Games of Fantasy Battles - Comparisons and Opinions

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Primarch
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Re: Games of Fantasy Battles - Comparisons and Opinions

Post by Primarch » Sun Jun 28, 2020 7:12 am

And to finish things up, the final game I have been looking at.

Kings of War

I'll be honest and say up front that I didn't have a good image of this game prior to looking at the rules. Mantic is a company that I am not overly fond of. They have positioned themselves in the market as being "GW, but cheaper." Personally I think that they achieve that in every sense of the word. From offering every product through Kickstarter so they can force a FOMO experience on their players, to the sometimes shoddy materiel they make their models from, I am not positively inclined towards anything Mantic do.

System:
KoW is on it's 3rd edition, so it all looks pretty well polished and any rough edges to the rules have been addressed. KoW sells itself as being a direct challenger to the WFB crown of massed battle games. Having read through the rules briefly, I'd have to agree with them. In many ways, KoW surpasses WFB in depicting large scale battles. Rather than having individual models ranked up together, KoW focuses solely on the unit. The minis are just there to make the unit look pretty. Each unit has a fixed size on the tabletop. (125mm by 100mm for a regiment of heavy infantry). Wounds are not represented by removing figures, you need to track them yourself using a counter or a die. Units stay on the table until they break or get destroyed. No more units reduced to lone survivors wandering the table like lost sheep.
In KoW, if it is not your turn, you don't do anything. Players make ALL the dice rolls during their turns, including for enemy morale. Units only fight in their own turns, so it is possible for your troops to get annihilated without getting to throw a punch in return. From comments I have seen online the idea is to stop people stalling out games in order to win, something that was apparently an issue in the WFB tournament scene back in the day. KoW is written for competitive gaming it would seem.
Aside from the very binary turn system, the rest of the rules seem fairly straightforward. The book has a LOT of special rules, magic spells and arcane items to spice things up with and the army lists seem to cover quite a lot of the more common fantasy types. The core rules cover the armies that Mantic themselves produce (mainly, but not always, inspired by GW), and there is a supplement that covers other armies (i.e. GW's ranges).

Size:
As I mentioned above, KoW deals only in units. A unit can be 1 hero, a Troop (10 infantry), a Regiment (20), a Horde (40) or a Legion (60). Cavalry and Ogre size figures have different numbers, but follow the same principles. A standard sized game looks like several regiments, some troops, with monsters, warmachines and heroes in support. 100+ seems like a fair estimate.

Pros and cons:
To my mind, the focus on the unit as the minimum sized element in the game is hands down better than trying to calculate all the attacks, saves and wounds of individual warriors in a large scale game. So for that, KoW gets a big thumbs up from me.
Related to that, you can have all your minis based individually and use a movement tray, but the unit based approach lets you really go to town with creating mini dioramas for each unit. You can add unit fillers to rdduce the number of figures per unit as well.
Image
On the other hand, I'm not crazy about the complete lack of anything to do when it isn't your turn. Player interaction and involvement is one of the things I look for in a game and KoW doesn't have any.
The unit basing really appeals, but the game seems to have a lot of different sizes, which seems unnecessary. I think it's a holdover from GW where, for example, Goblins had 20mm bases, but Orcs had 25mm.

Overall:
As said upfront, I didn't want to like this game, but it actually looks pretty good. The unit based approach hits dead centre on my target for a mass battle game.
That said, not having any agency on the table in my opponent's turn is a huge negative.
There is an official range of minis, but you aren't required to use them. The game also comes with it's own background if that kind of thing appeals.


And that's it folks. Any thoughts, questions or input?

I'll try to summarize key differences when I get some free time.
Painted Minis in 2014: 510, in 2015: 300,
in 2016 :369, in 2019: 417.

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Re: Games of Fantasy Battles - Comparisons and Opinions

Post by The Other Dave » Sun Jun 28, 2020 10:29 am

I'm also very much in the camp of liking mass battle games that treat a unit, rather than an individual fighter, as the smallest element worth tracking in the game - not only does it make basing, transportation, storage and setup that much easier, but it mitigates the "buckets of dice" effect you see so often in... well, in a lot of wargames.

A game I've been interested in is Sword and Spear, an ancients / dark ages ruleset which I am pleasantly surprised to see now has a fantasy version. It's very flexible - I've very easily modified it to play Battle of Five Armies in 10mm, and I've seen people modify it for Napoleonics even. It's based around pretty broad unit types - skirmisher, light infantry, medium infantry, light cavalry, that sort of thing - modified by keyword abilities to represent good morale, good armor, powerful weapons, and the like. All units have the same unit frontage and depth, and the basic unit of measurement is based on whatever you decide that frontage is.

It's also got a very clever activation system, sort of like Bolt Action in a way. You put one die for each unit in a big bag each turn, differently-colored for each army, and play the game in "phases" - in each phase you draw 7 dice at random, divvy up the dice by color, roll them, and then use them to activate units - high-discipline units need lower numbers, more-complex maneuvers need higher numbers, having a leader nearby gives you a bonus, and so on and so forth. You can see the "battlefield friction" I like so much, as it means that, unless you roll very well, you're probably not going to get to activate all your units every turn, especially if your army has poor discipline - but you will generally be able to make sure that the units that need to activate can do so.

The best thing about it for fantasy gaming purposes is that, in part at least because it doesn't have a range of miniatures attached, it has a pretty robust unit creation system (at least the historical ruleset I own does) so you can say, OK, elves have good fighting discipline, good armor and spears, so they'd be high-discipline medium foot with the spears keyword, or trolls are huge, slow, heavily-armored troops with huge weapons but are quite stupid, so they'd be low-discipline heavy foot with the armored and two-handed weapons keywords, and out pops a statline and points value, and two units that play very differently on the tabletop. This also means that you could say that, oh, Transskyllian Deathmongers are heavily-armored cavalry with wicked lances, who are highly motivated to kill stuff but mostly ride around Transkyllia's neighboring lands ravaging rather than drilling maneuver - so they're high-discipline cavalry with the heavily-armored, impact, and undrilled keywords.
Feel free to call me Dave!
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AoS-iverse: 123 infantry
40K-iverse: 93 infantry, 2 vehicles, a whole mess of terrain
Adeptus Titanicus: 1 Titan

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Re: Games of Fantasy Battles - Comparisons and Opinions

Post by Primarch » Sun Jun 28, 2020 11:40 pm

Just when you think you got out, they pull you back in.

Sword and Spear

I'll admit that I didn't know that there was a fantasy version of this game, and I don't have a copy of that version. I do have the historical version and I was able to download the fantasy army lists for comparison. So, what follows is my take on the historical game primarily, some points may or may not be different between the two versions.

At first glance, SaS's rulebook is in dire need of an editor. Rules aren't explained very succinctly and often important details are hidden inside large blocks of text. The book lacks the polish of the other games mentioned above, that's not to say it's a bad game, it just hasn't been produced by a professional publisher.

System:
SaS is written to be model and scale agnostic. Want to play with any minis, in anything between 2mm and 40mm? SaS has got your back. The rules treat the unit as the smallest element in the game, ideal for rank-and-flank action. The size of the unit is also left up to the players to decide, unlike KoW with its variety of sizes. SaS works so long as all players follow the same basing conventions.
The game uses two systems that stand out as being different from others. First of all the activation of units. As ToD mentions above, at the start of the turn a coloured die is placed in a bag for each unit. During each turn, 7 dice are withdrawn from the bag, rolled and allocated to units. Those units then activate to move, fight etc. Once those units are done, 7 more dice are pulled out and so forth until the bag is empty.
To activate an average unit you need a 4+, and that will allow them to move directly forward, shoot, or fight if they are already in combat. If you want the unit to charge or turn, you'll usually be looking for a 5+. Elite units are easier to activate and inexperienced units are more difficult. Units then activate by dicr scores from highest to lowest.
The second unique point is how combat is resolved. When two units fight, both players roll their attack dice simultaneously. Players then select their 4 highest scoring dice and ignore any others. The dice are then placed in a row from highest to lowest and compared with the opponent's top 4 dice. Each dice is paired off with the equivalent on the opponent's side, and armour allows you to modify your opponent's dice. If you win the pairing, you roll to see if damage is scored. If you win and your dice is double the opponent's score, you automatically cause a hit. Once units receive enough hits they are removed from the table.

Size:
The rules don't really specify any exact numbers for models per unit, but the example shown in the book look to be around 8-12x 28mm infantry or 4-8x cavalry. The rules suggest 12 units on a standard sized table, plus command figures, warmachines and (presumably in the fantasy supplement) monsters. So you're probably looking at somewhere around the 70-90 minis mark.

Pros and cons
For me, this game hits both my targets, units, not individuals and irregular turn sequence. You can do nice diorama bases if you want, use sabot basing or movement trays, it's all good. The openness of the rules means that you can custom build your own units, tailoring your army list to your collection. Another thumbs up for the accessibility.
The activation system means you need to prioritize which units to activate.
But...
With average rolls during the game, half of your army will never move. Of the ones that do, a third of them will forget how to turn corners or refuse to charge the enemy. I'm all in favour of battlefield friction, but I prefer a system where units are easier to activate when they are fresh, and become harder to activate as they take damage. In SaS your troops can be on their last legs, but will fight on regardless while half the army looks on placidly.
Bizarrely, units cannot pivot or wheel during a charge, but they can sidestep, a massively more complex maneuver. At first glance, it is even possible to accidentally field units that are only capable of moving directly forward and never changing direction. Similarly, archers can only shoot at targets directly to their front. If your target unit is at a slight angle, they may as well be invisible. Moving directly backwards reduces your speed, and some units cannot move backwards, but moving almost directly backwards is done at full speed. The rules have a lot of inconsistencies with regards to movement that really need to be fixed.
Combat, because you only rely on the top 4 scoring dice, seems designed to avoid deathstar units, which I am in favour of, but does seem like it makes achieving that perfect charge with your buffed up unit less decisive than you'd like. I'd probably want to see it in practice, but my initial reaction is that it doesn't appeal.

Overall:
This game should be a good match for me, but sadly it doesn't seem to be. The activation system seems like a good idea, but is far too reliant on luck. Comparing it to the other systems, DR has a similar luck reliant activation system, which has been an issue in games I have played. In SaS it seems that simply rolling below average on the first dice pull of one turn can seriously change the outcome of the game.
If you're looking for a game system where you can use any minis, at any scale, with a casual set of rules, SaS is an option, but with apologies to ToD, it's not one that particularly appeals to me.
Painted Minis in 2014: 510, in 2015: 300,
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Re: Games of Fantasy Battles - Comparisons and Opinions

Post by Primarch » Mon Jun 29, 2020 11:55 am

Ok, time for a quick summary and recap.

To remind you of abbreviations.
DR - Dragon Rampant, SAoM - Saga, Age of Magic, OM - Oathmark,
WoE - Warlords of Erehwon, KoW - Kings of War, SaS - Sword and Spear

First of all, a point I think we can all agree on, Prim is far too critical about rules.

Basing:
Round (or square) - DR, SAoM, WoE
Square - OM
Unit Basing - KoW, SaS

Turn Sequence:
IGoUGo - SAoM, KoW, DR (but with a turnover rule)
Alternating - OM
Randomized - WoE, SaS

Activation:
Unlimited - KoW
Limited - SAoM (Activate units OR special abilities)
Activation Test - OM (failed units can still do something), DR, WoE (if a unit has taken hits), SaS

Model Count:
50-60 - DR, SAom, WoE
70-90 - SaS
100+ - OM, KoW

Army Building:
Use what you like - DR, SAoM, SaS
Army Lists - WoE, KoW, OM
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Re: Games of Fantasy Battles - Comparisons and Opinions

Post by YellowStreak » Thu Jul 09, 2020 5:02 pm

Great write up Stu. I've played DR the most out of those games listed (although i do have the rules for Oathmark and WoE i haven't played them) and like it a lot, but i do think it needs some house rules for more 'flavour'. One thing we did last time i played was say 24 points for army building +6 points for upgrades only (no units) as otherwise some of the abilities aren't worth the points compared to buying another unit - an issue perhaps with the lack of granularity that using really small points vales brings...
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Re: Games of Fantasy Battles - Comparisons and Opinions

Post by Primarch » Fri Jul 10, 2020 12:01 am

YellowStreak wrote:
Thu Jul 09, 2020 5:02 pm
Great write up Stu. I've played DR the most out of those games listed (although i do have the rules for Oathmark and WoE i haven't played them) and like it a lot, but i do think it needs some house rules for more 'flavour'. One thing we did last time i played was say 24 points for army building +6 points for upgrades only (no units) as otherwise some of the abilities aren't worth the points compared to buying another unit - an issue perhaps with the lack of granularity that using really small points vales brings...
I think that would be an elegant solution to the problem. Truth be told, I think the only game above that I'd play as written would be Saga, Age of Magic.
With DR, extra points for special abilities are needed.
KoW needs random turns and a more unified approach to basing at the very least.
In SoS, I'd reduce activation costs but add pin/fatigue rules so that units got worse over time.
For Oathmark I'd prefer to take a 'units, not models' approach.
And for Warlords of Erehwon, I'd change the damned name. :lol:
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Re: Games of Fantasy Battles - Comparisons and Opinions

Post by YellowStreak » Mon Nov 09, 2020 5:19 pm

Finally played my first game of Oathmark yesterday and have to say I really like the system. Fast moving, a rank & flank game that doesn't get bogged down in the movement phase, alternating activation and brutal combat. It was my opponent's first game too, so we both made a few tactical blunders but we had a great time with a 1600 point game that saw the Empire narrowly defeat the Beastmen (run as Orcs), but at great cost as our General and most of the Empire forces were shattered. My handgunners (archers) were the undoubted stars as they managed to activate consistently (something the rest of my army struggled with!) and managed to rout/kill 3 enemy units (one in close combat!).
On the painting table:
Bolt Action Narvik Army
Blood and Valour Gallipoli ANZACs
Fantasy Savage Orks and Empire troops
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Re: Games of Fantasy Battles - Comparisons and Opinions

Post by Primarch » Fri Nov 13, 2020 3:46 am

I have yet to play Oathmark, but it's still on my to-do list. From my read through of the rules, combat seemed to require a fair bit of addition and subtraction to calculate to hit rolls, how fast/intuitive is it once the dice hit the table?
My other take away from the book was that while there are 4 different races, they all seem to have the same basic unit types. Did the Empire and Beastmen seem very different in the game?
I think there is a new supplement with Undead on it's way, along with a campaign style book in the near future?

I tried a game of Saga: Age of Magic a few weeks ago, playing Dwarves (Masters of the Underearth) against Elves (Lords of the Wild). The Dwarves had a lot of special units like Warmachines, while the Elves were largely infantry with a unit of Creatures thrown in.
Sadly the special units in the Dwarven army didn't generate Saga dice, though they could be activated by other means. This meant that I couldn't access much of my Battleboard. The Elves were a little more consistent about using their board, but their strongest unit was reduced to being totally ineffective by getting too many Fatigue tokens early on in the game. The game was finally decided by the Elven infantry slowly whittling down the Dwarven units that could generate Saga dice, until the Dwarves were unable to activate anything.

Overall, the Battleboards seemed to have less impact on the game than in Age of Vikings. They certainly offered some nice bonuses, but there were no turns where one unit rolled a bucketful of dice like a buffed up unit of Viking Berserkers do.
The armies felt quite different, though we were using different unit types. The Battleboards provide a fair bit of the army flavour, so even with identical force composition, there should still be something to differentiate the armies and prevent a mirror match.
I fielded a wizard with my dwarves, which proved useful, but not particularly overpowering. I think I was able to activate one spell every turn (allowing a nearby unit a free move), which was good, but since you need Saga dice to make extra Magic dice, it added to the feeling that I really need more bodies on the field.
It seems that Monsters and Creatures can hit very hard, but can be kept out of the game if you can put enough Fatigue tokens on them.
Finally, I think that you have to be careful when choosing units that don't generate Saga dice. None of the things I had in my army were bad in and if themselves, but I generally wanted more options for using the faction specific special powers than I had.

So what next? I'll definitely be playing again, but only after adding some more warriors to my army. Finding the sweet-spot between taking standard troops and faction specific units may take a little doing, but I'll get there in the end.
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Re: Games of Fantasy Battles - Comparisons and Opinions

Post by YellowStreak » Tue Nov 17, 2020 4:40 pm

Primarch wrote:
Fri Nov 13, 2020 3:46 am
I have yet to play Oathmark, but it's still on my to-do list. From my read through of the rules, combat seemed to require a fair bit of addition and subtraction to calculate to hit rolls, how fast/intuitive is it once the dice hit the table?
My other take away from the book was that while there are 4 different races, they all seem to have the same basic unit types. Did the Empire and Beastmen seem very different in the game?
I think there is a new supplement with Undead on it's way, along with a campaign style book in the near future?
We found it very fast to calculate when playing. There are a limited number of special rules to remember and the actual number of dice used are capped at 5 in combat. Additional ranks make your target number easier, rather than rolling more dice. Felt very streamlined.

The unit types are very similar, but the stats and special rules are different so they do provide flavour and a different experience. The beastmen (orcs) typically have the charge(1) rule, which encourages you to be aggressive and want to be the one charging into combat, while the humans have a lower activation target which should make your troops more reliable (although i failed activation far more then the beastmen!). Orcs also lack any real cavalry (other then goblin wolf riders), whereas humans have a variety of mounted options, including their heavy cavalry which is powerful on the charge, but can be vulnerable on defence due to their numbers.

Other key stats also differentiate races, e.g.: elves have a lower activation target, making them more reliable, and their archers don't have to target the closest unit meaning they may be more deadly as it'll be harder to protect key units as you advance. Dwarves, typically, are slower but have a higher armour value.

The main rules have a campaign system for your kingdom, the Battlesworn supplement added unit honours to add experience to units and the new expansion, Oathbreakers, will add undead as a race, death magic and hero progression.
On the painting table:
Bolt Action Narvik Army
Blood and Valour Gallipoli ANZACs
Fantasy Savage Orks and Empire troops
Warhammer Quest The '95 original!

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Re: Games of Fantasy Battles - Comparisons and Opinions

Post by Karantu » Tue Nov 24, 2020 4:46 am

I've been itching for a mass battle system lately and Oathmark seems pretty interesting. There's not much online about it (compared to the more popular game systems) but it still seems to be more than a one-off since they seem to be releasing more expansions as well as actually have some miniatures kits (in plastic no less).

Like Primarch mentioned, unit basing would've made sense for it and that would make it easier to play it with random miniatures from other games. Anyway, I'd love to give it a shot, I just need to figure out how to get my Lizardmen or Bonereapers from AoS to work as a legal army in Oathmark...

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