The Lost Lighthouse Reviews: Forbidden Stars

“This is the way the world ends, not with a bang but with a whimper”. Now, T.S. Elliot was a smart cookie, but he got it wrong here. The (many) worlds will end with a metric f**k ton of Orks, Chaos, Marines and Eldar ripping them apart with orbital bombardments. On the grim, dark future, there is no whimpering!

Forbidden Stars, where do I start? I could say “amazing components, exquisite board, and a great rules set” but when it comes to Fantasy Flight Games, it tends to be a given. Forbidden Stars is all those things and more, don’t get me wrong. The game pieces look like they could perfectly fit into epic or battlefleet gothic. FFG are not letting down the 40k license, they are representing! I particularly like the “titan” sized pieces.

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Oh, I almost forgot the board. You know I saying everything in this game is beautiful? Well the tiles are even nicer! They look like a wonderfully painted star chart. Almost too whimsical for the 40k universe.

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Now lets not praise this game too much, it has its flaws, but all games do. With FFGs recent 2 book system (one for the core rules, the other for referencing in-game), the initial read through can be a bit arduous. Over all I like the 2 book system for longevity but doesn’t do much for the first game. Secondly, to me the combat system seems a bit fractured. Trying to explain it to people was the most difficult part. Again, after a few actual combats it sinks in and works. Sadly, messing up your first few combats might screw you over for the rest of the game, and it’s not a short game at that! But I’m nit-picking. I do love this game.

The game is split into 3 phases. The planning phase, the operation phase and the refresh phase.

The planning phase is pretty self explanatory. Each player plans their moves for phase two. You do this by selecting one of your order tiles and placing it on a tile. The cool bit is, someone else can place there order on top of yours. Meaning you can’t resolve your order until they resolve their one that’s on top. Evan player puts down 4 order tiles, you get two copies of each order.

Order consist of the following (I’ve written a very basic summary):

1) Deploy. You build units, then structures. Structures include factories (you need these to build units), bastions (fortifications to help you hold worlds) and cities (needed to make the bigger and more killinger units!)

2) Strategize. Lets you upgrade your orders and improve your combat deck

3) Dominate. You harvest any assets your friendly worlds have. Such as extra money, reinforcements and forge tokens (you need these to build to best two units). You also get to activate your special faction power.

4) Advance. This is your move order. I found movement to be a little confusing at first, but after a couple of games I got it. Basically, if worlds are adjacent your troops can move to them. But if there is a void section (open space) you need to have a friendly ship in that space to allow them to move through it.

The Refresh phase sees you collecting materiel (Forbidden Stars currency), rallying units and, the coolest bit, moving the warp storms. These little strips of hell can make or break your plans! No units can move through them, so they may stop your invasion in a heart beat.

Your aim for the game is to pick up little objective tokens (which is the first step of the refresh phase). If you pick up as many as there are players, you win the game.

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I highly recommend this game. It’s awesome! Even if you’re not a fan of the 40k universe, it’s worth it!

Gary

The Lost Lighthouse Reviews: Star Wars Armada

What a box! No, I’m not talking about your mum, I’m talking about Fantasy Flight Game’s Star Wars Armada. It’s a beast. Once again, not your mum. There’s no hiding this on the bus home from your LGS, and why should you! You should proudly shout, at the top of your lungs “I’m king of this fucking bus!”

Enough with the silliness, what’s this game like? Well, once you’ve done with the new box smell, you can admire the beautiful components. A common ritual for me with FFG products. I challenge you not to rip the Star Destroyer straight out its plastic coffin and bask in its glory. The rebel ships deserve the same treatment. Then you see the squadrons…Oh. Ok, so on face value, the squadrons are a bit of a let down, but I’m quietly confident that after a lick of paint, they will be fine. They are basically just counters after all. Everything else is the standard, great quality that you  pay for with FFG. The manoeuvre stick thingy is mental. It’s hard not to sit there just clicking and moving it like a steam punk snake.


The 2 rule books included are very well laid out and gets you playing very quickly, and like X-Wing, it’s very intuitive after a few turns. That’s right, I mentioned it. The big old elephant in the room. Ok, that time I was talking about your mum. I’ll talk about the 2 games similarities later.

The turns themselves are split over 4 phases. The 1st phase is the Command Phase, where players secretly choose their ships special actions. The bigger the ship, the further you have to plan with the larger ships planning 3 turns ahead! To represent the slow reactive nature of the big capital bastards. The 2nd phase is the ship phase, in which you alternately activate capital ships. The 3rd phase is where your squadrons move or shoot and lastly the 4th phase is a standard refresh stage. Then wash, rinse, repeat.

I found the most important thing to get right was the speed of your ships. Get that wrong and you’ll find your most important ships out the battle for long periods of time. Dealing with squadrons is also vital. Leaving X-Wings too long near your ships and you’ll find them with no shields rather quickly.

Is this just X-Wing, tarted up and given a new lease of life? No. Well I don’t think so. I found the skills you need to be a good X-Wing player, are similar to the skills you’ll need to master in Armada, but you go about it different ways, and you have new elements to think about. Armada is more refined, more intricate, dare I say it, more fun. This coming from a guy who really enjoys X-Wing. I find Armada more of a war game than X-Wing, which is maybe why I enjoy it more. And, possibly, why others won’t.

So, do you need both X-Wing and Armada? Of course not. Will you buy both X-Wing and Armada? Probably. I’m happy to say, both games are fantastic and deserve space on your shelves. Though you might need to extend it for Armada!

If you fancy picking up a copy, you can from Element Games

Gary.

The GM’s Handbook

Hello everyone! As Adam is detailing his journey into pen and paper RPGs, I thought it would be interesting to get the perspective of the creator of worlds, the giver of life and the supplier of stationary, the GM!

So the GM (Games Master) is the most important role in an RPG session. Sure, the players are essential but without the GM’s many hours placed in story writing and world crafting, then their would be no adventure for the players to journey through.

While the jump to play a tabletop RPG is a big one, the jump to become a GM is even more daunting! So I thought I’d lay out a few handy tips for any budding GMs. I’d say my RPG career is 95% GMing and 5% as a player. I don’t think it’s a good idea to only every GM as you need to know what players expect and what will keep their attention during play.

So here are my Top 5 tips to GMing your first game:

Know Your System.

This is the golden rule! The last thing you and your players will want to do is stop every 5 minutes to pause the game and check rules. You can help this by choosing a simple system in the first place. I suggest something like Dungeon World. It’s quick to learn and smooth to play. It’s the RPG equivalent to a 15 year old single malt whiskey.

A Theme For Everyone.

For new players, getting into the spirit can be the most difficult thing. As adults we seem to be encouraged more and more to dull our imagination. Imagination is key to this genre. An easy way to do this choose a theme that people already know and love. For instance, FFGs new Star Wars RPG could be the one for you. Everyone knows of Star Wars, even if they aren’t a hardcore fan they have most likely of seen the films and knows the setting which can be the hardest hurdle to jump.

Keep It Light

Sure, we all want to run an epic adventure which has people on the edge of their seats! But this amount of skill takes years to master. If I’m with new players I like to keep the atmosphere light, we joke, make fun out of ourselves a little and sink a few beers before we begin. Just explain that it’s a game and you are all together to have fun. If you make players relax then they are way more likely to have fun, which in turn will make your job a lot easier.

Start With Action!

This might sound odd but it’s great! A get away chase or a quick firefight will soon get people into the spirit.

Expect The Unexpected

This is the biggest tip I’ve got (way-hay!) you may lay subtle hints for characters to follow, but more times than not they will go on a tangent and you will have to be like a leaf on the wind. Have a few story lines ready which can be adapted for any situation. At the same time don’t make it like a plat-former with only one direction. RPGs are meant to be the most open worlds you can every play in, take that away and you might as well all be playing a computer game.

I hope these tips help new GMs along the fun and daunting road you have ahead of you! I will hopefully be writing more of these to help everyone.

Gary

Gaming For The Busy: Why Tournaments Are The Answer

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Our old ‘friend’ and Avenger fanboy Jan Novak runs us through his favourite game for a busy lifestyle

I am a very busy person, I have a full time job, I keep a house and a young family to contend with. Gone are the days of me spending hours painting up little figures ready for a whole weekend of pushing them round and making ‘pew pew’ noises. Sadly, I simply don’t have the time to dedicate myself to this sort of endeavour anymore.

Having taken some time off after the birth of my first child, I decided the time was right for me to get back into gaming. I needed a good dose of geek, surrounded by like-minded, socially awkward brethren. My first task in this new chapter of my life was to find a game that I wanted to play which would be suitable. I immediately wrote off playing a game such as Warhammer, where I would need to paint up a whole army before I could jump in and get involved. I’d never really played card games like Magic the Gathering, so this was also pushed to the back of the queue. After much deliberation I settled on X-Wing, the miniatures game by Fantasy Flight Games which has been reviewed briefly by Gary on this very site.

I played a few games at home with some friends on evenings after work, really enjoyed myself but came to the realisation that this really wasn’t scratching the itch I had for some hardcore geekery. Then, I did it, I plunged myself in at the deep end and signed myself up for a tournament. It was this decision that changed my gaming life forever. I nervously went along to the event, a whole hour drive away from my home, horrendously underprepared and expecting the worse.

What happened? I got absolutely smashed in my first two games but actually learned how to play the bloody game, taught by a couple of lovely and friendly opponents. My third game was a bit closer and the last two games I actually won! None of this really matters though because I had experienced the shot in the arm I needed, the itch had been scratched and I was whole again.

In essence, what I had achieved was finding a way to play geeky games within the context of my normal life. I was able to fit a whole five games of X-Wing in one day which I wouldn’t ordinarily get to do in a whole month! All of this was also achieved with near-zero preparation which is a massive draw for me as a busy person. I’m not advocating this as a ‘one show fits all’ solution to gaming for the busy but it has definitely worked for me. I now regularly attend X-Wing tournaments and am loving it. I’m finding that the short, concentrated burst of gaming events provide fit perfectly into my lifestyle.

Jan