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Bring The Great War To Your Tabletop In ‘FreeSpace Tactics’

Bring The Great War To Your Tabletop In ‘FreeSpace Tactics’

Filed inside: Games

One of my favorite gaming experiences of all time was Descent: FreeSpace.

It was an epic space combat simulator originally released by Interplay in 1998. The genre is one that is finally getting a major reboot in the form of things like Star Citizen and Elite Dangerous, but having come from the era of games like Wing Commander, I’ve long craved a return to form in the space dogfighting arena, but that’s not to say that the recent Kickstarter for FreeSpace Tactics is any less exciting.

It’s a tabletop adaptation set during the Great War, the setting of the original game. While it sounds like an unusual transition, moving from the action-packed sim to what is traditionally much slower tabletop tactics style, but I’m confident that the game can not only stand with its older peers, but that it can stand on its own as a respectable tabletop game.

The game is being designed by Chris Taylor, a well-renowned game designer with credits on a number of great games, including some of my favorites: Total Annihilation and Supreme Commander, as well as Dungeon Siege.

The game is a little more akin to miniature games like WARMACHINE or Warhammer 40k. Rather than command armies, however, you choose a ship model, which has an accompanying deck of cards that dictate how the ship moves and deals damage. In addition, you select a pilot that adds a special series of Ace cards that essentially modifies your ship to allow for more dramatic or heavily defensive maneuvers.

The game takes place on a 3′ by 3′ board in one of six scenarios, each of which has its own set up and victory conditions that suit different styles of play.

FreespaceTacticsPieces Freespace-Tactics

Actual gameplay is less of a turn-based faire with alternating moves, instead each of the 2-4 players secretly chooses a movement card which also features an initiative score. Higher initiatives allow you to act sooner in the turn order, but generally offer move constrained movements. You’ve got a chance to attack any enemies in your line of sight during your move, as well.

The game also uses traditional dice rolls for determining shield and hull damage (with bonuses for flanking and the like), as well as for Ace cards and missile strikes, which can cause unique effects like causing system damage to the target (removing cards from its deck) or wounding the pilot to reduce overall effectiveness in a variety of ways.

There have been a few playtests of the game so far and reactions have been generally positive, praising the game’s tendency to dodge some of the barriers of entry for other tabletop tactical games. A game tends to last about an hour, and since you’re not simple waiting on other player’s actions at most times, matches of FreeSpace Tactics feel as though they move along considerably faster than the game’s contemporaries.

There’s not a lot to say about build construction at this point, as much of the art isn’t finalized yet. The creators were specific that the models included would be unpainted, so you can still satisfy your artistic urges as you might on your Warhammer armies.

The game is about a week into its Kickstarer, with about $16,000 of its $75,000 goal raised so far. Stretch goals include adding new pilots and Ace cards, or adding bombers and heavy ships to expand on play variations. Backing the project at the Pilot level or above will also yield one of the prototype card games that eventually evolved into the board game format you’ll be getting, and is exclusive to the Kickstarter backers.

So give the game a look, and consider giving it a try. And, if you missed the game when it was originally released, head over to GoG.com and pick up the DRM-free version of the games, it’s well worth your time.

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Written by Ray Allaire -The Reasonable Gamer

Writer, game designer, and gaming analyst. Practitioner of all nerdy arts: Games, tabletop, TCG, and all. Twitter: @mateusrayje

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