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"Terminator Genisys the Miniatures Game - impressions/review" Topic

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©1994-2017 Bill Armintrout
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Judge Doug21 Jun 2015 5:39 p.m. PST

Hey fellow TMPers,

I posted this over on Dakka and thought I would share with those who have seen that Terminator has been released.

A bit of a preamble whenever I talk about miniatures games and rules design: I think Andy Chambers' Starship Troopers the miniatures game, is, in my opinion, the finest ruleset crafted by mankind, an amazingly finely tuned system that works perfectly for what it is trying to accomplish (dynamic movement, fluid actions, poor tactics leads to unrecoverable disasters, etc). So I always carry that love in my heart and inevitably make comparisons to new games with my Starship Troopers love.

I was very trepidatious about Terminator Genisys the Miniatures Game, as the movie kinda looks blah. But, I enjoy Bolt Action and I love Kings of War and the Warhammer 7th edition rulebook was, in my opinion, the best iteration of Warhammer to be released (if only the 7th edition army books were any good…), and Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game is solid and fun… so I had a lot of faith that Alessio Cavatore would deliver a good set of rules based on that resume. And the future war sequences in the Terminator films are always fantastic and I've dreamt of (good) Terminator miniatures for 20+ years.

So, I preordered it and got it a week and a half ago.

Terminator Genisys, when I first read the rulebook, gave me the same feeling that I got in 2005 when I read the Starship Troopers rulebook. It reads as a very well designed, very well thought out, tight ruleset. There's almost no room for ambiguity in phrasing in fact, the precision of the elements of the rules makes this one of the most tournament friendly rulesets I've experienced BUT it's very, very simple.

I devoured the rules, assembled, the models, and played several games with my buddy that weekend…

Well, let's get to the nitty gritty. The system uses a unified mechanic in that there's always a target number you must beat when performing a task. This target number is static for every model. However, the model's ability to reach that number is based on a polyhedral die, from d4, d6, d8, d10, d12, and d20. This die can be upgraded or downgraded in lieu of complicated dice modifiers. For instance, Aiming with Skill d6 means you hit on d8 instead. If it was Long Range to begin with, that's a 6+ target number. So your chances increase from 16.7% to 37.5% chance by the dice shifting up to the next in the chain. Downgrading below d4 = reroll if it's a success; upgrading past d20 = reroll if it's a failure.

This is taken from Stargrunt II, a fine and oft-honored ruleset from about 20 years ago. It's a fantastic way to allow for a huge spread of tasks and skills. And when I say it's a unified mechanic, I mean it's entirely unified. Any model's dice rolling in the game uses this system. You make a few rolls and you have learned half of the rules.

Models have a total of three stats, which sounds small, but even slight variances can cause huge difference in gameplay. These stats are Skill, Armor, and Resolution. Skill and Resolution, since they are a model's stats, are a dice type, Armor is the target number an enemy's damage dice will need to roll against. So a Resistance dude has Skill D6, Armor 4+, Resolution D8.

So, what about actions and whatnot? Okay, here's the way it works. New turn. Whoever has Tactical Edge (roll-off or scenario based, etc) can decide who gets the first Impulse. When it's your Impulse, you roll the FATE die. This is a d6 with 1, 1, 1, 2, 2, FATE. If you roll FATE, you get no activations unless you have a Command model who can use a special No Fate But What We Make (I'll mention that later).

So assuming you roll a number, you declare that many models who are not already marked DONE to activate and place an Activation marker next to them. Activate them one at a time, and turn the marker over to a DONE side. This allows you to keep track of which models have activated this turn so you don't flub up and double activate on a future Impulse. It is also part of a highly important mechanic, discussed later. So remember the DONE markers in the back of your mind!

When a model is activated, it can normally Walk (then shoot), or can Run. This is where the included templates come into play range templates which I originally thought would be useless but are in fact genius (and are precision engineered). There's three templates in the game of varying length. There's Crawl/Close, Walk/Point Blank, and Run/Short Range. They are of a very specific length and specific width. When you move, you put the template down in front of the model and pick up the model and place it on the opposite end of the template. After Walking, a model can shoot, or after Walking or Running a model can close combat. (Advanced movement allows templates to be split, so a Run can be two Walks, each Walk is two Crawls, and any mix, because the templates are designed to be intermixed, with the model itself serving as a pivot point. SO if you imagine this… a model does Walk then you move the model then Walk and then move the model is precisely exactly the same length as a model doing Run then move model, despite having moved the model twice. IT's hard to describe but when you see it in action, you go "aaahhhhhh!"). The templates are also the exact width of the standard base, showing the entire movement corridor that the model takes (This is important for fitting through terrain, and for another reason discussed next!)

Assuming your model is going to shoot… well…What's the thing that sucks most about most miniatures games? True line of sight. Gone. Terminator uses Volumetric sizing a great mix between Warmachine and Starship Troopers. A "size" is roughly one meter, so infantry are Size 2. The bases are integral and form the model's volume. So the included templates I reference above are precisely the width of the lane of fire that your model generates as well so if you target an enemy, and a friendly base is overlapping the template, you can't fire (this is basically from Bolt Action but MUCH more precise). If you are on a Size 2 hill and you are Size 2, you count as Size 4 and can therefore see over intervening Size 3 and lower. Speaking of which, terrain! So, ALL terrain is classified as basically Clear, Impenetrable, and Difficult. All can have Sizes. Clear size 0 is the ground. Clear size 2 could be a hill. Impenetrable size 1 is a barricade. Impenetrable size 0 is a magma pool. Terrain can be in areas, which can be Dense. So a ruined house is Dense Size 2. Can't move through Impenetrable unless it's a smaller Size than you (and no Run). Can't Run through Dense. Can't draw LOS past Dense of your Size but can see out of and into Dense. It's all well laid out, the rulebook provides like a dozen examples, and leaves no room for ambiguity. [note: my ONLY complaint about the Terrain section is that the Rulebook specifically does not address multi-story intact buildings for urban combat, stating those rules will be covered in the future]

Okay so back to shooting. You check the range. Again, each of the range bands has the target number. Point Blank 4+, Short 5+. Anything over Short is Long 6+. Roll your ROF against a single target, so a plasma rifle has ROF 2 at Short and 1 at Long, so assuming target is within Short range you get 2 shots using your skill. If you hit, your target gets a cover save. Cover is always 4+. Now, this part is awesome. Soft cover obscuring, like vegetation d4. Hard cover, that can stop bullets, including other models, d6. Fortifications, d8. You get the best of multiple. If an enemy model is in the line of fire to your target and therefore providing cover, and the cover save is made, the enemy model gets hit instead. BEST RULE EVER: at Long Range, everyone gets Hard cover even if your dude is standing out in the open. The rules specifically state that because of undulations in terrain that is not modeled on the tabletop, Long Range itself provides hard cover. In the military, this is referred to as micro-terrain, stuff that is never modeled in our games but exists in reality.

[Close combat is similar to shooting, but your Close range band is a 3+ to hit. If you are within close combat range of an enemy model, you cannot shoot! Only close combat. So you have to watch your movement.]

Let's say your shot hits. You now roll the power against the models' armor. So, our human resistance guy from above has a plasma rifle, power D8.

Skill D6
Armor 4+
Resolution D8
w/ Plasma Rifle ROF 2/1, Range Long, Power D8

Skill D8
Armor 8+
Resolution D20
w/ Plasma Gun ROF 2, Range Long, Power D8

If your weapon Power roll gets the target's Armor, it's dead, gone removed.

If it's NOT the model that was hit BUT NOT KILLED makes a Resolution Test. This is a 6+ test. If it rolls a 1, it retreats and is gone from the game, 2-5, it is REELING. (like lightly wounded or has taken some damage that knocks it down, on the ground)
What Reeling does is a whole host of crazy stuff. The most important being that it receives DONE markers if it had none already, it gets two; if it had one or more DONE on it, it gets another one.
A model with two DONE markers on it is in a continual state of REELING!

This is important for two huge reasons at the end of the turn, each model removes only one Done marker, so Reeling models will be "Done" on their next turn. (and can't activate)
The second reason is very very important, but let's check something here first…

notice the Endo has, again, Armor 8 and Resolution D20. As you can see, a human's Plasma Rifle has a 1 in 8 chance of getting the Endo's 8 Armor. Meanwhile the Endo will be wading through humans. We'll get to that in a minute. But since most of the time a hit on an Endo will not kill it, your big chance is to get it to be Reeling. Remember, you have a chance of the Endo rolling a 1 on it's Resolution and be "damaged enough to cause critical systems to fail", thereby retreating the Endo. A larger chance exists to reel the the Endo making it not be able to activate next turn. Reeling stacks! If you hit and the model Reels a second time, it adds another DONE marker. And so on. Keep stacking those DONE markers on that Endoskeleton!

Back to the important second reason Reeling is essential:
as I mentioned above, when you are within Close range of an enemy model, you can't shoot, only close combat. EXCEPT WHOA NOW! If you are within close combat range of a Reeling enemy model (and no other enemy models), you can EXECUTE THEM! It's called Hasta La Vista, Baby, and you get to use your ranged weapon (so full ROF) _and_ your Power is d20, automatically.

You see what is happening here? It's SO hard for Resistance guys to kill Terminators but with volume of fire, they can make them Reeling, and then move in and execute them. Just like in the opening sequence of Terminator 2 when the Resistance guy walks up cautiously to the endoskeleton on the ground reaching for it's plasma rifle and blasts it to bits and point blank range.

And this is Resistance equipped with Plasma Rifles! By default they have Assault Rifles which are Power D6 ZERO chance of killing an Endo at range you HAVE to get the Endos Reeling before you move in to finish them off.

However the one saving grace is that Heavy Weapons, those that are Power D10 and above, degrade a Resolution dice by one step. So an Endoskeleton hit by a missile launcher (power D20), if it survives, it's Resolution test is degraded from D20 to D12. Same with a Grenade Launcher (power D10 against target and all models within Close range), so try to land a grenade near two or more Endos and you have a slight change of destroying each one and a better chance of sending them Reeling!

But yay, you've now killed an Endo! The Endo gets to roll a D6 against 5+ and if it is successful, it's still alive and functional as a Crawler (which is not that good but still so very annoying!!)

… whew!
Humans have it rough!!

Well wait Doug, what about Command you mentioned earlier?

Ok, the Command stat is how the Resistance can operate effectively. For the Machines, with most of them being autonomous, there's really no commanders (though in the army list a small number of endos can be upgraded). However humans can take NCOs and Lts all over the place, most with Command 1 or Command 2. Command does the following:
if you roll a FATE, an unactivated model with Command can activate himself and any unactivated models within Command range (Point Blank) up to his Command stat
if you activate an unactivated Command model with Command it can ativate any unactivated models within Command range up to his Command stat

as you can see, you can utilize Human command to activate 3 or 4 or mode models in a single Impulse and coordinate their attacks to Reel an Endo and then move in to execute it, or to attempt to Reel multiple Endos so they can't act this turn.

at the end of the turn, Commanders can remove extra Done markers from models within Command range, up to his Command stat. This is effectively rallying soldiers who were normally, from Reeling, be unable to activate on the following turn.

Well, gee, humans are super squishy and will be dying left and right, but their Commanders can help them, certainly, but still, Machines are tough hombres!
Another rule also helps them: Machines have Mindless.
What's Mindless? Endoskeletons never take cover saves.
They are moving slow and purposefully and not dodging around, so they do not ever benefit from cover.

Let that sink in for a sec.

Have you ever played a miniatures game where you don't have to worry about cover? Playing as the Machines is a wholly different experience from playing as Resistance. (going back to the SST analogy, I have not encountered such a disparate playstyle between armies since the Arachnids vs Mobile Infantry in the SST miniatures game) Your models are nigh invulnerable and are slowly marching forward laying down curtains of plasma death. Playing as Resistance, you are running around taking cover and getting out of LOS and trying to activate multiple models to gang up on the Endos and take them down one by one.

All using the same unified ruleset but the playstyles between the two forces are _completely different_.

(It is actually terrifying to play as the Resistance as Endoskeletons close in to your poor Resistance fighers, btw!)

That reminds me! There are multi-wound models. So, another one of my favorite things is that as soon as a multi-wound model takes its first wound, it becomes SLOW (cannot Run!) and it's Skill is degraded permanently by a step. This is for multi-wound heroes (Kyle Reese, John Connor, 2 wounds each) as well as Vehicles (Abrams has 3 wounds but a super high Armor, 10+ actually). So the first damaging hit will always make a big powerful model all of a sudden suck a little bit.

Considering that Fast VTOLs when they "Run" can actually be placed anywhere on the board, so when you can damage them, they all of a sudden have to loiter a lot more…

Well I'm probably overlong here and I've given a good overview of the basic rules, so I hope you have an understanding. The rulebook doesn't end there, there's rules for

Time displacement agents
Vehicles : Technicals, Trucks, Humvees, Bradley, Abrams, Apache, Blackhawk, Ground Hunter-Killer Tank, Aerial Hunter-Killer
Transports (aforementions trucks, humvees, Bradleys)
VTOLs (helicopters/apaches, aerial HK, etc)
Ambush fire (interrupt opponent Impulse)
Aiming fire (upgrade shooting Skill roll by a step)
Splitting/suppressive fire (high ROF can split against multiple targets near each other)
Larger games (normal games are 2x3, Large games are 4' or larger, and introduces Extended range 7+ to hit)
Other special rules (multi wound stuff like vehicles, etc)
More weapons tank cannons, miniguns, heavier plasma weaponry, etc
Infiltrators and Terminator-sniffing Dogs
A 1-6 Scenario and 1-6 Setup matrix, providing 36 different game types…and rules where each player has their own mission rolled secretly, so a bajillion different games
Scenarios from the films (including a great liberating human slaves scenario from the Machines)
A huge section on making terrain and how they made an entire post-apocalyptic terrain table from scratch, step by step very reminiscent of older GW books

The rulebook is a masterpiece, honestly. Everything is well laid out and tons of examples and clearly worded.

The models are pretty great, too though kind of weird at first because they are truescale. The Endos can very obviously fit inside people, so look "slight" compared to say 40k Necrons.
Additionally the plastics are _really_ sharp, I took some pics compared to Bolt Action minis and will post them shortly.

OH and the models included in the wargame version are basically 500 point lists (very last page of the rulebook has the army lists). 500 points is about the max for a 2x3 board, so it is literally a self-contained game. Expanding to 4'x6' games would go to 1000 or more points, so think of it like Bolt Action in terms of scale. Resistance would be like 30-40 figs plus some trucks and maybe a vehicle in 1000 points.

Here's some shots showing the Michael Perry sculpted Kyle Reese figure that comes with the game. These are the sizes and proportions of the figures. They are 36mm-ish? Compare to 28mm Bolt Action figures. They are about as true scale as you can get before going full 1/48 scale model kit models.

In fact, because there's rules for stuff like Humvees and Abrams and Apaches and Black Hawks, it's pretty cheap to get 1/48 scale model kits or 1/48 scale toys (I just ordered a Bravo Team 1/48 Apache) and start using them immediately. I also bought a Pegasus Models Terminator 2 Aerial Hunter-Killer (advertised as 1/35 scale, but based on T2 reference materials, the model is actually 1/58 scale, which is pretty dang close!) which is $40 USD retail but you can get it online cheaper. The model kit is gorgeous and I prefer the T2 look over the T:G style aerial HK.

Also, here's a shot of the Endoskeleton sprue. Notice how small the parts are and how defined the chest bits are compared to the Bolt Action German dude. I chose this German fig to compare against because anyone with any experience with Bolt Action will know how Bleeped text thin and small those German rifles are.

The very first thing you can see is that they are scaled NOT as normal, or "heroic", 28mm. The Endos are scaled in proportion with Kyle Reese and the plastic human resistance, which are very truescale. (they are way too tall for normal 28mm minis) As I mentioned, the miniatures are actually pretty close to 1/48 scale models (truescale 36mm)

My pic also only shows the Endo head w/ breastplate/chest… when assembled,the spine is a realistic length. Remember, one of the first sacrifices that heroic 28mm makes is the removal of the "waist" area (ref: Cadians, Space Marines, etc). Simply by adding in the several mm worth of a models' waist back in makes them more truescale. The game basically had to do that or the Endos would have been scaled like GW skeletons and looked very silly and chibi.

For example look at the pic with Kyle and the Endo sprue, you can see the Endo head, chest, and side parts, would fit perfectly inside Kyle, who is truescale.

Well, anyway, there's my really long and wordy overview of Terminator. The game is incredibly fun and absolutely the pinnacle of rules elegance. I want to play more, lots and lots more, because I have the feeling this is Alessio Cavatore's Magnum Opus. Myself and a few of my friends have now bought it and I'm going to start demoing it at the local game store who is carrying it. After one game the rules sell themselves and the figures are great. And now that Warlord has released the rulebook and plastic models separately, one can grab the rulebook, set of models for the faction of their choice, and the dice pack (need that Fate die!) and start playing.

Even if you don't want to get the minis, you can buy the rulebook separately, which I believe is MSRP £20.00 GBP/$32 and absolutely worth every penny.

Highly, highly recommended!

McWong7321 Jun 2015 5:59 p.m. PST

Long read, but solid review. Cheers.

Personal logo Weasel Supporting Member of TMP21 Jun 2015 8:52 p.m. PST

Oh huh. I was worried this would be junk but sounds pretty wicked.
Thanks for sharing.

JLA10521 Jun 2015 9:32 p.m. PST

Thanks for the review! I may have to take another look at this game now…

MacrossMartin21 Jun 2015 10:02 p.m. PST

I'm not in the market for this game, but you have my thanks for taking the time to provide such a genuine, and readable, review. Loads of real info, not too much hype, no candyfloss.

Ironically, partly because of your review, I'm going to go see if I can track down a copy of the Starship Troopers rulebook!

Karellian Knight22 Jun 2015 4:56 a.m. PST

Thanks for taking the time to write this. There I was trying not to spend so much on my hobby!

blacksoilbill Supporting Member of TMP22 Jun 2015 6:30 a.m. PST

Thanks for the long-winded review. Great explanation of the mechanics and their implications. I had no interest in this game at all. I still won't buy it, but if anyone offers a game I'll be happy to say yes.

Judge Doug22 Jun 2015 9:18 a.m. PST

You're welcome everyone!

It's definitely a great system. I've loved the games I've played so far and I'm now fantasizing about making terrain and painting models and new tactics to use… which in my opinion is the hallmark of a well designed game – planting the seeds of a new era of miniatures to collect! haha

Personal logo Weasel Supporting Member of TMP22 Jun 2015 9:26 a.m. PST

Also, this may well be a case where the game will be better than the movie ;)

freewargamesrules22 Jun 2015 9:32 a.m. PST

We played several games of Starship Troopers, the game system was very good but the rulebook was all over the place. You had to keep flicking backwards and forwards to find things.

Judge Doug22 Jun 2015 9:36 a.m. PST

@freewargamesrules I agree, SST could have used a lot more support from it's parent company and a cleaned up 2nd edition…

thankfully Terminator is one of the easiest rulesbooks I've read! When you can understand the entire game system in a single one hour game it really frees you up to start thinking about tactics and units versus struggling to remember what chart or table or special reference does what…

witteridderludo22 Jun 2015 10:27 a.m. PST

Damn you Doug!!!

Sigh, where's my wallet… here we go again…

Personal logo Steve Supporting Member of TMP22 Jun 2015 1:05 p.m. PST

I've seen it advertised for $60 USD as a "preorder" which is a good deal, wonder if that's true.

I liked SST, but the rules were poorly organized and way too many weapons and stats. I bet if you modded this system to SST it would work great.


Personal logo Weasel Supporting Member of TMP22 Jun 2015 1:25 p.m. PST

If licensing wasn't such a killer, someone could probably end up putting together the "great unified tv and movie wargaming rules" based on some amalgamation of these and SST

Judge Doug22 Jun 2015 2:15 p.m. PST

Don't overthink the analogy between this and SST, guys. I only brought up SST as my favorite because of how elegant and streamlined the system is. Terminator's core rules shares more with Stargrunt II than SST. It's only like SST in that it's super elegant.

@Steve, the boardgame version comes out in a few weeks – That's much cheaper and does not include the rulebook (only boardgame like quick start rules) and does not include Kyle Reese.

freewargamesrules22 Jun 2015 3:32 p.m. PST

Thanks Judge Doug ordered these and got them for under £60.00 GBP delivered.

Personal logo Steve Supporting Member of TMP23 Jun 2015 5:54 a.m. PST

This is what I saw – it says it includes the rulebook and Kyle Reese. This is a good deal unless they have it wrong.


Judge Doug23 Jun 2015 8:04 a.m. PST

I would double check with the company.

Terminator Genisys: War Against the Machines is the wargame version with rulebook and Kyle Reese with an MSRP of $110 USD and is currently available

Terminator Genisys: Battle for the Future is the boardgame version with quick-play rules and no Kyle Reese with an MSRP of $80 USD and is pre-order only (releases next month)

It looks like the company copy-pasted the wrong information. So either you're getting the boardgame version, or they royally screwed up and you'll get lucky and are getting the wargame version for super cheap! (in which case I hope they honor the preorder!)

billthecat24 Jun 2015 3:35 p.m. PST

Sounds fun. However, given the contents of either box, this seems a bit over-priced (not by current industry standards, but that's a different discussion…). I greatly dislike the 'lets use all the poly-dice' type rules, and would therefore pass on the rules regardless- lots of other rules can model the 'Terminator' universe anyway-- models look great, and nice to hear about the scale/compatibility with 1/48 stuff! still, I refuse to dish out that kind of dough for a handful of plastics. Nevertheless, your enthusiasm is contagious and I have decided to run some 'humans vs. skelebots' games as soon as possible using my Copplestone stuff! Cheers, and great review!

Lion in the Stars24 Jun 2015 8:11 p.m. PST

Actually, I think the 1/48 scale choice for the figures is freaking brilliant. Lots of stuff available in 1/48, particularly helos.

TrueCelt Inactive Member16 Sep 2015 6:49 a.m. PST

It sounds a bit complicated to be honest, but I'm not at all worried about that, I have my own rules that I run and enjoy, it's just the miniatures I want, and by God, do they look good! Awesome models, I'm really happy with the Terminators I already have, and I'm hoping and looking forward to getting some of the heroes. Hopefully T1 and T2 will get immortalized in the range, I desperately want an original Kyle Reese, and a Sarah Connor with baseball cap, from the assault on Miles Dyson's house. I can make them myself but official ones would be better.

Thanks for the review, I feel this game needs exposure and deserves a look, the models aren't too expensive for the core troops, and if the rules are as good as you suggest, the game should get plenty of attention. And hey, they didn't drag a bunch of backers through the dirt for 2 years to get set up like Prodos games did with AVP, they just released the product and allowed people to buy it. Well done River Horse/ Warlord Games, I appreciate and salute your decency!

Snoop987610 Oct 2015 3:06 p.m. PST

Nice review and as I feared an all too buyable game.

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