Halo is a big series, no question about it. From its action filled games to the amazing story and even more mind blow universe there is something for anyone interested in the series. So here comes Halo: Fleet Battles The Fall of Reach by Spartan Games, a tabletop game designed completely around the hugely impressive space crafts from the Halo universe. Halo: Fleet Battles will see you taking control of UNSC or Covenant ships as you battle for complete control of the stars in a deep and tactical tabletop game full of epic moments. But does Halo: Fleet Battles The Fall of Reach really capture that magic of Halo we all know and love and just how well have Spartan Games made it all work, if at all.
The Halo: Fleet Battles The Fall of Reach box set comes with a surprising amount of content to get you started with the tabletop game. Your find yourself with a full colour, 100 plus page rule book packed full of details and examples. A Fall of Reach campaign guide to give you a number of different scenarios each with their own rules and story segments there as well. You’ll also get 49 highly detailed plastic models, 32 UNSC ships and 17 Covenant. 30 custom Halo: Fleet Battles dice, tons of tokens, punch-out scenery and some standard quick start guides. Everything you need to get started, dive into the game world and to have hours of battles
Before I even touch on the game mechanics within Halo Feels Battles I want to point out that there is ‘some assembly required’ by which I need you might want to pick up some glue. Though the box comes with a total of 49 highly-detailed ships models they though need to be put together and don’t be fooled that you can just clip them together. As a matter of fact you’ll find yourself needing to cut them out, trim them down and glue them together only to then finally paint them. This isn’t a problem but it is seriously worth taking it into account if model making is not your kind of thing. Though I did not get round to painting the models I spent roughly two evenings putting them together, letting the glue dry overnight. Then again even with some assembly being required, they are great models to play with and even display once all put together.
One word of advice though during this step. Don’t glue the models to the stands as depending on the game you’re playing you might need to move some of the models to different stands and so on. It will save you a small headache if you bare that in mind.
Halo: Fleet Battles Pregame Setup:
Before evening playing a battle in Halo: Fleet Battles The Fall of Reach you will need to get things set up. This will include laying out a play area roughly 3 foot by 3 foot or more and then setting up the scenario and needed units. Each of the ships can be moved to a different base with a different card placed on the base to represent the ships details. In some cases you can have more than one ship per base so it is important to ensure that each player makes it clear what ships and loadouts they will be using during the battle. You can agree on a point limit or go all out if you want, it’s your call. There a few other things you can do in the pregame setup to help flesh out the scenario and the rules of the battle but at the end of the day it’s just about making sure both players know what is going to happen and what the limits are.
A Game Turn:
A game turn within Halo: Fleet Battles The Fall of Reach is broken down into a number of different steps that in turn, have sub steps. This is all to help keep the flow of the battle under control and to keep things as clear and simple to understand throughout the battle as possible. A game turn is thus broken down into a phase, which has segments, then steps, followed by actions and then finally any sub-actions. Let’s walk through a standard game turn.
Order Dice Phase:
The order dice phase is a very important part of the Halo: Fleet Battles system as it allows you to perform some helpful and awesome moves and increases the chance and risk within a game turn. Each player will roll their order dice, take the results and then allocate them to their respective data sheets for fleet commanders or heroic characters. There are three systems on the order dice from an Attack and Defence symbol to a Command system. These are then used to execute orders on the data sheet so long as the required amount of order dice have been meet. This could be using one defence dice to allow you to reroll during a fight or maybe using three command dice to perform an all out attack.
The idea behind the order dice is that as you roll every turn, and save the ones who want to save, you build up to that final battle moment. If Halo: Fleet Battles was like a Halo game then those final orders would be the cutscene that plays right after you battled through the wave of enemies to earn that epic moment. Additionally, order dice are used to determine initiative for that game turn as well. Each player rolls a standard six sided dice and then adds the number of command symbols they rolled to the total with the highest result being the winner.
Next is the wing phase which at first was one of the more confusing sections of the game turn within Halo: Fleet Battles. This is the phase where which player will activate, move and perform actions with their Wings which are represented by the tokens of interceptors and bombers. Given how big most of the ships are in the Halo universe it makes sense for players to have control of a number of smaller ‘wings’ to perform some dog fights and help to cover the bigger ships as they move into firing range. Interceptors are many for eliminating other wings with bombers being tasked with delivering heavy damage against enemy ships.
Some ships within Halo: Fleet Battles have hangars with the number being listed on the ship reference sheet. Players can fill these hangers however they wish and built the best combination of wings to suit their play style for that battle. Each wing is able to perform a number of attacks and sub actions along with moving each turn. A player may choose to have their wings engage in a dogfight, an attack run or even escort duty. As for movement wings may move to any locations, within range, without the need to worry about turning due to their size and speed. To give you an example you could have your interceptors lock into a dogfight with enemy which holds them in place until combat is finished. It is possible to escape being locked in a dog fight so you can carry on but it takes time and careful planning. Therefore, it is best to have a good number of interceptors to cover your bombers and give them a chance to deal that massive damage.
It is worth noting that the wings phase is very complex but key part of the Halo: Fleet Battles game. There is a lot more to explain but the stand attack and defence rules apply in a similar way to the wings so we will carry on for now. The key thing to remember here is that wings are important, but so are your main battle groups and managing both is the key to success.
Battle Groups Phase:
Now it’s the battle groups phase and the time to really deal the damage with the big guns. This phase breaks down into two segments, movement and then attack. As with the wings only once every unit has moved will attacks be worked out. Taking it in turns to move one of your battle groups at a time you will turn, move and turn again if this is all aplicable to the ships. See due to the size of some of the ships in Halo: Fleet Battles they will only be able to turn once be it before or after moving. This is defined by looking at the ship reference sheet or the model’s base. A small ship may turn, move and turn again if it wishes to where as a medium ship may only turn before or after moving. Large ships and above can only turn once and that is after moving their distance. Turns are limited to a maximum of 45 degrees per-turn and given each ship has a different range of attack marked on their base, it is worth taking this into account.
Another important rule to bare in mind during the movement phase is that each of your battle groups need to keep together. When you built your battle groups during the pregame setup you will recall that each group is limited to a total build rating of 6. Each ship within a single battle group must remain within 6 inches of each other from the centre of one model’s base to the other. If a ship falls outside this range it becomes it’s own battle group and may suffer serious penalties. Therefore it is important to build your battle groups accordingly and ensure that you treat and move them as a single force rather than a group of ships.
When it comes to attacking, each ship has the power to completely destroy the other and it means that serious damage will be dealt regardless of how far into the battle the turn is taking place. Once you have picked a target you need to work out if the target is within short, long or simply out of range. This affects your firepower rating which changes the overall values of each dice roll that you may throw when making your attack. For example, if your within short range you may get a bonus to your power rating meaning that any ‘misses’ you roll can be rerolled for each attack dice you rolled. You’ll also need to take into account the different weapons along with the ranges, powers and uses as well. The planning for an attack is quite deep and complex but the execution of the attack is as simple as rolling some dice for attack and defence and seeing it you dealt enough to place a damage token on the enemy.
Boarding Resolution Phase:
The boarding resolution phase is just what you would expect for a phase with the word ‘bordering’ in it. You see throughout the game turn a player can choose to send boarding craft over to an enemy ship in an attempt to take it down from the inside out. There is a chance as well that the boarding can take a few turns to work through the complete sequence of events that are unfolding. Firstly, a ship being boarded needs to work out the attack and defence of the bordering taking place to see the outcome. The attack is the total number of ‘security detail’ from each boarding craft included in the attack. The defence is the total number of security detail from the ship being board plus they may add one unlaunched boarding craft’s security detail to their defence as well.
Once all of these dice have been rolled and some modifiers applied it they reference to the ‘boarding result table’ to see how much damage, if any was, applied to the ship being boarded. This can range from losing some boarding craft to placing a vulnerable token next to the attacked ship or in the best case, causing a critical core breach which basically means big trouble.
Finally the end phase, this is a chance for players to finish resolving any outstanding effects or situations that may still be in effect. Additionally players can perform repairs, carrier actions and much more. Lastly, it would be during the end phase that you would calculate who was the winner of the game following the events of that turn.
It is worth noting that there is a serious amount of depth to Halo: Fleet Battles and a range of complex rules and systems in place here. Spartan Games have gone above and beyond the call here to make sure that not only does the tabletop game capture the Halo universe but gives you access to all of it. We may not be playing as Master Chief here but it does feel just as epic even on a table top size. I might not have covered each and every token and their meanings nor the special rules of each ship and actions as we would be here all day but take note, they all work. Honestly the amount of content within the Halo: Fleet Battles game is crazy as there is a rule and system for just about anything you can think of meaning you really can go crazy with your tactics.
Halo: Fleet Battles The Fall of Reach in some respect makes me angry. It does this because I enjoy the tabletop game a lot and I really love Halo: Fleet Battles The Fall of Reach but it’s barrier to entry is quite high. I won’t hide the fact it took me a few evenings to get my head around the rules but as I’ve now finally come to grips with them I am deeply enjoying the game. This makes me angry because I worry that this along with the work required to put the models together might be a turnoff for some players looking to experience something new. If however you can overall accept these and power through it, you will find yourself with a deeply rewarding and satisfying experience. It might be complex, it might require glue but Halo: Fleet Battles The Fall of Reach is a great addition to anyone’s collectors.
If your looking to pick up Halo: Fleet Battles The Fall of Reach, with a RRP of £79.99, then check out the Esdevium Games store locator here to find your nearest retail store.
This review is based on a copy of the product provided by Esdevium Games.