Home > Trenchmates > Trenchmates – Wild West Exodus 2nd Edition

Trenchmates – Wild West Exodus 2nd Edition

WWX2 Logo

From the ashes of Outlaw Games’ demise comes Warcradle Studio’s new incarnation of Wild West Exodus.  Tim takes a look.


I got into Wild West Exodus pretty much with the bricks, backing both of Outlaw’s kickstarter campaigns first to launch it then expand it – some of you may have read my thoughts on the original edition. I didn’t quite know what to make of the announcement, not long after the Unfinished Business kickstarter delivered, that Warcradle was taking the property on and was bringing out a new edition. I guess like many wargamers, I’m a little adverse to change (despite many years and editions of 40K) but I was in too deep not to give the new version a chance.

I’m glad I did.

I’ve only bought a couple of the new range of miniatures – pretty much everything I have is from the crowdfunding campaigns – so my reflections will be based primarily on gaming with these minis. (Full disclosure – I have Lawmen, Union, Confederate, Golden Army, Hex, Warrior Nation as well as having access to a couple of friends’ Outlaws, Enlightened and Watchers while I paint them – I may have a bit of a problem..). I’ve also not managed to get my teeth into the updated ruleset. So – my thoughts with these caveats in mind.

Army Selection

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First thing to say is that every miniature produced previously is supported, although they may have changed somewhat and, for instance, what had been a Dark Council member of which you could take many is now a unique character. Which is great for someone who’s been in it a while but not yet in a position to delve into the new minis.

Army building is based around Posses – you pick a boss, and then either a standard posse for the faction or one of the ‘theme’ posses based around a particular boss (which for the Outlaws in particular means a wide array of theme posses). This is a great way of building a balanced army while also being able to do different set ups without needing a huge collection. For instance in the game I’ve just played we pitted a generic Union posse against Stonewall Jackson’s theme posse. This looked like:

Union – Grant (Boss). First slot (Hands) filled with a three-man Rifle section with a rocket launcher added. Second slot (Face) Robert Pinkerton, Third slot (Face) Lucinda Loveless (one of my favourites both for the mini and how dangerous she is), Fourth Slot (Hands) three man Union Skirmishers.

Confederacy – Stonewall Jackson (Boss), Ben Hamilton (Face). The other slots, as far as I was taking the posse within the small points limit, could be filled by any Confederate unit so I loaded up with Faces and a Blackhoof Scout as they were the minis I had painted. It was also a good demonstration of taking a small, named force against a slightly larger mix of characters and Hands.

I’ve not delved too far into the theme posses yet, but from what I’ve seen it also allows you to mix and match models from different factions as long as they have some of the right keywords on the card – so some of the Mercenary figures or Captain Nimue (thanks, Warcradle, for the freebie!). As noted above, I can also build wildly different posses by combining the same models with a couple of extras. One thing I didn’t pick up on when picking the posses was that filling one out completely grants extra bonuses – so if you have at least one item in each of Jackson’s posse slots the whole thing gains the Elite special rule. Which is a nice little touch.

There wasn’t too much humming and hawing over gear – there’s a little bit of decision making with the Union over what heavy weapon to bring but that was about it. Sometimes I like a bit more granularity about load out, but this felt to be at the right level for this game. And speaking of the game…

Gameplay

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This is very different to the 1st ed. I’d played the previous edition a few times and my opponent had played it once, so it wasn’t too much of a problem to adjust. I loved the previous edition, but I think I prefer the new version. Everything, more or less, is against a target of 10 on a D10 roll plus whatever skill is applicable. A key change is how damage works – instead of tracking ‘lifeblood’ on absolutely everything, ranging from your Hands who will probably die from a hit to some of the Bosses who you just have to chip away at, it’s done on a ‘one shot stop system’ – if your opponent makes the shot, you take a Grit check modified by any piercing on the shot, if you fail the target is gone.

But hold up! Your Hands, unless you’re very careful, will probably disappear in a welter of gore, as it should be. Your Faces and Bosses, however, have a range of special rules that will keep them going even if the Grit is failed – specifically, the aptly titled the Quick and the Dead rule which allows them to dodge damage at the last minute (having a name tag is handy!) and Mettle that allows them to soak the damage and be disordered instead of taken out. The kicker is that each of these only applies once, so it’s about hitting these hard targets often enough to use up their ‘get out of the grave’ cards in one turn. A good example of how this can go was the differing fates of Odysseus Grant and Ben Hamilton in today’s game.

Grant I managed to flank, removing the cover and making him easier to hit and damage as it removed bonuses to his Grit checks. I then hammered hell out of him from Jackson (hefty pistola) and Franklyn with some sort of thermite-round throwing Gatling monstrosity. He weathered one round of shooting like that. Second round, I clobbered him with Jackson again and had to run Hamilton up and use his ‘mousepistols’ (instead of his crossbow, because obviously you bring a crossbow to a machine gun fight) to finish Grant. As an aside, Grant is Tainted by the evil woo in the world (the background is fun) and a Hex Beast crawled out of his corpse – to be promptly gunned down by Franklyn.

Hamilton then leapt up onto a walkway to secure an objective (always play the objectives, people!). That brought him under fire from Robert Pinkerton and then under close assault by Lucinda Loveless and her lethal bladed fan. I had to run another Face, Belle Wilson, in to help him against Loveless – her Close Work pistols meaning she could fight with them in hand to hand rather than risking hitting Hamilton with her rifle. The lower piercing quality of Pinkerton’s rifle compared to Jackson’s pistol against Grant meant that Hamilton survived the experience and garnered me VPs all the way to the end (I might have been a but luckier with the dice as well) – he never took quite enough damage to overwhelm his Grit, the Quick and the Dead and Mettle all in one turn though he did spend a certain amount of time Disordered.

The Blackhoof Scout, however, did not fare so well. Although it had a special rule allowing it to force hits to be re-rolled as long as it had moved that turn, as soon as the Union rifles and rocket launchers caught it napping it got obliterated. Vapourised. I had it by itself on a flank trying for an objective, and that was a mistake. Unsupported cavalry suffers. I’m not sure I’ll take it again in a smaller scale battle.

The other really fun mechanics (and I maybe let my enthusiasm for destruction run away with me as I should have covered this first) are the Adventure and Action Decks. The Action Deck is how you determine how often each unit can act when it activates – they range from 1 to 3 action points which you use to perform a range of actions (though repeating the same action costs double). Lower powered units can only use 1 or 2 (their ‘limit’) no matter how many you draw. Faces and Bosses generally use two or three, so it’s a real kicker when your bad hombre boss pulls a ‘1’ at a key point in the game. I know a lot of folks don’t like randomness, but for me it adds a thrill to proceedings, forces you to think on your feet, and represents the fact that even the stoutest heroes and villains can stumble. The Adventure Deck comes in here to help when the Action Deck lets you down or your posse needs a kick in the seat of their britches to get them going.

This is a hand drawn from an extensive deck, the number you hold determined by the size of the game. Each one can have two effects, the Guts and the Glory. Guts cards can help you do things like get extra action points, seize the initiative, chain activations together and other more esoteric things. Glory gives you victory points for achieving certain side objectives. The kicker is that you can only use one or the other when you play a card, forcing you to chose between immediate bonuses and potentially racking up points to win the game. It’s another nice mechanic to give you a bit more control but also forces you to balance priorities.

Overall, it was relatively fast and straightforward to play and had some really heart pounding moments for both players. There are a couple of nuances around the Quick and the Dead and some of the other special rules, as well as hand to hand, which I still need to get my head around properly. There are a fair few unit and weapon special rules which were a little hard to keep track of (though my opponent very quickly started remembering the Priority Target rule that meant a lot of characters can’t be shot at unless they’re the closest target). Rules that are specific to the unit are printed on the card (more on that in a mo) and it’s worth paying close attention to them right from picking the posse. Others are in the main book, though it’s probably better to get the most up to date on-line. This is perhaps my only sort of criticism of the game, but one that an be fixed by printing out a crib sheet.

Tools of the Trade

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As I said at the beginning, most of the minis I have are from the original Outlaw Games run of the game and I’ve written about them before (pretty good, dynamic, some issues putting them together and oh God the straps and buckles on the Union Hands). I do have a couple of the new minis (Rani Nimue and Nakano Gozen) and they’re amazing – still a bit of a fiddle to put together but very, very dynamic. My one issue is the continued use of resin for some minis, but that’s personal taste (much prefer plastic). I’m looking forward to getting stuck into some of the themed posses, though this will mean replacing some of my existing minis.

In terms of scenery, anything Western-y works. I have some of the Microart studio buildings from the first kickstarter, some TT Combat stuff including a super-cool paddle steamer that I’m going to steampunk up, and I’m working on 3D printing more. Warcradle (or an affiliate) also does a really cool range of bespoke buildings themed around their various starter sets). Laser-cut MDF buildings work really well for this system. I think a fairly well-covered battlefield is better unless you’ve got a really big fight on – my next step is to build coherent scenery sets such as a frontier town, a dusty outpost, mining compound etc.

A nice touch is that everything rules wise is downloadable free of charge – this includes the Action and Adventure Decks so you can print your own (though I prefer having proper cards so ordered two sets), templates, and the special rules as a separate reference sheet. Each unit in the game has a card that can be downloaded that has more or less everything you need on it (exceptions being any special weapons you purchase and the common rules). I played with the unit cards up on my laptop and that did slow things down somewhat – not sure if there’s a way to build a deck of your unit cards on the phone or a pad, which would be great; the other option would be to print them out of course. Everything being on-line means it’s a pretty live ruleset, which makes it a bit more responsive.

In Conclusion

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I’m definitely sticking with this, and not just because I already have a huge collection. It falls somewhere between being really paired down and simple, and being complex and granular – both of which, of course, have their appeals. This makes for a fast and exciting game (once you have the special rules down) but one which gives you the opportunity for some fun combos both in picking your posses and how the Adventure Deck interacts with gameplay. You can play with some pretty small posses – both forces fit into a single layer in my KR skirmish case with some spare minis or you can go for bigger battles, giving you a real range and allowing you to combine different posses in a force. I’m going to finish off the miniatures I have, then I’m going to be hard pressed to decide on which posse to go for next. Plus making coherent scenery sets…

Warcradle, of course, has also acquired the late, lamented Spartan properties Dystopian properties and combined them and Wild West Exodus into a single setting. I’m eagerly awaiting my copy of the 3rd ed Dystopian Wars rulebook to see how they’ve evolved the system and to see how it all works together. More on that in another post, I’m sure.

Tim is a wargamer and roleplayer based in Edinburgh. He’s a novelist, publishing under the name T.Q. Chant, and is currently looking for backers for a crowdfunded campaign to bring a steampunk novel to print (https://unbound.com/books/the-frost-fair/). He’d also really like to get into writing for the wargames he plays (hint hint…). He has a day job, but it’s really dull (Seriously, it is – I work with him! – J).


Many thanks again to Tim for lowering himself to my level.  If you want to know more about WWX2, head to the game’s official website and if you’d like to contribute your own article please take a look here.

 

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