Gates of Antares is my sci-fi skirmish game of choice as of late. One particular aspect I enjoy about GoA is that it has embraces more narrative scenarios over just having your typical tourney smash em up. However, one thing the rules lack though is a set of campaign rules.
I’ve been thinking of some ideas to get a framework of rules together for campaigns. Digging around I fell in love with some stuff over on another wargaming blog, Steve’s Balagan. They worked up a branching campaign system which is concise, builds on previous battles, and doesn’t get mired down in a lot of rules. I love it. I still want to putter around with some ideas for dealing with casualties and resupply. I might dig into Star Army: 5150 for that, as they have some nifty rules for running a campaign game.
While I might consider working on some static campaign maps, I wanted to possibly consider using a random mission system for battles. There is some great stuff out there which looks nice. I may use the idea of a static defender and attacker to shake up the mission objectives some, but the rules I’ve looked at are pretty robust. I also enjoy that each side has some more hidden objectives to add to the flavor of a particular engagement. Certainly a bunch of great stuff out there to tinker with.
Scouring around for places to pick up paints and supplies I stumbled across likely the new Mecca for hobby supplies for me, Neighbor Hobby. It’s nestled away unassumingly in the lower floor of an office building. But despite it’s location, they have a pretty amazing stock of model kits of all sorts.
There is a great selection of military models. Unfortunately for fans of Bolt Action, they carry only Tamiya 1/48 kits, but they seem to have a full selection from that line. As 1/72 and 1/76 scale kits go though, they have a great choice of tanks, soldiers, and terrain. With buildings I usually use 20 mm, even for 28mm stuff as it keeps a smaller footprint on the table and looks okay. I find true 28mm scale buildings just a little too big and even the smallest 2 story house seems to dwarf the rest of the table terrain. So having a lot of building model kits for sale was a pleasant surprise.
Now for paints, brushes, and other supplies you are set. There is a great selection of paints from Testors, Tamiya, AK Interactive, MIG, as well as my go to for painting, Vallejo. It’s a wonderful amount of choices and stock for both brush and airbrush painters. They also carry a complete selection of Testors and Tamiya sprays. Well worth checking out.
To get there isn’t too difficult. Take subway line 2 to Hongik University and get off exit number 3. You need to cross the street and footpath park and take a side street, then go right. Once you hit a main street go left and it will be in an office building.
However if you enter the front of the building you are actually on the 2nd floor and have to take the lift down to the 1st floor.
All in all Neighbor Hobby is a fantastic place to pick up military models, paints, and modeling supplies. It certainly is one of the top places to get wargaming model supplies in the city. It’s also in the same neighborhood as Rolling Dice so a great stop to get a double scoop of geek supplies while in Seoul.
This week just a small tip for folks delving into miniature painting. If you are like me you might have a lot of different game systems and army projects going (sometimes several simultaneously). Once an army is done, going back to add a few troops or units is always an option. However it can be a tad difficult to remember what paints were used before for that force.
Another issue is that occasionally your miniatures will get some dings and dents. You may find needing to touch up a miniature or two. So trying to think back what paints you originally used for a base coat along with the proper wash might be a problem. It’s compounded if you’ve been painting a slew of other stuff since then too.
To get around this I use note cards. I write down the paints used for base coats, washes, and highlights. Additionally I pair this information up with the appropriate parts of the models. Along with the name of the paint, I also place a small dab of the paint color on the card.
This way I know exactly what colors I used for say, the webbing on my US Marines, along with the colors used for the drybrush highlight too. The color reference is also there in case I have problems tracking down a specific paint. I then have a hue to compare to if seeking a replacement paint from a different manufacturer. Another plus is I can take the card with me into the shop to directly compare.
They are very handy. I’ve got a slew of unfinished 15mm Russians I’ve been sitting on for a couple of years now. At least with the paint reference cards I have some confidence I can revisit them again using the same color scheme as I had done in the past, ensuring that my army will have a uniform look. So consider keeping track of the paints you use on your minis. While I find note cards handy, but even a notebook is helpful. After all you never know when you might have to touch up a couple of minis (or add another squad to your force).
I haven’t taken the plunge yet for getting an army together for Gates of Antares. Instead I’ve been using a lot of my 15mm sci-fi stuff as proxy forces and have been having quite a bit of fun. Maybe later I’ll consider eventually getting a batrep done. Seems 15mm is a great way to jump into the game if on the fence wanting to give the rules a test drive.
I’m liking the Algoryns and might work on that faction. However Warlord Games is still trying to expand that model range for them. And sadly the choices for that force are only in metal. While I dig the heft of metal figures, the cost compared to plastic kits is pretty hard to swallow. Might have to clear my bench some of stuff to paint before I consider jumping into another range of models.
Nonetheless one thing I’ve been missing with my proxy forces is a way to represent drones and probes. GoA uses gobs of em. I really dig having some small bonus abilities represented by models on the table. However I wanted to actually get a figure down that I could push around over just using tokens or painted bases.
I picked up some cheap plastic beads I felt would fit the bill for using as probe models. The cost for a huge gross is dirt cheap. Just head to a craft store and check out the craft jewelry section. Being about 7-9mm across, they are perfect for drones.
I wanted to have them floating about though and was considering using some wire, but then I stumbled on some clear plastic tubing for modelling. The material is acrylic and the stuff I got was in 3mm diameter. Perfect for mounting a floating drone onto a base.
The pickle I had however was that the tubing was pretty large so I had to drill and file a larger hole into the plastic bead. Fortunately the beads have a hole already in them (for stringing wire and string through). So I could easily use those as a guide hole when using a larger drill bit. Drilling and filing a portion out of some 20mm slot bases, I was able to use a bit of instant bonding cement to assemble the entire thing.
The downside of using beads is that there is a small hole drilled into the top of my probes. So I had to use a bit of green stuff to fill it it. I also used green stuff to fill in the gaps for the slot base.
A bit of paint, drybrush a tad, some flock for the base, and bam…there’s a spotter drone. One thing I like about the model is I can use a variety of colors to indicate different types of drones and probes. The downside is that the beads have a particular pattern on the surface making my painting schemes a limited some. This was a quick prototype and I didn’t quite get the pattern and look to what I’d like, but I can touch it up later.
Hope folks find this helpful. It was super easy to do and pretty cheap. Considering you can end up with a lot of spotter drones for your units, along with support choices, I think you’ll end up needing quite a few drones for your typical GoA force. This isn’t a bad way to get a lot of models assembled for your force quickly (and cheaply).
A long while back I mentioned that I picked up some battemats from Hotz Mats and wasn’t that impressed with them. At the same time I made my order, I decided to pick up some flocked felt field sets from the same company. Despite me not being keen on the treated felt mats, I gotta say that I do like the flocked fields they offer.
I bought 2 sets of the 20-30mm range felt fields. The fields vary in sizes and colors that look pretty good for that scale. Seems they offer smaller scale mats for 6-15mm. The pics I have here are of 1/72 scale Germans. It does seem that smaller models would look a little off with the larger scale mats.
The felt fields are durable though and the flock is tightly adhered to the material. Mind you I keep them stored relatively flat tucked in a box of other terrain, so if tightly rolled up I’m not sure how they would hold up. But I have to say they’ve been through some heat and humidity and still look nice. Through normal gaming wear and tear you’d likely have some fields that would last for years.
The felt fields range in size having one large section, 2 smaller fields (a little over 6″ long), and a mid-sized field. A good mix for a set which looks nice. Throw in some small stone walls or bocage and you’d have a nice bit of rough terrain or light cover for your table. If looking to get some rural terrain and not too keen on modeling your own, they are a good option and worth picking up a set or two.
I’ve been slowly working on some more Pacific-themed terrain for Bolt Action. One stickler for me was getting some appropriate woods for a table together. I’ve got some decent trees that could work for deciduous forest, but really nothing that would work for jungle terrain.
Cruising through a small pet store I stumbled on some inspiration finding fish breeding bedding for aquariums. This lead me to also hitting up a local arts and crafts store to buy some plastic floral arrangements.
With a craft knife and a hot glue gun, I was able to remove sections of plastic plants and mount them on metal washers. A coat of plastic primer and flat green paint, along with a simple drybrush of a lighter green and I was able to whip up quite a few stands of jungle trees and overgrowth. I cut many sections at varying heights and mixed and matched them to provide a little more realistic look.
They really look pretty well and being on separate bases, I can move them around to accommodate larger teams and vehicles. Next to some 20mm Japanese troops I painted up, they’ve got an appropriate height and occupy a good chunk of area to offer cover. They were also a snap to get together. Certainly one of my more easier terrain projects to complete. Making trees and jungle terrain this way is easy and offer some decent terrain for your Pacific theater games.
Rick Priestly a while back had a Kickstarter campaign going for a new sci-if wargame that he eventually pulled. It was out just about the time Bolt Action was hitting its stride and I expect he decided to throw his design talents into BA and let his sci-if game ferment a bit. I think that decision paid off as his new game, Beyond the Gates of Antares took some flaws in Bolt Action and improved on them to make for a great game.
Beyond the Gates of Antares (GoA) is a skirmish game for a force of several squads but could be expanded up to a few platoons if desired. It’s a one model-one man system in 28mm scale (although I can’t see any reason why it couldn’t be played in a smaller scale). It is a unit based system where commands are given to groups of 3-10 figures or single vehicle models.
The order system is lifted right from Bolt Action. Each unit is given a single, colored d6 die which is pulled individually for unit orders. If the color matches your force, you select a unit to activate giving it an order to run, move and shoot, hold position and fire, wait in ambush, hit the dirt, etc. It’s a system I like which is a little chaotic and random. Layered onto this is the effect of fire. Units which have been shot at take penalties (pins) to its leadership. This results in pinned units having to check and see if they can activate. If successful a pin marker is removed and the unit commits to its action, otherwise they hit the dirt and hold position (but a pin marker is still removed).
Units have a simple profile of a few stats for movement, effectiveness at shooting and melee, defense, leadership, and initiative. This last stat being representing how likely they can react to the enemy. This is one divergence from Bolt Action. Units not previously activated may potentially react to units within their line of sight either moving themselves or taking an opportunity to fire. Along with committed orders like ambush, this makes GoA a rather fluid game.
Shooting is a pretty simple affair. Depending on the type of weaponry a roll to hit is made with modifiers like for cover and range. Units hit then have a chance to shrug off casualties rolling to resist the attack (again modified by the type of weapon or being in heavy cover). If failed casualties are removed, while for vehicles and larger weapon systems a roll is made on a damage table. Some weapons have ranges that would cover the tabletop but most top out at 30” which seems enough for the typical game of a 4’ x 6’ table size
Regardless of any casualties, a pin maker is placed on a target unit if a hit is scored. Pins not only degrade combat effectiveness but also are markers to indicate penalties to leadership that’ll affect morale and command. As pins slowly accumulate if they ever exceed the command stat of a unit, the unit is destroyed outright.
Assaults are a little more involved. Units have to move into base to base contact. Afterwards each side has a round of simultaneous fire. This is followed up with a round of hand to hand combat that is resolved in a similar fashion except each casualty inflicts a pin. The side with the most pins loses the battle and will likely be destroyed outright. It’s worth noting that all die rolls are made using d10s. This allows for some more granularity in modifiers and troop stats that you might not see with using d6s. Also adopting some chaotic outcomes seen in engagements, GoA embraces the idea of a 1 succeeding (or offering a small bonus) while a 10 fails and usually these will trump the modifiers to a particular dice check.
Movement is a flat rate for models which are halved in rough terrain (with 5” typical for infantry troops). A nice wrinkle to GoA is that some units can push their movement up to 3 times their normal rate with a command check. So if needing to really get a heavy weapons team into position or advance onto an objective, you have that option. However the unit will take a pin after doing so.
A few rules are provided for vehicles and usually revolve around using a type of anti-gravity technology for movement. Additionally, most vehicles have multiple order dice allowing them to take several move and fire actions. This gives them a lot of opportunities to engage several units along with rapid movement and is a nice way of handling the improved mobility of vehicles.
An interesting concept with many of the troop units are the use of robot drones. There are several different types which provide additional defense, or improved modifiers for shooting, along with some that can act as a spotter for the unit. This is especially important as LOS and shooting are based on what models can see with intervening models and dense terrain blocking sight (and lines of fire). Coupled with this are quite a few special rules for ammunition and weapon types, along with varying armor equipment. All of this contributed to differentiating units and alien races that go beyond simply changing some base stats of troops.
Forces are composed of units based on point costs, along with limitations on troop options. A patrol force is required to have so many tactical options, and a limited number of support options. This offers some flexibility with creating your force but also provides some structure. However I do expect that people will dive into building lists to construct the ‘perfect’ army.
GoA comes with 6 generic scenarios where most revolve around capturing specific objectives or moving into sectors on the board with defined attackers and defenders (although 2 are essentially a ‘kill more of the enemy’ slog fest). Along with this are 6 narrative scenarios which are objective-based having a little more detailed table setup, deployment, and force composition. Having 12 scenarios along with rules for six different armies makes for a complete rule book. Throw into this a ton of background material on the game universe and you have the foundation for a pretty engaging wargame with room to grow.
The Good – This is a bit more than just Bolt Action in space. There are some tweaks to the rules permitting more flexible orders. The reaction system is great and allows for more dynamic play. Add to this the pinning system and you have a very fun skirmish wargame. There are several army options that embrace particular technologies. Using a d10 means you can layer on different modifiers for equipment and gear (along with troop types) which have some impact on how a unit performs.
The book has a lot of background material and having complete lists for different forces along with a lot of scenarios all mean the game has some legs with providing some system longevity. Coupled with this is a pleasant layout and presentation of the rules. Not to mention the lovely artwork, photographs, and oversized pages which makes the hardback quite an enjoyable game tome to read.
The Bad – I dig the d10 dice but leadership tests fall a little flat with me. In Bolt Action you rolled 2d6 on a leadership stat, while in GoA you roll a single d10. This means you will likely get some swings in both good and bad luck with a flat probability instead of playing with a distribution of outcomes using two dice.
Some of the mechanisms for shooting and combat are finicky. Hits are allocated individually to models, along with rolls to determine casualty outcomes. In practice this means rolling casualties one at a time. I’m working with a house rule to roll individually for special units, leaders, etc. while using a single roll casualty roll for multiple hits on troopers that share the same stats, then alternate between the defender and attacker removing casualties. LOS is also based on model bases and figure centers requiring open lines to targets, so expect some more rigid players considering breaking out the laser pointers. It’s not a big deal but it gluts up play some. Nothing that will ever crop up in friendly games but I expect to hear tales of player competitive friction with tourney play.
I am disappointed some with the vehicle rules. I do wish there were rules for air support and tank assaults. I get why this wasn’t done. You likely need another 4-5 pages to cover everything and defaulting to skimmer-type vehicles makes it easier to have condense vehicle rules. While you can get different flavor of movement types via special rules, the game loses some robustness. Lastly it’s a point based game. You are going to get those min-max force lists and some units underperforming for the points spent.
The Verdict – Beyond the Gates of Antares is a great sci-fi skirmish game. There’s a lot here people are going to like. I’ve been a fan of the random order mechanism and allowing units to react out of sequence is a pleasant addition to this. There are lots of options for gear and equipment to alter the base profiles of units to allow for variety in troops. Suppressing units with fire can be an effective means to remove or lock down units.
The game offers quite a few scenarios and offering some special engagements means players have a framework to make their own. I can see players digging in, tweaking current ones and creating their own to make an entire campaign (and something I suspect will be in the pipe from Warlord Games). Along with this is quite a bit of fluff. There’s 55 pages of it, all revolving around several ages where humans expanded into space, reached an epoch, and declined. This resulted in humans evolving and diverging into almost different species despite the existence of faster than light travel via inter-dimensional gates. It’s interesting stuff that’s offers some meat to spark a player’s imagination.
I can’t seem to shake the feeling they are looking at being a serious contender to 40K. The cover art obviously takes some inspiration from the original Rogue Trader 40K book. Given it’s from Priestly, you can’t blame him for trying to produce a wargame that would offer an engaging alternative to that industry behemoth. No idea how that battle will shake out but Beyond the Gates of Antares is a fun sci-fi skirmish game that offers interesting tactical play using some simple, easy to run rules.