Posts Tagged ‘tabletop gaming’


Alien and Predator are two universes that have been aching for a decent tabletop game for so long. The Leading Edge Aliens game from the eighties is easily one of my favourite games ever, and I absolutely love the Legendary Encounters versions for both monsters.  Prodos’ AVP: The Hunt Begins (in its first edition, at least) is a game I had a love hate relationship with from the start.  

Okay, so for this review, I’m not going to talk about Prodos Games, how they completely messed up their Kickstarter for the game leaving several backers without their base sets nearly two years after the game first hit shop shelves (some backers still don’t have them), the debacle with the supposedly faithful first version of the dropship, the complaints people had with the poorly mixed resin in the first batch of figures, or any of the other myriad problems people have with them, and instead look at the game itself.


So, let’s assume Prodos are a bunch of okay dudes, and that you’ve just seen this game on the shelf, you’re a fan of Alien, Predator and or AVP, and you want to know whether or not the game is worth buying.  The answer is, a little annoyingly, yes, it absolutely is.  

All the complaints I had about the first edition of this game have been completely resolved by this second version.  The holes in the combat system that previously you could drive a Colonial Marines APC through have been completely patched, leaving a combat system that is – while perhaps a little over complex by modern standards – perfectly good at reflecting corridor fighting between the three factions.  It’s also completely rectified the stupid errors that snuck in (like the Aliens being susceptible to their own acid blood splatter; seriously, what was that about?). 

The points build system now actually makes sense, as a quick glance at the first edition rule book would show you that the forces contained in the starter set were, in fact, completely unbalanced.  Lastly, the Predator Smart-Disc has been given a proper Nerfing, which is great, because that thing was ridiculously overpowered.  


So, the game is set about the USS Theseus, a ship that is being used by the Predators as a spawning ground for Aliens for them to hunt, and then some Colonial Marines show up, and the shit hits the fan.  It’s a contrived set-up, but no-one really cares about the story for a frag-fest, and you can always come up with your own background if you want.  It doesn’t change anything on the tabletop.  

In terms of components, the rule book – while still far from perfect – is light years ahead of the first edition, so I can’t not be satisfied with it.  Errors are corrected, stats are fixed, and you can (usually) find what you’re looking for while you’re playing.  Some goofs and ambiguities exist, but nothing that you can’t house rule, or find an answer to on the superb online fandom the game has, especially on Facebook.  


The board sections I’m not so sold on. The original were grim and dark, much lie the colony in Aliens. These are a lot brighter, which is partly a good thing, as the originals were sometimes a little too dark, but the upshot is that they look a little more comic book like by comparison.  
The minis are bloody superb. All single cast, so there’s no assembly required, and super easy to paint. As a bonus, the scenic bases they’re mounted on are simply excellent.


Players use the starting forces, or points build a force of either Aliens, Predators or Marines, set the map up, find out what their missions are, and then set to it.  The game, once you get it underway, is very fast paced, with players taking it turns to activate one model and acting with them, before passing onto the the next player.  In terms of action and pacing, it’s much like something like Heroclix, and fans of that game would be likely to enjoy this one, too.  

AVP: The Hunt Begins is a weird one, because in terms of complexity, it’s easily up there with a proper wargame, such as Warhammer 40,000.  The options available to you are just as varied, for sure, and it’s a game you can really sink your teeth into it.  Want to build a campaign?  You can.  Want a one off rumble with some Predators against an AI Alien force.  You can do that.  You can make this an RPG or a frag-fest.  The extra minis available are superb, too, and who isn’t going to want to bolster their force with an Alien Queen or a Power Loader?

Ultimately, if you been holding off until now, or want to upgrade your first edition set to its full potential, this is the game you want.

Brad, Joe and Ian unbox, discuss, test and review the latest Fast Forces for Heroclix, the Marvel Knights set. Daredevil, Luke Cage, Iron Fist and Jessica Jones are joined by Elektra and The Punisher!

Plus, full, uncut gameplay!

Joe, Ian and Brad are back to discuss, unbox, test and review the Deadpool and the Mercs for Money Fast Forces set for Heroclix! Check out the review above, and check below for the uncut playtest footage: 

Brad and Ian are joined by special guest Rob Wade (of Emotionally14.Com) to unbox, discuss and review the DC Joker’s Wild set for Heroclix!


When comes to Star Wars: Armada, the massive dreadnoughts may be both the eye candy and the focus of play, but – much like the battles in the movies themselves, it’s the smaller, single-man fighters that can make the difference between victory and defeat. We’ve had all the usual suspects released in previous waves, so are these two new packs capable of offering something more, or is it time to get the barrel scrapers out?

The Rebel Fighter pack is led by the star of Star Wars: Rebels…the Ghost. Hera is the named pilot you get included, and she packs some pretty heavy guns, as well as a couple of extremely versatile abilities. Firstly, she has Rogue which allows the Ghost to move and attack during the squadron phase; but the Grit ability also allows the Ghost to move if it’s only engaged by a single squadron. The Ghost is built for big, heroic plays, which is exactly what you want to be ding with it. The cheaper version – the VCX-100 Freighter lacks the decent firepower of the Ghost, but it does have some nice…if more strategic and less combative abilities. 


Another vessel featured in Star Wars: Rebels is Ketsu Onyo in the Shadow Caster. Lacking the firepower of the Ghost, but featuring a few extra abilities, including the aforementioned Grit and Rogue, as well a being a Bomber. The cheaper version – the Lancer-Class Pursuit Craft is nice enough, but is just a Tesco Value Shadow Caster

The last ships included are the Z-95 Headhunters. Some people love Z-95s, but to me they’re just a cheaper, shoddier version of the X-Wing, and their debut in Star Wars: Armada has done little to change that opinion. At 7 points a squadron, you could use them to burn up some leftover points during squad building, but that’s about it. The only point of interest is that they possess the Swarm ability, which was previously only used by TIE Fighters and their ilk. How useful this ability will be to you depends on your playing style, but it could come in handy. 


The Imperial set similarly brings three new types of vehicle to Star Wars: Armada. The TIE Phantom originally appeared in the video game Star Wars: Rebel Assault II (nope, me neither) but has since develed a following among players of Fantasy Flight’s Star Wars: X-Wing. These possess the Cloak ability, which allows them to get in a bonus move at the end of the squadron phase, even if engaged. They also carry a decent amount of firepower; both anti-ship and anti-squadron. 

Another X-Wing favourite, the Lambda shuttle, is also now available. While far from a combative vessel, its use as an ECM plane role – which never really works in the scale X-Wing operates at, is considerably better handled here, allowing orders from ships to squadrons to be sent further and more efficiently than previously. 

Last but not least, and another X-Wing bad boy, the VT-49 Decimator has arrived, and it brings a serious shotgun blast of close range damage to the table. With the a heavy weapons at its disposal and the Rogue ability, this has the potential to be a serious Squadron destroyer – especially if they’re full of cheap and nasty Z-95s. 

While both of these sets are not as strong as the squadron releases we’ve seen in previous waves, they’re still definitely worth picking up. The Ghost and the Decimator are great fighters for more aggressive players, and the others definitely add flavour, if nothing else. Armada just keeps getting better and better. 

The Rebel Flighter Squardons II and Imperial Fighter Squadrons II packs are available now. A base set of Star Wars: Armada is required to use the contents. 

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Brad Harmer-Barnes is a games journalist and comedy writer from Kent, England, and has written for (among others) Miniature Wargames magazine, Fortress: Ameritrash, Emotionally14.com and Suppressing-Fire.Com, which he also edits. You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter @realbradhb

Most people consider 2016 to have been a pretty crappy year.  Whether it’s global politics not heading in the direction you would like, the deaths of many beloved celebrities, or that thing with the gorilla, it’s not been the best year ever.

What is has been, though, is a really strong year for tabletop gaming.  So, with that in mind, here are the best games to have come out in 2016.

BEST PRODUCTION VALUES

Mansions of Madness

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There have been some really great miniatures released this year – Zombicide: Black Plague has some amazing figures, cards, and miscellaneous play aids.  There has been some truly stellar artwork on cards (the Lord of the Rings: LCG artwork is always incredible). Mansions of Madness takes it this year, however, due to not only having incredible artwork on its box, in its rulebooks and on its cards, but due to the AI app (about which plenty has been written elsewhere, so there is no need to repeat it here) it also has its own sound effects, narration and music.

Truly staggering, beautiful and horrific, and easily the most immersive game released this year.

BEST CO-OP/SOLO GAME

Mansions of Madness

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Co-op games are easily my favourite types of game, and account for the vast majority of my collection. Marvel Legendary saw three expansions released this year – Civil War, Deadpool and Captain America – and they were all super fun, with the Deadpool pack being head and shoulders above the others. Zombicide: Black Plague was a fun, hack and slash co-op. Hostage Negotiator is one of the greatest solo experiences ever made.  However, this year it has to go to Mansions of Madness.  The AI acts as a GM, regulating hidden information, moving the bad guys, and keeping you guessing in ways that it is simply impossible for a traditional tabletop AI to do so.  Mansions of Madness is not just the best co-op/solo game of the year, it represents a huge leap forward for solo and co-op gaming as a sub-genre.

BEST FANTASY RELEASE

Zombicide: Black Plague

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There are two types of game that have to be extra special to make me sit up and pay attention – purely because they’re both ridiculously oversaturated markets – and that’s zombie games, and dungeon crawls.  Previously, I was struggling to find a better zombie game than Zombie Plague, and struggling to find a better dungeon crawl than Castle Ravenloft.  What Zombicide: Black Plague has managed to do is to create an identity all of its own by merging elements of both subgenres into an Army of Darkness-esque action romp.  Highly recommended.

BEST SCIENCE-FICTION RELEASE

Star Wars: Rebellion

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Star Wars: Rebellion may look like one of those facelift Risk variants that Hasbro craps out every Christmas, but what it actually is is a wargame custom made and built to feel like Star Wars.  Sure there are Star Destroyers, and ground troops, and territories, but it is a game about the smaller people who make the stories happen.  By keeping all the strategy of the mechanics focused on correctly using your handful of characters, it keeps the whole game character focused.  At no point does it feel like “I’m amassing by Star Destroyers over Nal Hutta”; it feels like “Governor Tarkin is taking command of the blockade over Nal Hutta.”.  You make a story as you play, and that is something I love so much.  Fantasy Flight Games have done nothing but truly great things with the Star Wars licence, but this is their crowing achievement so far.

BEST HORROR RELEASE

Mansions of Madness

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I’ve long maintained that while a boardgame can do tense, it’s virtually impossible for it to be truly scary – that’s the realm of RPGs, LARPs and video games.  You can’t quiet buy into the story on the same level that you can with those other mediums.  Even Space Hulk – the pinnacle of tension on the tabletop – is never truly scary in the way the true classics of the genre are. Mansions of Madness has bucked that trend.  Now things are hidden.  Things are surprising and startling.  You fear darkness.  You fear the unknown.  Mansions of Madness is an essential purchase for the dedicated horror gamer.


Brad Harmer-Barnes is a games journalist and comedy writer from Kent, England, and has written for (among others) Miniature Wargames magazine, Fortress: Ameritrash, Emotionally14.com and Suppressing-Fire.Com, which he also edits.  You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter @realbradhb

Joe Crouch, Ian Harmer and Brad Harmer-Barnes get their hands on the latest Fast Forces set for Heroclix, and test out all the figures: