Mantic Games have released the hotly anticipated second edition of their Firefight miniatures wargame. First developed due to fan demand during the 2015 Warpath Kickstarter, Firefight is a company-level wargame, ideal for battles with 50 to 100 models per side. The second edition aims to refine and streamline the game, and this 2-Player Starter Set is Mantic’s offer to get new players into the Warpath Universe.
Before we hop into this review, we’d like to thank Mantic Games for providing us with a copy of the new starter set for review purposes.
The Warpath Universe
The Warpath Universe is the setting for Mantic’s sci-fi games. It is set in a dystopian far-future where humanity is dominated by an all-consuming capitalist culture that will not stop until it has exploited every last resource in the galaxy. The area under the control of this entity – commonly called The Corporation – is called the Co-Prosperity Sphere, consisting of hundreds of thousands of settled worlds and untold amounts of wealth. The Corporation is lead by the shadowy Council of Seven – the owners of the major sub-corporations and subsidiaries that make up the hydra that is The Corporation. Opposing them are other corporations eager for a larger share of the pie, dissident humans yearning to breathe free, ancient aliens who do not want to go quietly into the night, and mutant horrors who want to exploit life for their own gain.
Mantic has three wargames set in the Warpath Universe:
- Deadzone is their skirmish-level game, with a dozen or so models per player. The game is set in Containment Zones established by The Corporation in order to stop the spread of disease, rebellion, or alien invasion, and had its third edition released last summer to positive reviews in the community.
- The namesake of the universe, Warpath, is a mass battle game designed for over 100 miniatures and vehicles per side, with multiple infantry models based on larger “muiltibases” to speed movement and play. The second edition of Warpath came out in 2017 after the Kickstarter, and introduced a lot of hard plastic vehicles to Mantic’s range.
- Firefight sits in the middle of those two, and is a more traditional wargame with individually based models.
There are other, non-wargames set in the Warpath Universe. Star Saga is a dungeon crawler boardgame, in a similar vein to HeroQuest or Mantic’s own Dungeon Saga. Dreadball is a hockey/soccer hybrid sport board game, where the factions from Warpath put down their guns and take to the pitch to score goals and punch each other in the face, not necessarily in that order.
Unboxing the Starter Set
Contents-wise, the 2 player starter includes a staggering amount of plastic for the $130/£90 price point it comes at. There are two small armies in this set, the Enforcers and the Marauders, perfect for splitting with a friend, or to build one player’s collection so they can showcase the game to other people.
Mugginns: I was definitely surprised by the number of models you get with this box! It is definitely a great start for anyone looking to get into the Warpath universe.
The Enforcers are the post-human special ops forces of the Corporation, who are called upon and answer only to the Council of Seven. Designed to be utterly loyal, they are equipped with some of the highest tech armor and weaponry at the Corporation’s disposal.
In the box you get:
- 20 hard plastic Enforcer Operatives, who have an alternative build as Assault Enforcers
- 2 hard plastic Jetbike Enforcers
- 5 hard plastic heavily armored Peacekeepers, who have an alternative build as Peacekeeper Defenders
Mugginns: Since we’ve received the box I’ve put together one squad of Enforcer Operatives and one squad of Peacekeepers. One thing to note and it is definitely stated in the quick-start – when you put these guys together, match their torsos with their legs (they’re lettered). I definitely did not and some of my Operatives are doing very dynamic poses that some players might not like.
The Marauders are an alien race called Orcs, who lend themselves out as mercenaries when they aren’t consolidating their warbands. The Marauders used to be the special ops forces for The Council of Seven, but they betrayed the council after being outfitted with weapons and arms in an event called The Mandrake Rebellion. Contrary to how orcs are portrayed in fantasy and other games, Warpath’s orcs are highly intelligent and well disciplined soldiers, adept at both shooting and close combat.
The Marauder force consists of:
- 40 hard plastic Marauder Commandos, who have an alternative bulls as Marauder Brawlers
- 4 plastic-resin Ripper Suits, with enough parts to build 2 Rainmaker suits and 2 Mauler suits
The Marauder Commandos are the only new models in this set – the Enforcers and Ripper Suits initially came out in the Deadzone v1 and v2 Kickstarters. The new models compare really favorably to the plastic resin ones that came with the initial Deadzone release. They’re nice and chunky like an Orc should be. Mold lines are mostly minimal, although they do run straight down the middle of the faces and those are kind of a pain to clean up. When you got 40 of the little dudes though, they’re largely not noticeable.
Mugginns: I was happy to see the models are (mostly) hard plastic. I have received PVC models in the past for Deadzone Rebs and the detail just isn’t as crisp. The detail on these models is crisp and all there. Like MSP I scraped some mold lines along legs and across heads, but it was about what you’d expect from any manufacturer.
One positive to note is that none of the included models have the integral base that plagued early Warpath Universe models. The 25mm bases still have the slots for them, but you can just flip over the bases as there is no bevel. As a plus, you can easily glue a 1mm magnet in the slot for easy transport. The included 40mm bases are MDF and a little disappointing, but any seasoned wargamer can replace them with plastic equivalents.
Mugginns: I too flipped the bases and they work fine. The only beef I’d have with the bases is that some of the models would have benefitted from bigger bases, as they hang over a bit.
Each force contains roughly 775 points worth of models, depending on what options you take for special weapons or leader upgrades. Noticeably missing is any kind of dedicated Command unit, although there are enough spare parts to build a Peacekeeper Captain for the Enforcers and a Commando Captain for the Marauders.
Mugginns: one of the first things I wanted to check out when I opened the book was what a ‘regular’ game size was. The book says that’s 1,000 points, so this set gets you started really nicely. You can fill out your remaining points with other squads, characters, weapon teams, vehicles, etc. I really like how Mantic included the force lists in the Quick Start, broken down by equipment and points.
In addition to the models, the starter also comes with most everything you’d need to play. You get two softcover books. The Firefight rulebook contains the full rules for the game, and about 40 pages of background fluff to get new players up to speed on the Warpath Universe. There is a good amount of gorgeous art spread throughout the book.
The Force Lists Book contains the rules on building a Strike Force of models necessary to play Firefight, and has full army lists for the following seven factions:
- Enforcers, described above
- Marauders, described above
- The Greater Co-Prosperity Sphere, who are the more mundane and less snazzy soldiers working for the various corporations of humanity
- The Asterians, ancient elf-like humanoids who fight primarily with remotely piloted robots to protect their dwindling race, though some scantily clad daredevils with bows and knives, and some allied sumo-style reptile aliens are also along for the ride
- The Forge Fathers, who are ancestor worshiping dwarves with a penchant for mining and engineering, but in space
- The Plague, an even more ancient foe of the Asterians, is a bio-phage that emanates from artifacts buried on dead worlds, which transforms the hosts into surprisingly intelligent horrors intent on spreading the sickness
- The Veer-myn, rat-men who are adept at stowing away on starships and hiding until their forces are strong enough to take control of the settlement they hide within
Notably missing are The Rebs, loose collations of humanity that reject the alpha-grindset and alien races largely pushed off their homeworlds by the GCPS, though they largely can be simulated using the GCPS army list. Also missing are The Nameless, hive mind tentacle horrors with unknown desires. They’re a fan favorite faction that grew out of the love of a single Dreadball model, and have a wide range of models in the Star Saga board game, but they might not have enough variety for a full Firefight faction. These two are great candidates for a future expansion.
Mugginns: I was interested to find out how the Rebs play into Firefight as I have their Deadzone box. I’m really interested in grabbing some Plague models to play around with as I love zombies of all sort, but the Veer-myn and Forge Fathers I think are where Mantic has really differentiated themselves with their sci-fi universe. Those models are great.
You also get 16 D8s, the primary dice used in all the wargames in the Warpath Universe. 8 per player is typically enough for a single unit’s shooting, though you’ll probably want to grab a few more for full sized games. There are also 11 command dice – 8 black, 2 orange, and 1 green. These are used for generating command points, which are gained and spent every turn to give you extra activations, unpin units, or perform special faction or commander orders to give you the edge in a battle. The colors of the dice determine the ability of your commanders to generate orders – a green die has no blank faces and a black die has multiple blanks, for example.
Mugginns: I have friends who groan at games that have their own dice, but Mantic has been doing this forever (with Deadzone, Walking Dead, Hellboy, Vanguard, etc) and I think it’s fine and actually enhances the game. I’ve played enough Historical games where you roll dice and then assign the numbers to certain actions or resources and it’s not my favorite thing. This makes it really easy, especially if you play a lot of different games. You can also purchase them separately from Mantic and they’re not exorbitantly priced.
There also is a pair of token and objective marker sheets. You get a good quantity and variety, though you might want a second set for larger games. The cardstock is hardy and the print is bold and colorful. One gripe I have is that some of the tokens have odd reverse sides. For example, most of the wound markers have a 1 on one side and a larger number on the reverse, which makes sense, but one single marker has a pin token on the reverse, and another has a hit-the-dirt on the reverse. This will drive me crazy trying to keep them sorted, though I prefer dice as wound markers anyway, making this is really a minor issue.
Finally, you get a set of quick play rules to get you started with your first game. You get suggested army lists, basic assembly guides, a sample mission, and a quick reference page. When I say basic assembly guides, I really mean it. They are very reminiscent of the diagram you’d find on old Wahammer 40k 3rd edition boxes. These get the job done, and for the most part matching arms are labeled on sprue, but they leave a lot to be desired. There also is little to no reference for which weapon is which and this can frustrate newer players who have to try and hope google has answers. For example, Commando Leaders and Commando Brawlers have the option for Ripper Talons, which don’t appear to be illustrated anywhere in the force list book. There are some arm combinations that look kind of odd, like the shotgun-style gun that goes with the reloading arm, and confirmation that this assembly would be nice. We’ve been spoiled by exhaustive instructions in modern games, and this is a place Mantic can improve.
Mugginns: I do agree that Mantic could improve here – I am honestly just glad they included instructions with this set. I’ve purchased KOW and Deadzone minis in the past and you get big bags of dudes and no instructions. While I do appreciate that you get more dudes for your dollar and maybe that’s part of it, I feel like investing some more time into instructions will help build a really robust player base going forward.
Noticeably missing here is any kind of measuring tool or terrain. This is understandable, however – it’s honestly probably a good thing they avoided including some kind of ruler that will just get thrown away 4 seconds after the box is opened, and there is already enough plastic in here that including any of the terrain sets from Mantic’s Terrain Crate range would have probably necessitated a higher sticker price.
Gameplay in Firefight takes place over 5 rounds, where each player takes turns activating one of their units each, until every unit left alive has had a chance to activate. At this point, nerve is checked for Broken units, activation markers are removed, and the players go onto the next round. During a unit’s activation, it can perform two Short actions or one Long action, which are:
- Sprint (Long Action)
- Shoot OR Blaze Away
- Hit the Dirt
All measurements are taken to and from the unit’s Leader, and movement is done by measuring the distance for the leader, then just placing the rest of the unit’s models into Coherency with the Leader, saving a lot of time and effort futzing with individual model measurements.
Close combat is achieved by Advancing or Sprinting into base contact with an enemy unit, with a bonus for Sprinting and a penalty for crossing any kind of difficult terrain. Both sides in the combat will duke it out, then the units disengage – no unit is ever locked into combat.
MasterSlowPoke: I was able to play the starter mission with my wife, and it was her first time ever playing a wargame of any kind. We found the rules simple but engaging, Each unit has a set To Hit value and their targets an Armor value that you have to roll for, with no need to consult a lookup chart to find the target value, which made gameplay less complex than other wargames I’ve tried.
The two forces felt evenly matched – the Marauders basically outnumber the Enforcers 2 to 1, but the Enforcers typically have higher armor values and twice as much HP as their orcish counterparts. My wife commanded the Enforcers and absolutely kicked my Marauder’s asses.
I played a few games of the original Firefight edition back when it first came out, and this second edition is a far more complete wargame. The first edition felt mostly like a barely modified version of the Warpath rules, and was kind of clunky and incomplete. This new edition has smoothed out a lot of the rough patches and was quite enjoyable to play. For all of you older wargamers out there, I got very strong nostalgic Warhammer 40k 5th edition (pre-Grey Knights, of course) vibes while playing. I would definitely recommend Firefight to anyone looking for a lightweight beer and pretzels game.
That is not to say it is a perfect game – we had some serious questions with the difference between Assaulting and Charging, and a few of the statlines of the Ripper suits and Command units were a bit underwhelming. It would also probably be best if at least one player in a group starting Firefight had previous wargaming experience, as the rules still have a little bit of underlying assumptions on how wargames are played that may leave novices a tad confused. There is nothing major that would get in the way of enjoying the game, however. I’m going to give a shot with some larger games, and include the new vehicles for a more in-depth review of the gameplay.
Mugginns: I have not yet played a game – I have been assembling all the dudes – but I have been pouring over the rules and forces book. For me it is huge that Firefight uses alternating activations. I love it. Absolutely love it.
I also like that there are resources involved (Command Points, though I think they could have chosen a different term as that is being used by everyone now) where you can influence the turn and how your troops perform. For 1 Command Point you can take an extra activation – so if you need to really sweep those troops off the board you can try to tip it in your favor.
I also appreciate that everything is measured from the unit Leader. This makes it so you can still put a ton of minis on the board but you don’t have to spend a lot of time measuring everything totally exactly and arguing about distances.
The last thing I’ll mention from my quick reading so far is that there aren’t saving throws. You roll to hit, roll to damage, then your opponent picks up models if they lose dudes. I don’t think you really lose any interactivity here, since you’re already doing alternating activations, it just saves time, and I appreciate it.
The Final Verdict
MasterSlowPoke: This starter set is a great value for an introductory product to a new wargame. If you want to throw a huge amount of models onto the table and start gaming, I’d give the Firefight rules a hearty recommend. Experienced players looking for an extremely crunchy system will probably be left wanting, but that’s not what Firefight sets out to accomplish. It is a fully realized beer and pretzels wargame that is a nice alternative to the more complex games currently dominating the market.
Muggins: Totally agreed. I really appreciate Mantic moving from PVC to hard plastic for this box set and I don’t think that can be understated. I think this is a great way to get people from the skirmish-level gaming of Deadzone into a company or platoon level game.
In the coming weeks we at Goonhammer will have more in depth reviews of the factions, painting and gameplay of Firefight. Have any questions or feedback? Drop us a note in the comments below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.