When news is slow, buy something and start reporting on it: 1999 First Look

How does Cell Entertainment stay in business, despite having pushed all that plastic into the US market and watching it flop? Well, they’re evidently saving a little money on their web hosting. Anyway, their new (at least I’ve never seen it on shelves before) fantasy/sci-fi skirmish game, the perplexingly titled 1999, is interestingly packaged and seems to have fewer user-interface issues than their prior products. They’re standard scale metal figs this time – mine is from the Demonic faction and looks kinda like a Tuskan Raider with a two-handed table saw – packaged in Chainmail-ish boxes with color game cards showing an assembled and painted lead. The cards are pretty key, though; no more rulebooks filled with dense catalogs of tiny, almost-distinguishable pics of gear next to the relevant stats and special rules. Good for Cell!

Now, what about the game?

The game cards have arrows indicating where you can put the cards of other models that will move with that model, potentially lending some neat dynamics to group-forming. The game stats are D&D-ish kinda, Warmachine-ish kinda, and you’ll be rolling D6s a lot. Rolling a 1 is an automatic failure, so those who hate too much luck should perhaps stay clear – I can’t say how much this really dominates, though. Probably not too much. Grouped models all act when the fastest model in the group acts, which is neat, and many models are vulnerable to Confusion when wounded, which slows them down. Movement and army building are all pretty straightforward, as is taking shots, which seems kinda Warhammer-ish – see if you hit, see if you penetrate armor, see if you wound them, et cetera.

Ultimately, the game is in the exceptions and special abilities on the cards, which seem to revolve around the idea of genetic instability. Your Instability score, if you lose a check, can lead to one of many weird effects on a table in back of the rulebook. Some model cards also have empty white checkboxes next to some attributes and abilities, indicating that you can “modify your DNA” before the game begins. But the rules that come in the little figure boxes don’t tell you how to do this. Nor does the card to go with the model I bought have any Instability number on it. Well, okay.

Maybe there will be an expanded rulebook, or maybe the cards tell you what to do with those things when they appear (the example card in the rulebook doesn’t obviously say what to do with those DNA boxes, though). Or maybe Cell will put clarifications on their web site – which will require them to uh, have a website. I’ve always had a soft spot for these guys, based on the strengths of Ronin and of Lab, a great sleeper game if ever there was one. But as for 1999… well… reply hazy, ask again later.

Update: Hey, this game came out last year! It’s totally old! I guess maybe that’s why there’s no website anymore. Note to game publishers: never do anything that involves putting Frank Frazetta’s name on the cover.