Space Swarm, the space combat game you’ve always wanted
What if I told you there’s a hidden gem of a tactical space combat game that comes with 24 ship models, asteroids, space stations, rules, dice and all you need to play? How about I say that it’s perfect for those Warhammer 40k Imperium vs Tyranid Hive Fleet battles you’d love to play?
And it costs all of £7.95 including shipping (around $16 including shipping to the USA).
TTCombat specialize in making fantastic (and cheap!) laser-cut MDF wargaming terrain. Space Swarm is a new thing for them, and boy have they made something wonderful. For less than 8 quid you get three MDF punch-out sheets containing all the playing pieces, 6xD6 dice and a copy of the rules. There’s no frills or packaging beyond plastic wrap and a colour cover sheet. That’s reflected in the price, but don’t mistake the spartan presentation with a lack of quality or attention to detail.
Assembling the minis only requires a craft knife and superglue. It took me around an hour to put both armies together, and about the same to quickly paint them up. The minis massively benefit from a lick of paint. As these are MDF they don’t require priming first, and only require a single coat if painted reasonably thickly. At some point later I’m going to go over them and add markings and detailing to make each ship unique, though that’s not necessary.
This is what you get in the set:
- 1 Space Swarm Rulebook
- 1 Range Ruler
- 1 Turning Widget
- 3 Red Dice
- 3 Blue Dice
- 48 Tokens (4 Swarm Tokens, 20 Damage Markers, 24 Activation Markers)
- Alliance Station, Swarm Hive and Asteroids
- 2 Alliance Battleships
- 4 Alliance Cruisers
- 6 Alliance Frigates
- 2 Swarm Battleships
- 4 Swarm Cruisers
- 6 Swarm Frigates
- 24 Space Swarm Flight Stands
That’s a lot of stuff for £7.95!
The two sides are Alliance and Swarm. If you prefer to think in Warhammer 40k terms (as I do), that’s a Space Marine Fleet and a Tyranid Hive Swarm. Putting the game into those terms, we have:
- 2 Battle Barges
- 4 Strike Cruisers
- 6 Gladius Frigates
Over on the Tyranid side, there are:
- 2 Hive Ships
- 4 Devourers
- 6 Deathburners
You may prefer different designations for the ships, that’s only what I’m going to go with.
Each ship has a points value (1pt for the Frigates, 2pts for the Cruisers and 3pts for the Battleships), and the points cost also counts as the Victory Points for destroying the craft. A full game with all the ships works out at 20 points for each side, with 15 Victory Points required to win.
As well as the full-scale battle, the rules also contain two additional scenarios – Ambushed! and Retaliation. In the former, the defender has just 2 Cruisers in the centre of the table while the attacker sets up from one edge with a Cruiser and 4 Frigates. In Retaliation the defender has their Alliance Station or Swarm Hive on the centre of the table and must defend it at all costs. Players can of course also agree a points cost and their own objectives. A quick 5 point skirmish is a great way to learn the rules, or grab a load of sets and play a 100 point battle royale!
Each class of ship – Battlehip, Cruiser and Frigate – has identical Movement, Attack, Defense and Hull points regardless of faction, but each faction (Alliance or Swarm) has their own special rules. All Alliance (cough Space Marine) ships can reroll attack dice rolls of 1, while Swarm ships roll a D6 if destroyed. One a roll of 4+, the ship is redeployed from the table edge at the end of the round. This perfectly captures the Swarm’s (cough Tyranid’s) unending tide of horrors, while the Alliance special rule reflects their solidity and training. I approve.
In addition, the Alliance Battleships have a Railgun Barrage that allows them to make a 2D6 attack regardless of range, provided it has line of sight on the target. The Swarm Battleships can deploy a Swarm token on their turn. These acts as small independent ships (or lesser Tyranid critters) with just 1 Attack, Defense and Hull point that can annoy the heck out of their opponent. Again, very Tyraniddy.
In play, each player activates one ship before passing over to the other player. This differs from Warhammer 40k where a player plays all his units before play passes over. On a ship’s turn it can Move, Turn, Attack (and use a Special ability, if applicable) then made a Secondary Movement. This Secondary Movement represents inertial drift, or perhaps course correction. Each ship has two movement values, for example the small and fast Frigate is 5->2. This means the ship can move up to 5 in the Primary Movement phase, and must move (or shunt sideways) 2 in the Secondary Movement phase. It’s an elegant system that’s faster to play than it is to explain, and does a great job of feeling like these are huge behemoth space ships rather than light and nimble fighters.
I could go on. If you want to know more, a full copy of the rules is available for free download here. This is a wonderful, ridiculously cheap game that deserves far more exposure than it has. As it’s marked as a Core set, I sincerely hope that there are more ships and Factions to come. I know I’m hooked already.
Well, what are you waiting for? Buy it!