We’ve kept some posts and articles from the development of the game as they gives some insight into the thinking behind the game and the lists. This is one penned by Rick Priestley back in April 2015, when the rules were still in Beta Test.
Rick says: For the last few weeks I’ve had my head buried inside the deepest, darkest and stickiest gubbins of the Antares army lists (NB. this article was first published in April 2015). Much of the wargames equivalent of spannerwork has been involved and I’d like to thank everyone who has lent a hand in the process; not least Nick Simmerson who has patiently read and commented upon every new version as well as helping out with playtesting and demo games – so thanks muchly that man. So are they done yet you might reasonably ask – well they are getting there, squire… getting there!
I notice by the version number on my list files that we have reached V5 – version 5 – which means 5 substantially different versions have been tried out to date. You’d think after all that development the latest army lists would be atomic powered, or maybe have the ability to time travel, or choose your army for you and roll the dice. Alas no. Oddly enough, after trying out various innovative ‘points free’ systems and a mix of points and fixed units, I’ve reverted to something that is fairly traditional in scope and format. Why? Well because that’s what suits the game best, allowing us to differentiate between the values of units more effectively. Also – no small consideration this one – it is most readily open to adding things in the future.
So broadly speaking I’ve adopted a system where armies are chosen to a total points value and individual units have a points value together with add-ons, options, upgrades, call them what you will. It’s a tried and tested method – in fact it’s broadly speaking the same as we used for Bolt Action – so no real surprises. Units are categorised into four Combat Levels: Tactical, Support, Strategic and Auxiliary. The number of units available at each level varies depends on the size of army we’re going for, with larger armies containing a higher proportion of support and strategic units. The actual values still need fine tuning, but broadly speaking an infantry unit comes in at around 100 points, most support units slightly less, and command units slightly more. A typical trooper weighs in around 15-25 points depending upon type. A 500 point a side game usually amounts to 3-5 units per army with most forces fielding 4. Bigger games are roughly proportional, although the ability to field powerful strategic units will reduce the total of course.
One useful result of putting together army lists is it exposes things that you wouldn’t otherwise have noticed. Sometimes it reveals where armies are lacking either in choices or in some tactical options – other than intended ones that is! In some cases I’m playing catch-up with our designers who have cheerfully raced ahead and made models from the sketchiest of outlines. In others I’m obliged to range ahead of things and create new units or vehicles without any certainty of how these things will be realised. That means there are plenty of new things to add on top of the units already described in the ruleset.
The first ranges to reach anything like completion were the Algoryn and Boromites – so you’d think they’d be relatively little to add. Not a bit of it – the very fact that we already had something of a look and feel for these ranges has actually made it easier to develop new units. Having established a distinctive look for the Algoryn weapon platforms and skimmers, Russ has extended the design to encompass heavier vehicles – the equivalent of tanks – and more support and heavy weapons. The same is true of the Boromites, where our army now includes different kinds of Lavamite including a ridden version and a monstrous Brood Mother with weapon pits dug into its silicate hide. The army lists allow for a choice of weapons with most of these vehicles and larger creatures – working title ‘Humungous Beasts’ (inspired by a glance around the Warlord Games sales office)!
Of our remaining armies, the Freeborn have required the most development – because they were never really envisaged as a complete army in the Beta version of the game. However, thanks to the stalwart efforts of our design team these chaps have raced ahead and spawned a few surprises along the way. One of the interesting things form my point of view is that it has forced me to think through some of the aspects of the Freeborn civilisation – what makes them tick – and what exactly is their relationship with the Concord and Isorian Shard? Without wanting to give away too much at this stage, it’s indicative that the Freeborn have acquired NuHu in the form of Renegade Nu-Hu Shards, as well as many new Feral types including a variety of bizarre creatures such as the thing that currently rejoices under the name of The Meld Skark… of which more to come! The Freeborn remain one of the most varied and adaptable of armies – less highly organised than the professional forces of the Concord – more like a bunch of adventurers and explorers. Or bandits and pirates. Depending on which side you are on.
With all of the lists it was important to make sure troops had at least the optional capability of taking on all of their likely opponents. Of course, I always imagined I’d be adding grenades and various other weapons or equipment to the units. Figuring all of that out has taken a while so far and I suppose you could describe it as a work in progress. To start with I’ve given most units the option to take grenades in line with the grenade rule update I posted a while back. Most infantry units get the option for plasma grenades – which are a basic 1 SV type. The useful thing about grenades is that they allow for an accumulative SV hit, enabling infantry to take out even massive armoured targets… if they have enough grenades! I’ve also allowed for some extra ammo types for Xslings and MicroX launchers that address the same need – giving infantry units some hitting power against armoured targets.
Work on the Ghar has moved up in priority now that we have some preliminary models, which I hope we will get to see soon! I always imagined the Ghar would be added to our range at a later date – whilst the Isorians were envisaged as one of the first forces – but as it’s turned out the Ghar have shoved their way to the front whilst the Isorians have taken a back seat – which just shows you can never be certain of how these things pan out. No doubt the Isorians will dust themselves off or emerge from the protection of their phase cloaks in the next round of design.
The Ghar present some interesting challenges because they are so unlike our regular armies – big, powerful but primitive – brimming with environmental toxins and space-time distorting technology that no sane race would touch with a Boromite Rock Rider’s Lectro Lance. Once consequence of this is that Ghar units cost a lot of points – about double a Concord infantry unit in fact – which means fewer units to a force. This also means fewer Order Dice for Ghar than most armies – an interesting game dynamic in itself. From my list-writing point of view it also affects the way armies are chosen. If you only have big chunky units then you need some way of balancing the points with small cost add ons and upgrades. In the case of Ghar Battle Squads (3 models) that manifests itself as plasma dumps and plasma amplifiers – the latter temporally adding more Order Dice for a unit at some risk of it all going horrible wrong! However we are Ghar… we care nothing for such trivial concerns! Speaking of which, the Ghar Outcasts have also acquired a helpful walker-mounted cannon as well as helpful chaps called Tectors who fulfil a role similar to targeters in more advanced armies. These help to balance out the points as well – very handy!
When it comes to spending to odd point to fill out the armies there are a number of one-off bonuses available too. I call these Army Bonuses and they really are a collection of re-rolls and modifiers designed as ‘make weights’ to ensure you can always get as close to the army’s points value as possible. At least that was the idea when I started! Some of our players have become so enamoured of our bonuses they happily spend the extra points for the sheer pleasure of forcing the opponent to redraw an Order Dice from the dice bag, or re-roll a Res test, and so on. In fact, they have become a very entertaining aspect of play for those who wish to use them. Just goes to show… army lists do make you think!
Right – well I’d better get back to the grindstone as the deadline for the finished Antares game is looming in the form of Warlord Studio’s own Paul Sawyer… and believe me they don’t come much more looming than that. Meantime, thank you to everyone who has commented on the work in progress updates either via our forums or the Antares Facebook site – it all helps get things done and it all helps get things better.