Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Test-driving the Axe

I think every wargame has tried to design a minis game at least once in his gaming career.  As I had Monday off for the New Year's holiday, I paid a visit to Chris of the Hill Cantons to help playtest his own fantasy miniatures ruleset, By This Axe I Rule, which he refereed. My opponent was Brad of Skull Crushing for Great Justice

ByTAIR uses individual miniatures grouped into units, where each figure represents either five men (or other creatures) or an individual hero-type character.  Combat is resolved using the Games Workshop buckets of dice method, which can be viscerally satisfying.
The battlefield
Unfortunately, the battery on my new camera died before I could snap more than a handful of photos of the setup.  Don't worry, though--ckutalik took plenty of pictures, and you can see them in his playtest report of By This Axe I Rule.   You can also read his report for details about the game, which I thought played quickly and didn't really bog down anywhere (although we found the initial dueling rules too simple and repetitive, Chris quickly whipped up a new version of handling character-on-character fights). 

Inspired by my house rule that all spaceships must be named, our host required us to name our generals and heroes (including magic-users and clerics).  I christened my general Gump, with my two champions Bubba and Lt. Dan (I can't remember what I named the magic user or clerics).  The army name was entirely Chris's, however, which I hadn't seen till I read his blog post (I do like it).
The Knights of Bradd
Since this was a game using lots of individual figures grouped in rank and file, it called out for movement trays.  Although Chris didn't have any on hand, his improvised use of heavy cardstock dungeon tiles filled the role admirably, allowing us to quickly move our forces across the tabletop.  I recommend this substitution if you don't want to spend money on dedicated movement trays.

Much like my Texas Aggies this season, I started off strong but ended up pissing it all away at the end of the game.  My mistake was taking my toughest unit, the half-dozen giant snakes, and essentially removing them from the battle by sending them around impassable terrain toward the edge of the table.  The snakes took out a champion and her wereleopard buddy and routed a unit of halflings off the board, but were unable to get back in the battle before my opponent had chased two of my other units off the board.  Still, I don't blame the designer for my tactical errors.
The Scarlet Scribes of Set
ByTAIR is a fun set of rules that feels like Warhammer Fantasy but plays a lot quicker.  I look forward to playing it again, perhaps in the context of a campaign (note to the designer: you might want to include a list of scenario objectives).  Not only that, but it's inspired me to work on my own miniatures rules, a starship combat game.  I'll share more details on my game soon.


ckutalik said...

Nice AAR. I will cop to the fact that I made the army names up post-facto. I couldn't remember the character names that y'all invented so I just omitted it.

Next time we'll have to test drive the new dueling mini-game and command & control optional rules.

Brad said...

St. Merlin (after I discovered he was in fact a cleric)
St. John
General Ackbar
Sir Tristan
Red Sonja
Jose the Were-leopard as I didn't want to bother trying to figure out how to spell Quatzequatel (thanks, Google!)

My worst tactical faux pas was rushing Red Sonja unaided to take out the Dark Overlord. That fireball of doom was certainly a hit to my personal morale.