Rackham’s AT-43 Operation Damocles Initiation Set is now available. www.at-43.com
The Box: The box itself is impressive. The top cover lifts open so you can see everything in the box while it’s on the shelf — Nice touch. It could easily double as a storage container for the game but it is slightly space inefficient, but one could use that space to hold other items. The included container terrain piece can also double as a real storage container for items. The miniatures, although slightly larger, fit fine in Games Workshop miniature cases and similar transport.
The Rules/Cards: The rules are similar to what you can download, but they are 24 pages not 12. They also include six missions that introduce the game rules in a programmed instruction format. The rulebook is in full color and the printing and paper quality are nice. The rulebook does includes five languages so there are a lot of unusable pages in the book. The cards are nicely done and the card quality ok but nothing special.
Terrain/extras: The terrain is impressive. The concrete blocks actually have a texture to them and also holes through the middle that gives them a more impressive look than they have in photos. The container ‘terrain’ piece is also quite nice for such a simple thing. It is actually a very well done little model with crisp molding, UNA logo on both sides, and the doors on it even open. All it’s missing is some weathering. The Therian Generator tops elevate through 180 degrees and the lens is made of colored acetate that gives a nice look to them. The tape measure is probably the worst component. It has a plastic body and the tape itself is vinyl. The problem is it doesn’t pull out very smoothly and the retract mechanism sticks. I’d rather just use a ruler or even a regular small tape measure. The dice are a tad small but usable.
The Minis: All the White Star Minis and Golgoth are made of a hard plastic similar in feel to styrene. They are NOT made of that rubbery stuff. This means they really could be repainted or touched up easily. The Therians are slighly rubbery but because of their delicate design this will make them more durable. The detail on them is crisp and I didn’t think they were rubbery until I actually poked at them. All of the minis are clean of flash, painted with various base colors, and have a wash for highlighting/detail. All the figure bases are black with the tops having a texture picked out with a gray drybrush.
The Therians are the most impressive. The Therians look very good with the pre-painted method used. I may give them a drybrush at some point but I am happy with them as they are. Even the ‘faces’ look good as is.
The big Wraith Golgoth is an impressive model. It is bigger than a Space Marine Dreadnought. The only movable part on it is the left-side weapon; although one could probably make other parts move or reposition them with a little cutting. The paint job also works well on the Golgoth but there is plenty of detail to pick out if one wanted. Note: the large ‘plug’ on the bottom of the model is a shipping piece and can be removed by taking the screw out of the bottom.
The White Stars were slightly disappointing, but their paint jobs look better than a lot of stuff I’ve seen folks using. They basically have a gray basecoat with brown and black items. The lower part of the coat does have a darker gray camo pattern. The faces are a single, poorly applied, flesh color and the weapons black with no highlighting. Overall they are serviceable and I suspect a lot of folks will use them as is. But I can see a lot of folks taking some time with them. I suspect I will at least highlight the uniform a bit, repaint the face, and detail the weapon. The White Star figures also rotate at the waist. This is good for variety of poses but the gap thus created is somewhat unsightly on a few of the figures.
The large White Star Fire Toad is another impressive model. It is very detailed with a nice urban camo pattern and plenty of decals. It also sports a number of color highlighted bits. The nose mounted weapons elevate and depress. I was more impressed with it than I thought I would be. I think most folks will use it as is but a few simple touch-ups will really make it nice.
Overall the paint quality is most certainly subjective. Some will like it and some certainly will not. For me the Therians are good enough with maybe some easily and quickly made minor tweaks. There are a few instances of ‘sloppy’ paint application but they are all easily fixed. If you consider yourself a good painter the quality of the paint jobs on the AT-43 stuff is going to be sub-standard no question about that. If you are not such a good painter or are more concerned with playing I’d say they hit the mark but there is certainly room for improvement. I think it is unfair to compare the pre-painted paint jobs to what a reasonably good painter could do; of course they will not be as good but they only need to be good enough for most folks and they can be repainted by those who wish. Moreover, from playing distances of a few feet the figures look just fine. I’ll be able to touch-up my White Star figures in a fraction of the time it would take me to get an Imperial Guard squad built, prep’d, and painted.
Bottom-line on painting: If you are proud of your paint jobs then think of the AT-43 stuff as pre-assembled and pre-primed figures. If you do not like painting, struggle with painting, or are more concerned with playing the game, I think you will generally find the AT-43 stuff good enough or easily tweaked.
Game Play: So how does the game play? Obviously Operation Damocles is an introductory set with advanced rules on the way in March. But even with a fairly simplified set of rules AT-43 manages to provide a very enjoyable and tactically challenging game. The heart of the game is most certainly anchored in the activation sequence, unit cards, and leadership points. These simple mechanics impart a host of challenges and open a wide range of options during a turn. The element of tension provided keeps the game exciting as players are never sure what units will move next. Compared to simpler ‘I go, You go’ game systems AT-43 is a breath of fresh air and it manages to provide extra depth with little extra complexity.
Summation: Overall I am very pleased with the set. One will be able to play immediately and improve the paint jobs, if desired, as time permits. The follow-on expansion packs promise even higher quality painting. This pre-painted trend is the way to go for miniature games in my opinion and the folks at Rackham have met, if not exceeded, expectations and provided a total gaming experience never before reached in miniature gaming. They should be proud of themselves. Highly recommended.
See our other AT-43 coverage.