With the free rules preview having been out for a few months now you would not think the actual rulebook would hold any surprises. You would be wrong. The AT-43 rulebook is a 127 page, full-color, softbound book. The feel is more like a magazine because the paper, including the cover, is thin with high gloss. There is color on almost every page and the layout is well done. Overall the look is very professional.
In addition to pages 46-77 included in the free rules download, the full rulebook includes an introduction to the AT-43 universe, i.e. ‘fluff’, as well as an introduction to the four starter races, the White Stars, Therians, Red Blok, and Karmans. This section includes some really great full-color artwork, photos of the miniatures, as well as black and white concept sketches.
The latter portion of the book includes a section on unit composition, missions, using terrain, a battle report, a glossary, and starter army lists. There are six full missions included: Seek & Destroy, Bridgehead, Hold the position, Skirmish, Landing, and Extraction. This section of the rulebook is also liberally sprinkled with more full-color artwork, photos of the miniatures, as well as black and white concept sketches.
The full rules expand considerably on the intro rules provided in the Operation Damocles Initiation Set. Striders now divide their structure points among frame, propulsion, and weapons as indicated by the white boxes on the unit cards. The best part of AT-43 is certainly the activation sequence. This was included, in a simpler form, in the OD rules. Basically you use the unit cards to decide on the order you will activate your units. You can then spend leadership points to modify the activation sequence during play. For example, you can spend two leadership points to delay the activation of a unit. This is a far more exciting turn sequence game mechanic than the traditional ‘I Go U Go’ system and highlights leader abilities well.
Also new are Combat Drills that include Knee to the ground, Overwatch, Take Cover, and Split Fire. Overwatch is probably the most interesting as it is a feature often missing in modern miniature games. Overwatch allows a designated unit to do nothing during the player’s turn but be eligible to fire on any moving targets in the opponent’s next turn. AT-43 also includes rules for indirect and area fire, close combat, morale, and heroes. Indirect fire includes artillery type attacks as well as template attacks such as flamers. Units are required to take morale checks under certain conditions and leaders have a direct effect on a unit’s morale.
Overall Rackham has done an excellent job with the rules. The rules provide enough depth to keep play interesting but are streamlined enough to not be difficult to learn. The activation sequence and Combat Drills keep suspense high and mean no two games will ever really play the same. Best of all, with the free rules preview gamers can judge for themselves before buying.