After a couple of weeks spent gluing plastic together, last night saw the first outing for Ex illis, the new wargame from Bastion Inc, a tabletop wargaming company from Quebec, Canada.
OK, grey plastic figures aren’t the most visually appealing of subjects, but given my record on painting figures, if I’d have waited until the figures were painted before we played the game, this blog entry wouldn’t be written until next year…
The figures themselves are a bit of a mixed bag. Some are relatively simple and unremarkable, whilst others are very fine indeed.
It’s interesting that one of the general comments about all the figures last night was “the heads look too small” – whether or not this is just a comment on what we are used to seeing in 28mm figures, or more of a comment on the style of the sculpting, I’m not sure.
My favourite units are the Angels (above) and the cavalry (Franc Chevalers & Hobelars). These units are very visually appealing – especially the Hobelars which have a fantastic pose, although there is a question mark over the size of the horses, as they look a little big.
The rest of the units (including Bowmen, Billmen, Arbalestiers and demonic creatures) are well detailed, and are of varying complexity to construct – but the overriding impression is that the minis are very nice, but somewhat delicate to handle…not neccesarily the best thing in models which are supposed to be handled during a wargame.
The game takes place on a board that is divided into a grid – the ‘standard’ starter set uses a full colour printed mat, which is well produced and fully laminated. The deluxe starter set is provided with plastic terrain squares instead.
The other part of the game, and the most important part, is the software. This is the heart of the game. The software holds all the game rules, moderates initiative, calculates all the combat results and stores all the results for uploading to the web later.
I must admit, the software surprised me. Why? Well, I intended to run the game on my laptop. This is a T61 Thinkpad – not top of the range, but a pretty decent machine. However, I was only able to run the game at it’s lowest definition, which was OK, but probably not showing off the game to it’s best. So, you will need a decent machine to get the best out of the software.
I’m not going into detail about the game now (I’ll leave that for the podcast review) but I will say this…when I first heard of this game, I was extremely sceptical. Now I’ve seen and played it, I am being won over. There are still several issues I think the game has, but on the whole Bastion Inc have done an extremely good job.
So, onto the game last night…or should I say games. What other wargame do you know where you can turn up knowing only the very basic of rules of movement and combat and then play 3 very fun games in under 3 hours.
It is true that the computer screen dominates the game play – although you look at the board to see the tactical situation, everything is done on the computer, and you have a tendency to screen watch, rather than looking at the board. All movement and combat are fully animated on-screen (although remarkably without sound) – it’s a fun visual (at one point, virtually the entire game group was gathered around, watching the game)…I especially like the way that the corpses of the dead troops remain mapped on the screen, so as units either fight or move through areas that have previously seen combat, they end up moving between the dead from earlier in the game.
Overall, the gaming experience is quick and fun, and we haven’t even touched on the meta-gaming aspect of the game as your troops gain experience and you can train them online.
I played the game with Dave Luff. His verdict…the game was a complete hoot.
Having played my first games I must admit I am eager to play again, and I’m already got several ideas for possible expansions to my forces (although this may have to wait, as one of the major downsides of the game is its price and current lack of UK distribution) – it will be a few more weeks before we’ve played a few more games and can then record a podcast review, but it’s a good start.