Way back in the mid 90s, I started playing miniature war games… Specifically, Warhammer 40,000. To put that into perspective, it was second edition and the very first Space Wolf Codex had just been released. I built and painted models, constructed army lists, scoured the Internet for information, complained about cheesy abilities, and played the game. Over the years, my time and interest waxed and waned, and I played in several tournaments.
I tried returning to the game when rumors of Sixth Edition were starting to come out. I played several games with co-workers, but had trouble being competitive with my old models. I generally did not have the tools to deal with all the flyers. When Sixth Edition was released, I played a few more games, then quit.
Fortunately, I picked up a different hobby: playing board games. I quickly learned how good and balanced today's boardgames have become. 7 Wonders is my favorite, and it works very well with 2-8 players. While the game play changes a lot, it stays balanced. Even though you only make 18 decisions during the game, there is a lot of subtle gameplay, and everyone has a good time.
I eventually figured something out: 40K, like Monopoly and Risk, is actually not a good game. The rules are poorly written, the factions and units are no where close to balanced, and the Company has no incentive to fix it. They are still selling tons of models (they are really cool), and still dominate miniatures wargames. A big part of this is simple: no one wants to invest in a game that cost hundreds of dollars to play (because models ARE fairly expensive) and have no one to play with. That is why it took me a year to buy my first Firestorm Armada (FSA) models.
I first heard about FSA on the then 40K blog Yes The Truth Hurts. While his writings are often... abrasive and arrogant... he had a very strong grasp of the game and how to win. He understood why certain units were effective, and others were garbage. Most importantly, he often articulated my feelings about the game better than I could. The author fell away from the game just as I did, and into FSA.
The game sounded awesome, the models looked good… But no one in my area played it. Then FSA Second Edition was released, and every review said it made the game way better. I eventually broke down, drove almost an hour, watched a game and bought some models. Since then, I've painted a little, played a few games, and spent a lot of time developing a good playing surface.
There are two main reasons FSA is a great game:
Balance: I am constantly amazed at how well balanced this game is, particularly when compared to 40K. Each faction has its own style, none seem to dominate, and there are no auto take units. There are also no garbage units; you can take whatever you want and you will have a viable fleet. Of course, you will need to learn how to use the fleet you choose.
Battlestations may be the exception, but I will cover that later.
Movement: this is where most miniature wargames fail. The playing area is fairly large, but most games do not encourage you to move around in the playing space. In FSA, movement is key.The game basically boils down to positioning; whoever moves their units more effectively will generally win.
That said, there is room for improvement. Some factions seem a little too strong; one faction seems to have some problems, and I find it's difficult to move models properly. More on that later.
Started playing Firestorm Armada December 2014