By Podsy McPod
Available at : Wargame Vault
This article concerns itself only with the changes to Fireteam Andromeda, please see link for a review of the original game.
First off I have to declare an interest as I was one of the play testers for this edition. I was pretty happy with the play test version I had and when revised edition arrived I was shocked to see it differed hugely from what had gone before. So what has changed?
The most important change by far is that the unique and extremely tactical command and control system has been given an overhaul. The system for counting the number of commands you can give in a turn has been simplified. Shaken units now cost two commands to activate at all times. With this simplified system there is no longer a need to share commands and this mechanic has been removed from the game entirely. Even more important than this is that a hard cap of three commands per unit has been introduced. As shaken units now cost two commands to activate there is an immediate reduction in their options for additional active or reactive commands. You find yourself thinking very carefully about the implications of how you spend your commands. For example if a shaken unit decides to concentrate fire for a bonus to hit it has spent all three possible commands already leaving it unable to issue any reactive commands like defensive fire against an assault. This system may sound a bit confusing but I promise you it is a model of simplicity in play and highly intuitive.
The next major change is to vehicles. The weapons that come as integral to the various vehicle types have been toned down so you will find yourself spending points to up gun them. All vehicles now have two hit points with the exception of the heaviest armoured units like tanks which have three. When firing a unit at a vehicle you only count your best result not all your hits. So small arms if increased in power, firing at rear armour, or being really lucky can damage light vehicles for one point of damage but a volley of eight shots can no longer cause eight points of damage, only one. Powerful weapons can still explode vehicles in a single hit. The best result rule vastly increases the survivability of vehicles especially light ones. Combined with a radical decrease in the points cost of light vehicles I am finding many more transports, infantry fighting vehicles and battlesuits appearing on table. Infantry survivability has also increased with a standard saving roll going from 4+ to 3+. These two changes combine to make it a much more viable option to use vehicles to transport infantry.
Melee combat has been revised. It is no longer an "all or nothing" attack that wiped out the loser. The loser must run away but lives to fight another turn. The winner can choose to pursue the losing unit or take a free move. There were a couple of unfortunate combinations of traits and upgrades in the old rules which allowed assault super units. Thankfully these have been removed or restricted. A successful assault against an unshaken enemy is very hard to pull off just as you imagine it should be. So assault remains a useful tool but no longer threatens to overwhelm shooting.
Anti armour weapons in the old rules could only fire at vehicles and quickly became the least favoured weapon choices. They are now free to fire at any target which means they can be really useful against heavily armoured infantry like power armour troops. There also seem to be a lot more light vehicles around for targets. Unfortunately the pendulum seems to have swung too far. Automatic weapons (low power, high rate of fire) seem pretty feeble compared to their versatile or anti armour counterparts. The moderately higher rate of fire not counting for much when it so hard to get a kill even on infantry with standard armour.
A couple of traits in the old rules especially commander traits were distinctly over powered and these have been removed or radically toned down.
Walker vehicles (mechs) were a poor choice of movement type in the old rules costing the same points as ground units but only giving one third of the movement of standard ground vehicles. Now it is half which combined with their unique ability as vehicles to initiate an assault, ability to move unhindered through terrain and to fire all weapons even after a full move, brings them right back in to play.
Finally there has been a thorough revision of weapon stats and points costs in general. There was not a lot wrong with the old point’s costs but I think the changes that have been made are in the main very successful. I keep discovering little subtle changes which improve things so by no means take the above as an exhaustive list of changes.
So what is not to like? Standard infantry weapons have been changed from a choice of six, each with their own unique stats and three possible upgrades. The six names remain but all three infantry rifles have identical stats as do all three assault carbines. The three possible upgrades are still available but I would be surprised if you do not choose the improved power upgrade option most of the time. I have heard the change was done as most people chose the weapon with the most power. So in short for playability. I can see the author’s point that all infantry rifles serve the same purpose but the result does feel a little bland. Buying improved armour for infantry has been made more expensive as the base armour value of infantry already starts one point higher and the higher numerical value it reaches it gets disproportionately better. This now means light infantry are viable but I feel it is unlikely players will buy improved armour as an extra hit point or another figure can be bought for a similar cost.
Personally I feel infantry survivability is a little too good now but there are only six sides on a D6 so the graduation of change is limited. Standard infantry with unimproved weapons and lacking support weapons will not cut it in a fire fight against infantry who do have these attributes even if the opposing units are similar points values. The author has said that in his view of sci-fi combat infantry without support weapons would be "out of the ordinary". This imbalance may come as a shock to new players. I will have to get used to fielding smaller units with support weapons.
There are a number of colourful traits for infantry like artificial (robot) which are nice to provide interest for scenarios or free form games but they are really not viable in competitive play. You will find yourself struggling not to choose the trait that allows access to additional support weapons for every infantry unit. If you don't take support weapons for an infantry squad there are definitely plenty of good choices of alternatives to put the points into. The points system is certainly robust enough for pick up games to an agreed point’s value, with the one proviso for infantry mentioned above, so I would imagine most games will be organised this way. So you may struggle to differentiate your infantry with a limited range of viable weapons, armour, and traits.
So do the positives outweigh the negatives? Yes, without a doubt, by the weight of a galaxy or two I would imagine. The core of this game is the unique and highly tactical command and control system. Not only has it been streamlined it has been improved. A highly impressive feat! All vehicles even the lightest are now viable choices. I thought vehicle combat was good in play test it is now even better. In my original review of the rules I said they could do with just a little more polish. I can assure you they are now gleaming.