The strange world of tabletop wargaming is an unforgiving one -- the rules are complex, the figures are expensive and the rulebooks are impenetrable. Many people may not have even heard of the hobby, which involves assembling and painting groups of small figures to use as pieces for multiplayer strategy games. These games are usually structured around turns and phases, with conflict resolved by dice. Unfortunately, due to the prohibitively high price tags and labyrinthine rules often attached, the hobby is not very welcoming to new players.
One Calgary company, Uncle Mike's Worldwide, is seeking to overturn the insular nature of the wargaming community with Strange Aeons, a skirmish game inspired by the works of early 20th century horror writer H. P. Lovecraft. The two-person game tasks one player with controlling the human agents of Threshold, a secret government organization devoted to protecting humanity from supernatural horrors, while a second player controls a small army of said monstrosities.
Strange Aeons is an extremely approachable game for those new to the hobby, while still managing to appeal to wargaming veterans. This was clear at the Uncle Mike's Worldwide booth at the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo, where players of all ages and experience levels were able to easily grasp the game's rules within a few rounds of play. Games take only about 20 minutes to play, and the simple mechanics eliminate the need to constantly reference the rulebook.
One of the most novel features of the game is the emphasis on protracted campaigns with recurring characters and overarching plots. Threshold players who are fortunate enough to survive a game can improve their operatives' skills and earn rewards like special weapons, magic spells and special mercenary characters. This feature results in players growing attached to their characters, adding to the tension of the short, action-packed rounds. A pack of slavering fish-men is a much more urgent threat when there is a real chance of them permanently killing one of your operatives.
The rulebook's layout makes it clear that the game was designed with players in mind. The book itself is compact, coil-bound and has a tough plastic cover, making it both durable enough to prevent wear and tear and small enough to allow for easy transportation. It is priced at a very reasonable $30, which is less than half the price of many wargaming rulebooks.
While players can use anything available for models and terrain, the official Strange Aeons model collection is absolutely stellar. The miniatures, ranging from pistol wielding operatives to bat-winged nightmares, are rich in detail and definition. Like the rulebook, the miniatures are also very affordable, making it easier for newcomers to begin playing the game. The small number of models required to play is also welcome, and helps to contribute to the suspenseful feel of the game play. However, there is a slight drawback -- the models take paint poorly. Painters will definitely want to prime these figures, or at the very least use multiple coats.
Strange Aeons is a very solid purchase for anyone looking to play a new war game, break into the hobby or just have fun with some friends. The low cost and easy to learn rules make it easy for anyone to get right into the game, while the campaign-focused mechanics will ensure that you will be eager to continue your operatives' adventures.