Thursday, July 20, 2006

Reinforcements have arrived: Pt.3 Examining the other contents

Now for the final installment of the Noble Armada Ships of the Line box set review. We're looking at the other contents of the box. Enjoy.

First up are the dice. You get four very purple d20s with black numerals. I'm not a huge fan of the d20. I suppose Noble Armada uses them. I was a fan of Chronopia and Warzone, both in their first editions and they used d20s. I haven't really used them since. These will go in the box with the other unused d20s. Although they do make handy kill counters in skirmish games. I may use them in StarMonger as a way to track how many combats are taking place and other record keeping. They are indeed very purple.

You wouldn't think that flight stands would be particularly cool, but these are. They're the standard 1" hex domed flight base we've seen across many different games. I prefer this style to the flat-topped hex bases other companies use. I would normally just paint the base and overcoat it, but with these, they'll stay as they are. You'll notice that the plastic has little bits of blue glitter mixed in. It gives a nice star effect that is pretty cool, in my opinion. I look forward to more of these. Yeah, they're bases, but they're cool bases.

The chits that are included are mighty cool. You get a fair number of them; 240, if I recall. Although only black and white, they have a fair amount of use for other games. I particularly like the chits for boarding parties in the third pic. Also, the chits for the different factions are individually numbered, so could serve a use for any number of things. For example, how about assigning numbers to units in a game and placing corresponding chits in a bag or cup and drawing them to determine initiative? I like thinking of uses for chits in my own games without having to print my own. I'm cheap, er, resourceful that way.

You've seen the hex maps in other pictures, so I'm not including one now. They're 1 1/2" hex maps, white hexes on black. No numbering, which is somewhat of a let down and no stars printed on them either. There is a Noble Armada log printed on them. I guess those are to keep people from taking them from the sets and using them in another game box for retail. Either that it's to remind people what game they're playing. The maps are lackluster, but they are functional and big at 17 x 22 hexes.

There's also a quick-play sheet for Noble Armada.

All in all, I find the quality of the individual components of this set to be quite high. Additionally, the fact that it is more than just a set of ships is nice. The additional bits, especially the chits makes this a set worth getting for any fan of space combat games. On a 10-point scale, I'd give this set an 8.75. High marks are given for sheer value the set gives. Nice miniatures (and plenty of them) plus nice stands and scads of neat chits are big bonuses for me. Points are deducted for the uninspired hex maps.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Reinforcements have arrived: Pt.2 Examining the ships

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.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Reinforcements have arrived: Pt.1 Opening the Box

The first of the Noble Armada sets I'll be getting arrived yesterday. I'll post a detailed review with pictures this evening or tomorrow. For now, my initial impressions.

The box arrived via UPS on the fifth day after ordering. This was nice because I only paid for "standard mail." The ICE webstore states one should expect 1-2 days to package the order and another 2-3 for delivery at this rate. Seems a bit slow, but I don't know how many people they have that work shipping and I don't know how many orders they process in a day. All in all, not a bad length of tiem to wait for little plastic ships.

The box is the now-standard card stock box with slip cover for different contents. These went a step further by having a decal with the product info stuck to them. I suspect more of the same should I order some of the metal sets. No big deal, I've come to expect this type of packaging. I actually prefer it now, because I figure, reductions in packaging coasts mean reductions in end price, right?

Opening the box I first saw a bag with four sprues with eight different ships on them. Next was a baggie with four purple d20s with black numerals. Further on was a baggie with 32 plastic flight bases and posts. The four 17x22 hex maps were next. At the bottom of the box were two sheets of black and white counters for use with Noble Armada specifically, but could be used in any space game.

A good haul of stuff for the $25 and $5 in shipping. Detailed review next.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The Star Monger Project

The Star Monger Project has officially begun. As mentioned in my last post, I'm converting Geoffrey Noles' excellent Flash game Star Monger to a tabletop boardgame format. I've completed the initial draft of the rules and will hopefully get some play testing in this weekend with the Bottom Street Irregulars. Here's my intro to the rules:

Star Monger started life as a Flash game on Geoffrey Noles’ website ae4rv.com. After playing it once or twice I thought, “Hey, this would make a neat tabletop game for an afternoon or a convention.” It is a game of exploration, colonization, conquest and eventual galactic domination. Some of the mechanics in play are quite subtle and although the basic strategies are learned quickly, there is an addictive quality to the game that I find appealing. I find myself playing it once or twice a day as a break from other pursuits.

A friend, James Earles, and I, had experimented with a similar concept a few years earlier called Terra Secunda at the Egyptian Campaign game convention in Carbondale, IL. TS was extremely complex, each faction actually requiring two people to play. One person ran the diplomatic and economic side of the game while another ran the military. Although most of the aspects of the game were extremely abstract and streamlined on an individual basis, together they made for a lot of work on both the players’ and game controllers’ end. The game lasted a whopping 12 hours, and was a substantial investment in time as well as money.

Star Monger will start life as the direct inverse of the TS experiment. Geoffrey describes the Flash version as “Risk in Space.” The simple, elegant play is good for an evening’s entertainment and that is where we shall begin with the board game version of Star Monger. Eventually, more rules and concepts will be layered on, adding more depth and hopefully fun (but unfortunately complexity). At its core, however, Star Monger shall remain a game about sending brave men and women out into the cold, inky blackness of space with orders to go forth, explore, colonize and conquer.

I will post the draft after its first playtest and open the floor to comments and suggestions. I have licensed the name and concept from Geoffrey for NON-COMMERCIAL purposes and provide the rules at no charge to you, the gaming public. The draft will be provided in PDF format. The concept and name are Geoffrey's, the words are mine. I ask that you credit accordingly when you redistribute any copies of the draft, beta, or finished rules.

In other news, my first batch of ships to use as fleet markers has been ordered. Leland Erickson of Metal Express suggested I use the Noble Armada Ships of the Line box set as a starter. Since the box comes with 32 ships, some dice, four 17x22 hex maps and scads of counters, it was too good a deal to pass up. I had flirted with the idea of using fighters from other sources, but I don't think they would look as good as smaller scale line ships to represent fleets. My other idea was to scratchbuild the ships from beads, buttons and assorted other odds and ends, but the end goal is to have 20 fleet markers for eight factions. That seems a bit tedious a process for 160 playing pieces. I can get the same out of five boxes of the Noble Armada sets. I think I would be able to get a whole box worth ready for play in an afternoon of minor clean up, priming, painting and basing.

Oh, also, it's my birthday. My wife got me the Wolfmother cd. It is rock and roll. Not merely "rock" nor "rock 'n' roll." It is rock and roll in the vein of Blue Oyster Cult, Led Zeppelin, Thin Lizzy and early Rush. Run, don't walk to get this cd. I'm particulalry fond of the first track "Dimension." Plus, the cover art was done by Frank Frazetta. If Frazetta ain't rock and roll, I don't know what is.

More to follow.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Stronghold Fighter Pics


Mike at Stronghold Miniatures sent me this photo of the fighter craft he makes (click on it to see a larger version). The product codes are JEW1A through C. They are for the Aurigan Empire in the SDD line. I'm interested in the U-Sylon as they appear to be not Imperial Star Destroyers. Mike tells me the fighters range in length between 5 and 7mm. They're little blighters.

I need scads of small ships for a project I'm working on. I also need these ships on the cheap. The project you ask? I'm working on converting a Flash game called Star Monger to tabletop. The designer of the Flash game, Geoffrey Noles, describes the game thusly: "StarMonger is a space strategy and conquest game made with Flash. Take over all of the star systems to win. The computer player will try to do the same. It is kind of like Risk in Space!"

It's fun and strangely addicting. The full version is available for $9.95 to download. I will be providing the tabletop version for free. Stay tuned for updates.