Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Wanted: More Spaceship Gaming!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

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Yepp, writing that Firestorm: Armada review got me thinking about other systems out there and my desire to play more spaceship combat games made itself known again. Well, it never went away but it grew even stronger! So here are some random thoughts on different systems, models and gaming mats.There are several systems that I have never tried but would like to as well as a few that I'd like to play again.

Full Thrust
There's only one way to start this article and that's with Full Thrust from GZG that I simply want to play more of. While I've played it a few times I don't think it's enough to form a firm opinion on how the system really works. It's a little clunky with all the order writing, but on the other hand I really like the kind of thinking ahead it forces you to do. In many ways it feels like the game you compare other games to - it has that kind of grandfather feel to it. In a good way! Sometime in the future we'll hopefully see a proper second edition of Full Thrust, but I know how busy Jon is and even though he wants to there is simply no time right now.

As for models, well... you've seen my UNSC and FSE fleets. I really like the GZG models in general and would love to expand my UNSC fleet. Unfortunately they're still out of production and waiting for new moulds to be made. In the meantime I've been thinking about getting some more ships for my FSE instead, or perhaps make a small pirate fleet and of course you can never have too many civilian/support vessels!

Lightning Strike
Another oldie is Lightning Strike from DP9. While you can still buy the models and the books there is no active support of the game from DP9 at this time. I really love the setting of Jovian Chronicles and the rules are interesting as well. The real stars of the show are the EXO armours that are supported by a small number of ships, however I think the system is stable enough to play without the mechs as well if that's more your thing. I would like to try it both ways, although my selection of models is very limited. I like the submarines in space vibe you get from the game and the fact that ECM plays a large part.

Right now I have a handful of Jovian and CEGA EXOs but no ships. Some of my favourite ship designs are made by DP9 though and I'm have no idea why I still haven't ordered a Valiant-class strike carrier - it's such a beautiful design! While the ships aren't to expensive, getting enough EXO's in your fleet can get a bit pricey since they're relatively cheap in points but not in dollars. Now, if only I could find some more great eBay bargains...

Recently I've been looking a lot at Starmada from Majestic 12 Games. Whenever you see a thread on TMP or SCN where someone asks what system to go with Starmada is one of two titles that always come up (the other being Full Thrust). From what I understand it has a pretty much unbreakable ship creation system which sounds cool! It's (primarily) hex based but I don't have a problem with that nowadays. I probably would have discounted the game for this reason alone when I was younger but now I actually see it as a plus. Sure the mat won't look quite as pretty, but neither will you have to do all that measuring and careful turning of models. In any case it's nice to have it as an alternative (double-sided mat anyone?)! The picture above is from Mike Wikan's excellent blog The Redoubt. See the rest of the pictures here!

MJ12 is coming out with a new edition of Starmada soon and I've been reading some of the designer's notes on the forums (Attack Dice, Vector Movement, Defense & Damage) and so far I like what I see. It seems like Dan is going for a more streamlined version with more "built-in" dice rolls but without sacrificing granularity (which is what I think is missing from Firestorm: Armada). I will certainly pick up the new edition when it's released in... February(?) but I think I will get the current edition as well to compare. Besides it's cheap from DriveThru RPG!

There are no specific models for use with Starmada and I'll probably use my Full Thrust minis for it. I did also order a few Deisho ships from Chris at Ravenstar which will hopefully be the start of a new fleet so there are those as well. Really love the Deisho design! There is a clear Sulaco vibe to the ships and they simply look sleek and brutal at the same time. Starmada also lends itself exceedingly well to stating out ships from your favourite fictional universes, and if I ever manage to dig up some proper Babylon 5 miniatures I might use them with this game.

AV:T, Squadron Strike and Voidstriker
I would also like to try a game with more realistic Newtonian movement. The ones I have in mind are Attack Vector: Tactical and Squadron Strike, both from Ken Burnside at Ad Astra games as well as Voidstriker from Irrational Designs. Of the three AV:T seems to be the more complex one so I'm thinking Squadron Strike might be better as an introduction as they are of a similar design but Squadron Strike allows for a few more ships in play. It also allows to choose how many of Newtons rules you want to obey when it comes to movement. Versatility! There is a demo available for Voidstriker and it seems to be the least complex, eschewing 3D movement for ease of play for example. Like Starmada it's hex based which is nice. In the end I think I would like to try all three of them, starting with the Voidstriker demo.

There are miniatures available for all three of these games and I must say they are all great looking! Going from very realistic (AV:T) to fairly realistic but with "extra flair" (Voidstriker). They're all fleet scale so bit smaller and more delicate than my Full Thrust minis. The Ad Astra miniatures are fairly pricey and anything from Shapeways is as well, so getting specific fleets for any of these games is not a priority. However, I really do love the belters for Voidstriker and the British for Squadron Strike. Hmm...

There are many more games out there than this of course, I've heard good things about Babylon 5: A Call to Arms, but it's out of print these days. Might hunt it down on eBay though. I also haven't mentioned Victory by any Means (VBAM) which is a spaceship combat campaign system that has been applied to several different game systems and settings (including Jovian Chronicles and Starmada!). I haven't delved deeper into it but from what I've heard it's good! Definitely on the list of stuff to investigate further.

Battlefleet Gothic
I mentioned Battlefleet Gothic in my last post and I do think it would be fun to play it again, just to see what it feels like. It's not something I'm interested in pursuing in the long run, but doing a quick revisit could be interesting. I still have a bunch of ships stored away - a large Chaos fleet, a smallish Imperial fleet and a very small Ork raider fleet.

Gaming Mats
Something else you need when playing with spaceship minis is a nice looking space! So far I've simply used some black cloth but I really need to upgrade. My friend Anders have a mat from Hotz (the regular, not the enhanced) and it's decent looking but to be honest I thought it would look better than it did. There are also mats available from Terrain Mats and Monday Knight Productions. I don't really like the look of the one from Terrain Mats. The mat from Monday Knight looks better, although a bit plain, but I would like to see more pictures of it. It's the cheapest of the bunch though, so there is that!

The best looking mats, in my opinion, are the ones available from CorSec Engineering (who also make really good flight stands that you can disassemble). My personal favourite is the Blue Stars mat as it's still fairly dark and "spacey". The CorSec mats are also made from fabric instead of felt which most other mats are made from. This should make them more resistant to damage in the long run which is a nice bonus. However, they are also the most expensive which of course is a factor in deciding what to get. User neghvar on the SCN forums made an interesting post on the prices of different space mats as a price per inch chart. Check it out!

Right now I'm leaning towards getting a double sided enhanced mat from Hotz. It's not the best looking and the hexes that are printed on one side look like they might be a bit brittle, but it does look nice and the price is affordable. I would like to get a CorSec mat later on though.

I'm sure there are many of my readers who have other games to recommend or more nice miniatures or mats that I haven't mentioned (I'm especially curious about Colonial Battlefleet). Let me know in the comments! :)

30 kommentarer :

  1. I've played more than a few of these and I want to comment on them:

    Attack Vector: Tactical - this is starship combat. Vectors, kinetic weapons, the feeling of verisimilitude is absolutely phenomenal. If you want "warships in space" you'll be unhappy...and frankly, you're not the target audience for Attack Vector: Tactical. If you want to feel you're the tactical action officer on a warship fighting in space, you're in for a treat. You will have three dimensional thinking in vectors.

    (I'm going to give a shout out to Birds of Prey, also by AdAstraGames that also gives a unique understanding of the 'source material')

    Squadron Strike - It's AV:T that can still be vector movement or more traditional, it's adaptable enough you can have just about any movie or book simulated without too much shoehorning. The design system allows you to make everything from Galactica to Enterprise to a Super Star Destroyer. You have to be willing to put in the time to do it, but it's well worth it.

    Voidstriker: For when you have a design concept you want to sit down and pound out in 10-15 minutes, this is perfect, it is very strait forward and is my personal choice for when I'm looking for the hamburger and fries of game play.

  2. @Stephen - Thanks for the input! Yes, that seems similar to my own conclusions but it's nice to have it confirmed by someone who have actually played the games.

    While I like both the "boats in space" concept I have become a lot more interested in the more realistic concepts of Ad Astra games. I guess spending all that time at Atomic Rocket does that to you. Haha!

    So far in my gaming group there has only been games of the former category being played and I think I may have a hard time convincing my friends to try more complex games like AVT. But that won't stop me!

    So... looking at Squadron Strike, how many models would you use in a normal game? And how quickly/slowly does it play? It seems to me that AVT is almost a duelling game, but that Squadron Strike allows for task force sized groups.

  3. Martin,

    Yeah, spending time around Atomic Rockets will make you want realistic ships and to experience how Newtonian motion distorts the battlespace. It's really awesome. If you played I-War, yeah, this is what you've been waiting for. Once you go vector you won't want to go back...or you'll decide you just want to play Harpoon 4....but I'm digressing.

    For me ATV had a steep learning curve, not because of 3D (their solution is elegant), but because there's a lot of stuff you have to do, keep your weapons on target, avoid seekers, put your seekers on target, watch your heat and energy levels. It's a simulation. I've played a few games and enjoyed them, I think the largest was a 2 on 3 or a 3 on 3 game, once we got into the swing of things I think was a little over an hour per turn, a lot of important decision making goes on that turn and it didn't drag.

    Squadron Strike I'd use at four models to six models (or have other squadron commanders), that and wise choices for weapon mounts, keeps things interesting. Many models have blind spots in their weapons layout, which adds to tactical fun when you're trying to force an enemy ship to show it's belly. It uses a simpler turn system than AV:T and plays faster, with less record keeping it depends on how much stuff gets blown up, but I don't think I've seen any turn take more than 10 minutes or so, and sometimes half that if people are just maneuvering and know what they want to do.

    I read your article on Firestorm: Armada and you can rest assured that Squadron Strike and AV:T both are NOT about rolling lots of dice. AV:T really focuses on giving your opponents too many things to do with too few resources.

    Squadron Strike is like that too, but has fewer things to balance...and a ship design system and fighters:)

  4. I don't really remember how I found my way to Atomic Rocket the first time, but I stayed there for several hours that day. Amazing stuff! I'm currently reading the Night's Dawn trilogy by Stephen Hamilton and the fairly realistic handling of space battles in that has also inspired me.

    Simulation sounds great to me! While I enjoy simpler, Star Wars.y games as well I'd love to play something with real crunch with all the details intact. And that Squadron Strike is a smaller sibling of sorts sounds good as well. Probably a good entry point even for my somewhat reluctant friends.

    Reading this it certainly sounds like just the game(s) I've been looking for! Thanks for hanging around and answering some questions :)

    I just need to figure out which Squadron Strike book/box to get. I guess it's the one that can only be pre-ordered. Hehe!

  5. As a follow up:

    AdAstra has forums:

    Including batreps, ship designs and an awesome community that'll give feedback.

  6. Hehe! Yes, I spent some time there about a year ago. Need to go back and re-acquaint myself.

  7. Ahh, Squadron Strike allows you to take Lady McBeth and her combat wasps up against the Millennium Falcon.

    Yup, vector and non-vector movement at the same time. You can dial the complexity up from fairly low to more complex.

    I think this is the one you want:

  8. That sounds excellent! And thanks for pointing out the current edition. I might just put in an order after this month's paycheck have arrived...

  9. You also have Babylon 5: A Call To Arms, I love this game!

    It is not complicated or too detailed, the focus lies firmly on fun instead of sim. The rules are relatively easy to learn, but provide enough depth so that they are a challenge to master.

    Downside is that the models are out of production and thus difficult to find (or too expensive when you do find them). Although a new ACTA has just been released with the Star Trek license and those models are easy to purchase naturally.

    ACTA has been played at my gamesclub for a good many years and most of us still like to play it from time to time!

  10. Andy!

    Yes, I only mentioned B5 ACTA in passing, but it's certainly a game that I'd like to try. As for miniatures I recently heard that they might still be available from AoG. Haven't tried ordering any though.

  11. I want to suggest Galactic Knights. It has 2-D vector movement and plays pretty fast.

  12. AoG is still selling it's stock, but the selection is rather limited. Also it is a mix of different scales: fleetaction scale and B5W scale. Not that mixing the scales gives any problems in gameplay because you measure everything from the center of the flightbase.

  13. @Desert Scribe - Galactic Knights indeed! I know very little about this game (basically what I've read on your blog). Is there anything it compares to? How similar/disimilar is it to Full Thrust for example?

    @Andy - Yes, I might try to contact them to see exactly what is available. And although I love the larger Starfury models I'm thinking I might go fleetscale with the fighters so they look better next to the other ships.

  14. Forgot to mention this one: For the Homeworld! Starship Combat

    Monomer Games is still working on it and release is planned sometime this year. This is what is known so far:

    This game is designed around the simple concepts of “Full Thrust” and “Babylon 5: A Call to Arms” that got people back into playing Starship Combat games. We also need enough depth to make the games play out like your favorite Science Fiction TV Shows and Movies. Starship combat games do not always have to require a degree to play, and we feel that this is a comfortable Introductory game - and a step over beer and pretzels.

    To achieve this, our rules include:

    Starfighters, Marines, and the like of to enhance smaller games
    We will also include plenty of Pre-Generated Starships from Corvettes on up to Dreadnoughts and even Space Stations
    Complete rules for creating your own Starships and Space Stations
    4x small scale introductory scenarios with pre-made forces, 6x generic scenarios for pick-up games of any size, and 2x advanced fleet scale scenarios
    Rules for planets and other space terrain

    Scale is of course up to whatever sorts of miniatures you have. We recommend 1" bases for your Starfighters, and miniatures 1" to 5" long to represent your Starships.

  15. @Andy - Ah, yes. I think you've mentioned it before. Always good to keep your eyes on upcoming games. I like the beer and pretzels comment (although I don't like the expression) as it implies a certain level of crunch. :)

    Speaking of new games Karl Johnson, designer of Task Force Zeta, recently contacted me offering a free electronic copy of the game if I would be interested in reviewing it. Sounded like a good offer to me! I always like trying out (and writing about) new games!

  16. Martin, Galactic Knights is similar to Full Thrust, but slightly less complex--there's no threshold rolls and a LOT fewer ships systems (mostly weapons, shields & engines) and no written movement orders. I and my fellow players also like the way the game handles vector movement by maneuvering each ship relative to a drift marker; the drift marker and the ship both move together during the drift phase.

  17. @Desert Scribe - Well, that does sound interesting. Especially the drift marker concept! While I quite like written orders it does slow things down a bit. Damnit! Too many systems to try! :D

  18. I haven't played Galactic Knights, based on what Desert Scribe mentioned about the drift markers, I'd totally give it a shot, at the very least you get a bit of the brain bendy nature of space combat.

  19. Loving your stuff nice to see the variation in games too. I'm currently designing my own space combat game based more on smaller ships than huge dreadnoughts etc. Keep up the good work.

    Mike (Elblondino)

  20. Thanks Mike! Glad it's fun to read as well as write. Hehe!

    Some more intimate space combat game would definitely be welcome. While large battles can be fun I would like to play some smaller scale actions as well. Especially if you add that extra layer of detail. :)

  21. It has been a LONG TIME since I've had (or made the) time for table top gaming, however my poison of choice was most definitely Full Thrust. There is just something about the balance achieved by the easily understood game mechanics combined with the flexibility of the setting/fleets that appealed - maybe it was because it was never really suited for competitive play?

  22. @Dutch - Hello and welcome to the blog! Full Thrust is indeed a very valuable tool in the (space) wargamer's toolbox. Its versatility and easy of play while still retaining tactical depth is difficult to match.

    However, at times I want something a little less generic (well, it's generic now, not when it was created. If you know what I mean) and I think something like AVT is about as specific as you can get. Haha!

    Full Thrust definitely appeared at a time when competitive play was just a small splinter off-shoot of the main wargaming hobby and most games didn't spend much time worrying about it. These days I still think it's splinter of the main hobby, but thanks to the internet (mainly) the impact of it has grown to much larger proportions and now it affects the mainstream to a large degree.

    Hmm... balance is all well and good but I'm inclined to agree with Jon's foreword in Stargrunt II, about points system in wargames being illusions. And in any case balance does not necessarily equal fun in my book.

  23. Hey dude, probably not gonna see this, but I really like how you did up the Imperial ships from BFG, any chance I could get a few pointers as to which paints you used etc? Cheers.

    1. I see everything!! :D

      The image of the BFG ships up top is one i nicked from the internet I'm afraid. Mine are more white/grey with blue details. Just from looking at the picture I'd say you would get a similar effect with bleached bone base, devlan mud (or similar) wash and then some good old drybrushing to bring the detail out followed by painting engines, prows etc.

      That would be my take on it anyway. :)

  24. Hi, just found this blog from BGG after a few links.. I'm currently doing the same thing you are (or were) and trying to find 'the' space combat game for me.
    Time and again we try a different ruleset only to end up back where we started at Full Thrust.

    Personally, I do quite like the ACTA system (ADB Star Trek version) but others in my local club do not (quite vehemently, actually) and so while I will play that from time to time it can't really be a campaign system - which is what I'm looking to run.

    Full Thrust is the old workhorse which delivers a game everyone knows, it's just that the game is almost exclusively 'who rolls the best dice' IMHO. Manoeuvre rarely seems to play anything but an illusory role in the game when playing a fleet action. I always thought it played a much better game with just a half dozen ships a side, but I'd be interested to hear comments on my game analysis.

    We tried 'colonial battlefleet' recently which ultimately I didn't like. If anyone's interested I'd be happy to describe it. Also Starmada which I couldn't get on with either.
    I was going to try Firestorm Armada but having read some reviews of it I don't think it's the game for me either..
    Squadron Strike by Ad Astra is at the top of my list if I can get ahold of a copy.

    1. Hey there Bluewaternavy (shouldn't that be spacenavy?)! Welcome to the site. :)

      Interesting insight into FT. I don't actually play it as much as I would like to but I've had a lingering worry that maneuvering might not be as important as I want it to be. Of course I want to play more, but over the years most of my friends have gotten lazy when it comes to miniatures gaming and prefer products where everything is neatly packaged and you don't have to do any imaginary legwork yourself.

      The latest edition of Firestorm Armada (free now from their website) was actually a big improvement in the game I thought. While the core is mostly the same it has been updated quite a bit and looks more interesting now. I still don't think it's my kind of game, but I would at least like to try it now.

      Yeah, it's a shame Ad Astra games are so hard/expensive to get hold of outside of the US. Squadron Strike is on my list as well, I just need to figure out how to get it without going broke.

      At the moment I'm actually looking forward to FFG's Star Wars: Armada. While it might not be everything I want from a spaceship battle game, I think it might be good enough for me to enjoy and, just as important, it's easy to get other players into the game. Then of course I'm partial to Lightning Strike as well and have magnetized and readied two small fleet for painting.

  25. Hi ;0
    my name's in relation to a board game I've been working on for a long time now about WW3 naval combat. Not sure it'll ever see the light of day mind and it's not on my site either..

    Armada's on my list too. Bit sad it requires FFG to make a game (I have lovely NSL miniatures..) when there should be so many other good space games out there. It's also horrendously expensive!

    I've tried half a dozen space games over the last couple of months and find it generally devolves into banging away at long range with little scope for maneuver - and that's pretty much any game.
    It's effectively WWII naval combat without smoke. Which was all about immunity zones and plunging fire - none of which is relevant here but without that detail space ranged combat just seems to have little in the way of tactics behind it - get to the correct range band and roll dice.

    1. A sci-fi naval game actually set at sea! That's not something you see every day. :)

      Couldn't agree more about Armada. Although I'm happy my friends are excited about it, I detest the need for the typical shiny, perfectly packaged AAA product. Like you say, there are so many great spaceship minis out there (as well as interesting rule sets) that my friends can't be bothered to try simply because you have to print the rules yourself. And yeah... it's crazy expensive compared to pretty much any other spaceship game out there.

      Realistically speaking I wonder if space combat wouldn't pretty much boil down to exactly that, considering the old adage of "there's no stealth in space". Although it seems like the Ad Astra family of games still manage to make maneuvering important.

      I wonder if the shipping has maybe become more sane with the restructuring of their webshop...


  26. Sorry for the necro posting.
    Space games played and my simplified opinions (in somewhat cronological order):
    Silent Death: Conga line of death with tons of hit points to mark off the nice looking ship and sheets. Fun and interesting attack dice system.
    SFB: Super detailed ships duels in (Old)STrek Universe. Complicated.
    Star Warriors: Very complex. Should limit to few fighters per player. No really capital ship integration.
    Starmada: have the Compendium rulebook in ages. Having to write down or create my ships made me never invest into it.
    AsFoS: Printed the stats for SW long ago. Never managed to play it.
    Full Thurst: Move to the center of the table and roll buckets of dice. The father of it.
    Star Blazers Fleet Battles: Played twice. Did not hit me as it should. I'm a fan of the Anime.
    Lightning Strike: Played only once. Liked it. Have to revisit.
    Star War Miniatures Starship Battles: never mind horrible game with maybe some descent miniatures.
    WHI: Awesome miniatures and ship sheets. Great for ship duels of small squadrons. Very detailed and 3D!
    Squadron Strike: Could not get past the rules. Way too compliated. Maybe if someone teach me. 3D sphere abstraction for fire arcs is almost uncomprehensible.
    X-Wing: Cool, fun, easy, fast. Not too deep. Good and easy meta. Offenseive die rolls will win most games, so bring a lot of firepower. It's Star Wars!
    SW Armada: Too fiddly and complicated. Not a fleet game. Fix several of X-Wing problems. Turn limit and capital ships moving faster (effectively) than fighters make no sense in my mind.
    ACTA: Played once. It's a nice fleet system. Lack of ships sheets of a form of recording damage on the miniatures turns it off.
    Talon: Updated version of SFB. Can handle few ships per player. Very tactical.
    Dropfleet: So far the best fleet game I've played. Good scenarios, awesome minis, meaningful decisions


    1. Hey Andy!

      I always welcome a good necro, especially when it comes with a good info dump like this! Perhaps I should revisit this post in the future and make an updated version...


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