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Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Firestorm Armada 2-Player boxed set - What should we have got?

Someone (Daniel Jones) asked on Facebook what ships people think we should have got for the core race expansions, so I thought I would share my own opinion (together with stats) of what TheoryMachine think we should have had as a 2-Player boxed set. Now the obvious bit is - it has to be the two Core Races that haven't yet had a boxed set, right? The Sorylians and the Relthoza. Now, with Spartan's ability to create more complex, multi-part models, it should be possible to create a boxed set that actually give you Large and Medium models that can be built in one of two different ways. This would both extend flexibility and appeal to players, and give people a reason to either buy multiple boxed sets, or to buy the boxed set and still buy the separate models on individual release.

So given that, what do the Sorylians need?

The Sorylians - Tier 1

Well, first off, another Battleship would be a good start. From how the Falx fares in battle, the Sorylians would undoubtedly have been working to cover some of its shortcomings. Now, the Falx isn't a bad ship, it just isn't an equal counter to other Large ships (it's no dueller) - so enter the Cuirass:

The Cuirass class battleship is one of a new breed of designs that Sorylian Engineers started working on at the beginning of the Seccession Wars, based on predictions of how the conflict would escalate. These designs have been developed by the Sorylians over the past decades and are now finally ready to start field trials in the Outer Spheres – the standard method of deployment the Collective uses when producing new starships.

The Cuirass bears many similarities to the Falx and Swordbreaker that preceded it, but with several enhancements and design shifts. Firstly, the Cuirass has a much greater offensive bent that the Falx – it is built as a ship ready to duel with other battleships in open space one-to-one, and take them down. To further this point, the ship has an extensive number of defensive enhancements, notably a reinforced, strengthened fore, and shrouded scatter weapons - making the ship extremely tough on the approach into battle. Shield generators may also be fitted with Terran-derived sectoring technology, something unknown on Sorylian ships of the past, but garnered out of close cooperation with their Kurak allies.

Let's have a look at some stats:

Sector shielding gives the Cuirass a possible 7/12 DR/CR profile from the frontal arc with 2 Shields on it’s approach into battle, making it one of the best protected battleships in the Firestorm Galaxy. It retains the ability to use its Kinetic and Torpedo weapons even with this profile, so it is not a passive approach, meaning that when it arrives in optimum firing position it is likely to be doing so at full or close to full HP, making it a very potent early-game ship the enemy cannot afford to ignore, especially if also accompanied by Flechettes to further enhance its firepower. This would also make it ideal to pair with a reserved Falx entering by foldspace for a heavy-hitting one-two punch in the early or mid-point of the game.

Another more unique innovation on this second generation battleship is the ability to deploy Seeker-Class Drones. These do not form part of the Cuirass’ squadron, nor even have their own activation, but instead work as a force multiplier for the Sorylian Collective. These are developments of the Sorylians long-established wormhole network, re-imagined with Terran expertise of fold-space beacons from their Satellite Charter, to act as specific beacons for Sorylian ships – free from the Ba’kash infiltration and piracy that their wormhole network has been plagued by. Deployed by Hidden Setup or by the Cuirass, these drones allow pinpoint foldspace entry by Sorylian ships within their area of effect – making that 1-2 double Battleship setup even more deadly.

The Cuirass is no slouch either – with a native 8” move, it has the legs to get into that optimum firing position quickly, and at the cost of some manoeuvrability it can even become faster than many cruisers. With AP, movement and Assault Blitz upgrades, the Cuirass becomes a very credible boarding threat in addition to its native direct AD potential, especially paired with a Katar Assault Cruiser.

With a fast, hard-hitting battleship, what other class could a multi-part model make that would fit with Sorylian lore, and fill a role in their fleets? Well, the Sorylians are not SRS heavy, but they do board well - how about an Assault Cruiser? Let's take a look at the Serapis:

Utilising the same basic hull arrangement of the Cuirass, the Serapis dispenses with shrouded weapons for overall hull strengthening and the provision of extensive launch bays for its assault shuttles to carry the vast numbers of its boarding marines to the enemy. This results in a reduced broadside capability, and so Sorylian Engineers have focussed on providing a hard-hitting fore mounted scatter array to soften targets up on approach before launching their coup de grace hand-to-hand. The Serapis also retains some of the innovation and options that the Cuirass introduces, such as a reinforced fore and sector shielding:

Accompanied by a Katar Assault cruiser, the boarding potential of the Serapis becomes overwhelming - something the Sorylians have found necessary when combatting their martial galactic neighbours, the Relthoza. It is also possible to take a pair of Pauldron Escort Cruiser to further expand and add flexibility to its SRS complement.

Tier 2

We heard mention above of the Pauldron Escort Cruiser above, so let's start there. The Sorylians are not natural fliers, and they tend to field SRS principally in dedicated carrier vessels. The Grand Council have recognised that the tactics of other races, especially the Relthoza (who are capable of fielding large quantities of SRS at any engagement level) have exposed a potential weakness in the Collecxtive's Sphere defences, below where fleet carriers such as the Xiphos are deployed.

As such, the Pauldron has been devloped using the same manufacturing lines as produce the Skyhammer and Falcata Cruisers, adapting the hull to provide flexible launch bays for an array of different SRS. This enables SRS cover for smaller task forces, and boosts the abilities of larger vessels such as the Serapis - the latter is not configured for bomber operations, but coupled with 2 Pauldrons, it can field both bombers and assault shuttles, or provide interceptor cover etc. With typical Sorylian practicality, the Pauldron also retains offensive armaments to ensure it remains viable even on losing its complement of on-board craft.

The Sorylians have a pretty effective Tier 2 selection, with extremely effective Cruisers and Gunships - what more could they have that would be a viable selection? Well one area the Sorylians do lack is in the area of mines - they simply do not use them. Rather than give them a ship that did the same as other races, they would deal with this by countering this threat. As such, we have the Flagellant:

This is a tough cruiser, built on the same lines as the Kopis, shielded as standard and with the capability to increase that shield strength. It needs to be a tough ship too, since it's assigned duty is minesweeping, using the new Minsweeper MAR:

Once again, a single-purpose ship in this class is something Sorylian Engineers would wish to avoid, just minesweeping is not going to satisfy most Sorylian Commander's thirst for combat. As such, the Flagellant retains a decent - if short ranged - set of scatter weaponry, and coupled with its toughness it is often seen plunging ahead into enemy lines ahead of the rest of the fleet, weathering the fire of the enemy to unleash short-ranged hell into their foes. This type of assault often disrupts the carefully made plans of their opponents, allowing the Sorylians rapidly-closing fleet elements to mop up the scattered remnants. Flagellants have thus rapidly gained a reputation as line-breakers, and it is seen as one of the most honourable positions to hold in the Collective's Sphere Defence fleets.

As the Tier 3 would be a resin rework of an existing ship, no need to talk about that here, so let's move on.

The Relthoza - Tier 1

The Relthoza spiders were my first entry point into the FSA universe, so I'm used to them and I've never had a problem with how they play in terms of seeing them as "difficult". I've never really had too much of a problem with the Brood Battleship, it's a solid ship. The Relthoza have a good selection of options, and I love the feel of the faction. That being said, the Relthoza have some obvious gaps in their repertoire given their fluff - they're an SRS and boarding-heavy fleet, so why they don't have a Battlecarrier and Assault carrier seems odd - these are both obvious development directions for them. So let's have a look at some rationale:

The Relthoza Incursions into Sorylian territory have time and again been repulsed by the sphere defences the Sorylians have entrenched around their territory. Although the recent conflict in the Storm Zone has drained Sorylian forces and allowed the Relthoza to make gains, these are relatively minor and have not allowed for the large scale footholds the Twenty had hoped for. Without this bridgehead into Sorylian territory, the reformer fleets cannot operate with sufficient impunity to start thoroughly terraforming worlds - which is what the end-game is for the Relthoza: More inhabitable worlds to colonize.

This has led the Relthoza to technological solutions – the introduction of the new nanospatial lance weapon system in the Virulence gunship has proved successful and has been expanded to new ship types. Advanced shunt matrices and new cloaking systems are also being deployed, together with expanded suites of support ship types to disrupt the highly structured Sorylian defences. The Sorylians, like the Relthoza, are excellent martial opponents, so the need for more means of delivering more warriors into the field is highly desirable, hence the development of the Atrax:

The Atrax is a ship designed to prize other vessels through martial combat. Commonly fielding assault shuttles and packed with warriors, these ships are relatively cheap and fast to construct, relying on stealth and cloaks to get to their prey and seize them. Alternatively they can be outfitted with the next generation of Shunt drives, enabling them to leap forward and deliver a crippling blow where the enemy would never suspect it. As with much emergent Relthozan technology, it is meant to be highly disruptive to any enemies plans. It does pay for this rather single-purposed mentality somewhat - it can be vulnerable to short-ranged torpedo weapons, and should it's cloak be damaged its hull is not meant for front-line combat confrontations with similarly-sized vessels. The Twenty deem this a price worth paying for its potential rewards - after all, fresh young warriors are an easily replaced resource.

Now making a multi-piece model representing two ships here is easy, since all you need for an Assault Carrier is a bit more armour and some more weapons - the launch bays and general configuration can be much the same. Here we have the Dysdera:

The Dysdera employs the same nanospatial lance technology that was first implemented on the Virulence Gunship, in an up-armoured version of the same hull as the Atrax. The Broadsides are extensively expanded, and the aft weapons systems removed to accommodate the power generation requirements of the fore lances. This results in a slightly more delicate internal structure, simply because of the fine balance required for the new technology. It also reduces the range of any installed battle shunt drive generator - the power requirements for more would simply be impractical to accommodate without a major hull redesign and expansion.

Tier 2

Now Relthoza mediums are also an interesting design space, and there is plenty of scope here. One of the things the Relthoza lack is a stand-off destroyer (the Venom is very much an ambush predator), and surprisingly for a race which is quite torpedo-heavy, they have no dedicated Torpedo Cruiser. So, here they are:

The Bolas is a stand-off torpedo cruiser designed to provide long-range support to advancing fleets. It remains in the rear of the engagement, cloaked and often running silent to avoid detection as it unleashes nanotech-laced death from the depths of space. Should it be engaged, it has a moderate short-ranged broadside array to defend itself, and can either be rigged with non-detection systems or an advanced Shunt matrix to help it get out of trouble quickly should it be flanked. It's weapon systems make it a deadly late-game opponent, but even from the opening salvoes this is not a squadron that can be ignored, meaning the enemy needs to divert valuable resources to deal with them as the main Relthozan force closes.

Next we have the Cryptos Destroyer, one of the most daring and advanced ships Relthozan technology has produced to date. Employing an experimental advanced cloaking field, the Cryptos is almost impossible to target when cloaked, and chooses when to engage its prey using the same nanospatial lance system used in the Dysdera. Such is the power drain from this new cloak, however, that it cannot use weaponry whilst it is engaged (and even if it could, to do so would reveal it's location to targeting sensors).

It has, however, an advanced shunt matrix to allow itself to reposition whilst cloaked, meaning the enemy can never predict where the ship will suddenly appear, it's alien weaponry tearing ships apart from inside before fading away into blackness. It also maintains a standard broadside weaponry to protect itself from flanking attacks should its cloak or shunt matrix be damaged, though most Cryptos crews pray that these are never to be used, as it is not a ship designed for an honest, even fight.

Once again, Tier 3s would be reworked all-resin Nidus frigates, giving us a nice up-to-date offering for the Relthoza, with plenty of new dirty tricks up their sleeves.


Most Spartan 2-player sets come with extras, like the Valhalla station and the Overseers gate and probe. What I'd have loved to see from Spartan here would be an add-ons pack of Pathogen pieces for the included ships, to replace some of the ships parts. What do I mean? Take the Aquan Cruiser from the Taskforce Reinforcement boxes - you have a top and a bottom, plus another add-on for the Carrier version. In a similar manner with the construction of the ships in this set, you could have a pathogen bottom that would fit the Aquan top, giving you yet another iteration of the ships. This would have been super-cool and added more reasons to buy multiple boxed sets, and also another play element to the game - an AI deck.

This has been done elsewhere (like Deadzone) - you include a set of cards that allow you to play against an AI-Pathogen fleet. This way it doesn't even matter if you don't have someone to play the game against, you can still buy and play the set - how cool would that be?

I think a set like this would have far greater appeal than the Saurian/Pathogen set that SG have proposed with their Kickstarter - what do you think?

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