09 March 2014

Fireteam Andromeda Review

My guess is that anybody reading this piece is in the same position I have been in: Looking for a "suitable" ruleset with which to game all the 15mm goodness we are being spoiled with. Is this one worth buying and cajoling my friends into playing? That last part is probably more important that the few quid you will dish out!

For that reason I'm going avoid a wordy review and just try to list the key aspects of the game. In my experience, even the best reviews (which this is most certainly not!) still leave the ruleset hunter with questions. Feel free to ask anything and I will try to help. It should also be mentioned here that the writer is quite approachable and responsive if you contact him through his website.

Before I start, let me just say this: Fireteam Andromeda (FA) shares much in common with Warhammer 40k. But even if you have never liked Warhammer, please keep reading as FA is so much more than 40k in disguise.

So then, an overview:

Command and Control
FA has a C&C system with an enjoyable depth. You are always juggling choices in how to spend your "command points". The main use for these points is to activate your units. You can use them efficiently if you share activations with clever unit placement and and reduce your opponents points by damaging and suppressing their forces. The C&C is key to the game and you will be looking to your leaders to act as leaders rather than some sort of uber-heroes.

Turn sequence
Neither ugo-igo nor pure alternating activation. How many units you activate before play passes to your opponent is based on the traits of your leaders. Who goes first is determined by your leader and the type of platoons (rapid response, armoured etc.) you have in play and can be affected by command points. These points also let you react to certain actions in your opponent's turn. Decisions, decisions.

Play passes back and forth during a turn until both sides are out of command points.

If any units engaged in close combat (or were already in combat) this is handled in its own phase. Finally, at the end of the turn, reserves may arrive. They are placed on the table according to whatever rules they are using then activate as normal in the next turn.

Game engine
To shoot your opponents, each figure rolls a number dice based on the rate of fire of their weapon (just like 40k and other games). Remaining sationary allows you to shoot twice with some weapons. This is modified by cover, range etc. (how it should be!). To keep it simple, there are only three levels of skill (poor, average, good) that determine what you need to roll. You can make a unit concentrate fire for a bonus but, yes, it costs a command point that you probably really wanted for something else later in the turn.

Each hit requires a "saving throw" determined by the power of the weapon against the durability/armour of the target. Loss of morale affects command and control since units that are shaken do not generate you command points. You can still activate them but it also costs more points to do so and they are not as effective (a triple wammy!).

Movement is fixed by the infantry or vehicle type in question but can be customised in the army builder...

The Army Builder
FA allows you to design any of the sci fi (or modern) tropes you may want to represent. It does this with a robust points system that appears difficult to abuse. It is simple to use but allows a bewildering array of design options.

It works by offering four platoon types (generic, massed infantry, rapid response and  armoured). Each gives you a limited (but generous) number of unit types. The unit types are then detailed in terms of number of figures, weapons availability, and customisation. Here you will find all manner of quirks to make mobs of militia, elite power armour, jet bikes, medics, droids...the list goes on. Trust me on this, you will be spoilt for choice (and can revel in the golden age of 15mm sci fi figures) but will find it difficult to min-max. You get what you pay for but, on the other hand, you pay for what you get.

The platoon types themselves also have options. For example, even if Rapid Response platoons limit you to only 3 power armour squads, you could take the Power Armoured platoon trait to change the squad availability in favour of clanking PA brutes. Or make the whole platoon paratroopers (or burrowers if that's how you imagine it).

Ranged weapons are split into small arms, support, light and heavy. Within each, there is a further split into the likes of automatic fire, armour piercing etc. Each weapon provides some benefit at the cost of other traits. For example, an LMG may have a rate of fire of 4 but will have a low Power stat. Another weapon has a higher Power but a lower RoF. The final weapon in that class may be lower power and RoF but with a greater range. This forces you to chose weapons based on your play style and how you picture your force. You can tweak these weapon stats with unit upgrades but you have to pay for them.

A generic rifle has a range of 24" (12 to 24 is considered long range and gets a -1 shooting penalty). These are the sort of ranges used in 28mm scale games and in my opinion, they "look" much better in 15mm.

If you like the competitive element of 40k, you will find it here albeit with no no sales driven arms race based on the latest codex or figures. The rules are "tight" enough that you know what to expect from the force you have chosen but the C&C system (along with reactive commands) circumvents what is commonly known as "math-hammer" where you are simply calculating the odds of success for any actions.

As with any points based system, if you don't like competitive games, you can easily dispense with the points and use the engine to play something scenario driven. The army builders and their variety of upgrades will let you design all sorts of weird and wonderful forces with little or no tweaking.

A handful of scenarios are offered. These are very generic engagements and nothing you won't have seen before. We haven't used them yet as we have made up our own plots but they seem well presented for pick-up-and-play sessions.

These include walkers, ground vehicles, hovererererererers and flyers (which either fly around like gunships OR are used for gun runs). We found the rules for targeting vehicles too black and white (you do nothing to them, or you disable them for a bit or you destroy them). We use our own house rules here instead.

Just as with infantry, your options for designing vehicles are vast. My only complaint is that when you buy a transport vehicle for infantry, it is purchased solely for that squad. You cannot deploy multiple units in a single vehicle. A variable "Transport Capacity" stat would have been nice (and wouldn't be too difficult to make).

Special Rules
This is stuff like airbourne reserves (a la 40k deep strike), outflanking reserves, electronic warfare, hidden deployment etc. It's all been done before but that's a good thing as it lets you simulate various sci fi tropes.

This game has a lot in common with Warhammer 40,000 though without a lot of the nonsense that bogs that game down. The game engine is simple to use and not overly burdened with special rules. The C&C system offers players a lot of tactical depth during play. FA really allows you to flex your creative muscles and delve into your miniature collection as the army builders allow so much customisation.

I've probably missed a million things but was so please with how our game ran yesterday that I wanted to trumpet this under-publicised game as soon as I could. Please feel free to ask questions as I know the quest or the "perfect" rule system is a pernickety business.


  1. Thanks for that.
    You are right that the search is on for a truly stand out, solid set of rules for 15mm sci-fi gaming. This set has been in our every growing pile of "must-try" rules since its release. You just bumped it to the top of the stack.

    1. It would be great to hear how you get on with it.

  2. At last someone else convinced of the brilliance of this rule set. Please join me on the Fireteam Andromeda facebook page. It is very lonely at the moment.

  3. Really glad to read your review on Fireteam Andromeda, and even more happy to hear that you liked it! :)
    Incidently, as I'm working on the revised edition, then I'd like to hear what you're using for house rules for the vehicles?

    1. Hi Torben

      I don't know how you managed to make such a well rounded and "balanced" game given the diversity of forces that can be selected. You must have done a lot of playtesting.

      The three of us that have now played in our group have each designed very different armies. The games have felt fair while staying true to the imagined background each of us has tried to represent.

      I can't sing Fireteam's praises enough. You really should be promoting this game more. I'll be in touch about our house rules and ideas but there really isn't much we would like to change!

  4. 24" range weapons without the option to fire beyond with a penalty decided it for me .. seemed interesting at first but then it had to go and do that. 12" could be short range with +1 to hit, 24-36 could be long with a -1 penalty and so on. Is it a bad thing to have ranges a bit more flexible in case i want to play on a larger table without moving for 2 turns?

    1. I don't see why your suggestion wouldn't work. We use a similar house rule in Gruntz (which has even shorter ranges than FA). I totally agree that ranges in many sci fi games are woefully short.