So it arrived, out of the box and onto the construction table:
This is what is in the box when it is built - minus the trees...
Demand has been extremely high, which has produced a few hiccups in supply of the game - but a deep breath and a step back to the good old days when one didn't instantly throw a hissy fit if things were not delivered over night should prevail - so on with the game at hand...
The following is not supposed to be a review in any sense but it is best, one feels, to impart some kind of order on my otherwise rambling muses.
BOX - a hefty little blighter, about A4 in size with some depth and a lot of mass. Lovely artwork, as you would imagine and wish for.
Inside are all kinds of goodies - the figures, scenery, tokens, unit cards, dice, in fact everything you ever needed to play the game apart from a tape measure - but then who wants a crappy tape which is going to break anyway?
Scenery - you get some shields/barriers and supply pods made of resin - all done ala the video game graphics. I like Spartan resin, an odd thing to admit to maybe, but it is good quality, not prone to exploding if you handle it any rougher than a museum curator and in my experience has very little, if any, releasing material on it which means I never bother washing it (bad boy that I am). You also get some acrylic and card bunkers. Acrylic is so much better to work with than MDF and seems to make a cleaner cut - all without the horrible smell. Basically you make the acrylic shell and then the lovely card art work slips in there, then it goes onto the table (with a bit of weathering dry brush action on the acrylic if you can be arsed).
Figures - made of metal as resin 15mm would be too brittle and with plastic it is hard (if not impossible) to get the amount of undercut detail that is required for an audience who knows the subject matter far to well... However, the vehicles do have resin parts (which in my opinion gives a far better, smoother look than metal) and all the bases are textured resin which was a pleasant surprise. The figures are very detailed, and as one would expect, very faithful to their source material and come with a 'how to' guide. The figures for each unit come on sprues in a bag with the bases. Some of the larger figures are multi- part and all of them have a round peg on which inserts into the base. All the sprues come with the associated mould flashing which is clipped off and then filed. Now, I am an old school wargamer, used to flash, used to putting stuff together and used to filing, repairing and even the odd bit of pinning. BUT I am wondering if a lot of the people picking up the game because of the subject matter and advertising by
are going to be in for a bit of a shock - certainly the newer gamers down at the club who have only dealt with putting X-wing together, one piece plastics or at the most a guild ball figure or FOW tank are going to be in for a bit of a shock. Painting wise they should be really nice to do and the book comes with a very good painting guide which even gives you the codes for the vallejo paints.
Unit cards - excellent idea, everything you need to know about a unit all in one place. also saves on them having to print everything in the core book and then having to do 'something' when new stuff comes out. New units will just have their unit card and be ready to go. Production value wise the double sided cards are excellent, the layout, graphics and the coating are all being top notch.
I particularly love the 'generic commander' card with the gorgeous artwork on one side and the other reserved for game business (like placing order die).
Rules - what the game is all about really I suppose...
First things first I suppose, some questions I had have been readily answered:
- No - it's not a rehash of Planetfall.
- No - it's not just Fleet Battles on the ground (although some of the mechanics will be familiar).
So far so good, the book is well designed and in sections that are easy to find and read. I did miss out on a few basic things that were hidden away but that was more me than the rules I think. Good idea to read it with the playsheet along side and the unit cards at hand as then it kinda makes more sense.
Rules seem relatively straightforward but with a few twists. Movement is done as a unit but then element by element with the measuring done centre to centre which then leaves the orientation open at the end. I have always liked this kind of system with bases. There is a unit coherency which for infantry basically will see elements having to be close to touching to keep the chain. Activation is by initiative, alternating one unit per player. Here lies the reaction system mechanic which is designed to make it feel more like a first person shooter. In a unit's activation phase there are two points where a single (but any) enemy unit can try and interrupt with some shooting. This is at the beginning of the phase or at the end - obviously there is a bit of a tactical choice going on here as to what unit to use and when. Units can try and react even if they have activated that turn, however, as reaction success is determined by a 2d6 roll 'over' roll they may not be successful. Units have two reaction stats - a lower one that is used before the unit has been activated (reaction activates the unit) and a higher one which is used if the unit has been activated that turn. By tweaking these numbers units can be given very different feels. For instance Grunts have quite a high first value (meaning they will be hard to react with) and a seemingly impossible second value (meaning the commander will be having to use his command dice to help out) - compare this to an elite unit like a SPARTAN who have a low first value and a second value which is only one higher. Therefore SPARTANS will (as one would expect) be able to react to lots and lots of action occurring around them. A nifty mechanic and one I am looking forward to exploring.
Combat - this uses the Spartan dice and revolves around making a dice pool and rolling them to get hit results. At different fire power levels certain die can be rerolled and some count as two hits etc. Vaguely typical Spartan 'exploding 6' mechanics and one I have loved since early Unchartered Seas playtest days - the firepower system adds a level of granularity to the system which is very clever. On the defence very few units in the starter box have a SOAK value which is used to create a defence dice pool and can negate hits. Units have a damage 'track' which is basically how many hits are needed to give the unit a damage token - most foot units can only take one damage token. So how can your super units survive? By the use of a heroic save thats how. Depending on the level of heroism your unit can negate damage tokens by rolling the required result. Yep Spartans have a legendary level and can negate a damage token five sixths of the time. But eventually you know you are going to fail that roll. All in all combat appears to work smoothly and quickly - your normal things can affect the rolling, cover density, elevation etc etc.
As I stated this is not a review just an overview and the rules cover everything you would expect - there is lots of background; all the rules you need including command die rolls that can be used to enhance phases of the game; aerial support rules - where would we be without Pelicans eh? Although, in an interesting twist calling in support or the big guns will see your opponent getting victory points, obviously as they are smarmy you have to resort to such tactics to beat them; there are a plethora of scenarios; a paint guide, force building rules and guideline -- like I said everything you need, save an opponent to pulverise.
Obviously the starter set is just that - a 1250 point a side game (standard game is 1500 upwards) but the set is a great starting point to await the expansions and is modular enough to make another starter set (if you can possibly find one) a good investment game wise anyway.
How does it represent the hallowed game? Well in detail I don't think you will be able to quival over anything. Neil (head Spartan honcho) is about the biggest HALO fanboy I know and with him in charge I doubt there is any worry on detail or 'canon' wise issues. There will always be the question of if a miniatures game can simulate the feeling and action of a video game period... let alone a first person shooter. While it is too soon for me to say really (only a few playtest sessions) I can say I think this is going to be as close as you can get to an arcade type of feel - you just have to remember you are playing the big picture, not the action through the eyes of Master Chief. The action on the table is everything that is going on around you on the screen while you hurl yourself on a Spartan Charge at the Elite. Remember this and I can pretty much guarantee fun and carnage on the table top!
Now - off to splat some Grunts!!!!