When it comes to miniature skirmish games, one general rule is that you can never have quite enough of them.
Generally, skirmish games come in two forms; one where there are a range of miniatures specific to the game, and its associated rules, and then games which offer a ruleset but let gamers dig in their collections and use whatever minis they have on hand.
Of course the rules only option is lower cost, at least for gamers with a few boxes of minis already one their shelves.
And that is just what you get with the new game Zone Raiders.
“Zone Raiders is a fast-paced tabletop skirmish game where small groups of hardened survivor’s battle against each other in an unforgiving post-technological world called the Matroshka,” details the game’s recent successful Kickstarter campaign. “Within an unending world of inscrutable science, radiation storms and machines dedicated to exterminating life, players create narrative stories and rewarding tactical gameplay in an open-model skirmish ruleset.
“Distinct in our design is an emphasis on mobility, vertical space, and accomplishing asymmetrical objectives before escaping to safety. Your tactical decisions and smart positioning will decide every encounter with the enemy. The world itself is lethal, but can you adapt your strategy, characters and exotic weapons to meet the challenge against both other players, and solo/cooperative scenarios?”
Like most games, this one was created out of a passion for gaming.
“I’ve loved playing games since I was a kid, where it was a fun hobby and looked awesome,” said Tony Xiao via email, adding he “picked it back up sometime after college, and met quite literally hundreds of great people and very close friends over the years through miniatures gaming.”
But, what is it about skirmish games he liked most?
“Skirmish games are a sub-genre in tabletop games that don’t get enough love, I think,” he offered. “You take a small band of units and get to give them character, stories that are told by playing an opponent and sharing both a good match, and whatever unfolds.
“They’re more affordable too, and allow modellers to really show off their talents in a more bite-sized chunk than large ‘army’ sized miniatures games. Pitch in under $50 and you have what you need to play your opponent for most games.”
Of course you still need an idea to create a new game.
“Having played many games, I realized at some point that there are aspects that create a fun experience without the players knowing it,” said Xiao. “Good core mechanics, solid math under the hood, and opportunities that would reward clever play were ideas that I wanted to play with.
“After decades of enjoying niche sci-fi in dystopian, hyper-future settings beyond traditional space opera had inspired the theme as well, drawing from material such as Blame!, STALKER, Battle Angel Alita, plus a bit of other post-apocalyptic genre titles.”
Xiao added that ease of play was also important.
“I wanted an easy to access game that satisfied both those looking for a competitive challenge, and those who wanted a nice somewhat more casual experience with a dash of cooperative play to initiate those not already familiar with this genre of games,” he said. “Instead of punishing players for making a mistake, I aimed to reward smart play and generally make sure people had a positive play experience, even when losing.
In turn, the campaign mechanics letting your characters level up and improve over time is designed to add a bit of continuity to one-off matches.”
The game actually came together quite quickly.
“This took about a year’s worth of time, occasional evenings or weekend game sessions with friends and local players in brainstorming and testing ideas, both good and bad,” said Xiao. “Follow that up with personally painting and modelling our example miniatures, and commissioning artwork, it ended up being nearly a whole year.”
So what was the most difficult aspect of designing the game?
“The most difficult part of designing a game for me, is probably the same many artists experience … At the end of the day, you have a vision in mind, and want to achieve it as best you can, possibly even going in directions you hadn’t thought of before at all,” said Xiao. “Compared to that, pulling elements from mechanics, fiction, and gameplay that you’ve enjoyed or tested thoroughly is fairly straightforward.”
Xiao said he likes the game experience players can have with Zone Raiders.
“I feel that my favorite element are the mechanics to support players in exploring and find something emergent through play,” he said. “Perhaps it’s a campaign with your friends where two players team up to try and take down their rival, who’s uncovered a powerful artifact.
“Or, that one player’s most useless character ends up being a hero in a mission from sheer repeat luck.
“These sorts of things help tell a great story that can be shared with your fellow gamers. That’s what I want to continue developing in our gaming community.”
Obviously the key here is that you buy the rules, grab some existing miniatures and you are ready to play. That is a massive win for gamers.
Exploring a new world, and rule set, at a reasonable entry price makes a game like Zone Raiders one that is easy to recommend, because the initial buy-in is low, so check it out at www.zoneraiders.com and dive right in.