Legions of Steel Review

Review by Mark Langsdorf (mlangsdo@prismnet.com)

Legions of Steel

Physical Description

Legions of Steel comes in a very large cardboard box, with a color picture of an Assault Fiend in a doorway. The box itself is black, and this ruleset is sometimes referred to as "the black box edition", as opposed to the newer "blue box edition."

The black box contains two black and white rulebooks, 6 plates of color, punchable cardboard floor tiles, 1 plate of of color counters, and nineteen lead miniatures, enough for almost all the scenarios in the basic game.

There are 6 United Nations of Earth commando figures, 2 UNE heavy weapon figures, 10 Legions of Steel G-1 Nightmare figures, and 1 Legion Assault Fiend. All the figures are 28mm scale, cast in single pieces and reasonably well-made and free of flash and mold lines. The UNE figures look like men in rounded, form-fitting rigid body armor. The Nightmares are techno-skeletons with guns for hands, reminescent of the Terminator frame from the movies. The Assault Fiend is a demonic looking machine with heavy haunches, tentacles, and a trident. It is quite a bit larger than the other figures, standing about 1 1/2 inches tall and overflowing its 1" square base.

Contents

There are two rulebooks included in the black box. The first is a 5.5" by 8.5" pamphlet that contains the background and rules. The second in an 8.5" by 11" pamphlet that contains some playaids and the scenarios. Both are liberally illustrated with black and white artwork.

The background describes an ongoing conflict between the Legions of Steel and the League of Aliens. The Legions are a savage race of computers and robots, intent on exterminating life throughout the galaxy. They build their forces up in underground factory complexes, which are resistant to orbital bombardment, forcing their enemies to take the fight to them.

The League of Aliens is a group of advanced alien races fighting the Legions of Steel. The United Nations of Earth was recruited by the LOA early in the 23rd century, and Terran technological advances allowed for the first LOA counter- attacks against the Legions.

The rules are written in a conversational manner, unlike the outline style common to most wargames. It makes them somewhat easier to read, but much harder to reference.

Mechanics

The Legions of Steel rules set is meant for quick play of room-to-room close combat actions. It is simple, and most attacks are resolved by the roll of a single die. The game is played on a gridded collection of interlocking geomorphic tiles which represent the interior of a Legion production complex.

Each figure has a movement speed, general modifier or armor rating, a short weapons list, and (possibly) leadership points. For example, the standard Nightmare can move 4 squares per turn, has no special armor rating, and carries a Deadbolt Launcher and a Nightmachter grenade.

The game is played in turns. At the start of each turn, iniative is determined for each side by rolling a d6. The side with the highest iniative is activated first. All the figures for this side perform all their actions: moving, firing, preparing covering fire, or whatever. The other player then moves their figures, and then the turn starts over again.

Movement is rated in 1" squares per turn, walking. All figures can double their speed by running, which imposes penalties on the to-hit roll. Movement is slowed down by turning or opening doors, and may be interrupted by covering or suppressing fire from enemy units.

Each figure has one or more fire actions. Each fire action can be used to fire one weapon, once. Fire actions can be used before, during, or after movement. If a figure doesn't use its fire actions, they are saved can be used for covering fire during someone else's movement. If a figure doesn't move, it can use suppressing fire- essentially, firing a lot of shells down a lane- to hit a larger number of targets.

Each weapon has a set of kill numbers, based on range. Each fire action allows a single d6 roll against a target. If the d6 is greater than or equal to the kill number at that range, the target is hit, killed, and removed from play. Line of sight, movement, and target toughness (general modifier) can also add or subtract to the kill number. There are also rules for throwing grenades, which use a slightly different system.

There are only 8 types of weapons described in the basic rules. The UNE has two types of short-ranged, deadly weapons, plus two grenades. The explosive grenade is of limited utility, while the forcewall grenade is very useful, since it can be used to permanently block line of sight or movement. The Nightmares are armed with a slightly longer ranged rifle and a grenade that can be used to block line of sight. The Assault Fiend has a very deadly short-ranged weapon, as well as the only hand-to-hand attack in the game.

There are eight or nine scenarios in the scenario book. They give good examples of typical UNE missions. Most are well-balanced, though some favor the UNE or the Legions more than others.

Game Strengths

Legions of Steel is an expensive yet fun way to start on the miniatures gaming hobby. For under $55, the buyer gets plenty of metal miniatures, colorful counters, and a quality set of rules.

The system plays quickly, and rewards intelligent, tactical play. There is no ability to munchkinize the forces under the basic rules.

Game Weaknesses

It can be hard to find players of Legions of Steel. It is by no means as common as Warzone or Warhammer 40K.

The basic set doesn't allow for any customization of forces, and the lack of a point system makes it hard to balance things.

Overall Recommendation

Legions of Steel is probably one of the best 25mm sci-fi miniature game systems around. Buy it, and then buy the new boxed set. And then the expansion books. And some more miniatures. And then buy it for your friends...
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