God of Battles is a fantasy mass battle game from author Jake Thornton and published as a 290 page hardback, full colour rulebook by Foundry Publications.
It is set in world of Aren, which is, in many ways, a fairly ‘standard’ fantasy worlds with Elves, Dwarfs, Orcs and Undead, but also has a few differences and a few different armies such as the Godless Horde or the Tiekkan. Given that the book is published by Foundry, the armies are based of the miniature ranges that they sell.
The game is designed to be played on a table between 4’ x 4’ and 8’ x 5’, depending upon the size of the game being played. Measurement throughout the game is in inches, and all dice used are D6. The number of figures in an army is variable dependent upon game size and army type, but a small army can have between 40 and 60 figures, whilst a large army could have over 200 models.
An army is constructed from an army list, but unlike some games units are of fixed size and cost, so for example, a unit of Elven City Guard will always cost six points and consist of 16 models. Units have several attributes, which tell you how much it costs, what typr of unit is, how many models the unit starts the game with, and numbered stats for movement, attack, defense and morale, plus a note of any special abilities.
One thing of importance is that each unit have a designated leader which is clearly distinguishable from all other models. You’ll see why shortly. There are several types of units, including Formed, Loose, Characters, War Engines, Chariots, Monsters and Items. The backbone of any force will be it’s core units, and these will either be Formed or Loose. Formed units fight in formation where all models are in base-to-base contact, and the unit is always four models wide, whilst Loose units fight in a skirmish formation, with all troops having to stay with 4” of the unit leader.
A game consists of a number of turns. The game uses an alternate unit activation mechanic. You first determine the initiative. The player with initiative may either play or pass. You can only pass if you have less units to activate on the table than your opponent. If you pass, your opponent gets initiative, and can play or pass. If both players pass consecutively the turn ends.
If you choose to play, you may use a Stratagem (only 1 per turn), and then you can activate one unit. That unit may either move, move into contact with an enemy, move and shoot, stand still and shoot or call Miracles (if it is a Priest).
All movement is measured from the unit leader – essentially, you move the leader in a straight line in the direction you wish to go. The leader finishes his move facing in that direction, and then his unit is arranged around him. For formed units this means that there is no wheeling or changing of formation – you simply measure and move, which makes movement very easy to do.
Another interesting mechanic of movement is that when you recoil (which happens after combat) a unit cannot move off the board. It it does so, it simply completes its movement in a lateral direction.
Combat works the same for both shooting and melee. You determine the number of dice to be rolled for attack and for defence. You roll these dice and compare them to the attack characteristic for the attacker, and the defence characteristic for the defended. If the D6 equals or beats the score, it is a success. You subtract the number of defence successes from the number of attack successes, and the difference is the number of casualties caused. The attacker then rolls a ‘Test of Courage’ against the defender to check their morale. This is done on 2D6, and any total higher than the Morale of the target, they lose a number of models equal to the difference. If a unit is reduced to four models or less, it routs, otherwise it stays in play. There are no failed morale states to track. Either the units keep fighting (though they may withdraw) or they rout. Whilst there are special rules to cover Characters, Monsters, War Machines and Chariots, that is the basic game mechanics.
I mentioned Stratagems earlier. During each turn each player can chose to use a stratagem – it is up to them when they use it during the turn. These include being able to pass even if you have more active units than your opponent, being able to reactivate a unit that has already acted this turn, being able to mark one of your opponents units as activated, or being able to move two formed units consecutively. These add an extra dimension to the game – especially as you can choose a different one each turn.
I did also mention Miracles. These are the magic system in Aren. You don’t have magic users, but rather Priests who pray for divine intervention. The magic system is card driven and is actually a very nice mechanic. Each player has a hand of cards taken from the ‘Sacrifice Deck’, which has been made up from all the non-picture cards from a standard deck of playing cards. When calling for a Miracle, the caster must play either one or two cards (if playing two, they must be a pair) from his hand of a value that must at least equal the value needed for the Miracle of his choosing to be cast. The defender then plays one or two cards. If the value of these cards is greater than that of the attacker, the Miracle is not granted. It paints a lovely picture of two priests on the battlefield both frantically offering sacrifices to their Gods, seeing who is best pleased so that their will would prevail.
The rules cover about 50 pages of the book, with the rest of the book being taken up with scenarios, the Army lists and rules for terrain and weather. The army lists also contain descriptions of the Miracles available to that army, and there are also several painting guides scattered throughout the book.
Even the weather and terrain rules have been well thought out. Battles usually take place in the lands of the defender. Each of these lands has their own terrain table to generate random terrain, and also has a predominant weather pattern, so you can ensure that not every battle that you play takes place on a sunny spring day in an open meadow. One of the really fun things with the terrain is that some of it may be inhabited. Does a bear live in that cave? If we cross that rickety bridge to attack the enemy, what happens if we disturb the Troll that lives under it?
Overall, God of Battles is a quick and simple, though not simplistic, mass battle game. Its mechanics are designed to make movement and combat simple, with very little to track from turn to turn. However, the use of Stratagems and Miracles are vitally important to how your army performs, so they certainly give an added dimension to the game. Couple that with rules that can give strong themes to terrain areas for armies, and thus give added depth to campaigns, and it adds up to good set of rules. The low number of scenarios in the book (3) is disappointing, which I really find to be its main drawback.
Jake is getting something of a reputation for producing games that have good and interesting mechanics in them, whilst at the same time making the easy to learn and quick to play. Couple that with the production quality of the book, Which has lots of colour photos, a good number of explanation diagrams and a good index which means it is both interesting to look at, but also easy to use for reference, and you have something of a winning formula. These rules may be a little to ‘lite’ for some gamers, but I’ve enjoyed them so far.
God of Battles and associated miniatures are available from the Wargames Foundry website. The rulebook is £25.
Disclosure: The publisher provided a review copy of this game