Best of Show for GTS 2009: Exillis

GTS 2009 had many exciting games, but there is only one that deserves the title, “Best of Show.” Best of show is not necessarily the biggest release or the one with the best marketing budget. The “Best of Show” title is reserved for a release that is both unusual in design, fun to play or in some way distinguishes itself from the crowd. “Exillis” is all of the above.

Exillis GTS 2009 Banner
Exillis GTS 2009 Banner

In many ways Exillis from Bastion Studio is just another miniature combat game, in the vein of “Warhammer” or a dozen other tabletop wargames. Exillis miniatures are all plastic and come disassembled.  You buy kits from the company and assemble and paint the models yourself. Here is a shot of the sample distributed at the show.

Exillis Miniature Kit
Exillis Miniature Kit

Here is a shot of the assembled models facing off on a game table.

Exillis Tabletop Setup
Exillis Tabletop Setup

Here is a shot of the world map and some of the characters of Exillis.

Exillis Character Types and World Map
Exillis Character Types and World Map

At this point, you are probably wondering what makes this game so unusual. Look closely at the shot above, see if you can spot any dice, rulebooks or rulers. No matter how hard you look you will never see them on an Exillis table. Rather than this old technology, Bastion Studios is going for a more modern approach.

The Iphone.

Ipod Touch (Thanks to the Exillis team for this correction)

Here is how it works. When you buy a pack of Exillis miniatures, you enter a code into the Exillis website and those units are now assigned to your account. When you want to play, you use an Iphone, PC or Mac  to login to the server. Exillis requires internet access. In the application you setup your opposing arming and choose the terrain configuration for the battle. Each side sets up their “real-world”(RW) miniatures. The battle begins.

Each player submits actions to the server and it resolves combat transparently. The application also tracks casualties, movement, effects and damage for the RW miniatures. Each round takes only a few seconds to resolve. During the resolution process, animations of the appropriate miniatures appear on the screen and do battle in the digital world. The developer worked on “Assassin’s Creed” and the experience shows in the nice graphics.

The demo I saw used only a single Iphone that passed back and forth between the players, but multiple computers are also an option. A combination of Iphone and a PC/Mac also works fine. I asked about totally online play, but Bastion said that was not planned. They want to focus totally on people using RW miniatures in person.

Exillis has an interesting back-story as well. Fantastic creatures and powers exist because of the “Lapis Exillis.” The Holy Grail to the rest of us. Magic and creatures of fantasy abound, as well as human forces with technology and force of will to do battle in this Dark Age. I believe the world is set in the 13th century, but my memory fails me right now.

My reason for giving Exillis the “Best of Show” award is the integration of modern technology into an ancient game. While many miniature games use computers as aids, such as army building applications, most miniature wargames are still using 19th century paradigms. Dice, rulers and dense rulebooks are still the order of the day. Exillis will not use these archaic methods and leverages existing, widely available technology.

I also think Bastion Studios demonstrates real courage in developing Exillis. They could have just gone with a standard “publish new books and release new miniatures model” so common in the miniatures industry. Instead, they embraced technology and a new business model. I anticipate a backlash from “traditionalist” miniature wargamers against this digital interloper. I would not be surprised at all if the same pointless flame wars ignite between older and younger gamers that we saw after 4th Edition D&D came out.

When I spoke with some of the development team at Bastion they impressed me with both their technical skill and gaming mindset. They actually “get” gaming and gamers. Small details like their plans to allow transfers of miniatures show forethought and understanding of the secondary market.

I am not saying Exillis is industry-shaking. Parts of it already exist in various forms. CCG games have long had online versions of RW cards and online play as well. The business model of selling miniatures for new armies is well established. My feeling is that this particular configuration of gaming and technology, put together by the people I met at GTS was the most interesting game I saw at the show.

There is no release date for Exillis yet except for “sometime in the Fall.” The tentative plan is for the basic set to have enough miniatures for two players to do battle immediately. Pricing is still not determined. Even though it is very early in the software development cycle, I asked to participate in any beta testing that Bastion might undertake before the release.

There is no official website for Exillis yet, just the one for Bastion Studios and it is just a placeholder. I will keep you updated with any Exillis news as it becomes available.

Trask, The Last Tyromancer



Trask is a long-time gamer, world traveler and history buff. He hopes that his scribblings will both inform and advance gaming as a hobby.

17 thoughts on “Best of Show for GTS 2009: Exillis

  • April 20, 2009 at 11:54 am

    Thanks for sharing your experience with ex illis at the GTS, it was a pleasure meeting you there.
    I just wanted to mention that there actually is a website for the game:


  • April 21, 2009 at 2:18 am

    Bah…I play table top games so I can ROLL lots of dice, not stand around with my iPhone in hand…

  • April 22, 2009 at 12:10 pm

    As a retailer watching the influx of new blood dropping, this is great news for the gaming industry and your local gaming community! opening up the gaming world to new and younger people is great.
    This is a brillant idea!

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  • April 24, 2009 at 7:20 am

    I would post my opinions, but your arrogant approach (“See, here is the generational conflict I predicted.”) typical of people unopened to real discussion drains any will from me.

  • April 24, 2009 at 9:51 am

    Apparently John does not understand the meaning of an emoticon. When I am being arrogant and high-handed, I do not add a smiley to the end of the sentence. 😉

    Trask The Last Tyromancer

  • April 24, 2009 at 10:23 am

    If this is dependent on people having Iphones or other apple products to play it will fail. It is a neat concept but it is not new. There have been a few variations of this concept over the years that never caught on in a big way.

  • April 24, 2009 at 10:27 am

    No. It works on any MAC, PC or Ipod touch/iphone. I was worried about the same thing, but it is generic to any OS.


  • April 24, 2009 at 12:05 pm

    If the price of the Starter Packs (or whatever they are going to be called) appeals me, I’m ready to give it a try… but I have one question.

    Let’s say the game is not a complete success (I hope it’s not going to be the case) or at least not the success the creators were expecting it to be and, after some time, they decide to close the game and place their effort on any other project. Obviously the game server goes down.

    So, my question is: Will there be any kind of “old time, usual rules” to play without the need for the server to be online?

    And what if me and my friends have a battle scheduled and when the time comes the server is down for maitenance or whatever?

    Let’s say it simple, if there’s any issue with the game server, are my miniatures something more than beautiful plastic “rubbish”?


  • April 24, 2009 at 2:14 pm

    I likes it.

  • April 24, 2009 at 11:11 pm

    Hm. I’m pretty torn. On the one hand, sweet gadget! On the other hand…well, it seems to combine all the shortcomings of tabletop (paying through the nose for an army, finding space to set up a table and time to play, being limited to your local area for players) with all the shortcomings of online (vulnerable to server issues and connectivity issues, can’t play if you drop your iPhone in the toilet, can’t ever play again if the company dies, can’t houserule annoying rules) and some entirely new issues (can’t use proxies to test out a new army or unit and see if you like it, potential problems with selling/trading minis that you no longer use). The game itself may be loads of fun, but I don’t see how either the videogame or tabletop aspect is enhanced by the other.

    So, um. I guess I’m not torn after all, this is a just plain shitty idea. Sorry. 🙁

    (On the other hand, I could see some real value in something like this that ran entirely on the local machines, streamlining the tabletop mechanics without shackling you to either a server or a figure collection. But then they couldn’t force you to buy all their minis, could they?)

    Also, the name is “Ex illis”, with a space.

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