What is Planetfall about? Well, it's from the same guys who brought you Firestorm Armada, which is a space naval combat miniature wargame that's been out in the market for several years. Planetfall is set in the same universe but it's about the ground combats that take place in that setting. Imagine it as being akin to Battlefleet Gothic and Wh40k.
With that being said, just how do you play Planetfall? Well, I'm happy to say that Planetfall is extremely easy to pick up and the rulebook is fairly well laid out so that it makes it easy to find out just what you're supposed to do.
Let's talk a bit about how you build an army for Planetfall. The very first thing you have to decide is what race your army is going to be. I say race, but frankly there's more than one human army in Planetfall. Once you've decided that, that army is your core helix. Each helix has a list of what models MUST be included in that helix and what models are optional for that helix. So far, Spartan games is selling all the products in helix bundles; ie. core, heavy etc. After you've chosen a core helix, you can take usually take 1 of each surrounding helix; support, aerial, heavy etc until you've hit your point limit. You can also take 2 of 1 helix at the expense of the opposing helix; ie. 2 support helix at the expense of not taking an assault helix.
The miniatures themselves are pretty nice with a fair amount of detail, which I didn't bother to paint. They're a lot larger than Dropzone though and look a lot more sci-fi fantasyish. Basically, these designs wouldn't be out of place in a videogame.
Once that's done, you'll fight it out on the table. The gameplay is simple, the person who hits 0 on his TV counter first wins; TV being a measure to track victory points. This makes gameplay very very quick because there are no set limit of turns and you can get TV through killing enemy models (something that's easy to do) or by scoring objectives (which are obvious). Think of it as something akin to Warmachines scenario system, where you can win very quickly if you can score your CPs while denying your opponent.
Planetfall; much like wh40k, is one of those games where you roll a fair amount of dice. If you look at the stat card above, you'll notice that the AD(attack dice) for weapons can go up to 8. If you combine both weapons together, that's 16. And if you consider the fact it's a squad shooting, that's 32 D6s. That's a lot of dice. However, they have something DR or damage bands. This means that you can roll a huge amount of dice but you may not be able to wipe out a squadron. This is because to deal 1 damage to a model, you need to have as many successes as it's DR value. In this case, it's 7 for the first one and then you'll need 6 success to do a 2nd point of damage to it. If you roll 5 successes, you fail to do anything and the successes are just wiped away. In other words, they don't accumulate. It's kind of brilliant how this lets people who like to roll massive numbers of dice play the game without just insta-gibbing stuff.
The turn system is very simple and it's a IGOUGO mechanic, meaning that players take turns activating their squadrons. Positioning is also fairly important in this game as hitting people from the flanks or the rear generally means they have less DR overall. Hitting from the flank minuses 1 from each damage band and hitting from the rear means -2. As such, positioning is fairly important.
I played 2 games of this so far and it was pretty enjoyable. Both times I've played Directorate and both times I've won. On the first, my opponent made the bad mistake of moving his Sedna too close to my Trojans while dealing no damage to me. The next turn, I went first, hacked his Sedna and activated it, leaving him open with his flank facing most of my heavies. Needless to say, dead Sedna. At which point, his forces just started crumbling due to lack of firepower. 2nd game, he made a bad positioning area while trying to prevent my recon buggies from scoring my main objective. This caused him to cluster in one small corner of the map, which let me pick apart the rest of his forces outside while scoring other objectives.
Overall, my impressions of this game is that it's amazingly fast to play. We played our 2nd starterbox/corehelix game in about 40 minutes once we knew what to do. That's pretty damn fast. If you're interested in knowing more about the rules, Spartan Games does have a free rulebook as well as stats for the units that you can download here (link)