Ex Illis we barely knew thee....

Well, the Ex Illis Kickstarter has officially tanked.  I was interested by this game when it first came out years ago as a  software moderate miniatures game.  I had always enjoyed the old Shipbase III DOS program for running navel battles.  The fact that you could allow the system to track damage, thus obscuring the true depth of the damage from your opponent, made for an interesting 'cloud of war.'  I was interested to see how Ex Illis would translate into a ground based setting.

Apparently it translated with some issues.  I don't care to go into the rise and fall of Bastion studios, other than to say that game had several hurdles.  I would sum the major issues up as:

1. Cost  - Miniatures cost a premium.  Use of the software and server were free, so the company attempted to make this up on the back end by charging more for the figures.  A set of Six plastic Archangels, for example, would set you back $35.00 US.  The figures themselves were of decent quality, but not nearly as good as many of the plastics you find on the market today.  Knights for example, were cast as part of the horse model and split left to right.  Thus, you are dealing with seams right down the middle of your figures.  This included items like the saddle, which leads to lots of filling and filing, and a lack of dynamic poses.  Again, not bad for plastic kits of the time, but not very competitive compared to what's on the market today.

10 Ympre (Imps)  (there are 5 different single piece castings on a sprue)  I went with a woodland tone to play up more of 'nature sprite' motif then of rampant demons.
2.  DRM Miniatures - In an age when we are finally seeing a return to DRM free MP3s, they applied DRM to the figures. When you bought your box it came with an activation code you could use to activate the units for your force on the software.  Thus substitute models, buying used forces, etc.  were not possible.  I think GW and Battlefront fantasize about achieving this level of control.  Bastion demonstrated the limitations I think.

3.  The background - Others may disagree, but I think the background story they went for is more unsettling for the younger market than they might have considered.  The overall background looks like "Fantasy world unleashed on medieval Europe! Neat!"  A closer interpretation is actually "Devils and Angels are unleashed upon the earth to do battle, God does not seem to be involved, but Lucifer is a playable model."  Again, I don't want to dwell too much on this, but definitely not a game to introduce to your church youth group.

So why am I bringing it up?  Well, after it fell the first time I decided to pick up some of the packs on the cheap to use for some fantasy conversions.  My son really enjoys Castle Panic, and I wanted to do a miniatures version.  I got two boxes of the "Fleurians" (Impes, Suffrance and a Armored angel called a Decurion) and box of Hobilars/Knights.  They have languished in the storage area until I saw the Kickstarter.  I figured I would paint them up, and also pitched some money into the Kickstarter to finally get some of the Archangel models.  (No reason, they just look pretty good.)  I was also interested to see what they were going to do with the rules as well as some new possible models. 

My interpretation of a Suffrance.  Rather than go with the infernal-demonic inference from the background, I opted to go for more of an 'earth elemental ripping itself free of the turf'.

 Despite a good initial lead, their Kickstarter fell well short of its goal.  ($14k of a requested $50k).  They have their reasons, I am thinking it was probably still related to items 1 and 3 above.  (The prices on their miniatures for the Kickstarter were the same as the old retail prices, and they essentially said they were just moving the unsold product from the warehouse.)  Also, the push to release a written rulebook still confounds me.  The original goal was to create a game that allowed for lots of variables monitored and tracked by the computer for simplicity.  How do you translate that into a rulebook (within a heavily saturated market no less.)  and expect to keep it simple?

I have been thinking about campaigns a lot recently.  They are really one of the best parts of the hobby, but one of the hardest to pull off in a quality way.  Computer moderated rules like this one are ideally suited for creating a campaign system.  They allow for tracking the myriad logistical and personnel variables in a way that still remains hidden from all users and provides for the fog of war.  I was hoping if a system like Ex Illis proved viable it might lead to some good computer moderated historical sets.  I will continue to hope.


  1. I love the earth elemental! And the imps are very cool.

    I'm "all in" on campaigns for my gaming lately. They bring a narrative and chrome that a one-off doesn't have. I have a Dux Britanniarum campaign going and their system is brilliant. And also a Maurice campaign and even better, we've started a Longstreet campaign. Longstreet has done some really clever things that make the end of the game the start of a fun turn for seeing your force change before the next battle. If a gamer could manage all this digitally, so much the better!

    1. I completely agree. My favorite part of any campaign is how it completely changes a players approach. Suddenly elite units are held back until a critical moment, fighting withdrawals occur, and difficult decisions are made.

  2. The "earth elemental" is a neat model. I could see how your son would enjoy gaming with these figures.

    1. That is part of the joy of painting fantasy figs. I can let him guide where I take the mini. Also, I feel more free to paint 'free form'

  3. Wow - that tree-dude is amazing and scary!


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