Ex Illis Review

Ex Illis is a new game from a Canadian company. Its trying to merge the Table Top / Board Game and Computer Game genres all into one. While it might be a good idea to do one genre with excellences, or two with greatness, trying to do all three with moderate success is sure to be trouble. Do one, two if you must, but three is pushing the envelope.

Ok so the basics of the game is a table top game where you move your figures around, trying to defeat your foe’s units. The computer does all the calculations for you, you just tell the system where you want to go, and what ability you want to use and the computer system does all the rest and tells you the results. Seems like a good idea, and while its playable, it also expensive, and a bit shy of any real chops for experienced players of such games, be they table top or computer gamers. As it plays like a board game, but with little strategy needed, it fails to do any of the three genres any service.

So lets look at the figures. Plastic, many parts. They look good, and are sturdy. All around not too bad. Here are the troubles though. First off they are 25 mm, so they can’t be used with most other table top games as they use 28 mm, and the sizes are thus off. Lots of fiddly bits, which make putting them together a bit of a pain. As it takes a while to cut, trim, clean up and glue them all together, it is not a game you can open up the box and just start playing, it will take hours to get ready. Paint them up real nice if you want, I’ll just spray paint them all one color so I don’t get my figures confused with another players bits. (This happened already after a few games)

This is a game that would have benefited from pre-painted figures, that’s for sure. Would not have cost any more, hell it might have even cost them less. On top of the time saved for the players in getting ready, you could have played right away, buy, open and play right there.

Rules, well here they have me, because I can’t really tell you much about them. The rules are all more or less done by the computer. While this is fine, it allows me to play the game without having to deal with a steep learning curve, they also prevent me from knowing what the hell I’m doing. Can’t tell if one unit that attacks will have a chance of wining or not because I have no clue what their stats are, what are the odd, etc. Most games I can make an educated guess as to what will happen if I make an attack with a set unit. Here with this game I have no idea at all. Of the two games I played, I won one and lost one. Neither was due to my outstanding generalship, I had no clue what to do, so it was pure luck. Moving was not that big a deal, it wasn’t very tactical, nor any calculated risks or judgments made.

Stuff in the box. The game comes in two basic forms, the starter kit, which has all the figures, a CD, a little rulebook with no real rules, and a paper playing map. A much more expensive set comes with all of that (No paper map though), and a set of plastic map trays, which are cool, but you are looking at an extra $100 to get those. Now the CD that comes with the game is useless, it doesn’t have anything on it but some files that don’t do anything, so I have no clue what that was about. To play the game you have to go on line to their site and download it, or go to ITunes and get the app for your Iphone.

On top of all this there are issues with trading figures, and some other stuff, but I won’t get too deep into that right now. There is an experience system, which allows you to build up your forces after a battle, and they are talking about some sort of gold system to buy new gear and such. We will see how that goes.

I’m not going to say don’t buy this system, it has potential, but be careful, it for sure could go the way of Arcane Legion and be here today and gone tomorrow. I bought it and a second starter kit so my little girl and me can play; it’s about at her level of skill, so that alone made it worthwhile. For more experienced gamer it’s not going to fulfill your gaming needs.

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14 Comments

  1. Neuicon said,

    April 19, 2010 at 5:33 am

    Very interesting review, and biased, at that. I have been thinking of this game for some time now, and this review tells me a few things I noticed on the website’s “tutorial demo video” which really did nothing for me, except show two guys playing the game.

    The minis, however, grabbed me. Although I don’t mind paying the price I’d have to for the regular starter set, I think the amount of miniatures you get is worth the price. Now that I know they’re in 25mm scale, I really dunno.

    Thanks for the review; a real good read.

  2. MasterofPeace said,

    June 24, 2010 at 2:20 pm

    Thanks for the review, I’ve been playing Ex illis for a while now and I agree on some but desagree on most…
    “I bought it and a second starter kit so my little girl and me can play; it’s about at her level of skill, so that alone made it worthwhile. For more experienced gamer it’s not going to fulfill your gaming needs.”

    I’m reallu curious about what you think are these needs? I know many “experienced gamers” and they just love this game! I also know people like you who has never been able to get wife/children to share their passion… now they seem to share some family fun.

  3. hemdog560 said,

    June 24, 2010 at 3:03 pm

    Not much tactical decision making, little control other then moving the unit from one section to another. These are but few of the “light” ends the game offers in terms of a table top game. Even more so is regards to a computer game.

    Not saying that its not a good effort, but I think the game is trying to do three different genres of gaming, and not getting any of them quite right.

  4. June 24, 2010 at 4:39 pm

    Are you saying that with all the stats available both ingame and on the website, like here:
    http://ex-illis.com/docs/en/encyclopedie_stats.pdf

    this plus the tacticas available for each squad… All this is not enough for gamers to make an aducated decision and then let the device roll the dice and calculate the output?!!

    I’m pretty surprised, but maybe I’m the kind of player who loves keeping a little mystery and thrill of a “let’s see what happens” situation 🙂

    As for the 3 genres, I personally see a miniature wargame, the software aspect of it is just a little inhancement, it’s just a “rulekeeper” that guaratees nobody is disadvantaged for not memorizing every single rule and stat; hey! and that nobody can cheat.

    • Thatoneguy said,

      August 31, 2010 at 5:06 pm

      Totally agree. When I play table top games, I always have those problems. Plus it makes it easier to learn how to play drawing in a larger crowd. Even my anti-tabletop game friends want to play.

  5. hemdog560 said,

    June 25, 2010 at 9:05 pm

    It has no where the tactical considerations involved in a typical Warhammer or 40K game (The two big games on the market), historical minis or even an old Avalon Hill hex and counter game)

    Take it for what it is; it’s a very light tabletop game at best. Not trying to discourage others from the game, if you like it great, have fun playing it. I just don’t think more experienced tabletop games are going to get into it, and computer gamers are going to turn their nose up at it.

    That’s doesn’t make it a bad game, but not a great game either. I can’t count the number of good games that have come and gone, few ever hang around very long and this may well be one of them. That’s doesn’t mean there are not players out there, I’m sure there are still folks that play Chaimmail, Epic and other older games. Are they supported any more, not really, are they main stream games any more, nope. Will Ex Illis be around in a few year, maybe, but I would not hold my breathe.

  6. June 25, 2010 at 11:05 pm

    Thanks but that doesNt answer my unique and main question! Maybe this way things would be clearer , what tactical considerations are you talking about when you say “It has no where the tactical considerations involved in a typical Warhammer or 40K game, historical minis or even an old Avalon Hill hex and counter game.”?!

    Sorry but I just want to understand your skepticisme; I really do enjoy that game and so far, never saw a single person playing a game of Ex illis without getting into it right away!!

    • hemdog560 said,

      June 26, 2010 at 1:43 am

      Ok let me give you some game design theory then in an attempt to be more clear.

      Movement within a game tends to fall within two types. Zone movement and Unit based movement.

      Zone based movement is generally used in boardgames where the token, unit or figure is moved along a predefined direction or game area using squares, hexes, circles, what not. The advantage to this sort of movement is that it allows the designer complete control not only of the game area itself, but just how the players will move in that area, even to the point of where they must move and in what direction. Examples of this are Monopoly, hex and counter based games, Backgammon, Chess, etc.

      Unit based movement is where the player can move their tokens, figures, what not, in any direction but which is limited to a set amount of units, be this inches, movement templates, what ever. The advantage to this sort of movement in the game area is that players have more control of what they will do and how they will get there. This is the typical type of movement used in tabletop games where the figures in question can move a set number of inches in the direction they want.

      Of the two, unit based movement allows the players in the game more control, move tactical considerations and better mastery levels of the game. This doesn’t mean that it’s easier, just that the players have more choices.

      Example 1:
      Chess uses a Zone based movement system, but the tactical considerations are way crazy.

      Example 2:
      In Warhammer (And this is common in a lot of tabletop games) it is typical of one player trying to ambush another by positioning their “units” in such a ways as to draw the enemy units into your attack range. In the case of Warhammer, this is done by moving your units into a close range with the enemy unit, but keeping them just outside the charge range of the enemy. This forces the opposing player to decide if they are within range for the charge. If they are, then they gain an advantaged in that they get to attack first, but should they not be in range and make the attempt, they fail and are only moved 1/2 the distance they would normally move, leaving said unit open for a counter charge. This is often known in game design as an ambush. This is often used by game designer to create tension and tactical options. Many games are created which take advantage of this sort of game play and encourages it.

      Ex Illis does not.

      Ex Illis uses a zone based movement which thus limits the players in their choices, but gives the game designer more freedom to set the game’s flow, and play. The game designers did this in Ex illus so that they could manage the game board better, as it would take a far more extensive amount of programming to allow free form movement as is found in Unit based movement. For that matter, almost all computer games use Zone movement, it is though often used by more complex computer games in a much more extensive manner and thus allows more freedom then in is found Ex illis.

      This is just one of the many different directions that the Ex Illis has taken to limit the players’ options. This was done to decrease the game engine’s programming, but also to simplify the game itself so that its more of a beginning game system. This was their goal when they crafted this sort of game, its their stated desire to be an introductory game system.

      Once again, this does not make Ex Illis a bad game, its just a “Lite” game, and thus many tabletop gamers, and board gamers for that matter, will not find it to be enough of a challenge. A few games might be fun, but it won’t keep them coming back

      • July 30, 2010 at 3:39 pm

        Something new from Ex illis!

        I know it’s question of taste but I do love the sculps and details on these guys.

  7. hemdog560 said,

    July 30, 2010 at 4:12 pm

    Ya that is the best part of their game. The tiles are very nice as well.

  8. July 30, 2010 at 4:45 pm

    Well, according to their forum, there seems to be something really HUGE coming up (maybe for Gen Con!)
    Here is what I found…


  9. Thatoneguy said,

    August 31, 2010 at 5:14 pm

    I don’t know about you guys but I love this game. The software makes it easier for remembering rules and it even keeps my over competitive friends from cheating. Besides, even my mom who thinks checkers is complicated wants to play. Sure it’s light and sure it has zone based movement but so is chess. And don’t say that it doesn’t count as a wargame because chess is the father of all strategy games.

  10. October 31, 2010 at 7:28 pm

    i like computer games that are first person shooting and strategy games .


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