Thursday, September 11, 2014
Out of our Element: Wild West Exodus
We're going to try a new format this time, and I've sought to organize my thoughts a little more categorically. Hopefully that will give people a similar feel to what I actually got from the demo, both in terms of "feeling like you were there" and in terms of being able to take each part of the experience standalone. Don't like the new format? Want me to go back to a stream of consciousness? Let me know in the comments!
Between word of mouth and having seen a little of the product on store shelves, I knew most of what was being offered here. Steampunk, grim dark, wild west action, portrayed with 35mm models (no surprise). These models have rules and points costs depicted on stat cards, rather than in army books, immediately drawing a parallel to WM/H. This was further emphasized in how health and other stats are tracked and identified, as well as in the character of the models. Significant differences start to arrive when you consider the system is based around shooting (mid to close range by 40k standards), yet is played on a full 6'x4', unlike other skirmish games. The last hugely eye catching feature was the fact that it's a d10 system. Smaller model counts helps them get away with "larger" dice (as I don't believe d10s come in mini), and larger dice means (in theory) greater levels of distinction in skill between individual models.
So, this has been hinted at leading up to here but WWX seems to combine the best elements of WM/H with positive elements of 40k. They've reintroduced saving throws, and the dice manipulation, rather than "boost" has been replaced with an expendable influence system which allows players to reroll the dice they choose, but for a price. It's a nice resource allocation system. At a system level, I was very very impressed, and definitely think WWX is poised to give WM/H competition it wasn't ready for, especially considering the "action point" system powering WWX. Models have a number of action points they get to use each time they are activated (activation is done in a hybrid phase unit setup that's about halfway between 40k and WM/H) and they can spend them to make any combination of moves, ranged attacks, and close combat attacks. Now, speed or agility can be reflected with more than just higher rates of movement, and it's possible to rig up "flurry of blows" style combatants.
The biggest complaint with the rules though has more to do with the company and how they organized their demo. Godfrey and I played a quick game (maybe 500 points) on a 2'x2' board. He had the outlaws, gun slinging villians led by none other than Jesse James himself (packing thermite rounds for his pistols no less!). I had the Warrior Nation. A few Native American types, featuring Hawkman, a Werebear, and a living spirit. We glanced over our cards, rolled for initiative, and Godfrey took the first move. On player turns they can activate up to three models, so he'd get to use his whole posse before I could act. That said, he elected to only activate two, as his sniper was poised to take aim and fire on me if I entered his range of vision. Jesse's thermite round bowled over my bear and knocked a few wounds off, and another henchman took a bite out as well. This prompted me to ask if being knocked down has the same effect as it does in WM/H, and it does not. This meant that my bear "stole" the activation from another friendly model, and doubled his action points. It took my first to stand, and two more to close on my foe (also of note is that different models have unique melee ranges, and that some can even use their pistols in CC), leaving me three action points with which to tear one of Godfrey's guys apart. I gave the bear the activation from my living spirit, because so long as she was more than 8" away from an enemy, they couldn't shoot her, meaning she was able to be safely left at home. Seeing how effortlessly I had decimated Godfrey, we were prompted to remark on the balance of the demo, to which we were told that it wasn't intended to be a two player demo, and that the producers were supposed to play the Outlaws while attendees played the Warrior Nation. This didn't sit quite right with either Godfrey nor I as it felt like the company was willing to trick players into thinking they were more skilled, or that the Warrior Nation was better, in an effort to drive sales, which is really troubling to see. For anyone who complains about the internal unbalance of Dark Vengeance or Stormclaw, it's about like that. Now, something Godfrey and I batted about is which is worse: running a one sided demo, or selling a one sided box? At the end of the day, I see them as the same. Each is reflective of a business strategy, rather than a gaming or hobby sensibility. It should give us a players or hobbyists pause and examine what it is that we want not only from a product, but from a producer.