Recently, I was browsing online gaming shops, when I spotted a starter box for Beyond the Gates of Antares with a deep discount. Since Bolt Action is one of my favorite wargames and Rick Priestley is one of my favorite rules writers, I decided to pick it up. Though nowadays I generally prefer historical wargaming, it looked like a good game for players who want an alternative to Warhammer 40k. After ordering it, I did some research and found that there are actually two starter boxes for Antares — the original one, which is larger and includes a hardback rulebook, and a smaller one that was released later. The one I bought, Strike on Kar’A Nine, is the latter. However, despite its smaller size, I have been blown away with how much is packed inside.
The box is about the size of recent Warlords games releases such as Black Seas or Victory at Sea. I really like the box art, though one of my friends said he thinks it looks a little generic. The box was surprising heavy, which seemed strange to me until I opened it…
…and found a full, hardcover rulebook inside! I was shocked to see this, especially since the box set isn’t much more expensive than buying the rulebook by itself. The back of the box even says that it only includes a miniature rulebook inside, so I don’t know if I got some kind of special edition or if they all come like this. The box also includes a very nice 50-page “Start Here” booklet that shows how to assemble and paint the minis, teaches the basics of the game, and even includes some smaller introductory scenarios.
Even though the box is small, there are still a decent amount of minis in it. There are five sprues in total, each consisting of parts for five soldiers and numerous drones. There are also bases for all of the models included and transparent stands for the drones. While there forces in the box are pretty small (tiny even), for a small introductory set like this, I think it is very reasonable.
The sprues themselves look nice and detailed. While I haven’t assembled any of the models yet, they look simple and painless to put together. They also look fairly straightforward to paint. I think they will be especially good for people new to the hobby.
In addition to model sprues, there are also two sprues with templates and pin markers. The templates, in tranparent blue plastic, look especially nice. The pin markers are ok, though we will probably use dice to track pins instead (like we already do with Bolt Action).
The box includes a bag of various polyhedral dice, including d10s, d6s, d4s, and even a d3(!). Unlike Bolt Action (and most popular miniature wargames), Antares mainly uses d10s. I really like d10s, since they give the designer much more flexibility than d6s. There are also some order dice, which anyone familiar with Bolt Action will recognize immediately.
There is a cardstock sheet of terrain included, which players can cut out and use for their games. It’s not really anything special, but I guess its better than nothing. I’d suggest gluing it to cardboard before using it, otherwise the edges will likely curl.
There is also a fold out play mat included. It is fairly small (around 3′ by 2′), but it should work well for playing with the models included. Again, its better than nothing.
The back of the play mat has a really awesome poster print of the front cover. Though it doesn’t add anything to the game, I think this is a great inclusion. I wish more companies would put stuff like this in their starter boxes. I’m definitely going to try and find a place to hang it up.
Overall, I am really happy with this box set. I read online that the original, larger box set was not great for introducing people to the game because the forces inside were incredibly unbalanced and that the models in this box are much more evenly matched. If you are interesting in Beyond the Gates of Antares, I’d suggest buying two of these boxes and splitting the contents with a friend. Though I initially only had a casual interest in this game, after opening the box and starting to read the rules, I can’t wait to play!
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