Sunday, 3 April 2016

Space Fleet (WD 139)

The first issue of White Dwarf to have Space Fleet content, issue 139 doesn't just promote or advertise the game, it makes some massive and fundamental changes to the way the game works. 

To start with, the whole way ships work was overhauled. The basic Helm Computer, used for plotting movements was replaced by one which allowed faster forward movement and had extra columns for use by super-manoeuvrable ships. Ships now have different speed ratings which affect what options they can choose when plotting movement. The standard Gothic battleship has a speed of two, whereas the Eldar Wraithship from the boxed game now has a speed of 3 and is super-manoeuvrable.  

The second massive change to do with the ships was the introduction of data cards. In the basic game, all ships are the same. Same movement, shields, weapons, critical hits etc, which is fine for a basic game, but doesn't really do anything to represent the actual fleets used by the Eldar and Imperium. The new cards allow for all of this to be varied and for the introduction of special rules for various craft. It should be noted that, while this adds a lot to the game, it really doesn't make it any more complex for wargamers to grasp, it just turns it into a 'grown-up's' game rather than one for children aged 8+. 

You can see from the above picture how the plastic Wraithships and Gothic Battleships which come in the box are now very different from each other. The Imperial ship is slower and has large broadside batteries. It is also unshielded to the rear, due to the engines. The Eldar ship is faster and more manoeuvrable, but relies on the direction of the solar winds to power it. Its guns are forward facing and it has average all-round shields. 

Fortunately, both ships are costed at 100 points, so even if you didn't add anything beyond the ships in the box, you would still have a fair battle to play, just now with very different sides. 

As well as these ships, the issue contains data cards for five other Imperial ships. These vary from the massive Emperor capital ship, to the smaller, more nimble Cobra Destroyer and Firestorm cruiser. 'Special' ships are also introduced. The Castellan Shield Ship has very limited offensive capabilities, but projects a strong shield across the area around it, allowing ships nearby to be better defended. Finally, the Ironclad Battleship is a relic from a bygone era, able to take a large amount of damage but having no shield systems at all. 

So what about other rule changes? The game is clearly being taken in the direction of larger battles, so rules for squadrons are introduced. These allow groups, usually of 2-3 ships, to be moved with one order. The main restriction is that ships in the same squadron have to remain adjacent to at least one other ship. Oddly, rules for reorganising the position of ships in a squadron is only introduced in the next issue, which means until then, turning a nicely arranged 'V' formation to the right, for example, left the ships arranged more like a 'C', with no way to rearrange them. 

With all the new ships, Battlefleet lists were introduced. There were no more Eldar ships until the single one given in issue 140, so it is only really Imperial players who get much choice. Along with picking squadrons from the list, you get 1 commander free for each 250 points in your fleet and can also buy more at 50 points each if you want to have more squadrons

Most of the rest of the article is given to describing other substantial rule changes, such as to the turn structure, ramming rules, fire arcs and weapons. It also include a summary of all the new ships and their special rules. The additional material wraps up with a handy painting guide for all of the currently available ships. 

So all in all a very good addition to the game. The biggest downside is that it is quite hard to find an intact copy. The one I was able to get had all of the additional counters and data cards cut out, and the new rules pages loose. Fortunately a copy of the game I got had all the data cards and counters in it, so if you get lucky you might find you end up with everything you need anyway! (Of course, you could always find a PDF copy of the issue on the internet, so or I've been told...)

Space Fleet Box Lid

The most infamous part of Space Fleet and other games from the range, is the 'drop dice into the box lid and see where they land' method of hit determination.

As you can see, the lid was printed with a grid of 9 squares. 5 saying 'hit' and 4 saying 'miss'. While this was described repeatedly in White Dwarf as being a 'cunning' design, in reality it is awesomely bad, unless you are a young child who likes dropping small things into a larger thing. The numbers rolled had no effect unless a six was rolled in a hit square, in which case it was a critical.

So what kind of alternative is there? My first thought was to replace it with a d10 system, due to it being the closest to giving nine outcomes. 1-4 would be a miss, 5-9 a hit and 10 a critical hit. Sure, the stats might be somewhat out, but it was close enough. But then I thought that a 60% chance of a hit would be a bit high and I'd rather have 6+ being a hit. As I acquired more of the rules additions in White Dwarf, the result of the d6 roll makes more of a difference when resolving the effects of different weapons, like missiles. I concluded that it made more sense to have one roll to hit and then a second to determine any special effects from either weapon types or receiving criticals. 

The result is that I'm opting for a simple 4+ on a d6 to hit, followed by a roll of all successful dice to resolve anything that needs to know what number was rolled in a hit square. This keeps things quite simple and also seems like a Games Workshop-like system with the 4+ to hit on a d6. 

The only thing outstanding, is the scatter rule, which again uses the box lid to determine where shots scatter to, meaning it can also 'scatter' into the central square and not just the surrounding 8. The best I can think of for this is to roll a d10 and re roll 0s. 

So these are my current thoughts on the subject.  When I've had more of a chance to put them into practice I'll update this post if I think they need any amendments. 

Saturday, 2 April 2016

Space Fleet

Although not my 'usual' topic on this blog, I've been thinking a lot about the old Space Fleet game that Games Workshop released in 1991 as part of an introductory series designed to entice new gamers into the fold. The others in the series, all of which were tied to existing games, were Mighty Warriors, Kerrunch and Ultra Marines.

What was unusual about Space Fleet, was that it used previously unseen miniatures, whereas the others all used models from other current games. This blog entry contains interesting information, including a quote from Andy Chambers which reveals the models were from an unreleased space combat game. As there were plastic ships all ready to be used, Space Fleet was designed to get some use out of them.

If you read what few reviews can be found of the game online, you see it falls foul of many similar criticisms the other games in the range suffer from, especially that of the use of the box lid to determine hits and misses depending on where the dice fall. Now for veteran gamers this is a pretty daft mechanic, but easily remedied. (I myself plan to use a d10 roll, but more on this later). The other major criticism is the simplicity of the game play and the fact that all the ships are the same, Eldar or Imperial.

Now, unlike the other games in the range, Space Fleet actually received some decent coverage in White Dwarf, where the rules were added to to bring the game more in line with what experienced gamers might expect, but still being accessible. I get the feeling someone at GW really wanted a decent space game. Although they leave some loose ends (like the promise of rules for planetary landings), they actually seem like a workable package. Oddly, in the articles, the Imperial fleet gets the most love, the Eldar only get one more ship (for a total of two) and the Tyranids get a whole article with new rules dedicated to them. While this might seem odd, scratching below the surface shows that much of this was apparently done to reuse an older range of ships which were available at the time.

This blog has a couple of good articles about the background of the game if you want to read more.

I've actually managed to wind up owning three copies of the game (to date). This is due to the vagaries of eBay and how it is occasionally more cost effective to buy incomplete copies of the game with a couple of the ships missing than to try and bid on some of the metal ships, which can fetch outrageous prices. As with many older GW publications, it is a bit of a waiting game and requires a firm self-discipline on ebay to get some of the ships at good prices.

Due to the huge disparity in the number of ships produced for the game, and their cost (The two Eldar ships are hard to find and Tyranids can go for an awful lot), my main aim with this project is to collect two forces of Imperial ships. One will be painted similarly to the painting schemes suggested in White Dwarf. The other will be painted a darker shade of grey and be used as a traitor fleet. By not painting the traitor fleet in colours that are too unusual, I hope to use them alongside the other Imperial ships, should I be able to aquire more Eldar or Tyranids in the future.

As to the issues of White Dwarf with extra rules, I have managed to acquire all of these, but never before have I had such difficulty with pages missing and bits cut out! It pays to message sellers before bidding in these cases! I won't go into the contents of each one now, as I hope to do that in future blog posts.

The first copy of the game I bought came with loads of extra map boards and data cards for all the Imperial and Eldar ships in the game (bar one Imperial one), which seem to have been mounted on thick card (ringbinder thickness) and laminated with 'chapter approved' stickers on the back. I'd be interested to know if anyone can shed any light on this. Was it a home made effort, or part of an offer that Games Workshop ran at the time. At this point I have no idea.

My future plans? Well, I'm currently waiting on a few more ships to arrive and plan to paint these quickly and play some games. I may also re-purpose some old Full Thrust ships from GZG if I dig them out and thin they will fit in. Along with that and the White Dwarf 'commentaries' there should be a bit of content to come,  so watch this space for more Space Fleet posts!

Sunday, 13 March 2016

State of the Blog

It's been a while since I've properly blogged, or indeed properly painted or played anything! Frequent followers of the blog or the Twitter account will know this is down to my relocation halfway across the country back to my birthplace of Bournemouth.

Here's a picture of what I'm currently dealing with!

On the right you can see part of my rule book collection. On the left, on top of boxes, are Rennaisance figures from Minifigs which will form my Empire army, along with some Estalian mercenaries. At the bottom of the picture are boxfiles containing work in progress Bretonianns and Undead. 

So what I really need to do is get cracking on sorting this room out. It's going to be a general purpose hobby room (not just wargaming, mind!) as well as housing our DVD collection, so as things go, it's not going to be a chore to sort it, but it's just a case of finding the time. 

In other news I don't know if I'll continue the magazine reviews in their current format. I might, instead change the page dedicated to them into a more simple list, which I can add comments to as I go. I'll see. 

That's about it for now. I'm hoping the next post will outline my Empire army when I've got more figures sorted and based. Until then, thanks for reading!