For two GenCon’s now I have seen the exquisite displays for this game – so I broke down and played a quick demo and bought a copy of the rules. I have to approach this review from two perspectives – one is the game – the other is the universe itself. I don’t know much about Warcradle Studios, but I am impressed with aspects of this game system.
The game is solid as a miniatures tactical game. My own little playtest at home taught me that if you have more than a dozen or so minis, it can get slow. Otherwise, the flow is good. Players use Activation Decks (of cards) to determine initiative which adds a bit of Old West flare to the game. The Action Card deck uses a system of points (1-5) to activate miniatures. There is an Adventure deck where a player draws a number of cards based on the size of the scenario and these can be used for Guts and Glory. Glory improves your accumulation of victory points – where Guts is the other end of the spectrum or provides some unique quirks to the game such as interruption of another action.
From a game perspective, the minis have statistics that are very close to those for a RPG game (which the rules strangely lack). You have Quick, Mind, Limit, Fight, Aim and Grit. I won’t bore you with the details, but each factor into play. I get the feeling that the designers were on the verge of doing a RPG, but opted for a minis game instead.
Fortune factors in as well – measured with poker chips. You can spend Fortune on things like aiming, re-rolling failures, etc. You’re limited with these but my own experience at GenCon taught me that these can change the course of a gunfight. Other things that factor in are artifacts and magic portals…more on that stuff below.
The miniatures range for Wild West Exodus is outstanding and exquisite and one of the key draws for the game. I picked up a couple of the minis and was impressed with their detail. The ones I got were hard plastic.
Overall, the game has solid mechanics and game flow. The pace is pretty fast once you go over the basics. The rules are, for the most part, straight-forward and easy to digest. There’s a lot of diversity about weapons types and impacts that give the game a good flavor of play. I love how they baked in the lingo of the old West into the rules for flavor. Hats off to the designers for their writing.
The universe itself as “The Dystopian Age.” Most alternate history games change one thing, like the South winning the American Civil War, then the universe is the result of things that happen after that. I was expecting that. Wild West Exodus does not follow this model. Instead it changes dozens of things to craft a crossover between steampunk, Wild West historical, magic, and alien technology. More than half of the rules is dedicated to the background. Some of the writing here is pure genius, where other parts are hard to follow.
What emerges from this background is nothing like the American Wild West – a dizzying blur of faint historical context and a dollop of incredible imagination. In the end, I like playing the game more than I do digging into the universe background on this set of rules. There were parts of the complex background that I did not like, but parts of it are brilliant. There are no good or bad guys here, every faction has a dark side to it which I like. There are a lot of factions to choose from.
The game itself is very good, the background is something you and your players will have to pick and choose from as to what you like. Overall, I give this an eight out of ten, mostly because I have not warmed up to the background of the universe just yet.