THIS IS SPARTAN!
So I volunteered to write an article about Spartan Games and, more importantly, their game systems. Spartan has existed since 2008 and was founded by a chap called Neil Fawcett. It is a family business. Neil is the creative lead and his wife has a fantastic mind for business. Even their son is heavily involved in playtesting.
Spartan enlists enthusiastic volunteers (we do this for free or, at most, a voucher) such as myself to promote them through games and events. My title is ‘Spartan Vanguard’ which I feel should be ‘Helot’ (what, I read a book!). I am really out there to run intros, demos and get people excited by what I find immensely exiting. My first contact with Spartan was through a friend getting into Dystopian Wars. He ran through a demo of the 1.1 rules and I loved it. I have had as much fun on a table with Spartan Games systems as a man can without meat or beer! So I want to get folk as enthusiastic as me, even if it means running two day tournaments, painting scenery for a week solid and 5am starts for Salute!
Spartan quietly bought the rights to make a Halo table top game. If you have recently heard of Spartan it is probably because you love shooting zealot xenomorphs/festering Flood and your mate Geoff told you there is going to be a miniature game about this. Geoff was partially correct when they said this: Spartan has made a Halo Fleet game but is also making a Halo Battlefields game in 15MM! Fleet is out this summer, Battlefields next year.
As one of your Local Spartan Vanguards I will be looking into doing an introduction and demonstration day at Athena in the near future.
How to Spartan
Spartan Games have several common features. Instead of going through each game system’s basics I will outline them here, then I will focus on the playstyles. Some of the features below are found in other game systems of course.
All games have a number of dice to get a number of successes. If my gun has 4 dice and you have a damage rating of 3 then I need to roll at least three 4+ dice rolls.
Where it gets interesting is that sixes count as two successes and you get to roll another dice (another six means rinse and repeat!). Potentially one dice could be six after six after six, meaning that nothing is safe!
Spartan Games do not have phases when you use your entire force, then whatever is left of your opponents gets a go. Each player takes it in turn to move and attack with a unit. This is a great way to balance a game and means you can both take earth-shatteringly powerful units without relying on a pre-turn dice roll to win. It also means that you need to think about the order of activation. If you move your über death machine too early it may not be in optimum range. Move it too late and it may be trashed.
Movement and Positioning
The larger scale games (Firestorm: Armada, Dystopian Wars) use very unique movement rules. Because there is little traction in water and even less in space, most units in these games have a compulsory movement forward before you can manoeuvre your mighty vessel of war. This means you really have to think about the next turn before you end your current move lest you find yourself in a poor position (like smashing into a piece of scenery, a minefield or your own ships!).
Both players hold the dice ready in most Spartan games. Are you a Victorian-age Admiral with torpedoes heading for your submarine? Throw out Concussion Charges to eliminate their chances of damage. Is a Frigate squad throwing Nanotech Shards at your space station? Roll shields against it. At closer ranges some games allow you to use the Ack Ack/CQB to attack an enemy that gets too close IN YOUR OPPONENTS TURN. You really have to think about where to end your movement and whom to attack.
Dystopian Wars: World War in the Victorian age.
“Dystopian Wars started with this megalomanic idea I had in a bar in Europe: what if I could change several points in history, and what would be the knock on effects?”
Dystopian Wars is my all-time favourite table top wargame and I tell you why. It is cheap, tactical, has a great selection of forces, you can play land, sea and air and it allows you to throw big handfuls of dice at your opponent.
The world of Dystopian Wars is an alternative history. It is 1870 and earlier in the century a scientist discovered a vault of wibbly devices and unlimited, material changing energy sources. Sturginium (named after said scientist) was used to make technological wonders and passed around the world like a gift to improve humanity and everyone lived happily ever after… just kidding. World War I broke out early and with technology surpassing our own!
DWars can be played at sea or on land (air units can obviously be used in both!). though sea tends to be slightly more popular.
DWars aesthetics are similar to steam punk, so the factions are alternative versions of those found in the real world. The miniatures are 1:1200 ships, airships and tanks. This makes for large-scale battles on a small table space with relatively few miniatures.
Movement is so important in DWars. All naval vessels move 2” forward regardless of their speed to represent momentum. If you end turn 1 1.5” in front of an island, turn 2 you will be saying hello to a cliff to the face. Different sized vessels use different turning templates to represent hauling their colossal bulk around. Zippy lil’ ships like Russian frigates will just spin on the spot. An island sized British Dreadnought class ship will turn ponderously. This system makes it increasingly difficult to play reactively. A player needs to think about where he wants to be in the following turns to cause the most damage, without offering the enemy an easy target.
Vessels are bristling with weapons facing different directions. Getting your miniatures in the right position to bring the most guns/rockets/torpedoes/heat rays to bear is important. Range bands of 8“ use different numbers of dice. Dice need to pass successes exceeding Damage Ratings (for one Hull Point) and Critical Ratings (for one Hull Point and an effect). Larger vessels do not die instantly but degrade, getting worse as they take damage or receive ‘critical effects’ which hamper how they will play if not repaired.
Close combat is done via boarding. Ships/tanks etc. can attack a model within 4” to represent sending over crack marines and other troops. Boarding is dangerous as your opponent fights back and can do serious harm to you in your own turn!
A naval game from last year’s ‘Ironclad’ tournament event. The Federated States of America take on the might of the Prussian Empire.
The Prussian fleet by Mark Guz (playtester) and the FSA by Eric Savage.
Firestorm Armarda: War in the Stars.
Firestorm Armada is part of Spartan’s Firestorm ‘hard sci-fi’ universe. The universe itself does not go boldly where man has never been before in its aesthetics and events. Intergalactic war: check. Alien races of diverse and unusual culture: check. Space Pirates: check.
What is unusual to the setting of FS:A is that there are no clear good and bad guys. Sure, the Dindrenzi are burning a path to Terra, but the people of Terra did sort of nuke their home world into black glass. Firestorm Armada is about unleashing unholy forces of destruction on your opponent. Ranged weapons can fire from interplanetary distances at vessels of immense size.
Movement is king. You must move at least half the distance of your distance moved last turn. If you storm ahead too fast turn one you will be too fast turn two. The terrain is often interactive with movement. An example is being close to planetoids will “slingshot” your ships for additional movement.
Weapons have range bands 1-4 so their effectiveness varies with distance, and do not always get better the closer you are. Rail guns, for instance, are difficult to aim and get worse at range band 1. This system makes you think about where you need to be next turn. FS:A isn’t ‘Dystopian Wars in derr future’. Victory conditions concentrate more on getting points for damaging and crippling your enemy’s ships, and fulfilling certain scenario objectives. It is also difficult to board an enemy ship with the same results as in DWars. This makes for a slower but more decisive game.
FOR DRAMOS! My Rense System Navy Spirit Class Battleship on the prowl.
Spartan have recently released boxed sets for all Firestorm Armada core fleets to be used in conjunction with Firestorm Planetfall. This will hopefully make for an excellent campaign experience.
Dystopian Legions: Bang the Drum
Legions is a 35mm skirmish version of Dystopian Wars. It uses platoon level forces to represent the poor bloody infantry of the Sturginum-fuelled Victorian World War.
Exploding dice are limited to certain weapons of size or quality. Most of the time a poor trooper will be stuck with a rifle and some luck. Units attack units not individuals and close combat features very strongly as a daring but devastating way to rout the enemy.
The system also uses Command Points to bestow units with abilities, give officers extra attack dice and pay off moral damage.
Legions is a developing game that has had some starts and stops recently. It is aesthetically wonderful and adds a slightly more human element to the Dystopian World.
Also there is a character based on Rik Mayall’s Captain Flashheart. They had me at that one.
Brave Kingdom of Britannia riflemen supported by some artillery and Jetpack Hussars take on Prussian armour and steam-powered Knights.
The above force is painted by Ben Ryan and Gareth Grubb.
Firestorm Planetfall: They came from the Stars
Planetfall is in the same universe as FS:A and represents the missions ships cannot do: hold ground. Planetfall is a 10mm skirmish game featuring all the factions from FS:A fighting to hold a beachhead for other forces. The game “counts down” with victory points and the first to zero (or a minus) wins. You score by holding objectives and wiping enemy units. It is designed to be played with large forces of tanks, walkers, fliers and infantry.
For its scale it would be a slow game, if it wasn’t so brutal! Your units roll more dice than in FS:A and have fewer Hull Points. It is not unusual for small games to end on turn two by a particularly reckless player.
Planetfall has some beautiful miniatures and appeals to the person that likes their science fiction game fast and deadly.
A Terran force with Hawker Industry Allies makes Planetfall.
The above force is painted by Ian Duff, used with permission.
I hope I have done a reasonable roundup of Spartan’s big four. The games are easy to access and a great deal of fun. Athena will hopefully become a bit of a hub for many game systems so pop in on a Saturday if you fancy a go. I should also mention that players at Aftermath, Last Stand and UEA games clubs also have players of all the above games (except for Planetfall, but trust me I am going to push that game cos I love it!).
Darren Lee Swancott is your Firestorm Vanguard and Dystopian Wars is my specialty along with my fellow architects of fate: Danny Buck, Rob Page and David Barber.
I also enclose links to the Spartan Community page and the download section where you can get all the rules for free!
Below is a recent article from the Spartan Blog, about HALO:
Feel free to add yourself to Norwich Dystopian Wars on Facebook to scuttlebutt about the Dystopian universe, post pictures or ask questions.
Ben Ryan (likeAsir on the Spartan Forum).
Ben Ryan has represented Spartan at UK Games Expo, Salute and in the grim North. He has recently moved to Norwich with a Cat, four Bearded Dragons and a Gecko. He also has a very understanding wife whom never asks why he has eleven draws and four cases full of Spartan Games products, but does not own an iron. No one else in the house plays games, so he is very excited to meet you!