Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Deep Wars at Games and Stuff

A fantastic submarine created for Antimatter Games using a host of old toys and random bits.
Having been a little while since I last played a game of Deep Wars, and knowing that a lot of newer models have begun to show up in retailers, I decided to head down to Glen Burnie’s excellent Games and Stuff to see if I could get a game in.  Few people know Deep Wars better than Patrick Weaver; having run Antimatter’s Deep Wars booth at both Adepticon and Gencon, he has spent more time in the inky depths of the ocean then anyone I know.  Luckily for me (and anyone in or around Maryland), Patrick runs Deep Wars games every Sunday at Games and Stuff, and has virtually all of the current range of models if you would like to try out some new units or even a new warband!

I had played a handful of games with my Ancients of Atalan, but never did particularly well.  I think this was primarily because I was essentially playing games with the sole objective of annihilating the opponent, rather than playing one of the many scenarios included in the rulebook (in my defense, one of the scenarios is simply to destroy one another).  I feel that this was probably necessary to get a handle on the rule set before delving into the eccentricities of salvaging long forgotten relics and exploring wrecked submarines.  Ignoring those scenarios proved to be a problem because the Ancients are quite fragile, with many units that excel in the more scholarly tasks advocated in the scenarios, skills that fall by the wayside in a deadly underwater melee.  And since I was only using models from the starter set, a few of them, particularly the Acolyte of the Ethers, were completely useless.  Since I had last played, the ruleset has gotten a few revisions (they are currently on version 1.99; encouragingly, Antimatter is continually  printing the revised versions as they are released, and if you already have the book, if you contact them, they let you download the most current version of the pdf!). Notably all the Ancient’s beam weapons have gotten a +1 bonus, which should help some of their units have a little more punch (and not simply get punched themselves, he he).  This coupled with the release of a host of new units gave me more hope that I might be able to turn my losing streak around.

When I arrived, another person was there intent on playing a game with Ancients, so under the watchful gaze of Patrick we started a game.  We were able to play on a fantastic underwater sea shelf board created by Richard Hale  from UK based Battleboards for Antimatter. And although I brought all of my models, Patrick also had his extensive selection to supplement our forces, allowing me to try one of the Ancient's newer units, the Hydrofoam mech. This mechanical jellyfish has both the characteristic beam weapons of the Ancients and the hard-to-find combat punch more familiar to the Dark Mariners. Since I already tend to run a mech heavy list to take full advantage of Matlal the Elder (Technologist of the Atalan) increasing the quality of all constructs by one, I ended up selecting a list with Matlal commanding the hydrofoam and a mechanical Chariniform shark (my MVP from all my other games. What is not to like about lightning torpedoes?), and a standard assault trooper to fill out the points (100pts). My opponent selected two Elite Soldiers and a spell casting Conjuror of Ethers.

Richard Hale from Battleboards did a fantastic job in creating a colorful underwater landscape for Deep Wars.

Although I was all ready to try out one of the many diverse scenarios laid out in the Deep Wars rulebook, we ended up rolling a skirmish mission which had us trying to destroy one another.  Having not taken a researcher and focused on brute force, I was not too upset. I lost the roll and became the defender and deployed my warriors behind a dense kelp forest that blocked line of sight from the opposing deployment zone. I was able, with the help of Maltal, to make some very successful activations and move my warriors to the center of the board staying out of sight of the Elite Soldiers of my opponent. Using their Conjurer of Ethers, my advisory cast a wall of boiling bubbles between his soldiers and mine.  Although helpful in that the wall blocked my line of sight, it also blocked his, allowing me to rush my models directly at his without fear of being shot at (he could dispel the wall in his turn, however, and I would be in a bad situation, but having just put it up, I gambled that he would want to keep it standing for at least a turn).

In Deep Wars, "area" terrain completely blocks line of sight.

The wall of bubbles stayed up as my opponent used his turn to move his models into a tighter defensive position (using Deep Wars’ excellent depth stands).  I swam my Chariniform mech (shark) and Hydrofoam mech (jellyfish) around opposite sides of the bubble wall, getting ambush bonuses with my shots because they had been hidden.  Due to the long range however (which is a devastating -4 your roll), all my shots missed (and I was unable to line-up the sharks lightning torpedoes such that they might hit one of the other warriors if the first target avoided it).  With two of my most vital units now exposed to the powerful Beam Rifles of the Elite Soldiers (furthermore, they have the skill Rapid Shot, allowing them to fire a second time, so long as the first shot hits), it was a critical turn, one that would likely decide the outcome of the game.  With remarkable good fortune, I was able to withstand the barrage of laser beams unscathed (since the Elite Soldiers missed their initial shots, they were not able to activate Rapid Shot and fire again).  My Chariniform mech very narrowly avoid a grim demise thanks to his tough armour (and the Beam Rifles lack of Armor Break).

The conflict heats up, as each side tries to get in optimal positions.

Seizing the opportunity that opened up, Maltal dispelled the wall of bubbles using two of his actions and was able to move forward getting into a position he could benefit both of my mechs.  The Hydrofoam mech floated ever closer to the small cluster of enemies, and although he was unable to cause any damage with his beam rifles, he was poised to descend and crush his foes with his mighty tentacles the following turn.  Like all my previous games, my Chariniform shark would prove to be the star player.  Moving forward, he aligned himself such that if he missed his first target, his torpedoes could continue through and hit the remaining bunched-up enemy Ancients.  This all proved unnecessary when the first Elite Soldier was hit square on and exploded in a spectacular electrified display.

The remaining reeling Ancients tried to recover from their loss, but still were unable to inflict any damage (without any weapons, the Conjuror of Ethers was not able to provide any meaningful support).  The end came when my Hydrofoam mech silently descended from above the Conjuror of Ethers, enveloping her in his iron tentacles before tearing her apart limb by limb.  With that, I won my first game of Deep Wars!

It was pretty gratifying to crush the life out of an opponent using an Ancient of Atalan unit, having been on the receiving end of close combat many times before.

Being able to construct a list that did not simply models from the starter set was invaluable.  Now that most of the units in the book have models, I think every faction has a multitude of effective choices and potential builds that favor different facets of the game.  The game also reinforced in my mind the notion of how important it is to both maneuver and to use your activations to increase the modifier to your attack dice rolls (keeping out of long range, using extra activations to to aim, etc.). This is critical because without a high modifier, hurting your opponent relies completely on the result of a roll-off against them on a single D6.  The last thing that really stood out at the end of the game was just how much more the game has to offer.  There are still so many more scenarios to try, units to use,  terrain features to explore, campaigns to embark on, and units to design that I feel I have hardly even scratched the surface of the game!

Moving beyond the game and on the modeling front, I have made some headway on assembling a Fortune hunters warband. While finishing the majority of Fortune Hunter Commander Angus McBain some months ago, I still needed to finish and attach his backpack. This proved more time-consuming than I had initially planned, requiring a sizable amount of modelling putty to fix some casting issues. I also decided to add some cables (Thanks Dragon Forge!) connecting the bottom of his backpack with his back, an addition that I feel makes his backpack seem more like a seamless extension of the model (rather than a last minute addition).

With a lot of greenstuff work and some minor converting, Fortune Hunter Commander Angus McBain looks suitably imposing. 

With McBain completed, I have shifted my attention to the last of the models from my Kickstarter pledge (which recently arrived, perfect timing!). These include the Templar Shadow Slayer and Mad Scientist for the Fortune Hunters and the Dark Mariners’ Cavern Crawler and Nautiloid Chrystalid!

A Templar Shadow Slayer and Mad Scientist for the Fortune Hunters and the Dark Mariners’ Cavern Crawler.

One final development to note, Antimatter Games has a Kickstarter campaign going on now for a related game, ShadowSea.  The game takes place in the same universe as Deep Wars and makes use of many of the same models and the same basic ruleset. If you have any desire to play Deep Wars or expand its conflicts to land, it is worth checking out and supporting!

-Godwyn Fischig


  1. Fellow Maryland gamers?! Followed :)

    1. Maryland is a pretty good place for the miniature wargaming hobby, once with the old GW headquarters, and even with that gone, Games and Stuff has only gotten better and better over the years!