Exodus Wars: Fractured Empire – A First Look

You may remember back in June I wrote about Membraine Studios talking about the video game version of Exodus Wars, by Steel Crown Productions, called Fractured Empire.

FE logo11

Well they’ve been hard at work on Fractured Empire despite their Indiegogo campaign not being as successful as they’d hoped. Since then they’ve managed to get the game to a Pre-Alpha stage and they kindly let me have a little play.

For those that are unaware of the project, EW:FE is, in a nutshell, a video game adaptation of the table top game. Not an RTS etc, but a virtual strategy wargame animated and realised in a realistic environment. So basically gamers get to see the destruction they imagine in a more traditional setting.

So having had the access for 24 hours and played a half a dozen games it’s all looking very promising. The graphics are, obviously, not quite there yet as is any real explanation as to who is who and what’s going on. The Pre-Alpha is all about demonstrating game play which is actually pretty tight.

I could moan about layout and buttons being too big so they get in the way of the action but it’s pointless because it’s a Pre-Alpha game. It’s as pointless as complaining about unfinished animations or the odd game crash.

The important things to note is that the alternate activations flow backwards and forwards nice and fast which encourages you to think and react quickly. This will, eventually, give the game a very fluid sense of action rather than a ‘you go, I go’ turn based game. That said game set up didn’t give a proper indication of the game itself as the forces were deployed just a little bit too close together meaning I could concentrate fire on units from turn one and I actually managed to not only take the objective but wipe out my opponent without a single casualty.

The AI isn’t an issue because it’s still early days, my concern is the ease with which units take damage. Without being able to zoom in or find out what I was facing I was slightly put out when my tanks were being picked off by what seemed to be nothing more than infantry. This makes me think that the units haven’t been quite balanced yet.

One of the very cool things about EW:FE is that moving and shooting dramatically decreases the amount of damage you inflict but suppresses the enemy so they can’t shoot back. My only worry is that if one side has the advantage of range they can effectively cripple their opponents offensive capabilities, allowing the attacker to pound the enemy to dust.

Obviously it’s still early days and it there is lots left to do. The rest of the faction units for a start. And the big Titan-esque bastards. We like them. But for the niggles etc. what EW:FE has is potential. Bags of it. Bags and bags. If the screens and videos that Membraine Studios released 6 months ago are anything to go by it’s going to look the absolute tits if nothing else. The sweeping camera, the animated units, the simple but important effects of war.

I’m really excited to see the next phase for Membraine. I’d actually like them to take another swing at a Kickstarter campaign as they’ve got some real mettle to show off. But whatever happens next I’ll be front in line to have a play.

So, what’s next for Membraine and their proverbial bun in the oven? Well the guys from Membraine had this to say on their website:

Back in June and July of this year, we ran a crowd funding campaign on Indiegogo. While successful to a point (we raised almost US$7,500 of our US$35,000 minimum target and saw great critical response), we nonetheless did not reach our funding goal, and have since (unsurprisingly) struggled with financial issues.

It became clear we needed to rework our go-to-market strategy significantly or risk not delivering Exodus Wars: Fractured Empire.

You see, our crowd funding campaign failed, yes, but it nonetheless left us with the certain knowledge that gamers want to play Fractured Empire. We quickly realised we would never get to the finish line and ship the game with the funds we had, however. And so we embarked on some serious navel-gazing, asking ourselves the hard questions, like “Can we really attempt to make this game?” and “Does the market really want a turn-based strategy wargame that captures the essence of tabletop wargaming?”

We decided the answers were all obviously Yes, and so we stopped navel-gazing and instead started developing a plan of action that would enable us to make good and deliver this game to the community. The result is a new go-to-market strategy.

We recently made the first playable build available to our Alpha perk-level Indiegogo contributors and started our Alpha QA cycle, which will see us regularly releasing updated builds. In the near future, we will also be inviting our Beta perk-level Indiegogo contributors to join our QA testing team by providing them with the then-current build. In this way, we will have met our obligations to our Indiegogo Alpha perk- and Beta perk-level contributors as best we can.

The new go-to-market strategy for Fractured Empire

The decision has been made that we will adopt what we’re calling a “Minecraftian” pre-order model for Fractured Empire.

For those not familiar with Minecraft, what we’re talking about here is a go-to-market strategy of releasing playable builds for sale well before the game is in a Release state, where earlier adopters receive distinctly greater discounts on purchase than do later adopters. These types of pre-order models are becoming increasingly common among indie developers.

Key elements

Here are the key elements of our new go-to-market approach:

  • When it eventually reaches the Release Build state, Exodus Wars: Fractured Empire will sell for US$30.
  • Alpha Build pre-orders—currently available for purchase—are discounted by almost 66% at US$10. These purchasers will be eligible to access the then-current Fractured Empire build as soon as our QA team (which is us and our Alpha and Beta perk level Indiegogo backers) has completed an initial round of testing and we are confident of a good playing experience. This should be very soon.
  • Some time before the game reaches Beta, we will stop taking Alpha Build pre-orders and start taking Beta Build pre-orders. Beta Build pre-orders will be discounted by almost 33% at US$20. Pre-order purchasers will now be eligible to access the then-current Fractured Empire build immediately.
  • Some time before the game reaches Release, we will stop taking Beta Build pre-orders and start taking Release Build pre-orders. Release Build pre-orders will be discounted by almost 10% at US$27.
  • When the game reaches a final state and the Release Build is available, we will stop taking pre-orders and the game will no longer be discounted, selling for its full price of US$30.
  • Over time, we will expand the Release Build of Fractured Empire via a combination of free updates and, depending on demand, DLC.

Colours in Review


Yesterday I ventured up to the wilds of Newbury for the second day of Colours with Jezza and Ian of The Chaps. For those not of this green and verdant land you can find out more here. But, in a nutshell it’s the largest wargaming event in the South of England.

I thought I’d just focus on the things that piqued my interest rather than give a blow-by-blow account of everything that was there because it’ll be boring and I didn’t look at everything. Partly because it’s a far bigger event that I expected. Spread out over 3 floors at Newbury Race Course, it had something for everyone.

Shrewdly positioned by the entrance was none other than fellow #warmonger Jed Norton and Antenociti’s Workshop (@Antenociti). It was great to finally meet Jed and have a proper natter about his game Governance of Technology. Everything he’s got planned for the game sounds absolutely fantastic and is a very fresh take on a futuristic world at war. Plus his models look ace. I’ll be doing a review of some of his models very soon.

I also got to have a chat with the guys at Steel Crown Productions and all the exciting stuff going on with their 6mm version of Exodus Wars. The models are looking ace and we’re now mere weeks away from the release. They very kindly let me take a couple of snaps of some of the models including their ‘titan’ construct which is utterly massive and awesome. The model they had there didn’t have its arm weapons attached but it’s a beast and weighs an absolute tonne.

They kindly let me shoot it next to the infantry so you can see the scale.

I also got to meet Ed & Harry from Warmill. They produce a wide range of multipart, laser cut, MDF scenery. I got the opportunity to speak to them at some length about how it all came about. I was also lucky enough to get a couple of samples for review in the very near future but for now, here’s a snap of what they do…

As I wandered around I was struck by the effort some people went to for just display boards. Below is a photo of a zombie apocalypse game. I had no idea what the game system was but it looked fantastic.

There was also a fantastic board for A Very English Civil War but unfortunately the photo didn’t come out.

The star of the show, for me, however, was the Studio Sparta stand where they were showing off Firestorm Invasion and specifically the Planetfall 10mm ruleset.

As if that wasn’t enough they also had models of the 15mm & 28mm games including all three versions of the Terran Alliance main battle tank. Which was awesome.

And the cherry on that particularly awesome cake was they also had some models for Dystopian Legions including the FSA trackbike, some Prussian and Britannian infantry (again the pictures didn’t come out for those – sorry) a couple of tanks and the fecking massive Prussian robot.

I had the opportunity to chat with the guys at Studio Sparta at length and both projects sound very exciting. Indications are that the Sorylians and Directorate will be out next for Invasion with the Auqans and Relthoza following shortly after. They also confirmed that the FSA would be getting their own massive robot and the dude in front of the robot above is a 3(?) up of a Britannian explorer sort complete with robotic hook for a hand and pith-helmet wearing monkey.

Exodus Wars Gameplay Trailer

Membraine Studios have released a new video showcasing some gameplay for Exodus Wars: Fractured Empire. It shows lots of shooty things shooting lots of other shooty things. Shootiness is good.

It’s a work in progress so expect things to get shinier and shooter with time.

Membraine Studios has made the decision to develop EW:FE come what may but the crowd funding page they’re running will help them develop the game much faster and as a full and complete product.

If you want to support the project then click here.

Exodus Wars Competition

Those fine chaps at Membraine Studios are running a couple of competitions on their Indiegogo page for Exodus Wars.

Competition details are as follows:

Competition 1
One random new contributor from the next 70 hours will be selected to receive ALL THE PERKS. Yes—all of them! 🙂

And because it’s not fair to only offer this chance to new backers:

Competition 2
One existing backer will be selected now to be upgraded to receive ALL THE PERKS.

The winners will both be announced at 10:30pm AEST (which is GMT +10) three days from now. Best of luck! 🙂

If you think the game should happen – and I for one think it should – then pledge your support on the Indiegogo page.

An Interview with Membraine Studios

Earlier in the week I wrote about a band of Ozzies going by the name of Membraine Studios who are developing Exodus Wars: Fractured Empire, a tabletop wargame on your PC. On top of this they have flung open their project to the community in the form of a Indigogo campaign which I talked a little about here.

Aside from looking awesome, doing a straight port from table to PC was an interesting idea. So much so I decided to fire some questions their way…

TSC: Membraine Studios is currently developing, essentially, a virtual tabletop wargame. How did the project come about? Was it a eureka moment or something that’s evolved over time?

MARK SHEPPARD: Definitely something that evolved. I guess the idea for Fractured Empire started back in 2009, mainly from a desire to get to play more tabletop wargames, really. I have three young kids and not a lot of spare time, so I was finding it increasingly difficult to make time for my wargaming hobby—and that was just plain unacceptable.

The idea was to make a computer game that would capture, as much as possible, those things I loved most about miniature wargames: collecting minis, developing that “killer” army list, and playing a tactically challenging game. Most importantly, the game would need to capture the tactile nature of tabletop gaming, with minis to pick up and move around. This game would eschew the traditional computer-based strategy game conceits of the grid or the hex, and instead allow freedom of movement, like you experience on the tabletop. In short, it would be what I thought of as a “true tabletop game” on your computer.

Fast-forward a few months to the period in time where Josh, Glenn and I were coming together for the first time to talk about making games. My miniature wargame concept came up and we bounced it around, but it was ultimately decided that it was “too niche” and too complex for our first game, and we moved on. We released “Orbital Defence” for the iPhone a few months after that, so in retrospect that was probably a good call.

Following the release of “Orbital Defence”, which received great reviews from players and press alike, we all took a break for several months to regroup.  After that break, though, we returned to making games with a vengeance. We went through a process of rapid prototyping that saw us create more than 20 prototypes, each of which was scrutinised and brutally assessed for its suitability for our next project…before each was summarily relegated to the shelf as “not quite right”.

That process went on for more than a year. It was really only about six months ago that we finally hit gold and found what we were looking for—when, upon review of old ideas, we finally managed to rework my old miniature wargame design into something that worked.

Yes, it took three years and more than 20 prototypes to get there, but get there we did.

Being armed with a game design that we believed in energised us as a team, but we recognised the hard truth of it—that this was still a ridiculously niche design. So what could we do to broaden the game’s appeal?

Luckily, it didn’t take us too long to decide that that was a FAIL approach, and we decided to instead embrace the niche-ness and pitch the game directly to the wargaming community.

TSC: Trying to write a wargame is real challenge. Trying to write a wargame that’s also a video game must be doubly so. What were some of your considerations through early development?

JOSH ANDERSON: When we decided to make a representation of the tabletop, we realised that there were some key things we absolutely must have: army lists, deployment, customisation and flexible multi-player. As a theorycrafter, I love building lists. As an armchair general, Mark really loves getting an edge during deployment… and Glenn, well he’s an artist, so he has to have the prettiest models on the table.

And the icing on the cake is our multiplayer – start a game on your home PC, choose your list and deploy your forces. Head to the park with your kids and while they are playing, whip out your iPad and take your first couple of turns.

The next day, at work, log in via your browser and squeeze a couple more turns in over lunch, finishing the game off on your Macbook at home. How cool is that?!

TSC: Tell us about your wargaming backgrounds and from where your draw your inspirations from.

GLENN OSMOND-MCLEOD: I have been modelling and painting figs since I was about 14. I remember my first fig came out pink after I tried to add highlights to the red amour. Painting and terrain has always been a massive passion for me. Shortly after painting my first few models I turned my hand to creating tables and terrain and have made more terrain pieces than I can possibly remember. I have always preferred engaging with the spectacle of wargaming. I get the most satisfaction sitting back looking at a huge table of wargaming terrain and two armies deployed opposing each other ready to have it out.

JOSH: I have played 40k off and on since I was a kid, but I loved Necromunda and Mordheim. I played Warmachine competitively for a while but I’m really into Epic 40k, the Exodus Wars 6mm Ruleset (yet to be released) and Flames of War now.

I probably spend 80% of my time building and theorizing lists, 15% of my timing painting and modelling and 5% of my time actually playing. Exodus Wars: Fractured Empire will allow me to bring that play ratio up, WAY UP and that’s what excites me about it.

MARK: I’m the old man here. I started with the 1st Edition of Warhammer 40,000, Rogue Trader, I think, 1987. With ALIENS having been released pretty soon before that and having only recently read Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, the imagery of the Space Marines really gelled with me and drew me into the strange new world of miniature wargames.

Since then, I’ve played a lot of different games, and my tastes as a gamer matured, so these days I gravitate much more to 6mm wargames like Exodus Wars, of course, but also Blitzkrieg Commander and Epic.

I’ve always been more of a gamer than a hobbyist, though; I have great respect for the art works some guys can create with their minis, but I don’t have that talent…sadly.

TSC: For those that don’t know the Exodus Wars universe, can you fill us in on some of the details, and what made you choose it as a setting for the game?

GLENN: The Exodus Wars universe is amazing. When I first got into the background, I was astounded at the depth of the backstory. It’s not a black and white, good versus evil story that is war and destruction all the way; it’s more layered and intertwined. Humanity has split into two distinct factions and the tension between these factions is where our initial conflicts take place. Neither side is particularly evil, they just have significant differences of opinion on the future direction of humanity.

The Guild is a capitalist organisation formed by the people with the means and motivation to escape a society taxing itself into destruction. The Royal Empire of Man is made up of those who remained after the Exodus, presumably due to lacking means to escape their situation. This creates a contrast of the well equipped Guild with its well-trained and motivated troops—the best money can buy—while the Royal Empire of Man and its 12 remaining kingdoms vary in motivation and also struggle for power within the Empire.

Then there are the alien races—but bringing them into the fold at this stage is dependant on the success of the campaign. I can’t wait to bring the Khazari to life on the battlefield. Those guys are fast and crazy, but that’s probably for a later update at this stage.

TSC: The trailers for Exodus Wars: Fractured Empire look impressive but essentially a virtual tabletop wargame. What will you bring to the table to take advantage of the medium as players won’t be restricted by their purse string or their ability make terrain?

JOSH: The number one thing is the ability to play with friends that are interstate, overseas or just plain busy. Or test your skill against the top talent around the world. Our plan is to allow players to opt-in to social media integration, allowing them to challenge their mates and brag about their victories.

Our aim is to be as true to the tabletop as possible, but turning it into a PC game gives us some pretty cool options. How good would a game of Epic 40k be with Fog of War!? What about a ridiculous 10,000 point game over a 10’x10’ table? How about being able to play in multiple campaigns, one turn at a time over the course of a week? The sky is the limit here and it’s a bloody big sky!

These are things that are logistical nightmares in person, but the ease of use of a PC (and hopefully tablet) make this possible.

GLENN: We are creating a game that aims to bring the depth of tabletop wargaming to life. Tabletop wargaming brings with it a number of restrictions. Our hobby requires significant commitment of time, money and patience. I personally have a wife and kid that makes sure my time is full of family and all that comes with it.

Before resigning to go full-time on Membraine Studios, I had a full time job for The Man that took upwards of 60 hours a week plus travel away for me. Finding 3 hours or so for a wargame on the weekend is, sadly becoming more and more difficult for me. Most of my friends are in similar positions. Having a game like this that I can play without needing a good 3 hours of time is a big plus. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE table top wargaming, and have sunk many hours into armies and tabletops, but as time gets more scarce I still want to experience it in a way that I can fit into my life. It’s not the same, and it’s not better, it’s just an alternative way to play a game with mates.

Wargaming also requires a significant financial investment, especially if you want to own all units in an army or even multiple armies. Within Fractured Empire you get access to a huge variety of units right away that may have taken forever to collect and paint in reality. Maybe not as cool as the real thing, but certainly a good deal of fun for 10 bucks. (Plus they blow up and move with the click of a mouse.)

We are also not limited by table size. We can propose MASSIVE battles and we have every intention of doing so. We can go beyond the limits of a wargaming table both in battlefield size and also the landscape and terrain we feature. We will hopefully be showing off some of the larger battle field features planned for the game soon. I still want to capture that image you get when your forces are deployed and you look back at the table top and see two armies facing off against each other, but we can really go to town with the sheer size of battles available.

I can’t wait to breathe life into the miniatures we play with. With enough community interest we hope to be able to really bring the battles to life. I want to see the mechs march across the battlefield and actually see the effects of their barrage of fire.

I spent most of my time as a kid gaming against the same 5 or so guys, (you know who you are) and it was not until I started playing tournaments that I got good at wargaming. I started to think differently about how I approached each game. Playing a game like this online will open up doors to a variety of tactical possibilities. Facing a range of different situations on a regular basis is quite hard to achieve playing against the same mates or even regularly at torneys.

I have mates scattered across the globe. This wasn’t always the case, but sadly it is now. Being able to catch up with them, be it virtually, for a quick wargame is something I am really looking forward to. It’s not the same as sharing a beer and pushing around models, but it will capture the same tense moments and excitement of a war game (with explosions) and this is something I can’t wait to enjoy.

TSC: What can you tell us about Exodus Wars: FE’s army builder elements and will there be a campaign?

JOSH: The Exodus Wars 6mm rule set has army list building that most wargamers would be familiar with. Battles have a total points cost per side agreed up-front, units cost a set amount of points. There are some force restrictions to ensure people take balanced lists, but otherwise you build it to your heart’s content.

In terms of a single-player campaign, that depends on how well our crowdfunding campaign goes. I’ve done some work on infrastructure for a campaign mode, but it may be released in a cut-down form in order to get the game out in time (e.g. a few scenarios that form an in-depth tutorial).

And release will not be the end of development for Exodus Wars: Fractured Empire – if we don’t get the funds we need now, we’ll use money from post-release sales to fund the next stages of development – a single-player campaign would be pretty high on the priority list.

TSC: There are those in the community who feel that this is taking the wargaming hobby in the wrong direction as part of the appeal is building and painting an army. What’s your view on this feedback?

MARK SHEPPARD: I do get where those guys are coming from, but I think there’s no real conflict there. Our game aims to enhance tabletop wargaming by offering an additional experience, not a replacement.

The physical hobby offers so much that computer games will never be able to. From being able to hold your minis in your hands and place them in heroic poses, to the model conversion side of things and, of course, painting.

By way of example: as much as people might enjoy playing World of Warcraft and surrounding themselves with their online mates, it’ll never replace hanging out with your mates in the local pub. Playing Wow and hanging out in the pub are both a lot of fun, and—better yet—they’re not mutally exclusive. What’s to stop you from having a couple of pints with the guys after work, say, and then catching up with them again later in WoW?

JOSH: I agree with Mark. We don’t want you to quit wargaming on an actual tabletop—we just want to offer you an awesome way to get your fix in between your face-to-face gaming sessions.

TSC: So multiplayer will be the name of the game. How this work both in terms of game modes and friends being able to interact with each other effectively via online play?

JOSH: While we’re not ready to share the full list of multi-player game modes, we want to offer people as many ways to play this as possible. If your readers have a specific mode they’d like to see, they should contact us via Facebook, Twitter or our website and let us know!

TSC: To date, what’s been your favourite part of the project?

JOSH: The reveal to the community and the positive feedback we’re getting is incredible. The money is nice, but knowing that what we’re doing is making people happy—that feeling just inspires me. All I want to do right now is make Exodus Wars: Fractured Empire even better than people expect.

GLENN: The environments. We have shown two of our environments to date. These are fairly typical of what you might see on a nice wargaming table, but with the freedom afforded to us by working in a digital medium, we are not limited to the real world restrictions of making terrain. We can engage with the background of our universe and create environments that truly reflect the opulent scale of the Guild capitalist society or the Royal empire cities that are dilapidated and in disrepair. Given my background as an architect, my favourite part of the project is investigating what form the cities might take and why they have developed the way they have. Whole cities with a story to tell. I would love to bring some of these environments to life if we exceed our funding target for the basic game.

MARK SHEPPARD: For me, it was seeing the Behemoth animate and fire for the first time. So awesome.

That, and discovering all the background material the guys at Steel Crown Productions are developing for their Exodus Wars universe. It’s pretty cool stuff; it’s well thought out and reasoned, so it feels possible and real—in a way that some other sci-fi universes I’ve played in never have. <cough>

TSC: You currently have a Indiegogo page active to help fund the project. Here’s you soap box, explain to the community why it’s important and why it should get their help and, more to the point, money.

JOSH: I think the crowdfunding concept is perfect for us. We’re not asking people to fund the entire development of Fractured Empire—we are asking the crowd to put the cream on the top so we can add the awesome features we want to make—army customisation, deformable terrain, campaigns, and so on.

MARK SHEPPARD: I think the best thing about what we’re doing is that we’re trying to service a niche market, turn-based strategic tabletop wargamers, who haven’t received a whole lot of love from the games industry in recent years.

We’re trying to make the type of game that the industry largely ignores because it’s so niche. That makes Exodus Wars: Fractured Empire a bit special to my mind, and I think it’s something that deserves to be supported.

If someone else had thought of this and was making a tabletop TBS for PC, I’d be lining up to buy their game. That’s probably the best endorsement I can offer.

TSC: And finally, assuming all goes to plan, when can we expect Exodus Wars to be available?

MARK: <<Looks at Josh>>

GLENN: <<Looks at Josh>>

JOSH: Ha! I love how this one gets thrown to me! Yeah, okay.

I’d say “soon”, but that’s just annoying right?

We want to get our Alpha testers in as soon as possible. These guys are going to help shape the game and make it awesome.

Once we feel the game has enough features, a workable UI and we have our multiplayer infrastructure in place we will be releasing Alpha. We have a rough idea of the date, but until we see how the crowdfunding campaign finishes up, the date could move back 2-3 months.

Ideally we’d release Beta in early 2013, as our currently projected release window is Q1 2013.

We’re planning to be quite transparent, with updates posted to our website, Facebook and Twitter. If you’re keen to see what we’re up to, Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. As soon as we have firmer dates, we’ll be sharing them on there.

TSC: Thanks very much for your time guys. I look forward to seeing further updates and the finished product next year.

Is you’re interested in supporting the guys at Membraine Studios with their Indiegogo campaign, go here. And if you want to know more about the guys at Membraine or Steel Crown click on the logos below.


This evening’s post came about through chatting with my esteemed friend and fellow Alliance member Liam Hall – aka @MunkeyKungFu. A thoroughly upstanding sort and great to chat to, he’s always on hand with suggestions when I throw the subject of a blog post open to the Community, as I’m prone to do from time to time. And some of them are even sensible. On this occasion Liam struck gold as he mentioned Studio McVey’s awesome and gorgeous Sedition Wars and its current Kickstarter campaign.

Although I’ve written about Studio McVey in the past and was even lucky enough to write a first look review of Sedition Wars back in Ocotber last year, the subject of Kickstarter/Indie Go Go campaigns has been cropping up a lot lately both in the Community and with The Chaps as Project Awesome draws ever closer to being ‘finished’.

When I first heard about Community funding schemes I was in two minds as it seemed that the Community was propping up companies who wanted to fund new projects but couldn’t afford to. And then once all the new shiny toys were in production that same Community was going to give the company their money all over again. However, I didn’t appreciate the following:

1. You get cool shit for the money you pledge.

2. The companies that write the games we play or design the models we paint are as much a part of the Community as anyone else and there are times when they need our help.

A wargaming company is only as strong as its weakest enthusiast and so by encouraging the Community to invest in its future we not only feel a profound and enduring sense of connection – which will increase our enjoyment and help their business – but we ensure that the games we like to play endure. It is, for a change, a win win situation. Businesses remain viable and we get to play toys to our hearts content with the knowledge that we made a difference.

It may all seem a bit gushy but the fact is that times are just as tough for our niche market as they are for everyone else. We still spend our hobby allowance, come what may, but we’re spending less or it just isn’t going as far (are you listening GW?!). By spending our hobby allowance on a Kickstarter or Indie Go Go campaign we are still getting toys, or a limited edition print, or whatever, but we are also guaranteeing a toy fix for a couple of months time. The difference being that we helped when it was needed. Besides, without these campaigns being a success some companies would never get off the ground and others wouldn’t be able to expand and eventually fall by the way side and then we’d have no hobby at all. And that would suck.

But when you get down to it, the likes of Avatars of War are asking from a few quid to produce some pretty amazing toys and, in exchange for those few quids you actually get to have some. I’m sorry, is that the awesome train arriving at the station? Yes I believe it is! All aboard! The same goes for Studio McVey, or even the guys at Membraine Studios producing Exodus Wars. A big slice of awesome is your reward for helping them. Not to mention the ego boost and the sense of well deserved smugness.

There is no shortage of worthy causes. The following companies have campaigns running. I’m sure there are plenty more so feel free to leave a comment letting me know what they are and, providing they’re wargaming related I’ll add them in. But take a look and should the mood take you; donate to the cause. If I have some spare money next month, once I’ve paid for the wife’s birthday, I too shall be donating.

Avatars of WarDwarf Army Campaign

Membraine StudiosExodus Wars: Fractured Empire Campaign

McVey StudiosSedition Wars: Battle for Alabaster Campaign

Infamy MiniaturesJohn Watson Campaign

ManticKings of War

Exodus Wars: Fractured Empire

So I’ve stumbled across a noble undertaking by an Australian developer called Membraine Studios who are in the process of developing a turn based strategy game for PC & Mac based on Exodus Wars by Steel Crown Productions.

The jist is this: There are no shortage of RTS games. There are also no shortage of turn based hex/tile strategy games. What there isn’t is a, for want of a better term, a virtual table top wargame.

What’s the point? you may ask, and you’d be forgiven for doing so as the fun of table top gaming is building and painting your toys and then sicking them on your opponent across a hand-made board. However, as Mark Sheppard pointed out in a guest blog post over on Gamasutra, in a modern world we all have a hell of a lot less free time than we use to do anything let alone build, paint and play toy soldiers.

I can certainly vouch for this. I still haven’t built the Contemptor Dreadnoughts I bought at Salute in April. I’m also lucky to game once a month because of the time and faff it can often involve just getting the right people in the room at the same time.  It’s a valid argument but I think there’s a fundamental point that isn’t being acknowledged – which is the same reason why any video game of a wargaming IP gets our community all of a flutter – which is seeing the units that we shuffle around the board tearing the living shit out of each other in beautiful computer animation. THQ’s Space Marine is a prime example. The plot was flimsy, some of the artistic licence was a joke but nothing could distract you from the fun of manging the living shit out of Orks.

There’s also the added benefit of not only playing people you know, but, presumably, other wargamers from local communities or further afield without contending with the ‘wanky gamers’ and the teenage body odour that so often is found in wargaming clubs.

And that’s the point of Exodus Wars. It’s all the hard-core strategy of a turn based, tabletop, wargame with all the shiny animations but without that sense that a unit is just moving from one square to another ala the Civ games or the long forgotten Warhammer 40,000: Rites of War. Which was broken. And shit.

Plus there’s the added bonus of fielding massive armies, without having to worry about the cost, on beautifully presented battlescapes without having to go to the trouble of building them. Granted, for many, that is all part of the fun but few can deny the appeal of having the freedom to create and customise a, theoretically, limitless army and fling it at your opponent. Of course the important thing for Membraine to remember is keeping forces balanced. It’s all well and good having tank divisions at your disposal or titan-esque constructs stomping about the place, but it renders infantry moot – which was a problem that the Command & Conquer games never got the handle of (who can say tank-rush?). Wars are fought and won by the might of combined arms and there in lies the challenge for all game writers – lots of variety but none of it gaming winning on their own.

The point is that Exodus Wars Fractured Empire is the truest recreation of a turn based tabletop wargame that has ever been attempted. All the best bits of a night with The Chaps playing toys but with all the fun of getting to see stuff getting blowed up in real-time. It’s a big challenge especially as the temptation would be to recreate gaming boards as you or I would have them due to budget, our ability to build terrain or allowing for the limitations of the model. Regular players of Warhammer 40,000 will know all about that, especially – ironically – when using GW’s multi part plastic kits.

As well as nice looking – customisable – units it’s really important for games of this nature to take the best from the medium it’s using in the form of convincing, interactive, environments. Especially as it’ll give the game a crucial tactical edge that’s actually very difficult to represent in table top games without lots of mucky rules. And considering the big bastards the game is offering, shown below, something to hide behind is definitely useful.

So it’s all rather splendid then. Yes and no. Yes in that it looks awesome and you can see the boys of Membraine are heading in the right direction. But no in that a super niche product doesn’t have publishers beating at Membraine’s door, – although I might so I can blag a job – so they have come to our extraordinary little community for assistance in making Exodus Wars: Fractured Empire a reality.

There’s no shortage of companies doing Kickstarter or Indiegogo campaigns but I think this is genuinely worth a look and a few quid if you can spare it. Take a look at the videos below and if you think it deserves a shot you can review Membraine’s campaign information here. Just bear in mind it’s far from finished but you’ll get the idea of the potential the game has at this early stage.