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Saturday, 1 June 2013

God of Battles - First Impressions

I spent today up in Nottingham at Foundry, where they have a truly impressive set of gaming tables set up on the main floor of their building and open their doors to the public every Saturday. God of Battles is the new fantasy wargame from Foundry written by Jake Thornton (of Dreadball fame, amongst others), and on the first Saturday of every month he's running games at Foundry. I picked up a copy of God of Battles at Salute but hadn't had a chance to play it yet, so this was my chance to play an intro game with instruction from the designer.
One of the gaming tables at Foundry, a valley with proper sized hills
Right off the bat, I'll just say that I am hugely impressed with this ruleset. The basic rules are deceptively simple, but they manage to capture those ever elusive aspects of wargaming; playability and realism. Or at least as realistic as you can hope for in a fantasy game anyway. I'd read through the rulebook before the first game (last night in fact) but I was still impressed with how easy it was to pick up once the game was underway. It helped that all I really had to do was concentrate on the tactics, unlike a lot of games the rules flow so easily and don't stop you from doing what comes naturally so you wind up fighting the battle rather than gaming the rules.

The game is a fairly straightforward alternating-activation system, with a few added tweaks. The biggest is that each side has access to a number of stratagems and can choose to play one per turn, immediately before activating one of their units. These stratagems can allow you to do things like activate a second unit at the same time, mark an enemy unit as activated (so they can't act this turn) or remove an activated marker from one of your units so they can act again.

All movement and measurements are done from a unit's leader, to an opposing unit's leader where appropriate; the rest of the models are really just there as wound markers for the unit. It's a little odd for someone coming from a Warhammer background, but it works really well and saves any arguments. Another thing that seemed odd but worked well is that the number of models in a unit govern not just how many dice you roll when attacking but also when defending; each dice succeeds on a fixed roll that depends on the unit involved with any modifiers adjusting the number of dice rather than the target number. Nice, simple, straightforward and remarkably instinctive once you get a turn or two under your belt.

The armies advance across another impressive battlefield
My first game was against a guy called Matt who had also never played before (and who it turned out I knew from playing CCG's against him about 10 years ago, small world). We each had fairly small forces, mine were Blood Gorged (aka beastmen) while his were Orcs. Both very aggressive armies so we could get stuck into things quickly. After a turn or two of maneuvering, we got stuck into things fairly quickly. The big turning point in the battle was when I managed to bring my elite unit of Ravagers alongside his Orc Ironskins, use a stratagem to remove their activation marker and then charge into the flank of his unit. With supporting attacks from a chariot and a minotaur, the Ravagers made short work of their target and went on to rampage through the remains of the Orc army. The result was pretty definitive but we both enjoyed the game and I learnt a lot.

The Orc Ironskins fall to the elites of the Blood Gorged army
I got a second game in against a guy called David who was a pathfinder for Mantic games, and had also never played God of Battles before. This time I took the Orcs and he had the Blood Gorged. Having seen what the Ravagers could do I made sure to charge them with the Ironskins and play the battle on my own terms. It worked, the Ravagers and Ironskins tied each other up for a few turns, before I managed to get some supporting attacks in again and wipe out the Ravagers. Only for the Ironskins to get trampled underfoot by the minotaur. In the end, this game was much closer and came down to whether I could wipe out a unit of Blood Gorged brutes before my Orcs got overrun by the enemy chariot. As it turned out, I couldn't.

So two games done, in approximately two hours each. It says a lot about how easy it is to get the hang of the game that, on our second turn of the second game, Jake just said "you guys really don't need me any more do you" and just left us to it.

If I have any issue with the rules it's that the big monsters really don't live up to their billing. We had a troll and a minotaur in our games, but with a couple of exceptions they generally weren't aggressive enough to do much damage and simultaneously tough enough to shrug off anything thrown their way. It made for a lot of drawn combats when they were involved.

So yeah, I can't recommend these rules highly enough. Simple, fun and highly tactical. I can't wait to see how they scale up to larger battles rather then the small skirmishes we were playing today. Anybody at the Peterborough club can expect to be pestered to play a game sometime soon.

P.S. We also got a chance to talk to Jake about Kickstarter and what he thinks of the runaway success of the Deadzone project. Short answer, he seems a bit blown away but he wishes Mantic would stop making promises that depend on him writing more scanarios, rules, characters etc. without running them by him first. :-)

1 comment:

  1. I appreciate this review. There's not a lot out there about this game.