Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Unboxing Stuff: Firestorm Armada Directorate Patrol Fleet

Spartan Games recently unveiled the second edition rule set for their space battles game Firestorm Armada and having read the book I can tell you it’s a rather spiffy game.  Being familiar with Dystopian Wars it was easy enough to pick up the basics.  Spartan Games have been criticised in the past for making rule books that were difficult to follow with no real logic to the layout of their rules but it seems with this new book they have heard that criticism and worked to fix the issues people had.
With that being the case now is a good time to get involved with Firestorm Armada particularly as the main fleets of the range are being re-sculpted and re-released.  The first wave of these releases comes in the form of Patrol Fleets which in the Spartan Games tradition gives you a starter fleet in one box that is balanced against any of the other patrol fleets in the range.  I already have a small Rense Systems Navy fleet so when struck down with shiny model syndrome I managed to stay lucid enough to pick a fleet that could ally with them as a fellow member of the Zenian League. I went for The Directorate.

The Directorate are a nation who originated when following the turmoil of the First Secessionist War various mega-corporations bought their independence of Terra and settled on worlds that had the greatest potential for exploitation.  The Directorate are power brokers and arms dealers playing all sides against each other in the name of profit.  If you are an executive in the Directorate then you live a luxurious pampered life, if not then you are an overworked drone stripped of rights and privileges working one day to the next for little reward.  Their ships are the most technologically advanced human ships as the Directorate is sure to always keep the best technology for themselves in case anyone wants a refund someone mentions ‘trade unions’.

In the box are eight ships, an Eliminator battleship, three Abraxas class cruisers with parts to upgrade one to a Subjugator heavy cruiser, four Liquidator frigates and two SRS tokens, one large and one small.  All are made of resin which appears to be the way that Spartan is going with Firestorm Armada models.  There is a distinct lack of the metal drop on parts that were common with past ship releases.  My RSN fleet has cruisers with resin hulls and metal engines for example while all the small ships are completely metal.
The resin is good quality.  It is tough and comes with very little flack.  The only real cleaning I had to do was to remove the flack left over from the injection port and a quick rinse in warm soapy water to remove any lingering release agent.
The only ships that came with multiple parts were the cruisers.  I have handled a few of the other patrol fleets and they are similar in that there at e very few parts to even the larger ships.  The majority of Directorate designs lend them self to single piece castings.

With The Directorate a lot of the detail is on the bottom where it may not be seen.  It’s up to you if this will affect your painting style with these miniatures.  The detail is clear and crisp so they would come out well if you were to dry brush them though I have painted them as I would any other miniature though their small size has meant I have not done much highlighting.  I will share with you an issue that came up with army painter spays.  We had a Terran fleet in the store undercoated in an Army Painter grey that reacted poorly with the resin and as a result flaked off during painting.  I advise avoiding Army Painter sprays as a basecoat but if you prime them with another type of paint then you should be okay with using Army Painter sprays over that coat.

Of note are the two smaller items in the set.  The first are the SRS tokens which represent wings of smaller craft.  In Dystopian Wars tiny flyers were complicated and each wing was represented by a separate token which with larger wings on a terrain board could get awkward.  The Firestorm Armada SRS rules simplify this system and are attractive to boot!  Each fleet’s SRS tokens are different with a design that matches their fleet. 
The second are the peg plugs.  Though a lot of the ships in the set have peg holes for their flight stands worked into the main model the larger ships, the cruisers and battleship make use of these separate plugs which are glued to the underside of the model. They are all the same design regardless of which ship they belong to. Each patrol fleet has these plugs in a style that fits their ships.  Be sure to check your box has enough when you get it!

If you have picked up Spartan Wars models in the past you would have noticed the stat cards and counters included with them.  Spartan has stopped producing stat cards as they found updating rules meant the hassle of updating the cards. Currently you can download all the fleet’s army lists, or fleet registries, from the Spartan Games download section for free though I do not know if these will remain once the fleet registry books are released in late February.  What you do still get in the box are the tokens each of which are much easier to understand now they have what they represent written on them.  You also get a turning template and a battle log.

Each patrol fleet also comes with a deck of Tactical Ability Cards (T.A.C.).  These are playable during the game and give you boosts and benefits when needed.  There are several generic cards playable by any fleet a some which are tailored to a specific race.

All in all I think the patrol fleets are good value. You get everything you need to start in one box and you can build from there.  I’m very happy with my Directorate and have already forked out for some more stuff with eyes on the new releases coming soon.  Spartan is moving to simplify their range so their current and future releases are presented in box sets rather than blisters.  Carrier and Cruiser groups have already been released as box sets and Battle Cruiser Groups are incoming.  Though this restricts the ease with which you can get hold of specific types of ship it does mean that stores with pre-existing stock of the older ships may be running sales in the future to clear, allowing you to bolster your fleet at a fraction of the cost.

The older ships are fully useable in the new games straight away.  Rather than do rules for all the various types of frigate or cruiser Spartan has made each ship generic in the fleet registry with plenty of options for upgrades so you can tailor your ships rules to match what they have on the model.  This means that your fleets can be tailored for which ever style of warfare available to them.
At the time of writing this article I have already painted my Frigates!  Choosing a paint scheme is the hardest part of getting a project going but thankfully Transformers came to my rescue and I have modelled the ships after the fallen Prime, the tyrannical Nova Prime so lots of greys with some bright orange as a spot colour.  Check the Facebook group out for in progress photos!


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