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Talon» Forums » Reviews

Subject: First Impressions - Solo/Scenario 1 rss

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Chris
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Scenario 1: War Is Upon Us

Terran Units: CA Napoleon, CA Zhukov
Talon Units: CA Justice, CA Unity

Result: Terran Minor Victory

After a few quasi-games sussing out the rules, correcting myself and playing simple 1v1 ship battles, I dove into the first scenario proper - a four ship, no-terrain knife fight between Terran and Talon heavy cruisers. The Terrans struck first, with alpha strikes destroying forward shields on the Talon...ese? Ians? Ites? S? Dunno, I'll have to settle on something. Anyhoo: crumpled the forward shields, then the more maneuverable Talon cruisers proceeded to pound away with disruptors. The Zhukov took it in the shorts a bit, and spent a couple of rounds simply trying to keep its port shields away from the enemy.


From one of the learning runs. The Zhukov just unloaded a full broadside into the Justice's starboard bow. The Talon cruiser has used one of its available afterburners this scenario, and the Terran cruiser has a charged battery, waiting to give it a free AP on an impulse when it normally wouldn't get one. Both ships have used an AP to bid for initiative the next impulse. Justice took a critical hit that's increasing its turn radius by 1.


It was then a cat-and-mouse game of firing, recharging, and maneuvering, with the Terrans concentrating fire and using their more flexible firing arcs; the Justice took a critical hit to their power relays, which effectively crippled it for almost two rounds, unable to use available power or even change their power curve while the engineers tried to roll a 6 repair the damage. Eventually the Unity was destroyed, with the resulting explosion damaging the Zhukov's power core. The Justice, unable to charge its disruptors in time to level the playing field, succumbed to a full broadside from the Napoleon and the Terrans came away victorious.

Alright, let's get one thing out of the way: I'm a Krohn fan, so I'm predisposed to like this game. I'm also an old school Star Fleet Battles fan, and I love tactical combat. So it's already got me wanting to like it. Four things based off impressions of the first scenario:

1) I expected to eschew the dry-erase-writing-on-the-ships method and go with the log sheets, but after two turns I'd decided I would probably never use the log sheets at all. The dry-erase works great, erasing is painless (and clean - use a Q-tip and it's a snap), and having all the information about each ship right there on the board (including speed, power, charge status of the weaponry, shield and hull damage) is just so much better than having to refer back to log sheets. The counters are very large, writing is comfortable, and it's cool to fill in boxes as your weapons charge!

(Side Note: Yes, I'm six years old on the inside.)

(Additional Side Note: I can see possibly using the sheets in very large engagements when playing solo, but even then I'm not sure I would - I really love the fact that I rarely have to take my eyes off the board.)

2) The rules, as you'd expect, are simple, intuitive, and easy to remember. The impulses alone are far easier to implement than I'd expected, having come from a 32- or 8-impulse SFB/FC background. Here's the short version, and if it sounds confusing, it means I've done a worse job than the rulebook, so don't hold it against the game.

Every turn has 6 impulses, lettered A-F and tracked on a chart. Based on your power curve for the turn, on certain impulses you'll get to use "available power" (helpfully, and perhaps not coincidentally, abbreviated as AP) to do one action. Sometimes you'll have to move, too. Sometimes you'll do both in a single impulse, and sometimes you'll do nothing. You can always fire, assuming your weapons are charged. Player with initiative's ships all go, then the other player's ships go. The actions available to you make sense - charge a weapon, reinforce a shield, power through a turn, bid for initiative - all useful, and easy to implement.

3) There are so many design decisions here that I initially disagreed with upon reading the rules, but now see how much they improve the game (and the genre, frankly). For example, your shields don't regenerate; when they're gone, they're gone. Every hit on a ship with a downed shield facing damages the hull - there's no gradual damage to specific systems. Line of sight is a matter of whether or not something is in range and in a firing arc, there's no center-to-center measurements. There's no capabilities other than weapons and shields (and the occasional fighter squadron, if you have a carrier or base) - forget about cloaking devices, ECM, tractor beams, or other "goodies".

And you know what? Good. I realized that what this does is keep the battle from devolving into a death march of partial hits, regenerating defenses, whittling away meaningless systems and just hoping for a lucky strike because OH MY GOD IT'S BEEN THREE HOURS WILL YOU JUST PLEASE CRIT ME ALREADY?!? The damage mechanic is clean and as you take hull damage your ship's deterioration is reflected in adjustments to its power curve, with critical hits in subsystem locations occurring at various spots on your hull's damage track (and reflected simply by modifications to the already-established mechanics). All, of course, again - visible and present right there on the board for all to see and react to. It. Is. Brilliant.


Terran fleet ready for action - shields at maximum, phasers and torpedoes fully charged! The power curve is 3-3-2. They'll be getting 3 AP and have to move 3 hexes over the course of this round, with a turn radius of 2. Need to spend one of those APs this turn charge those batteries, though.


4) Solo works great. There's zero hidden information. The fact that the team with initiative does all their stuff first on each impulse means you're not stuck mind-shifting back and forth mid-turn between two sides six times a round. And the decision on whether or not to bid for initiative is easily made; if there's nothing else to do with a ship's AP that impulse, slap a bid marker on it. Hell, failing that you could flip a coin if you want. There's no solo AI - and make no mistake, this thing is begging for a Doomsday machine AI at the very least - but the underlying foundation is so, so streamlined that it probably won't be long before there is. As it is, I've no problem at all playing both sides, especially since everything is so tactical in nature.

There's more to see and do - I've yet to even play with terrain, other weaponry (including missiles, fusion cannons, and wave motion guns), bases, fighters, the campaign system, and ships other than heavy cruisers.

(Side Note: I'm really curious how hairy it gets on the board once missiles get involved and I have to start tracking who fired what at whom, and where.)

But right now I'm in the honeymoon period, and so far Talon is everything I'd hoped it would be.
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Bob
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Nice report, Chris. I'm glad you're enjoying the game so far!
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Stig Morten
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Great report.

Living on this side of the Atlantic, I wish the postal system used FTL delivery vehicles, but alas, so far they only use slower than glaciers vehicles.

Really looking forward to this one, which is due to the Talon Tuesdays convincing me to pre-order it.
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"Paying attention like a rattlesnake does"
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Excellent review. Short, to the point, and full of opinion. Just the way I like 'em.

S.

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David Siskin
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As an old SFB player, I really like your perspective on Talon. Just what I was hoping for!
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michael esposito
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I too am an old SFB player. This one just arrived with Silent Victory. Have yet to get the shrink off. Love your impressions.

Can't wait to try.

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Doug DeMoss
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Great review. I have just one question - HOW did the Terrans get in the first strike? It seems like the Talon afterburners should usually mean they get the first shot in.
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Chris
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Thanks everyone!

Doug - I was experimenting with starting positions and strategy, and consequently the Talon ships were caught trying to be too fancy before I the captains realized it was a foolhardy plan.
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Chris toph
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It sounds so nice!
Also finished reading the rules... When can I haz????
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Elihu Feustel
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demoss1 wrote:
Great review. I have just one question - HOW did the Terrans get in the first strike? It seems like the Talon afterburners should usually mean they get the first shot in.


In that scenario, it starts on the Terran part (second part) of impulse E. The Talon cruiser does not have any power assigned to initiative.

During the Terran impulse, the Terran uses a battery to assign one point to "Change initiative", and seizes initiative for impulse F.

During impulse F, the Terran player gets one power. He uses that to reduce his turning radius by a hex, allowing him to immediately turn. During movement, he turns and advances to a range of two, and alpha strikes against a downed Port shield.

Initiative is very subtle. In some cases, you will want to go second, or in some, first. The manipulation of initiative will allow you to get off Alpha strikes at optimum range (as in here), or put your opponent at a non-optimal range/orientation.

In small encounters (e.g., 2-on-2) you can think ahead to where you might be in 6 impulses, and where your opponent could be. It's almost impossible to plan further than that. Do you use your power to turn harder? Or do you slow down, assign more power to weapons, and prepare for another alpha-strike?

This game is a winner. I hope Kuhn puts out an IOS or PC version of this.


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Keith Anderson
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daringly wrote:


This game is a winner. I hope Kuhn puts out an IOS or PC version of this.




Yes!
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Mark Buetow
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daringly wrote:
demoss1 wrote:
Great review. I have just one question - HOW did the Terrans get in the first strike? It seems like the Talon afterburners should usually mean they get the first shot in.


In that scenario, it starts on the Terran part (second part) of impulse E. The Talon cruiser does not have any power assigned to initiative.





To be clear, you're talking about the Introductory scenario. He played Scenario 1.

IMHO, the Introductory scenario is a simple tactics puzzle. When teaching the game, I've just started with Scenario 1, two CAs on each side.
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Bob
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Malacandra wrote:
daringly wrote:
demoss1 wrote:
Great review. I have just one question - HOW did the Terrans get in the first strike? It seems like the Talon afterburners should usually mean they get the first shot in.


In that scenario, it starts on the Terran part (second part) of impulse E. The Talon cruiser does not have any power assigned to initiative.





To be clear, you're talking about the Introductory scenario. He played Scenario 1.

IMHO, the Introductory scenario is a simple tactics puzzle. When teaching the game, I've just started with Scenario 1, two CAs on each side.


The Tutorial scenario is just that. It's mostly to help newbies (both to the genre and the game) see how the Impulse/Turn Structure works. We found this method extremely helpful when showcasing the game at the Dice Tower convention in Orlando, FL, which was mostly a non-traditional wargaming crowd.

I should say, they really liked the game too.
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