Having opened the box, we'll take a look at each of the contents in detail. As mentioned before, there's a good deal of stuff in the box. I'll start with the key components; the ships.
There are 10 pieces on the sprue for the eight ships. two of the ships are 2-piece models. They look like they will snap together nicely, but a little plastic cement will do the trick as well. The ships are molded in the silvery plastic so many other game companies are using of late for their injection-molded components. I recall first seeing this plastic in a Battletech set that came with something like a dozen mechs. Based on design elements and painting clues form the box art, there appears to be three factions involved. Not being familiar with the Noble Armada background, I'll introduce the ships as number 1-8. If anybody knows the proper names for these craft, please let me know and I'll ammend this entry appropriately. A note one these photos: The hex map you see is one of the four that comes with the set. The hexes meausre 1 1/2" inches across the flats. I tried to align the ships within the hexes to provide scale. As you will see, each ship is between 3/4" and 1 1/4" long.
Ship 1 from the port side. This ship appears to be some type of destroyer. There is a small turret with a dual mount weapon of some type on the dorsal aspect of the ship, toward the bow. Other weapon systems are not readily evident. Perhaps there are some hidden or bay mounted weapons. I like the design style of this ship, actually. Somewhat clean. The panel lines are nicely done, if a bit exaggerated. Although I suspec this is due to the medium. Surely a metal version of this ship would have crisper lines and more pronounced detail. The wings are interesting in that there seems to be some sort of support arm on the leading edge. I'm usually not a fan of wings on space craft as they wouldn't need to worry about aerodynamics, the Bernoulli Effect and other science stuff. But hey, we're talking about spaceships here, so I shouldn't get too wrapped up in that.
Ship 2 from the bow. Ship 2 appears to be some type of bulk transport. As you can see, it is the first of our two-piece models in the set. It reminds me of something I'd see on Firefly or Red Dwarf. The scribing on the cargo section gives me the impression of a frame work into which individual cargo containers are loaded, much like modern-day cargo liners. The cashew-shaped crew and engineering compartment looks like it latches on to the cargo section and can jetison it if the need arrises. I suspect the captain would have some questions to answer were that to happen. A fun model, I look forward to painting these.
Ship 3 from port. It seems as if every ship line out there has at least one "raptor" model in it anymore. I guess we have Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. Everybody saw Christopher Lloyd zooming around in a Klingon Bird of Prey and thought they had to get in on the action. Although I like the style, it's becoming somewhat of a cliche. That aside, the model is well sculpted. The little notches on the wings give it a slightly rakish look. It looks mean. Again, no discernable weapon mounts, but the panels and joints will allow for some neat effects come painting time. I'm thinking of using the dip technique on these ships to get them ready to go in as short a time as posssible, so thie model might suit nicely.
Ship 4 from the starboard side. A single mount turret is clearly visible. It shares the design philosophy of ship 1 with the winglets and pointed bow. I suspect, at larger scales, there is a canopy that is visible. However at the scales I'd like to work at, it's more of a oddly shaped panel on the bow. Perhaps a sensor array? This is the smallest ship in the box. I'm not sure if it's truly usable for my purposes as a marker for fleets due to its size, but it'll do in a pinch. Besides, good things come in small packages, right?
Ship 5 from port. This one looks meaner than the "not a Bird of Prey" we saw earlier. Two big cannons stem form the wings and there's a smaller single mount turret on the bow. Its design reminds me of a cross between Buck Rogers' starfighter and the Draconian fighters from the late '70s TV show. I immagine it's pretty fast to go with that weapons compliment. All engine and weapons with minimal crew. Love it. I need more of these. It needs to be red. This looks like the ship of choice for a pirate group or fast-attack squadron.
Ship 6 from port. The other two-piece model appears to be a cruiser or heavy destroyer. A small turret is evident on the lower section. Also evident are weapons or sensor arrays in the wing roots of the upper section. I'm not overly impressed iwth this model. It appears to share the design philosophy of ships 3 and 5 with its swept foward wings. I'll have to see it assembled before I can give it a fair judegment. It reminds me of some of the more pedestrian Romulan ships designed by FASA for the Star Trek Tactical Combat Simulator game.
Ship 7 from starboard. A port or hatch is visible on the bow of the ship. It has a naturally sleek look to it. It reminds me of what I envision the Heart of Gold from the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. I quite like this model and currently consider it my seocnd favorite. The ambivalent detailing makes this piece able to to cross scales quite easily. I see it working as a light cruiser in Full Thrust or a heavy shuttle in Silent Death. I'm particulalry fond of the winglets found aft. Neat design. It's perfect for my use as a fleet marker.
Ship 8 from starboard. This is my favorite ship in the box. Seven single mount turrets along with two very large cannons makes for a well-armed ship for blockade running or other close in work. Alternately, one could see the appendages on either side as cranes for moving cargo about or possibly grappling arms for boarding actions. I'm not fond of the grappling arms idea, but it is a possibility. The ship looks awfully cool. Perhaps it would serve as a support ship for a flotilla of ship 5.
I'll look at the dice, counters, stands and map sheets in the enxt installment.