Reviews

Star Trek: Fleet Captains

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Star Trek: Fleet CaptainsWe’re a bit late to the party but we recently got in a few games of WizK!ds’ Star Trek: Fleet Captains. As Russ noted in the excellent D6 Generation Review of the game, it is a great title. It is not only an excellent game but a great operational starship game in general. It really gives you the feeling of commanding a fleet of ships accomplishing a variety of missions. The latest Romulan Empire expansion not only adds the ability to have a game with three players but provides a whole new faction for two player games.

ST:FC contains 24 nicely detailed plastic miniatures (and Romulan Empire adds 12 more). The ships are all unpainted but of crisp hard plastic. As you can see from the photos below they paint up very well with minimal effort.

If you have any interest in Star Trek then Fleet Captains is a must get. If you like operational starship games give it a look as well.

But after our look at the new Star Trek: Attack Wing we had a particular interest in the miniatures. As previously noted, ST:FC comes with 24 nicely detailed plastic miniatures. They are all based on HeroClix bases so we decided to pick up a few ships from Star Trek: Tactics to compare them.

Well it turns out that the ships from Star Trek: Fleet Captains, Attack Wing and Tactics are all identical. Of course different ships in the various lines may be released in the future but for the same ship the model across all three game lines is identical. ST:FC and ST:T both use the Clix base but the stats are different. Attack Wing of course uses the FlightPath bases. As mentioned, the ST:FC minis are unpainted. The Attack Wing and Tactics minis are fully painted. They are almost identical but the Tactics minis have just a few more details picked out and some ships have a semi-gloss finish but they are so close that one can consider them the same.

This cross pollination of ship models has a few consequences. First, it gives Attack Wing fans a glimpse as to what is probably coming down the road for future releases. Secondly, it also means if you own any of the other models they could be mixed in with the other games. So, for example, if you have, or can get cheap, some Tactics minis you can pop them off their base and replace the unpainted ST: Fleet Captains’ models and bingo you have a nicely painted ship with almost no effort. Because Attack Wing ships come with a couple versions you could take the model from one of the other games instead of buying a second Attack Wing version.

Now THAT’S a Tank! — 15mm Khurasan

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Superheavy GravtankWe just picked up some Khurasan 15mm sci-fi minis including the, somewhat, new Advanced Superheavy Grav Tank. We had no idea when we ordered it that they weren’t kidding about the superheavy part!

Like most of the Khurasan vehicle minis, the tank is made out of a nice resin that is very crisp with little flash or mold issues. The resin is a bit soft so you need to be careful when prepping it. The tank is made of five pieces and assembles easily. The kit includes two barrel options that are easily magnetized. But it was the sheer size for which we were unprepared. As you can see in the accompanying photos it is easily one of the largest 15mm tanks we have seen. It is even larger than their own Tracked Superheavy Tank (also has grav options) and even Critical Mass Games’ Kaamados Dominion Dragamaa Heavy Tank. The design is such that it could easily be used in 20mm games as a medium tank or possibly even in 28mm as a small tank.

We really like the look and the tank goes well with 15mm power armored troops such as Khurasan’s own Mid-Tech Humans in Power Armor troops or Critical Mass’ Arc Fleet Heavy Drop Troops and Augments.

VTOL GunshipWe also grabbed the Khurasan 15mm Red Faction VTOL Gunship. It is sort of a cross between a Mil Mi-24 Hind gunship and an OV-10 Bronco aircraft, which is to say it has a nice mean look to it. Its size is also very good without being too big. As you can see from the photos below it scales well with a Battlefront 15mm UH-1 Huey helicopter. If you want to bring your troops to the battlefield with style check it out for yourself.

4Ground 28mm Buildings — Review

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4GroundWe got sucked into Bolt Action in a big way. But because we had sworn off all 28mm games (pay no attention to our Saga and Dust Warfare gaming…) we didn’t have any buildings for the scale (especially WW2). Thankfully along comes 4Ground with their new line of pre-painted 28mm buildings. They have a WW2 line as well as a few buildings suitable for Saga and much more. They also have undamaged and damaged versions to add some variety to your gaming table.

The 4Ground buildings are all laser cut MDF or, in other words, wood. They come ‘pre-painted’ but this could be considered slightly optimistic. They are painted but in just four colors: off-white/cream, red, blue, gray (and perhaps a brown as a fifth color but it is very close to the natural MDF color so it’s hard to say for sure). The colors are a very simple basic application to the top of each wood frame. Because the edges are not painted once the buildings are assembled there are certainly some un-painted areas showing. But overall they still look pretty good and you could certainly touch-up the exposed bits with paint for a more polished look on the table. The laser cutting process scorches the paint a bit and that then gives the buildings a nice weathered look. Overall they look good but not stunning.

Assembly is very easy. Each building does consist of dozens of pieces, many quite small, but the included instructions are very thorough with both text and photos. Note that some of the assembly photos are actually split showing multiple views of the same piece. This is not immediately evident and can cause a bit of confusion. You assemble the buildings using white glue (we used wood glue and that worked just fine as well). Once you build your first one others will be easy. The destroyed buildings take a good hour and the non-destroyed buildings maybe 30-45 minutes. The construction of the buildings is quite interesting and basically consists of outer walls and inner walls. Each floor assembly is also separate and thus removable during play for placement of and access to figures. The laser cutting is very precise and clean and the parts will drop right out of their frames or just need a good tap. The only downside to this is that each part is labeled on the frame not the part itself so you will need to exercise care during first assembly so as not to get confused over what piece is what. Only the slightest filing or sanding will be needed on each part if anything at all.

Once assembled the buildings are very sturdy and durable and should hold up to even the hardest play. The scale of the buildings is also very good and fit in great with the Warlord 28mm Bolt Action figures and even look fine with the larger 30mm Dust Warfare figures [Note: Depending on your figure poses and basing 28mm figures will fit fine inside or may be too tall to fit and still be able to place the above floor on top. Larger armored figures will certainly have this problem.]. Also the doors and other bits can be assembled open/closed or left off etc adding more variety to each building. Considering the cost, pre-paint and durability of these buildings any gamer should give them a serious look. Recommended.

Also see: Café Gondrée

[Updated: 28FEB14]

Dust Warfare — Review and Musings

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Dust WarfareWell the boys over at the D6 Generation do it again with an outstanding review of Dust Warfare (skip to 2:22 to get right to the review). Along with Romeo Filip, from BattleFoam, they go over the rules, models and gameplay of Fantasy Flight Games’ new sci-fi 28mm tabletop wargame Dust Warfare. They then follow that up with an interesting interview with Mack Martin, co-designer of Dust Warfare.

Your powers are weak, old man.

Russ’ Jedi Mind Tricks won’t work on us this time! Well ok…maybe we did buy the rulebook and some minis but…err…just for review! Overall we probably agree with Craig the most. The rules do look very good but the printed book is a tad expensive. Thankfully FFG released a PDF version of the rules at half the price. As iPad fans we thought this was a great move. We also found some of the original comics via ComiXology on the iPad or even better directly with the Dust Comic app (iPad and Android). We can’t say the stories are all that great but the art and overall world are quite amazing. The general background fluff in the rules is also very well done.

Dust Tactics Lt Panzer WalkerAs the guys discuss, the vehicle models are outstanding but the infantry troops have some issues. The un-armored troops pivot at the waist. This allows for some varied posing options but also causes them to look a bit odd. Many players will want to cut them apart and glue them. Also, while they are not as bendy at the ankles as Romeo claims,  a few of the running figures are perhaps just a tad so but not really enough to matter. The Zombies may be what Romeo is referring to as they are quite bendy but unlike plastic or resin not really fragile. Of course the majority of the weapon barrels we have seen are bent and this is a problem. The armored troops are very beefy but also have the bent weapons and even the beefier weapons on the regular troops are often bent. But the detail on the figures is impressive and this is perhaps the problem. Because the figs are so nicely detailed most folks will want to paint them but then you have to deal with the bent weapons. Leaving them just primed is a shame but certainly better than bare metal/plastic we suppose. Of course as Russ demonstrated in one of his Twitter posts just some quick touch-ups can make the figures look pretty darn good.

Frankly we’ve given up on 25/28mm+ ‘army scale’ games. This scale is simply too big for larger scale actions in our opinion. For skirmish games it works out great but as soon as you get above about a platoon 28mm just gets odd especially when vehicles are included. A standard gaming table is just too small to adequately accommodate the movement and weapon range differences between infantry and vehicles except in the most constricted terrain. This is quite noticeable in Dust Warfare where you have these great walker vehicles but they are only moving 6″-12″ and firing, at most, 36″ and more often under 24″. This just seems odd especially when next to troops moving at least as fast and firing out to 16″ or so. This game should have been done in 15mm. But the walkers are so nice, as are many of the troops, that we are tempted to at least do some smaller battles with them — perhaps vehicle heavy forces with just a few squads of infantry. But of course for those who like company-plus sized battles in 28mm Dust Warfare gives you quite a tactically interesting system combined with mostly nice miniatures.

Our first thought when we saw the miniatures was that we could use them for something else. The most obvious choice would be to use them for Incursion. They scale pretty well. The armored troops fit in just fine. The unarmored troops are perhaps a tad tall compared to Incursion figs. Of course the Dust Tactics minis are such a good deal it is easy to replace all of the Incursion figs with them. The armored troopers especially could easily fit into almost any sci-fi setting such as Space Hulk and the like.

Another idea is to use the rules with 15mm troops. Flames of War infantry would work perfectly. In Dust Warfare each ‘squad’ is essentially a section/team which is exactly what a FoW troop stand represents. Being WW2 there is plenty of variety to choose from that would fit right in. 15mm sci-fi troops could be used for the armored troops such as those from Blue Moon Manufacturing. The Orion troops are great proxies for the Allied Heavy Ranger units. One would just need to make some minor adjustments for using stands versus individually based troops but this is trivial. Of course there is also nothing stopping one from basing 15mm figures individually and playing the rules straight up. The big advantage to 15mm, besides cost savings, is now you can easily have larger scale battles.

FoW M5 StuartUsing 15mm vehicles makes even more sense. Perhaps add 6″-12″ to larger weapon’s ranges to better represent appropriate range distinctions between man-packed and vehicle mounted weapons. Clockwork Goblin is starting to make some 15mm vehicles that are almost perfect for games of Dust Warfare. Their Konflikt 1947 line includes WW2-era power armor, walkers, and Tesla powered tanks. You can of course easily proxy regular WW2 minis such as the M5 Stuart tank for the M2 Series Walker but trading tracks for legs is no fun. Other 15mm options to consider are: The Rebel Minis Vipers and HAMR suits make great choices. The ARC Fleet Walkers from Critical Mass Games along with the various Protolene Battlesuits give you more options. The various walkers from Ground Zero Games are also useful. The OrcTank HABAT is a nice proxy for the Allied M6 Series Heavy Walker. The Project Slipstream infantry and vehicles are also well suited. With just a bit of thought it would not be that hard to come up with suitable 15mm proxies for all of the walkers in Dust Warfare.

So overall it looks like Fantasy Flight Games has a hit on their hands with Dust Warfare. We look forward to seeing how the rules and the universe expand.

Don’t forget to get the latest FAQ as well as other play aids from FFG. Also don’t miss Russ’ painting video, the official FFG Dust Warfare video and check YouTube for tons of Dust Warfare/Tactics videos. The blokes over at Beasts of War have a video Just what is Dust Warfare? and they have an interview with co-designer Mack Martin as well. Bell of Lost Souls also gets in the act with some good info and video with The Tectonic Shift – Dust Warfare Arrives. BattleTactics.TV has some nice looks at the various miniatures. Also for the truly deep pocketed there is always the Dust Tactics Premium version. Finally be sure not to miss Paolo Parente’s Dust site.

Below we have a selection of comparison photos showing the Dust Tactics figures compared with AT-43, Incursion, and Games Workshop miniatures. Briefly, they fit well with AT-43 and Incursion but not so well with GW because the Dust minis are more realistically proportioned. Even the light walkers for Dust are well over an inch taller than 40K Dreadnoughts.

Also see Dust Warfare — Revisited and Dust Warfare Resources.


[Updated: 29MAR13]

The Apple iPad3 and Gaming

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iPad3Well we looked at the gaming significance of the original iPad and the iPad2 so we suppose we should look at the iPad3 as well. The new Apple iPad3, also known as the New iPad or officially as simply the iPad, is perhaps the first complete iPad Apple has released so far. Its improvements over the iPad2 are not huge but are nonetheless significant. A 2048×1536 screen is twice the resolution of previous models. Driving all those pixels is a quad-core graphics chip along with a 4G LTE connection for fast mobile connection speeds. Also new is a a much better outward facing camera (although the facing camera is the same). But ultimately it retains many of the traits of the iPad2.

Battle AcademyBut what does the iPad3 mean for gamers? Well probably quite a bit actually. The increased resolution increases the capabilities of the iPad significantly. For example, on my home 24″ LCD display I am running 1920×1080 resolution. That means the new iPad actually has more screen real estate. Now of course everything will be smaller but you start to get the significance of the new display. This fact got brought home just recently when Matrix Games and Slitherine released Battle Academy for the iPad. Not only is this perhaps the first real historical wargame for the iPad it is identical to the Windows version and even compatible for online PBEM gaming. In fact there are now a huge number of euro game titles in the pipeline for iOS including Le Havre, Eclipse and a number of titles from GMT Games including Nightfighter, Manoeuvre, and Space Empires. The new screen resolution and horsepower may very well bring a whole lot more gaming goodness to the iPad soon.

  • Games: With the new iPad out it is probably time to update our previous list of iOS games.
    • Operation: Eradicate is essentially Pandemic with a Zombie theme.
    • Legion of the DamnedStarbase Orion is almost a direct port of the classic Masters of Orion 4x game.
    • Ticket to Ride is a perfect port of the boardgame and expansions. You can play against the AI, pass and play or play online.
    • Zombie Gunship is a nice simple shooter where you take the role of a gunship gunner to take out zombies. Brrraaaaiiinnnsss!
  • Game Reference: Not a lot new here unfortunately.
    • GoodReader continues to be the best overall file manager and reader. PDF support has only gotten better.
    • Notability We dumped Simplenote for Notability. It syncs with DropBox and supports a lot of basic formatting that is much more useful than the plain text of Simplenote.
    • I Ain’t Been Shot Mum TooFatLardies released the new version 3 rules as a PDF/tablet version that was available before the print. If only more publishers would do this.

[Updated: 30MAR12]

Wargame: European Escalation — Review

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Wargame: European EscalationThe Gents over at the Three Moves Ahead podcast deliver an excellent review of Wargame: European Escalation in their latest Episode 160. We haven’t played the game yet ourselves but they give it overall high marks and make a great case for giving the game a try. The trailer video for the game certainly looks nice as do the screen shots. The game is certainly not lacking in eye candy.

Three Moves Ahead PodcastA horrible name perhaps but Wargame: European Escalation provides a unique take on the RTS genre by mixing in Cold War-era history with a solid RTS game. Not a simulation by any means, the game still manages to provide that wargame feel in an RTS package. A combat-based point scoring system combined with territory capturing and supply gives the game a unique enough mix to warrant a look.

The game is available on Steam. Also see the developer’s game site.

Unity of Command — Review

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Unity of CommandMatrix Games recently released a new operational-level computer wargame by 2×2 Games. Unity of Command covers the battle for Stalingrad during World War Two. Each hex in the game is 20km and each turn is four days.

The interface uses a very simple and clean click methodology that highlights available actions. Visually the game looks great but can turn off some folks at first blush. The map and interface are very clean and stark but then the units themselves are 3D vehicles and, uniquely, figure busts for infantry. This of course immediately raises concerns by veteran wargamers that this is not a serious game. But you quickly get used to the unit designs and they do aid in information delivery with different unit types represented by different 3D models. But for those still not happy, supposedly an alternate unit set is in the works as a mod.

Unity of Command SupplyThe game manages to stride that tough line of being a simple game to learn but still provides enough depth and challenge to engage veteran players. The center piece of the game design is certainly the supply system. Unlike almost all other wargames Unity of Command uses proportional supply where you actually see your supply wither the further it gets from supply points. Again the interface makes this very clear. It is a key point in the game and managing your supply properly is crucial to victory.

Three Moves Ahead PodcastThe AI is challenging and over 17 scenarios are included so replay value is very high. You can also play in hot-seat mode and over the Internet.

Unity of Command comes with a very well done manual. It is a 40-page full color PDF with plenty of illustrations. It explains the game mechanics quite well except, oddly, it doesn’t provide as much information on the supply mechanic as we would have liked. A few examples of how one gets out of supply and perhaps how one could alleviate certain conditions would have been nice. But overall you have more than enough to get you going and make you feel you understand what is going on underneath with the game.

The Three Moves Ahead podcast Episode 148 has a great 48 minute discussion/review of all facets of Unity of Command. If you have any interest in the game this is a must listen. The Wargamer also has a short but useful review.

[Updated: 28DEC11]