Published on 06/04/2016
The maiden project from Spiral Arm Studios, Maelstrom's Edge is a 28mm, sci-fi skirmish game, for forces of 20-40 models, with the Battle for Zycanthus their starter box set. Is it a shot across the bow to the other competitors in the field? Or will it float away with the rest of the space junk, never to be seen again? Let's crack open the box and find out.
So, what's in the box? Firstly, let's comment on the box art. I firmly believe that box art sets the tone, providing a statement of intent to what the games is all about, and the Battle for Zycanthus, in the style of GW's Dark Vengeance, has a suitable epic confrontation swirling away, with a nod to the old Rogue Trader artwork. So far so good.
Opening the box, the welcoming waft of new miniatures hits me (breathe it in deeply), and delving in, we see a box crammed with miniatures, a terrain sprue (thumbs up in my book) dice, cards, cardboard tokens… and no assembly guides or quick reference sheets…
Regular readers of my blog will know that a lack of painting or assembly guides has always been a hobby horse of mine (I'm looking at you Dark Vengeance) but the complete absence of assembly instructions, reference sheets and painting guides? Hmm…
To be fair to Spiral Arm Studios, they do provide a wonderful, fully detailed assembly guide on their website, as well as quick reference sheets to print off at your leisure, but I'm a firm believer that a box set of this magnitude should be a self-contained unit that provides all the stuff you need.
For a veteran like myself, I've been in the hobby long enough to know how to build an army, but a kid getting this for their birthday or Christmas might be put off by the lack of instructions, especially if their parents are just as clueless about miniature wargaming as they are.
Moving on, the cardboard tokens within, that take me back to the 1990s, are another potential downside, due to their annoying habit of creasing easily and wearing away. A quick dab of superglue toughens these up, but I'm surprised they didn't go all plastic, but being a new company, perhaps cost saving was their ethos, which is fair enough, but it might be an area they look at at a later date.
That being said, these minor quibbles shouldn't detract from the strengths of this box. First and foremost, let me say that the Battle for Zycanthus looks very slick and very professional. If this had a Games Workshop sticker on it, you wouldn't worry about quality or content, so good are the production values. The rulebook is expertly produced and well laid out, it stands up to rough handling and sticky paws, and unlike the Flames of War mini-rulebook, it doesn't disintegrate at the first touch!
And most importantly, what of the miniatures? Excellent quality, with barely a trace of mould lines, and a superb level of detail. As good as anything I've ever seen, and I do not say that lightly. Handy little unit cards and mini-mission guides round off the rest of the contents.
If people are worried (and I included myself in this bracket at first) that this being a new company, short-cuts were taken with the quality, then have no fear, it's a first class, first effort.
So aside from the production values of the miniatures, what kind of troops and models are we looking at?
You get Shadow Walkers (sneaky assassins), two types of Angels (exotic alien beasts, which are quite nasty), a variety of interesting looking robots, and your standard sci-fi troopers to round out the forces, and an HQ choice, which bizarrely, has the option of blowing himself up to damage the enemy! Could be interesting to say the least!
A quick look through the rules shows a game with a lot of potential. We get two factions - the Epirians, who are basically human corporations that colonised the galaxy, that use cutting edge robot technology to defeat their opponents, and the Karist Enclave, a bunch of religious fanatics who believe that embracing the Maelstrom (the deadly phenomenon that is wiping out all life) will allow the worthy to ascend to a higher plane of existence.
Other factions are mentioned, and no doubt these are in the pipeline for a future release.
In comparison to other games of a similar price range, Zycanthus seems to be on a par with Dark Vengeance for model count, and has far more in it than Judge Dredd and X-wing, although X-wing is a lot cheaper and Judge Dredd is a fun game to play.
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