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Games Workshop is best known for its miniature games, Warhammer 40k and Age of Sigma. However, these pose a significant barrier to new players in terms of digesting the rules and gathering the entire army to put them on the field. As such, it has long provided an introductory version that has been cut down to seduce carelessness.
The latest is Warhammer 40,000: Fire Team, where a squad of Space Marine in hand-to-hand combat takes on the sinister robot Necron. However, Fireteam is taking a new approach by adopting a simplified version of the board game Miniature Rules. I have a card and a hex grid and I don’t see a range ruler.
The fire team is not very visible when slid from the lid. Underneath the double-sided board is an abstract sci-fi battlefield printed on each side, with lots of obscure orange and white cards of various sizes. The magic happens when you realize that the box is deeper than the storage tray. Below that are three vibrant miniature sprues.
You will need tools, time and ideally some glue to assemble them, but the results are amazing. The five marine figures are outstanding, energetic and elegant, despite their bulky armor. Their 13 Necron enemies are difficult to assemble and not strikingly impressive, but still detailed and disturbing.
Inside the box are four other fireteam rules and cards that do not contain a model. These are all 40k universe factions, Tau, Elder, Oaks, and Imperial Guard, each corresponding to one model that can be purchased separately.
Fireteam uses a simplified version of the Killteam rule, which is a simplified version of the complete Warhammer 40k rule. Activating the model earns a certain number of action points that can be spent moving and firing. In combat, you select a weapon, roll the specified number of dice, and try to get the number of hits. The target then rolls the specified number of defense dice to get the number of armor saves and try to cancel the hit.
It’s a board game, not a miniature game, so you can eliminate the clumsy rules needed for measured movements. Instead, you count hexes when you move or check the range. To determine the line of sight, draw a bead from the center of one hex to the center of the target. I want to be a fire fight game, so it’s clean and fast.
However, while it is hard to imagine that such a basic framework would offer many strategies, the Fireteam will get missions, boards, and cards to do the lifting in this division. There are 12 missions, each of which seems to represent a crucial moment in a larger battle. The introductory one puts the team in the opposite corner in an attempt to control the two objective hexes. Things escalate from there to terrain interactions, fetch and carry missions, and much more.
Each provides a specific way to earn points that have little to do with eliminating enemy combatants. So it’s very common to see teams decimated and win. This is one of several ideas from our sister title, Warhammer Underworlds. Others include its tight three-turn structure, keeping things tense, and giving each player an objective card hand. These provide bonus points to achieve a particular goal, such as keeping the models a few hexes apart.
The two fire teams included are also very different in character. The Marines are fast and have an advantage in close quarters. In contrast, Necron is deadly within range, but has a special rule that means you can’t perform the same action twice. In practice, this makes them so slow that one model can only move 6 hexes throughout the game. To make up for it, they have a herd of three fast but weak scarab beetles.
Every fire team has its own strengths and weaknesses. In addition to combat statistics, each has three tactics, each of which can be activated once per turn. Those of the Marine Corps are centered around the purpose of combat boosts and claims. Necron, on the other hand, can compensate for the low speed by fully warping one model or reviving a fallen warrior. By making good use of these at the right time, you can advance the game to your advantage.
Therefore, each mission becomes a strategic puzzle about how to use covers, terrain, and the unique qualities of soldiers to achieve their goals. For its first purpose-based mission, Necron must figure out how speedy Marines can claim their goals on the first turn and stop getting unstoppable leads. It will not be. Among other issues, this involves coordinating movement in crowded starting areas so that slow-moving robots do not block each other’s line of sight.
Of course, in a three-turn game centered around a handful of dice with all attacks and defenses, the word “strategy” is probably too strong. But unless you’re devoted to the deepest fares, solving the puzzles in each scenario, despite the dice’s best efforts to thwart you, provides a comfortable balance of tension and tactics. The dice become more decisive once the best approach to the mission is understood. However, the way missions prioritize objectives over kills tends to swing balance away from combat and towards strategy.
Asymmetry is an important part of Fireteam’s appeal, but it leads to some rather non-intuitive rules. Each side will now activate 8 models per turn. This means that the Marines will activate at least one model multiple times. The second activation takes only one action and, if necessary, concentrates all additional activations on the same model. This offers some fun tactical possibilities, but I find it wrong for one warrior to run all the way and hail on the same turn.
There is another side to putting the robot wrench into the smooth gear of the fire team. This means that we use a very large number of counters. The model gains counters to track the effects of scratches, activations, and conditions. A stack of large counters on a crowded board quickly becomes very difficult to track and loses cohesion as to which model owns which stack. And at the end of each turn, you need to find the intact one without moving anything else. This is a clumsy and cumbersome management task that sticks out badly in such high speed games.
Warhammer 40,000: Fireteam retails for $ 49.99 and is available at select local hobby shops and the following national retailers:
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