Earlier this month we gathered in John’s garage war room to cross swords with Age of Fantasy, the rules-lite iteration of classic fantasy wargaming from One Page Rules.
Given how much we enjoyed last month’s outing with Grimdark Future: Firefight last month, it seemed like a logical progression to explore Age of Fantasy. As the name implies, Age of Fantasy is a slimmed-down ruleset that supports Warhammer-lite gameplay, with nifty army lists approximating all the major races and factions from the classic tabletop game. As a bonus, it also includes rules and army lists for most of the newer factions from Age of Sigmar, if that’s your cup o’ tea.
For our game, we set up a 2-vs-1 match whereupon John and Vince combined their human and dwarven forces to take on my bloodthirsty chaos army. This was my first time getting my entire chaos army on the table since I began piecing it together a year or two ago, and I was really chomping at the bit to lay it all out there on the table and bask in the blood-soaked glory.
Please indulge, if you will, these photos of my seething chaos battle line as it took to the field.
John’s human forces and Vincent’s dwarven milita were similarly arrayed, though I noted a concerning lack of skulls and spikes on their side of the board, as well as 100% more pegasus knights and bear riders.
We set up 5 objectives per the standard scenario in the rulebook. I wrote “rulebook” but One Page Rules is not joking about its name; the core rules for Age of Fantasy occupy less than two letter-sized pages, with the full rulebook encompassing scarcely more than a dozen.
The rules are spare, but they do a great job capturing the flavor and tone of a typical game of Warhammer. You’re still rolling dice and counting bonuses and removing casualties and cursing the gods when things go terribly awry, but Age of Fantasy seems to strip away a lot of the bloat that plagued most modern editions of Warhammer.
And so, amid the clatter of spears and the scrape of boiled leather, our game got underway. We opted to use the “Ebb and Flow” rules for the turn sequence, meaning we put a number of colored poker chits equal to the number of units in our armies into a sack, then took turns drawing a chit to determine unit activation order each turn. It was great fun, but it also set up some high stakes moments, because when one side sees several of their chits come up in a row, they know that means the opposing player will have a series of unopposed activations coming later in the turn.
With bloodlust in my eyes, I sent my forces surging forward.
Did I mention I had zero ranged combat in my army? It was all melee, so the only direction to go was forward.
On the right flank, a unit of Putrid Blightkings plodded through the muck, churning the soil beneath their steel-shod feet/hooves. They seized the first objective: a recently abandoned campsite with a roast pheasant still sizzling on the spit. This hapless game hen would become the focal point of absolutely insane butchery as the game unfolded.
With a little help from my chaos sorceress, I managed to goad my unit of Centigors into charging a unit of crossbowmen that had just finished unleashing their arrows into the flanks of my chaos knights. The Centigors thundered in amid a storm of hooves and spears, laying waste to the crossbowmen …
…before finding themselves on the receiving end of a devastating counter-charge from John’s winged pegasus knights!
Nothing like a good ol’ charge/counter-charge bloodbath.
As these maneuvers were playing out, we again remarked on how Age of Fantasy captured the spirit and general gameplay mechanics of classic Warhammer. Sure, we weren’t flipping through army books and cross-referencing arcane rule interactions, but the general spirit of the game definitely emerged as block of troops wheeled and charged and fell back.
By this point, we were about two turns into the game, and the chaos cavalry was advancing up the left flank to menace the dwarf handgunners. The center of the battlefield was dominated by several units of Vince’s heavily armored dwarves, backed up by a fearsome artillery piece.
Over at Waypoint Pheasant (the campfire objective marker featuring the oversized chicken tenders), John was making a determined defense with his block of 20 spearmen, led by the inimitable Grand Marshal Bartholomieu Begovic (standing tall on his ubiquitous supply crate).
The spearmen had a special ability that allowed them to inflict fierce casualties whenever they receive a charge, which really had me scratching my head about how to crack this particular nut.
Ultimately, I had to commit three units to the fight in order to pry John’s spearmen off this particular objective. The final sledgehammer came in the form of a devastating charge by my chariot, which circled around and took the hedgehog on its flank. (Age of Fantasy doesn’t have unit facings, so flank charges exist only in my imagination, but it seemed fitting here.)
The arrival of the chariot tipped things in my favor. A series of spectacularly poor morale rolls from John resulted in Marshal Begovic fleeing the field with the surviving spearmen! Discretion was the better part of valor, it seems, and our dear Marshal didn’t wish the get bloodstains on his pantaloons.
The Ebb and Flow activation rules we were using for this game continued to present unexpected and extremely fun decision points. Both sides had the opportunity to pull off “combo activations” to push the advantage. By the end of the second turn, repeated ativations by the chaos army had finally seized the initiative, culminating in this devastating charge by the chaos knights against the surviving members of a dwarf handgunner brigade.
The demise of the handgunners meant that there wasn’t much to stop the knights from rolling into the dwarves’ backfield, slaughtering the artillery crew and disrupting the reserves that were waiting to plug the gap in the main battleline.
We concluded that the game was in the bag for me, and the two allied players wisely decided to quit the field and retreat to their strongholds.
Age of Fantasy provided a great game worthy of the history books (for me, anyway, since I was the victor). It is a very playable, rules-lite game which seems like it can easily accommodate some very large armies without a lot of complexity or rulebook flipping.
The Ebb & Flow activation rules (optional in the Age of Fantasy rulebook) were absolutely electrifying. I understand they also form the core mechanics for games like Bolt Action and Warlords of Erehwon.
By the end of the game, we were already sketching out ideas for larger games featuring more gloriously painted miniatures from our collections. Stay tuned for more!