Saturday, March 10, 2012
Rising Costs of the Hobby, and First Look at ACTA: Noble Armada
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.
Adeptus Astartes, Blood Angels, Bloodquest, Cadian, Catachan, the Chaos devices, Cityfight, the Chaos logo, Citadel, Citadel Device, Codex, Daemonhunters, Dark Angels, Dark Eldar, 'Eavy Metal, Eldar, Eldar symbol devices, Eye of Terror, Fire Warrior, Forge World, Games Workshop, Games Workshop logo, Genestealer, Golden Demon,Adeptus Astartes, Blood Angels, Bloodquest, Cadian, Catachan, the Chaos devices, Cityfight, the Chaos logo, Citadel, Citadel Device, Codex, Daemonhunters, Dark Angels, Dark Eldar, 'Eavy Metal, Eldar, Eldar symbol devices, Eye of Terror, Fire Warrior, Forge World, Games Workshop, Games Workshop logo, Genestealer, Golden Demon, Gorkamorka, Great Unclean One, Inquisitor, the Inquisitor logo, the Inquisitor device, Inquisitor:Conspiracies, Keeper of Secrets, Khorne, Kroot, Lord of Change, Necron, Nurgle, Ork, Ork skull devices, Sisters of Battle, Slaanesh, Space Hulk, Space Marine, Space Marine chapters, Space Marine chapter logos, Tau, the Tau caste designations, Tyranid, Tyrannid, Tzeentch, Ultramarines, Warhammer, Warhammer 40k Device, White Dwarf, the White Dwarf logo, and all associated marks, names, races, race insignia, characters, vehicles, locations, units, illustrations and images from the Warhammer 40,000 universe are either ®, TM and/or © Copyright Games Workshop Ltd 2000-2016, variably registered in the UK and other countries around the world. Used without permission. No challenge to their status intended. All Rights Reserved to their respective owners.
Games Workshop, the Games Workshop logo, Epic, Inquisitor, the Inquisitor logo, Inquisitor:Conspiracies, Battlefleet Gothic, the Battlefleet Gothic logo, Necromunda, the Necromunda Plate logo, the Necromuinda Stencil logo, Mordheim, the Mordheim logo, City of the Damned, Blood Bowl, the Blood Bowl logo, the Blood Bowl Spike device, Fanatic, the Fanatic logo, the Fanatic II logo, Warmaster and all associated marks, names, races, race insignia, characters, vehicles, locations, units, illustrations and images from the Blood Bowl game, Warhammer 40,000 universe and the Warhammer World are either ®, TM and/or © Copyright Games Workshop Ltd 2000-2016, variably registered in the UK and other countries around the world. Used without permission. No challenge to their status intended. All Rights Reserved to their respective owners.
Flames of war are either (R), TM and/or (C) Battlefront Miniatures.
Unless mentioned otherwise, the contents of this site are (C) Matt Darnell, 2008-2017