Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Fantasy Rules! Rules May Indeed Rule

In the wake of the Splintered Light sale I went off and ordered a generous number of undead and forest animals and then spent some time wondering just what on earth I was going to do with them. Other than paint them of course. It's strange that despite the fact that there are thousands of fantasy miniatures on the market there is really only one well known game for their use, Warhammer Fantasy, and that game has some flaws. As in a lot of flaws. This is not to say that there are dozens of sets of rules for fantasy battles. It's just that each set of rules is beloved by a fairly small number of players who will complain bitterly that other players lack the sense to recognize the awesomeness of their favorite game. I set out to find a set of rules that I could champion in the same lonely fashion.

The Splintered Light sale gave me the option to build a decent sized army so I started looking for rules involving battles between larger groups of figures. After some searching through The Miniatures Page's archives I settled on the Fantasy Rules! (FR) line. The company that publishes them has several versions for sale, the Tournament and Campaign Edition (FR/TCE) seemed like the best place to start.

So far I'm pretty optimistic with FR/TCE. Each player needs an army of figures mounted on 40x40mm stands. You can build from scratch and attach about six figures to a stand. A medium sized army is twenty units or one hundred and twenty minis. For this level of play that's not excessively many although it's more than some may like. Experienced players may note that they can double up existing Warmaster or Field of Glory stands to create their fantasy army.

This brings us to the next feature of FR/TCE, which may be a perk or a flaw depending on your perspective. The rules are designed to accommodate virtually any fantasy army. Dwarves, elves, garden gnomes, flying carpets, werewolves, you name it. In one sense this is terrific news. I can paint up twelve vampires and use them to lead my already painted medieval Italian army. Note on the right, for example, that the "Greek army" has both monsters and ordinary troops. Players who already own miniatures may be halfway done with their fantasy armies and not realize it! In another sense this could lead to people playing progressively more silly armies like the pebble army or the invisible army featuring unpainted bases with nothing attached to them. I suppose every player will just have to decide how they feel about silly armies.

My preliminary readthrough of FR/TCE looks otherwise promising. The thrust of the rules seems to be that certain types of units do better against certain other types and I enjoy that style of play. There is a basic rule mechanism dealing with overall army morale and a force that takes many casualties seems like it will start to fracture and become unresponsive. I'm not finding the rulebook to be terrifically organized, better than many but not at the standards of Warhammer or Warmaster for example.

So where might this leave a reader with the same interest, or a reader who might want to introduce their child into the fun of giant battles between elves and orcs, or say between vampire "newborns" and allied werewolves and vampires? I think the rules system looks like it could be fun. I think the book could use some editing and formatting but its not impossible to decipher. I'm going to try and play a game in the next few weeks and we shall see whether Fantasy Rules! rules or not.

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