It has been a while since I’ve done a review of skirmish games (free and cheap), so I thought I’d give you the rundown of a few new (or new to me) games out there.
For those who don’t know, I’m often on the lookout for alternatives to Mordheim. I like the idea of Mordheim, a fantasy wargame consisting of a small warband with rules for a campaign that allows your warband to change with experience. I even like the core rules of Mordheim. What I don’t like is the warband restrictions. I’d like to field an army of gnolls, or mushroom men, or something. For one thing, it allows me to use less expensive miniatures (Yes, yes, I hear you say, you can use other company’s miniatures in Mordheim).
So, if you don’t like the “three rolls to reflect one attack” or hate Games Workshop or you just want to field the Cheesemen Warband of Doom, here are a few games to consider.
Age of Blood
This is a nice little rule set built to reflect marauding bands of Vikings composed of generic troops and heroes. It’s based on d10 rolls, weapons increase strength, armor increases fortitude. If you are familiar with VOID or Urban War, it is pretty similar. Heroes include leaders (hersar) and champions, troops include berzerkers, huscarls, and carls. Weaponry is limited and reflects the time period, but the gameplay is less historical and more fantastic in nature. Supernatural options are included. Heroes can gain experience and notoriety, and there are campaign rules reflecting the gathering of loot, including paying upkeep on your heroes, presumably in booze and hookers. Interestingly enough, the loot gathered depends upon what country you are looting in the scenario. What this system doesn’t have is too much outside of just playing Vikings, but given that most of the warbands in Mordheim are, to some extent or another, human, this isn’t a big deal. To go beyond that structure would require the odd modification. There’s a bestiary in the back that would be a big help. The other downside, of sorts, to this game is that you start with about 20 miniatures per side, which is a bit high for a skirmish game. The solution would be to cut back on starting funds.
Fantasy Goal System
If you have played Chaos in Carpathia, or Chaos in Cairo, or the Supersystem, then you’ve got a good handle on these rules. Four stats: Strength, Agility, Mind, and Resolve, all with single-digit amounts (with 2 being the human norm). Unlike Age of Blood, which totals the stats with die rolls, you roll a number of d6’s equal to the stat, counting each 4 or higher result as a success. Whoever gets the most successes wins (again, if you know Shadowrun or World of Darkness, then you know the general idea). This rulebook, costing $2.95 from Saber’s Edge, is only 16 pages long, but is a lean, slick little game with a pretty straightforward point-buy system that will allow you to field most anything you can dream up. There’s lots of options to reflect superhuman or supernatural abilities, in addition to spells and equipment. What is missing is the campaign option–you need to come up with some sort of system that would allow a warband to gain or lose points for boosting or adding people to your warband. Like the other games from this company, its got a “beer and pretzels” feel, but there’s nothing really wrong with that.
Next, I’ll review Song of Blood and Glory, and Crunch Waffles ETC game.