoza, who both were good at that - why confront an enemy on their strong fronts?). They were also the race that first set up a wormhole network (or at least, utilised an existing one and expanded on it), with this tech being integral to their society.

The recent fluff has them controlling drone fighters which are able to pivot about their axis and launching salvos of kinetic weapons, both as they drop from lightspeed. Their three subspecies are engineered, as they are now master geneticists (a slot previously held by the Aquans - but more on them later). They are still measured, superb scientists, and they still hail from Kerendar. Overall, I don't think the fluff changes so far for the Sorylians are much beyond trivial. Sorylians have always had long-range kinetics, though they were really something designed to harass the enemy either into closing or to strike whilst the fast frigates and cruisers closed with the enemy fleet.

Veydreth Authority

The Veydreth are now one of the eight factions of the new Warcradle FSA, and they now hail from Oroshan (which I guess means that particular faction are no more in their own right). Their ship aesthetic is VERY different from before, incorporation elements of the original Oroshan designs but they are really 100% Warcradle otherwise. Veydreth used to be fearsome centauroid creatures - now they are gangly bipedals, and the Terran moniker of "Star Dragons" comes from the look of their ships, not the creatures themselves. I think this is the only piece I am a bit disappointed with here, centauroid star dragons were interesting...gangly bipedals just seem a bit "meh" by comparison. The Veydreth fluff in Spartan Lore was "spartan", which is I suppose why Warcradle used them as the basis of creating another faction where they could run amok without annoying too many people! Much of the background is a fusion of SL Veydreth and SL Oroshan with Warcradle overlay and reimagining. Overall, I can't say that this version is particularly disruptive or upsetting to too many people.

Ryushi (part of the Storm Zone Coalition)

The Ryushi were always wanderers, and they remain so in Warcradle's iteration of FSA. Warcradle have built up the narrative in a bit more of a joined-up way (never a strong point of Spartan), and expanded it with some nice detail. The Ryushi are one of the races in the Storm Zone Coalition, which also includes the Xelocians, Sauran Guild, Rangers of Terquai, Jowrion Disciples, Illosi, Shevaka and Kedorians. I wonder if all these races will be represented by Warcradle, or we'll just get those races which already have ships....I personally would love to see the Illosians finally - the one last project at SG which was never realised before I ceased association with them.

A'quan Sebrutan

So you'll notice that the Aquans are now the A'quan, a change which I'm not really understanding - it almost seems like the GW penchant for making names they can trademark (like Orruks instead of Orks), and that may well be the case here - I don't know. Anyway, the fishy dudes are a BIG departure from prior fluff - essentially you can scrap all the fish jokes guys, because THEY'RE NO LONGER FISH. No, instead of hailing from a water world, A'quan are now sentient bi-mechanical space-dwellers, each one being located within - and one with - the ship around it.

A'quans have a very different "feel" in this new iteration - before they were somewhat benign, expert geneticists and a little "Tau" in their kind of philosophy. Now they are disruptive star-eating individuals that are kind of a galactic pain in the ass and pretty aggressive. They're space-hornets.

I'm a bit on the fence on this one. It's kind of cool, but I can imagine it's not going to sit well with a lot of existing Aquan (no " ' " intended) players. There are some other interesting snippets in the fluff here too which indicate departures in their gameplay too - gravity shears are mentioned, along with their "unique" ability to manipulate gravity...not sure what that means for you, Tarakian players... and you thought Aquans were too powerful before.... lol. another interesting thing is the mention of the "Vo'nar Holotype" - the Vo'nar being a long-mentioned but never realised Spartan race that was around Relthozan space....seems Warcradle have dusted that one off and incorporated it into A'quans now -which does make sense given their new directions.

Relthoza Unity

OK, my favourite faction, what I started Firestorm Armada out with, the spiders. Again, another BIG departure from SL here, and I must say, one I'm not really feeling. Essentially you can bin all of the Dindrenzi first contact, misunderstood cultural concepts and uneasy alliance of SL, the Relthoza never met another species before becoming the Unity. This AI cloud consciousness was once a way for the Relthoza to prevent internal wars, but became out of control, and subsumed the Relthoza into itself, becoming the Unity. It learned exponentially, and developed space travel fast etc etc - now it must bring peace to all life.

In effect, the Relthoza are now a kind of "Pathogen with a Purpose", and in fact it seems Pathogen are now merely unity ships seeking independence. Hmmm.

Now I know Stuart from Warcradle is a Rick & Morty fan, and Unity is exactly this in that series....does this make a good direction for the Relthoza? Well, for me, no. If I'd wanted to play that kind of consuming plague, I'd play Pathogen (and I have). The Relthoza, however, appealed to me both for the look of their ships, and their arachnid klingon-esque militarism. Whilst the new Warcradle concept art for the Relthoza looks fantastic, I'm just not excited by their fluff. The "Hive Mind" thing is a common, and a little tired, trope in Sci-Fi, and I think it makes the Relthoza much more bland than they were before.

Overall Takeaways

So I said before, Stuart has stated and the fluff released thus far emphasises it, Warcradle's FSA is a new game. It's NOT the SL FSA we knew, and it's probably best to come at it from that PoV. At the moment I will hold judgement until I see beta rules before I decide if it's a game that I want to learn...if it is then the fluff is not necessary, I can have whatever fluff I want for my universe, ignoring anything I don't like. Otherwise I will just use the new models to refresh and fill in gaps in my existing fleets, and play the game I already know - not the end of the world.

Monday, 11 May 2020

FSA v3 on the horizon...

Well once again the world has changed dramatically since my last post in 2019...I've a new house with my partner (both of which demand a lot of my personal time!), COVID-19 has made work busy (we manufacture testing equipment and tests for COVID-19, and supply the UK government - among others - with these for the 100,000 tests/day requirement) and lockdown makes everything in the physical world slightly more awkward. My Roll20 D&D game continues unaffected, which is great, but what of other, physical, games?

On this note, Boris is lifting restrictions (slightly) as of yesterday, and Warcradle are being more vocal about their version of Spartan's old IP, Firestorm Armada. Much has changed, and I think it best to view the game as something completely new compared to the old. For example, bases have now changed to Hexagonal...why?...I've no idea! I've not been involved in this edition at all, beyond a couple of early conversations and discussions a couple of years ago. Back then, it became clear that my (and the old FSA testing groups) view of FSA was very different from some others from the old community involved in those discussions - creating something of a regional split in thinking between NA and Europe from what I could see.

Anyway, my real life became dominant, and games like Firestorm waned in my personal priorities. I was also getting way more fun out of D&D than arguing with people about game theory in a fictional universe set way in the future...it seemed far too much like work. So I've been very much out of the loop in all things Firestorm fro a good long time.

I think this is a good thing - now I get to view and enjoy the future game as a player, rather than having to think of nuances and consequences of decisions taken in good faith and then criticised or misinterpreted by others "out there". The atmosphere at SG was very toxic towards the end in both business and community, so I see this as a very positive development. My only hope is that many of those (vocal) individuals from that time end up shaping the old game we all love into something we no longer recognise and don't find as enjoyable. At the moment I'm cautious - I love the concepts coming out of the Warcradle studio, but when I hear things like Hex bases I think "Why?"

This is part of my psychological makeup, I know - in DISC terms (look it up if you've no idea what I'm on about!) I'm a high D, high I problem solver - I do a lot of kaizen/process improvement things with work, and I see issues in plans and process easily...and want to work to a solution, to make it better. It's one of the reasons I ended up working with SG in rules development, and the driver is always to make things better for everyone. Of course, from outside, people can see it as negative/disruptive/arrogant - but then, people see what they want to.

So back to the Hex bases. I look at the old FSA and the things that "needed" (it's a strong word, v2.0 was actually not a bad ruleset) changing (or tweaking, at least - maybe a better word is "streamlining") did not include basing or firing arcs....now maybe the new ruleset has tactical and strategic elements that make this introduction either necessary or it adds a new layer of awesome....but off the top of my head I can't think of any. Some of the complexity of the old FA in ship stats was in firing arcs, so I'm interested to see how more facings will be dealt with in game. Whatever this is. and however this is dealt with, it's a seed change in the game itself, because bases used to define movement and firing, it's different from every other instance of the game. It might not seem much, but it affects core mechanics - so straight away those of you expecting a few "tweaks" are going to be disappointed.

Then there is the lore....Stuart indicated before that this will be a reboot of the game, and although some aspects are there (Dramos being nuked, for example), Warcradle have re-imagined the universe...not a bad thing (and they did the same with DW), but those of you expecting Directorate Fleets being the secretive baddies against the Terran Alliance will not be happy. There are 8 new factions incorporating all the old SG races, but fused into things with a different face and feel. Just take some of the description of the Sorylians firing kinetics whilst slowing from lightspeed and it's a very different image than the rather lumbering lizards with their scatter broadsides and odd kinetic sniper.

Now I'm not saying either of these things (radical rules reshaping and lore re-imagining) are necessarily a bad thing. They're DIFFERENT from before, that's all. Now how you view this depends on what you're looking for from FSA v3 (not a name we're likely to see, by the way). if you're looking for the next iteration of FSA v2, then you're likely to be disappointed, aggrieved or even angry. If you're looking for a space combat game that you can use your old models with in a slightly refreshed universe, then you're likely to be pleased.

This is why, from my side, you should be looking at Warcradles Firestorm Armada as a different thing from SGs FSA - it's like Prometheus is to the Alien saga - it doesn't have the original xenomorphs, it doesn't have Ripley/Sigourney Weaver in, though it is set in the same universe and is part of the same franchise. I personally loved Prometheus, but many did not...I'm sure the same will be the case with the new Firestorm Armada.

Wednesday, 18 September 2019

Yes, I'm still alive!

Hi everyone,

Well firstly, yes - I am still alive! I've had some pretty monumental life changes in the past 18 months however, which have impacted my ability and will to update the blog. I hope that will now change and regular updates, together with the re-ignition of the Podcast, should happen over the coming months.

I won't go into all the details of what's happened, but just to name a few Oscar went to University, my wife and I separated, and my father died. These meant changes of where I've been living, ability to catch up with Oscar on gaming, my general mood and access to the required "stuff". I hope all of that is behind me now (with the exception of Oscar still being at Uni, of course), and the rest of 2019 will continue to improve.

So if anyone out there is still following this blog, there is more to come!

Monday, 16 April 2018

Salute 2018

Oscar and I went for our annual trip to the Excel Centre in London this past weekend, to visit Salute 2018...


It was in the same format as always, but there were some notable differences to last year. The absence of Spartan and Hawk (with its impressive 1:100 scale Frigate) was one, another was the mix of available items for the community. I think we summed it up with the following;

  • Lots of mat companies this year, and lots of people buying them
  • A wealth of games with Eldritch Horror/HP Lovecraft themes
  • Companies showcasing Kickstarters
  • Too many gamers with stupid backpacks (which should be banned from all model shows)

It was a great opportunity to catch up with people, like Stuart at Warcradle and the guys at White Dragon Miniatures. We swung by The Drowned Earth too, but sadly didn't get a chance to see James. I did bump into Chris Worth, however, who pulled me out of the crowd as I wandered by Anvil Industries. For those of you who don't know, Chris wrote the core rules for Firestorm v2.

So what drew our eye this year? Quite a lot! First of all, these models for Beyond the Gates of Antares - a game which I've always looked at before but never quite did anything for me minis wise - but these are a bit better than I've seen from them before.



Next up we perused the various nastiness that was arrayed at Heresy Miniatures (and I eventually picked up some of these gribblies for my upcoming 5e campaign)



Next up were Fenris and their ranges of Cthulhu models (they of course did a lot of the stuff for Cthulhu Wars). 



Spotting more tentacles we saw this impressive display cabinet with a game neither of us would ever play, but it did have some really well painted minis - the most creepy of which I thought were these children and their guardian.



Moving on to Atlantis Miniatures, who had some really interesting and very beautifully sculpted models. The unusual and original "Death Kiwis" and the bafflingly hideous "Blood Oak" (where the tree starts and the skeleton ends I'm not sure!) are but a couple of examples.



Along from Atlantis were our old friends at White Dragon, showing off the modern British troops and some of the Shattered Void Kickstarter ships. The modern troops are really superb - the detail is just staggering.



Next we spotted some minis that wed have loved to buy at the Crooked Dice stand, but alas were only an example of a Kickstarter coming soon. The grim reapers and scarecrows (Corndoll hoedown!) are very cool and creepy;


Also on this stand were some gorgeous plant models that they also sadly didn't have in stock, or I'd have bought some of them too.


Of course what drew our eye were the tentacles of a kraken-like beast, which watched us for the duration...


Moving on, we found a set of models for another Kickstarter, this time from Steamforged Games - Godtear.



Dropping by Warcradle next, Oscar was particularly drawn to this Diorama...




This was, of course, Wild West Exodus, and Warcradle were showcasing some of their upcoming releases - which look REALLY nice, as well as some lovely painted existing releases.




Coming out of Warcradle we passed by the painting competition, and Oscar spotted this model, who we later found out is the new Nyarlathotep from Dust 47. We visited them later and found the models, but with no prices (though everything else was!)... <sigh>


We got a look at Mophidius' Fallout game being played, which looks very nice too, but I've resisted the temptation so far as it's a very specific "look", whereas most of the games we have use minis which can cover a broader spectrum of play.



I did grab this picture of a supermutant through a building window, however, which I thought was very much like the video game! (I can imagine going into VATS and targeting his head multiple times....)


Probably one of my favourite pieces in the show, however, was this board - a participation zombie game played in a model representation of the Salute show itself! Very clever, the detail here was great (even down to figures on the mini gaming boards) and the guys running it were super-nice. Apparently it was supported heavily by the traders, some of whom made custom stands for it! This kind of thing represents some of the best of people in the hobby, I think - well done guys!



Returning to perusing the stands, next up was TableTop Combat - the new owners of the Dropfleet franchise. They had Destroyers on display but without the huge frigate model it felt a bit sad and "tagged on" compared to Hawk's presence in prior years. The feeling wasn't helped by other stands selling off the range at discount prices.


They were running some crazy deals, however, including selling 4x4game boards including all buildings and scenery for half price - £100 instead of £200. They had all sorts of genres (10mm scifi for Dropzone, WH 40k, Japanese, battlezone ruins, etc). I bought one of these below for the Drowned Earth Kickstarter I knew was coming any day - it'll work for many skirmish games, but that's primarily what I've in mind for it. Great part of it too is that this price included delivery, so no need to cart around the show and lug it home - it'll be made and sent in the post in a couple of weeks...sweet!


Our next stop was Mierce Miniatures, who are our standard drool-fest at every Salute. Mierce make some of the best large resin monstrous figures I've ever seen, and their stock painter is amazing, so you get stuff like this;

The Chimera is still one of my favourite pieces anywhere;




It's a hard act to follow, that, but this crab (Click Clack) did a good job of drawing my attention


This was the point at which I caught up with Chris, and he showed me that game he was helping out with on the day - Afterlife, a 28mm SF skirmish game from Anvil industries (who he's been doing some sculpting work for I believe). This was Oscar's pick of the day, and it also had an under-lit sci-fi board which was very cool indeed.






After a last round of a couple of stands to pick up a few models, we then left the ExCel for another year, feet aching and wallet dented...


Salute is a great day, but it has undoubtedly changed from when we first went. There are a lot of companies showcasing Kickstarters now, rather than selling things. There are still the usual military traders, the usual suspects of the larger companies like Wayland and Trolltrader and the unexplainable queue around the Forgeworld stand, but also newer companies trying to forge into the market. The "middle ground" seems to be what's shrunk since last year, though maybe that was just a feeling...

In any case, if you're wondering whether to go next year, don't - it's well worth a trip and you'll undoubtedly pick up a bargain or too. Maybe we'll see you there?!?

Saturday, 17 March 2018

3D Printing

Ok folks, it's been a long time since either my last post or the last The Hub Systems podcast. The rationale here is simple and a frequent one - there's just bee a whole bunch of other things going on! Work has been busy, our D&D campaign is coming to its climax, I'm playing another campaign on Roll20 and that doesn't leave a whole lot of time to devote to other things. I've also taken a step back from Firestorm, as people involved in the horrible Spartan v3 seem to be quite prevalent on the Warcradle Studios community, and I'd rather not get involved in that whole thing - I'll just wait for what Warcradle do.

On the other side of things I've been doing a lot of 3D printing, and am now an official reseller for prints from the remarkably talented Duncan "Shadow" Louca - a 3d modeller who has worked freelance for several games companies, many of which you will know. he does a much better introduction to himself than me - here his his website;

https://www.duncanshadow.com/

He also has an active Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/shadowminiatures/) and a Patreon site (https://www.patreon.com/Duncan_shadow/posts) - check them out and follow him, and you can always contribute to receive his STL files - they're very high quality and look great when printed.

On that note, I actually sponsor Duncan with a commercial licence, and can sell printed models for those of you that don't have a 3D printer but like the look of his sculpts. I'm putting together a website for this at the moment, but for now I'll just be selling stuff that people contact me about until it's up and running. So if you fancy a moonbeast or Kaiju, some rocky terrain or anything else you see on his sites, just drop me a line through the site or Facebook.

Here are a few of the things you can expect from his sculpts and my printing. First is one of the largest models I've printed to date, the Mother of a Thousand Young (32mm figure for scale purposes)




Next up is the similarly horrific Moonbeast




And then the Corpse Eater Kaiju;



Note here I've not filled any of the joins in these multi-part sculpts.

Right, that's all for now - hopefully I'll be back in the not-too-distant future with the website for the sculpt prints and another update.