Mongoose Publishing has released the second edition of its space combat miniatures game Babylon 5: A Call to Arms. Unlike the previous edition there is no boxed set. The game comes as two separate hardcover books, the main rulebook and the Fleet Lists book. My copy of the main rulebook had an odd binding problem and the pages are somewhat wrinkled when opened. The main rulebook is 123 pages and includes a couple pages of ship counters in the back. The book is 100% black and white and of poor quality; the pages are laid out with the intention of some sort of color background but in the actual grayscale printing the result is a very dark page that thus makes the black text hard to read. Worse are the graphics that are almost all too dark.
Fortunately the Fleet Lists book is a bit better. Mine did not have any binding issues and the book has 158 pages of full color. Unfortunately, the text seems a tad fuzzy. I am not sure if this is due to a registration or a paper issue but it can be somewhat annoying. Worse are the color images; they are almost all poorly done. The images are either fuzzy or too dark and lacking in detail; moreover, Mongoose has included the old incorrect photos from previous books such as the Minbari Sharlin cruiser with the rear fins on backwards. Also missing are some of the really great cinematic shots from the show seen in the earlier editions of the game. Overall the physical quality of both products is disappointing but serviceable.
Thankfully the new rules themselves seem well done. The main rulebook includes all the rules needed to play as well as almost 40 pages of scenarios and campaign rules. The book also includes very abbreviated fleet lists so new players do not need the fleet book to get started. The rules changes themselves are fairly minor, evolutionary not revolutionary, and it will take a number of games to determine how well they work. The new boarding and fighter rules seem interesting. For an overview of the changes see Signs and Portents Wargamer Issue 47.
The Fleet Lists book includes full fleet lists for all of the major races. In addition a new race, the Gaim Intelligence, is introduced. Their look is sort of a 1950s space ship meets Salvador Dali. Some may not like the Gaim designs but they are at least unique and better than most of the other Mongoose-produced additions to the universe. A number of the ships have received various tweaks to their specs that veteran players will need to play out. The priority level system remains and seems to have the same issues as before.
Overall Babylon 5: A Call to Arms 2nd Edition seems to introduce some well thought out tweaks. New players will certainly benefit and veteran players should appreciate the changes as well. It is too bad the physical quality is generally not up to the quality of past products. Anyone interested in space combat games, especially BattleFleet Gothic players, should check it out.
FAQs for both the rulebook and Fleet Book are available (at the bottom of the page).