Outpost Gamma Review

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Outpost Gamma

Outpost Gamma Review by David Lent

These last 10 years, I’ve been utterly flabbergasted at the insane prices some of the purveyors of used games are trying to get for forgotten games. Sometimes, these pirates are trying to charge huge prices for games that are actually still in print by other manufacturers. Of course, they claim in the ad that the game is out of print though. On other occasions, the pirate sees that nobody else is currently selling the game on eBay, so he prices it at $200.00 in the hope that somebody will think it’s rare and pay it. Usually, it doesn’t sell though. Most buyers are now smart enough to do a search of completed auctions on eBay and will discover that the last copy sold for $20.00 and won’t fall for this trick.

Gamers have been paying atrocious rates for Dwarfstar titles, such as Outpost Gamma online. Don’t buy any Dwarfstar games for high prices, because you can download and print them legally and for free at the following site: https://dwarfstar.brainiac.com/

I got my copy of Outpost Gamma for the reasonable price of $20.00 at Little Wars a few years back and used that for this review.

Outpost Gamma is a science fiction microgame about 10 imperial legionnaires in power armor who are trying to stop hordes of primitive aliens known as the Irdans from taking back their world. The Irdans are poorly equipped, but they make up for it by grossly outnumbering the legionnaires and miners.

The components for Outpost Gamma are ok for the 1980’s. The art looks pretty good and the map is a thin cardstock instead of paper. Outpost Gamma’s map has a large amount of terrain features and some of them are difficult to make out. For example, mesa tops and craters look almost identical, except a crater has a darker shade of brown. I doubt a color-blind person would be able to differentiate them.

Outpost Gamma has a more detailed terrain effect chart than most games I’ve played. Most of the extra complexity is not necessary. There are different columns for legionnaires and Irdans per terrain feature. It would have made more sense just to give the Irdan units a few more movement points rather than having different terrain effects for each side.

The sequence of play is:
1) Energy Storm Phase
2) Disruption Fire Phase
3) Irdan Movement Phase
4) Irdan Combat Phase
5) Irdan Stun Recovery Phase
6) Imperial/Miner Movement Phase
7) Imperial/Miner Combat Phase
8) Remove Disruption Markers
9) Imperial/Miner Stun Recovery Phase
10) End of Turn Phase

During the energy storm phase a die is rolled to see if a storm appears and where. Next, another roll is made to determine what direction the storms move. Storms cause legionnaires to attack and defend in close combat at half strength. In addition, legionnaires move at half speed in a storm. They do not affect the Irdans or miners. The problem with these storms is they all enter on the West end of the map. A savvy Imperial player will avoid the West edge of the map. It felt like this phase was usually a waste of time, since the storms never moved close enough to any of the legionnaire units to affect them.


The disruption fire phase is where legionnaires can fire disruption grenades. Most legionnaires can only fire them into an adjacent hex, but the heavy weapons legionnaire can fire them farther. These grenades can only stun units that are in the hex it landed in or enter it later that turn. If those stunned units get stunned again later in the turn from ranged attacks or close combat they will be removed from the game.

Movement and combat in this game essentially uses standard wargame rules, so I won’t describe those in detail. However, I will point out that every unit in a hex is attacked and they share the results from the combat results table. Thus, a kill result will kill everything in a hex. Combat is bloody in this game. Units have to stack at their maximum stacking limit in order to have enough strength to hurt enemy stacks. This is a real problem for the legionnaires, because they only have 3 stacks when they are maxed out. Remember, a kill result will kill everything in the stack so the legionnaires can be wiped out quickly. It would have been beneficial if a ranged unit could pick just one unit in a hex to attack. This would have allowed the legionnaires to use one unit stacks and act as skirmishers.

Outpost Gamma has two scenarios. The first is The Last Outpost. In it ten legionnaires have four fortified hexes and have to fight all 105 Irdan units. The legionnaires will probably choose to put their fortifications on top of mesas and wait for the attack. The game lasts 12 turns and the Irdans bring 10 units on the North edge of the map and 10 on the South edge each turn. Essentially, it’s just Rorke’s Drift on another planet. The Irdan player will probably concentrate all his rifle units on the South edge of the map and attack with his melee horders from the North. The disruption grenades will work ok against the melee Irdans, but the rifle units will be far enough away where only the heavy weapons units can reach them. The legionnaires will do ok for the first 5 turns and then will become utterly overwhelmed and defeated before the 12th turn. The only possible way the legionnaires could win this scenario is if the Irdan’s were using dice that had “1” printed on all 6 sides. This scenario might be barely winnable for the legionnaires if they were allowed to use all the miner units.

The second scenario is called Evacuation. In this scenario, your legionnaires have to move six miner units from the North edge of the map to the South edge. Three of them have to arrive in order for you to win. There are reinforcements for both sides on several turns. The problem with this scenario is that the miner units move at 1/3 of the speed of the legionnaires and slower than the enemy also. It’s hard to sneak past the enemy units when you move slower than them. There should have been some sort of vehicle to transport the miners. To make matters worse, the storms make it difficult for your legionnaires to use the West edge of the map, so it’s easy for the Irdan player to assume you will use the East side of the map.

Neither of these scenarios struck me as being properly balanced. This is just speculation, but the game feels like the legionnaires may have been too strong and they were weakened in a last minute attempt to try and balance the game. However, I suspect nobody play tested the last minute changes. When you only have 10 units verse 105 enemy units, you need to make those 10 units extremely powerful. They also could have used grenades that could kill instead of stun.

This game should have undergone far more testing and balancing before it was released. As such, I don’t recommend purchasing it. However, it may be worthwhile to download for free and try to tweak the rules and unit stats.

Good

  • The rulebook is easy to understand
  • The component quality is ok for the 1980's

Bad

  • Poorly balanced scenarios
  • Needs player aid cards for each player
  • Terrain effects chart is needlessly complex
  • The miners need either faster movement or a vehicle to transport them
  • There is almost no replayability, since the Irdans will always win
5.8

Average

Rulebook Clarity - 8.5
Fun - 5
Originality - 5
Component Quality - 6.5
Replayability - 4
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6 Comments

  1. Thanks for taking the time to read this review! Please feel free to leave any questions or comments here. If you have a different opinion of this game, feel free to click the “Write A Review” button above and share your opinion with everyone.

    Reply
  2. You and I share the same view points about these pirates and the insane prices for older games. I also would include a few second had game stores in the same category. I won’t mention their names but they know who they are. Not to mention the robbery of prices on new games.

    I have this one sitting in a box, but to be honest, even the original price of $5 was too much for this game. Not one of Howard Barasch’s good designs at all. 🙂 Thanks for the review and down memory lane.

    -ab

    Reply
    • mea culpa – spelling mistake – 2nd sentance – “second had” equals “second hand”.

      Reply
    • You’re welcome! I’m buying most of my used games at conventions and in-person auctions now, since I can no longer afford most of the online prices of used games.

      Reply
  3. Captain Dave, you write an interesting review but I think you are a little off when you talk about game balance. It has been several years since I last played the game (downloaded from the Dwarfstar site) and I cannot recall the tactics for the Evacuation scenario, but for the Last Outpost scenario you do not let the Legionnaires sit back and wait, they have to be pro-active and attack the Irdans as they come on to the map, only in later turns should they move back to the reinforced positions, otherwise they will be swamped by shear force of numbers. For their part the Irdans should try and utilise the energy storms for shielding purposes, so you see that the storms aren’t completely without use.

    Reply
    • Hi. I’m glad you figured out a way to win that scenario. I was beginning to think it was impossible for the Legionnaires to win it.

      Reply

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