So, there's a new game on the block which is all coop and minis-centric. Check out the bullet points:
1. S/F themed.
2. By at least one of the guys who designed War of the Ring.
3. Modular boards.
4. Enemy AI cards.
6. Campaign rules where the outcome of a mission future missions.
7. An experience system where you level up mid-mission.
8. Dice with lots of little symbols.
Sounds like completely my kind of thing. And I went in on the Kickstarter, as I'm only really supporting people I like or companies who are using Kickstarter to fund a project that they really don't quite have the resources for otherwise (Myth).
Unfortunately, Ares and Galaxy Defender are neither of those. And the resulting game is kind of sloppy.
The minis are actually truly great. The poses and figures are quite distinctive without painting, and with enough character to make them interesting. The dice are pretty and translucent. The artwork is passable.
The boards are strange, as they are all the same large rectangular size, and just plop next to each other to form the play area. The boards have a few themes (desert, city, alien spacecraft, VR world), and the missions which combine terrain types do look a little odd as the theme stops with the board.
Lots of GD comes from other games. The AI and Megahex ranges are obviously cribbed from Ravenloft. The dice system is like Doom/Descent replacing range with the possibility of gun jams, but keeping ammo loss. There is a staged event card deck and spawns which feel a bit like Gears of War.
The clever bit is that each player gets three actions per turn, Combat, Action, and Movement. Unfortunately, the clever people are Wizards of the Coast who added Major, Minor, and Movement actions to D&D3 a decade ago. Odd that no minis boardgame has used it before, however.
Oh yeah, the other awesome part are these "Signal" counters which may represent aliens which are turned into minis only within LOS of an agent. This is unique, and has never, ever been in a game. And would certainly never be called "Blips"
The basic turn structure lets you refresh abilities, roll for experience and upgrades, then each player in turn goes, then turns up an alien activation card which may move some aliens. Then you turn up an event card which spawns new guys at the teleporters. Recycle until mission complete.
The Actual New Bits:
Experience shows up in the form of 1/mission Traits, 1/turn (mostly)Skills, improved and alien weapons, and improved skills. Each turn that you kill something there is a chance of getting the next item in your linear progression. Kind of a very lightweight version of D&D 4e. Ultimately, the perks are mostly a collection of situational +1 stats. There isn't a lot which is OMG cool.
Searching lets you pick up devices and ammo frequently during the battle.
The mission structure has some things going for it. The mission event deck includes a lot of generic cards which call out to the last page of the mission text (you aren't supposed to read before playing) for details on the actual event. This is a great thing meaning that new missions can be distributed via PDF. Something gamer friendly that a certain company in Minnesota would never, ever do.
The missions also have full and partial successes which is you are playing the campaign tell you which mission is the next to play. Some of the mission events are also effected by previous mission outcomes. That means that you can have people die and still finish and progress to a new mission.
And now the suck:
So far, it is kind of a decent game, which doesn't quite strike me as clever and highly developed as Gears of War.
Galaxy Defenders is also a little rougher on the rules. I'm pretty sure I'm playing it correctly, but there are little niggling bits. The refresh phase tells you that you can refresh items. Devices are always discarded when used, and weapons don't seem to need to be refreshed. So what the hell is an item? There isn't a bit glossary to tell, and the word item appears nowhere else.
The campaign rules...did they playtest these? So, the missions get tougher, and the normal play rules let you start out at higher levels at the start of the tougher missions. If you play the campaign mode, you are limited to one perk per mission. Oh...but if you die, you lose all of your perks. And remember if you are playing the campaign mode you may be progressing to a newer tougher mission EVEN IF YOU ALL DIE. (Someone check me on this. I've read it three times, and I think this is correct. Made our third mission a complete downer after our second mission turned into a TPK.)
The thing that is forever is that any improved or alien weapon randomly collected during a mission is available in a future mission. So there's that, and there is a hint of an Earth Defense Force.
The actual missions and events are really kind of minor. The biggest part of the event cards is that more freaking Signals are always spawned which makes the game drift into the spawn hell that was the not fun part of Descent V1.
So it is a game that isn't bad, but requires some work to like and really kind of only aspires to mediocrity.