Review of Horizon Wars Miniatures Rules

Horizon Wars
The cover is more cool than the rules

Osprey Games went from being an almost unknown spinoff of a famous military history publisher to being a presence in the gaming industry, seemingly overnight.  Horizon Wars is their newest set of rules and I had to pick up a copy.  I’m a junkie for military miniature gaming and was hopeful, having already purchased Tomorrow’s War ruleset a year or so ago.

Horizon Wars is designed for 2mm-10mm platoon to battalion size engagements.  While some pseudo-future background material is provided, the rules are designed to be generic in nature, a ruleset that you can take and customize for your own futuristic worlds and wars.

It’s a hardcover book, 120 pages, with some illustrations and photographs of miniatures.  The physical quality of the game is solid, though some of the miniatures and terrain are quite plain looking.  I would have expected something with a little more pizazz for the cost.

You get rules covering a mix of vehicles, aircraft, infantry, and Mechs.  The key mechanic of the game is that Range is the core of the target roll.  So if your range of an element (Infantry, tanks, Mechs) is 10 inches away, then that becomes the target roll that is modified against.  The defender (in the “Incoming” phase) rolls a unit’s specific number of Defense die.  Those rolls that match the incoming attack are considered removed.  The rest hit and do damage.  The mechanic is simple to master and different, which is a plus.

The game has rules for aircraft; a rather beefy section of the rules which seems like it would really bog down play in all fairness.  It is really hard to have near-future aircraft engage on the battlefield when, in the real-world, they can strike from miles away.  No matter what rules you play, it is awkward combining aircraft and ground combat without a little bit of abstraction.

Being a BattleTech fan and author, I gyrated to the Mech rules.  If you are looking for a replacement to BattleTech here – don’t.  Stick with Alpha Strike.  In Horizon Wars ‘Mechs have additional capabilities, but for all intents and purposes act just like tanks and infantry on the battlefield. Yes, they have some capabilities defined as Weapons Upgrades, but otherwise they are just like every other ground-pounder in the game system.

That is actually one of the failings of the rules.  Different units really are pretty generic.  Yes, there are traits applicable to infantry, but for the most part, it feels like each unit is pretty much like the other in terms of ground battles. You don’t get a “feel” for Mechs being anything special, nor do you get a taste for the differences between ground tanks and hovertanks.

The comparison to Alpha Strike from Catalyst Games Labs is fair.  Horizon Wars reaches to be that kind of rounded system, but fails.  Its unique combat roll mechanic is different but not enough to compel you to run out and get this game.  Its real strength is that it hits a niche in terms of game scale that lacks a lot of good rules.  In that, Horizon Wars is a viable candidate as long as players are willing to take these rules and tweak them.

I give this a three out of five stars rating.   I wasn’t dazzled…not yet.

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5 thoughts on “Review of Horizon Wars Miniatures Rules

  1. I think you means “gravitate” rather than “gyrate” (although I’m loving the image of you gyrating to the rules). I can’t argue with most of the observations. Mechs *do* work like pretty much everything else. Aircraft really should have a more abstract role, and their rules are pretty meaty compared to the rest of the book. But those things all emerged consciously from design decisions integral to the game. It’s definitely not BT. Otherwise I would have just played BT instead of writing HW.

  2. Marc Mandel

    I concur with Pardoe’s assessment. I bought Tomorrow’s War and just got Horizon Wars to get additional rules pertaining to Sci-Fi themes compared to those I already have, the original BattleTech, Infinity the Game by Corvus Belli and Beyond the Gates of Antares by Warlord Games. Compared to Tomorrow’s War historical content, after reading the Horizon Wars chapter entitled A Short History of the Future, I came away with the impression that the chapter was weak and perhaps written solely to have a chapter similar to what Tomorrow’s War provided. I liked that the photographs in Tomorrow’s War were captioned and tied to the book’s historical content whereas Horizon Wars simply provides uncaption photos. I did appreciate the appendix page that identified which miniatures and terrain pieces were shown in the photos. I liked Jenkins’ rules for aircraft with my only concern being that an aircraft with a die of 6 placed next to it normally indicates a flying disengaged unit (it has broken off its engagement and is leaving the battle area perhaps because it is low on fuel or spent all of its munitions) but can also indicate a landed unit that can’t be removed from its flight stand. When I play, I intend to use a token labeled “Landed” or a different colored D6 for this purpose to prevent any confusion. I also didn’t like the idea of a set-piece battle or adventure having a Force Cost that enables each player to buy their Force Presence and then being required to lose some of that overall presence at the start of the game.This might be a simply way for commanders to design standard battle groups and then reflect combat losses that one or both sides incurred prior to a given battle but I dislike the approach. If I play for a while, perhaps the approach will grow on me. In summary, on a scale of 1 (lowest) to 5 (highest), I agree with Pardoe that Horizon Wars rates a mid-range 3.

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