Games Gazette Logo

 

TALON.
Published by GMT Games. Designed by Jim Krohn for 2 players but with a high suitability for solo play.

The Box is full and heavy with top quality Components:

  1. 1 Large 1 Small (half size) heavy mounted space hex map 
  2. 3 Sheets of Ship and Planetary counters (Talon and Terran Fleets)
  3. 1 Sheet of Information markers (small square counters)
  4. 1 x Impulse/Round Board
  5. 1 x Empire War Map Display Board
  6. 2 Identical Reference sheets for players (only one in the box)
  7. 1 x Pad of Fleet Logs (actually ony 6 sheets so not really a "pad")
  8. 2 Dry Erase marker pens
  9. 1 x Rules and 1 x Scenario (Play) books
  10. 2 x D6
  11. A tie in with Space Empires 

The TALON are an alien race who have fared well in some areas of technology but appear to have fallen short on others. The TERRAN are their Earthly opposition and they also have a well, but not completely developed, technology. TALON the game is a series of combat based scenarios built around the two different technologies and the FTL and NFTL (Faster Than Light and Near Faster Than Light) Drive engines.

You will require a fairly large playing surface because the board, especially when both boards are needed, is huge. My eyes widened with glee on first sight of the ship counters as it seemed for once the designers had taken note of their oft-aged players by building a game for relatively poor eyesight; however this didn't turn out to be the case. Yes, the ship counters are larger hex tokens than usual for a GMT game or most counter-based war games, being some two inches in diameter, but instead of utilising this extra space to print clearly legible icons, the room is taken up mostly by a largely impressive illustration of the spaceship in question and a series of miniscule icons for weapons, power and modifiers.

Each ship begins with three extra abilities; Power, Speed and Turn Radius, which are written (using the supplied Dry Markers) into the provided spaces. The reason for using Dry Marker is that these stats will change during play and thus they can be erased and altered as necessary. The Reference sheet names, and gives the Power Curve, for each ship of both adversary races, the starting stats being highlighted - the players copy these numbers into the boxes on the ship counters. For instance a Talon Heavy Cruiser (abbreviated as CA) begins with Power 3 Speed 3 Curve 1. If the ship speeds up to 4 then its other stats also change, becoming Power 2, Speed 4 and Curve of 2. If the Speed was lowered then the line below the current stats is read - in all a simple but effective way of showing how altering one of the abilities of a ship can affect all of its abilities.

TALON plays in Rounds that are split into phases called Impulses. These are marked on the Impulse Track and marked A through to F. Each phase gives the players one or more Actions, with all Actions limited to only the phase they are shown in. After both players have conducted Impulse F there is a Power phase in which the players re-charge their ships power and may also adjust their ship's abilities (as mentioned previously). Again this is a cleverly thought out but simple and effective game mechanic.

Because both the movement segments on the board and the bases of the ships are hexes, each ship's firing arc is designed to spread out from the sides of the hex and thus it is easy to see which enemy ships are in the line of fire. Each side of the ships has green armour boxes which are marked off as damaged when hit by fire from an opponent. When all boxes are marked off any hits onto a completely damaged side go through to the Hull and eventually change the Power Curve as the Hull armour is depleted. The shape that these green damage boxes are shown on the sides bears no mind to which part of the side is damaged, ie one 4-box side may show 2 of the boxes to favour the top part of the side but this doesn't mean when those 2 boxes take hits that the side is breached, it is only breached when all damage boxes are destroyed. The use of the Dry Markers on the ship counters can be a little confusing at first for you mark destroyed armour boxes by ticking them but mark used batteries by erasing the ticks. 

The Impulse Track tells players when they can do the various actions, such as move their ships. In fact when the phase calls for movement all ships that can move in that phase must move. Like all actions you need APs (Action Points) but these are not saveable so they must be used when you get them, again they are given during various phases of play. APs are valuable and thus their use must be carefully considered. The phases on the Impulse Chart are split into two, the player with Initiative and then the second player. It is possible for the second player to spend an AP so they are the player with Initiative in the next phase, the player going first may not claim the Initiative by spending an AP, but will remain as first player unless it is taken from him.

Ships are remarkably heavy and hard to turn even though there is a lot of empty space for them to maneuver into and thus they travel ahead straight unless a turn has been planned. Counters are positioned a distance (count hexes) away from the front of the ship according to the current speed written in marker on the ship. When a ship reaches that marker it is removed and the ship is allowed to use APs to side-slip or turn. The rules, especially for movement, are quite different than you may be used to in other space combat games and so you must enter TALON with an open mind and no preconceptions. Ships move on each player's turn according to the Impulse Chart so there is no advantage as such in weight, class or speed

The scenarios set each side up pretty fairly though it is often best to play each one twice, having players swap sides and see if they can find options the other player missed. The tutorial pits just one TALON ship against just one Terran ship. It is not exciting but it does give you an idea of how both movement and combat works.The game works using a power system that is unforgiving and harsh, but probably more realistic. When you elect to use a power charge then that charge gets fully used up, you cannot fire, for example, at half power, and you have to wait for the period between Impulse Phase F and Impulse Phase A to recharge unless you have batteries on board that are charged and ready for use or you can spend an AP - weapon groups can only be fired when a power bar is full. Power bars are Yellow and Red. Red bars can only recharge during the Power Phase. Everything has been thoroughly thought through before becoming a rule.Hits and Damage are decided by a single die roll result referenced against the appropriate chart on the player Aid sheet.

Overall TALON is a slow and deliberate tactical game rather than the fast-paced space combat game it looks like it should be. It actually plays as slowly and deliberately as a regular wargame. You need to plan every action and consider every option and opportunity for each phase of the play. Thankfully it can be forgiving if you make an occasional error so that one mistake, at least early on in the game, is unlikely to be fatal. Using a movie example, it is more 2001 A Space Odyssey than Star Wars, or for historical wargamers it is more Waterloo than Balaclava.

For fans of GMTs other major scifi game, TALON ties in neatly with SPACE EMPIRES 4X (Jim Krohn GMT 2011) through the Empire and Optional rules found in the Play Book.

 

      

  

  

 

© Chris Baylis 2011-2015