Friday, 16 September 2016

[review] Fallen Frontiers

So while I may have been obsessed with playing Kingdom Death recently, I got through from Scale 75 my pledge reward for Fallen Frontiers. Fallen Frontiers is a scifi game, with some of the typical tropes you would expect. It's a time of interstellar turmoil, as Humanity is led by megacorps into war with a alien race, not unlike our own, but more brutish, alien created super humans clad in power armour, and a race of strange cybernetic horrors.

Fallen Frontiers stands out a bit as the models are true scale, meaning no stupidly sized body parts, and are made to 35mm scale, make them stand a good head above GW figures, and makes them equivalent in size to Kingdom Death. Overall I am more than impressed with the designs and sculpts. The models are not too busy, and so there is room to paint the surfaces with a sense of shading and lighting, rather than just edge highlights. The models being resin are very crisp, and light, and they don't feel too brittle. Also there is a noticeable difference in height between the humans, and the superhumans and the aliens.

In the core box that everyone else will be buying, you get 10 Ares soldiers, a Ares command model, a Ares heavy weapon model, and two heroes. The Riff get 10 troopers, 5 assault troopers, a commander for each type of troop, a heavy weapons model, and two heroes. Add in some dice, counters, some terrain, and the rules, and for 75 Euro that is not a bad deal. Especially as that is two 300 pt armies. A typical sized army is meant to be 600 pts.

So the rules.

The game has 5 turns, each turn has 4 phases. The winner of the initiative roll for the turn gets to choose the order in who takes a phase. Each player gets to have 2 phases of activation of units in a turn. Units activated can either move, shoot, or charge. Moving and shooting is for particular weapons an troops. But, moving imparts a bonus defence against shooting. So already there is some sort of tactical element to the order in which you move and shoot and making your opponent do the same.

Where things get interesting is Fatigue. It can happen that a player can take more than 2 phases in a row, where that string of phases straddles two turns. When this happens, based upon the stamina of a unit, units have to pass a test to be activated. So again, there is a tactical risk is either taking a series of phases in a row, or forcing your opponent to do the same! A failed fatigue roll means the unit fails to activate. The Ares only take tests on the 4th phase in a row, Riff on the 3rd, Sayx typically on the 3rd, and the Harvesters never test and pass automatically.

A phase starts with cleaning up and doing stuff that has to be done at the start of a phase, followed by the chance to play a tactics card, followed by drawing a new card. Cards play a big role in the game. Each side has a deck of 20+ cards that are tactics, or things that can be used on a unit when it activates, or played as reactions to events and activations. The cards have a cost, in Logistic points. These points are generated at the end of each turn by the hero models. Some cards also require Krithium which is generated by capturing extraction points. So there is a element of deck building in the game to design a deck that best suits the army and play style.

It is also worth noting that hero models do not have profiles like troops, instead gaining the profile of the unit they are attached to, and lending specific benefits to that unit or the army.

In a phase, once tactics cards are played, units are activated. Each unit as stated previously can move, or shoot, or charge into combat.

Movement for troops is 6 inches, unless there is some sort of terrain, or special rule in play. Charging into combat lends a further 50% onto movement (so lets just say 9 inches... so long as it means they can get into base to base contact).

Movement confers a -1 modifier when being shot at. Short range when shooting confers a +1 to hit. Cover confers a +1 modifier to armour saves.

Units have a few stats. There is Training Factor (TF) which is how hard they are to shoot at. Armour is the bonus to the die roll to save against a hit. Weapon Strength is the value that must be equalled or exceeded on a armour save against a wound. Then there is Weapon Range, the max range of a ranged weapon. All weapons have a short range of 12 inches. Then there is the Close Combat Attack Factor, and Close Combat Defence Factor. These two values are used in combat.

Shoot is really simple. Check ranges on weapons in the unit, roll that many dice for each type in range, apply movement modifiers and perhaps other modifiers due to skills, and then see if you have equalled or beaten the TF value of the target. At short range you can target specific models in a unit and thus allocate hits accordingly. To save against hits, roll for each hit a die, add the Armour value, and if it equals or beast the Weapon Strength, then you survive.

Units that loose 50% of their current strength the unit must pass a die roll by scoring equal or less than their TF value. If they fail they are pinned, and the unit card is flipped, which results in their stat lines and abilities changing. Pinned units must pass a TF roll to activate and to be no longer pinned. If a unit that is pinned is pinned again due to another failed TF roll, the unit is removed from the game. Loosing a leader model also called for  pinning test using the TF value. The benefit of heroes is that they confer to their unit their own TF value for these tests.

Combat requires each side rolling a die, adding the number of models in the unit, and adding either their CCDF or CCAF value. The attacking side uses the CCAF value. The defenders their CCDF value. Is the attackers had charged that phase, they get a +1 bonus. If the attackers exceed the value of the defenders, they score that many hits. If the defenders have the higher value then no wounds are applied. Weapon Strength is used again for these attacks. Armour rolls are made as normal. But, the defending unit gets to hit back - this is simultaneous and so is done before removing models due to wounds. The defenders in that phase now use their CCAF, and the attackers use their CCDF. If the enemy unit eliminated then the other unit gets 3 inch move, and if all models make at least 1 inch movement they count as moving for shooting purposes. If no unit is eliminated, the unit that suffered the most wounds has to pass a pinning test.

An important aspect of the game is Krithium. This resource is gained by capturing extraction points. At the end of a phase each hero generates a number of logistics points, equal to their logistics value. Also for each Krithium extraction point captured, a Krithium point is generated, and also a victory point. A extraction point is captured by a unit if it is within 3 inches of it, and no enemy is in range. The extraction point remains captured even when the unit leaves. But if the unit sits on it, an extra Krithium point is generated at the end of the phase. These Krithium points are used to activate abilities, cards from the main deck, or also used to buy cards from the armoury, which is a separate deck you build for your army.

In total a game lasts for 5 phases, and the winner is the side that survives with the most victory points.

Other interesting aspects are that heroes have multiple wounds, and again, once they take enough wounds, their card is flipped and their abilities and stats change. Vehicles also have some specific rules, essentially equivalent to having wounds.

Overall the game has a tactical element with the turn sequence, meaningful choices of which unit to assign each hero in the army, coupled with the cards. The game clearly favours an aggressive play style, and each faction in the game has a definite style that distinguishes them from the others.

The first wave of releases is the core box (which has a number of model poses replicated) and the faction boxes (which have more variety in line with what we got in the Kickstarter rewards), plus a few heroes, terrain, and accessories and paints. The next wave I hope will be models for all factions, and then I hope next year will see some new additions to the game. Right now the Riff and Sayx have been the most fun to paint, but overall I can see myself picking up everything for small forces ore larger ones. The Harvesters look like great fun to paint.

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