Thursday, 2 June 2011

Spartan Games, small but perfectly formed!

Right I'm going to be positive about something again now, because the negativity is getting me down a bit... Spartan Games are a relatively new games company that has been around for roughly 3 years now, based in the southwest of England near Glastobury in the lovely county of Somerset (and no I didn't just attempt to say that in the accent... honest). However in those 3 glorious years this little UK company has done a hell of a lot, including releasing three fantastic little game systems, two of which I've brought into and one I know I'll buy into eventually... I just can't help myself. The success of these 3 game systems can almost certainly be seen at gaming clubs the world over with people playing games and with that success comes growth and I hear that Spartan are having to expand and move into new premises!!! This as I know from talking to many gamers is a big thing, you all want to know that the companies behind the games you're buying into aren't going to disappear over night, I think its safe to say after chatting with Neil Fawcett that's not bloody likely for Spartan Games... and that makes me happy.

So why are Spartan being included in Finecast (resin) month? Well you see the primary substance they produce their lovely little miniatures out of is a really high quality resin, some small parts are made with pewter, like turrets and things, but in the main they work with resin. Hopefully though this week I'll have some pictures up at some point to try and show you just how insanely 'fine' and high quality the resin they use truly is. Because the detail it picks up on the Dystopian Wars miniatures blew my fragile little mind, just a tiny little bit. I'll also be hoping my order of Firestorm Armada stuff turns up, mainly because I like the warm fuzzy feeling I get when new toys arrive!!! If it does I'll get the pictures up as soon as I can.

Spartan Games use 'digital scultpting' to produce many of their miniatures, so bang goes my theory that they use teeny tiny little faeries to hand craft those little rivets onto their ships. Ah well it was a nice theory while it lasted! However the truth is even more impressive, I know what could be more impressive than faeries right! The sculptors Spartan Games use are getting down to 0.0125 micron level of detail... now just to be clear a Micron is not a small car made by Nissan. No, its a really, really small measurement that's an equivalent of a millionth of a meter and that's very small indeed, we're talking human hair sorts of widths here people. Take a look at the render here, and you'll see the fine lines and surface detail but they're not satisfied with that, oh no apparently they're driving their sculptors to even more maddeningly minute levels of detail!!! It makes them sound like crazy scientist in a lab somewhere... and I know deep in some darkened room behind high security doors there are some insanely talented people working on even better and cooler miniatures for us all to gawp at in 2012... damn you future, get here quicker!!! *shakes fist at future*

So that's the brief overview of the company, so what about the games? Well, currently they have 3 games out there, yes that's right within 3 years they've released 3 games... within 4 years will there be 4 games? hmmm... who knows, but what they have released thus far are pretty cool games:

Now at the risk of incurring the ire of those at Spartan Games and indeed their fans I'm going to talk about another companies product first, but please bare with me. One of the games I used to really enjoy playing when I was a kid was Man-o-War. I hope I'm not going to sound like a hobby grandad when I say that, as I know many younger gamers will never have played it. However my High Elf fleet won me many a victory against my dads Bretonnians, Empire, Dwarfs and Orcs... eventually though the expansions came and so did the Chaos fleets that ruined everything, well for me and my win to loss ratio. Eventually though the game died a death and left a sea shaped void for those people who like conducting long Mighty Empires campaigns on land and sea.

I think this is where Uncharted Seas stepped in. I'm sure its a fine game in and of itself, and certainly the level of background detail and care that Spartan have clearly lavished on their product is commendable, but most of the people I've seen genuinely interested in the game seem to be playing it as an extension to their Warhammer Fantasy gaming. Again hands up that's a limited sample I'm referring too I'll grant you but that's my experience. Because of that the game hasn't quite grabbed me in quite the same way as say Dystopian Wars or Firestorm Armada has, mainly as I've currently given up on 8th edition Warhammer Fantasy Battle and possibly Warhammer Fantasy altogether. But for those who still do play Warhammer it does fill the void nicely, and has some really good miniatures and its very affordable to boot.

I can't really give much more of a review of Uncharted Seas than that really, I had an abortive intro game, well... half of an intro game once a few years back now at an LGS and it was blatantly apparent that the guy doing the intro game was massively disinterested in me and the product. A real shame because I might have been missing out on a great game and I had money in my pocket burning a hole! The figures look fine for the most part and those shroud mages do look interesting... no I have too much stuff to paint already!!! Those who I know who do play it say its a damn fine system and that its enjoyable and quick to learn. So I'd be willing to give it a go again, after I've got started on Firestorm Armada and Dystopian Wars that is. If anyone lives in the West Midlands in the UK and is willing to run me through an intro game of sorts I'd be really grateful as I think its something I should at least give another go... if for no other reason than I used to really love navel fleet games as a kid.

I'm going to do it again, mention some other companies product, because well... what Uncharted Seas is to Man-o-War I think its fair to say Firestorm Armada is to Battlefleet Gothic; but better. Again Battlefleet Gothic is a game that I truly loved, my Eldar fleet (are you spotting a pointy eared pattern here?) gave me great joy... until they released the chuffing Necrons!!! But like Man-o-War before it the Games Workshop saw fit to put this particular game system out to pasture. Not you understand that Gothic was actually a good gaming system. I still maintain that its factions were unbalanced from the start and that the core rules were no more than a ship game in space, I never felt, despite the sleek designs of my Eldar ships that I was commanding a space fleet... Firestorm Armada is different, the rules look good and seem to represent what I feel a space combat game should look like, the fleets ostensibly (after math crunching) seem balanced, although only play testing will confirm this.

Now I think its fair to say over the years I've had my beady little eye on a fair few space combat games, but just as I was about to take the plunge with pretty much all of them they all seemed to disappear or the companies supporting them go bankrupt... this was the main reason I kept a watching brief on Firestorm Armada as I didn't really want to get burnt... again. However I'm really starting to wish I'd taken the plunge sooner. I'll be covering my fledgling career as a fleet commander in future blogs where I'll talk through how I chose fleets etc. but I think its fair to say that this game looks like it could be here to stay for the foreseeable future. There are just so many people playing it right now, and this weekend a friend brought his fleets and rulebook round and I know I've missed out on some great gaming time... don't make my mistake get in to it ASAP.

I don't know whether what I'm saying has any factual basis whatsoever. However judging by the sparseness of Dystopian Wars stock on the shelves of all the game stores I go into, the games being played at gaming clubs and the fact its the one Spartan Games system everyone seems to know about (because of that airship) I'm going to take a wild stab in the dark and say this is probably the most popular Spartan Game there is... and I can see why! When this game first came out I couldn't find any stock for love nor money. I'd run to my LGS on my lunch break on their delivery days to see if they'd got any stock in.. they never did and so in the end I order from Spartan Direct and had a long, but well worth it wait!

It is the game I decided to take the plunge with in terms of Spartan Games product, because it grabbed me, I'd been teetering on the brink with Firestorm while my apathy towards Warhammer stopped me investing in Uncharted. Now I've yet to play a game of this as I'll explain in my Blog later on today. However the very fact that I went and brought everyone of the first 4 starter fleets and carriers right off the bat should tell you how sold I was on the game. I watched a few games being played (it now turns out badly) at my LGS and it looked stupid amounts of fun and I just loved the victoriana-steam-punk universe of it all. The miniatures looked great and there were going to be land and air based elements, I just had to get a piece of the action.

My mom and dad read Jules Verne to me as a kid and I've just loved retro-sci-fi stuff ever since and anything that makes me think I'm a kid again gets a big thumbs up from me because being an adult sucks donkey balls!!! The miniatures are really, really finely detailed as well and its just a fantastic looking game, I'm going to be doing a WIP on one of my fleets during the coming weeks, not too sure who right now... I'll decide that when doing a write up of Dystopian Wars, they all look so good though!!!


I think Spartan Games are awesome. They have 3 naval / space / fleet type games that all appear really well supported by a pretty active community and backed by some bloody good and friendly staff, how do I know this? Well I had a problem with a miscast and didn't really know how to sort it and was contacted by Neil and then the lovely Doreen, who sorted my issue sharpish even though it was during the utterly mad period of demand that Dystopian Wars was experiencing, 2 days is all it took to get the piece out to me. Any company with that good customer care deserves my support, and I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Doreen and Neil personally again. Peace out!

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