Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Red Alert! Shields Up! Fire Phasers!

Earlier this year, Mongoose Publishing released an adaptation of their A Call to Arms rule system for Star Fleet Battles, a long-running (30+ years) tabletop game based on Star Trek (the original series). SFB was originally designed back when The Original Series was all there was for Star Trek, and vastly expanded on the lore. Unfortunately, the movies and later shows completely ignored SFB, and so SFB's lore, and ACTA's by extension, is wildly contradicted by the movies and shows, but the game itself is still tons of fun.

One of the issues SFB had was that it was perhaps a little too in-depth. If you're looking for expansive strategy wherein a single battle could take all day to wage, it's your game. If all you have is a couple hours though, ACTA is better suited for you. I find myself liking the models a bit better, too. Mongoose sculpted an entire new range of models, the Starline 2500 series, that, while they're functionally identical in most cases to the older Starline 2400 models, they're about 15-20% or so larger, allowing for VASTLY more detail with your ships when you're painting them. I got a few 2400-line models while I waited for my 2500s to show up, and I was amazed at how much more detail are in the 2500s. Here's a pic of my first squad box 95% done (minus decals for ship names, basically).

Anyway, I'll get back to the models shortly. The rules are awesome. Just plain awesome. I've been playing Warhammer 40K for almost ten years now, plus D&D on-and-off for about fifteen, and I'm blown away at how straightforward ACTA is. The basic rules are only 14 pages, with the advanced rules only another 15 after that. 29 pages of rules and you're set. It also comes with fifteen scenarios built right in, much better than 40K's default nine for fifth edition and still rivaling sixth edition's sixteen possible setups. Though the upcoming Starfleet's Finest tournament adds I believe two new scenarios for general use, plus there's a free packet on the way with six more.

Yeah, Mongoose isn't just releasing the core rules and then calling it a day. Even though they core rules first came out in January, they've been hard at work continuing to expand the game, both with models and rules. Models-wise, the entire Federation and Klingon fleets are out, with the Romulans at about 90%. By the end of summer, the Gorn and Kzinti will be fully released, and a friend of mine I've gotten hooked on the game is looking forward to playing a Kzinti fleet. Each of the five fleets has vastly different tactics and styles of gameplay, and so far I've found them to be pretty well balanced, even if you're doing "wargames" against another player using the same fleet.

So anyway, rules-wise, rules for scout ships (basically alternate variants of certain ships for each fleet that trade in some of their weapons for the ability to really screw with your opponent) just got released with A Call to Arms Journal #1, Mongoose's e-zine for both versions of ACTA (Star Fleet and their own universe). Rules for fighters, which add an entire new layer of strategy, are currently in the testing phase, and the preliminary rules for them are available at the ACTA Uncut blog. I've already got some fighters from the 2400 line on the way, they should work fine. And finally, another supplement called Battleships is in the works, and should be out early next year. This supplement will be accompanied by new ships for all the fleets, the largest ships of all that will basically be your capital ships for really big battles. I'm definitely looking forward to that one.

So, I've gotten in a few games by roping various friends into playing, and I'm gonna be running an all-day intro game in a couple weeks at my local store to get more people into it. I've also spent a great deal of time in the last few months whipping up various pieces of scenery.

Above are two planets I made, plus the first batch of asteroids I made (I've done two more batches since then and also made a gas giant planet). I've got a partly-done comet, plus a black hole, and I need to whip up some dust clouds. I even made a couple of wormholes to use on really big tables!

So yes, I'm VERY excited by this game. 40K definitely hasn't gotten me feeling this way in quite some time, other than maybe the new release of sixth edition. Mongoose has a much more open attitude towards its player base, including an actual forum, and I find this openness quite refreshing. Not to mention, it's a setting I love, and it's a genuinely fun and well-balanced game.

Oh, and WAY cheaper than Warhammer. A squad box is $40, and gets you five ships that clock in around 900-1000 points, which is enough for a decent-size game. Two squad boxes is $80, and gives you more than enough for any tournament or large-scale game, and a fleet box at $100-$125 gives you sixteen ships PLUS a half-dozen shuttles and a pocket copy of the rulebook. That's a pretty huge deal. I strongly recommend you check it out!

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