Home > Trenchmates > Trenchmates – Wild West Exodus – A Review by Tim Chant

Trenchmates – Wild West Exodus – A Review by Tim Chant

A new year and a new Trenchmates article by the ever-reliable Tim Chant.  Here Tim discusses his recent foray into Outlaw Miniatures’ Wild West Exodus.

WWEWild West Exodus Review

Crowdsourcing is a wonderful and dangerous thing. I can get all sorts of interesting, offbeat things (games, miniatures, scenery) offered up at often significant discounts. I can also spend a lot of money without really realising it, and then have to wait for a year or more for my investment to come in (not to mention getting in the bad books of work’s mailroom staff).

I feel confident in stating that Wild West Exodus, the 35mm SF/Steampunk/Western semi-skirmish game by Outlaw Miniatures, was worth the wait.

Wild West Exodus (which I’ll abbreviate to WWE) is set in the Wild West not long after the end of the American Civil War, but in a history that has been radically altered by the discovery (by the dreaded Dr Carpathian – more on him later) of a new energy source – RJ-1027. Without wanting to go into too much detail about the set up and spoiling the prodigious amount of excellent background in the rulebook, a number of factions now vie for dominance in the West using weaponry powered by this new element or other weird and wonderful things, while dark and ancient forces move in the background and the Great Spirit had reawakened to combat evil. There’s a little bit of all sorts of things in there (as a Veteran of the Weird West I couldn’t help but draw some comparison with Deadlands), but a lot of really good original stuff and a good use of twisted history.

Four of us backed a Kickstarter for this last year, picking up the rules, four of the factions and some bits and pieces of scenery. I plumped for the forces of the Union, led by the horribly scarred and driven General Grant and the late President Lincoln, to be pitted against the Outlaws (imagine if the James-Younger Gang got together with Billy the Kid and every other famous outlaw and then got their hands on ray guns…), Dr Carpathian’s wicked Enlightened and the Warrior Nation, which brings together the great Native American heroes with a distinctly spiritual edge. The other faction released so far is the Lawmen (the usual suspects including the Earps), and I gather that a number of good and bad factions are planned.

I’m going to talk about the physical product first, then the game play.

TOOLS OF THE TRADE

The Miniatures

These chaps are 35mm, so stand a bit taller than a Space Marine miniature (I had considered dual-purposing them as Imperial Guard but the scale wouldn’t quite work). I’ll focus on the Union as they’re on the mantelpiece next to me.

The design blends classic styles of the period with steampunk/SF edges in the weapons and equipment – the Hired Hands (squaddies) are in the classic 19th Century uniform but with blaster rifles, rocket launchers, hip-fired Gatling guns and hoverbikes instead of horses. General Grant glares out from behind a metal mask while menacing enemy with a hand cannon and energy sabre, and Abe Lincoln swings an axe with a street howitzer built into the handle.

The miniatures look fantastic – I’m really looking forward to painting them and hope I do them justice. They’re single-pose designs, but the poses are dynamic and varied.

Most of the models came in a very familiar plastic and usually came in seven or eight main parts – torso to the knees and shoulder/elbow, head with collar, arms, weapons, and legs. The plastics are nice and clean, and although they took a little while to get used to once I’d worked out to put the heads on the right way round they came together well.

Most of the characters (as well as Grant and Lincoln I got Robert Pinkerton and Agent Lucinda Loveless as well as the Kickstarter exclusive Union Lady of the West) and the heavy support choice I added came in resin. Again, the designs are good and dynamic – Grant and the devastating Agent Loveless in particular. Abe has two potential poses – getting ready to split someone’s head like a log, or pointing the axe like a shotgun to use the… built in shotgun. I personally think that they were let down a little by the production – there was a lot of excess resin to be trimmed off, one or two weren’t easy to cut from the sprue without damaging them, and there are some joins which will need some modelling putty to smooth out. The Locust heavy support vehicle had so much extra resin I broke a nice blade trying to get it off, and will need to make with the putty to even out the attachment points for the skids. One of the other chaps reckons they’re as good if not better than Finecast, so I may just have been unlucky with mine. With all that said, though, they looked great after hours of gluing and cursing – I just hope Outlaw moves over to using plastic for everything.

Buying from new, the models aren’t particularly cheap nor are they exorbitant – a character model will clock in around £10 and a set of ten Hired Hands around £28. A faction starter box (three characters, plenty of Hired hands, light support and one heavy support vehicle) will set you back around £150. These are rough estimates based on current exchange rates. So far I haven’t been able to identify anywhere in the UK that sells them (Outlaw is based in Texas) so there’ll be postage to factor in. As an almost lifelong GW player, though, I’ve come to accept that ours is not a budget hobby and I think the miniatures are worth it, and it definitely helps that you don’t need a lot of models to have a fast, fun, well-balanced game – my first tester I put five models on the table.

The Scenery

We also got some scenery in the pledge – the inevitable mine carts, stacks of barrels etc – these were in resin, but much cleaner and in single pieces so no issues there. The buildings are definitely worth mentioning. These are laser cut HDF kits by Micro Art studios – we picked up the set of houses, the sheriff’s office (obviously) and saloon/hotel kit and have so far assembled the houses (including an outdoor convenience). Again, they took a little working out, but came together very logically, are solid builds and look great. We may be getting them ‘tarted up’ a bit, including turning the saloon into The Gem.

Rulebook and Accessories

The rulebook is a glossy, hardback affair which includes everything you need to know to play the game. The bulk of the book is world building done as a series of short stories/vignettes which introduce the world and why history diverged from our own, as well as giving some background on the factions and key characters. As a fluff/plot driven player I really like the fact that a lot of time and words were spent on the background. My only criticism would be that it needed a better proof read and maybe an index. If you’re not interested in the fluff you’re utterly soulless there are mini books with just the rules

The main book doesn’t include a lot about the individual factions. The miniatures come with cards that have everything you need to play them in a game – stats, weapons and special rules (I believe this is becoming quite common with indie games). A top tip that one of the chaps came up with is to laminate the cards – so far replacement cards haven’t been produced so it’s worth it to protect them from spillage/pets as well as helping with the game play (more on that later).

Personally, I’d like to see a bit more background on the characters. A nice touch, though is that Outlaw have started producing fairly short comics to accompany the game (the pledge came with the first three) that focus on the different characters and include extra scenarios, so I imagine they’ll continue the world building that way as well as through the novels.

Aside from that there’s a nifty multitemplate (different blast and flamer templates in one) and a set of counters, although we shifted to using poker chips for the Influence counters as there weren’t enough in the set.

THE GAME

To the guts of the matter. Three of us got together to test the system out (Union, Enlightened, Outlaws) – we fought Outlaw against Enlightened, Union against Outlaw and then a three-person scrap. I’ll reflect first on the composition of the forces.

Factions and Posses

Each side fields a posse/gang etc to an agreed cost. The game is set up to allow everything from a shoot-out with a handful of miniatures to a full-on war with vehicles and dozens of miniatures aside. Each posse is built around a Boss – you have to take one and can’t take more. Bosses can be backed by limited numbers of Underbosses and Sidekicks, any number of Hired Hands (ranged or close combat), and a handful or light and heavy support units.

By way of an example, for my first $500 game I fielded:

Boss – General Grant ($205)

Underboss – none

Sidekick – Lucinda Loveless ($100)

Hired Hands – Four long-range troops ($35/each)

Heavy Support – Gatling Gun ($50)

As you can see, it’s not a large force. The Union seem to be quite capable in the long-ranged department. The Hired Hands are good and the characters offer some good buffs. Grant, Lincoln and Loveless are good at short range and Grant in particular is devastating in hand to hand.

The different factions offer different styles of play. The Enlightened Hired Hands are essentially Frankenstein’s Monsters but with no free will and heaps of guns. They’re cheap, offer a high volume fire but low accuracy – most entertainingly, they explode if shot or if detonated by Dr Carpathian (and if you knock them over in hand to hand he can still chose to blow them up – so knock ’em down and move on in a hurry). The Sidekicks and Underbosses seem to be larger constructs with an array of heavy weapons. Carpathian himself buffs the constructs, is well-armoured against ranged attacks carried some devastating firepower. We’ve not seen it yet but Gustav Eiffel in his mechanical spider seems quite intimidating.

The Outlaws, to me, offer a more individualist style of play. The characters can do some serious harm in shooting (Billy the Kid in particular can turn into a whirlwind of cascading death, earning actions for each kill he makes while Jesse James can do some serious harm at range), wile their Hired Hands are particularly capable in close combat. I’m going to be interested to see how the Warrior Nation stacks up – they mix shapechangers and mystic power with salvaged weapons.

I like the set up of what you can and can’t take, but one thing I’d like to talk with my gaming group about and playtest would be to adjust the list depending on the size of battle – for instance not having to take a Boss for smaller battles but taking an Underboss instead, and alternatively upping the numbers for the largest battles.

A nice little extra is the selection of mercenaries who can take up slots as Underbosses and Sidekicks, bringing something a bit different to what your faction usually has (although some mercs won’t fight for certain factions). Outlaw do a nice range of mercs based on the crew of a certain sadly short-lived SF Western series.

Several of the characters can be taken by different Factions – one of the Earps, for instance, can be either Union or Lawmen.

The System

Hold on to your hats here – this is a d10 system (luckily, as White Wolf games get played here we have a bucket). We agreed that the game itself was a real pleasure to play – the system is simple, quick once we got the hang of it, and both players are involved all the way through. Without wanting to go into exhaustive detail, every model has a series of stats to test against (Marksmanship for shooting, Physical Ability for close combat and resistance etc) – some you aim to roll under, some over. Marksmanship in particular can be modified (range, cover etc).

Actions are defined by Action Points. Most models with have two, some three or even four. Every action has an associated cost, usually one, so the number of action points will determine how much any model can do (move and shoot, shoot twice, move shoot move if you have enough APs). The game is played by each player taking it in turns to activate a group of 1-3 models (in most circumstances), doing all of their actions and then passing to the other player. I found this particularly satisfying as I’m used to playing Marine against Guard and therefore spending a large amount of time being subjected to mass firepower resolved one after the other. This is a particularly good mechanic for multi-player battles.

The other particularly nice mechanic is Influence. Each posse will have an Influence pool which is generated by the particular characters. Influence is committed by a particular roll (multiple points can be spent) and is then used to get re-rolls if you’re not satisfied with the result. As committed Influence that isn’t spent is lost, it’s a bit of a gamble which adds an element of calculation to the game. As characters are killed off, their Influence contribution is lost to the pool. It can be a real battle changer, but you can also find yourself desperately short at critical moments.

Gameplay

On the whole, we found the rules really straightforward and once we learned them they made for a fast game. Pretty sure that when we’re fully comfortable with the rules a $500 battle could be done in a couple of hours, which would make a good afternoon game. There are a few rules that caused some confusion – the hand to hand system is a little more complex (they usually are) and the cover rules took us a little while to get right (I think we’ve got it right anyway!).

Having each model’s rules on a card in front saved a lot of time that would have been spent leafing through army books. The cards are also used to keep track of damage to each model (the ‘lifeblood’ track), and this is where the laminated cards came in handy as we are were to mark the dots of lifeblood off, confident of being able to clean the cards afterwards.

We gamed on a four-by four table which was just right for a smaller game and allowed us to close the range fast – given that a model could e moving up to 18 inches in an activation you can really get to grips quickly, and the way to put down character seems to be to get into hand to hand with them. I think a six by four will be necessary for larger fights and those using vehicles (we didn’t use vehicles or the optional rules for buildings in the book, to keep things simple).

WEE1

WEE2

Conclusion

I have to say, I enjoyed this game enormously. There’s humour in some of the special rules and the situations we got into, and the simple rules meant there was limited frustration. Personally, I think the Factions are reasonably well balanced – my opponents seemed to find Agent Loveless quite terrifying, particularly for her cost, whereas I thought Carpathian was more than somewhat terrifying!

I think there are a few tweaks to be made to the system that we might consider for house rules, and I’m keen to see how this would work as a campaign using a Necromunda-style gang advancement. I shall look forward to future comics for updates, scenarios and backgrounds.

I’m certainly happy with the investment and will continue to build my Union force and keep an eye on what else is released with a view to a second faction to keep things interesting.

Thanks again to Tim for taking the time to write up this great sounding game.  For more information, head over to Outlaw Minatures’ website and remember, if you’d like to contribute an article you can find all the information you need here.

  1. Tim
    01/15/2014 at 21:40

    Played our first game to conclusion this evening – battered the snot out of each other. Grant took down Billy the Kid early in close combat but died in the hail of return fire. Got very tense at the end but the Union took it after Agent Loveless killed Johnny Ringo in a hail of derringer fire and the Outlaws fled – two of them running out in front of the rocket pod soldier, who vapourised them and the remaining gunman rallying at the end to end his days bighting the bloodied dust from a careful line trooper’s shot.

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