The Old Giant

Home » Box Opening / Reviews

Category Archives: Box Opening / Reviews


Red Dawn – getting into “All Quiet on the Martian Front” – box opening

Having failed to be engaged completely by the “Star Wars Armada” game, I decided to take advantage of an offer from Wayland Games for what worked out to be 25% off and free postage for “AQMF” All Quiet on the Martian Front.

I bought three of the Starter sets as they represent very good value – a total of 9 Martian Assault Tripods, 18 US Steam Tanks, 9 Rough Riders and 9 HMG teams, plus mini rule books, plastic tokens and templates.

Here are some pics of what came out of the box…. the game turns out to be something like and 18 or 19 mm scale game, closer to HO/OO model railway than 15mm, and therefore another scale to add to the list of those I have become acquainted with.

The plastic used for the sprues is a slightly softer than usual light grey and seems easy to work with. Cutting a few pieces off to try some builds with showed that cleanup was pretty fast and easy. The only pieces that seemed in any way brittle were the fine tendrils for the front of the Assault Tripods. As long as you clip or cut them carefully off the sprue there should be no problems. The sprues have a number of pieces that look useful for conversion work as each sprue allows more than one “build type” of Tripod or Tank. Nice indeed.

My only disappointments were:

1) The cut down 48 page mini rulebook. The A5 size rulebook is in black and white so you will need to go to the internet to find some colour pictures of Tripods if you don’t want to buy the full rulebook. There is a piece of folded black and white printed paper that gives some build instructions and a starter scenario. Other than that you need to buy the full rulebook and download the various PDF’s that have been added to the game in the last year or so.

2) Only three bases with each set of 30 infantry, not 6 as per the illustration on the back of the box (in each of the boxes). I emailed support at ‘aliendungeon’ but haven’t yet had a response…. 😦




Saga: Review of Gripping Beast plastic Arab cavalry

Here is a review I wrote for the website…

Star Wars Armada – box opening…

I recently bought the Fantasy Flight Games “Star Wars Armada” starter box set.

There have been a lot of other posts on the net about the game, so I will keep my thoughts short and sweet and add a few pics.

The box is not too big (abossa (3)ut the same size as the Lord of the Rings LCG starter box) but is a lot deeper. On opening I couldn’t see why it needed to be so deep. Half the box is empty air. The three painted ship models look good, but only take up the space at the front of the box in a clear packaging to help sell the game. Underneath them is just space to store more models I guess.

Other than this everything else apart from three sheets of card tokens came bagged (pre-prepared) which was a nice touch.  there are quite a few bits and pieces to snap together. Three ship bases need to be put together using the cards and card tokens to form shield dials and ship armament.

I liked the fact that there were snap close plastic bags for all the pieces.


It took a goossa (5)d hour to push out the tokens and figure out how to assemble the ship stands and the little plastic fighters. The most fiddly part was getting the base components for each fighter squadron together. You have to angle the clear rod that goes into the base just right as it is shaped (it’s not that obvious). Making the 10 stands of X-wings and TIE fighters was a bit of a pain and you need to be careful not to snap the stands or fighter wings.

Other than that the next most pain was assembling the plastic measuring tool. You need to make sure it snaps together so it can’t fall apart then add in some card counters on each section to denote the range. You use this tool to move your ships. Ships speed and navigation orders help determine what distance and turns you can make to your ship.

Once assembled, you get a “starter scenario” diagram and explanation which helps you set the game up ready to go.

Playing ssa (1)a couple of games solo soon showed me some strengths and weaknesses. The big Imperial Destroyer has three Command dials. You need to set each of these and stack them up, one is revealed each game turn. The smaller Rebel corvette only has one of these. Bottom line is that you can give a fresh order to the smaller ship each turn, but the bigger ships need to have their orders given two or three turns in advance.

This made for a nice tactic – the powerful ships need careful thought, the small ships are more reactive.

I used the smaller corvette to accelerate to full speed and go behind the big Imperial Destroyer. In the end, game 1 ended with the Rebel  Escort ship being killed by firepower from the front of the Destroyer.

The Fssa (6)ighter squadrons seemed to take each other out. The Corvette fired into the rear shield arc of the Destroyer for three turns and killed it, winning the game for the Rebels. Bottom line, keep away from the big Attack dice of the front of big ships and get into the rear arc to hit weaker shields if you can. If you can keep at long-range then you will suffer a lot less damage.

The game encourages you to think ahead as moves need to be planned out if you are to win.

I quite enjoyed the game, though didn’t get much enjoyment from the fighter squadrons which IMHO serve to slow the game down by taking the action away from the big ships.


Here are my reservations….

In the UK the game is selling at around £59 plus – about US 90 dollars. You only get three ships plus the fighters. That’s not really enough to keep the interest goingssa (11). For what you get n the box, the price of the game is at the top end of what I would want to pay for what you get. To get a good 300 point game would need two or possibly three starter boxes (you will be able to get all the ships separately but the price of each ship is high). The Imperial Victory Destroyer is about £25, the Rebel ships about £15. One solution is to get two starter sets between two mates and split the forces and components between each person.

It would have been nice to get a 3 foot square game mat to play the starter game on and for the price I was surprised there was no poster style mat.

Apparently it is something to do with the licensing of the game. You can buy game mats for about £27 (cough…)

The other thing I found silly was that you need four of the blue dice for Attack rolls sometimes. The starter set comes with only three of each colour (black, blue, red).  The black dice are only used if you choose the cheaper Victory I version of the Destroyer which lack the range of its later mark (73 points versus 85 points). Adding one more blue dice would not have broken the bank at this price point.

I am now a bssa (8)it on the fence with this game. For an “Armada” game you will need to spend a lot of money on expanding this game. I am not sure I want to do that. Also, the game components seem a little clunky. I don’t really like the plastic Command device. Having to use up to three of these per ship makes for a stack of plastic.

Other than this (!) the overall game mechanics are quite solid. There are only 6 turns in a game (so it seems) which means the game is over quickly, say no more than an hour. This seems to be par for modern games – a crosssa (15)s between a board game and a wargame and with less time required to reach a suitable outcome. You kill the enemy, you win….

I have yet to see how balanced the game is between the two forces. The command dial mechanic keeps the big “slow” ships on their toes while the smaller ones can dart about and change commands each turn.  For example, would you want to take 6 Rebel Corvette ‘A’ (264 points) or 3 Imperial Victory  Destroyers (255 points)…?

Will this game be a passing fad or turn into something still played in five years or more? Time will tell…



Saga: Review of Gripping Beast Milites Christi 28mm metal models

Here is my review of some of the Gripping Beast models for the Crescent and the Cross faction “Milites Christi”… LINK.

I am really liking the Lord of the Rings LCG game

A month ago I had not really heard of this game, but after watching some of the videos of games played and reviews on the website I was a bit hooked. I picked up the base game from a local games store and started playing the game straight away (it has a solo mode that is basically the full game minus others to help).

There is a review here and plenty more on the net as the game has been around for a while so I wont bore you with another full review. A LCG (living card game) gives you everything you need for a game in one box or pack rather than a collectible game (like the old Magic the Gathering game I played many, many moons ago). Each expansion that comes out has enough (with the base game) to play it without having to buy endless packs of cards to get the best deck you can buy. I like this idea as it places it firmly back on the “board game” area but without a static board to play on. You just use the desk space in front of you to play the cards on. Its kind of like “Hobbit Solitaire” but far more fun.

Solo games that engage are not that common IMO so this turned out to be what I expected. Engaging, tactical and frustrating.  Trying to beat the first set of quests turned out to be hard enough. The starter game has a lot of cards, but not quite enough to make a really good custom deck. I decided to keep on with the Mirkwood theme and over the next couple of weeks I got five of the six Mirkwood cycle expansion decks. The last one is OOP at the moment and looks pretty tough anyway.

It took nine goes with various decks to get the hang of the first set of Quests (“Flies and Spiders” quests going through Mirkwood with a message and meeting spiders and orcs!). The second one, a “Journey down the Anduin”, is much tougher. You can take four types of Hero’s and they event and ally cards, but as a solo player you can only have three Heroes which makes selection very crucial. You don’t have the advantage of  various players choosing the best from each area of skill : Leadership, Tactics, Lore and Spirit.

I found that a couple of Tactics characters and one Leadership served quite well, but as soon as I got to a Quest that needed speed and a low profile, it suffered for lack of Willpower to Quest with. Getting the balance is hard, and you will probably want to use two or three decks to tackle each new Quest with. If deck building is your thing you will really like this game.

When you look at the cost of the base game and the other expansions, you get a lot of play for your money out of this game. The artwork on the cards is excellent. I am going to give it a solid 8 out of 10 as a Solo game for its theme, engagement, replayability and fun.  I would like to try it multiplayer as I think that would offer up a whole new set of challenges!

Thanks for reading!


DUST Tactics – what is it with the cards and points…?

Anyone else recently buy into DUST Tactics? It’s a cheery and simple enough game. But by heck are the unit cards complicated. How many variants of the game now? Four (Warfare, 3 x Tactics)? Five if you allow the “battlefield” version of ‘Tactics…

They all use the same models, but there are unit cards for each game and within DUST Tactics, some 3 variations.

Here’s the starter sets and three add-ons I bought for me and one of the kids….

DUST cards (14)

The cards that you get are a bit of a hit and miss.

Dust Warfare cards, the large Dust Tactics cards, the smaller Dust tactics cards, marked 2013 and the small cards almost identical to the latter but marked 2014.

Older, Larger Tactics cards…

DUST cards (19)

The size difference, old to new…. for the same unit…

DUST cards(10)

The comparison 20134 to 2014 editions… just one year apart and very similar cards…

DUST cards (16)

What is the difference? Well, the main thing is the difference in points cost, they have been re-evaluated.

You need to make sure the cards you use are from the 2014 edition or at least all from the same edition!

Here’s the bottom right corner of the cards to avoid mistakes…

DUST cards (18) DUST cards (17)

You better make sure you have the right ones.

Here is the 2014 SSU card set…

DUST cards (12)

The  2014 SSU Card deck set says on the back that it covers all those units that came out prior to January 2014.

I bought the Dust Tactics starter sets in May 2014 and they have 2013 cards inside them, making them incompatible with these new cards (that may come in some of the model boxes?) . I think its pretty confusing for a new player to find they have to replace all the cards even in the starter sets. Every box seems to have been brought out at different times and so has different cards in them. One of the expansion sets I bought had NO Dust tactics cards in at all(!) I have had to contact Battlefront Customer Services twice and then follow-up again to get a clarification.

I have to say that while Customer Services did help (I got the missing card and now they have supplied the 2014 SSU deck as a good will gesture), it should NOT be so “hit and miss” or complicated to just get a playable set of models.  Having three sets of Dust Tactics cards alone when the last two seem to be only a year apart seems like madness.

Well, that’s my little rant about DT. I still need to get the Axis cards just for the few units in the starter set – aaghh! 🙂

If they change the cards next year I may deliver the game back to BF via a strange portal(!)

Saga: The Spanish Warband

I took a look at the Spanish faction from the upcoming Crescent and Cross book over on the site.

I am really liking the look of this new army – in fact they all look interesting with some real flavour and new mechanics – and the good news is you can play them against the existing Dark Age factions!

I haven’t included Saga dice costs or the Hero abilities in full as the book hasn’t been released yet – just something that really interested me and hopefully wets the appetite for “new SAGA”!