Thoughts on the core rulebook



I posted this over on the FC forum; I figured I may as well post it here, to see if anyone else would like to think of their own takes on the ACtA:NA core book.

So, I picked up a copy of the PDF over at DriveThruRPG; it currently is at a discount from the listed price, but I can't say if it will remain so.

The file itself (which does not replicate the front and back covers from the physical book) clocks in at 120 pages; broken up into basic and advanced rules, background info, scenarios, fleet lists, etc.

The basic rules take up just over twenty pages or so; these are enough to get you settled in with how to read the data presented for each type of ship, how to get settled in with the structure of each turn, and how to go and go stuff with your ships (work out your maneuver, fire your weapons, prepare your boarding actions, resolve your various kinds of damage, issue your special orders, and so forth).

The special rules don't take up very much room; they basically cover things like scaling your ships' Crew Quality, incorporating Gatling Lasers (point-defence weapons), putting your ships into squadrons (which you can only do in games of 2000 points or more per side) and working out the initiative order in multi-player games.

There are a few pages which detail the use of fighters (which themselves tend to be divided into dogfighters and attack fighter types), and a few more looking at various types of terrain.

The background section is almost thirty pages' long, and that doesn't include the various snippets of background flavour scattered across other sections of the rulebook. You get a history (and timeline) of the Fading Suns setting up to 4999 AD, the year Noble Armada considers the "present day"; information about the human empire which lies at the heart of the Known Worlds; and a glimpse at some of the various types of aliens both within and beyond human-controlled space.

The setting itself has aspects reminiscent of various other sci-fi settings, such as Babylon 5, Warhammer 40K and Battletech, as well as some which echo some real-world historical dynamics. There is a web of ancient jumpgates scattered amongst the stars; each gate can go to a certain number of other gates, though not all potential routes may be active at any given time. The current crop of star-faring empires are able to equip ships with drives enabling them to traverse these jump routes, though there is no ship-based FTL (at least not any kind known to humanity).

While humanity had expanded widely across the jumpgate network in its heyday, the system which held that far-flung society together enventully collapsed. The Known Worlds at the core of the setting are but a minor sub-set of the wider diaspora which mankind had developed. Still, things have the potential to start looking up; a new Emperor is in charge, and seems quite keen on dragging his people out of the new Dark Ages.

Only things are not quite so simple. Like the various elements which coprised the old Holy Roman Empire on Earth, the major players in the empire have powerful (and often conflicting) interests of their own. Beyond the empire's borders, "barbarian" realms (humans who have been busy running their own stellar empires over the past thousand years) have other plans. While many alien species exist as subjects on certain human-occupied worlds, not all of them accept their reduced circumstances gladly. Plus, there are other groups of aliens, who act as major powers in their own right.

Oh, and for reasons no-one can understand, the stars themselves... are fading. Whether this heralds the doom of human kind, a mystery to be solvedand overcome, or something else entirely, none can say.

Interesting times, indeed.

There are several sample scenarios, as well as info designed to help run longer campaigns.

There are five fleet lists included; each representing the assets of one of the five major Royal Houses (Hawkwood, Decados, Hazat, al-Malik and Li Halan). Since the five navies are somewhat semi-related, there are some similarities they share in terms of technology and fleet structure; though each has a distinct tactical style they tend to emphasise.

Later this year, there should be a batch of new fleets published in the first supplement, Fleets of the Fading Suns; the first such fleet to be previewed, the Kurgans (one of the "barbarian" powers lying beyond the empire's borders), have a preview fleet pdf available in the interim. From that list, the Kurgans already do things a bit differently than the five Royal House fleets (with a bigger emphasis on carriers); one might expect the more esoteric factions (not least the alien powers) to be even further removed in turn.

I'll be looking forward to that supplement, and hope that at that point, things will be a little more varied in terms of what people might choose to go with; but given that the game (in its A Call to Arms iteration, at least) is still only a few months' old, it seems to be on a steady enough start.

Whether I'll get the chance to actually try the game out for myself, on the other hand, remains to be seen...