Review Firestorm Armada

Ok, so I am just back home from the Warhammer 40K doubles tournament, will be getting a few posts up about that, along with pictures in the next week or so, however I have had this written for a while so figured it would be good to post something this weekend.

So here is my review of the newly (23rd Nov) release Firestorm Armada game, produced by Spartan Games.

This is a Space based game, which uses a very similar ruleset to Uncharted seas. However there are some big differences.

The rulebook itself is once again a nice £15 with 3 cut out fleets that allow you to get right into the game without getting any models, something which is a nice touch as it means less investment in a system you do not know if you will definately like.

The Rulebook unfortunately does suffer from the same problems that plagued Uncharted Seas, with spelling mistakes, and Page XX rather than actual page references.

However the background for this book is far better, with a total of 6 races included in the Rulebook (they currently have models released for 4 of them and a cut out fleet for 1 other.

Onto the Game itself.

The Turn.
At the beginning of each turn, each player rolls to determine who has the initiative. Once this has been determined the winning player then gets to activate a Squadron (basically a unit of ships, or a single battleship). They then have to complete all the actions with that Squadron, i.e Moving, Shooting, Boarding then when they are done their opponent gets to activate a Squadron.

Each race has a tactical rating which is used to modify this dice roll, this does mean that some Races are much less likely to get to go first, but as you roll each turn to decide who goes first it can work to your advantage (i.e you go last in the previous turn and move a Squadron, then win Initiative in the next turn and get to move another Squadron again without the enemy being able to react).

So when you activate a squadron you get to do the following actions (in this order).

Also a note on measurement. In Firestorm all Mearsurements are taken from the Flight stand of the model, as in realty the Ship itself only occupies the space at the tip of the flight stand, and the models are just the size they are to look cool. This measurement applies for Movement and Shooting.

Each Ship has to move a minimum distance each turn, this is equal to half their movement.

Also depending on the class of the ship depends on how far it has to move before it can make a turn. For example a Battleship has to move 2" forward before it can make a turn, then another 2" forward before it can turn again. Cruisers have to move 1" and Frigates can just turn as often as they like.

Unlike Uncharted Seas it is impossible for your ships to collide (or ram) accidently. This is because of the varying heights that the ships can be at in a 3D enviroment. In fact is is actually very very hard to Ram in Firestorm, as your ship needs to be in a critical situation before you are even allowed to consider doing so, and it almost guarntees that if you ram an enemy ship you are going to die, hopefully taking the enemy along with you.

This phase is the most important phase, and runs very well. Each ship has a selection of weapons, generally the larger the class of ship the more weapons it has. Each weapon also has a specific arc in which it can fire.

The Range Bands word the same in Firestorm as they do in Uncharted Seas.

Range Band 1: Upto 8"
Range Band 2: Between 8" & 16"
Range Band 3: Between 16" & 24"
Range Band 4: Between 24" & 32"

However, in uncharted Seas the Weapons get more powerful the closer you get to the ship, with Range Band 1 being  the most effective range.

In Firestorm it is assumed that when you are in Range Band 1, the enemy ECM (Electronic Counter Measures) is able to neutralise some of your firepower. This means that you want to keep your enemy in Range Band 2 ideally, as this is where your weapons are most effective.

There are a couple of cool things you can do in Firestorm, which dont work in Uncharted Seas, things like ordering your Ship to go 'Belly Up' bascically making the ship turn upside down. This allows you to change which Broadside you are shooting at the enemy, so if you no longer have a Starboard Weapons, you can go 'belly up' to use your Port weapons.

Depending on the Range Band you are on you get a number of Attack D6 to roll. All rolls of 4+ cause a hit against the enemy, with 6's causing 2 hits, and allowing you to roll another dice (all rolls of 6 cause 2 hits and allow you to roll another, so if you keep rolling 6's you keep rolling dice till you stop.

You then add up your total number of hits and compare it to the Damage Rating of the Target, and the Critical rating. Exceeding the Damage Rating causes 1 hull point of damage, exceeding the Critical rating causes a critical hit, which means rolling on a special critical hit table. This table has a variety of results. You roll 2D6 then consult it to see what happens. A Double 1 or Double 6 will outright destroy the enemy ship (always an amusing result).

Hull points of damage also reduce the effectiveness of the ship in combat, as for each hull point of damage you have it reduces the number of attack die you roll for each weapon by that number (to a minimum of 1). Losing Crew points also has this effect, but you dont add the lost hull points and crew points together and then take it away, you simply check which is higher and take that away from the number of attack dice.

If a ship reaches 0 Hull Points then it is taken out of the game, if it reachs 0 Crew points then it becomes a drifiting ship.

There are some modifiers to the Attack Dice being rolled, such as shooting at a smaller target only allows 5 & 6's to count as hits (although the 6 still gives you 2 hits and a reroll).

No Raking shots in Firestorm though. Getting behind the enemy is still a good thing as most of the ships do not have rear weapons.  

Boarding & Fighters
Boarding can be done by moving close enough to the enemy to launch your Assault Troops against their ship, if you kill all of their Crew then you get to capture their ship, a worthy goal methinks.

In the case of Crew combat you roll a number of dice equal to your remaining crew, with a 4 or 5 killing 1 enemy crew, and a 6 killing 2 and gaining you another dice to roll.

You also get the option to include fighters, Bombers, Assault Craft and Defensive fighters, however I have not used these myself (and suggest skipping them in your first few games as they do add an extra level of difficulty), however I look forward to the mayhem they can cause in games.

Secondary Systems:
There are several secondary systems that your ships can have. These range from Point defence to shields.

Point Defence allow you to destroy Assaulting Troops, Torpedoes and enemy Fighters. Each ships is able to use its Point Defence upto 4" away from the flight stand, and this means you can get overlapping fields of fire to protect your ships from all of the aforementioned attacks.

Shields allow you to roll a number of D6 equal to your Shield score, where any rolls of 4+ reduce the number of hits you took by 1. As usual a roll of a 6 reduces the hits by 2, and allows you to roll another dice.

Your ships can also have mines that they can drop at any point of their movement. Each mine has a rating (1-5) with the rating indicate how many attack dice it gets when an enemy ship triggers it. Mines are trigger by enemy ships moving within 4" of it, and then EACH ship within 4" takes a number of hits equal to the rating (as usual 4, 5 and 6, with 6's counting as double). A useful tool to have, however something that can back fire if the enemy detonates one and you are still too close.

The Fleets & Models:
Now the models for the Uncharted Seas range are wonderful, however I think that the Ships for Firestorm are better. You may very well see some familiar shapes when you look through the races (I am looking at you Terran Alliance... very BSG), however while clearly influenced by other Sci-fi settings they are still unique to the Firestorm universe.

The main downside to the Spaceships is that they can be a pain to put together. I bought myself a Dindrenzi fleet, and managed to get them all assembled in 2 hours (1 Battleship, 3 Cruisers, 6 Frigates) compared to 45 minutes that a friend managed to assemble his Terran ships.

Each fleet costs £35 at the moment, and each one has the same number of ships. They have also release Carriers for the first 4 races, with each of these costing in at £10 each.

The starter boxes come with a Card sheet full of tokens to use in the game, however unlike Uncharted Seas they do not come with any Cards.

The Cards are available to use in this game, however it is a deck of 52 costing £6. Still a good investment.

In Summary:
I have seen and played in several games and I have to say that both players thoroughly enjoyed the game, whether they were winning or losing, and given the simple system they have used for damaging the enemy it means even if you only have 1 or 2 dice you always stand the chance of rolling 6 after 6 after 6 and potentially destroying an enemy outright.

I also ran a demo game of this down at my local shop (KoA) and this had 4 players a side, with 2 Starter fleets on each team, while it was slow going it was highly entertaining and from what people said everyone enjoyed it, even though I am not 100% with the rules yet.

My Score: 9 / 10 (the only reason it doesnt have a 10 is because it can be difficult to find the players to play against and a shop that stocks it.)


Hephesto said…
Thanks a bunch for the review Skraggi! Been rather interested in this game for a while now and this extra info really helps out. Looks like I'm going to have to give this a shot, even if only just to paint some of those excellent ship sculpts!
Kraggi said…
No problem at all Hephesto. Only played it a few times myself but it is very enjoyable.

I am trying to get my Dindrenzi fleet finished so I can post some pictures... it is on my long list of things to do lol.
Tom said…
I'll second Kraggi's rating, really enjoyable game, not as technical as Full Thrust never mind Star Fleet Battles but very enjoyable indeed. As an aside normlly it'll take me months or even years to get minis painted after starting a game - this one less than a week to get all my fleet but the carrier started and all I need to do now is some tidying up and washes and they'll be finished.
Aquilian said…
I have only read good things about this game. What puts me off personally is the fact that the rules seem to be mostly an improvement of the old BFG system. For me the downfall of BFG was the aliens. So it is good that this system seems to cater for us "aliens DO NOT exist" type of players by having 2 opposing human factions.
Finally got to try it out and it is pretty damn fun! I am not sure I like that exploding dice can potentially cause an inordinate amount of criticals (unlikely, although I nearly caused 3 crits on a Sorylian battleship last game with Razorthorn broadsides), nor the fact that a single crit against an undamaged battleship can destroy it, but I guess it is all part and parcel of the rather light feeling of the game.

Considering that a single 10-ship battlegroup costs the same as a BFG battleship, and that all the fleets seem viable and relatively varied (vs in Full Thrust, where the humans are too similar and the aliens are wildly unbalanced) I think I am sold. Terran Alliance Battlebox order placed.
Kraggi said…
It really is, the only problem I am having is getting opponents, but intend to pick up a second fleet in the next few months to allow me to get people playing it with my models lol.