Saturday, 21 June 2014

Game Review - All Quiet on the Martian Front

All Quiet on the Martian Front

So a few days back, I posted images of some of the miniatures for All Quiet on the Martian Front, the new 15mm wargame from Alien Dungeon, with the intention of actually providing a review of the game when the rest of the miniatures arrived (Which should have been the end of the week at the latest), sadly the miniatures have not landed yet, but given that the game is going on general release as of now, It would be a shame to withhold the review until everything had arrived.  Thus there will be a post in later days that shows the miniatures when they arrive.

However, playing with the miniatures that I’ve already got, there’s enough of an idea for me to be happy about doing a review on it.  I just couldn’t field all the Martians because it would have been a rout within seconds…

Much like the story itself really…

The first thing I noticed about the game is that they haven’t skimped on the production values, the main book is spectacular, full colour throughout with separate sections for the background fluff, the rules, and then the scenarios and a painting guide. 

They haven’t got in the direction of Warhammer with the “This is our catalogue, you really want to buy these finecast models…”, but it’s apparent that there’s a good number of miniatures and they’re at least reasonable in detail.  With the chosen scale of 15mm (for those not familiar with the scale, 15mm means that the infantry are 15mm tall, it’s the usual scale used for historical games) rather than 25mm, the scale for Warhammer, it’s possible to have a Tripod on the table without having to raise the roof to get it on the table, although in the case of some of the larger models, there’s still going to be space issues.

So rules first, determine initiative and then one side does their entire turn, which consists of move, attack, move, with the second side following after that and so on.  It should be noted that the Initiative roll for the humans is modified by the events of the preceding turn, making it entirely possible for a good round to let the humans win the initiative for the round after and turn what was a bad situation into a terrible situation for the invaders. Martians never get modifiers to the Initiative rolls, but also do not suffer from morale or panic checks, so it evens out over the course of the battle, and it’s a nice nod to the idea that the humans might just seize the initiative if they found they were winning rather than just being juicy little humans…

Combat is a simple affair, D10 base, every model has a Defence value and an Armour Value, roll equal to or greater than Defence to hit them in the first place, roll equal to or greater than Armour to damage them.  Most stands only have a single wound/structural point, so damage it and it goes down.  Most weapons that aren’t artillery are within the 30” range band, so things get up close and personal fairly quickly, and while Martians have a massive edge when it comes to technology, they really have no edge at all on numbers, and it’s here that the system works well.  If it were all base numbers no matter what, then the Martians would roll over the humans every time, but the humans have versatility on their side, and given the number of them on the field at any given time, it’s possible to have so many humans running around that the Martians are just trying to sweep them up before they get close enough to do real damage.  With the possibility of using clamp tanks to hold the Martians in place, the whole system is reasonably well balanced, and with even sides, the battle usually goes down to the wire.

That said, sometimes you get spectacular moments, such as the point in one of the early tests where a squadron of rough riders managed to attach tow cables to a group of tripods, and a follow up battery of fire caused at least two tripods to have to move, which resulted in their immediate destruction very much in the manner of the land speeder assault from Empire strikes back. 

There was much glee and the bikes are forever after called Rogue Squadron J

What immediately struck me about this was that there’s true versatility in the human forces, from fast moving troops to sneak attack to heavy armour single units that can take on whole sets of tripods, making for the possibility of having all manner of different battles with just the basic set.  The Martians are less versatile, but given that to get new tech they’ve got to place a call back to Mars, that had a good degree of logic to it.  Their weapons are engineered to hit a number of humans at once, with the heat rays having two different methods of attack, direct shooting or sweeping the ray across a number of targets in a manner reminiscent of the tripods in the 2005 film of the same name, shorter range and less damage, but more targets. Then Black smoke launchers and Gas bombs affecting multiple units.

There are no additional army lists required, no additional purchases, get the basic set and you’re good to go, which is suitably refreshing for those just coming into the game and while the deluxe manual is worth every penny, it’s not required to get going on the game.

I’ll stress now that I’m not a miniatures man, I don’t collect and paint these things until my default vision setting is “Squint through a magnifying glass”, but I can appreciate a nicely crafted miniature. 

The smaller models are cast from metal, it’s not finecast standard (and for the difference in price, I’d expect it not to be) but the detail is there.  The larger models are easy to assemble (even from a man who doesn’t do this regularly), and every tripod comes with a full set of every one of the weapons that it could use, so it’s possible to change the tripod configuration every time you use it without causing any problems. The rest of the models are easy to assemble, some do require some glue, but most of the multi-part models will snap together if you’re not of a scratch build inclination. 

That brings me to the scenarios section of the main book.  There are ten scenarios at the back of the book (Eleven if you count the introduction), which give some idea of the basic games that can be played, ranging from entrenched humans trying to stop the Martians rolling over them to the dispatch runs where fast attack humans do their best to get past overwhelming numbers of the Red Invaders.  Victory comes in the form of achieving an objective, not amassing victory points, with each scenario having a specific point and not several scattered ideas and that in turn helps to promote the idea that both sides aren’t just turning up for a scrap.

The final section of the main book is the painting guide and it’s a beauty, I can summarise it here…

Here’s some we did earlier, go on the website for detailed hints…

That’s it, and to be honest, I prefer that to a massive guide that just takes up more pages and ends up costing more to print.

In all, in the games that I’ve played so far, which have been limited in scale by the size of the forces that I can field, it’s been tremendous fun, the system is simple and works well for fast moving fights, you’re not rolling 200 dice every time your infantry unit opens fire, and it’s possible for practically anything to damage anything, which is essential to a game like this.

At the point of completion of this review, there’s only the basic models available, but there’s a number of expansions planned, price point is reasonable considering that they don’t have thirty years in the trade to work with, and now they’ve got all the basics out of the way with regards to production, I suspect that there’ll be a lot of support out there for this.

The forums can be reached at and when you see the discrepancy between the number of posts on the All Quiet board and the other boards, you’ll get some idea of how popular this is likely to be.

The sets can be found at

And in the meantime, anyone in the Yorkshire area wanting to spend an evening in the company of the music of Jeff Wayne whilst blowing stuff up, get in touch…