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Trenchmates – Wild West Exodus 2nd Edition

08/18/2018 Leave a comment

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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Trenchmates – Have you ever absolutely hated painting a miniature?

03/19/2016 Leave a comment

We’ve all been there.  In this article, regular contributor Tim Chant talks about a common problem the hobby presents.

Have you ever absolutely hated painting a miniature? So much so that you’ll only ever get round to finishing it because you absolutely have to for a tournament, and you take the ‘just about tabletop ready’ will do approach?

I have.

I’ve mentioned Wild West Exodus a few times (you may have noticed), and how much I like both the game and the miniatures. I’ve just finished painting the Union Hired Hands (five long range and five close combat) troops I got in the launch Kickstarter, and they’re great models.

I hated painting the buggers, though, and I have no idea why.

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They’re very detailed figures, with a profusion of straps and buckles to hold their armour in place, and well proportioned. Their weapons aren’t OTT in scale or steampunkiness. I think it was the detail that killed them for me – trying to do all of the individuals straps and associated buckles rather than just shrugging and painting over them, plus getting the skin tones and the facial hair right. I think I’ve got them to a reasonable standard to game with (at least when seen from afar) though I was a little disappointed that my attempt to make the tunics and trousers different shades of blue doesn’t seem to have come out. I started with the Vallejo Ultramarine Blue and then drybrushed layers, aiming for slightly lighter blue trousers. I didn’t even try to do the eyes, just shaded the eyesockets with a couple of coats of dark ink and hope no-one notices under the brims of their caps.

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I was a bit stop start with the project, and only really got round to finishing them because I’m going to be showing off the game in the near future and will have a ton more stuff to do before then (a mass of scenery and at least one other faction, possibly one of the news ones I’m waiting on from the second Kickstarter).

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The weird thing is, I’ve found the characters I’ve painted so far pretty (3 Union and one Outlaw) straightforward and an absolute pleasure to paint – I think I did a much better job with them as well. I’m sure a better painter would have handled the Line Troops more effectively than I did. But hey, they’re done and I can get on with other projects…

Thanks again to Tim, I feel my resistance to this game crumbling by the day 😉

Trenchmate contributions are always welcome, for more information just click here.

New Year, New Creative Intentions, and New Publication

01/07/2016 Leave a comment

Hard Setdown

What’s that?  Could we have a new soon-to-be-everyone’s-favourite sci-fi author guesting on this little blog?  Well, possibly; Trenchmate Tim has published his first short story and I’ve turned the blog over to him to tell us a bit more about it.

Shameless self-promotion time…

Regular visitors to these hallowed pages may have noticed that I’m a reasonably frequent Trenchmates contributor, talking mostly about my Marines and also waxing lyrical about Wild West Exodus. I’m intending to have a more hobby-productive year so hopefully there’ll be some more articles from me (on Project Deathwing and Kitbash Korner to name a couple or major undertakings for 2016).

When I’m not shackled to a cogitator station at work or turning out Trenchmate articles, I also write fiction – mostly the sort of fiction I like to read, so pretty gritty hardboiled science fiction, history and alternate history, and a touch of Fantasy. Oddly enough, most of the wargames and RPGs I enjoy fall into these categories.

I’ve just released my first (self-)published work on Amazon Kindle, Sam Cane: Hard Setdown. It’s a gritty, grimy science fiction novella, a survival mystery with a twist of horror. Sam Cane, reformed con-artist and ex-soldier, is fleeing her past and an enemy so dangerous, the only place she can hide is the other fringes of human settlement. Arriving at a small colony on an arid world to take up a posting as a security officer, she finds herself in a situation that’s no less dangerous. She’s forced to rely on her diverse and unique skillset to survive and work out what’s going on. Sam’s adventures by no means end here and I intend to keep publishing short works telling her story and exploring her world. If that tickles your fancy, you can find it here.

What has this to do with the hobby, I hear you think? In some ways, very little (did you notice the bit about shameless self-promotion above?). I’d love to write for GW or other hobby companies, even just doing fluff pieces for rulebooks (and will be applying to GW), but Sam is my own work and not connected with any existing universe.

What I do think is that wargaming and roleplaying help make me a better writer (and vice versa). There are a number of obvious similarities – running RPGs and writing both involve careful world building, characterisation, and attention to detail. The same applies to wargaming if you’re any kind of fluff player (which I am) – I create backgrounds for all my armies (and named characters and notable squads) and work out how those in any given game system tie together with each other and my opponent’s forces. I like a battle that has a narrative background and enjoy games linked as a story campaign. I think there’s also something in the hobby side as well, the careful attention to detail needed when building and painting a model and the thought that can go into telling a particular figure’s background in how it’s equipped, posed and painted. And I think, above all else, being immersed in something creative that almost entirely under your control helps sharpen the mind and hone the imagination – which is why I have no truck with people who say wargaming is just playing with kids’ toys.

I also can’t pretend that my years in the Grimdark haven’t coloured my writing at least a little bit – but it would be an odd writer or hobbyist who isn’t influenced by others.

So my plan this year is more reading across all my interests (want to get caught up with the HH series for one), more hobby time (including more Trenchmate articles) and more writing.

And if you do take a look at Hard Setdown, I hope you enjoy it and I’d welcome any comments on it.

Thanks for this, Tim.  I’ve just downloaded this for my PC/iPhone and I hope to consume it tomorrow.  Dear readers (all two of you), please, please, please download this, you won’t be disappointed. 

Trenchmates – Wild West Exodus: Painting the Minis by Tim Chant

10/28/2015 Leave a comment

You’ve read it right, Trenchmates is back!  Regular contributor, opponent and partner in crime Tim Chant talks about how he’s getting on painting his WWX Union force.

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I’m now a decent way through painting my Union force for Wild West Exodus so thought this might be a good time to offer some reflections on the miniatures from a hobby rather than gaming perspective.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I really like the models. I have a few gripes (lack of posability, some problems with resin quality control which I hope will have been fixed for the main run) but overall they don’t diminish my favourable opinion. I’m writing from the perspective of having assembled the miniatures before painting (I suffered from the usual gamer malaise of throwing myself into assembly without really thinking it through), and also from the perspective of being about competent as a painter.

First up was Lucinda Loveless. There are maybe a few issues with how Agent Loveless is presented in terms of pose and style (I’ve seen far worse though), but she was fairly straightforward and fun to paint. I used the excellent Valejo Army Painter blue coloured primer as the bulk of the model was going to be blue and then built up the blue with a wash and then a series of drybrushes of increasingly lighter shade (I use GW paints after the initial colour primer). I’m particularly pleased with the effect of the hem of the dress and also with her armoured bodice (one of my favourite colour combos is a dark bronze drybrushed with brass). I’m less happy about the flesh tones and her eyes – faces is where I really fall down.

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I also used the blue primer for Robert Pinkerton and I think General Grant. I’ve mentioned using the primers before and will reflect more fully on them in another post, but I cannot overstate how much faster they make a paint job. Both were, again, very straightforward models, though Grant was complicated by my pre-assembly as the positioning of his arms meant getting at his armour carapace harder. The unifying colour of the army is blue, but I went for a darker shade for Grant and made his metal work fairly dull to reflect the grim nature of the character. I had a go at giving him a glowing power sword, with mixed results – mercifully he wears a mask so I didn’t have to worry about his face. I cranked this mini out in about three hours while taking part in an on-line RPG, one of my fastest paint jobs.

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Most recently, I’ve completed Mr Lincoln (there’s backstory here in that he’s faked his death so he can join Grant’s forces and try to keep the general under control). Outlaw have gone full on stove pipe, shovel beard and axe/shotgun combo. The obvious choice would have been to paint everything black (I actually undercoated using Chaos Black for this mini) but in the end I went with a dark blue coat and lighter blue trousers, and a dull iron carapace rather than brass. This makes him fit with the colour theme of the posse and also avoids the cliché. He comes with a choice of poses (holding the axe like a shotgun or over his head, ready to chop lumber or… other things). In the end I think I managed to assemble him somewhere between the two official poses, and was the only mini I painted before finishing assembly. I probably should have used some green stuff to smooth out some joins in the miniatures, but got a little over enthusiastic about getting him finished. His hair and beard was a bit of a struggle, and I gave up try to paint his eyes as they’re mostly shaded by his steampunk stovepipe hat so just shaded the sockets.

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A note on basing. Grant, Loveless and Pinkerton have fairly simple bases – I glued grit to the top of the base and then tried to achieve a sandy look. As Lincoln’s stance means he doesn’t fit onto a standard base, I created a scenic base for him using putty and a Basius mould so I appears he’s standing on a cellar trapdoor.

As these models are resin, I finished the paint job with a coat of varnish (GW Purity Seal) as the paint was rubbing off easily (I had to redo sections more than a few times as my handling while painting took chunks out of the paint).

I think because most of these miniatures are wearing long coats (or in Loveless’ case a dress) they were fairly quick, fun paint jobw. The Line Troops, basically the grunts of the unit, are a whole other issue. These are superbly detailed miniatures, and herein lies the rub. They have a profusion – one might say a plethora – of straps and buckles and details on armour and weapons which has started to do my pan in. I’m too much of a perfectionist just to paint these over, but not yet skilled enough to do a decent job of painting them. These miniatures have gone back into the box for now, though I will dig them out and finish them in due course. With them done and my Locust light support vehicle painted and assembled, I will be up to date with Union forces – hopefully in time for the delivery of the ‘Unfinished Business’ kickstarter which will give me another three factions to paint and a few more bits for the Union to boot…

Currently I’m working on Jesse James for the Outlaw gang. I don’t actually own this gang, my chum and regular opponent [NAME REDACTED BY ORDER OF THE HOLY INQUISITION] does, and I’ve volunteered to paint the gang (because he never will…). I’ve gone with black and brown for this colour scheme, and have upped my game slightly after taking excellent advice from a more experienced miniature painter on edge highlighting on his duster. This chap came apart as I was trying to prize him off his base o I could take a similar approach to Lincoln’s base, which has made the job a lot easier. With him done, I might go back to those blasted Line Troops…

Again, many thanks to Tim for his contribution, it’s getting harder for me not to pick up a small force for this game…

Trenchmate contributions are always welcome, for more information just click here.

Join Me!

03/30/2015 5 comments
Come on, what's the worst that could happen?

Come on, what’s the worst that could happen?

Regular readers (hi, you two!) will know that I beg for encourage contributions to this pokey little blog under the Trenchmates banner.  I’ve been running this scheme for almost three years and I’ve had some pretty great people provide fantastic articles, you can read them all here. But like Hive Fleet Clarkson, I’m never satisfied without some fresh meat.

Therefore I’d like to once again appeal to you, dear readers, to consider writing an article or two for this lovely corner of the internet.  It can be about anything games-related, so far I’ve had reviews, editorial pieces, a Games Day report and people (well, Tim) showing off finished models and I WANT MORE.  Nor do I limit myself to table top wargaming, I’d really to feature some RPG (maybe even LARP) articles but I don’t think I’d do them much justice.

If you’re interested, and why wouldn’t you be, please feel free to contact me either via the blog, my Facebook Page, my Twitter Account or by emailing ramblingsfromthetrenches@virginmedia.com.

I hope to hear from some of you soon 🙂

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Trenchmates – The Dark Talon by Tim Chant

10/16/2014 Leave a comment

Can it really be ten months since we heard from Tim?  Not really, I’ve been ultra crap and lost this article in the Inbox From Hell for the better part of two months (sorry, Tim!) so without futher a do, here’s a review of the Dark Angels Dark Talon flyer, AKA Holy Fuck, Run!

Tim has done an amazing job on this model.

Tim has done an amazing job on this model.

If wargaming has an equivalent to a crazy cat lady, it would probably be me – the crazy Space Marine collector. Right from catching the bug in the very late ‘80s I’ve liked the power armoured fist of the Emperor, perhaps because my first introduction was playing as the Imperial side in ‘Space Marine’. Since then and across both 40K and Epic I’ve dallied variously with various styles – Codex, Space Wolves, Blood Angels and Dark Angels as well as a variety of other good(ish) guys. Yes, I even had the Army that shall not be named (but who were quite short and angry).

Right now I’ve only got three Marine forces on the go – my own Codex Chapter, the Reavers Redemptor, Space Wolves, and Dark Angels (plus I’m planning on painting some spare squads as other Chapters just to give myself some variety). I’ve always loved the followers of the Lion – the backstory and the style really appeal to me, and I think the latest Codex has done an excellent job in making them completely different from vanilla ‘Rines, when before they’d felt like a Codex Chapter with a few funky things thrown in. One of the best examples of this evolution is the Dark Talon. The addition of flyers to the 40K tabletop has really added to the dynamic of the game. I feel that both Dark Angel flyers add to the unique flavour of the Chapter, particularly the Gothic look and mysterious technology of the Dark Talon.

To begin with, I think it’s a lovely model. Obviously derived from the Storm Talon STC, it’s gone in a completely different direction in terms of style and effect. The fuselage is essentially the same design, but it’s a fixed wing and the designers have outdone themselves to layer on enough architecture and skulls to make it look like a flying reliquary (with some real teeth – more on that later). This detail was one of the things that made it a joy (and a bit of a fiddle) to paint. I’ve painted a lot of the skulls as being ‘real’ and think of them as either the skulls of slain enemies or the skull of dead serfs given a position of honour in the reliquary. I didn’t attach the side panels of the ornamental section until everything was paint, as they would have been a nightmare to paint. The hardest part, though, was doing the Aquila panels on the wings – I made the classic error of trying to emulate the professional painted style on the miniatures in the book and ended up with a bit of a mess and more layers of paint that the Forth Rail Bridge. The rest of the model was pretty straightforward after that…

I’ve now deployed the Talon twice, once against Chaos Daemons (in 6th ed) and once against John’s Heralds of Desolation Chaos Marines (in 7th). I used it in similar but slightly different ways.

First time out was against a force of mostly Tzeentch with some Khorne thrown in. I was fielding a force of Reavers Redemptor with some Dark Angel friends (mostly because the Reavers are currently undergoing some restructuring and I didn’t have a complete force painted). I played it reasonably cautiously, not having gone toe-to-toe/claw/hoof with Daemons before, and went for a gunline with a whack of air support (Storm Talon and of course the Storm Talon). Things got more than a bit hairy, particularly with a fairly large pack of Bloodletters closing in on my Librarian commander and the Tactical Squad he was leading. My airpower came on in turn 3 or 4 on the opposite flank to that little bundle of fun, and the Storm Talon in particular did some good harm to the Pink Horrors that formed the backbone of the army. The Dark Talon, though, really came into its own on the next turn. I was able to send the Talon hurtling across the battlefield and just had range to deploy the Stasis Bomb in a ‘danger close’ fashion on Khorne’s finest just as they had closed into charge range.

For anyone not familiar with it, the Stasis Bomb has an alright profile in terms of the numbers (Str 3 large blast with no AP one shot) which in its own right means it can cause casualties in low toughness horde armies, though in this case I don’t think I caused any casualties. It’s real strength is to knock 3 off both Weapon Skill and Toughness. This was decisive – I was able to follow up the bombing with a charge with the Librarian and his Tactical Marines which wiped out the Daemon pack, something I would never have considered if the Bloodletters were at full strength. It was still a tough fight, and I took casualties, but I don’t think I would have won it without that intervention. That and the judicious use of Chapter Tactics to deal with a Screamer infiltration stabilised my left flank and turned the battle (just) in my favour. As an interesting side note, the manoeuvring required for the bombing run meant the Dark Talon had no shooting targets that turn and would almost certain ended up going off the table the next turn if the game hadn’t ended there, but I still considered it a worthwhile move.

It’s second deployment was against John’s traitor scum. I’d gone for a more aggressive force this time, again mostly Reavers with some Dark Angel support. My plan was to anchor my right flank with Tacticals and Devastators and then hammer through John’s right with Captain Tann Hauser and his entourage on bikes accompanied by a six-strong Bike Squad. I put them through the city streets, a move expedited by the White Scar Chapter Tactic. I again deployed a Storm Talon and Dark Talon (they’re two of the paint jobs I’m most proud of so why not?) and this time used the Dark Talon to pave the way for an assault rather than stabilise a defence.

The heretics were coming against my left flank with a twenty-strong squad of Marines led by a Sorcerer, while their vile Cultists camped on an objective. First turn out the Sorcerer in particular handed out some punishment, but the Dark Talon’s arrival was perfectly timed. The Talon was able to go straight over this slightly terrifying behemoth squad (I like to visualise it tearing down the street below telephone wire level like a 2nd World War Mosquito) and plant the Stasis Bomb square on the Traitors before going on to give a light (but less than impressive) peppering to the dug in Cultists with its forward firing weapons. Again, the bomb run was danger close – I have a bad history with scatter rolls and my bikes were close enough that they might have been caught, but this time the dice were on my side. I hit the Chaos Marines with both bike squads and it was, to be frank, a bit of a massacre. Captain Hauser and battle brothers are unsurprisingly close combat oriented. Hauser challenged the Sorcerer and took him apart while the rest of the Blacktoppers (the Reaver’s name for their Third Company bikers) savaged the enemy footsloggers, breaking and overrunning them in a turn.

Dark Talon 01

There was a twenty man squad of Chaos Marines here a second ago, stupid Dark Angels!

Now that was a fight my bikers would probably have won anyway. Standard Chaos Marines are better in close combat than Tacticals by dint of their two hand weapons and the Sorcerer, while not the tastiest in a fight, is still pretty flavoursome. Assault-optimised bike Veterans (with T5) and a Bike Squad to beef up the numbers would still have done the business. A straight pile in, though, would probably have lasted at least another turn and degraded both squads (as it was I don’t think I took any casualties). What the Dark Talon did was make it a walkover (sorry John) which meant on the next turn my Command Squad was able to burn, blast and hack the Cultists off the Objective they were holding before continuing on to roll up the Traitor’s right flank. That allowed my infantry, Vindicator and Storm Talon to focus on the slightly scary combination of Kharn and friends, a Chaos Terminator Squad and a second Chaos Marine squad that had become bogged down after I immobilised both the enemy Rhinos. (Kharn was the last foul follower of the Dark Gods on the field and fell in a hail of gunfire having wiped out my flanking Scouts and ripped up a Vindicator).

My initial assessment of the Dark Talon, then? Standing on its own merits it’s handy – the forward firepower of the Rift Canon (Str 5, Ap-, blast, Blind) and two sets of Hurricane Bolters will be pretty good against low toughness, low armour but numerous enemies (the humble bolter is not to be sniffed at) though in both times I’ve fielded it I’ve not used the guns a lot. For a longer battle or if you manage to bring it on early I imagine they’ll be good for harassing fire after you’ve used the Stasis Bomb.

The bomb is a force multiplier for your units on the ground and needs careful timing and placement. I think the temptation, as the Dark Talon may not be made of tissue paper but is not super tough either, is to drop the bomb as soon as you have a target and hope it causes some casualties. I think it’s well worth holding on to until you have the right target, even if that means risking a blue-on-blue strike. It can make a next to impossible assault proposition something worth attempting (like tactical Marines taking on a screaming mass of assault daemons). It can make a nut that would be tough but not impossible to crack an easy proposition, allowing your own assault units to clean the gore off their chainswords and charge on after a quick round of combat. While I’ve not tested it yet, I’m guessing it will make the really scary stuff something you can at least think about charging. I don’t think I’d bother with it against Guard (though they can stand their ground in an assault, that’s more to do with Commissars than any combat capability), but I reckon against an assault optimised Eldar force (either flavour) or against Nids it will be more than useful.

Marines, for me, are all about synergies (people who say Marines are the boring army have completely missed the point imo) and the Dark Talon expresses this very well. I’m certainly looking forward to getting a squad of Ravenwing Knights on the table to see how the combination of rad shells and stasis anomalies works out.

I also need to bear in mind that I can’t rely on the same things over and over again – in our next battle in the Eternal War, John demonstrated that he’s really hitting his stride with his Chaos Marines and future battles are going to require different stratagems.

I’ve toyed with what to name the Dark Talon and have now settled on Tacet Ultionis – not that I’m going to be able to paint that on, of course.

Flattery will get you everywhere sir 🙂  Thanks again to Tim for a fantastic article, if you’d like to contrtibute you can find all the information you need here.

Trenchmates – Wild West Exodus – A Review by Tim Chant

01/13/2014 1 comment

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.