Wild West Exodus – A First Look

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Howdy Stranger! Eat hot lead!

Out of the rising darkness come the heroes and villains that make up the world of Wild West Exodus. Set just after the American Civil War, Wild West Exodus combines the still raw battle scars and rivalries of the Union and  the Confederacy with a looming dark power, embodied by those known only as The Dark Council. Against this backdrop, a new wave of outlandish cybersteam technologies and spiritual attunement are transforming the conflicts between the factions and threatening to wreak havoc and tear apart the fragile peace…

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After initial setup. Dave has some great scenery from playing lots of Dead Man’s Hand, so the game looked great on a desert prairie board

One of my main purchases at Salute, the Lawmen posse I picked up, got their first run through last night courtesy of one of the club regulars, Dave. He was playing the Outlaws, and we decided to keep things fairly simple with a $500 limit on hiring our posse (spending dollars being the ‘points’ system that Wild West Exodus uses). This meant I was using Wyatt Earp as my boss, a UR30 Lawbot (this model reminds me so much of the movie West World), my light support deputy with a gatling gun (lots of bullets!), 2 long range deputies and 3 close range deputies. Dave had Jesse James and his incredibly annoying gun of death, Cole Younger, a light support bandit with a quad barreled shotgun, 3 close range and 3 long range bandits.

The game itself plays really smoothly. All either of us had done was flick through the quick start rules and glance at the full book before setting out across the prairie, and when we met in the abandoned town of “Tharsasnake in Maaboot” the lead started flying faster than a cat on a hot tin roof. Or something.

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The Lawmen and the Outlaws close each other down, at this point I’m still doing pretty well…

There ain’t no law in these parts

No laws, but some good easy to grasp game rules. The basics are straightforward, each model has a stat-line that describes how good it is at doing physical stuff like jumping, climbing and hitting people in the face with their fists (or with their handy pet snake, which we’ll get to later, yes, seriously, a snake) and how accurate they are at the all important activity of shooting their opposition across the street like the low down, good fer nothin varmint that they are. It also covers the number of actions they get each turn, how far they can move, how likely they are to turn tail and hop it and all of the other fairly standard game stuff.

The game has an alternating activations mechanic with an initiative roll at the beginning of each turn to determine who is fastest on the draw. Each activation ‘chunk’ allows you to pick between 1 and 3 models and perform their actions according to what you want them to do, whether that be move lots, move then shoot then move, or just blast away at that threatening looking cactus that said something mean about your dear old ma. All actions that require a dice roll use D10s rather than your standard D6 and this gives things more of a probability range, which is a good thing in general. Though not when you roll lots of 1’s as I did at some fairly critical moments last night…

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Lawbot UR30 surveys the scene of his impending destruction…

Influence matters in this town

The extra spice comes in the form of a concept called ‘influence’. Various models in your posse have an influence stat and this gives you a number of influence tokens each turn that you can use to re-roll a specific die. You have to nominate exactly which die you want to re-roll and you have to do it before you roll that die for the first time, but you can throw as much influence as you like at it. So, if you really, really, really want to hit that pesky hill-billy swanning across the street like he owns the place, but your weapon is only Rate Of Fire 1 (meaning you only get one roll to hit), you can assign 2 influence (assuming your posse creates that much influence each turn, of course) to your marksmanship die roll and then if the first one misses, you can re-roll, then if the second misses you can re-roll that as well. The kicker is that you have to accept the result of the re-roll, even if it’s worse. Given that there is such a thing as a critical hit (a natural 10) and these are generally good, particularly if the hill-billy in question is wearing lots of armour, you may want to re-roll even if you’ve already hit – but the cost could be that you miss completely instead.

The cool thing about influence is that it can be used to re-roll any of your own die rolls any number of times (but you can’t influence an opponent’s die roll), including initiative, which Dave did. A lot. Because he had tonnes more influence than me, which was completely unfair! It actually kept the game really interesting as I had to be really careful with my choice of how I spent my 2 influence each turn, whereas Dave could be a little more carefree with his 4. The influence mechanic, combined with being able to group between 1-3 models each activation kept each turn different – it wasn’t a race to get to a certain model each time and you could obscure your intentions by activating a model in one group in one turn and then another in the next, it’s a nice fluid way to keep things moving and gives you lots of options when planning your turn as you only declare the group when it’s your activation.

My gatling gun attempts to cover the street with a withering hail of suprresing firepower. Then remembers this is the Wild West, not Warhammer 40K and dies.
My gatling gun attempts to cover the street with a withering hail of suppressing firepower. Then remembers this is the Wild West, not Warhammer 40K and dies.

The game itself (oh yeah, I remember, that’s what I’m supposed to be telling you about…) was great fun to play. It started off well for my Lawmen posse, with me plinking a few points of lifeblood off one of Dave’s bandits hiding behind some barrels and completely wasting another. Then it started to go bad, particularly when Dave discovered that Jesse James is, effectively, armed with an ICBM (OK, maybe my rubbish positioning had something to do with it, but… meh). One of my core ‘mechanics’ is called Forward Echelon, which basically gives my guys an armour buff when in base to base. Jesse James, however, is armed with a fiendish weapon that not only halves your armour, but also is very high power and uses a 3″ blast when it hits. This meant for some very, very messy shooting and I suddenly went from a slight numerical advantage to having three guys left as my boss attempted to call out Mr James! I did at least set him on fire and when he failed his ensuing courage test I like to think he lost some serious face running around like a little sissy-girl yelling “Sumbaaady put me outt!” What in actual fact happened was that he rolled on the ground, put the fire out and then got up and blasted my face off. Similar to what I thought, but subtly different one could argue…

Jesse James, on fire last night.
Jesse James, on fire last night.

It of course didn’t help that I was swanning across open ground with my guys as though the fact that they were huddled together would throw Dave off the scent (weirdly, that only encouraged him to shoot me, stupid bandits), and a large measure of the end result (a very clear win for Dave) was my fixation on wanting to stand in the middle of the street and call him out. Yeah, that didn’t work, he hid in buildings and behind scatter terrain and picked my guys off (or, as previously mentioned, blasted them off the face of the earth).

Trouser snakes and ICBMs

The weaponry itself is interesting and varied, with plenty of options for even your low-level bandits and deputies to pick from each activation, including Jesse James’ personal nuclear arsenal. My close combat deputies have one of the oddest options I’ve ever seen in a game, an actual snake (well, an Asp, anyway) that has a 2″ range. Er… yeah. Suffice it to say we had a good laugh about my deputies attacking Dave with their spitting trouser snakes, sadly he never got close enough to risk that threat. Next time Dave. Next time… [This sounds like a night out with Phil – Ed]

The last stand of Deputy Dawg

My last stand was a lone deputy with a rifle squatting on the ground next to an outhouse who, despite the reek of effluent in the air, was stubbornly and stupidly passing his courage rolls and trying in vain to take out any of the approaching swarm of bandits. Sadly, as expected, he didn’t make it out and the long-departed town now echoes to the sounds of descending vultures, coming to pick at the fresh corpses of Wyatt and his posse. Jesse James and his low down dirty gang flee justice once more, escaping the hangman’s noose for another day!

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Awww crap. Literally.

I definitely can’t wait to play our next game (I get now that my guys are closer range, hence the snakes I suppose?!) and am really looking forward to getting on with painting the models. I really like the 35mm scale (though it does make the 28mm scenery we were using look a little odd) and the models fit together and clean up beautifully – they are great sculpts as well. Lots of character, movement and variation such that even the deputies in my Lawmen look great.

See you around, strangers…

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