Dawn Rise of the Occulites board game review
At its heart âDawn: Rise of the Occulitesâ is a miniatures skirmish game, though it is a very different beast to the usual style of miniatures skirmish titles. The Occulites are various – weird – races who find it hard to get along, similar in many ways to humans in that respect. The game plays out through various scenarios where youâll see these tribes going up against each other for differing reasons.
What makes Occulites differ from all of those other miniature skirmish games on the market? Well itâs scenario based (for the most part) and thus fairly story driven. Sure I know there are plenty of those on the market too, but “Dawn: Rise of the Occulites” just feels different. The gameplay doesnât only involve moving your Occulite tribes around the board, but also utilising cards in the best way possible to ensure your own victory.
Dawn: Rise of the Occulites – Just look at all that stuff!
Setup & Gameplay
Gameplay setup includes choosing a tribe and setting up the âNatural Selection Deckâ. Thereâs this whole Darwinian strand running through things (minus the blatant misogyny), as you see your occulite tribe mature and how the different species fare when warring with one another. It is essentially âsurvival of the fittestâ (which Darwin never actually said, so thereâs your fun fact of the day).
The main board is a giant hex board (and it is a board, not a mat). This is altered with the use of terrain tiles, all of which fit seamlessly on top of the board (still hex based). In some ways the overall look of of the board immediately took me back to the early eighties and playing games like âOGRE: G.E.V.â, so if youâre familiar with hex movement titles, the board will immediately feel like home to you.
At the start of the game, each player gets a tribe and takes the corresponding card outlining everything they need to know about the creatures theyâre using, along with character boards and tokens. The character boards all feature various stats with dials so you can keep track of whatâs happening. The cards are designed in such a way that whatâs happening is easy to see, which comes in handy when your eyesight isn’t as sharp as it used to be! The Natural Selection Deck (action card deck) is also set up as per the scenario being played. Iconography is used across the centre of all cards (see image below) and values are clearly denoted with numbers.
The rulebook is a chunky beast, but thereâs a lot within its pages, not only with game setup and general rules, but also scenarios for gameplay. The whole thing is really well put together (it even utilises a table of contents), though probably not for the faint of heart, still, donât be put off, as with most modern board games, the rulebook can seem daunting, until the rules click. Thereâs also a bunch of stuff in there non related to ârulesâ.
As always weâre not going to go through every rule here, this is a review, not a players guide, what we will say is everything is set out well enough and itâs all of a high quality.
The box insert is well thought out, with room for everything … and there’s a lot!
Gameplay is turn based and played over a number of rounds. Players must use their Natural Selection Deck cards to try and out do one another (players start with 7 cards each as specified in the rules). At its most basic, you play a card, activate your tribe members, the other player(s) do the same, itâs all about card activation and using them to best effect.
We played a few of the scenarios on offer and we enjoyed it for what it was, but it only connected with half those playing (that is to say two people loved it, two people were more âmehâ). Itâs not thereâs anything wrong with âDawn: Rise of the Occulitesâ per se, because it is a really well made and clearly well thought out game, but it just didnât connect with everyone in that âwe MUST play another gameâ type way that something like say âFireteam Zeroâ did (to name a completely unrelated, but recent scenario based miniatures game).
As far as quality goes there is no denying the effort that has gone into not only the âDawn: Rise of the Occulitesâ base game, but also the expansion packs. Obviously weâre reviewing the painted versions, but we imagine even unpainted, the miniatures themselves hold enough detail to be pretty impressive (and also good minis to paint should you wish you). The terrain tiles are sturdy and well made, as is the board itself, which is highly impressive despite its mammoth size. Player boards are super sturdy and pre-riveted (none of that annoying clipping plastic dials that some titles do). Nice card stock, regular well made dice, overall a really great build, so kudos to Darwin Games and Eagle Gryphon for that.
The quirky art style probably isnât going to be for everyone, itâs strange. We had a few people who saw the playthroughâs comment, usually firstly with âwhat is it?â, swiftly followed by things like âitâs so weirdâ or that the minis were strange. It could be said that those comments arenât necessarily a negative thing, but there was certainly a negative intonation to a couple of them. Of course discounting a game purely on the artwork or sculpts themselves is silly, all thatâs going to do is make you miss out on what could be a pretty neat game and this is a pretty neat game.
So hereâs the rub, is it the best skirmish game youâre ever going to play? No, their are hundreds of games that use similar play styles and some of them do it better. Having said that âDawn: Rise of the Occulitesâ manages to inject a few really nice concepts into proceedings and if you happen to be lucky enough to have semi deep pockets you should try and check it out. We say semi deep pockets because the best place to purchase âDawn: Rise of the Occulitesâ is from Darwin Games themselves. It will set you back a cool $300 for the painted base game and 3 painted expansions. Granted, not awful when you break it down to $150 for the base game and $50 per expansion when they’re all well made and painted, but we have to take this into account, because despite how good the experience, that is a big chunk of change for your average gamer. The base game plus all three expansions unpainted are $200AUD + shipping. When buying from overseas, the painted base set and three expansions are $275USD from Coolstuff and is currently available for $217USD ($301AUD at time of writing) on sale, with the unpainted set being $140USD ($195AUD at time of writing).
Dawn: Rise of the Occulites characters – Pre-riveted people!
Gameapalooza House Rules
Setup Time: A few minutes
Play Time: 60 minutes
Game Build Quality
As mentioned earlier in this review the build quality on “”Dawn: Rise of the Occulites” is great, a massive sturdy box houses everything neatly. There’s even the inclusion of a plastic insert for storing all those figures. All the components are really nice quality, really nothing to complain about at all with regards to the overall quality of the game.
Overall âDawn: Rise of the Occulitesâ is a big beautiful thing. Thereâs no denying the sheer effort designer Ben Boersma has put into it, itâs highly impressive stuff. The miniatures are awesome, the board is huge (seriously), the quality overall is great. Sure the art style isnât going to be for everyone (as we found via passerby commentary), but if you get the chance to give it a go do so. Is it worth a purchase? We wish we could say yes, but even with how beautiful the quality is it certainly isnât cheap, so youâd probably need to arrange a group buy to warrant jumping in (unless youâre minted). Certainly one to check out if you can and given this is an Aussie project, we urge you to do so wherever possible.
[author] [authorimage timthumb=’off’]/content/images/2016/02/gameapalooza-micro-review-icon-sm.gif[/authorimage] [authorinfo]Micro Review – If you’re looking for a different kind of miniature skirmish game, be sure and check out Dawn: Rise of the Occulites, it’s a well made, beautiful looking thing. It may not be for everyone, because if defies convention, but we think that’s kind of cool. Check it out if you can.