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It was 2019 some friends and I were attending PAX South (may she rest in peace) when I spotted it, that tell-tale sign of something big abrewin’. A demo line. With a cry of “Thar she blows”, we made all speed towards the Zephyr Studios booth sporting the colorful AEGIS banner.

The lucky few.
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By the time we got there, the line had spilled out into the aisle and was encircling neighboring booths like some hungry kraken. The excitement was building. Every convention attendee knows that where there’s that much smoke, there must be fire. From our distant vantage point, we could make out colorful robot standees as they battled across hex-covered terrain, and there was much “Ooohing” and “Ahhing” as we learned that the games hook was robots which could combine Voltron-style. But sadly, word was making its way down the line that the game was already sold out. And that line? It wasn’t going anywhere fast. Deciding to call it a loss, we cursed our luck and moved on to cast our nets elsewhere.

Fast forward to the present, and you can imagine my excitement at learning Zephyr Studios was going to be launching a new edition of AEGIS on Kickstarter. Even more exciting, designer Breeze Grigs had agreed to personally take me through a game. The best part? Absolutely no waiting in line!

The opening moves.
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While first edition AEGIS focused on large skirmishes fought over sprawling maps, Breeze walked me through one of Second Ignition‘s new play modes: king-of-the-hill point matches on one of the new Duel Maps. In this new game mode, the goal is to lower your opponent’s total Health from 10 to 0 which can be done in 1 of 2 ways. If you control one of the white by the end of the round, your opponent loses 1 of their 10 points, 2 if you control a star deep in enemy territory.

Capture the neutral objectives or your opponent’s stars and show the world who the greatest robot jockey is.
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Your opponent also loses 1 Health each time one of your robots destroys an enemy ‘bot. “But I only have 5 robots!”, you cry, casting teary eyes over your brightly colored and deeply cherished ‘bots. Don’t let that keep you from throwing them into combat because every time a robot is destroyed, it will simply respawn in your back row. And the Duel Maps are designed with that guns-blazing play style in mind, being significantly smaller than the standard map that also comes with the game.

In addition to the new maps and play mode, the game also features new leaders, new robots, and all-new robot art. And while the original AEGIS art looked pretty great, the new cards take the robots to a whole new level of Gundam-style goodness. But don’t think that these are just knock-offs of the mecha genre. This game is full with unique and bizarre configurations that give it a flavor all its own.

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Breeze runs a tight ship, and he quickly had my team of 5 basic bots kitted out and ready to get into the action. I have to admit, considering that there are a dizzying 200 possible robots, I was thankful for the assist in getting a team together.

At the start of the round, our robots charged up to give us our Energy for the round. Moving, attacking, and combing robots all take energy, so managing it properly is crucial. Fortunately my team came with a can-do attitude and had an output of 20 Energy while Breeze’s team maxed out at 16. Clearly taking it easy on the new guy.

GOF-INADE is a regular powerhouse.
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Players take turns activating robots, and Breeze started off by spending 3 energy to move his GMD-100 on to one of his base objectives. While your opponent only loses Health if you control one of their objectives at the end of the round, just moving a robot onto an objective triggers an effect. Breeze rolled the objective effect die and got a “3” which would let him do 3 damage to any robot on an objective. Fortunately my robots hadn’t even gotten out of the gates or that could have been a bad way to start. I had much better luck with my first bot and rolled a “1”, doing 1 damage to every robot on his team.

The rest of Round 1 consisted of a lot of strategic positioning as we each tried to utilize cover while still getting our robots within striking distance of those white neutral objectives. But Round 2 was a different story. Right away, Breeze decided to take the kid gloves off and no amount of pitiful whining on my part could dissuade him. His SEN-500 jumped on to a neutral objective and rolled a “4” which let him move any robot 4 hexes.

Let me assure you. If you see that sparkle? It’s a bad thing.
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He could have moved one of his own robots forward, but you don’t become a champion by showing mercy. In anticipation of an awesome robot combo, I had grouped my red AHMNI-000 and my blue ENDER-200 together. All while making direct eye contact with me, Breeze proceeded to move my red AWE-100 out from behind cover and into line behind my AHMNI and ENDER.

The precise moment I knew I was in over my head. Trademarks and visuals belong to their rightful owners.

He then proceeded to fire his SEN’s laser which, in addition to the unlimited range all lasers enjoy in AEGIS, also had the “Piercing” and “Critical” abilities. This meant that not only would a hit damage all 3 robots in the line, any “6”s rolled would do an additional damage. Breeze could easily afford the 4 energy needed for the attack, and rolled his 4d6 to determine if he hit. Attacking in AEGIS is pretty simple. Each robot’s Attack action requires a player to spend “X” amount of energy and then roll dice equal to the attack’s energy cost. Each attack also has a Target Number that you are trying to meet or exceed on each dice in order to hit. Sometimes each successful roll is a hit or, in the case of Breeze’s SEN, all of the dice must meet or exceed the Target Number or the attack fails. SEN is a sniper through and through with a Target Number of just “2”. Not only did his attack hit, but he did indeed roll a “6” as well to add an extra damage. His laser pierced all 3 of my bots like a super-heated shish kebab for 2 damage each.

Things were looking grim. I knew if I was going to have any chance at winning, I would need to harness the awesome power of a combined robot. Utilizing the “Accelerator” ability of my SSM-100, I sent him charging forward to combine with my ENDER-100, forming the ESHA-3000!

It’s a missile. That SHOOTS missiles.
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Each robot in AEGIS has a type: Assault, Evasive, Guard, Intel, and Support. To combine robots, 2 or more of the proper types must be adjacent to each other and you must be able to pay the new forms energy cost. Also, combining counts as an action and usually means your robot can’t do anything. Fortunately my ESHA-3000 comes with a nasty little surprise: a combining action that lets me deal 2 damage when I combine to any robot within 4 spaces. And just like that, his SEN-500 gets a taste of its own medicine.

But his robots are also within range and morph into the formidable AKTEL-5000! Any confidence I had in my robot piloting skills went out the window, and a beating was all but certain.

If you love idea of giant, morphing robots punching, blasting, and blazing away, be sure to follow this Kickstarter pledge ASAP. Trust me, you don’t want to be at the back of the line.

by Zane Messina

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