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Thursday, 24 April 2014

Kurak Alliance & Zenian League Fleet Manuals

I was lucky enough to get the first copies of these outside of SG, so thought I'd share some of the goodness!

Of course, these books are optional for anyone who has the main v2.0 rulebook, as the stats for the fleets concerned are all available online as free PDF downloads. That, of course, is not the point! The manuals have all the stats, plus background fluff and a whole lot of nice photography for us to pore over.

Anyway, here they are;

Both books are glossy hardbacks just over half an inch thick (about 14mm) and run to almost 140 pages each.

Kurak Alliance

After the title page you're onto Admiral Buzzcut and the contents, followed by a double page spread of the three core Kurak homeworlds. This preamble aside, you're into six pages of the Terran Alliance fluff before you're into the stats, which are populated with renders and interspersed with single and double-page spreads of beautifully photographed ships. After the stats, there are a further 8 pages of different suggested fleets, together with background fluff and a picture of a Teuton in that fleets colours.

The Terran chapter ends and the Sorylian begins with a double-page spread of a Sorylian fleet, and then follows the same layout as the Terran description. The Aquans conclude the core race elements, and the Kurak Alliance members then start with a mixed Kurak fleet double spread.

In the Kurak section there are new renders for several ships, including the Tarakians and Terquai;

Also, as I mentioned on the FSA Community, the Shantu is GONE. In its stead we now have the Hulaka...

Zenian League

The Zenian League book is set out in the same way as the KA book, and is similarly slick.

After drooling over pages of core race fluff, stats and pics, we are treated to some new renders for the Ba'kash;

And also a nice surprise for many of you - a lovely new Works Raptor ship....instantly down on my "buy immediately" list;

In conclusion, these books are not necessary for you to play FSA. They are window dressing, nerd-porn for us to read and gloat over when we can't (or don't want to) access the internet. As such, they're essential, and the price tag SG associate with them (£20 RRP) is very good for a production of this quality. Go and buy them now!!!

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Deadzone update

Well a couple of nights ago Oscar and I got the chance to play Deadzone, and I thought I'd get back to everyone on my prior recommendation.

Overall, the game plays pretty well - it took us about three hours for what is supposed to be a 1 hour game, but for our first go I think that's pretty much par for the course. We made a few mistakes and there was a lot of rulebook flipping and searching, but we got there! It's quite brutal in parts, and very cinematic - something I always look for in a game - if I feel like I've just taken a maths exam there's definitely something wrong with the game engine.

A few highlights stick in my mind from the game; Oscar's Enforcer rocket launcher guy stepping out from cover and firing a well-placed missile into my level 1 Plague commander - blasting parts of him everywhere despite his toughness - only then to be leapt on by a Stage 2 Plague and torn limb from limb! Oscar's sniper taking out guys with headshots from his vantage point high on a structure, only to eventually be cut down in a hail of heavy machine gun fire.

When the dust settled it was a narrow victory for the Enforcers, but they paid a heavy price to get there.

The game would benefit hugely from a quickstart guide - how to put the models together, working with restic, painting guide, A4 double-sided sheet on game mechanic/reference sheet. Not having this is very frustrating, and leads to confusion and a lot of toing and froing through the rules.

Now visiting the Mantic Games website I realise there IS a quickstart guide that would be great to introduce people to the game, so why not include it as a printout in the set? My vision of a starter set is just that - not that it requires visiting websites and printing stuff off to get things to play basic games. Also, that quickstart guide is more of a starter game thing - play it once and you're done. It doesn't address the basic problem of a quick cheat-sheet.

I did find a fan-made quick reference sheet which is a huge plus, and will be enormously helpful when we play our next game, which will be a much more meaningful test.

Still, overall it was a positive experience, and we're looking forward to getting the minis painted up for our next blast!

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Deadzone 2-Player Starter Set Unboxing

As you will no doubt have seen from my prior post, I picked up the 2-player starter set for Deadzone from Mantic Games at Salute on Saturday. Sunday gave a good opportunity to open the large cellophane wrapped box and take a peek inside....

So the first thing that you notice about the box is that it is BIG. I mean "won't-fit-in-a-normal-carrier-bag-and-let-you-carry-it-with-one-hand" type big. It actually measures 46cm x 31cm x 11cm - I've carry-on luggage for flying that's smaller!

Ok, big boxes aside, the artwork and finish of the box is very nice - it feels like its a quality product.

Still, maybe inside that big box is a whole lot of cardboard packaging....

...or maybe not! Oh my god that's a LOT of stuff. A whole mess of terrain sprues, the rulebook, the gaming mat, the models, the cards, double sided token sheet and the dice. In fact, the only thing MISSING was a distinct lack of any protective packaging materials, which I felt would have been worthwhile (more on this later).

Now of course as gamers we sit down and study the rules before methodically moving onto the other game elements...we do not tear open plastic bags like deranged toddlers on Christmas morning trying to see what goodies lie in our figure bags, do we??? Ok, so maybe I took a small peek....but I'll come back to that later too.

First off, let's talk about the gaming mat. This is only small (2x2), but is of impressive quality, being nicely printed modern battlescape complete with blood spatters etc. I expected card or paper, but was mightily impressed to find this is actually a proper rubberised gaming mat - top marks here!

Next I'll move onto the tokens. These are printed double-sided on thick (about 1.5mm or so) cardstock, and feel like they're going to last. Once again, high marks here - they could have made them shiny too, like the tokens in GW's Space Hulk set of 2009, but I actually rather like the flat finish.

The rulebook itself is an 80-page, glossy-covered paperback A4 design, and is very nicely put together. It has nice photographs, full colour diagrams and pictures, and features rules and a bit of background. Overall it's what you'd expect from a professional product.

Each side (the Enforcers and Plague in this set) has a set of cards, split into various subsets (stats, missions etc), which are nicely made if a little on the flimsy side. You also get a set of d8 dice for playing the game in case you don't own any, which is likely unless you've experience in another games system that uses them (I still have a few from my old AD&D days at school).

You also get a Mantic games loyalty card pre-loaded with 4 points;

We'll have to see if I like it enough to use this! Ok, now onto the scenery. You get a lot of sprues containing various wall sections, railings, lights, ladders and connecting pieces. It's an impressive haul.

Finally, we have the actual models. Here are the parts for the Plague;

The sculpts are nice, and the way the joins ar moulded they will only connect one way - this has advantages and disadvantages, of course. The good thing is you can't get things wrong (unless you really try), the bad thing is there's no diversity, so you can't personalise them (they will be exactly the same as someone else's set) and little point in getting a second starter set to bulk your force. Still, this is a minor point and it's nice to have a set of figures that go together well and without drama.

Now this is where I hit my first major negative about this set....let me give you some background first....

I'm a pretty experienced modeller - I've been making models off and on for about 37 years - the great majority of my life - and I'm used to modelling in pretty much any material, from balsa wood to etched brass, plastic to resin. I'm also an experienced gamer, having started wargames when I was about 10 or 11.

As such, I plunged into assembling the plastic figures with my standard needle-applicator poly liquid glue. The smaller plague models went together without fuss. The plastic is a little strange, reminding me of some of the higher-end eastern-european manufacturers at the beginning of the 21st century. It's harder than GW plastic, but not completely brittle. Now one of my plague models had broken off at the ankle (something I don't feel would have happened if there had been some bubble-wrap around the figure bags), so I glued both sides and joined, supported with play-doh and find it not fixed. I tried again, left it for a few hours, and it was joined but broke very shortly thereafter.

Coming to the larger plague models, the plastic seemed similarly resistant to the machinations of my plastic cement. It was working to a degree, but only a very small amount - enough to fix the deep-jointed small models, but not enough to support the heavier, less positively jointed stage 2 or 1 models. So a quick web search on Mantic's figures revealed to me that the figures are actually not plastic, but restic, a plastic resin sort of hybrid. Now things become clear...this is not an injected moulded product at all. Superglue is recommended for use on restic

Apparently this sort of hybrid plastic material is quite common in kickstarter products, but I was quite unaware of this. As there are absolutely no instructions on assembling the models or what products to use, I proceeded using my experience of "plastic" - as the models were referred to on the box.

Still, armed with this information I managed to assemble the Plague models without too much further difficulty, the restic working well with the superglue. Here they are...

Next, onto the Enforcers. Bizarrely, there are a mix of exclusive joints and free-joining pieces in the Enforcers, and the legs in most cases are separate from the bodies. This might seem like a good thing, but I found it a royal pain in the ass! Again, without any reference instructions to guide you, you're left to guesswork and looking at the photos on the box. This made it difficult to assemble the models, and in one case I ended up having to perform some alterative surgery as there was no way it was going to fit the way it was cast (the heavy burst laser guy to the left of the commander in the picture - note he doesn't yet have his left arm!).

There are also some unsightly seam lines that aren't that easy to clean up - like on the cloak of the Enforcer leader, and the nature of the plastic does make cleaning up in most cases more difficult than on other models I've assembled in the past.

So funnily enough the thing that lets the set down slightly are the things that most people will look to first. However, when taken as a whole, the 2-player boxed set is tremendous value. I picked this up for £45, and if you guestimate paying £10 for the mat, £10 for the rules, £10 for the cards and tokens, £10 for the scenery that would leave £5 for the models. I think you'd struggle to pay as low as that for any of the elements of the game as I've just quoted, so it's a lot of game for the money - I'd struggle not to recommend picking up a set for this price to anyone just for what you get. Once we see how it plays, I'll get back to you then on whether the recommendation holds!

Monday, 14 April 2014

Salute 2014

This was mine and Oscar's first trip to Salute, this year at ExCel in London. After an early start, a train to Paddington and various tubes plus the DLR, we arrived just after opening at 10am. Once in, we headed to The Troll Trader stand to meet up with Ben from Spartan and Neil P (DW player and demonstrator). We were plunged straight into it, getting into the fray and chatting to people about Firestorm right from the off.

A couple of hours later and we got a chance to grab a sandwich and have a look about. Oscar wanted to see the Hawk Wargames stand and the new Dropzone Commander stuff. It was a pretty impressive stand, having a massive starship complete with many, many DZC dropships ready to launch - it was really good, and a definite crowd-puller. The DZC games being shown were a bit lacklustre by comparison, being simple Scourge/UCM 2-player battles, which was disappointing for us both, as we wanted to see Shaltari and PHR forces in action.

Still, we took pictures of all their shiny toys, which are very nice but small and quote expensive for what you I'm wondering whether we just wait for Spartan's Planetfall models. In fact, I'm not wondering - that's exactly what we'll be doing!

Anyway, the Troll Trader had a lot of offers on at Salute, one of which was the boxed 2-player set of Deadzone by Mantic Games. This was on offer at the show for £45, which seemed a pretty good deal. I also picked up a 6x4 green gaming mat, a couple of ships suitable for future Planetfall terrain or objectives (or something), an Aquan battlecruiser set for Oscar and some 20mm bases for my 1/300th scale WWII army infantry from about 20 years ago! I also got a surprise gift that I can't talk about, but it made the journey home pass nicely :-)

Already started on the Deadzone unboxing, so will see you soon for that!