Halo: Fleet Battles
From the announcement:
WHO DOESN'T LIKE FREE STUFF?
Spend £50 in our online store this weekend and you can add a rulebook or two to your shopping cart COMPLETELY FREE
Use your free rulebook(s) to ...........
• Try a new game
• Keep one copy in pristine condition
• Have the convenience of one in your bag and one on your shelf
• Give to a friend to see if they want to try a new game
• Have one just 'cos you want one
Just add the code below to your order at checkout and your rulebook(s) will be added to your order. You can add one code per £50 spent, so spend £100 and you can add two codes, £150 let's you add three, etc. Some codes give you one book, some give you two.
And the best news? The weekend starts NOW!
Codes are valid from now until Monday 3rd April.
Enter Code: FREE-DWRB for Dystopian Wars rulebook
Enter Code: FREE-DWRB-CB For a Dystopian Wars Campaign Book.
Enter Code: FREE-HFRB for Halo: Fleet Battles rulebook
Enter Code: FREE-HGRB for Halo: Ground Command rulebook
Enter Code: FREE-FARB for Firestorm Armada 2.0 and Planetfall rulebooks
Enter Code: FREE-FARB-FG for Firestorm Armada Fleet Guides Zenian League (Hardback) AND Kurak Alliance Fleet Guide (Hardback)
The contest is in honor of the upcoming release of Halo: Ground Command. Obviously, though, you're not going to be painting those minis (since they're, y'know, not out yet). However, you can paint the figures from the Halo minis that are available from Halo: Fleet Command. There's also the 54mm figures given away at Salute. Weren't at Salute? Well, you're in luck because those figures are available over in the Spartan Games webshop.
Prizes will include signed rulebooks, as well as other Halo-themed goodies from both Spartan and Microsoft.
You have from the 13th of this month until August 31st to get your entries in.
Getting them out of the way quick, there's new deluxe tokens for your Halo: Fleet Battles games. If you'd like to upgrade from the little, cardboard ones to actual miniatures, now you can.
Then there's the OmniDyne who join the Marauders of the Rift. They've got four new box sets, giving you fleets of different sizes you can join in with, as well as different options of ships.
Kicking things off is Dystopian Wars Fleet Action. This rules set is to Dystopian Wars as the fast-play rules were for Firestorm Armada. Dystopian Wars Fleet Action is fully compatible with the current Dystopian Wars rules. Want to jump in right away? There's a new 2-player box set to go along with it.
Speaking of Firestorm Armada, the Xelocians are making an appearance. Halo: Fleet Battles more your space combat game of choice? Well, there's new sets available for that as well, with new ships for both the UNSC and Covenant forces.
All are available for ordering now.
Or in the case of Spartan Games, "2016 for busts!"
They've started taking pre-orders for the new models they'll have available on January 27th of next year, and included in the group are a new set of busts for the Halo Fleet Battles game. There's more than that, of course. To see exactly what, read on.
Let's go ahead and start out with those Halo busts. Both the Covenant and the USNC are getting a set. The Covenant set includes Supreme Commander Rho 'Barutamee, Imperial Admiral Xytan 'Jar Wattinree and the Minister of Etiology. Meanwhile, the USNC gets Fleet Admiral Lord Hood, Vice Admiral Michael Stanforth and Artificial Intelligence Cortana.
Meanwhile, over in Dystopian Wars, giant robots are making themselves known. The Republique of France are hovering their way to war in Madame Liberte (you can also use it to break skylights in museums). The Russian Coalition is going a bit more straightforward, as one would expect, with their Svarog Battle Robot.
And last, but not least, Dystopian Legions is getting Covenant of Antarctica sets. This wave sees the Covenant Infantry (Commando) Officer Set, Covenant Infantry (Commando) Set, Infantry (Commando) Expansion Set and Heroes of the Empire boxes.
As you can see, there are special deals going on for Halo: Fleet Battles, Dystopian Wars, Firestorm Planetfall, and Firestorm Armada. So you've pretty much got your pick of space fleet games or a couple ground-based minis games. It just depends on if you want sci-fi or steampunk, really.
... I guess you only get that joke when you see what they're actually taking orders for. I guess I should probably show you that.
Ok, so now you can get the joke. Not that it's a very good joke, but not all of them are going to be.
They are coming out with new token sets for Dystopian Wars, Firestorm Armada, and Firestorm Planetfall. Help keep track of all that's going on with these new token sets. Also for Firestorm Armada and Halo: Fleet Battles you can pick up an asteroid set. We all know what the chances of successfully navigating through one of those is.
It's not all tokens and some terrain, though. There's a pair of new figure sets as well. The Federated States of America is getting themselves a Restitution Battle Robot, because why not. And not to be outdone, the fellows across the pond are getting a Kingdom of Britannia Windsor Mobile Fortification.
All of these are on order now and will be released December 16th.
So without further ado...
This week we have stories on: Rory’s Story Cubes: Batman, King's Pouch, Space Movers 2201, Warehouse 51, Neon City Rumble, Viceroy, Machina Arcana, 7 Wonders: Duel, Age of Tyrants Junkers and Viridians, The Minecraft Card Game, Battle Foam P.A.C.K 720 Molle Army Bag, Thunder Alley, Halo: Fleet Battles, and Starfighter.
Holy Dice Rolling, Batman! (A Review of Rory’s Story Cubes: Batman)
Rory’s Story Cubes: Batman is a cooperative storytelling game. All nine dice are rolled and players take turns narrating the unique story that the group creates. The only rule is that all nine images shown on the dice must appear as elements in your story. The box includes some suggested ideas on how to accomplish this, but these are only suggestions, not rules. You are free to play however you want.
A Kingdom Forged from a Sack (A Review of King’s Pouch)
As a player in the world of King’s Pouch, you are the leader of a castle city hoping to become the ultimate leader of the land (i.e. have the most prestige points at the end of the game). There are three avenues you can pursue in order to achieve this goal: military strength, religious piety, and political favor. Each strategy will require the construction of specialized buildings, but the real backbone of your empire will the be the citizens that you manage to attract.
Jump Around (A Review of Space Movers 2201)
Space Movers 2201 is a cooperative, sci-fi adventure game set in the distant future (I forget which year). As crewmembers aboard the Liberty led by its dashing captain, Eli, you’ll jump from system to system delivering questionable cargo while trying to achieve various objectives – all while evading the oppressively watchful eye of the Universal Oversight.
Board to Death TV:
Warehouse 51 Review
Neon City Rumble Review
N30N City RUMBLE (NCR) is a two-player “beat ’em up” card game that simulates 5-on-5 tag team combat between mutant martial artists in a radically dystopian 90s setting!
Each turn, you’ll trade for cards at a pawn shop, tag your fighters on and off the tarmac, and then engage the opponent using martial arts, super-moves, and a wide variety of items, all of which are inspired by classic arcade games. Knock out all of your opponent’s fighters until only yours remain to win the game!
Viceroy Board Game Review
Viceroy is a board game of bidding and resource management set in the fantasy universe of the famous Russian CCG Berserk. As the players struggle for control over the world of Laar, they recruit a variety of allies and enact various laws. These cards allow players to develop their state’s military and magical might, increase their authority, and get precious gems they need to continue expanding their nation.
Board Game Quest:
Machina Arcana Review
As I previously mentioned in my review of Rise of Cthulhu, I love the Cthulhu Mythos. So, when I was offered the chance to review Machina Arcana, a co-op board game that mixes steampunk & my favorite Lovecraftian nightmares, I jumped at the chance.
Now, that being said, I have to be honest and admit that I don’t know much about steampunk but I did go into this review with an open mind mainly because I understand that the Mythos cross and compliment many genres and themes. So how well does Machina Arcana pair these two genres into a horror game you should to add to your collection? Read on!
Machina Arcana is a cooperative game for 1-4 players runs between 40 and 120 minutes per player (depending on the mode). Machina Arcana plays best with 1-4 players.
Shut Up & Sit Down:
7 Wonders: Duel Review
Classical cock-blocking simulator 7 Wonders was one of the first boxes we ever recommended on SU&SD. We couldn't believe it. How could a game could be so clever, so beautiful, and support 2 to 7 players with no downtime?
Today, Paul and Quinns have reunited to review 7 Wonders: Duel. A brand-new 2 player game of the same old ancient conflicts.
Have the boys still got what it takes? Or will history... forget them?
Age of Tyrants Junkers and Viridians Review Part I
For the Upcoming Kickstarter Age of Tyrants the Overlord John Robertson has sent me two pre-production miniatures for the Viridian and Junker forces. Incidentally also the armies I want to start.
The tanks are manufactured by Prodos Games and come in 6mm scale resin casts. I received flawless castings with the only quibble being the two resin addons for the Viridian tank (sat dish and light). John is already looking into options for this. Personally I have put in the sat dish as a communication symbol but will leave out the light for now.
The Board Game Show:
Minecraft Card Game Review
I’ve been playing Minecraft on the Xbox 360 — and now the Xbox One — for several years now, and that’s saying something, because I’m not an 8-year-old. Neither is my friend, Chris, who is 50 years old, and with whom I’ve spent countless hours online exploring, building, exploding and falling to our deaths in Mojang’s less-than-visually-stunning virtual sandbox environment.
As a fan of Minecraft and a board game geek (see what I did there?), I just had to try Mojang’s Minecraft Card Game. Note that the name of the game includes a question mark. The actual name of the game is Minecraft Card Game?, just to make writing and reading about it confusing. But I get it. I think. The name is perhaps the anticipated reply when your tell your friends on game night that you’ll be playing a Minecraft card game. Your friends inevitably will clarify and say, “Minecraft Card Game?”
Yes, Minecraft Card Game? (Man I hate that question mark, so hereafter I leave it out.)
Battle Foam P.A.C.K 720 Molle Army Bag Review
Welcome to our review of the P.A.C.K 720 Molle Army Bag from Battle Foam, a company well known for their products aimed at safely storing and transporting wargaming miniatures. Battle Foam kindly sent us the case in this review so we could try it out for ourselves, and tell us that this bag has been designed for airport travel and meets all FAA regulations for carryon luggage. This is great news for anyone needing to travel to tournaments or take other trips with their armies.
An interesting feature of the P.A.C.K. 720 is the molle system, which allows you to attach further pockets and pouches to this bag, customizing it to fit your specific storage and transportation needs. The P.A.C.K 720 including the standard load out of foam is priced at £135.60 (or $174.99).
Gettin' Higgy With It:
Thunder Alley Review
We take a look at the racing board game, Thunder Alley, by Jeff & Carla Horger. Distributed by GMT Games. Thunder Alley is for 2-7 players, age 10+ and takes about 90 minutes per game.
Play Board Games:
Halo: Fleet Battles Review
Halo: Fleet Battles –The Fall of Reach has everything you need to start playing this capital ship combat miniatures game.
Starfighter is a 2-player game in which you send wave after wave of fighters at your enemy to take out their fighters and their capital ship.
Carriers are the name of the game in the Halo releases. Depending on your faction of choice, you either get the UNSC Punic-Class Supercarrier or the Covenant Assault Carrier (CAS). Either way, let them do the lifting for you.
Meanwhile, for Planetfall, you get a bit more options as several Ground Command Helixes hit the turf. They are created featuring a central command vehicle that will help get the various infantry bases into the fight as quickly and efficient as possible.
Uh... there's also some Halo stuff there...
There's 5 releases coming for Halo (though only 3 have pictures so far). For more ways to expand your fleets, there's Command Fleet Upgrade and Fleet Boxes for both the USNC and Covenant. And with all those new ships, you gotta have ways to make sure you know what's what. That's where the Battle Group ID and Token Pack comes in.
Then, as I mentioned, they have things for another of their games. This time it's Dystopian Wars. The Empire of the Blazing Sun, the Covenant of Antarctica, and the Prussian Empire are all getting themselves some really big toys in the form of Battle Robots (I mentioned my love of mechs earlier. That still holds true here. These look pretty cool).
Well, Spartan is here to expand your fleets with bunches of new options. More ships, more commanders, more dice.
There's several different sets, as you can see, that all come with different options. Whether you want to add a large amount to your fleet, or just get a couple pieces here and there, there's a set almost custom-designed for you. And, as-mentioned, more dice, because sometimes you don't want to share with your opponent.
In this batch we have: Multiple videos from Through Gamer Goggles as they tooled around at Gen Con, Mantic posts an unboxing of Abyssal Dwarves, Geeks of the North Episode 18 – Happy Birthday, and All Us Geeks Episode 59 Having Great Snowball Battles During Table Golf.
Through Gamer Goggles: Spartan Games and Halo at Gen Con 2015
At Gen con one of the very first things I had the opportunity to do was to sit down with Neil Fawcett from Spartan Games. It was the first time they visited us in the states and I think it’s the beginning of many more.
I did two interviews with them where we chat about Firestorm Armada, the return of Uncharted Seas, Dystopian Wars, Planetfall, and of course HALO. The first is below. I had to refilm it because of the background noise, Neil has a soft voice. I wasn’t going to keep this interview at all, but there is enough in it that we didn’t cover in the second interview that I couldn’t ignore it.
Through Gamer Goggles: Words With Lisa Stevens from Paizo at Gen Con 2015
In this interview with Lisa Stevens from Paizo at Gen Con 2015 we chat about the new Pathfinder MMO that they have made with Goblin Works. Lisa take a great amount of time explain how the Pathfinder “sandbox” can become your unique castle in this MMO. She also covers the players control, future player design, Gear and the tier system they work with, xp, and how the politics are left to the players.
Through Gamer Goggles: Words With Heath on Gods and Monsters at Gen Con 2015
Heath from Altered Reality tells us about the Gods and Monsters game live on Kickstarter. These figs are beautiful and huge!
Through Gamer Goggles: Words With Flying Frog Part 1,2 &3 at Gen Con 2015
At Gen Con I had the chance to catch up with Scott Hill from Flying Frog Productions. We chatted for about an hour so I broke it down into three parts. This part we talk about the history of the frog, the philosophy of their business model and the story behind their name.
Mantic posts an unboxing of Abyssal Dwarves
Way back when we were first getting started, Ronnie used to take a look at what’s in a box of Mantic soldiers. It’s been a while since we last did this, but today the Mantic Insider presents the first What’s in the Box of 2015.
It focuses on everyone’s favourite evil beardies – the Abyssal Dwarfs.
Which army will you choose for second edition?
Geeks of the North Episode 18 – Happy Birthday
We have done it, we have been podcasting for a full year and have not podfaded yet! During this episode, we talk about the past year and what is to come for Geeks of the North. So sit back, relax, grab a paintbrush and enjoy the show!
All Us Geeks Episode 59 Having Great Snowball Battles During Table Golf
Jeff & Jordan are back with episode 59! The Geeks have started using Mixlr to live stream the episodes! They also review Table Golf and The Great Snowball Battle!
I, of course, once more made my rounds of the place and got some galleries of photos over on the TGN Facebook page.
I got to check out Gods & Monsters by Altered Reality. I hope to get a demo from world-renown artist, Heath "BA" Foley sometime soon.
Undercity is the new board game from Privateer Press. I got some photos of that set as well.
Sticking with Privateer Press, here's a look at the figures and board from the Unleashed set for the IKRPG.
Gale Force 9's booth had WWE Showdown, the D&D Dracolich, the new Firefly expansions and more.
Fantasy Flight's display case was filled with a bunch of the new board games they've recently announced.
Fantasy Flight Games put out some previews of new ships coming for X-Wing.
We posted the story of the Conan: Rise of Monsters Kickstarter getting underway. They're here and I got to take a look at the figures.
Spartan Games had some new ships they were previewing for Halo: Fleet Battles.
Spartan also had some prototype figures of the ground-based miniatures game they're working on also based on the Halo universe.
And last, but certainly not least, a look at the Mantic display cases.
Whether you want to play the Covenant or the UNSC, you have a couple options for how you want to expand your force. You can get either the Large Upgrade Box, the Core Upgrade Box, or the Fleet Commander Packs. Each has a different set of ships and other accessories that comes with it, so you can customize your force to how you want your fleet to look and play on the battle... umm... vacuum? Battle space? It's not really a battleground or a battlefield, is it?... anyway...
Firestorm Planetfall also has some new, aerial releases coming up. You've gotta have good air support if you want your ground troops to be able to take and hold ground. You certainly can't let your opponent control the skies.
You notice how we're losing altitude with each set? These last couple take us right down to the ocean's surface in Dystopian Wars.
All of these can be ordered now and will be shipping out on the 26th of August.
We're looking at getting a full review article done as well. Stay tuned.
Halo: Fleet Battles' starter box is called The Fall of Reach. Inside it, you will find:
* A full colour 100+ page rulebook
* The Fall of Reach campaign guide
* UNSC Ships (32 models)
* - 1 Epoch-class Heavy Carrier
* - 4 Marathon-class Heavy Cruisers
* - 27 Paris-class Frigates
* Covenant Ships (17 models)
* - 1 ORS Class Heavy Cruiser
* - 2 CCS Class Battlecruisers
* - 14 SDV Heavy Corvettes
* 25 custom Dice
* Fleet Commander Data Sheets
* Flight Stands and Overlay Cards
* Punch-out Scenery and Token sheets
* Quick Guide reference sheets
Unsure if you want to give it a try? Check out our in-depth preview that Jared did.
The first product shipping will be their Halo: Fleet Battles, The Fall of Reach box set. This box will contain a full-color rulebook, the Fall of Reach campaign guide, 49 plastic ship models, 30 custom dice, various Fleet Commander Data Sheets, flight stands and overlay cards, punch-out card scenery and tokens, and a Quick Reference Guide sheet.
Expect to see the box at your game shops on July 20th.
In 2001, Microsoft changed the landscape of console based shooters with the release of Halo: Combat Evolved for the original Xbox, introducing the world to Master Chief Petty Officer John-117 (or the Master Chief for short) and a rich, sci-fi universe. Over the years the franchise spawned many more releases ranging from sequels to books and comics to updated re-releases on new consoles. And on October 27, 2015, Microsoft and 343 Industries (the developers and caretakers of Halo) will release Halo 5: Guardians on the Xbox One. But soon, another all-new gameplay experience will be available thanks to Spartan Games — an appropriately named UK based tabletop game studio. In February 2015, Spartan announced its forthcoming tabletop miniature game, Halo: Fleet Battles.
From Digital to Physical
In 2014, Neil Fawcett — Creative Director of Spartan Games — was discussing possible licensing options for a new game. Previously, the studio created their own worlds in the form of Firestorm Armada, Firestorm Planetfall, Uncharted Seas, Dystopian Wars, and Dystopian Legions. When asked what his dream project would be, he didn’t need time to think it over. Neil simply said, “The cream of the crop would be to get Halo.” If you’re going to dream, you might as well go big, and that’s what he did.
The pitch was made to Microsoft and 343 Industries, and it didn’t take long for them to get back to Neil with exactly what he wanted to hear. They were interested. With that, Neil broke the news to an excited group of designers and sculptors: Spartan is bringing one of the biggest video game franchises from the digital space to the physical space like never before — the game will focus on the gigantic ships and battles that ensue between the humans of the United Nations Space Command (UNSC) and the alien Covenant forces.
Armed with a slew of Xbox 360s and Xbox Ones, the Spartan team got together in a secluded cottage and set about playing every Halo game. They were fans of the series and had played them before, but the team wanted to make sure that, even in a large-scale fleet game, what made the Halo series popular remained in Spartan’s game: a deep mythology brought to gamers through powerful storytelling and rich characters.
The team had to channel this into a tabletop system that would appeal to fans of the games who might be new to tabletop miniature gaming, and to veteran wargamers who may have no real attachment to the Halo name but are looking for a new miniatures game to try. Luckily, this was made easier through 343 Industries’ constant support, working side-by-side with Spartan to provide lore, encouragement, and quality art.
Explore the Unexplored
Spartan’s decision to focus on the ships of Halo is not without reason. Beyond cutscenes or minor gameplay sections, space combat is rarely focused on in the Halo video games. “Everyone knows the Master Chief, but there’s an entire military behind him. We wanted to put a little more flesh on the bone. And spaceships are cool,” said Neil. People who play the games know these ships from cutscenes, but now they can actually maneuver them and see how battles are fought in the Halo Universe.
The very reason Spartan chose to develop a fleet game is also one of the biggest challenges. Neil and his team have been entrusted with bringing to life something Microsoft and 343 Industries have yet to do, at least publicly. According to Neil, 343 Industries has been nothing short of supportive and excited with the whole process. “Microsoft and 343 Industries have opened their doors to a wonderfully rich tapestry of information.” A lot of this information has never reached the public, but it is there and accessible for Spartan’s team to use.
Microsoft and 343 Industries have entrusted Spartan not only with the duty of turning a mountain of art and unpublished background information into a compelling fleet battle system, but also of realizing ships such as the Covenant ORS-class Heavy Cruiser and UNSC Epoch-class Heavy Carrier that have, until now, only existed in the Halo Story Bible, dialogue exchanges, and concept paintings. Designed by Spartan’s talented model makers, the ships are then carefully reviewed by 343 Industries for accuracy and conformity with established canon before seeing physical form in Halo: Fleet Battles.
Assemble for War
Players construct Fleets by assembling “Elements,” which is the game’s terminology for Flight Stands of UNSC and Covenant ships. Each Element has a point value depending on what models are placed on the Flight Stands. Those ship models are highly-detailed, colored plastic — grey for the UNSC and purple for the Covenant. When the game launches, the staples of the UNSC Fleet will include the new Epoch-class Heavy Carrier, as well as Marathon-class Heavy Cruisers and the Paris-class Heavy Frigates. The Covenant will have the new ORS-class Heavy Cruisers, Battlecruisers, and Heavy Corvettes. Elements are then formed into Battle Groups and, in turn, these form a Fleet.
The massive ships in the game, such as Covenant Assault Carriers and the UNSC Infinity, are divided into multiple sections: aft, mid, and fore. Each section has its own arc of fire, weapons, shields, and more. The smaller ships come several to a Flight Stand, with the UNSC’s Heavy Frigates mounted three to a Stand, while the Covenant’s Heavy Corvettes come in pairs. Putting multiple ships on a base isn’t a new idea, but the formation strategy Spartan is implementing in Halo: Fleet Battles makes it unique and integral to strategic game play.
Each multi-ship Flight Stand allows players to customize their ship formations, such as when small ships are escorting larger vessels, which has real effects on the way Battle Groups function. These formations are not static; they can be changed during the game. Spartan decided to do this to avoid those cases were, for example, a player has three Battle Groups that have lost all but one ship on each base. Now, instead of running those lone ships around the map, avoiding being shot, a player can form a new, unified Battle Group. This feature also keeps opponents on their toes as players can change up their strategies mid-game.
Beyond the ship miniatures, various fighters and bombers from each side are represented by stacks of Wing Tokens on the playfield. These small one or two-manned craft act as the initial volley of attacks in most battles. They are built to die, so don’t get too attached to the Wings. The Wings go a long way towards recreating the hectic feel of battle as small craft buzz around the middle of the conflict as the giant ships volley weapons fire back and forth.
Not Just Empty Ships
Spartan knows fans love the cast of the Halo series. And they plan to keep respecting that love. Ships can’t fly themselves, so each player must choose a Fleet Commander, such as Vice Admiral Michael Stanforth for the UNSC or Supreme Commander Rho ‘Barutamee for the Covenant, while building their forces. Heroic Characters will also be available for players to add to their fleet, such as Cortana or Prophets, to aid their Commanders in battle.
Fleet Commanders are part of what Spartan is calling the Command and Control engine – a system designed to be easily picked up by the non-tabletop gamer and deep enough to keep a wargamer engaged and coming back once the shininess of a new product wears off. Commanders are represented by Data Sheets and highly detailed resin busts, but are not actually assigned to a particular ship. The Data Sheets have precut slots for custom Order Dice, with some of these slots having a color. At the start of a turn, players roll their dice and place them in the Sheet. The three icons on the dice allow players to issue orders like: Attack, Defend, and Command. When an Order is issued, that die is removed from the sheet and considered used. Once used, the die can’t be used again until the next turn, when all burned Order Dice are rolled again.
Attack and Defend are the dice players will burn when initiating an Attack or Defense Order. Bigger attacks may require you to burn more Attack icons (the same goes for Defense), so you might find yourself banking specific icons in the Data Sheet to be used later. A Commander must always be able to judge when to hold fire in hopes of gaining a better opportunity down the line.
Command icons serve a few different roles. Just having Command icons in waiting can net a Fleet a bonus to initiative in a round, but they can also be spent to issue Command Orders. Orders come in two forms: Standing Orders and Specialist Orders. A Standing Order is a non-unique action any Commander can use, such as “Brace For Impact,” “Improved Shooting,” and “Form Up,” to name just a few.
Specialist Orders are skills a particular Commander is known for. Some of these orders come with pros and cons that help build the personality of the Commander on the battlefield. For example, a Covenant Commander might be known for his aggressive boarding party tactics, so his special ability is to launch boarding parties from an extended range. Whether a Standing or Specialist Order is given, each one has a Command icon cost attached to it, so you’ll need to balance your Data Sheet with what you think will be the right amount of Attack, Defend, and Command icons.
Battles are not fought by one person alone, which is where the Heroic Characters come in, such as Cortana, Spartans, Prophets, and others. You can station these characters on ships throughout your fleet, which means they are vulnerable to death. Heroic Characters can potentially give Commanders an edge in the fight. The Heroic Characters sheets also has slots that are color coded, and if those slots match a Commander’s, the Commander can share those dice in the slots.
Neil describes this system as a matrix of effects. Some characters may get along with certain Commanders better than others, so friendships and rivalries can affect gameplay, which is another step towards giving characterization to the game. As an added bonus, the Fleet Commanders and Heroic Characters art is all being handled by the talented artists at 343 Industries.
The Spartan Touch
You can’t talk about dice and Spartan Games without discussing exploding dice, a hallmark of the company’s games. “It’s our thing. It’s what we do,” Neil remarked. For those unfamiliar with the idea of exploding dice, when a die is rolled, and the highest/best outcome comes up, you keep rerolling that die. This can result in continued successes that far outweigh what you should have been able to roll with just the given dice.
However, in Halo: Fleet Battles, a capping mechanic has been added to stop the rolls from getting out of control. This new mechanic comes in to play when determining effective ranges between ships. For example, a ship in effective range will get to go full out with all their fire power, but being further away may strip away the ability to have your dice explode into more successes. Doing this helps encourage players to maneuver ships more often. If you really need to take down that Covenant or UNSC ship, you’re going to have to risk getting up close and personal.
Keeping Story in Mind
Over the years, the Halo games, novels, comics, and live-action and animated videos have created a rich, story-driven world. At its core, you have the UNSC going up against the Covenant. Along the way, you meet the heroes of these battles and the story becomes more personal. Spartan knew maintaining this story driven world was important when developing Halo: Fleet Battles.
To do this, the team went beyond making detailed miniatures of ships. It looked to give a driving force to the conflict. The starter box, called Halo: Fleet Battles, The Fall of Reach, sets the stage of battle at the fortified world of Reach, a world colonized by humans. After the Covenant learned about the existence of Reach and a powerful artifact housed there, the choice was made to go after it. Thus the battle ensued, and that’s where the campaign structured gameplay of Halo: Fleet Battles’ starter comes in.
With the help and encouragement of 343 Industries, Spartan developed a Campaign Guide for the starter that offers a slew of introductory scenarios designed to walk players through the mechanics of the game. Scenarios give diehard Halo players a story to follow that they’re familiar with and a story structure similar to the console games. For example, a scenario may require the UNSC side to take down a Covenant ships’ shields, board the craft, capture the Prophet on board, and escape with the target. Or the player may run a scenario built for them to lose, but they must complete several side missions to meet their actual win condition before being destroyed by the Covenant. “There are times when it is about how well the UNSC lose. How bravely they lose,” remarks Neil.
However, scenario play isn’t required. Traditional tabletop gamers can play their way by bringing forces to the table to demonstrate their prowess without needing a story reason. But it’s Spartan’s hope that these scenarios will bring even those not interested in the story a little closer to the universe of Halo. And don’t worry, Reach is just the beginning. More scenarios and campaigns are set for release in the future.
Choosing Sides in the Coming Battle
When it comes time, will you attempt to take Reach as the Covenant or defend it with your life as the UNSC? Beyond the story hooks, there are differences between how the two perform on the field of battle. Take a look at Spartan’s design philosophy behind the gameplay of the warring factions. While developing the game, Spartan proposed the idea of a pack of hounds taking down a bear, and 343 Industries agreed. “The Covenant is the bear, and the UNSC is the pack of hounds. If the big bear hits the hound, it is dead meat. The hound pack has to hunt them knowing they’ll take pain and casualties, but also knowing they’ll open up the weak spot to go for the jugular,” explained Neil.
The philosophy comes out in gameplay form when you look at the number of ships on the field between the two forces and their designs. UNSC is loaded down with titanium armor, which is not as defensive as the Covenant’s energy shields. However, when you have enough UNSC ships knocking at a Covenant shield, they’ll eventually get through. And that’s when the UNSC’s missiles start to do their job. But that doesn’t mean the Covenant sits idly by. While the UNSC slowly chips away at the shields, the Covenant will strike back with highly destructive force.
Spartan Games aims to launch Halo: Fleet Battles in the Summer of 2015 with continued support after that. The two-player starter comes with 49 ships and will have everything players need to start playing the game, such as a detailed rule book, a Campaign Guide, tokens, dice, and more.
Once people have the game, Spartan and 343 Industries plan to offer continued support through structured tournaments, online scenarios, and additional campaign guides. Specially designed terrain is also in the works ranging from some for the cost conscious gamers to those looking for something a little more luxurious. In the next few months, come back for a review and more news about Halo: Fleet Battles and future Halo games from Spartan Games, 343 Industries, and Microsoft.
A version of this article appeared previously in issue #20 of our sister publication Ravage Magazine.
From the announcement:
Spartan Games announced in February that we had entered into a License Agreement with Microsoft Corporation to design and produce tabletop miniatures games for Halo®. The first products are set for launch in summer 2015 and this coming weekend we will premiere Halo® at Salute, the UK’s largest wargames show.
We’re hugely excited to be giving visitors to Salute the first look at what we’ve been working on. The centrepiece will be the first Halo® product - Halo®: Fleet Battles, The Fall Of Reach, a two-player box set featuring 49 high quality plastic models, full colour rulebook, campaign guide, scenery, custom dice and more.
HFBB01 Halo: Fleet Battles, The Fall of Reach
The Halo: Fleet Battles, The Fall of Reach two player battle box is the ultimate way for fans of the Halo Universe to recreate pivotal space battles between the stalwart forces of the United Nations Space Command (UNSC) and the relentless Covenant armada. Developed in close cooperation with 343 Industries, The Fall of Reach puts you at the centre of the most pivotal naval conflict of the long Human-Covenant War, commanding massive fleets of deadly warships as they clash above the fortified human colony of Reach. Take humanity’s last stand to the gaming table!
The Fall of Reach box contents include:
•A full colour 100-page rulebook packed full of images and examples
•Fall of Reach campaign guide
•49 highly-detailed plastic ship models
•25 custom Halo Dice
•Fleet Commander Data Sheets
•Flight Stands and Overlay Cards
•Punch-out Scenery and Token sheets
•Quick Guide reference sheets
Halo: Fleet Battles delivers an easy to learn, lore-infused, tactically-rich gaming experience that appeals both to experienced wargamers and fans of the Halo Universe.
The Fall of Reach box will be available to pre-order from the Spartan Games Online Store later this week.