I finally played my first game of Beyond the Gates of Antares. I tried the beta in the past but only as solo to test some mechanics, this was the first real game.
I organised the demo game at the club last sunday, Rogier decided to join me attracted by the predator looking Algoryn, my army of choice were the Boromites. Why the Boromites? But of course because they have the coolest weapon name since the invention of the Shuriken Catapult, the Mass Compactor!
I prepared the lists based on my collection, at the moment I think I have around 800-1000 points of Algoryn and Boromites plus the content of the special edition starter set. My objective was to create small, balanced forces with an eye to some tactics I knew I wanted to test, in particular the assault and the overhead shots. Also I wanted to try the drones but they have so many rules I was a bit scared, therefore I used only two of the basic type.
I like the way armies are chosen, with restrictions on the type and number of units based on the size of the battle and the limitation on certain type of units, nothing new or too much different from other systems ma this feels logic and scalable enough.
Algoryn Army – 401 pts
I had very clear in my mind two things for the Algoryn: I had to include a X-Launcher (a mortar, favorite weapon in BA for Rogier) and I wanted to include some drones.
The commander selection was easy enough, the guy is tough, the whole squad can punch quite hard with the Plasma carabine (single powerful shot or rapid fire) and the “Follow” special rules was one of the special rule I wanted to try. The commander has already the leader ability that allow him to re-roll failed resistance test to ignore a wound but I also add a medic drone to give the re-roll to the rest of the squad, which is valuable because they are also armed with Plasma carabine.
Next choices are a unit of AI and one of AI assault. As options just a micro-launcher to the AI squad, for the rest all basic. Last choice is the support weapon X-Launcher, which for the occasion I loaded with all the extra munition possible and a spotter drone.
Bromites Army – 397 pts
For the Boromites I only knew I had to include Lavamites and a unit with Mass compactor (due to the sexy name!), so I tried to make a list more assault oriented. The Overseer team is pretty standard but I added a tractor maul for some hand to hand extra punch (yes, it’s the drill-like thing). The team is also armed with plasma carabine so quite effective and flexible. Next choice is a unit of Gang fighters, pretty standard mag gun troopers, and of course a Work gang with mass compactor and reflex armour. Lavamites units was my last choice, lead to battle by a Boromite handler armed with a Lectro Lash and a plasma pistol.
The main differences between Algoryn and Boromites, as I learned during the game, is that Boromites are less agile so less prone to do things like sprinting or even advance in difficult terrain, and they have less initiative, but more strength and a very good Command value of 9 for regular troops and 10 for commanders so even if quite specular the armies (4 units per side, 1 command, 1 core units, 1 assault-oriented unit and 1 more specialized unit) played very differently.
Characteristics really helps to differentiate the race and troops of the Antares universe, troops armed in the same way feels quite different according to the race, and this is a plus for me.
The game itself was quite standard, just a kill’em all scenario fought in a ruined small settlement with plenty of cover. I imagine the ruins were of a long time dead and forgotten civilization, a quite Gothic civilization I would say…
The game started with the Algoryn commander issuing a Follow me command, in which multiple units can move at the same time, Rogier decided to sprint with his assault units and take cover in the ruins. First interesting rules but also first confusion and manual checking, who can sprint? when? how? What about sprinting and then entering in a difficult terrain? All these cases are covered of course and actually it’s all resolved with a simple D10 check, however the first impact is tough, how is going to be this game if only for the first movement of the game we already have to check the manual and roll some dice?
It turns out it is not so bad after all, all the rules are extremely plausible, it is just counter-intuitive, for me, that for decades was used to roll high on a D6 to succeed, all the sudden I had roll low on a D10. I’m saying this not to criticise the game but to make clear that this system is not what the majority of sic-fi players are used to (40K players, I’m talking to you).
After a while all is clear and all the mechanics are somehow related to a D10 check, with modifiers. Modifiers and the critical/fumble (1 on a D10 or 10 on a D10) results are a lot and I’m sure they need time to be memorized. They are not difficult per-se, actually quite the contrary, they are logic and have lot of flavor (for example if you roll an agility critical while passing in difficult terrain the units find a safe passage in the area and while staying inside that area can move without penalties) but they are many and difficult to remember, perhaps a more complete reference sheet can help a lot here.
During the game we managed to try the assault rules, and they are majestic in my opinion. The lava mites assaulted the Algoryn assault unit, initially a short range firefight is fought simultaneously, if both units survive then a proper hand to hand combat start. Assault is lethal, and really good, nice weapons like the D-spinner or the lavamites attacks give flavor and open tactical options (should I take 2SV or +2 in Res from my D-spinner?).
At the end it was a massacre, but the leader of the Algroyn squad survived and the unit of lavamites has been completely annihilated.
Without specialized assault squads the rest of the game is mainly lot of firefight, interesting the reaction mechanics, very nice the Algoryn X-launcher (but we never used the special munition) and after a while we start to get used to the rules, roll low, modifiers, terrain, all seems to make sense.
The game ended at 6 turn with a draw, one unit lost per side, I probably expected the game to be more lethal but apparently we had a lot of good cover around so resistance checks were easy to pass. At the end I had fun (and also Rogier I think) and now I am quite eager to play again and try different weapons/combinations. I’m quite sure this game will not be for everyone, it is not simple, you have to remember lot of things and, at least for the first few games, the manual will be used often, but beside these points everything else is top. Rules are logic, fit the setting, are simple enough because one check is used for everything and it has lot of flavor, which is the most important thing to help narrate a story.
Now, let’s go paint those Mass Compactors!