Talon is… An Alien Sound???
Talon is the shortening of the alien sounds that make up the name of the other-worldly space travelling empire that the Terran Confederation encounter in 2227. It also connects to the raptor-like tactics the Talon used to swoop on the human colonies. How do I know all this? Because it says so in the rulebook of course! Although what the Talon race looks like is not really covered, there is enough history and narrative detail covered in the Rulebook and Playbook that your curiosity and imagination is piqued and nurtured throughout the read.
Talon is a game of tactical space Fleet Combat, much like Star Wars Armada, that came out last year. You play the game with fleets of between 3 and 10 spaceships of Capitol ship size, having banks of shields and a variety of weapons to manage. GMT says the game can be played with up to six players, but most players are going to play in the two player mode. Usually games of Talon last about an hour to 90 mins, however it is easy to learn and fun to play.
Talon is… A labour of Love!!!
Last year Star Wars Armada hit the gaming community, plaudits praised it and berated it at the same time. In my review I too praised its elegant system that had been much improved on the x-wing miniature game and at the same time, pointed out how expensive the game was. It seemed that people wanted a space fleet battle game, but without the expense.
Talon is all that and more. GMT Games have not rushed the game to market to fill the gap, instead the game has been 10 years in the making. The attention to detail is inspiring, not only in the explanation of how to play the game, but in easing each player’s imaginary and cognitive investment. Spaceships don’t crash into each other if they are in the same hex (space is big – vast even), the more energy you expand in maneuvering your spacecraft then the less power you will have to recharge your weapons. How spaceships can side slip, etc, etc. Its all covered elegantly.
There are so many games on the market today where you have to suspend your imagination, even your logical thinking, that it defies belief. For someone like myself it can ruin a game. So Talon is refreshing, has a beautifully presented rulebook, that is a clean read, with thoughtful remarks on why the game plays the way it does. The designer even has notes explaining why he choose to develop the game in the fashion he did.
Talon is…Not a Miniatures Game???
Talon is a game of tactical space combat on a ‘floating map’, if the battle looks to be going over the edge of the board, then you add the extra half board provided or move all the ships in six hexes from the edge. If a lone ship looks too far out of combat, then it is removed from the game, presumed to have engaged Faster Than Light Drive and left the engagement.
So you don’t get miniatures, but you don’t pay for that privilege either. You don’t get wooden blocks or plastic chits to measure your ships power or weapons, what you get are Hex Counters. The Capital ships are represented by quite large hex counters, each is individually named and on the reverse side it becomes a counter for planets, asteroid fields, etc. They are laminated and you use a dry erase marker to record all the relevant information to play, that information is open and is easily viewed by all players. This is not a new development, but for this type of game the open information feels like one, it is far easier to manage than dials, tables or rows of counters.
That is part of Talon’s genius, all the information that you need to control your fleet is laid out before you, giving you that Commander feeling. For a space conflict game it is precisely what you need to play and teach the game. So what is on these Ship counters ? You have the shields, weapons energy levels and most importantly the Power Curve. This Power Curve is dictated by the speed you wish your capitol ship to travel, the faster your ship goes, the less power it will have left, but low power comes with a smaller turn radius too. For example the Terran ship CL Valhalla (all the ships are individually named) is travelling at a speed of 3, it will have 3 available power to use for weapons, shields and other tactics and can turn in 2 hexes. If it was to slow down to enter a combat situation to say a speed of 1, then it would have 6 available power to use for weapons etc, and can turn after only 1 hex.
These are the only figures you adjust on the hexes, each ship has their own individual power curve and this is looked up on the Combat Tables. The only variance to the figures is if your shields are so damaged that your hull is breached and you take a critical hit. For a wargame this gives a streamlined effect that makes this game perfect for a gateway game into the genre.
So the stats are easily manageable, but more so because they fit so neatly into the third genius of the game, the Impulse Display track. Each round of the game is made up of six impulses, where your ships must move according to the speed they are travelling at. So a ship travelling at a speed of six must move in each impulse phase, but a ship moving at 3 will move only in impulses B, D and F. This is clearly marked out on the Impulse Display Track, and during each of these impulses ships can fire weapons, burn afterburners, gain initiative etc, as long as they have the power to do so, if they don’t you can quickly skip those impulses for those spacecraft.
After the final impulse of the round there is a power phase, where the Power curve is adjusted and weapons are charged.
Talon is…Not Star Wars Armada???
Of course there are a lot more cool things about this game, but the fact that you can play fleet battles without the hassle of checking catalogues of tables, or moving counters across rows is refreshing. Combat results are worked out on dice rolls, which gives variance in the battles, but the aiming mechanic is clear in that you know exactly where ships will be damaged and vice-versa.
So what makes Talon better than Star Wars Armada or say Star Trek: Fleet Captains? Well without the veneer of those franchises, Talon is so easily playable that it makes its replay-ability that much more credible. Star Wars Armada plays like a race into the combat and a few rounds of blasting but then a slow tinkering out made up of small fights and then your gaming evening is gone. Talon plays much cleaner and quicker, and it is more fun too!
Talon is…Not a Board Game!!!
Jim Krohn of Band of Brothers and Space Empires: 4x fame has brought to the table a wargame that is on the verge of being a board game. I say this because I wish it had been made into a board game, I think it would have busted into my top five sci-fi games chart. GMT games are doing all they can to promote this game, in-house blogs, videos, etc. They have to really, as without the Star Wars or Star Trek franchise this game is only going to appeal to Wargamers who like Space Empires and the like.
This is a shame, as the game is worthy of every board gamers attention. If you love X-wing or Star-Wars Armada, but don’t want to take out a bank loan to buy into them, or to rent out a hall to play them in, then Talon is your game. If this game had come out ten years ago, it would have changed the face of board and war games, but its out now and it’s still a work of genius and Krohn is quick to point out that a lot of that is down to his development team, they must be proud as Talon might just still change the gaming scene in the years to come.
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Paul Matthews is a Sales Manager for Gamesquest Ltd, as well as a part-time Board game Demonstrator and Blogger. After several years playing Yu-gi-oh at Tournament level, his latest passion is all things board gaming. Besides playing board games, Paul is a part time author and enjoys reading and archery. Paul has a Degree in Humanities Psychology/Counselling and several Life-skill Degrees in Parenting, Horse Management and Ecommerce.