A busy month

Star Breach: A Brief Overview

For those who don't know, Star Breach is a FREE (FREE!!! FREEEE!!!) sci-fi skirmish game rule set for that is minis agnostic. That's right: use any minis you like! Just pick your favourite minis and build your own war band. The (FREE!!!) rules come with 20 factions, although truth to tell if you squint a little bit you can make out that 90% of them are based on a certain grimdark game set waaaaaay in the future ... umpteen thousand centuries in the future to be precise. It even has Psychic abilities for cryin' out loud! 😉

I'd always wanted to play the game of course because I've literally TONS of minis I can use... but building the war band model by model and weapon by weapon and skill by skill is such a pain! Still, I knuckled down one day and just did it. 

Each war band is led by an Alpha (doesn't cost points although equipment and skills may cost) and the Alpha has access to some skills that most other models don't. Then there are the normal Veteran and Normal grunts. And 40% of your 120 point war band can be used to recruit specialists.

The outcome was a rag tag band of Nomadic Raiders (Mantic's Rebs faction) vs the evil Corrupted L'orani (Drukhari Corrupted Space Elves using the Uruhvel faction from the late, lamented Last Saga* SF skirmish game supplemented by a model from the Tanaor faction.)

The game system uses the same dice-in-the bag activation mechanic as Bolt Action/Gates of Antares with a few tweaks to the commands. Down/Mend/Cover Fire/Fire/Advance/Run(Assault). 4 of them are similar to Bolt Action. Mend and Cover Fire are different although the latter works a bit like Suppressive Fire in Infinity.

Movement, firing and melee is basically pretty standard if you've any experience at all with tabletop minis games. Most models have the basic 2 actions per model that most skirmish games have. But it does distinguish between ordinary grunts and heroic individuals/veterans who have an INIT value (the system's catch all statistic for most actions) of 4+. Three models that qualify, assuming they haven't done a run/assault or Cover Fire action previously, get to perform a further set of 4 specific actions that differ slightly from the normal six: Focus Fire (ignores cover bonuses); Assault (just like the main action); Ambush (basically Overwatch); Mend (heal). It's a pretty neat and clean system.

Factions are given a few faction-wide and specific bonuses (e.g. Space Marines Legion of Man units  do not suffer a -1 initiative modifier for moving and shooting (and for psychic abilities) due to executing an Advance Order. Pretty useful, as they can be more mobile and accurate than other factions (although some weapons do provide this bonus, it's not faction-wide).

Some scenarios and deployments are provided. Games end after 6 turns. The best part is the Campaign mode where your war band gets to level up with some specific loot and Alpha skills. It seems pretty easy to modify an existing campaign for use in Star Breach and just go for it! It even supports games for up to 6 players! Although I can imagine that will be pretty challenging logistically. 2-3 players sounds ideal.

How does the game play?

Glad you asked! I tried out Scenario 3 (Rescue the pilot) from the 2-player scenarios using 100 points (UC in the game's parlance which is Universal Credits). 120 points is the standard but I decided to try with something smaller. Standard 2-player games play on a 3x3 table.

In my first game, the Nomads walked all over the Corrupted L'orani (henceforth the Corrupted). That was because I didn't realise almost all of the Corrupted actually qualified for that extra bonus action as all but one model were INIT 4+.

The second game went much better. There was a vicious firefight over the body of the unconscious pilot. 2 minis a side fell battling over her. In the end, the Nomads managed to sneak her away.

Once again, the scenario dictated that the scenario would be won or lost in the centre. 

NOTE: I played a 3rd game using the Fight to the Centre scenario... and that's when I realised (after the Corrupted L'orani lost again, despite a promising start) that I'd been playing them all wrong. No Ancient Decay (which gave an extra 3HP back if reduced to between 1-3) and no Shadow Step (move 2" away if targeted by ranged attacks). Those 2 alone give this faction a whole lot of staying power and sneaky tricks. Argh.

I now have to play all over again, this time considering the rules version 2.3 actually nerved some of their abilities and relics. Gah.

AAR: I like the game system. It's fast and clean. Lean and mean. Provides enough differences between the factions that they play differently. The Bolt Action dice draw activation system has always been a favourite of mine, so that's a bonus for this game.
NOTE: I used d20's to keep track of attack and dodge rolls since the difference between
them is also used to determine damage dealt. 
You just need to get used to the game's systems terminology. The game uses 2d6 which gives enough variety in terms of outcomes and rolling high is always desirable as most combat damage is the difference between the attacker's roll minus the defender's roll plus the weapon damage minus the defender's armour. All that with just 2 rolls! No roll-to-hit, roll-to-damage, roll-to-save nonsense!)

The game designer apparently sold (?) the game to Slow Death Games while remaining the game's designer. Starting 2020, the rules set will be stripped down, although the core rules will remain free (FREE!!!) so now's the time to download the most current and complete rules set (2.3 last time I checked) and take out your favourite minis and have a blast! 😀

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*Last Saga was a valiant attempt by one person to Kickstart a new SF skirmish game way back in 2014. Sadly it ran into a few difficulties. 

1. It was aesthetically too similar to Infinity (with the exception of the Uruhvel which was why I backed in the first place).
2. It really didn't offer anything different from Infinity and lacking Infinity's ARO mechanic ... didn't really stand out, despite Overstrain and Pressure (suppression) rules.
3. What really killed it was the original metal minis caster allegedly ran off with the bulk of the KS funds. But all credit to the game creator: lacking any other financial resource, he sold off his baby to Zenit (Kensei, Nemesis) who actually completed the KS and delivered to all backers.
4. To date, the English rulebook remains at Beta V.2.1 (but it's pretty complete and usable) and only 3 out of the original 5 factions are available for sale. The missing ones being the Uruhvel and Raiders of Sanaar. Zenit hasn't done anything to advance this game since its acquisition and completion of all KS obligations. 

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