Thursday, June 25, 2020

My Favorite Skirmish Game has Cowboys, Aliens, and Zombies: Wild West Exodus Review

If you're -really- into the miniature wargaming scene as a whole, you've probably seen some of the interesting models for Wild West Exodus (WWX); it's larger scale seemed intriguing to you and it's fantastic blend of old Wild West and steampunk sci-fi aesthetics probably caught your eye. Like me, the models weren't ever enough to convince you to try the game out, no matter how interesting they seemed. Honestly, I can't ever place my finger on what kept me from trying the game out (I think I always assumed it was larger scale than it is and being too pulpy for my taste), but I regret the fact that I never tried it out sooner. It has by far become one of my favorite skirmish experiences ever and I really wish I had gave Wild West Exodus the attention it deserved all those years ago.



As I'm sure you can tell by now though, the game isn't perfect and we'll dive deep into exactly what my problems are with the game, but in all honesty, if you don't mind the aesthetics and you're craving a new skirmish game to play, this one will be hard to beat.

The main positive points I want to discuss are:
  1. Core Gameplay Loop 
  2. Opportunity Costs
  3. Streamlined and Easy to Reference Rules
  4. Unique Setting and Lore
  5. Quality and Price
The negative points I'm going to bring up are:
  1.  Popularity (lack thereof)
  2. All of the Sub-factions
  3. List Building
  4. Randomness and Chance

You might be thinking to yourself "PoR, with all of those good points conveying a higher net positive than the curmudgeon negative points, why did you say Star Wars: Legion (SWL) was your favorite game and this is only your favorite skirmish game?" Well, astute reader, thank you for that observation and trust me, we'll get into it. At the very end I'll give you a good side-by-side comparison to really highlight the reasons and give you a better understanding of what kind of reviewer and gamer I am to showcase how much weight I put into certain things and why SWL is still my favorite game, but WWX is probably the one I enjoy playing more.

The Good


Core Gameplay Loop


I'll be honest upfront, this is by far one of my favorite gameplay systems in a miniatures game as of yet. It's so refreshing and fun at the same time giving the player more control than I've felt in a long time.  From the ground up, the game gives you choices and meaningful consequences to those choices. I rarely feel like I'm just going through the motions of the game to appease the arbitrary rules system like I do in so many other miniature wargames (you know what I'm talking about if you've ever said out-loud "alright, so we just completed this phase of the round, what's the next one and what are we supposed to do in it").

Activations

It's quite simple. You draw a card off of your Action Deck (we'll get back to these) to see who goes first and then you draw a hand of cards that function as your secondary objectives and boosts. Then you draw a smaller card that has a number on it at the start of your turn, these are your Action Cards from the Action Deck. This number being the amount of actions you can perform this turn. Then you choose which model from your force you wish to perform said amount of actions with. Once you're done with all of your actions, you pass play to your opponent who proceeds the same way. You and your opponent keep doing this until you've both activated all of your models. Once the both of you have finished activating all of your models, you check victory conditions and if no one has won the game yet or the game has ended, you draw back up to your hand limit of those secondary objective and boost cards, called Adventure Cards. That's it, that's a whole round of play. However, there are nuances (obviously) that can expand on this loop and give you, the player, even more choices and consequences to deal with.

Wild West Exodus - Resources
Conquistadors are a fantastic example of a sub-faction that can break the core gameplay loop

Each Action Deck has various amounts of cards that range from 1-5 , meaning you could possibly end up drawing a card that only allows you to do one action that turn or you could draw a card that allows you to do five actions (although, there's only one of those in the entire deck of 48 cards. However, most units in the game will have a Limit attribute around 2 or 3, meaning they can only perform 2 or 3 actions. So, if you draw a 5, why would you use it on a unit that can only do two actions? That's because these are Action -Points-, not just actions, so you can use those extra points to Focus those actions. Focusing usually adds 2 to the corresponding action that you wish to perform. For example, if you focus a Move action, you move and additional 2". If you focus a shoot action, you get a +2 to your aim for that shot. On top of this, every Posse's Boss (your list's various leader models) has Fortune that any model in the same Posse (we'll discuss Posses in further depth later on) can spend to focus Actions instead of using Action Points or even to get more Action Points. You then have to decide how to get the most out of the amount of Action Points you get to use that turn according to the card you drew AND how to optimize your Boss/es Fortune. Do you still want to activate that unit that has a Limit of 2 after you drew a 5 point Action Card while you still have 8 Fortune to spend from your boss or do you go ahead and activate your Boss who has a Limit of 4, so they can get a whole lot of bang for their buck but then miss out on refreshing your Fortune pool (whenever a Boss finishes their activation their Fortune pool refreshes, so if you already spent all 8 Fortune while activating other units, then the Boss starts with 0, but ends with 8 again)? Choices, choices, what will you pick?

Also worth noting is that I kind of lied when I said you activate a model/unit and then pass play to your opponent. Sure, that's the core part of the game but there are mechanics that can get past this. Some units have the "Teamwork" special rule that states if another Face or Boss ends their activation within 8" of the unit that possesses this special rule, that unit can immediately activate if you wish, drawing a new Action Card. Or you could play the boost half of an Adventure Card (and miss out on the secondary objective half that could net you some more victory points) that allows you to perform a Triggered Activation as if that unit had the Teamwork rule, but this only works for Faces. If you play your cards right (literally) and make sure your units end close enough to each other, you could easily chain together 3-6 activations a turn before your opponent even gets to go once! But where things can get really spicy is when you start talking about combat...

Combat

Right off the bat I want to emphasize the fact that EVERY MODEL in this game only has one life. Yes, that's right, that armored tank-thing has one life. That giant mechanical spider? One life. That brutish zombie carrying two gatling guns? Yeah, you get the point. There are, of course, ways to go around this. Sure, everything on the surface has one life, but a lot of things (especially Bosses and Faces) have ways to completely mitigate damage, reduce the amount of damage they take, or have a pseudo-wound system.

Everything you need to know for a given unit to have them punch some face

The important note here is that everything dies quickly and everyone can actually deal some damage. If you've played Infinity than this is a pretty familiar concept to you. The big difference between the two systems, however, comes down to criticals and modifiers. First of all, you can't re-roll criticals at all no matter how badly you want to or using whatever ability you have (unless specifically stating that it does affect criticals). When performing a skill test, if you roll a 10 on the d10 then it's a critical success and you automatically succeed. This is especially important for weapons because when you roll a critical success you typically gain access to a new keyword for that weapon's attack. For example, some sniper rifles gain Fatal when they critically succeed which means they can ignore one of the possible pseudo-wound keywords called Mettle. It's not an automatic kill for whatever you were attacking, but it DOES mean it'll hurt if you fail that Grits check (this game's equivalent to armor). Some of them simply add an additional hit, etc. It makes criticals feel important, gives you a chance to ALWAYS succeed without interference from your opponent, and they aren't too game changing (i.e. your model isn't instantly killed). Not surprisingly, critical failures happen whenever you roll a 1 and it means you automatically fail whatever test you were performing.

Probably the most interesting mechanic about this game is the lack of modifiers to dice rolls. The big bonus you get from most abilities is the ability to re-roll dice rather than adding to the values. This provides the game a feeling of uncertainty that I find missing from game systems that rely too much on modifiers. Knowing you can re-roll a die doesn't provide that same comfort  a +2 does when you need a 5 or higher to hit. Don't get me wrong, there still are modifiers, like cover or Focusing actions, but the central focus is on either allowing or forcing re-rolls.

Adventure Cards

Probably my favorite mechanic and, to me, the most unique is the Adventure Deck that we've briefly discussed so far. Every person starts with the same Adventure Deck, so there's no difference between the one you have and your opponent. These cards have two halves to them: Guts and Glory. Guts are the boosts I talked about earlier that allow you to chain activations, restore a model's Fortune to full, always you to interrupt the Activation order for one activation (effectively gaining you the first activation even if you lost the roll-off or allows you two activation in a row by swapping the order with your opponent), as well as various stat buff modifiers. The other half is Glory, which are your secondary objectives I mentioned above. These rascals can be cashed in after you achieve the Glory half for additional victory points. Are you struggling to achieve the mission objective? Work on fulfilling those Glory cards and start gaining some additional victory points!

If you've ever played 40k using the objective cards from 8th edition of Classified Objectives from Infinity, then this might be familiar to you. However, what I think is quite brilliant here, is that no matter what card you draw it will more than likely still have a role to play. Did you draw an Adventure Card whose Glory side says to kill a Hands unit but your opponent doesn't have any Hands left? That's fine! Look at the Guts side and use that. Oh? It says you get +1 to Aim for this Activation? Hmmm. Modifiers are quite rare in this game, so that could be a big boost. Worse case scenario, if there are Adventure Cards you don't want then you can discard them at the end of the round and draw back up to the game's Adventure Card limit at the start of the next round.

However, the greatest point I want to make about these Adventure Cards is the opportunity cost. You've probably gathered from my Legion review that I'm a gamer who loves it when I'm presented with meaningful choices. Having these cards play a significant role in boosting gameplay as well as scoring more victory points is a fantastic feeling. It makes them FEEL important and impactful throughout every point of the game. "Do I keep this card in hopes I can get my Boss to the enemy's deployment zone for an easy point or should I use it now to give my lynchpin Face an additional point of Grit in hopes they survive?" These questions come up regularly with Adventure Cards and I honestly wish more games implemented this kind of system. I love secondary objectives in games, truly, but I hate how they're implemented. They always feel like a random chore list that breaks my immersion ("why would my Guardsmen squad break flank and stop protecting this Basilik to go stand in that crater for two turns") and takes me out of the game. Sure, you still have your trite list of things here, but they feel exciting because they also come with these Guts boosts. Plus, most of them somewhat fit the narrative of the game as they require you to kill certain types of enemies doing certain actions, perform other actions, inflict negative status conditions, or get your Boss/es to the enemy's side, which I find to somewhat help fit in the narrative of the game and mission.

Sidenote: Like I've said, Warcradle offers everything for this game for free. Here's a link to their resources section so you can check out the cards for yourself. As they are an integral part of the game, it's a great idea to get familiar with them and see if you like the general feel of them before you invest. I know some folks don't like having too much unpredictability in their games while others like some or as much as they can get. I would like to point out there are 60 of them in total and you will mostly be drawing 2-4 a turn (depending on how many points you're playing and how many you've used) and each game goes for five rounds. You won't see every card every game, but you will see a good amount of them, especially as the Guts and Glory halves do repeat. It's not entirely unlikely to see a particular Guts or Glory effect like in a Magic Commander deck where you have a low chance of getting any particular card effect into play, but it's not guaranteed either. We'll talk more about the randomness of the game more later on, don't you worry, but it's important to note it here as it is an important part of the game.

Opportunity Costs


You definitely know by now that I love opportunity costs and that I love meaningful choices in games. The action economy of this game is where this truly shines. You have a lot of choices to make and tools to help you get the most out of your turn. It all starts with those Action cards dictating the amount of actions you can before that turn, but that's not it. Keywords, Action Limits on units, and Boost cards can all impact this to give you highly explosive combo turns, if all done correctly. If you're the kind of player who loves make crazy combos in Magic: The Gathering and watching them unfold, then this is the miniatures game for you.

Let's set the scene: Your opponent won initiative by drawing an Action Card with a 4 and you, unfortunately, drew a 1. "That's fine," you think to yourself, "I'll just use my Adventure card to Intterupt and play first". That's what you do. Instead of your opponent going first then you second and then back to them for third, you're now going first and they get to go second and third. However, you came prepared. You activate the first model who has Teamwork and ensure they end their activation within Teamwork range so you can trigger another activation. The first model cripples a Hands unit and then the second model finishes them off allowing you to cash in another Adventure card to score 1 VP for destroying a Hands unit during a shoot action. That's just a basic combo even. I think my favorite was when I won Initiative, drew a 1 Action card and went with my Boss. She then used Portal Mastery to place a portal and then another within 12" and then used Teamwork to activate one of my Faces who also used Portal Mastery. So, I ad four portals placed on the table allowing me to teleport my units in at various points who were in reserves and then it was supposed to be my opponent's turn. I then played an Interrupt to bring one of my Faces onto the table through one of my Portals using my Boss's Fortune who then charged into my opponent's Hand unit to prevent them from shooting at my Portals. Within two actual activations I was able to activate three units, charge into a good shooting unit to prevent them from shooting, and establishing a good control over the board. 

Better protect those portals!

From those examples, it sounded like I had some really great wombo-combos setup, huh? I placed myself at an advantage while my opponent had little interaction? There's always more than meets the eye, dear reader. In the first example, I had two Faces left exposed and with little Fortune left to defend themselves. My opponent killed one of them, scoring their own VP, and charged the other to keep them from shitting as well as crippling them. In the second example I left my portals unprotected which ended up losing me, a Face was in combat halfway across the table with my immediate support, and my opponent had at least two full activations back-to-back, not counting any similar activation chaining abilities they have, to retaliate.There are always consequences for your choices, no matter how airtight you think your plan is. Should I not have given my opponent two actions back-to-back? Should I have saved my Adventure cards to try to get more Glory VP? Should I have been more patient with my portals? That's the beauty of it, there are so many opportunity costs in this game and I didn't even mention using Fortune in any of my examples to boost skill tests, movement, or adding further action points!

That's what makes this game so interesting and fun to play. You never run out of choices to make and it's hard to decide what's the best course of action to take. There are few illusions of choice in this game as almost every choice you have to make comes with real consequences. Honestly, it can almost be overbearing at times and leads to analysis paralysis, but it is so freaking refreshing to have that problem while playing a tabletop game.

Streamlined and Easy to Reference Rules


It's been a long time since I was able to simply sit down with a rulebook, read it, and understand almost entirely how to play. I always do research before I invest in a game, so when I thought about getting into WWX I did just that. I realized the rules were free, so I started reading them and trying to get a good feel for the game. Rarely do I expect just reading the rules to give me a satisfying understanding of the game, so I also had some YouTube videos pulled up just in case. In fact, I was so engrossed that I sat in silence (which if you knew me would be quite terrifying as I constantly have music or videos playing) while I was reading. The flow made sense, things were introduced when it was appropriate, and they were concise enough to be easily remembered.

After I was sold on the game and purchased my first two armies to try it out with, we had very few issues during that first game with the game. I was able to simply sit down, read the rules, and play the game. Was it a perfect game? Nah, we did miss a few things and there were a few rule interactions we played wrong, but it wasn't anything like "wait, how do we do this fundamental part of the game again? I really can't remember, guess we'll have to read the book to find out" and then spend 5-10 minutes searching for it. If we had a problem with a rule, I was able to pinpoint it quickly just from spending 20 minutes looking it over while I was researching it.

The big reason why the rules are so easy to remember and follow is the plethora of reference charts in the rules. Want to know what those Guts symbols mean on your Adventure Cards? Warcradle's got you! Can't remember the sequence of play during a round? No worries! Looking for a glossary with just weapon traits? Bam! Looking for what that one simple unit trait does? Not a problem, go check that glossary section and it's in alphabetical order, oooo. Unlike with Legion (and one of my complaints about it), you don't have to sort through an entire glossary to find out what one keyword does. You only have to look through the specific glossary as everything is divided into easily digestible sections for ease of reference. Even the FAQ is broken down into easily discernible sections with little confusion. Go take a look.

So easy to reference even this bandit can learn to play in his free-time.

Maybe it's the simplicity of the core foundation of the game that allows them this easy structure? I really have no idea, but it's incredible how they can make such an easily digestible ruleset but still pack so many rules in it. I guess what really helps with this is the fact that every model has a card that uses a keywords and explains the rules on the card for you (very similar to Legion and Malifaux). Tack on that you can print out easy reference cards for common unit keywords (which are not actually explained on the cards themselves) and weapon traits, so you don't even have to look those up in the rules! 

You look at the current 8th edition rules of 40k and you think to yourself "wow, this is a really easy to learn ruleset, so small and tight! I can play this no problem at all!" But then the interactions start coming into play from the various factions and you no longer have a clear answer and it requires sifting through at least three different FAQs (one for each faction involved and the rulebook). You also see other games that don't have any clear explanations at all on how things are supposed to function, even the basic foundation of the game, causing schisms within the community or they never release FAQs and leave it to communities to figure out their own answers. I still have yet to run into a rules encounter that I didn't feel was answered in the rules or the FAQ, but this could also come from a little bit of reading between the lines, which I sometimes do subconsciously. I would like to point out that I've played around 14 games now since starting earlier this year with or against five different factions and, again, there haven't been any major rule concerns yet. I will say that I did recently learn that Brutal only provides one additional attack max per attack action and it did take a bit of reading and re-reading to understand portal mastery, portal weapons, and portals in general. Plus, we're still not 100% sure on how units (aka squads) function in EVERY possible rules interaction since we rarely use units. The rules aren't perfect, but they're pretty solid in providing you with the rules you need to play and giving you the resources to clarify a majority of problems that should occur. 

Unique Setting and Lore


When I was a kid, I had a bit of a perplexing childhood. I was introduced to so many things as a kid because my dad is a man with a wide spectrum of interests. I have found memories of watching spaghetti Westerns, Mel Brooks' works (Good ol' "Blazing Saddles"), Lone Ranger, and Texas Walker Ranger along with the myriad of classic Sci-Fi (Star Wars, Star Trek, Doctor Who, Battlestar, Stargate, Firefly, Godzilla, Ultra-Man, etc.) and Kung-Fu movies. As you can probably guess, my interests, because of this exposure, also span a really weird and loosely connected string of things. I love history, but I also love Sci-Fi and when you blend the two together, it's even better. Toss in subject matter that I've always been fascinated by and you've got a recipe straight to my nerdy heart. I've learned more about US and Mexican 1800's history from playing this game and researching the various characters than I ever did doing anything else in my life. I never knew Lincoln created the secret service. I've never heard of Pancho Villa or his revolution before. I always thought Billy the Kid was just a folk legend and not a real person. I also never realized that the Confederate States enlisted renegade guerrilla fighters, like Jesse James, as bushwhackers. I have no idea how accurate the lore is on the Native Americans as I'm not as familiar with Native American history, but it's a really interesting how tied to history WWX is.

However, not only do you get some really cool nods to history in this game, you also get some really great Sci-Fi nods with aliens, zombies, and beast-men. Of course, you might point to the the literal alien faction of the "Watchers" and say "I see you Pride of Rodina and WWX, those are some really cheesy aliens, come on". And to that I retort "those aren't the only aliens in the game". You could argue that the Order faction are aliens too as they aren't from Earth, at least not every member of their secretive society. You also have the alien presence within the Hex, the symbiotic taint the Order has pledged to destroy. Oh, and yeah, let's get back to those zombies. I'm sure you've heard of Eiffel and Edeson, right? Well, they've joined a society of elite scientists and other intellectuals who tamper with the boundaries of science and push the frontier of knowledge into the fringe of unethical practices. That's where you get your robot-zombies, etc. 

Wild West Exodus - Resources
"Aliens"

Sure, games that play on history can get kind of old when you realize how little creativity they have by just re-purposing world history for their own benefit, but it feels different here. I feel there's a unique enough spin on everything that it's not just Warcradle (or the previous owners of WWX, Outlaw Miniatures) pointing to history and saying "Look! More stuff we can shove into the game and not have to write our own lore!" They intertwine the history of the world so well (given that WWX takes place so soon after the US Civil War) into their own unique setting, especially now with Warcradle trying to tie it in with the Dystopian Age. The world is dark, but colorful, oozing with history, and has great stories to tell about the world we could be living in instead. If you are remotely interested in the Wild West theme and alternate takes on history, then this will be an excellent scratch for that very specific and odd itch that you have.

Quality and Price


If you're a ergonomic gamer like me, I'm sure some of your first questions are "what about the buy-in price" or "what's the quality like? The models seem too cheap and the game's audience seems kind of small". I know I had those questions because smaller games typically offer a lower price of entry by cutting corners on the quality of the sculpts, using cheaper but lower quality materials, and whatever else they can to help keep costs down. I can tell you right now that the models are relatively inexpensive, as you can see for yourself and they're excellent quality. The resin that's used here is some of the better resin I've seen and it does an excellent job capturing the details the sculptors put into the models. Warcradle has honestly kind of done themselves dirty by not giving you great ways to examine the miniatures online. Nothing I've seen has done them any justice at all compared to seeing them in person. Mold lines are quite minimal and hardly ever over anything important. The hard plastics are also quite excellent, very close to the likes of GW's. The only problem I've had with the WWX hard plastic kits is that they're always in the most ridiculous shapes or sizes. If you've ever build any of the Malifaux hard plastic kits, then these little rascals will won't be two different to you. This also means that they aren't as easily as convertible as the hard plastics of GW. You'll have a whole box of 10 unique sculpts, but almost every single arm is cut completely different and at different points. It's honestly insane how many different ways they can cut an arm....I guess they took inspiration from the Enlightened.

Anywho, the price of entry is so exceptionally low as well that I'd go as far as to say this is by far one of the cheapest games to get into. You can easily get a standard sized force for around $100-125 with even enough extras to swap stuff in and out and then you can print out all of the tokens, cards, and rules (or keep them electronic to save on ink costs, but you still need tokens). The only thing you'd still need would be paints, dice, and terrain (foam-board, coffee stirrers, and time are your friend in this case). Warcradle also offers starter sets for almost every faction which gives you a posse box (the typical starting point for a force), a v. 1.08 book (they're on 1.09 now but there's a document that lists all of the changes as not much has changed and this book still serves as a good foundation), a nice acrylic template for all of your template needs, some d10's to play, and some actually good quality cardboard tokens. This way you don't even need to print anything out besides the unit cards and all you'd need is some terrain. If you don't see a starter box featuring the posse you're deadset on, you can easily just pick up all the extra stuff in an additional box for dirt cheap. 

Sidenote: Yeah yeah, I get everyone brags about how cheap they're game is to get into, but it's actually a trap because you need to buy a whole bunch of models to be competitive or even to have fun, the books are expensive, the printable stuff doesn't cover it all, or the printable tokens absolutely suck, whatever. It's almost became a buzz word in tabletop gaming to talk about "low cost of entry" and "printable what-nots". I mean, seriously, everything's free here, the miniatures are dirt cheap for how many points they cost, even buying the premium tokens, dice, etc. is cheap, and the quality is still there. The cheap price isn't a sacrifice for anything or a trap. I guess the trap here is that there are not physical unit cards AT ALL. You can't even shell out for those premium gaming aids to get them. You WILL have to print those out, use older versions and edit them if you can find them, or use an electronic device.

The Bad


"Wow, PoR! You sure do like, WWX, huh? Are you sure this isn't some rose-tinted lens syndrome thing?" Ah, thank you for pointing that out, astute reader! I do really like WWX and I have a LOT of good to say about it, but there are some blatant flaws with the game that make me realize that this game isn't for everyone and that helps me understand that sure, I freaking love this game, but it's not the greatest game ever. So, what exactly is it that keeps WWX from being the greatest game of all times, you ask? Let's dive in, shall we?

Popularity (lack thereof)


I'll be blunt and just say that it freaking kills me to have to put this down as a con. I HATE when your typical review places say "Well, no one plays the game, so it's dead, don't pick it up because of that" when in fact, depending on your area, there are some great communities that number 30+ and they still have rather large tournaments at national events across the globe. That's not the case with this game. This game has the popularity of a dead game. In fact, Star Wars miniatures, an old Wizards of the Coast game I used to play years ago, has a somewhat larger and more active community than this game and that game has been dead for 10 years. As I said above, I like to research and dive deep into every game I play, but it was hard for this one. I couldn't find any local groups, just a couple of individuals who live within a 4 hours radius of me, hardly any stores that sell it (especially locally as I had to go online to buy the miniatures I did get as none of the stores within an hour drive even heard of the game, but there is a store about 2 hours one way that does carry it, but they don't do online orders). I couldn't find any reviews for the game within this year and most of the others I could find were sponsored by Warcradle (not saying their illegitimate but  it shows a good level of interest if lots of random people, like me, review the game for fun rather than as an obligation due to a business deal). Their official forums are pretty quiet and battle reports on YouTube are quite far and inbetween.

I understand the concept that if more people start playing a game, then popularity isn't a problem anymore, so saying don't play a game because no one plays it simply feeds into the struggle of getting the game started in the first person. A self-fulfilling prophecy, if you will. I get it, honestly, and it's why I hate when reviewers mention it, but I feel it's exceptionally important in this case. You will be content starved for this game as it will mostly be you and whatever friend or significant other you can convince to pick it up with you. But to some folks, like myself, that's the beauty of it! It's like the great Wild West out there, just you enjoying this wonderful game, and not being overstimulated by content, metas, or tournament results.

Also, I'd like to point out a few terrific resources if you are interested in starting this game. Like I said, simply saying a game doesn't have a presence and then not acknowledging the resources that do exist doesn't do anyone any justice, so here you go:
  • Mike the Warhost is by far one of the greatest resources out there for WWX if you like video-based content. Unforuntately he's not as popular as he should be, but his passion is contagious and the occasional intro/outro skits help me crack a warm smile while I'm sitting by the campfire, trying to paint all those leather straps and edge-trim on my Order models. He has some terrific intro videos to help get you started on your journey and provide some companionship before he hit the dusty trail.
  • If you're familiar with Age of Sigmar lore, you've probably met this man before. Doug at 2+ Tough has recently started doing some lore videos for WWX if you want to dive deeper into the game and hate reading (or you're too busy role-playing as someone from the Wild West and your character is illiterate). His silky smooth voice and calm demeanor can help even the cruelest of desperadoes feel a little happiness during those cold and dark desert nights.
  • The Dark Council is by far one of the greatest resources for everything WWX. It's an official Facebook group from the head honchos at WWX and Warcradle, so you can interact personally with the Warcradle staff who've helped shape and make WWX, as well as the slew of wonderful pals and gals in the global community. Which, of course, counts the likes of Mike the Warhost and Doug from 2+ Tough among its posse members (I wouldn't want to tango with them in a shootout).
  • Probably the most important resource though is the Posse Builder. If you ever wanted a person to tag along with you to a shootout, it probably wouldn't be an web-based app, but I would definitely take the creator of the app. This tool is almost as essential to playing WWX as anything else, as it makes the list-building process significantly easier and helps make sense of the eternal debate of who to take in your list and who can even, legally, go into which posses.
While you might feel alone at times playing WWX, there are resources out there and a LOT of great folks who are always willing to talk to you or help you along the journey of getting started. It's no where close to a dead game, so remember that, but also remember it might be hard to find someone to play with unless you already have someone else who's ready to invest in it. 

All of the Sub-factions


I realize how ironic this criticism is about to sound, giving my above rant on how I like choices and opportunity costs, but wow. This game has a LOT of sub-factions. If you're familiar with Malifaux then this might sound pretty familiar to you. 

Every boss in this game has their own posse that they belong to and each posse belongs under a faction umbrella. "Well, yeah, obviously PoR, so why are you telling me this," is probably your thought and I bring this up because not every posse can use models from the same faction. Some models can only be used in a couple of posses that a faction has. So, you have your main faction posses (i.e. Union, Order, Watchers, etc.) and then you have your plethora of boss posses, which will make up the bulk of your lists (they have the greatest benefit) and some of those posses can only use very specific sub-faction keywords or even models. Sometimes those posses require models to be used from several factions, so you'll end up with some Enlightened, Hex, and Outlaws all in one posse. Note, I didn't say LIST, which is made up of as many posses as you want, but POSSES, as in sub-factions, the main list-building block of this game (similar to detachments in 40k).

Left to right: Enlightened, Union, Hex, and Lawmen

Honestly, it can be a right chore to figure out what all models you can take in which posse at times and which would be best. Do you take that one posse from your faction that is a sub-faction with all unique  characters and only those characters can fill that posse along with a posse that contains a single boss leading a whole bunch of Hands? Or do you take one somewhat broader in scope posse so your entire list belongs to one posse that can encompass almost everything your faction has to offer (that's not the faction posse), but miss out on taking those two models you really like from your main faction? Talk about analysis paralysis! However, if you're someone like me, who loves having options and trying to figure out the best combos as well as always discovering new things, then this is the game for you!

Left to right: Watchers, Order, Warrior Nation, and Outlaws

All of these sub-factions have their own unique feeling to them too, even within factions, so it's actually quite enjoyable to play around with them and see who exactly can go into each posse. However, if you feel overwhelmed easily by various sub-factions (you think 40k or Infinity have too many factions/sub-factions?) all with their own little unique quirk, then you might want to do some research beforehand to find the less-restrictive posses and Bosses.

List Building


Speaking of posses and the main list-building blocks of WWX, let's dig into that. Without the Posse Builder I linked above, it would be incredibly difficult to build a list in this game and that's coming from someone who used to memorize list building requirements and point costs so anytime he went out without his books/resources, he could build lists. Yeah, I'm that much of a list-building nerd and even I have problems at times.

The number of sub-factions, keywords, and posse-building requirements is daunting, I'm not going to sugar-coat it. If you read my Legion review, I mentioned how my significant other actually doesn't mind making lists for Legion and that couldn't be any further from the case here. Once she find a list she kind of liked in WWX, she hasn't even tried to change anything, not even swapping out a single character for another. She's been using the exact same list for about a month and a half right now because she refuses to try to build another list (also note she mostly plays Golden Army and they're one of the smallest factions in the game, being a sub-faction of Outlaws). I mostly play Order, so I have the choice between four different posses (one generic and three belonging to specific bosses) and each one of those posses plays and feels so differently. Honestly, it's quite impressive that even within one faction and using a lot of the same models, I can have so many different ways to play, but it makes list-building tedious at times. Plus, not only do you have to decide which posses to take under your faction umbrella (or posses from other factions if you can), you also have to decide where best each unit slots in. Do I want my Hands unit with Horst's "Host of the High Sircan" posse so they can make use of his posse benefit and his high number of Fortune, or do I slot them into Elita's "Portal Vanguard" to fill out the sixth slot in the posse to give all of the models with the Astaea keyword Teamwork, even though my Hands unit doesn't have that keyword and therefore won't benefit from being in Elita's posse? This doesn't even include all of the various rules models can have to add further slots for K-9 dogs, mobs, civilians, traps, etc.

Example of a posse, the fundamental block in WWX list-building


Like I said, this game presents you with a lot of opportunity costs while playing, but list-building also has it's own. In all honesty I'd have to describe the list-building part of this game as the epitome of "gamer's game". It takes a little bit of studying to fully understand the opportunity costs of making an ideal list and getting the most out of where each model/unit should be slotted and which posses, sub-factions, and factions work well together. However, it is worth noting, there are those generic faction posses to help anyone new be able to take whatever they want to play with and not worry about this meta-component. Also, it's not even required to take posses at all, according to the official rules, so you could quite seriously just pay for the points of all of your models and say goodbye to the complexities of building your own list. I wouldn't recommend this though as you should at least try to use the faction generic posses to help ease yourself into the posse system and to provide some sort of framework for list-building. Posses are a fundamental part of the game especially since Bosses are only allowed to share their Fortune points with units who are in their posses and these Fortune points are a huge boost to helping you mitigate the next issue I'm about to bring up.

Randomness and Chance


Sure, not having a local group is no problem for the hardcore gamer and you, Hardcore Gamer Reader, probably laughed at my complaints regarding all of the sub-factions and list-building, but this one goes out to you, amigo.

Some folks believe that games are only a true test of intellectual might when variables of uncertainty are minimized and you merely provided with the tools to ensure your opponent's absolute destruction. It's why some revere games like Chess and Straetgo as the ultimate ways to gauge one's mental fortitude and determine who is the ultimate strategist. It's why the likes of dice-based games are frowned upon as true tests of tactical know-how because there's too much chance and uncertainty associated with them. It's why some games moved to using multiple dice for skill tests to create a distribution of probability (Warmachine and Hordes). It's why some removed criticals or suffered their blows (Infinity 4th edition). It's why some scrapped dice entirely for a more predictable and easier to control pool of chance by adding in a deck of cards (Malifaux). It's why some games provide modifiers to almost guarantee a skill is a success or a failure (GW games and Infinity) This is not that kind of game.

WWX introduces more uncertainty than any other game I have ever played before. Between the dice rolls for skill checks, the Action deck to determine how many actions you can perform each turn, the Adventure deck that determines your secondary objectives and pseudo-game-breaking bonuses, to the critical system, you're never guaranteed a plan in this game. If you like planning ahead and thinking, in detail, several turns ahead then this is not the game for you.

Please don't take me wrong on this though. I'm not saying this makes it a terrible game or that it's completely random. You still have SEVERAL ways to re-roll dice, help ensure skills succeed when they need to, and other tools to help you set out the plan you had. However, there's not much you can plan on and this is why I think this game might be a hard sell for some and why it's one of the greatest games I have ever played. I get so absolutely tired of games becoming too predictable, to the point where you can see your opponent's list, predict what they're going to do, and they do exactly that (hence why I got bored of Infinity and something I had to accept about 40k when picking it back up). Games are unpredictable and you never quite know what's going to happen which I absolutely love, but I know not many people who play games, especially competitive games, want that kind of experience. That's why I sadly had to consider it more of a negative point than a positive one.

Why I like Legion More, but Enjoy WWX the Most


I think it's an important topic to bring up on how as a critic I have to set aside my personal opinions and feelings to address the quality, feel, gameplay, and acceptability of a game. I realize I'm only one person and I have some really niche interests, so I do my best to write my reviewers from the zeitgeist of gamers with a sprinkle of my opinions. For example, I think most gamers can appreciate the simplicity of WWX's rules and can not appreciate the massive wall of text that is Legion's rules. I also think most gamers can appreciate having meaningful choices in their game and feel frustrated when presented with the illusion of choice.

This is why, as a self-appointed critic, I feel Legion is a better game than WWX. Legion is a tighter ruleset, it doesn't rely too much on variance and chance, and it provides a more fair experience to all involved. WWX is a wild adventure and I wish more people would experience it, but it's not the well-oiled machine that Legion is. I've had some of the craziest and most fun games of WWX than I have playing any other miniature game. Like I've said before, I can never predict how any of my games are going to go, no matter what. The amount of variance helps provide the game with a myriad of replay-ability and the crazy list-building mechanic in the game gives me so much to try out. However, I don't think it's a game every miniatures gamer should play. I think they should experience it, yes, but I don't think every single miniatures gamer -should- invest in it. I think, however, if you call yourself a miniatures gamer you should invest in Legion. It's a classic of the genre (if you will), while WWX is an astounding experience that will really resonate with people like me, those that love building lists, developing combos, having so many opportunity costs that  every game never has a dull moment, and by being so random at times. Legion, on the other hand, gives miniature players that typical miniature game experience they've come to expect except better than most (if not all) offerings out there. It's fair, balanced, still presents a lot of oppurtunity costs, easy to learn and play, especially with previous miniature gaming experience, and still gives plenty of list-building to do (even though some options fall more into the "illusion of choice" branch), but without it overcoming the whole experience. Think of it kind of like this. If you were to ask someone what are some classic dystopian films, you'll probably get Mad Max, Blade Runner, Clockwork Orange, Hunger Games, The Matrix, Akira, etc. But if you want great dystopian films then Turbo Kid, Snowpiercer, and Death Race come to mind. The first are iconic, masterpieces in their genre, and a must-see for anyone wanting to experience the genre (you can argue Hunger Games, sure), but the latter are for after you get the foundation and you want something a little different and spicy.

Turbo Kid - Wikipedia
One of my favorite movies, but definitely not for everyone, just like WWX

That's why if you are a dedicated miniatures gamer or a new one, I would recommend Legion first, closely followed by WWX. If you're a more seasoned miniatures gamer looking for a fresh take on the genre and other themes you've become familiar with, than welcome to the club and give WWX the chance it deserves. If there was ever a criminally underrated and underplayed miniatures game out there, it would be WWX and I hope this changes in the future because I am beyond excited to see what else this incredible and beautiful game has in store for the future, especially with Lost World Exodus on the way.

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