Jamie Morris runs us through the first of a four-part series on his experience building an Antares 2 gaming group near home.
Building an Antares army on a budget
Back when I first found my feet in tabletop wargaming, I remember my mum buying me a box full of back issues of White Dwarf, to be used as incentives for chores. As a kid with not much money, these were like gold dust to me, and I must have wrung every bit of enjoyment that a person could get out of those dozen or so issues. Amongst them was a feature that I’ll never forget called “A Tale of Four Gamers”, where four of GW’s stalwarts set out to build and paint an army on a budget of £50 per month. It was a fascinating read, and I always wanted to do something similar one day.
As someone who already owns seven armies from Beyond the Gates of Antares, I thought it might be boring for me to collect and paint yet another – I wanted four Antares newcomers to do it, which means less painting for me, and four new victims to play against when all of this is over.
Identifying players wasn’t too hard – there are plenty of players locally who have previously expressed an interest in Antares:
- Andy Croft, my long time Antares opponent, who will be venturing away from his normal Concord force into something new;
- Josh Wood, a Bolt Action aficionado and tournament organiser;
- YouTuber Josh Peel takes slot number three, having expressed an interest in Antares for a while now; and
- rounding out the group is long time friend and 3D printing enthusiast Chris Hefferin, a veteran of many RPGs in our local gaming group.
The group rules
The rules are simple:
- Each month, I will provide players with a £50 budget to spend on Antares models. Players are free to supplement this if they wish in order to take advantage of deals or acquire larger models, but are encouraged to stick to the budget where possible.
- Each player has to paint their new troops before the end of the month and field them in battle at least once.
- Each player will provide a write up of their experience, whether that’s about their army building choices, their paint scheme, or their tactics and battle report.
Month 1 is tough, but having done some analysis on this recently, I’m confident that £50 (or a tad more) is enough to field a 30pt force in any faction. If you want the detailed breakdown, see my recent article on the Skytrex website: https://skytrex.com/blogs/news/new-antares-part-1-of-a-tale-of-four-shards.
With that, I’m going to hand it over to the players and let them introduce themselves and their chosen factions.
Chris Hefferin: The Ghar Empire Expeditionary Force (GrEEF)
It must have been over three decades since I last played any tabletop games. Back then I was a teenager and it was all about Warhammer 40k and some historic war gaming. So, when Jamie asked me if I was interested in joining a small group of players to play Beyond the Gates of Antares, at first I was a little hesitant. However, after playing a game with Jamie, and losing quite badly, I was hooked. I’m a slightly, ahem, older player than the others but if I can play the game anyone can.
Picking a Faction
Space goblins, need I say more?
Okay so there’s a bit more to it than that. My first encounter with Beyond the Gates of Antares was a taster session with Jamie, where I played the Ghar and Jamie the Freeborn. It didn’t go well for the Ghar, but I like an underdog, and given their small stature and low tech level compared to the other factions (not to mention my crushing defeat), they fit the bill. I also love the aesthetic of their battle armour. They look mean and ready to fight, unlike some of the other namby-pamby factions. Don’t ask me why but for some reason they also remind me of the Orcs in the book Grunts by Mary Gentle! I’m going to enjoy the challenge of figuring out what tactics will work best against each of the other factions.
Building the List
In my first game I got my butt kicked good and proper, but in doing so I worked out a few of the Ghar strengths and weaknesses. So, when it came time to select my units, I picked ones that would work to their strengths while playing down the weaknesses. The Ghar are good in toe to toe but not so great at ranged combat. With that in mind, my initial picks were an Assault squad and a Bomber squad. The former are good when they’re up close and personal, and while the Bomber squad are no slouches in hand to hand either, their real strength is bombarding the enemy at range. To support them I also picked an Attack Scutter quad – these are more manoeuvrable, cheap, and have the same guns as a standard battle suit. Not necessarily the best squad but they can react to changing circumstances. I already have my eye on a Bombardment Crawler for next month.
While the standard white paint scheme for the Ghar looks great, I wanted to make them my own, but I was unsure what colour I wanted my units to be. I was leaning towards a yellow or ochre colour scheme, but it wasn’t bold enough. I rummaged through my paints and found an old Citadel Blood Red – the colour of danger and the blood of my enemies – and knew right away that this was the base colour I wanted.
I primed everything in grey and then airbrushed in Blood Red – the advantage of the Ghar armoured units when it comes to painting is that by this point most of the work was done. Next I painted flat black onto any areas I thought looked like engine parts – already much better.
It then remained to pick out details with some highlights – orange on red and silver on black. A few different washes made all of the seams and joints stand out. Anything that looked like a light, I picked out with blue and finished the whole thing with some powders to give a grimy feel around the engines.
All in all I’m happy with the final results. I’ve yet to decide exactly what to do with the bases, but I kept some of the spare parts from the models to add as wreckage when I get around to it.
Josh Wood: First Isorian Senatex H’army (F.I.S.H)
I’ve been interested in Beyond the Gates of Antares for a long time. I even bought, built and painted the Ghar starter army for version 1 when it first came out. But unfortunately that was as far as I got – I just didn’t have the time back then, so like many unfinished projects I chose to sell it on to someone who could make use of it. So when Jamie contacted me, it took very little convincing for me to join in. It’s a fantastic opportunity to learn a game that’s been on my radar for a long time.
Picking a Faction
But what faction to pick? The only thing I was sure of was not Ghar, as I had built them before. So that left me with six main factions to pick from. After reading a lot of the lore and watching the faction breakdowns on YouTube, I had it narrowed down to three.
First, Freeborn, as I liked the idea of space pirates and the range of miniatures would give me access to some fantastic choices – especially the misgenic rejects and feral model range.
Second, Isorian Senatex – I liked the look of the Tsan models (who wouldn’t like space gorillas crossed with spiders). Their unique ability to go down even after they have activated thanks to phaseshift armour would greatly improve their chances of survival on the table top.
Last, but not least, the Virai, who appealed to me mainly due to their ability to charge headlong across the table into combat (definitely not related to my Japanese Bolt Action bamboo spear army). I also really like the lore of the Virai. Swarms of robotic insects consuming all to build more drones gave me flashbacks to watching Stargate SG1 and the first time I saw replicators.
I eventually decided that the Freeborn didn’t really suit my play style. So the decision was down to two factions, but this seemed a lot more difficult to choose than I had expected. My heart wanted to go hell-for-leather and charge as far and fast as possible (Virai). But my head said that charging almost as far and still having the ability to go down was the smart option (Isorian).
After about a week of indecision, I managed to get some time on the table with both factions, but it didn’t help me come to a decision. During that time I was looking at paint schemes for both factions, and it brought to mind an article I’d seen recently on colour shift paints. After a few minutes of frantic searching I found the article again. I knew I had to paint an army in these colours, but which one? The thought occurred to me that the colour shift paints would be a fantastic representation of the Isorian Phaseshift armour, which is how I decided on the mighty Isorian Senatex. I even managed to snag a box of Tsan Ra Phase Troopers from Jamie’s bottomless pit of miniatures, giving me a head start on painting. Time to get cracking!
Everything I read said that the best way of applying colour shift paint was via an airbrush. Seeing as how I do not have an airbrush this had potentially brought my plan to a rather abrupt halt. But I’m never far from Entoyment, my local gaming store, and they provided the perfect solution in the form of a spray can of Greenstuff World’s colour shift paint. Bingo! All I needed now was a gloss black undercoat spray and the lion’s share of the colour scheme was locked in.
With lots of dark blue and purple, I wanted a bold contrast to bring out the vents and whatnot on the Phase armour. I chose bright green rather than orange, as the latter is already on the box art for the Isorians, and I wanted mine to look unique. The weapons I painted plain black as a subtle differentiator from the armour. The last main part was the head. Now this took some real trial and error: I tried seven or eight different colour combinations before I decided. Eventually I settled on burnished silver for the lower half and bronze gold for the upper parts, as this could be easily used across all models and brought some nice variations to the overall look.
No model is complete without a decent base, and I could afford to be much more experimental with Antares than I’d been with Bolt Action. I decided I’d go with jungle style bases with a touch of alien plant life, so I headed back to Entoyment for some alien foliage by Gamer Grass.
Building the List
Deciding what models to get with my first £50 budget wasn’t easy, though I’d already preemptively spent part of that budget on the Tsan-Ra. I’ll have the opportunity to acquire most of the models I want over the next six months, but the desire to have it all now was strong. Warlord’s big army bundles didn’t help to curb that desire, allowing me to get £140 of troops for a mere £90.38! It was a great deal, consisting of the MV5 combat drone, a Pulse Bike squad, a Phase squad, a Tsan Ra Phase squad (which I would give back to Jamie) and a free Tsan Ra Torus squad.
I’m a sucker for a bargain, so I paid the extra £40. Although it did occur to me that I was spending nearly two months’ allowance in total on one month’s models – I’ll need to be very careful with my £50 budget over the coming months.
Josh Peel: C3 Light Mechanised Dragoons
As a Bolt Action player, I’ve been interested in Beyond the Gates of Antares ever since it appeared on my radar, but I had one problem: I didn’t know anyone else that played and my limited budget was getting spent on other game systems. So when Jamie asked if I’d be interested in participating in his upcoming campaign, I didn’t need a lot of convincing. It was an enthusiastic yes from me, even before I found out about the free models. This would be epic!
Picking a Faction
So off we went to Entoyment for my first demo game with Jamie and JW. Early on I had liked the idea of playing as Concord. During my research I came across the sentence ‘aloof and arrogant with a preference of engaging targets at range’ – this sounds like the army for me! In a three way demo game I pitted a borrowed Concord force against their bitter enemies the Isorian Sentax and the Virai Dronescourge. The overwhelming firepower of the C3 was brought to bear with satisfying results: this was my play style for sure. The IMTel is never wrong!
I had heard players make a case for moving Bolt Action to a D10 system for years and previously dismissed them out of hand. D6s were good enough for my father and his father before him goddamnit! But after putting dice to table, I may well have joined the converted ranks!
Building the List
The next challenge was to be the initial purchases. There’s nothing quite as exciting for a war gamer as picking out those first units for a new army. After reading Jamie’s 30pt list analysis, it seemed pretty obvious that I’d get more bang for my buck than any other faction – and as luck would have it, Warlord Games even had a 25% off sale on all things Antares!
The first thing I knew I had to order was the C3 Strike Squad. These would form the core battle line of troops. For £18 on sale, the box includes two sprues of infantry, each coming with a C3D1 support drone – a very handy firepower boost. I also couldn’t live without the C3 Interceptor bikes, citing no other reason than the rule of cool! One of their really useful features is that they can take a compacted plasma cannon, making them tactically very flexible. So to finish off my first month of purchases I ordered the support team with plasma cannon to melt any armoured targets I might come across! All of this with the sale came to £50.25! A bargain! With these models I can be really really flexible with what I take. I’ve got enough points for up to 50 which is great.
After my first game Jamie very kindly provided me with a C3 Strike Team sprue to build and paint, giving me a chance to pick a colour scheme before choosing my troops. With so many potential colour schemes that might work, it was a tough choice. Initially I thought about yellow and blue, but then remembered that painting yellow is a nightmare. If I’m going to paint dozens of infantry, I don’t want to be putting 7 or 8 coats on each one. So I ditched that idea and came up with a totally original blue and purple scheme that is 100% not based on Skeletor – that’s just a happy accident!
And since the C3 finds itself fighting on all sorts of alien worlds, I also added some Green Stuff World Martian Tufts to give them that authentic sci-fi look!
Battle Report: Attacker
With my freshly painted troops, I headed down to Entoyment to play against Jamie and his Algoryn, hoping it might provide some insight for when I face Andy later in the campaign. We picked out 80pts each, both taking a turn as the attacker and defender in a “destroy the power generator” type custom scenario. It heavily favoured the defenders due to terrain and the placement of the objective, but swapping roles nullified any concerns I might have.
In the first game, my Concord were the aggressors, while the Algoryn showered them with overhead fire from a pair of x-launchers tucked out of sight. Jamie had infantry up on the wall of the fort patching information back to the x-launchers via a spotter drone, which I knew I had to destroy. That was easier said than done, and it took three turns to dislodge the first squad. A lucky hit on the second robbed them of the spotter, but Jamie had a spare AI squad waiting in cover, who ascended the wall and provided line of sight back to the launchers. Of the two gates into the fort, one was protected by a minefield and a Hazard squad, while the other was covered by two AI squads and one Infiltrator squad. I directed all of my forces at the latter, which is, I’m sure, exactly what Jamie wanted.
The biggest challenge was the effective use of scoot ammunition from the Algoryn, forcing my support team to continually move their plasma cannon rather than firing. The effect was, though, that by turn four, the plasma cannon was right outside the gate, albeit with only one crew member. The Algoryn defenders had been whittled down by superior firepower by this point, leaving only the x-launchers to defend the objective. Needless to say, they were unable to fend off the C3, and I chalked up my first victory.
Battle Report: Defender
We switched roles, and Jamie brought out a slightly different Algoryn force to attack – before you cry foul, this was at my request, allowing me to fight against the widest range of enemy models. The Hazard squad and Infiltrators were replaced by a Defiant transport and an AI Assault squad, emphasising mobility. I was able to make much better use of my plasma cannon this time around, destroying the Defiant almost as soon as it popped out of cover.
Jamie had managed to disgorge the infantry within before my shot landed, obviously anticipating such a move. His response was to shower the support team with fire, but the cover provided by the fort kept it alive until turn 2, when a lucky shot from an x-launcher killed both crew, in spite of the additional res provided by Hyperlight armour. Before Jamie had finished gloating, the C3 Interceptors sped to the base of the wall, dismounted, and deployed a new plasma cannon on top. That moment of satisfaction will warm me on cold nights for many years to come.
With the loss of his transport, Jamie struggled to get the Algoryn through the gates, though his Assault squad made a valiant attempt. Thankfully, I did not engage, sprinting away as they charged, and leaving them exposed to overwhelming plasma fire from the Strike squads waiting inside the walls. This marked the beginning of the end, as the AI squads lacked the punch to dislodge the defenders in the remaining two turns. Another Concord victory!
Andy Croft: SD Long Range Incursion Force Gamma
Since first getting into Antares about 18 months ago I’ve been hooked. In that time I’ve managed to collect and paint a Concord army of around 150-200 points and it’s been such a fun experience that when Jamie presented me the opportunity to start another faction I jumped at the chance. As an added bonus having 2 factions would also then allow me to host games of Antares and hopefully draw even more players into the fold!
Picking a Faction
Initially my first instinct was to go with Ghar as I have a few battle suits awaiting some attention from my Xilos Horizon V1 starter box. However as this is my second faction I decided to take a backseat while the other new players got their first pick of factions and then choose one from those remaining. Without jumping the gun and blurting out the other players’ faction choices I found myself trying to decide between the Algoryn and the Boromites.
For me choosing a faction is never about how it plays or how good they are; it’s all about the models. And after browsing the Skytrex website I found myself drawn to the Algoryn Avenger Skimmer. It’s such a cool model I knew I had to build a force around that. Initially I thought it would be really cool to do an all skimmer army but a) it wouldn’t strictly be a legal list, and b) even if the other players agreed to it it may turn out to be overpowered or just not fun to play against, so for the time being the idea was shelved. However then I remembered how much I liked the SD (Special Division) Hazard troops when I played against Jamie’s Algoryn so an SD force is the plan, supported by skimmers and whatever other cool stuff takes my fancy!
Building the List
As luck would have it, our first month coincided with a sale at Warlord Games, giving me the chance to squeeze in a few extra goodies. There’s no tactical acumen in my choices, just cool models I was looking forward to painting! So at the top of the list was an SD Hazard Command Squad and then a Standard SD Hazard Squad. Then it was simply a case of adding that super cool Avenger Skimmer – and all for £51.50!
Initially I had planned to go with the ‘catalogue’ red paint scheme shown off on all the official images of the Algoryn but then I was watching a clip from the Halo franchise and I realised the Hazard suits would look pretty cool in a similar green scheme. I took about 5 attempts to find the right green and then a further 5 or so iterations of the scheme before I settled on the final version. The scheme is now Vallejo Olive Green as the main colour with Vallejo German Camo Dark Green as the under armour colour and then a Vallejo Light Grey helmet. I’m still working on a few parts and accent colours here and there hence a few inconsistencies in the photo. The basing is pretty standard sand and rocks with some tufts to be added later which will match my concord basing.
Mission: Scenario 3, An Unexpected Encounter
With their paint barely dry, my models hit the battlefield against Chris’ Ghar. I’d stretched my points to 60, which meant I had lots of army options and only 4 order dice. Still, my main objective wasn’t to win but to see how the Hazard suits of the Algoryn could perform against the formidable Battle Suits of the Ghar. The objective was supposed to be getting units off the other table edge, but as usual I got distracted trying to blow stuff up. I managed to destroy 1 battle suit squad and almost destroy the scutter squad, but in return my entire army was wiped out, with 4 Hazard Squad members being destroyed by a particularly effective overheard shot from the Bombardment Crawler. As the final nail in my coffin, Chris also managed to get a unit off my table edge!
The final result was a Ghar victory with 6 victory points to 1. The main thing I learned was that the Hazard squads are indeed effective against even Ghar battle suits, but they are vulnerable to counter charges from nearby units so best to pick on isolated units! I also learned that I have an innate ability to fail arrival command tests, but unfortunately that doesn’t improve with experience! All in all it was a great game and most importantly, hopefully one that Chris’ enjoyed too!
Adversary: Josh Wood/Isorians
Mission: Scenario 9, Recover at all costs
Since my last game I’d managed to add a cheeky eBay purchase of some Targeter Probes (I love recycling after all!) and I borrowed an x-launcher team to make a legal list so my 60 points this time was looking a lot more effective. However I was concerned about Josh’s combat drone as it seems to have a reputation for effectiveness already! I deployed entirely out of line of sight this time and managed to get an early assault on the Isorian Pulse Bike squad, wiping them out! However another failed arrival command test from the Avenger (told you so!) and the Isorians soon took charge of the objective. Only a desperate charge from the same Hazard squad was able to avert disaster, destroying another enemy and reclaiming the drone.
Or temporarily, at least.
The Isorian MV5, having effectively pinned the Algoryn Avenger Skimmer into inaction, was able to turn on the isolated Hazard squad, destroying the remaining members. The Tsan Ra Phase squad then took possession of the drone, but the game ended before they could get off the table resulting in a technical draw. However both myself and Josh were having far too much fun to end it there so we carried on playing and despite a few last ditch attempts from the Alorgyn the Isorians made good their escape with the drone.
Again, another amazing game which went down to the wire. I’m probably preaching to the converted here but this truly showed just what a great game Beyond The Gates Of Antares really is. If there is anyone reading this who hasn’t played I have only one bit of advice: play it, play it now, thank me later!
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