torsdag 12 maj 2016

Some thoughts about Horizon Wars

Horizon Wars by Robey Jenkins is the new set of wargames rules from Osprey publishing. This time it's all about big stompy robots and tanks in a not all too distant future -- albeit in 6mm or 1:285 scale. The game is designed to be generic which means you can use all the 6mm S/F stuff you already have, be it Battletech or Epic40k stuff, or maybe even Hammer's Slammers or other figures. [Edit: as someone pointed out you can use 10 or 15mm troops too!] There's a setting and a background included for those of us who need a little bit of inspiration for our games. It's quite funny actually. There's a Youtube video explaining how to play via a short battle report, I'm sure you can find it if you search on Youtube.

The pre-release blurb from Osprey
Before I go into the my thoughts about the game, lets take a detour shall we.

Remember Polyversal? You know, that other generic 6mm S/F game that was released... oh, wait, it was never released because the kickstarter failed. I'm no expert, but I see some key points in why the kickstarter failed.
  • The system might have been great, but the gameplay videos were quite crap, not showing off the system at all.
  • While meant as generic rules the Kickstarter tried to launch not only a rulebook, but a starter box with figures and even an online unit builder tool.
  • Without knowing if the rules were any good there's no incentive for the gamer already into 6mm S/F to support it, unless it would be to get new shiny toys, but the figures used in the starter set were already available from the respective manufacturers.
  • The background for the game was vague and uninspiring, and the two factions in the starter set weren't even painted up in coherent paint schemes; instead the various manufacturers' own pictures were used in the kickstarter. 
They did however manage to get the support of some 250 gamers, and a lot more were intrigued by the game but didn't pledge. I suspect a lof of the Polyversal backers -- both the ones that pledged and those that only thought about it -- bought Horizon Wars instead. I know I did. While the focus of Horizon Wars seem to be the big stompy robots it's fully playable with only regular forces as well; how Polyversal would have handled mechas we can only guess, but the focus seem to have been more about regular forces. Incidentally they have relaunched the Polyversal Kickstarter, go check it out and then come back here, OK?

Sample picture from the Horizon Wars rulebook. Notice the two forces each with a coherent paint scheme.
In Horizon wars you construct your force out of different elements. Each element is a unit -- which depending on how you view future combat can be a single vehicle or a group of vehicles, a platoon of men or a squad, or perhaps a single soldier in a powered combat suit. Regardless, each element is one base of one or more models. Each element has a battlefield presence between 1 and 3 depending on it's type and designation. As an example Light Infantry is P1 and Heavy Infantry is P3 -- heavy infantry is powered armour types or perhaps a single dreadnought (in 40k terms) -- while Light Cavalry is P2 and Heavy Cavalry is P3. (Cavalry is generally your tank type forces and not actual cavalry, although it could be anything from wheeled to tracked to hover-tanks.) Presence is also the cost of the unit when building your army, but can be modified depending you what type your HQ is. The HQ is free (but still has Presence), and depending on what type your HQ is the other regular units can be cheaper or more costly. (You can choose no HQ or use a Mech as HQ if you want to, but then you don't get any discounts.) Battlemechs -- Big Stompy Robots -- are also Presence 1 to 3, which reflects Light, Medium or Heavy mechs quite nicely.

Here is a sample 15 Presence force, consisting of four units of heavy tanks, supported by two units of light tanks, two units of heavy infantry and a medium mech. According to the rulebook a 15 presence battle takes around 45 minutes to one hour to play and requires a 4x4 table. So essentially a small skirmish but with tanks and robots! (For you Epic or 40k fans think of it as Four land raiders supported by two stands of Terminators and two Predator tanks, alongside a Reaver Titan.)

Element Presence Cost
Heavy Cavalry (HQ) 3 0
Heavy Cavalry 3 3
Heavy Cavalry  3 3
Heavy Cavalry  3 3
Light Cavalry 2 1
Light Cavalry 2 1
Heavy Infantry 2 1
Heavy Infantry 2 1
Medium Mech 2 2

In the example above the Light Cavalry and Heavy Infantry is cheaper than normal because Heavy Cavalry HQ's get a discount on those types of units. There is no discount on the HQ's own type, but on the other hand the HQ is free. To stop you from min-maxing and choosing an HQ along discounted units only you must take one unit of the HQ's type per 5 presence of your force. So in the example above I "need" at least three Heavy Cavalry. Since the HQ also counts I could have swapped out one of the Heavy Cavalry elements for an element of Mobile Artillery, or three more Light Cavalry elements, or any other combination of 3 Presence. Essentially the type of HQ decides the flavour of your force.

A Cougar hover tank or a Tanami hover artillery? Decisions, decisions. So I ordered both, and some other models too.
(Pictures are Copyright © Brigade Models Ltd 1997-2011 and used for review purposes.)
All regular elements  (i.e. not Mechs) of the same type have the same stats, but there is room for some customisation. Without going into details you can modify half the regular units in your army, but you have to give the same modification to all units of the same type. So if you have only heavy cavalry (i.e. tanks) you can't give them any modifications, but if only half your army is tanks they can all be modified. This encourages "Combined arms"-type armies which is a good thing. In the force above, I can give stat increases to either all my heavy Cavalry, or to my Light Cavalry and my Heavy infantry. In the latter case I need not give the Light Cav and the Heavy infantry the same stat increase.

A couple of cheap plastic Mechs from EM4 miniatures. They are £2.50 for five models with interchangeable weapons.
Mechs on the other hands get points to buy their stats with -- Mechs can also take some special upgrades that regular units can't take, like Assault Rig which makes the Mech better in close combat or Repair Rig which makes the Mech able to repair other elements.While there are no stats for individual weapons -- everything is abstracted to the Firepower stat -- I feel that you can still customize the mechs enough without bogging down in details. Some may not like it and find it too abstract, I have to try the game out a bit before I can make my mind up about it.

One nice mechanic is that hits degrade the units' stats -- there are four: Movement, Firepower, Armour and Defense -- so without rolling for individual weapons you still get the effect that hits blows weapon systems or chunks of armour off the Mech. If you reach 0 Movement you are immobilized, 0 Firepower can't shoot (but still fight in close combat), 0 Armour you are dead. Defence represent counter measures, power fields and similar defensive systems and can be downgraded too, of course. [Edit: It can't. I missed that.]

On an initial readthrough I feel that it's a solid but simple little system. There are quite a few nice illustrations and some eye-candy pictures of models in the book and the system features some nifty ideas. There are rules for Flyers and campaigns, and the background features three "eras" of warfare in the future of Earth, with Mars and Venus colony forces appearing later on. Each era and force have some restrictions and small tweaks, but you could just as easily adapt your own setting and models you already have. The rules inspired me enough to order some cheap Mechs and flyers from EM-4 miniatures -- I will do a proper review later -- and some infantry and tanks from Brigade Models -- I will of course review them too when I get them.

Best of all, if I find that Horizon Wars is not to my liking I can use the figures for Polyversal instead.

8 kommentarer:

  1. The great thing about systems like Horizon Wars and Polyversal is that we get multiple or paralell uses* for our collections. Not that that stops us from getting more and more armies.
    *potential uses. It's not like anything comes off that bloody lead pile very often...

    1. Great points, and my sentiments exactly. And if a ruleset inspires us momentarily to buy more stuff and even maybe paint one or two miniatures, then that is a good thing, right?

    2. Assuming that you actually painted more than you bought, this would be a great strategy...

    3. You know that will never happen...

  2. Hi. Thanks for the review. I hope you find the game fun, too.

    Minor note: Defence cannot be degraded. Its capability to repair is reduced because your damage track keeps going up, and it would be too easy a choice to pile damage into Defence, so Defence is not an active stat.

    1. Ah, I missed that on the first readthrough. Thanks for the clarification.

  3. Always love to see some 6mm tanks and mecha! I started a dirtside project a while back (lets not look too closely at how long ago), and ran out of steam after painting a few tank platoons.

    1. The beauty of Horizon Wars is that it's more of a skirmish game but with mechas and tanks, so you do not need that many models.

      On the other hand, being magpie gamers enough is never enough, right? :-)


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