Why I play Firestorm Armada

Why I play Firestorm Armada

Firestorm Armada took a big step forwards with 2.0. In my (hopefully, but not guaranteed to be humble) opinion, the new rulebook became the template for how to take a game into its second edition: chop the “meh” stuff, introduce depth where it was lacking, and generally improve everything.

But those aren’t the only reasons why I play it. There is more to FSA 2.0 than that.

How to look great

With second edition, and even for a time before it, Spartan Games has been making some great decisions for the game. The introduction of the new squadron boxes, replacing blisters, means that new players don’t have to wonder why their blister of two destroyers (for example) doesn’t make a full squadron. The Mk3 ships look, and are amazing. The resin is crisply casted with only a few flaws spread out over however many boxes, and the boxes themselves now look modern and store-worthy.

Aquan Prime Maelstrom class battleship. Image by Spartan Games.

But, most significantly, Spartan recruited a beta test team that did wonders for the game. It was (and still is) an international team, which meant that one country’s “rules style” (believe me, those exist!) wasn’t preferred over another. They poked, they prodded, they tried to break stuff and they argued over that stuff. The end result is a game that isn’t perfect, but left the printers with far fewer rules hurdles to trip over, and not as many typos (“Typo pokemon” is the the bane of every games publisher, because you can never catch ’em all).

Firestorm Armada second edition rulebook. Image by Spartan Games.

Speaking of printers, the new book is an order of magnitude better than the 1.0 rulebook. The layout is appealing, it’s easier to read and much easier to comprehend. Given that the rules are the player’s keyboard to the game’s computer, Spartan should be applauded for their work on the rules layout.

The result of throwing all of this into the pot is a game that stands up as a great experience, and a great hobby, too.

Give a mechanic a wrench…

The mechanics of 2.0 are actually much the same as the first edition I remember playing for a good chunk of 2010. Ships move, and weapons fire (or don’t!) upon the results of dice throws. But now there’s more to do during a game. It’s not “aim lasers, fire!” any more. You can try to hack a ship, or target a specific segment of a ship. You can send SRS (Short-Ranged Spacecraft) out on an attack run or try to board a ship. You can even fire a gravitational weapon at an ally to push them out of trouble.

To be fair, SRS (masquerading as wings and fleets) and boarding were there in 1.0, but now they’ve been streamlined and are much easier to understand. Boarding also takes less time overall during a game because each model can only board once per game, a welcome change.

S.T.A.T.S.

Directorate Eliminator class battleship. Image by Spartan Games

Ship stats were also revised in 2.0. From cruisers to frigates to carriers and beyond, every faction now has a viable arsenal of ships to choose from for the next showdown on the space table.

On a related note, weapons were also re-edited into several different types, replacing the previous iteration where every weapon was basically a laser working on 8″ range bands. The different weapon types help to give each faction a bit of identity. For example, beam weapons don’t have the same ranges as kinetic weapons, and have a Coherence Effect (i.e. a unique ability) when you’re inside of 10″ to the target.

A nice garden

As I said above, FSA isn’t a perfect game. It takes too long to play anything over 1200 points unless both players are really going all out, although to be fair lowering the points total introduces some interesting fleet making decisions. FSA also needs a fairly big table even in lower point games, due to the long range nature of some factions (especially looking at you, Dindrenzi!). In addition, there are probably things in the rules that will grate with some players, because people aren’t cast from a mould.

But overall, everything seems to be humming along nicely in the black-watered garden of the Storm Zone. Spartan Games is, of course, fully behind the game, players are behind it and there is much to look forward to in 2014. Also, the arrival of Firestorm Planetfall in the near-ish future should increase the appeal of the Firestorm galaxy even further as the factions start to show off their ground troops.

It’s a good time to be an admiral!