Upcoming Event

Friday, August 14, 2015

Halo Fleet Battles - Unboxing Review

Do you have some time to sit and read what I have to say about the new Halo tabletop game? Excellent! =D

Many months ago I saw that Spartan Games was going to be producing a Halo space game; as a rabid fan of both Battlefleet Gothic and Halo, I just knew I had to have it. Fast forward to last month, and I saw that they'd have a GENCON special, where if you preorder it during that weekend, it'd come with free extra ships worth $40, so I definitely had to make it happen. The box arrived yesterday, and I immediately tore it open and dug in, feeling like Christmas again.

So first up, it comes in a pretty swank box, with plenty of pictures, art, and so on.

Ooo, pretty pictures.

So I open that, and find two more boxes containing all the cool stuff. Interesting way to package, but it helpfully separated the models and paper content from each other, so stuff didn't get bent or punctured. Smart!

And yet, curse you extra barrier!

Once I got those open it was into the meat'n'taters. They were chock full of sprues and books and templates and dice and etc. At first I thought "Oh here we go" because I also have the Robotech RPG Tactics box, and those things were a bugger to assemble. However, Spartan really knows their stuff, because not only are the ships pretty well detailed, they're also a breeze to assemble (barely had to clean any flash whatsoever), and everything fits snug. The Covenant Heavy Cruiser is 7 pieces, the Battlecruisers are 4 pieces, and the Heavy Corvettes are 2 pieces. The UNSC Heavy Carrier is 8 pieces, the Heavy Cruisers are 9 pieces, and the Frigates are a blissful single piece.

The finished result looks amazing, with layers of armor and weapons, it's like they scanned it straight out of the game and onto the table (which they probably did, being computer generated and all). The assembly is so smooth for all the ships, though the aft armor on the UNSC Heavy Cruisers had a tricky spot on the bottom that simply called for more pressure when pushing together.

Modeling points of interest: All ships in the basic box are on a single base. The smaller ships are grouped together, while the bigger ships get their own. Ship sizes are Small, Medium, Large, and Massive. The UNSC Heavy Carrier is a Large ship; they plan on releasing more ships down the line, including the UNSC Infinity, which sits on 3 bases, and measures a whopping 27cm long! By comparison, the Heavy Cruiser (the iconic Pillar of Autumn from the first Halo game) is a piddly 6cm long...

They say the game will retain a consistent 1/20000 scale, which is most excellent.

Covenant Sprue.

UNSC sprue.
Because I did the GENCON special (it sounds like something that should come with a "Happy Ending"), I also received an extra pair of sprues and attendant accessories (tokens, etc.)

Pictured: Your Happy Ending, fool.
This netted me an additional Heavy Cruiser and 2 Corvettes for the Covies, and an extra Heavy Carrier and 3 Frigates for the UNSC. Considering the advertising said it was $40 of free ships, I'm going to hazard a guess that each sprue in that picture is $20. On the face it seems like it'll be high pricing, but consider this: BFG battleships (that are about the same size as the big ones here) were $30, and not nearly as nice to put together. Plus, each comes with an escort squadron, so on the whole I think pricing will make it easy to get into this game.

For those who are wondering, these are the lengths for each ship type:
- UNSC Heavy Carrier = 12.5cm
- UNSC Heavy Cruiser = 6cm
- UNSC Frigate = 2.75cm

- Covenant Heavy Cruiser = 15cm
- Covenant Battlecruiser = 9cm
- Covenant Heavy Corvette = 4.75cm

The books and cards and templates are all full color and nice to look at. They provide plenty of tokens (I hope!) and handy reference sheets, making this game out to be one of the least bookkeeping required games I've seen in a while.

Looks more complicated than it is.
The celestial phenomena especially impressed me. Printing and games have come a long way to produce such artistic templates, and I'm really enjoying it. It basically means I can play a game out of the box, with no need to craft up terrain or anything.

The dice are a nice addition, though in truth you can play the game entirely without the specially marked dice. It just looks better when you do!

The two left bags are Order dice, which I'll talk about below. Each of three symbols shows up twice on the dice, so realistically you can replace it with a D3 if necessary:
- 1-2 = Command Icons
- 3-4 = Attack Icons
- 5-6 = Defense Icons

The big white sack (teehee) can be replaced with D6 if necessary:
- 1 = Fail
- 2-3 = Miss
- 4-5 = 1 Success
- 6 = 2 Successes

Still, the dice are nice so I'll prefer to use them. ;)

According to the game's points values and such, each fleet in the box comes out to about 1000 points, and they are dead equal in value, unlike most starter boxes. That's fantastic, as you and a friend can split the box and each have a fleet right off the bat. The book describes 1000pt games as being playable on a 4'x4', 1000-3000 on a 4'x6', and more is bigger. It's definitely a big chunk of ships that each player gets, leaving me to just want the new stuff down the line.

So that's all that came in the box! Next up: gameplay.

The Game

Naturally, once I stopped drooling over everything I cracked open the 128pg book of rules and read it cover to cover. Considering my experience with many games, I found their choice of presentation odd at first. In the first part of the book, they explained the stat cards, how things worked, and so on, while the second part was dedicated to how to play the game. Normally I find the reverse is more common, but in doing it this way, yes I was somewhat confused early on, like "Oh that's handy to know, but how do I do this?" As I read on though, everything fell neatly into place, and by the end of the book, I was hardly an expert, but everything made crystal clear sense and I felt ready to play my first game.

The first and quite pleasing thing to note is that premeasuring is allowed at any time for any reason. Huzzah!

The game is broken down into turns, and from there into phases, like most. The phases are thus:

1. Order Dice Phase
2. Wing Phase
3. Battle Group Phase
4. Boarding Resolution Phase
5. End Phase

In the Order Dice Phase, you generate (roll) Order dice with which you can issue special orders throughout the turn, You also determine that turn's Initiative, via D6 + Command Icons. Units in Reserves also arrive during this phase.

The Wing Phase is all about the tiny attack craft, represented by the tokens with widdle pwanes on 'em. You activate and move a Wing (a stack of tokens) one at a time, alternating with your opponent. Whoever won Initiative goes first, moving Wings into BTB with other Wings or ships, depending on its purpose. After all moves are done, then the Wings attack, again chosen and alternating via Initiative. The rules are fairly simple/complex, meaning they need to be read through entirely, but once you do, the entire process goes pretty quick.

The Battle Group Phase is for the ships and is basically the same, except that you move and attack in the same activation. A Battle Group consists of some ships, duh, grouped together, like a squadron. During this time, ships can also launch boarding craft, though they act more like a weapon instead, because you have to be in range upon time of launch, or they just go poof. The rules for shooting are pretty easy to grasp, considering the ubiquity of weapons in each fleet. This makes the game less about cheesy super weapons and more about maneuvering and coordination, something I think most players will enjoy!

As well, damage is easy to track. For all ships included with the box game, they all essentially have "3 HP". To cause a single damage, an enemy has to generate enough hits to get past their defense number. This number can be lowered via damage its already taken, vulnerability from positioning, and so on. In response, most ships have some sort of defense systems (shields or armor, and point defense systems for missiles). So the shooter rolls a bunch of dice and counts up his successes. The defender rolls some dice for his defenses, counting his successes, and subtracting his total from the shooter. If the shooter still beats the defense value, he causes 1 damage. Overall, this seems like a rather nifty system where both players get to act.

In the Boarding Resolution Phase, the ships that are being boarded are resolved. Depending on how many flew in, what other interceptors are involved, and so on, each player rolls attack/defense dice as in the other phases. Then, both players roll an actual D6 and add their scores together, referencing the board chart (which can be modified by who won the attack/defense roll). The results on this table range from the boarders getting repulsed, to the defending ship getting straight up annihilated in one go! I'd say the Boarding Resolution phase is potentially the most powerful in the game, since it has the potential to bypass the defenses and "HP" and go straight to dead.

Finally, in the End Phase, players are allowed to attempt to Defuse bombs (set by boarders), Remove Vulnerable tokens, and launch more Wings from their carriers.

Now, not everything about this release is glowing. For example, the fluff is minimal. I know the story is already widely known, and whoever wants to play this will likely already be well versed in it. It's just, I'd have liked to see ship stats, like length, its weaponry, defenses, crew, other little fiddly bits. Things like that always interest me.

The organization in the book threw me off, but it vindicated itself by being completely understandable once I got to the end. I guess it's like a procedural mystery show on TV, where everything makes sense at the end.

The bases were tricky, of all things. The pegs just did not want to fit in the holes well, so I had to trim them down and still they jammed. Thumbs are a little sore from pressing down now. Another bases issue is that they don't supply enough to get all the ship cards onto a base. I have two leftover that just have nowhere to go. As well, I have a spare UNSC Frigate and Covenant Heavy Corvette with no base to go on, but since those are from the GENCON special add-on I'm not too vexed. I get to make objectives now!

The base stat cards were a point of irk. Despite that there were two of each big ship, they only provided one of each base cards. That means I can't play certain Battle Groups unless I buy more (I will happily do so, just...bla).

Overall, I'm really digging this game. There is simplicity and complexity enough that gamers of all types should be able to enjoy it, and the fact that it's coming from a well establish brand will certainly help. Who wants to play! =D

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Episode 51 - Goodbye Hot Rod


In this episode, the two Johns get together and talk about 40K, first impressions of the Age of Sigmar, hobby updates and the Michigan GT. 
Download: Direct Download | iTunes | RSS

Episode Timeline
00:00:15 - Sponsors
00:02:15 - New Releases
00:34:00 - Marshaling the Host
01:10:00 - Michigan GT Update

The Show Email - unstabledice@gmail.com

Show Links

Heroes Haven Comics & Games: Website | Facebook
A Gathering of Might: Website | Facebook
Scatter Shot Painting: Facebook
Michigan GT: Website