AT-43: Operation Damocles Initiation Set
Reviewed by: Ron McClung
AT-43: Operation Damocles Initiation Set is a new pre-painted miniature game from Rackham.
At-43 has interested me since it came out. With Fantasy Flight Games behind it, the game has really hit the US market pretty strongly. It is a very sharp looking game with great looking miniatures. However, does it have a set of rules to back that fluff up? The Initiation Set, Operation Damocles, is the very hefty starter box for AT-43. Starting with this, I sought to answer my own question.
AT-43‘s background is an interesting one, but you do not get a lot of it with the Initiation Set. The human homeworld is Ava, and one of the predominant factions on that world is the United Nations of Ava (UNA). Ava was once invaded by the rampaging robotics scourge of the universe, the Therians. The world of Ava is devastated by the war that ensues but humanity does push the Therians back. Forty some years after that invasion, the humans are bringing the war to the enemy. This is where the game gets its name – AT-43 is 43 years After Trauma. The box set does not reveal this upfront, but there are other factions involved with this war and there is much more to the Therians than just blind destruction.
Operation Damocles is the human’s first strike into the heart of the Therian warmachine. Forces have landed on a Therian factory world and much hangs in the balance as brave Steel Troopers are dropped on this robotic world.
From page # 1: “An insignificant planet lost in the midst of others, and yet the cradle of a bold and aggressive species: Mankind.”
Included in the box set are the very attractive miniatures. On the human side, there is one White Stars Fire Toad Combat Strider and nine Elite Steel Troopers with different weapons. On the Therians’ side there is one Therian Wraith Golgoth Combat Strider, and 8 Storm Golems. There are reference cards for each individually different unit (a total of 9) as well as a few accessories. The miniatures are plastic, pre-assembled and pre-painted and are very high quality. These are some of the best looking pre-painted minis I have seen. The accessories are also cool and include 10 terrain elements – a few bunker walls and cargo containers.
There is also a game map, rulebook, custom dice and tape measure. The game does not have hexes or squares, it relies on a custom metric tape measure supplied in the game. The reference cards for each type of unit provides movement information as well as combat and defense information. Stat information includes Movement, Morale, Protection, Combat, Structure Points, and Weapons options.
Fighters are the individual miniatures and they can range from soldier to strider, support units to vehicles. The figures are grouped into Units – a group of one or more fighters of the same designation that work together cohesively. In the starter set, for example, the Steel Troopers or Storm Golems can be grouped together as units. The striders on each side are one unit by themselves, or if one has multiple striders of that designation then they can be a single unit together or separately. Units must always stay together, maintaining cohesion. Cohesive units attack the same target, move in the same direction and must stay a certain amount of space from each other and from their leader.
The basics of the rules system is explained in the multi-language full color 5.5″ X 8.5″ booklet. There is a full rulebook that is sold separately. The book starts out explaining the basics of the game, like movement, unit cohesion, and general rules about actions. Then it goes straight into scenarios that illustrate combat rules. There are six total scenarios, each more advanced the the previous. Many of the rules are introduced in terms that assumes you are using ONLY the minis of the starter set. Towards the end, its gets into some of the more general rules if the player likes the game enough to buy more minis. There is also the AT-43 Rulebook that consolidates all this into one comprehensive rulebook.
From page # 1: “When the Therians tried to invade this planet, they were met with fierce resistance and humanity managed to push back those they scornfully call the ‘morphos’.”
The rules are based on a fairly simple mechanic and uses a number of six-sided dice (d6). The core task resolution system is based on one simple concept – everything has an action value and a difficulty. You subtract one from the other to get a value. Compare that value to their universal table of resolution to get the value on the 6-sided die you need to roll equal to or higher than. It is a very simple and sleek system. Because the starter set starts with a fixed number and type of minis, the rulebook provides a quick reference table for each unit.
The game uses a tape measure for two types of distances – Range and Centimeters. Measuring range with the specially marked side of the tape measure determines the difficulty of a ranged attack. It is important to remember that you can not measure a Range until after you have declared your action.
In the basic game, a game round consists of three phases – Activation, Authority Test, and Unit Activation. In Activation, players arrange the cards corresponding to the units face down in the order of which the player wishes to activate and play his units. The Authority Test is a role to see who goes first. At first, it is simply a role, but later this role becomes more involved as rules are added. Eventually, Leadership points are brought in and can be used to modify the Authority Test.
In the Unit Activation phase, each player performs actions and movement for one unit, alternating between players until all units have been activated. This is performed in order of the cards laid out in the Activation phase, each player turning over one card after another. In an activation, the units move and attack. There are two types of movement – combat and rush. In a combat move, attacks can occur before and after the movement. In a rush, the unit can move further but can not attack anything.
Attacking is accomplished through two tests – a shooting (for ranged) or attack (for close combat) test and the damage test. Each is done using the same core mechanic – action value vs. the difficulty. Shooting/attacking determines the number of hits the strike makes. For shooting, the difficulty is the range. For close combat attacking, the difficulty is the combat value of the target. The hits still have to penetrate the armor of the target. This is where the damage test comes in. The damage test is the penetration value of the weapon vs. the target’s protection. Unit on Unit combat is simple when it is one mini vs. another, but when the unit is multiple minis, a zone of fire is established and the damage is distributed according to specific rules. There are also special rules introduced in each scenario, including special weapons and locked shots. In general, it is a very elegant and easy combat mechanic.
In conclusion, I really like the game for many reasons. First, I like the look of the game. The miniatures are very attractive and are pre-painted, which is always a bonus for a gamer like me. Secondly, the game is easy to play. This is a good primer for an epic game with great potential.
What I like about the game the most, however, is not even revealed in this set. If you are interested in this game, look into it. Hidden in the background, only revealed in the release of the Army books, is the dark secret of who the Therians and the humans of Ava are. This peeked the role player in me and made me want to see an RPG based on this game universe. Pure genius!
For more details on Rackham and their new Pre-painted miniature game “AT-43: Operation Damocles Initiation Set” check them out at their website http://www.at-43.com, and at all of your local game stores.
AT-43: Operation Damocles Initiation Set
Type of Game: Pre-painted miniature game
Game Design by: Jerome Rigal
Written by: Jerome Rigal, Jean-Baptiste Lullien
Art Direction by: Paolo Parente
Miniature Designers: Adrian Smith, Chippy Dugan, Davide Fabbri, Edouard Guiton, Karl Kopinski, Paolo Parente, Paul Jeacock, Wayne England, William Mordefroy
Sculptors: Mauro Gnani Zerbini, Juan Navarro Perez, Olivier Nkweti Laffite
Number of Pages: 24 page rule book in 5 different languages
Game Components Included:
- A booklet containing rules and detailed missions
19 plastic prepainted miniatures 9 elements of scenery 1 game poster 9 cards 6 collector RACKHAM dice 1 measure tape
Retail Price: $ 79.99 (US)
Number of Players: 2
Play Time: 30 minutes
Player Ages: 14 and up
Email: Type Info Email (game company email)
Reviewed by: Ron McClung