This past weekend Ben and I attended Dragon Fall in St. Charles, IL. Dragon Fall consisted of multiple events for many games systems. There was a two-day Warhammer 40,000 tournament, X-Wing, 9th Age, Kings of War and a few others over the weekend. For Ben and myself, the main attraction was the Bolt Action Attrition event on Sunday but we also took part in a mini Arena Rex event on Saturday night.
Arena Rex is a game that we picked up at Adepticon 2016. We were drawn in by the excellent artwork and gorgeous miniatures and were happy to find out the game is top notch as well. Arena Rex is a gladiator skirmish game set in an alternate history ancient Rome. In the fluff, the Roman Empire never fell and gladiatorial combat is the absolute height of entertainment. The factions in the game are all based on ancient societies and each have a ton of character and uniqueness. My faction, the Morituri are based on an Egyptian death cult and Ben’s Legio XIII are former Roman legionaries who are now looking for glory in the arena.
The game is fast, furious and it just flows. Models activate one at a time but there are tons of “reactions” you can take during your opponent’s activation that keep the action moving. Needless to say, we are fans.
However, as much as we like the game, we had only played Arena Rex two times before the event and it ended up being part learning game and part tournament. We both ended up playing three games and Ben took first place! Andrew, the organizer, did an incredible job and had plenty of models for people to use who were new to the game. Without a doubt, Ben and I are excited to play more games of Arena Rex and to get more people excited about the game.
Sunday was the main event for us. A three-game Bolt Action event with a twist, attrition that persisted between games. This unique event was cooked up by Aaron and Mark of Mercenary Miniatures and the focus was on each player’s army taking attrition from each game and having to pull in reserve troops to bring your force back up to strength. Unlike a standard event where you use the same army list for each game, we submitted two army lists; a main and a reserve. The main platoon is what you would use for the first game and if any of your units were removed from play, you could bring in units from your reserve list to fill the gaps in the next game. It was a brutal way to run an event where each unit that was destroyed in a game remained destroyed for the remainder of the event.
The attrition of war led to very cagey play, with players not wanting to take any unnecessary risks. After all, any unit that was removed from play would not be back for the next game. I found myself constantly weighing my options, do I want to make a push for the game objective? Or hang back and try to keep as many units alive as possible for the next game. Usually I am a very “balls to the wall” kind of player and will happily throw units into assault and usually do not wait to strike. But during this event? I was sitting back and waiting. Launching small probing attacks instead of striking out. It was a fresh take on the game and I truly enjoyed it.
Another take away is that I realized what units in my list were the “must haves”. After losing both my sniper team and my forward artillery observer in game one I found myself missing these units dearly. Also, the holdback and wait to strike strategy worked out a lot better than I thought it would. Maybe I’ll adopt that in my standard games.
It must also be mentioned that Dragon Fall was running the second edition Bolt Action. As far as I know, this was the first second edition event in the country, and it showed. Lots and lots of breaks in the games to look up rules and clarify with the Tournament Organizers. Luckily, Mark and Aaron did an awesome job of running the event and were always on hand to answer the many questions we players had.
Both Ben and I are impressed with second edition. There has been a fair amount of negativity in the community regarding the change to second edition but we are thrilled. There are improvements to the flow of the game and a host of little tweaks to address issues in that first edition had. The changes to buildings, machine guns, officers, AT and HE, reserves and rally are all big improvements from first edition. Honestly, discussing second edition Bolt Action deserves an entire article on its own and these are just some quick thoughts. I’ll end with this, second edition is fantastic and I cannot wait to play more games.
Dragon Fall was a great time. This was the first year that Bolt Action was at Dragon Fall and I look forward to attending again in the future. Plus, the Chicago Dice crew did well for themselves! Ben took first place in Arena Rex and third in Bolt Action and my Chindits were voted Best Appearance!
It’s always great to find a new local tournament and a 45-minute drive is a small price to pay for a day of great games.
You can find more information on the event on the Dragon Fall Facebook page.