WNW: Beyond the Gates of Antares

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Hello dear readers! A couple of months ago, myself and a couple of the WNW crew were selected to take part in the Warlord Games “Antares Initiative”; eight gaming groups from across the globe were supplied with everything needed to get a start on the game and in return, we had to write some articles as a group, for the Warlord newsletter. Sweet deal!

Warlord then created a fictional planet for each group to fight over and the two groups in Melbourne were given a red-earthed land which is inhospitable to organic life – very funny Brits, very funny …
Anyway, what I’d like to do today is give you my thoughts and opinions on the game so far without the input of my fellow WNW buddies.

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Antares: A big ol’ star (Red supergiant star to be more specific) around 700 times larger than our Sun in diameter and apparently there are wormholes (or Gates) near its surface that allows access to distant star systems. So you could imagine why future humans who’ve merged with a collective artificial intelligence (which now tells them what to do) want to maintain control of such a mode of transport.

The current roll-call of the six different factions available to play are:

  • The Ghar – genetically designed war mongers who have broken free of their masters’ hand and are set out to destroy everyone. A nifty race that look like weird, malnourished space hobbits who ride in tri-legged battle suits.
  • The Concord – space humans who’re connected to an all-knowing A.I (known as IMTel).
  • The Isorians – space humans who explored a little too far from home. Their IMTel was contaminated by alien organic tech and are now no longer compatible with the Concord’s IMTel.
  • The Algoryn – Klingon-esque “pan humans” constantly driving back the Ghar from their borders.
  • The Freeborn – Kind of like rebels who stem from merchants and noble families. They like to wear cloaks.
  • The Boromites – genetically bio-adapted humans designed to work in harsh environments. Basically rock-people miner folk.

As for the Antares Initiative, I chose the Boromite faction and they haven’t let me down yet. Not only are they effectively walking rocks who wield mining equipment into battle, but they also breed and set loose rock monsters – which is my main reason for choosing this faction.

Some of these gribblies include;

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Lavamites (imagine rocks with teeth on rocky spider legs),

Locomites (lavamites on ‘roids that are ridden into battle by lance-carrying Boromites),

The Broodmother, a four legged boulder with a massive tooth-lined maw and heavy guns drilled into
its back. It’s a thing of beauty and my personal favourite creature of the game.

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Onto the game itself.

So what is Beyond the Gates of Antares (Antares) anyway? As mentioned above it’s a game created by Warlord Games and takes the standard ruleset of one of their other well established titles, Bolt Action, and gives it some sci-fi tweaks. Players write army lists using the composition guide in the rulebook and once set up with scenario chosen, each player takes turns determined by the draw of a die.

Now here is where Antares sets itself apart from its competitors:

Like Bolt Action, Antares uses a die draw system. Each unit in a players’ force has their own “activation die”; if you have 5 units, you get 5 dice. All the dice, both yours and your opponents, are kept in a dice bag or similar receptacle and then someone pulls out a single die. If it’s yours, you get to activate a unit – pop the die next to said unit with the command order face up (the dice have different commands on each side) and perform the given command. FYI the commands are things like move and shoot, double move, wait in ambush etc.

With that die spent and unit activated, another die is drawn from the bag and so on and so forth. So not only do you have to think about an effective fighting force when choosing your army list but you need to factor in the amount of units in total, to increase the odds of drawing your die from the dice bag. Too few units and you could be waiting a while as you opponent out-activates you and rips your army apart. Too many and it could mean your army is full of small, cheap but ultimately weak units.

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While nifty, the dice bag system can sometimes feel a little unfair. There’s been a few times when, even though my opponent and myself have similar sized forces, I’ve been left twiddling my thumbs as my units are taken down or rendered ineffective well before I’ve been given the chance to do anything with them. Then again, there are times when I don’t want to do anything yet and want to react to my opponent’s moves or wait for them to get into range and the dice bag says “Nup”.

I’m sure there are ways around this but we’re still fairly new to the game and I haven’t yet found a solution.

A main point of difference from Antares to other sci-fi skirmish games is the “pin” mechanic. Whenever a unit gets hit by a weapon that can penetrate its armour, it takes a pin (a marker for all intents and purposes). Pins reduce accuracy when shooting, reduce the unit’s ability to follow commands and when accumulated in large numbers, destroy the unit. Amongst everything else in the game, pins are the most important system to learn – “Pin to win” should be a mantra. That said, there are ways to remove pins from units but as the saying goes “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.

The rule book, while hefty, intimidating and wordy, is the only book you’ll need. It contains very descriptive rules and the army lists for all factions. At times it can feel like you’re flipping through a Fighting Fantasy novel as you search for the appropriate section to an obscure special rule listed in the fine print of a unit entry, but at least you won’t need an FAQ to explain the intent of a rule.

Looking to the future though, I’m pretty excited to see where Antares goes. Seeing as the game is only a year old, there are lots of units that still need miniatures to be released. Supplements are in the works, new unit entries, scenarios and ways to play are all in development and Warlord seem very open to feedback, which is fantastic.

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We’re halfway through the Antares Initiative with intro games having been played, initial forces built upon and larger games being tested. We’ll soon be creating our own leaders \ characters with backgrounds that we’re to write ourselves (exclusive: I’ll be naming my character Rico Rasczak, leader of the Roughnecks – 10 points if you guess the reference) and there’s a tournament being organised for the end of Feb next year as a finale to the first Antares Initiative.

If you’re in the Melbourne area and interested in attending the tournament “War on Defor”, pop on to the “Beyond the Gates of Antares” Facebook page and look for the event – it’s being held on the 24th of Feb at gaming store “The House of War” (in Ringwood).

I’ll report back once I’ve taken the trophy and chased off all those who lay claim to Defor!

-Bensome

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