Sunday, March 25, 2012

NSL Fleet for Noble Armada, Pt 1

In my free time today when not battling sugar-amped toddlers at my son's 4th birthday party, I was able to sit down and unwind with some really simple and easy painting. I've started a NSL-based fleet that will be used "counts-as" in Noble Armada as a House Hazat fleet. Using the GZG models won't be an issue, since this is not 40k there are no redshirts telling me to leave if its not GW, and because measurements are taken from the stem rather than the base. I like the hexagonal bases anyway, as it makes 45 degree turns quicker than just eyeballing the ship's direction.

Anyway, I had assembled them and primed them yesterday, so I took a few snaps before I started working. Here's what I got so far:

Scout Ships ^

Corvettes (counts as Frigates) ^

Destroyers ^

Escort Cruisers ^

So after taking those snaps I got to work. I began with a basecoat of simple flat-black paint, just to even out the job done by the primer. Once this coat was dry, I dry-brushed a simple dark-grey color onto each ship. I then dry-brushed again, this time mixing bone white (slightly yellowed white) with the dark grey to produce a very light grey. Once complete, I then watered down my black paint, and gave it a pseudo-wash, pushing most of it into the recesses of the models. After I was done, I got the below results: (forgive the lighting, was well past sun-down by this point)

Tomorrow I hope to start picking out details on each ship, doing the engines, and more. Stay tuned!


Monday, March 12, 2012

ACTA: Noble Armada, First Game

So I finally got around to sitting down and playing that first game of Noble Armada. Here is a rundown:

To keep it small, we played a Destroyer battle. Two House Hawkwood destroyers vs. two House Decados destroyers. This equated out to 360 points each side, which is a bit smaller than a normal patrol, but worked beautifully for learning the rules.

Decados fleets get a bonus to their initiative, so she went first for the most part. To save you from a long and meticulous battle report, I'll summarize in a narrative (PS, if I'm not in line with the official fluff, tough noogies)...

The two House Hawkwood Griffins glided in the inky void while patrolling a quiet region of the Nein system. En route to the system's only Jump Gate, the pair of destroyers had encountered little out of the ordinary before this day.

At First Watch, Captain Ronald Archibald, captain of the HWD Honorbound, was notified that transmissions from the Jump Gate's sentries had ceased. Attempts to re-establish communications with the sentries proved unsuccessful. Becoming suspicious, he ordered that the two destroyers drop sensor probes and begin active scanning.

The HWD Intrepid was the first to pick up readings. Readings in the direction of the Jump Gate were being garbled by white noise, but slightly off-trajectory a solid blip was registered before again being washed out by the interference.

Knowing something was amiss, Captain Archibald ordered both ships at full burn.


Some time later, both the destroyers were brought to full alert by the sudden firing of unknown drive flares. Sensors identified the ships to be a pair of Decados destroyers, powering toward the Hawkwood vessels at maximum burn.

Captain Archibald sent his orders to the Intrepid before ordering his own helmsman to turn to stellar starboard. His sister ship did as commanded and split to stellar port. Now that the two ships were prepared to unleash broadsides upon the closing target, they waited, maneuvering at a low thrust.

One of the Decados destroyers took the lead, cutting loose with shield-defeating EM pulse weaponry mounted in dorsal turrets. Captain Archibald felt his vessel shudder slightly, and warning klaxons announced that the Honorbound's shields had been temporarily overloaded. Luckily, his vessel was not positioned in the Decados vessel's broadside arc.

Snapping out orders to his gunners, Archibald watched as missiles streaked away and lasers lit up the void, lashing out at the offending vessel in the distance. The missiles were well guided, and slammed into the Decados destroyer's aft section. Sensors indicated that one of the engines in the Decados vessel began to spool down, leaking propellant. The other drive flares intensified, obviously attempting to compensate for the engine failure. The Hawkwood Gunners cheered at the minor victory.

The stricken vessel's companion was too far away to help much, but a single EM weapon struck across the darkness to impact the Honorbound. Static washed over the bridge's consoles, but quickly returned to normal. Damage control estimates showed hull integrity at 97 percent, barely affected at all by the electro-magnetic damage.

The Intrepid let loose a ferocious volley of its own, ravaging the already-stricken Decados destroyer with raking beams of laser-fire and fearsome detonations of guided missiles. The Decados vessel's drive flares sputtered and died, but the momentum of the ship carried it forward still.

As the shields to the Honorbound regained their strength, Captain Archibald ordered both destroyers to close in on their target, with intention to board the stricken ship.

Angling both their fores to the enemy vessel, the pair closed in and prepared boarding teams. Circling around, the sister ship of the stricken vessel harried the Intrepid with a broadside from it's mighty projectile weapons that tore armor plates from the Hawkwood ship's spine. Still suffering from the effects of the earlier damage sustained, the stricken destroyer fired a vastly-ineffective salvo at the closing ships. Undaunted, the two Hawkwood destroyers closed to grapple-range. Firing boarding lines, the two destroyers snared their prey and began to deploy their boarding troops.

The boarding parties had to cut through a bulkhead to gain entry to the destroyer. Once inside, they met half-hearted resistance. The fire raging aboard the Decados ships had already claimed a fair number of the crew and the security teams aboard the vessel.

In a desperate attempt to free its companion, the other Decados destroyer circled in close and unleashed a devastating salvo upon the Intrepid. Bulkheads twisted and ruptured under the assault in a fire-wreathed conflagration that vented some unfortunate crewman into the void. Undeterred, the Hawkwood destroyer refused to relinquish its grasp upon the stricken Decados destroyer.

Cleaning up the last of the security forces on the Decados vessel was a simple task for the boarding parties. Once the crew was subdued, the leader of the boarding parties signaled to the Hawkwood vessels that they were successful. Pulling back security teams that guarded the bulkhead entry points, both Hawkwood destroyers cut their grapple lines and maneuvered away.

Knowing it was now heavily outmatched, the surviving Decados vessel tried to accelerate in an attempt to get away. The Honorbound was not about to let that happen. Captain Archibald ordered all guns to fire upon the fleeing ship.

Armor plates boiling away in molten rivulets, the Decados destroyer lurched under the impact of missiles and laser barrages. Listing, the drive flares flickered and begun to lose power.

Realizing the opportunity, the Intrepid managed to fire a broadside despite the chaos caused from the earlier damage it sustained. Laser-fire licked at the fleeing vessel's aft, further punishing the already-damaged engine housings.

Firing an ineffectual volley from it's dorsal-mounted EM weaponry, the Decados vessel only lasted mere seconds longer. A surprise broadside from the newly-captured Decados destroyer obliterated what was left of the fleeing ship in a hail of projectiles. Slowly listing under the force of such impact, the now-dead destroyer rolled slowly, venting gasses and unfortunate crewman into the void.


Captain Ronald Archibald did not share in his crew's rejoicing, but neither did he discourage it. This was a solid victory and the crew deserved praise. However, this was only the beginning. A dark shadow loomed over the Nein system, as the Decados were obviously here in force. Knowing the Jump Gate sentries to be dead or worse, the Captain ordered his subordinate ships to make emergency repairs. He would need them at their best speed for the return trip. The Admiral needed to be warned.

THE END....?

THE MECHANICS (Editorial)-

I found the game mechanics to be simple and easy to pick up. However, being a long-time GW player, I had become accustomed to the "I-go-you-go" style of games, and found it tempting to activate more units at a time than I was supposed to. For smaller games like the one we just played, this was not a problem. But when we tried to play a larger game with multiple ships of varying sizes and types... it became something of a problem. To counter this, I suggest that you use the rules for squadrons in any games of 1000 points or larger, as opposed to only in games 2000 points or larger (as suggested in the rulebook). When you have only a couple ships on each side it isn't so hard to remember to move one at a time, but when flying 4 frigates, 2 Galliots, and 2 Explorers, it is tempting to move like-ships at the same time. The Squadron rules allow for this, but typically are only recommended for very-large games. However, I don't feel that game-play really suffers from these rules except in the smallest of games.

The other thing I found difficult to keep track of was which ship had critical damage, how many troops were left on each ship, etc. The best way I came up with to track this was coming up with a simple fleet roster, on which you list each vessel (names help keep track of which is which), the amount of troops on board (both yours and enemies), remaining damage, and a space in which to jot down critical damage. I could fit about 20 lines of this on a page, so you should be able to keep it down to 1 sheet per fleet.

For indicating whether shields were damaged/burnt out, I came up with a few ideas. Initially, I was using colored dice to indicate the number of shields that had burnt out. Afterward, I thought that using blast counters (Similar to Battlefleet Gothics, which are free to download from GW's website) could be an effective (and visually attractive) way of telling how many shields have burnt out. I couldn't find mine though, so I had to settle for colored dice.

There is no condensed page of the tables used in the game, so be prepared to make your own or flip through the rulebook a lot until you memorize them! I may be writing up my own reference page very soon to make it easy.

The boarding rules are simple, but yet awesome at the same time. There is no rule against firing into boarding attacks, as far as we could tell, so it was really awesome to try to hold on during those tense moments. When you are getting a broadside let loose upon your boarding ship, it really makes the game tense and exciting!

The rules looks deceptively easy at first glance. The actual rules bit is only a few dozen pages long. However, once you start getting into the rules like Special Actions (special modifiers declared during the movement phase that affect how your ship operates for the rest of the turn) and Boarding Actions, the rules can catch you by surprise. Luckily though even at their most complex, these rules are not too much to absorb.

So, grab a friend and start playing! This game is really fun!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Rising Costs of the Hobby, and First Look at ACTA: Noble Armada

It's that time again. Time where I look back and go "Sheesh, guess that New Year's resolution fell flat..."

So much for me posting more this year.

Oh well. I am sure most of you know that I no longer post regularly to my blog, and I hope you can forgive me for it. It seems that no matter what I do, I cannot justify miniature gaming anymore... or at least the price.

As the shipping rates go higher, jobs get scarcer, and gas prices skyrocket; we are left wondering how we are going to scrounge up enough money to buy ridiculously-priced toy soldiers. The simple fact is... I am not. At least not as much.

I have sold off a large majority of my models, keeping only my choice favorite singles, and a couple units that I just didn't feel that I would get my money's worth for. And even though I've had to let so much of it go, I can't help but wish I had more disposable income so I could buy the models that really strike me. It is unfortunate that certain corporations cater only to investors rather than to their players, but hey, what can you do?

So, I am officially off the GW bandwagon. They have now effectively priced me out. Gas in my area is four and a quarter, and it doesn't look like it has hit its peak.


Last month was my birthday, and I got a gift card to Ebay from my brother. Being heavily into the space-navy combat scene due to playing EVE online, I was perusing the few miniature manufacturers in this genre when I stumbled across a game by Mongoose Publishing (who put out some popular RPGs such as Traveller, Earthdawn, and Lone Wolf). It is called "A Call to Arms: Noble Armada".

Set in a strangely familiar setting (fans of GW will notice the parallels), this miniature game follows a similar style to that of Battlefleet Gothic or Firestorm Armada. It's most current permutation was released in 2011, and it seems to largely have gone unnoticed. This is a shame, as the models look pretty unique from that of other games, and the ruleset looks fairly solid. The ruleset can only be found as a hardbook or as a downloadable Ebook, but the hardback edition only costs 30 dollars and the downloadable Ebook costs around half of that. For the do-it-yourself-er, the rulebook makes it easy to print out the basic rules. The actual rules themselves only take up about 24 pages or so and it utilizes the space well. The writing is a bit plain but the simplicity of the rules makes up for it. The major fleet lists are also included in the book. This reduces the startup costs, as you don't have to by codex or army books for each fleet.

Poking around further, I found that the fleet starter boxes (ranging from 20-28$ on eBay) contain a fleet equal in value to between 1250-1700 points. The rules indicate that games range from around 500 points (small patrol battle with a handful of ships) to over 2000 points (massive fleet battles, akin to Apocalypse games in 40k). This means that the standard fleet boxes can get you an entire army's worth for under 30 bucks! I was sold. I picked up a fleet starter for two of the House Fleets and bought the PDF version of the book. So, my total investment into this game is around 60 dollars, and that included shipping.

Around a week passed while I waited for shipping, so I brushed up on the rules. It is conceivable that one could play this game without miniatures (in fact the rulebook mentions this) as the miniatures themselves are not a part of the game aside from an aesthetic addition. In the rules, I found the following snippets of useful information if you are curious about the game mechanics:

* The game is Initiative based, and Player-Alternating in each phase. This means that each fleet has an initiative value determined at the start of every turn, and play is alternated between players' ships in each phase. For example, Todd rolls a higher fleet initiative than Bob, so Todd decides he wants to go first. In the movement phase, Todd chooses one of his ships to move first. After Todd moves that ship, then it is Bob's turn to move one. After Bob finishes, then Todd may choose another ship in his fleet to move, etc. This continues until all ships in each fleet have been given the opportunity to make their moves. Then the Attack phase begins (similar to a shooting phase). This is very different to the style used in games such as Battlefleet Gothic, when going first can mean winning or losing.

* This game utilizes the D6, which although statistically inferior to the versatility of a D10 or D20 system, is convenient for the availability of the dice.

* Measurement is in inches, which also seems to be the norm. Standard-size playing areas measure around 4'x6', which is comparable to most other wargames. So at least you won't need a strange table size!

* While most fleet-based combat games are centered on destroying your opponent outright, ACTA:NA places additional emphasis on capturing your opponent's ships and using them against him. For example, in addition to the expansive rules on boarding ships, players receive double the points for capturing a ship rather than destroying it.

* Although a two-dimensional game surface, the game tries to make the mechanics reflect a 3-d battle. This means that only really large celestial objects (planets, dense asteroid fields, or nebulae) will obscure LOS to other ships.

* The rulebook not only provides a good spread of scenarios to try out, but also provides a detailed campaign section. Although set up in the typical fashion that seems to be an inherent flaw in campaign rules (making the strong opponents stronger and the weak opponents get shoved out), it is a valiant effort and looks to be well thought-through. It is a great way to enhance the re-playability of this game.

* The units are statted out well (meaning there are stats for things like ramming damage, rather than making you figure it yourself with a complex mathematical formula), and use a point value system to assemble fleets. There is no "availability restrictions on units" which can lead to spamming lists. However, with so many great options, and virtually no tournaments as of yet, I don't expect to see this often. With so many great models, why would you just want to spam one type?

After my wait was over, my models finally arrived in my mailbox. The boxes were smaller than they appeared, measuring only approximately 3"x6"x2". Inside, I found multiple sprues for the flight stands, which are probably the most spectacular feature about the models.

In Battlefleet Gothic, one of the worst problems that plagues GW model owners is the flight stand is prone to breaking at the stem. Little more than a plastic rod, these stems break from horizontal force all the time, which requires drilling out the original hole and gluing a new stem in, which can be a huge hassle.

For ACTA:NA, the ship's stands use a ball-joint design I have never come across before, but immediately took a liking to. You glue a coupling, not a fragile stem, into the pilot hole on the underside of the ship. The stem glues into a ball-joint which fits into the coupling after the glue is dry. This creates a stand that can flex when horizontal force is applied, so the stem remains protected. The coupling also has a wide area to grab, which reduces the likelihood of it breaking off inside the model like a stem. This coupler is more prominent than a stem, detracting from the look of the models a bit, but I feel that it is a small price to pay for not needing to re-drill and re-glue in a new stem every time I drop a model the wrong way.

As for the ships themselves, I found all the ships in one large plastic zip-lock inside the box. Most of the ships were single pieces, which was fantastic, though some of the molds left significant flash and mold lines. This was to be expected, considering the low price point of the models. Even so, it took little work to remove the flash and mold lines. They are made of fair-quality pewter, not too soft nor too hard. The detail is fair as well, and I expect them to look quite dapper after a good coat of paint!

Tonight is likely to be this game's maiden voyage, as I earned many brownie points with the missus by doing some extra housework. She loathes these kinds of games due to the rather plain aesthetics, but I think it should be entertaining enough.

I drew up our first campaign map as per the rules in the rulebook, and I'll share it here if anybody would like a generic solar system to use.


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