Fast,Fun and Furious! Fantastic!
Well, there are battles, there are fantasy battles and now there are Fantastic Battles. Written by Nic Wright and published by Irregular Wars, Fantastic Battles promise just that, battles that can be set in any fantasy world, even historical, that are in themselves fantastic!
The rules are well written and easy to pick up. The book is set out in a logical order, has lots of photos and some superb cartoonery by Orestix. The various tables are sensible, logical and well laid out making the game easy to play once you have the principles. I found the quick reference sheet was more than adequate for most situations.
Nic sets out his central tenets for the game in his introduction and the game seems to live up to all of them. They are…
It is setting and scale agnostic. You can use any of your existing armies, from any period and any scale. The basic unit is the company mounted on a war base of set size, usually between 4-6 cm square. Up to four may be used in formation in a unit. All companies have the same size war base and movement and missile range is measured in base widths or bw’s. It’s all about the base!
The game probably works and looks better at 6mm -15mm however I have been using 28mm with no great difficulty apart from the fact that I can’t fit a mumak or a dragon a 5 cm square base!
There is no single figure removal, whole units are removed once they have taken sufficient loss of Resolve, the most important factor units have. Resolve is somewhat akin to morale, combat and magic can reduce it , when it reaches zero the unit disperses with detrimental effect to the resolve of nearby units. There can be a knock-on effect.
Flexible army building is at the core of the rules. There are seven core unit profiles which can be augmented by up to three traits, from a list of forty, such as “mounted, skirmishers, ferocious charge, shieldwall, long spears, unreliable” etc. It easy to use and you can create your own units and your own army lists. There can also be racial traits that apply to the whole army. My favourite creation so far are my Orc Rabble. Their traits expendable, unreliable ,rabble sound like a character description, their low cost means I can have hordes of ‘em which makes ‘em feel like orcs! There is an Excel Fantastic Battles Army Builder which can print out an order of battle for any army you create which is in its self, Fantastic!
Engaging rules randomised initiative with play passing between both sides ensures this. Players draw coloured counters/meeples/dice from a hat or use a deck of cards to decide activation. There are also spells that can interfere with the order of play
Command friction and fog of war These are certainly present in the form of Mishaps that are rolled for each unit at set up and may result in a unit arriving late on the battle field or in a diseased state or even have companies deserting! The rules themselves tie up movement and shooting in such a way that you have to really think about your set up.
The Command and Control is simple to use. Basically, each army is led by a Warlord or Mage Lord and can have several characters that can activate units and companies. Each character, company or unit can use one action each turn.
There are three phases shooting, movement and melee.
Shooting is pretty well automatic; it does not require an action and you have to shoot at the nearest unit in range. There are four different shooting traits which produce very different results at different ranges.
Movement is probably more limited than in many games and this adds a tactical element to the game. It is very easy to get yourself stuck in a position that you cannot manoeuvre out of.
Melee is brutal. Whole unit removal means big holes can open up in your ranks and create a domino effect of Resolve loss.
There is a campaign system that is fun and easy to use.
The armies can be augmented by strategies and characters can have relics to boost their stats or give them extra abilities. The book contains 24 Army lists for Historical and Fantasy Armies and only one rule book is required so it is a small investment for a big game.
Both the tabletop and the campaign rules lend themselves well to solo play so it is also Fantastic Battles for the times we are living through.
Overall, it is easy to learn, fun to play, requires some tactical thinking, can be used with just about any army and can be used for solo play-Fantastic!