We played an small, introductory game of Age of Fantasy since it was Lawrence’s first outing with this particular ruleset. I set up a compact battlefield to showcase my snazzy new buildings, and then we commenced our battle.
I don’t recall the ebb and flow of the game, but it featured plenty of brutal fights between my stout dwarf infantry and Lawrence’s ghastly daemons.
That gnarly chaos spawn ended up rampaging up my flank before eventually falling in single combat versus my bear-mounted dwarf lord. Twas a melee for the history books!
Elsewhere the daemonic hordes continued their assault to seize the settlement and drive back the dwarven defenders. My iron warriors proved to be a particularly effective speed bump as they held the gap against a Great Unclean One.
In the rear, my artillery piece peppered the smaller daemons with lead shot, reducing their ranks even as they closed with the dwarves.
The details of the game’s conclusion are a bit dim, but I recall that I pulled off the victory. All in all, it was a small yet visually stunning spectacle – a perfect weeknight game!
We got in a game earlier this month to help baptize Daniel’s new game room. He recently moved into a home with a basement, and he wasted no time in converting it into a dedicated game space! I expect we will be getting plenty of gaming done in this new clubhouse.
We opted for Grimdark Future, because Daniel has been painting up a bunch of cool new Ultramarines for his 40k army, and I have recently completed some new units for my long-festering Death Guard army.
Daniel set up a spearpoint assault scenario, whereby we both deployed in wedge-shaped deployment areas – meaning we could, if we wanted, deploy right at the “tip of the spear,” about 24 inches away from the enemy!
The game was a great seesaw of action, starting with a plodding advance by my Death Guard (Havoc Brother Disciples, in the parlance of Grimdark Future) in the face of withering firepower from the Ultramarines.
Before too long, our units were within charging distance, and we had to make the decision: charge in, or hang back and launch missiles?
Daniel opted to charge in, and for good reason: his Ultramarines appeared to outgun my Death Guard guys (on paper at least) when it came to melee combat.
There were several close combats going on simultaneously on the battlefield, and they were absolute grindfests! Both of our units had the highest defense in the game (2+ on a d6) which meant our guys had to really dismember each other to do any damage.
But slowly, very slowly, the thin blue line of Ultramarines was pushed back. A key play for me was when I sent my squad of Plague Marines, escorted by a Myphitic Blight Hauler, rumbling through a large ruined area in the center of the table.
We had designated the central ruined area as “dangerous terrain,” which meant there was significant risk of casualties for anyone who ventured in. I tossed caution to the wind and pushed my forces forward. The resulting pressure opened up the flank for my Foetid Bloat Drone to charge Daniel’s force commander, slaughtering him outright and paving the way for a general advance on the Ultramarines’ objective.
At this point, Daniel didn’t have a lot of units left to oppose me. He fell back to secure his objective, but it was only a matter of time until my advancing units caught him in a grisly, ichor-spattered pincer, as you can see in the photo below. Very drippy and oozy!
As always, Grimdark Future gave us a great game. We agreed that the best part of this game (aside from the beautifully painted armies) was the fact that we actually finished the game! We all have stories about slogging through 2 or 3 turns of 40k, only to realize you’ve spent the better part of a day hunched over the game table, or the countless hours spent flipping through rulebooks to solve a tense rules disagreement.
Grimdark Future has none of that, which makes it perfect for weeknights, or weekends when you don’t want to spend the entire day gaming. If you’re on the fence, give it a shot!
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!
Last month John and I gathered for a somewhat momentous game of Saga: Age of Magic. At long last, after plenty of worldbuilding and painting, we were beginning a narrative campaign set in my club’s homebrew fantasy world. Specifically, we’d be playing out a series of games during the War of the Coins, a particularly devastating conflict between a wealthy dwarven empire and a loose alliance of feudal human noble houses.
We knew from our worldbuilding efforts (guided by the excellent Microscope RPG) that the decade-long War of the Coins ended with the dwarves being defeated after a great siege at their capital city, and summarily expelled from the continent and sent packing over a land bridge into an icy, windswept wasteland. But while the outcome was predetermined, we were very eager to play out a series of games to determine the exact nature of the dwarves’ defeat and the humans’ triumphs.
The conflict was named after the vast amounts money (coins) spent by the human feudal states in hiring mercenaries to fight on their behalf. It was also so named for the round shields carried by the stout dwarf warriors into battle. As the war progressed, the hard-pressed dwarves took to hammering copper coins into their oaken shields. So the name works on several levels!
The game took place outdoors, on John’s covered patio, with masks and plenty of physical distancing. I was running my dwarf army using the Masters of the Underearth battle board, and John was using the Great Kingdoms list for his human militia.
In the War of the Coins, the dwarves were the aggressors, launching several border raids that culminated in a full-blown invasion of the human city-states. Our game took place in Drazenko, a border outpost controlled by one of the minor human princes. John’s faction, House Begovic, had selected Drazenko as the first location to oppose the the dwarves’ advance.
As the game began, the dwarf army had just succeeded in pounding Drazenko with long-range cannon fire, reducing much of the village to rubble and clearing the way for the dwarven advance. The dwarf king Nicodemus II, the Anvil of Dawn, had taken to the field to lead his army into the village in what everyone assumed would be a low-stakes mopping up action. Good for propaganda, especially if the king was careful to get a bit of dust on his cloak as he strode through the streets.
Unfortunately, House Begovic had other ideas. Mobile reserves arrived to challenge the dwarves as they marched triumphantly into the smoking ruins of Drazenko.
John’s army was well organized and (thanks to several mounted units) quite speedy. He was able to blunt my initial advance quite handily. Within a few turns, the dwarves hadn’t been able to move very far into the ruined village.
John’s opening turn was brilliant; he managed to get his paladin into combat with my frost giant, and actually killed the blue-skinned monster in a single combat! Talk about a huge blow to morale … it died without ever activating!
With my preferred avenue of advance closed to me, I fell back on that tried-and-true dwarf tactic: close ranks and prepare a stout defense. John’s units had the mobility to surround my force on two sides, but I’m pleased to say that I proved to be a tough nut to crack for most of the game.
An early win came when my two cannons succeeded in knocking out his catapult. These units had been conducting a long-range artillery duel for the first few turns of the game. With the catapult out of the way, the cannons were free to rain fire down on virtually any target on the battlefield. Fire at will!
Back in the center of the battlefield, the dwarves stood shoulder-to-shoulder as they weathered devastating charges by John’s mounted heroes. Dwarves fell by the score, but they managed to take a few humans with them … just enough to prevent the game turning into a total and complete rout.
It was clear that I was not going to be able to pull off the victory, but once again Saga provided a fairly close game once all the victory conditions were calculated. This is a game that rewards players who pay close attention to the parameters for winning.
One key play that kept me in the game in the latter turns came when the cannons managed to land two shells in the vicinity of Field Marshal Bartholomieu Begovic, peppering the well-heeled noble with shrapnel and forcing him to retire to the rear to recuperate with a strong cup of brandy while an attaché documented his heroism in a letter sent back to the home front.
But back on the front lines, where warriors were fighting and dying, it was anything but glorious. Drazenko was a smoking ruin of churned mud and shattered masonry, strewn with the bodies of the dead and wounded. The dwarves were pressed back as House Begovic’s pegasus cavalry flew in to cut down the cannon crew, effectively silencing the big guns.
At this point, we had reached our turn limit, which meant that King Nicodemus was able to quit the field with some dignity intact, having been stung badly by his first encounter with House Begovic.
As we counted up victory points, we found that the game wasn’t a total rout for me, so that was nice. John has a very good handle on how to play the Great Kingdoms battle board, and his army list is versatile and well tuned. For my part, my list wasn’t quite where I wanted it to be (due to painting queue obligations) so I had a bit of work still to do.
I also decided that I wanted to go all in on the “big guns never tire” theme for my army. So in addition to my two static war machines, I’ll be taking two destruction teams (to be represented by some multi-barrel organ guns I have in my collection) to really max out of the number of shooty stuff on my side of the board. Thankfully, Saga is versatile enough to allow me to achieve this goal in short order.
Now that the War of the Coins has begun, we can’t stop now! Let’s see what King Nicodemus has in mind for his next move. And how bold will Field Marshal Bartholomieu Begovic be when he returns, refreshed and healed, to resume his command? Only time will tell. Stay tuned for more!
Earlier this month, John and I dared to play a game of Saga: Age of Magic on his back porch. We had physical distancing and a nice breeze, as well as face masks for both of us, so we felt that we had taken all reasonable precautions. After a long drought, we were excited to get some newly painted miniatures onto the battlefield, both for John’s Great Kingdoms army and my Masters of the Underearth (Skaven) warband.
The game was a follow-on to the outcome of our previous game, which saw a rout by a ratmen raiding party harrying the defenders of a fortified village. For this game, the ratmen had secured a slightly more … pungent … booty, in the form of three rotting coffins, each containing the noisome remains of a plague victim. The ratmen were scurrying off with the caskets so that their crazed alchemists could use the bodies to brew up some dastardly poisons. Only the stout defenders of House Begovic stood between the ratmen and their goal!
You can see the caskets, being borne by a swarm of rats, in the photo above. The goal was to escort them across the battlefield and exit through John’s table edge. I’d have to keep moving at a pretty good clip to ensure a reasonable chance of winning. No dithering and no time wasted on fruitless combat!
After deployment, I committed most of my forces to the right flank, as seen in the photo above. I was trying to stay as far away as possible from John’s unit of mounted hearthguard. At eight strong, they were an incredibly powerful and hard-hitting force on the battlefield. Unfortunately, the best I could do was delay their arrival.
So I started maneuvering away from them, angling up the right flank and positioning some of my ratmen as blocking units to slow down the attackers. It worked! For a couple of turns, anyway. My newly painted levies with bows occupied this encampment, staying in cover and delivering fairly effective missile fire throughout the game.
Likewise, this unit of levies shadowed the hearthguard on the opposing flank, always threatening to burst from cover and poke the cavalry with their spears. They actually jumped into combat toward the end of the game and, I think, inflicted some casualties!
The caskets moved slowly, and I had to keep the rest of my force arrayed around them to provide a support. It was only a matter of time before John’s hearthguard caught up to them and surged in for a massive assault.
Oh look! There it is. CHARGE!
The charge wiped out an entire unit of warriors that had been protecting the caskets, leaving the poor little rat swarms dangerously exposed to the thundering hooves of the hearthguard. On my turn, I got incredibly lucky with a pair of quadrupedal creatures, which managed to annihilate about half of the horsemen in a single savage round of attacks.
That combat tilted the game in my favor, at least temporarily.
The quadrupedal creatures are Chaos Centigors from Warhammer Fantasy. I love the miniatures and figured I’d get them onto the battlefield alongside my Skaven. After all, why do we play Saga if not for opportunities to mix and match miniatures from our collections?
After that, the game became a rat race — no pun intended. I had pushed through the initial battle line (at great cost) and now had a slim chance to make a break for John’s table edge.
Unfortunately, my rat swarms were mauled and nearing exhaustion. John still had several highly mobile units that were ultimately able to chase them down and skewer the poor rats one by one. Oh well! I take heart in the knowledge that John’s surviving warriors caught the plague and died horribly after the battle was won.
This game represented a personal best for me in terms of rules comprehension and overall grasp of strategy and tactics. Saga is a really complex game, with a lot of decisions to be made at various points throughout the turn. Playing against a worthy opponent like John requires the utmost attention to detail! I am getting better with the Masters of the Underearth army. I intend to use the same army list for my dwarf army, which will be helpful for digging deeper into the tactics of this particular army. We’re playing again soon — stay tuned for more!