Miniature war gaming is a favourite of mine, in particular skirmish level battles.
Skirmish games are small scale affairs, rarely more than a dozen miniatures to a side, and that effectively limits to important things, the cost, and the room required.
Full army games such as Warmachine or Warhammer 40,000 can encompass dozens of miniatures, generally with a number of larger pieces, (think tanks) and cost hundreds, even thousands, of dollars to field a competitive army for large scale battles.
The more minis, the larger the table required, along with the terrain to cover it.
So skirmish games such as MERCs and Blackwater Gulch are more accessible.
In games such as MERCs, the miniatures have freedom of movement, typically limited only in distance as laid out by a tape measure.
But recently a number of games have emerged where players each control a small number of miniatures, maneuvering across a board, much like chess pieces on a grid board. Such games are very easy for players to grasp in terms of movement and are ideal as an entry game to freer form miniature game options.
One of the games played on a hexagon grid board is Aristeia from Corvus Belli, best known for its large scale battle game Infinity.
With the background of a well-defined gaming world, Aristeia has a build in heritage to draw upon. The rulebook ‘fluff’ notes, “… 175 years into the future, humanity has reached the stars. The nations of old coalesced into federated blocs who proceeded to carve up any star systems found suitable for human habitation. Technology has advanced beyond our wildest dreams, but its benefits are still available only to those who can pay. Synthetic bodies, artificial intelligence, a data network connecting planets light-years apart, miraculous regenerative medicine … The presence of all these technologies has enabled the creation of Aristeia, the high-stakes contact sport that’s sweeping the Human Sphere.
“Tens of millions of fans keep their eyes glued to their holo-screens for the thrill that this match could be the last for their favourite fighters, some of whom enjoy an unprecedented level of celebrity adoration on Maya. Aristeia is non-stop action and top-level athleticism. Get connected and enjoy.”
The idea of a battle arena watched by fans is not new, starting with the gladiatorial games in the real history of our world, but it works here.
The eight characters included in the base game of Aristeia (yes, there are planned expansions) are of course colourful, larger-than-life, participants.
Players select a team of four, so within the eight the mix-and-match possibilities are good, and new characters will build replay-ability.
Each character has special skills and its own movement limitations. Learning how work your team to best support other characters is fun.
Aristeia uses cards to add some randomness to things, with good moves potentially being trumped by the cards of the opponent. Randomness is not a favourite for me in general, but in an arena battle it helps reflect a level of mayhem.
The cards are a tad ‘busy’ with a lot of iconography to grasp, so there is a learning curve which will send you to the rulebook checking what things mean the first game or two, although experienced mini gamers won’t get bogged down too much. A new player, though, may find it a bit daunting.
“Throughout five game rounds, players direct their character’s actions to meet goals of the scenario, earning victory points to win the game. The first player to collect eight victory points wins. Failing that, the player with the most victory points at the end of the fifth round wins. If there’s a tie, the player with the most frag tokens wins,” explains the rules, and that sums up the game, although different goal-based scenarios are part of the mix as you get into the game in more detail.
Overall, the great minis (Corvus Belli in known for that) are a definite plus.
There is real strategic depth to explore here, and with new characters coming, mark this one as well worth exploring.
Thanks to fellow gamers Jeff Chasse, Trevor Lyons and Adam Daniels for their help in running through this game for review.