Fantastic Battles

This week at FWGS it was a chance for me to try out a new game – Fantastic Battles from Irregular Wars. It’s a 10mm fantasy wargame, where we pitted hordes of goblins against the Hanchu army (me). The rules are quite simple – each unit type has five primary statistics:

Hanchu Lion Riders
  • Resolve – How many ‘hits’ a base can take before being removed
  • Move – How far (in base widths) a unit can move
  • Melee – How many dice they roll in melee combat
  • Shoot – How many dice they roll in missile combat, split between short and long range
  • Defence – The number needed to take damage, normally 4 or 5.

Each base is 40mm x 40mm, and consists of multiple actual figures. Quite different from the more skirmishy sort of games that I’m used to, but not unusual. Some units have special abilities (ferocious charge, flight, etc) but otherwise things are relatively straight forward.

A unit can consist of one or more bases. A large unit is more powerful, but is harder to manoeuvre and less flexible. A unit is either full strength or destroyed, they don’t lose bases when they take damage. If a base has a resolve of 5, then a unit of one base can take up to five damage before being removed. However, a unit of 3 bases needs to take 15 damage before it is removed – it doesn’t lose a base each time it takes 5 damage. I think this gives quite a large advantage to big units.

The starting game

There are also character figures, which consist of the warlord, captains and magic users. The warlords and captains are needed to control the army – units can only be effectively controlled if they are within range of a leader of some kind. I started with one of my flyers out of range, so it was a random die roll to see what they did.

This does complicate tactics – you tend to need to keep units close to the leaders, which limits flexibility and possibly just gives more reason to have larger units.

Magic users are poor leaders, but they can cast spells. They get up to three levels of spells, which added an interesting element – when they worked.

We also had some monsters – I had a mounted Triceratops and a (non-flying) dragon.

The battle opened with all units rolling to see how prepared they were. One of my units started further back than I’d planned, and a couple of goblin units were out of place as well.

My warlord on a chariot, a couple of monsters, wizards and core troops.

My plan had been to try and flank with my heavy lion riders around the left flank, and then some elite guard on the right flank for protection, with flyers used to harass. Things didn’t quite work out that way, with the goblin chariots trying for a similar tactic. I could see that my lion riders would get hit in the side/rear if I tried to charge them into the goblin flank, so I went for different tactics.

Lion riders heading along the left flank

To the right, I’d sent my elite guard to protect that flank from goblin worg riders and giant spiders. I’d also marched some crossbow men up and over the hill to try and provide some support there. My flyers I sent in against the riders, but they were quickly killed in melee.

Goblins riding worgs and giant spiders charging in towards my right flank

My plan in the middle had been to hold fast, then use my Blink spells to teleport my dragon and triceratops behind any goblins that came charging in. The goblins were holding their position though, which meant I needed a new plan.

I considered pulling my lion riders across the middle of the battlefield, draw in the enemy cavalry to chase them, then hit them with my monsters. The goblins had more missile weapons than I expected though, and with attrition doing damage to my lion riders, I wheeled them around and sent them charging into the front of the goblins.

I teleported the monsters over my ranks of infantry…. or not. Both wizards failed to cast their spells, so the monsters stayed where they were. The following turn the magic worked, but things were more or less in the middle of combat by that point.

Warlord in melee

Half my lion riders were engaging the goblin infantry, whilst the others, along with my warlord had been caught by the goblin chariots. The lion riders and the goblin infantry had a heroic fight, but the lions were no match for the hordes. They wore them down enough though so that my artillery were able to finish off the whole unit, clearing the way for my triceratops and dragon to get stuck in against the goblin warlord on his wyvern, and some of the trolls.

Meanwhile, on the right flank the spiders were getting stuck into my crossbowmen, whilst the goblin riders took on the Hanchu elite guard. There wasn’t going to be a clear winner here, but at least they were protecting my artillery which was being used to pound the goblin main army.

Spider riders charge the crossbowmen

Eventually though things weren’t going to hold out. Most of my big units had taken a lot of damage, and my main infantry hadn’t really engaged anything at this point.

Nearing the end

Soon my warlord and the two monsters fell, leaving my troops somewhat leaderless. All my lion cavalry were gone, but I’d stopped the attackers on the right. I still had some strong troops, but probably not the will for them to charge into further battle at this point.

So though it wasn’t going to be a clear victory, I’d probably give the win to my opponent.

Fantastic Battles isn’t a game that I’ve played before, but it was pretty easy to pick up. It doesn’t have the wide range of specials options like Saga has, which both keeps it simple and means that the game focuses on the tactical aspects of manoeuvring.

Everything having to be within range of a leader did complicate tactics, and meant you couldn’t just do whatever you wanted with each unit. Initiative was also different – chits in a bag were drawn one at a time to see which side went next. I think at one point four units got to move on one side before the other side moved, but for the most part the results there were balanced.

It was a good game, and the miniatures (all supplied by my opponent) looked really nice. Personally, I don’t have any interest in collecting 10mm. I prefer 28mm for most games – or at least, I prefer painting that scale. The 6mm I have is all SciFi, and mostly consists of tanks so most figures are larger.

For 10mm fantasy though, Fantastic Battles seems like a decent set of rules.

Samuel Penn