Friday, 10 April 2015

Aetherium Skirmish Game - Game Review.

An Introduction to...Aetherium...


Name – Aetherium
Manufacturer – Anvil Eight Games
Type - Tabletop Miniature Skirmish Game.
No. of Players - 2
Age Range - 14+. The rule-set is pretty easy to grasp but is a little different in certain game mechanic areas from that you're probably used to so needs a thorough read. In addition the models require assembly and painting.
Rulebook - 108 pages, Full colour.


What You Need to Start.
The starter box contains everything you need to start a game including the rulebook, game area, board pieces, dice, markers, objectives and enough models for two complete forces. The complete un-boxing can be found here should you want a detailed look.

Extras Needed – Nothing extra is actually needed to start playing other than the box contents.

Area Needed - The game mat is a fraction over 30" by 30" but you'll need some extra space where you can lay out your 'console' that contains your stat cards.


Time Needed – Games take around 60 minutes but your first few games will take a little longer as you get used to a few of the unique rules. 

Initial Costs.
The box set is $100 and gets you and another player up and running as long as one of the two of you is trustworthy enough to look after all the game pieces, lol. The rule-book on it's own is $30 so two of you could be ready to go for $65 each. For those of you (like me) who are in a different country you'll have to check out local prices or postage costs which may push up the price somewhat.

Models will require assembly and some preparation (not to mention painting). So those new to the hobby may find a few overheads on top of the relatively cheap buy in as you'll need cutters, files and super-glue for the model assembly. A can of undercoat and some model paints will also be useful if you want your models to look nice and so other hobbyists don't look with scorn upon your shamefully unpainted models, lol.


A feature on the starter set models can be found here.

Expansions – There are a number of additional models available for the two current factions ranging from the $12 - $20 mark for single models up to $30 or $40 for multiple model sets such as the 'sub-routines'. Duplicate board pieces, extra rule-books and different dice sets are also available but not strictly necessary. A third faction has also been hinted at...


Background.
Enter the Aetherium - a world between worlds, a place capable of containing the human mind, a place of infinite possibility, a place that is no place at all.

There are currently two factions and they're significantly different in style. Here's some background on them from the website..

THE AXIOM
Order is Freedom. Obedience is Salvation.
THE STATE and THE KEY:
One of the last relevant governments in the world, the Axiom is a singular civilizing entity that lords over the loosely assembled remnants of Old Europe and North African territories. From the ashes of the First Great Trade War, the Axiom movement has been the salvation for nearly 1.5 billion souls in a dour and brutal future. Citizens of the Axiom worship with religious zeal the notion of order and secular progress.

In turn, the Axiom State rules with righteous fervour in both the Aetherial and Maeterial worlds.

Progress and faith in stability -that is what matters - one need merely believe that the world is better than it was, and that it will be better still through hard work and the adherence to the basic principles of civilization and social order. Thus, the status quo is progress. Order is liberation.




THE NANOMEI

Wild. Free. Reckless.
NANOMEI:
The Nanomei are an extraordinary, decentralized collective –though there are two characteristics that seem to bind them to a single purpose: they worship the idea of freedom, and they are wild.The Nanomei are innately gifted hackers who can bend the Aetherium’s fluid reality to their will and, though they lack the power and resources of corporate houses and oligarchical governments, they have embraced the anonymity afforded by the Aetherium. They do so to resist. Always. Resist.

The Nanomei inspire extraordinary reaction. They are freedom fighters to some and reckless extremists to others.  They are talented. They are mundane users. They are wild. They are arbitrary. They are juvenile, vibrant, and cruel. They are anarchy itself. They are the end of civilization. They are humanity’s last hope against vile oppression





A Brief Overview of the Game.

Some 'Mechanics' First...
The game uses several computer themed terms in place of some more usual ones such as Cycle Speed (CS) which equates to number of squares that may be moved as well as paying for certain special actions called .EXE. The CS stat also has an Overclock (OC) value which is the number of extra CS that can be bought using RAM. RAM also allows you to move the game areas about on the grid, rotate them as well as the aforementioned overclocking and is a resource generated by your Avatar and by control of objectives and renews periodically.

The game area is a mat containing a 30 x 30 grid of squares that represents 'quantum noise' which is basically the area that doesn't have board pieces on it and is dangerous for models that walk through or get hurled into it. Onto this area are placed a number of area tiles (referred to as Schema) based on the mission being played. For some missions the locations are specified and for others the tiles are placed alternatively by the two players. There are also a number of objectives called Pylons and Nodes that feature heavily in missions as well as being an additional source of an in game resource called RAM that I've already mentioned.

In a standard game each player will have control of five programs (though some of these contain multiple models). You have one Avatar who generates RAM and is your leader, two Functions and two sub-routines. There is no points system like you're probably used to in other games and as long as you don't take duplicates you can pick any models from your selected faction within those limits.

Each model comes with a stat card that details it's various abilities as well as a card used for deciding activation order.


A Slightly Different Approach...
The game has a somewhat unusual activation mechanic. Each player alternates activation which the skirmish game players amongst you will be familiar with but with the fundamental difference that this continues even if one player has ended up with less programs to activate than the other so one player may end up resetting his RAM counter and deciding the activation order of his models more often than the other. Basically your always going to be alternating activation regardless of losses to your forces. At first I thought this mechanic would cause issues with powerful surviving models getting lots of turns to do their thing but given the games primary missions being the acquisition and maintaining of objectives this turned out not to be the case. It also has the benefit of being interestingly different from what we're used to and it's nice to see a game company taking a bit of a risk with their concepts. Anyway...

Getting Stuck In...
Activation order is decided at the beginning of your turn by placing your program activation cards in whichever order you choose. You're then stuck with this order so a bit of second guessing of your opponent can well become a strategic consideration.


Certain programs contain multiple models and these come in two types either Segmented or Linked. 'Segmented' units can act individually whereas 'Linked' ones have a single model move and then the others move into contact with them though Linked models usually have some kind of bonus for ganging up on their opponents some of the Segmented ones do as well.

Attacking is fairly interesting as well. An attacker rolls a number of custom dice (usually three) and matches the symbols rolled to those found on the attack section of the stat card with the damage output increasing as the number of matching symbols increases. Several of these symbols also have an additional 'disruption' symbol on them which adds an extra effect to the attack. All models also have a safeguard effect which triggers when they're damaged.


Once both sides have had the specified amount of Re-calibrations (the end of turn recalculation of RAM and deciding of the next lot of activation orders) the game ends though some missions may end earlier if victory conditions are met.

I could spend a lot more time discussing the many interesting and innovative game-play elements contained in this game but instead I'll just cheat and post some videos of people doing a much better job. There's a video covering the basic game elements and a game-play video taken after one of the conventions that covers some of the basic mechanics that I've been explaining terribly. 

video

The gentlemen in question apparently did this after a full day of demo's so you'll have to forgive him if he sounds a bit hoarse and a little worn out, lol.


I'll try and do some kind of battle report on a game at some point in the near future but I'm afraid my current work circumstances make giving an exact date for that a bit tricky.

Resources and Links.
The Kickstarter page still has a lot of information and can be found here.
The website for Anvil Eight Games is located here.
Both of my wonderful unboxing features can be found in here.

Thoughts and comments are (as usual) most welcome.

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