This week we’re taking a dive into FIREFIGHT, the glorious new sci-fi mass battle game from the maniacs at Mantic Games, with a review and giveaway to win a copy for yourself.
Plus, of course, we announce the winner of our Giant Easter Giveaway! It’s all go round here.
(RRP: £90, ORDER HERE)
The game box is a great big lump of stuff, first of all. Two full forces with over 70 hard-plastic miniatures between them, for Marauders – Orcs, to you and I – and Enforcers, power-armoured “peacekeepers” of the GCPS (Humanity’s Galactic Co-Prosperity Sphere).
Let’s be clear that this is not a grim, gritty, grimdark future: it’s a corporate, power-hungry future, though not a sleek, cyber future either (albeit tinged with neon) – Mantic’s Warpath universe is more akin to the pages of 2000AD, Firefly, Brian K Vaughn’s Saga or the rich, alien-infused writings of CJ Cherryh. Indeed, one of its real strengths is a deep and engaging fluff that draws you into its conflicts believably. It’s the world of their companion games Deadzone and Dreadball, and so if you’re already invested in either it will obviously appeal, but it’s satisfying enough to get the attention if you’re not already familiar. The fact that over half the core rulebook – which, btw, is absolutely chock-full of stunning art – is given over to the background might seem odd but it really enriches the game as a whole.
Also, this points to quite a different thing about the game: it’s rules-light. The game’s real strength is in its immense simplicity, with clear rules designed to speed up play rather than create tactical equivocations. Can a unit leader draw line of sight to a member of an enemy unit? Fine, they can all see it. Is there a big enough gap in the wall of that building to shoot through? Well whether it’s a huge hole, or tiny chink, that’s enough to use as a firing position. The game heavily emphasises smoothness of play over obsessing over micro-managing. Yes, there are (actually really extensive) rules for covering certain circumstances – particularly around potentially problematic situations that can arise with vehicles – but for the most part it’s extremely straightforward. Universal special rules are covered in a couple of double-pages in the rulebook, and the unit references in the accompanying Force List book are clear and concise (with the added bonus of reference cards info for all the box contents).
At a basic level, you play with roughly 30-50 models each across a 4×4 board plus some scatter terrain (not masses though – this isn’t Deadzone). Players take turns across a number of rounds, taking (typically) 2 actions per unit (move/shoot/duck, mostly). Using suppressive fire tactics to pin down the opposition is key, making them lose actions, whilst judicious use of Command points (your commander(s) giving out-of-sequence activations, negating pins or granting faction-specific abilities) is also vital. The game is d8 (rather than d6) based, which creates a better randomisation curve and adds balance overall, as it allows for a wider range of ability scores and building more variety into the different factions.
Whilst all of the factions have some degree of both ranged and melee options, there are definite tendencies within each. From the starter set, the Enforcers are well-armed and well-armoured – power-suited super-soldiers, in the classic sci-fi mold – whilst the Marauders are less disciplined but more numerous; however, these are not the chaotic ork swarms you might expect, but rather an insurgent force of dispossessed mercenary aliens that are sick of working only to satiate human greed.
For swarms, look to the Veer-Myn (yay!) and all their innumerable rats with some nasty mid-range firepower and a lot of teeth and claws (the Deadzone 3rd edition starter proving an excellent base to build from), whilst the GCPS (also available in the DZ starter) are your “regular” human infantry, the classic average soldiery. If you prefer your hordes shambling rather than skittering, Plague are the zombies and monstrous creatures of nightmare, an ancient sentient virus run riot, a ceaseless swarm of host bodies; at the other extreme, the Asterians are an elite, aloof mecha force at the bidding of unknowably ancient elven minds, with impossibly advanced weapons mounted on drones.
Finally, the Forge Fathers use tanks, battle-suits and more armour plating than you can shake a very pointy stick at to resist all who would try to defeat them. I’m hoping we’ll see other factions from the universe at some point, particular The Nameless (a mysterious cephalopods swarm with lots of psionics) and the Rebs (disparate, dispossessed aliens and humans that fight the corporate tyranny of the GCPS).
If you’re familiar with Deadzone, many of the mechanics will feel intuitive, but even if not Firefight is a very fast game. Now, yes, whilst there is a place for a whole day of shuffling tiny man-dolls around a tabletop, more often than not you want to be able to setup, play, and wrap up in a couple of hours, and Firefight does this in spades. Partly, this is because – somewhat unusually – the game does not make use of masses of terrain (a bonus, as entry level product), but it’s more than that. The rules are so streamlined that you’re never spending ages agonising over a decision, with a well-organised, logical rulebook that immediately resolves any possibly queries. To test this, my elder spawn and I deliberately didn’t use the forces that come in the starter (with their extra rules reference cards) but broke out his Asterians and my Veer-Myn – plus, stubbornly, I always prefer to play with painted models – and we were pleased to whizz through the intro scenario in the course of an afternoon.
A standard game of Firefight is supposed to be around 1000 points, which the boy could easily manage with his pricey Asterian force, but my rodent horde from the DZ 3rd ed starter barely clocks in at 600. Still, the intro scenario is designed to be played at 500-750 so that was ideal, as it turned out, and the game went down to a nail-biting last roll of the dice on the last turn of the game, with 1 solitary unit left each. Thrilling stuff, and has left us champing at the bit for more!
With more than a dozen other scenarios in the rulebook, there’s plenty of variety to keep you occupied and tackle your tactical preferences. If I have a critcism then maybe the fact that it requires a 4ft play area can be a bit limiting if you’re playing in the house, but then if you’re going for a big-box wargame experience then you’d be expecting this anyway. The smooth rules do have some compromises – the way hills affect LOS but not movement feels a little odd, for example – but it’s a small price for such a slick, quick game experience overall.
I mustn’t forget to talk about the quality of the plastics themselves. Now having built every generation of Mantic plastics, resins, restics, metals, and PVCs I can say that these are by far the best I’ve seen from them. The Enforcers are both a bit bulkier and a bit more slick – though they still look fine next to their predecessors. There’s plenty of variety on the sprues in terms of parts and poses, allowing for lots of customisation coupled with clear instructions for various possible loadouts. If there’s a criticism, it’s that pairs of arms (specifically, those carrying rifles) are not matched on sprue with letters, whereas legs and torsos are. This is irritating, though not a deal-breaker by any means.
Overall, Firefight hits the sweet spot of being complex ENOUGH without being either turgid or simplistic. The 2 player starter set offers fantastic value (though of course you could just dive in with the rulebooks) – the buy-in is comparable to a high-end boardgame, and if you’ve got a friendly regular opponent then you could always get yourselves a copy apiece and double your forces for an absolute steal. If you’ve previously picked up Deadzone 2nd, it uses the same factions (though not same models), so is a great step-up from that also. Definitely looking forward to seeing more forces on the Warpath!
So, thanks to Rob, Ronnie and the gang at Mantic we’re pleased as punch to be able to give one lucky winner a copy of Firefight of their very own!
In a slight change to regular programming, you can win by telling us which of the Firefight factions above has most caught your interest! And remember to Like, Comment and Share across your socials (FB, Insta and/or Twitter) tagging us @bigcomicpage & @sam.graven to bag yourself a bonus entry!
Once again, the competition is only open to those in the UK unfortunately, unless you’re willing to fork out the postage.
And the winner of our GIANT Easter Basket of Board Games (again, big thanks to Asmodee UK) is… CAIT LIN!
Congratulations! Remember to get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org within 30 days to claim your prize!