At my local gaming store we are in the process of beginning a ‘slow grow’ league for Beyond the Gates of Antares. BtGA is a 30mm sci-fi miniature game from Warlord Games written by everyone’s favourite gaming uncle Rick Priestly. The game was released a few years ago with a small amount of fanfare and has been getting a steady series of releases from the company since then. The core gameplay comes from their Bolt Action WWII game with additions for a science fiction setting.
As part of the process of familiarizing myself with the game and the background I thought I’d write some blog posts about the game and share them with the local gamers to help get us all up to speed. So to begin, here are three aspects of the game that I find interesting and distinct about Beyond the Gates of Antares.
BtGA uses the same order dice as Bolt Action with one small but important improvement. Each unit in a force contributes an order dice which are out into a bag. Each player has distinctly coloured dice to represent their force. These are then drawn out one at a time and used to activate a unit. The game has six possible orders and the dice are six sided so you issue a unit an order and then mark it as activated by placing the dice next to it showing the order it was given.
The flow of battle in Gates of Antares is random and you never know when you will have a chance to give a unit an order. I am quite a fan of alternating activations but even in that type of system you always know that once your opponent is finished you can react. No so in BtGA. You may not get a chance to rally a unit holding an objective after they have taken fire. Your opponent may position a unit for an assault only to not get the next two activations and have the support for their planned assault shot down before they could get into place.
The best part about the dice is the Multiple Order Dice ability that some larger vehicles and drones have. These units can have two or three order dice assigned to them allowing them to activate multiple times in a turn. So instead of having your large, expensive, tank make a single activation in Gates of Antares they can activate multiple times and make a larger impact on the battle in a way that seems more appropriate to a large vehicle. Y
Probes and Drones
The Gates of Antares universe is filled with AIs and these make it on the battlefield in several ways. The most common is as drones that are attached to units to provide them with additional abilities. Shield drones will try to intercept incoming fire. Spotter drones not only help with direct fire combat but can link with other spotter drones to provide LOS when a unit doesn’t have it. Batter drones project a force field to make incoming fire less accurate. You can add drones to reroll saves, increase armour, add camo. Not only does this let you kit out units to make them more formidable on the field but it also lets you build, within the limits of the unit options, a set of troops specific to a task. You can also have units of drones, then called probes, which move across the battlefield targeting enemy units, scouting or providing medical services.
Its a small addition but having these AIs flitting around the field adds to the sense that you are playing a sci-fi game and not a 40K clone without the psychic powers. And lets not forget the larger weapon drones. In BtGA most factions have access to all sorts of wonderful AI powered floating weapon platforms that provide a step between support weapons and tanks.
Now clearly the Tau in 40K have access to drones but Gates of Antares expands on the concept and allows access to them for all of the factions in the game where appropriate. The Boromite faction, a group of bio-engineered miners, don’t have the same sort of access to them but they get some other fun goodies in return.
Not a D6 in sight
A long time ago, before the glaciers pulled back and opened up a lush new continent for human expansion, there was a game called Void. Void was a good system, with some interesting factions and some decent miniatures. To my mind though the best part of Void was that it used the D10 as the means to determine game results instead of the D6.
BtGA also forgoes the D6 and uses a D10 to determine combat, armour saves and all in-game results. This is even more important when the game deals with mostly human, or human derived, models since it gives the developers the ability to make one faction faster, more accurate or stronger without making them significantly different. An increase of one on a D6 is a 16.7% difference but only 10% on a D10. It also means that you can make a model far more effective in one area without wrapping past the end of the results available on a dice. What exactly does Str 7 mean when your dice only goes up to 6? Human in Gates of Antares can be different without being wildly different or, conversely, much better but still one the same scale. If you can still use the same dice regardless of the stat values it means that you can avoid the use of combat result tables as well.
Game modifiers are also more precise when using a D10. A +2 modifier to a D6 roll changes it by 33.5%. The same modifier on a D10 is only a 20% difference. You can also stack smaller D10 modifiers to a test and still have a good chance at succeeding. Stack too many modifiers, even small ones, to a D6 test and the task becomes impossible.
So those are three things about Beyond the Gates of Antares that, I think, make it an interesting system and also a good science fiction title. Next up…? I am not sure but I will most likely let my reading of the rulebook determine that for me.
If you are interested you can download a condensed rulebook and army lists for the factions from the Warlord Games online store. You can also check out the Gates of Antares website for articles about the game.