Lost Reich – Miniatures Game Review
Lost Reich. Miniatures game. Fat Dragon Games. $9.99
Passed Inspection: The kit includes everything you need to play except paper, glue, and toner. The eight models included feature optional markings to allow you to produce dozens of uniquely skinned variants. At less than a dollar a miniature, this game allows you to field massive armies on a budget.
Failed Basic: The back story is an embarrassment—Nazis hiding in Antarctica, rebuilding their armies and dreaming of reviving the glory that was the Reich, yadda, yadda. Part X-Files, part Close Encounters, part pandering to the Kickstarter backers who funded production, it is recommended that you skip it. The rules are simplistic, but have some gaping holes in them. Anyone who has played a tabletop game before should be able to figure things out, and the developer is already revising the rules and making them freely available.
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I was out at my friendly local game store the other night and sauntered over to see what new models from the Warhammer 40k universe had been made available by Games Workshop (GW). Had they finally brought back the space dwarves, or had they designed yet another variant of scantily clad warrior nuns? Interestingly, it was neither. What I found were new Space Marine models! It’s been about 15 years since I last attempted to blind myself by adding some depth to the rivets on a gorget, but this Stormraven gunship was just gorgeous. I could already see it on the table, paired with its wingman strafing the landing zone around a trio of drop pods, their articulated ramps extended, disgorging humanity’s finest. “For the Emperor!”
But as it usually does with GW products, the math caught up with me. Before I bought any paint or brushes two Ravens and three drop pods would run me about $250. Actual marines to be disgorged from said pods? Three squads would run me at least another $75. Add in the amount of time to paint them, the fact that local competition would no doubt include a half-dressed army commanded by a drippy-nosed tween, all atop a plywood table sporting a middling selection of store-supplied terrain … I put down the gunship with a sigh, gave a hasty salute to its ceramite-clad pilots, and climbed back into my car for the trip home.
Luckily I would still do battle that night, but at a location and time of my choosing. Earth was pushed into a post-apocalyptic state of chaos by the rise of an ancient foe, whom the civilized peoples of the world had long ago thought they had driven from the planet. Alien technologies, rebuilt using the crude remnants of a collapsed industrial base, would clash in my kitchen as I waged war against—the fascist legions of the Lost Reich!
A Sherman Mk I and Mk II take cover behind a ruined warehouse as the Germans approach.
If you haven’t heard of Lost Reich you’re not alone. It began as a Kickstarter project from Fat Dragon Games, and launched last month as an Adobe Acrobat download through Drive Thru RPG. Begot of the Internet, the game exists in a purely digital form until you print the paper models out and glue them together. From this single file I was able to field not one, but two large armies and associated terrain for around $50. That’s not a typo.
Fat Dragon Games has been on my radar for some time now. I first learned of them when they tossed a few items into the Haiti benefit bundle that Drive Thru RPG put together a few years ago. Perhaps it was their tavern set, complete with flooring and three-dimensional walls, a few options for taxidermied dragon heads above the hearth. Regardless of what they had in that fundraiser pack, I didn’t see the time investment paying off. How often is my party of D&D adventurers actually in a tavern? Maybe once a campaign? Of course Fat Dragon has whole dungeon and wilderness sets, entire towns and encampments. But if I was spending hours putting the component pieces of a diorama together, and my party quickly moved through the space of their own volition, wasn’t it cheaper and easier just to use a dry erase mat for a map and call it a day? I stayed on their mailing list though.
About a month ago I got the email announcing Lost Reich and was immediately excited. The kit, which sells for $9.99, features the entire back story, ruleset, scenery, and meticulous assembly instructions for the eight included mechs. It’s Fat Dragon’s first full-fledged game offering, and the mechs are just beautiful, each standing about four inches tall. At a 15mm scale, that makes them tower over a scale three-story building.
Fat Dragon uses the layers feature embedded in Adobe Acrobat to give each of the eight models multiple variants. Remove the mud from the legs and the dents from the canopy to have a mech fresh off the assembly line, change the markings to get a different unit designation, or swap gray metal for full field camouflage with the click of a button. With a sharp knife and a metal edge you can construct a mech in two to three hours. For a tabletop wargamer used to spending weeks or months painting up a single detachment of Dark Angels it was a revelatory experience. Within 10 days of downloading the set I had 10 mechs ready to fight.
And fight they did. The ruleset cribs from Battletech a bit, with penetration rolls for certain weapons or managing a mech’s heat in order to prevent internal damage. But it avoids some of the unit management that bogs a more sophisticated mech game down. For instance, I don’t have to worry if a particular weapon system is damaged or a joint immobilized. My mechs are pretty much either alive or dead. Armies are built on a point-based system, and options like increased speed, weapon range, or jump-jet fuel add a bit of customization. There are rules for melee combat and opportunity fire, for elevation and cover. The manual is a bit of a work in progress, to be honest, but experienced tabletop wargamers don’t need to be told where to calculate range from on a unit’s base. Know that Fat Dragon has already revised the ruleset once and made the update freely available to all customers. If you have additional questions, or suggestions, owner Tom Tullis is in the game forums just about every day providing clarifications.
The American mechs counterattack!
In the games I have played, on a roughly 4’ by 4’ table, cover played a key role in the opening rounds. Like most tabletop games, there is no fog of war, so each players have complete knowledge of the other’s deployment. This lends itself to a bit of posturing and probing. For 750 points, you can have five or six mechs, less if you spend heavily on upgrades. The extended weapons range upgrade paid off early and often, as did spending a few points on heavily armored skirmishers to screen for more fragile standoff units. I’ve been able to shrug off direct assaults by very expensive enemy units with combined fire, mixed unit tactics, and good cover. All in all, the game’s core system holds up, but there were a few significant gaps in the manual that any experienced game designer would have sewed up prior to release. Through revisions and house rules, I’m confident that Armchair General readers would have no trouble muddling through.
Getting back to my comments on Games Workshop, my major beef is with their scenery. It’s all fine and good to spend time making the units look fantastic for any tabletop wargame, but without a good battlefield to fight on games are neither compelling to look at nor engaging to play. Traditionally GW hasn’t given us a lot of options for purchase. Lost Reich provides you the basics in the core set, and large 6”x6” grass tiles combine with river tiles to get you started. Clever little hexagonal columns will hold a mech up to 6” off the play field, and you can use hairpins to connect them to each other, so that a hill objective rises from the side of your kitchen table, or a deep canyon forms to screen your advance along a river. A little digging at Drive Thru RPG yields several free 15mm-scale buildings intended for games like Flames of War. Add a box of flocked trees from a hobby shop, and you have a pretty slick looking battlefield. Fat Dragon plans additional scenery expansions soon, from snowy landscapes and trees to ruined buildings and streets skinned for their own universe. They’ve even released new mech variants in the past weeks, and rumor has it there are infantry units on the way. However, know that you have more than enough to get you started for the cost of the $10 download.
The really exciting thing here for me is the dream of larger battles. If 750 points gets me five mechs, well, then 1,500 should get me 10, and 3,000 should get me 20. At a little less than a dollar each to produce a mech, after the sunk cost of the materials and the download, and at the further expense of only a few hours of my time to assemble, a battle of that scale is within my financial reach. Now I just have to find the floor space to set it all up.
Armchair General Ranking: 87%
Solitaire Suitability: 2 out of 5 (5 well-suited for solitaire play)
About the Author
By night, Charlie Hall is a writer for Gamers With Jobs. His relevant interests range from pen-and-paper roleplaying games, to boardgames and electronic games of all types. By day, he is a writer for CDW Government LLC. Follow him on Twitter @TheWanderer14, or send him hate mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. He, his wife, and daughter make their home in far northern Illinois.