01 March 2016
To Antares… and beyond! We find out if Rick Priestley has penned another classic science fiction wargame.
Warlord Games | Sci-fi wargame | £70 | 2+ players | 60+ minutes | www.warlordgames.com
Hindsight is a wonderful thing. When the Beyond the Gates of Antares Kickstarter was cancelled around three years ago, some people probably thought it would be the end of Warlord’s science fiction game, which had been penned by Warhammer 40k legend Rick Priestley. However, the end of the Kickstarter was really only the beginning for Beyond the Gates of Antares and since then the game has gone through masses of beta testing, seen a whole host of miniatures released and even seen a few game changes. So, despite the fact the new Xilos Horizon Starter Set is officially the ‘launch’ of Beyond the Gates of Antares there were some very solid foundations on which this set is built.
So, what’s in the box? Well, as you would expect there’s everything to get a two-player game up and running (apart from the terrain of course), including six Ghar Walkers (robots with puny monkey-like creatures inside), 32 Concord troops (a mix of robotic drones and humans in futuristic armour), dice, pin markers, quick start rules and a massive 260-page rulebook.
Let’s start with that rulebook because it is, quite frankly, an absolute joy. You can feel the love and attention that’s gone into Beyond the Gates of Antares since the end of the Kickstarter and every page of this mammoth volume oozes class. It’s also testament to how the game has developed, as the beta rulebook (which was available to order so people could try out the rules) clocked in at a respectable 58 pages. In an age where many games are trying to steamline their rules – just look at Age of Sigmar’s four-pages – it’s a pleasure to see Warlord producing something so comprehensive and detailed. You’ll find stats galore for the different factions (including some very handy Army Lists to help you build a force quickly and efficiently), stats for weapons, rules for the use of terrain, scenarios, special rules, etc. It's a wargaming feast!
Of course, you may read all that and think ‘wow, this must be ridiculously complicated’ but, in fact, that couldn’t be further from the truth as Beyond the Gates of Antares is a game that can potentially be grasped within a few minutes. Just take a look at the eightpage Quick Start Guide that comes in the Xilos Horizon, which details a mini scenario between just six Concord soldiers and two of the Ghar Walkers. If you play through this small game, which will only take 30 minutes (at most), then you’re pretty much up to speed with the basic concepts and can then look to expand your knowledge further by delving into the tome-like main rulebook. You can also begin increasing the amount of models you play with. You see, although Beyond the Gates of Antares can be played with just a handful of miniatures (as seen here in the starter set), that’s really only the beginning and larger games can be played with upwards of 50 models.
Seeing as we’ve mentioned core concepts, it’s worth going through some of the basic ideas behind Beyond the Gates of Antares, which help to make it such a fun and engaging experience. Arguably the most important element is the order dice, which dictate what unit gets to perform an action next. That’s right, instead of rolling for initiative or anything like that, each unit generates one or two (in the case of the Ghar suits) dice that are placed into a bag. Each turn someone draws a dice randomly out of a bag, which can then be used to give orders to a unit that hasn’t already activated. It’s a wonderful mechanic that adds a great deal of tension to battles because you
can never guarantee when it will be your go. Also, it’s not necessarily always best to keep drawing your dice out the bag because your opponent can build up their actions ready to respond.
When it comes to combat, once again, Beyond the Gates of Antares includes some elements that ensure a firefight is always a dramatic experience. For combat you roll a certain amount of D10 (usually dictated by the amount of individual soldiers left in a unit along with the weapon you’ve chosen to use) and then you need to roll under the model’s accuracy value. A 10 is always a miss, while a one is something called a ‘lucky shot’…more on that in a moment. On top of this you’ve got modifiers for things like terrain getting in the way or distance… but generally it’s never complicated to quickly work out the target needed and then get blasting.
Once you’ve rolled it’s time to work out which of your opponent’s units have been hit. Typically the other player gets to allocate hits but, if you’ve rolled a one, then you can choose which model must make an armour save, which is extremely handy for picking off soldiers with powerful weapons or drones that help to buff the unit. Just like the combat roll, armour saves are rolled on a D10 and must be under the unit’s resist value, although there are potential modifiers depending on the weapon’s capabilities. Again, it’s a really fluid system that’s quick to understand and doesn’t hold up the flow of battle.
Interestingly, combat isn’t always just about killing your opponent and often it’s actually useful to ‘pin’ a unit. You see, when a squad is hit by enemy fire they’re given a pin marker to indicate they’ve been shot at, even if no individual soldiers have been killed. These pin markers can quickly turn the tide of a fight because they negatively affect a unit’s accuracy, plus any unit that’s been pinned must make a successful command roll before it can perform an action. If the command roll fails, then the unit just sits there looking a bit gormless. What’s more, if the pin markers really start to build up, then the unit will be forced to make a break test, which can potentially result in the unit legging it off the battlefield… even if no individual soldiers have been killed. In the Xilos Horizon set pin markers are key to taking out the heavily armoured Ghar. This is because their armour makes them very hard to kill but their slow speed means they’ll be taking a lot of hits as they lumber towards their opponent, so those pin markers will invariably be creeping upwards.
And that’s pretty much it for the core rules, which should quickly become second nature to an experienced wargamer, while even a newcomer should be up and running after playing through the Quick Start scenario a couple of times… exactly what you would expect from a starter set really. Once you’ve grasped the basics then that’s really only the beginning, as the rulebook adds numerous layers of extra depth thanks to elements such as reactions (which allow you to immediately respond to the enemy’s actions), narrative scenarios, all manner of special rules for terrain, vehicles with multiple order dice and plenty of different units. Unfortunately, as this is officially the launch of Beyond the Gates of Antares, many of these vehicles and units aren’t available but they offer a tantalizing and exciting glimpse into the future of the game.
Warlord Games and Rick Priestley should be immensely proud of Beyond the Gates of Antares because it is a spectacular achievement and the Xilos Horizon is a starter set that’s jam-packed with quality. The core rules are relatively simple to pick up and play and the rulebook is very well written, with clear and concise instructions and plenty of examples. However, that’s really only the beginning and the meaty 260-page rulebook is crammed with expanded rules to keep you coming back for more.
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