Review: Forager

Rating: 4 stars

Forager opens with an excerpt from the account of Lieutenant George Drummond Graeme of the 2nd Light Kings German Legion of the battle at Le Haye Sainte in 1815:

“There are countless tales written by soldiers of the Napoleonic Wars, many highlighting that some of their experiences were forged on the anvil of single combat; combat that was fast paced, bloody, very personal, and a microcosm of the great battles that raged around them. Lieutenant Graeme’s experience is one such account.

Forager brings those brutal combats to life, allowing players to recreate not only the small skirmish actions known as the ‘little war’, but also the combat engagements described by brave George Graeme.”

Forager is designed and written by Adrian McWalter and Quinton Dalton. Those names maybe familiar, as they previously designed the Napoleonic rules Over the Hills, and Adrian has also written the Albion Triumphant and A Clash of Eagles expansions for Black Powder from Warlord Games.

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Forager is a departure from Adrian’s previous work, as it deals with a small number of figures per side, although the action is still firmly rooted in the Napoleonic Wars, in this case specifically the Peninsular War of 1808 – 1814.

In order to play Forager you will need at least four ten-sided dice, some miniatures to represent your command, some character cards and a playing area of at least 3′ x 3′ with appropriate terrain. Forager will comfortably handle forces of a dozen figures or more a side, but you can typically play with as little as six figures and have a fun and exciting game – very small forces compared to what players may be used to playing in games set during the Napoleonic wars.

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Each figure in a player’s is a detailed individual, defined by their Battlefield Experience, Weapons, Equipment, Traits, Skill, Combat, Field Craft and Fatigue.

  • Battlefield Experience – this rating helps define the characters other stats, indicates whether the character raw recruit or perhaps an old sweat.
  • Weapons – What the model is armed with, usually a ranged weapon plus a melee weapon of some sort
  • Equipment – Characters often carry around bits and pieces of equipment, and this can provide benefits during battle. For example, a character with Pots and Pans can ignore its first hit, as it has been deemed to fortuitously hit this piece of equipment
  • Traits – Characters can have three types of traits: personal traits, battle traits and command traits. As a model gains Battlefield Experience, it can be allocated more traits. These traits help define each model and give it advantages and flaws.
  • Skill – determines the initiative value of the model
  • Combat – how many dice the model rolls when fighting combat
  • Field Craft – this stat can be used for defensive rolls, as well as other actions such as foraging, binding wounds or reloading weapons.
  • Fatigue – essentially a models health. Once this is reduced to zero, the model is defeated.

A turn in Forager consists of four phases. At the beginning of the turn, each player rolls 1D10, with the highest score holding the initiative for the turn. The four phases are:

  • Movement Phase – models move in Skill order, lowest to highest, with the exception that a higher Skill model can always be chosen to move before a lower Skill model should the player wish – for example, in a situation where two models are in charge range of each other, the higher skilled model can move before the lower skilled model and therefore get the bonus for charging into combat. Models on foot usually move 8″, with modifiers for terrain.
  • Shooting Phase – models may engage in shooting if they have a loaded weapon. Shooting takes place in Skill order, highest to lowest. Weapon range is 12″ for pistols, and is unlimited for muskets and rifles.
  • Combat Phase – models in base-to-base combat fight a round of combat with melee weapons. This again takes place in Skill order, highest to lowest.
  • Recovery Phase – models can use this phase to reload weapons, remove injury effects or perform other actions, such as interacting with terrain. If models have Field Craft in excess of ‘1’, they can perform more than 1 action, should they wish.

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Shooting and Combat work in similar ways:

  • The attacking player rolls a number of dice equal to the models Combat, plus any modifiers for range or aiming, looking for a target number. Any dice that roll equal or above that target number are classed as ‘hits’.
  • The defender rolls a number of dice equal to its Field Craft, plus modifiers for cover etc. Again, these have to beat a target value, and any successes are ‘saves’ and cancel ‘hits’.
  • If the number of ‘hits’ is greater than the number of ‘saves’, if shooting, the attacker rolls on the ‘Butchers Bill’ table and applies the result. If in melee combat, the difference is the number of fatigue points damage that is caused.
  • Once a model has received three or more fatigue points of damage, it counts as being distracted, and incurs penalties when rolling dice.
  • If a model receives damage equal to or greater than its Fatigue, it is defeated and removed from the game.

The Recovery Phase is when all actions outside of combat may occur, whether this is reloading a weapon, searching an area, perhaps binding a wound or perhaps attempting to catch lunch.

That covers the essential mechanics of the basic game, though there are obviously several rules to cover things such as how terrain affects movement, target selection for attacks, and what actions you can perform in the Recovery Phase.

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Optional rules for the game include using mounted characters, rules for officers and NCOs, duelling, wielding two pistols and looting.

Games of Forager are scenario driven, and the rules contain six different scenarios, plus a further linked campaign.

At the heart of Forager are the characters you play with, and there is an extensive section of the rules that deal with creating unique characters to play in the game. If you want to play in campaign mode, you can also advance these characters by gaining experience, additional boost bonuses and eventually raising the characters level. It’s this part of the rules that adds real depth to the game, and turns it from a ‘standard’ small skirmish game into something much more, as you develop each character under your command from raw recruit to seasoned veteran, hoping that they are not killed or too badly wounded along the way.

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Adrian McWalter running a game of Forager at ‘The Other Partizan’ in 2017

At its heart, Forager has a simple and intuitive set of mechanics, which means that players can quickly learn the rules and concentrate on playing the game.

The level of detail included with equipment and traits for each model helps to add atmosphere to the game, which is only thickened when used in conjunction with the campaign system – the models under your command each gain their own stories, giving the game an almost RPG-lite quality.

Whilst some would argue that setting a Napoleonic game at this level with so few models is somewhat artificial, Adrian and Quinton have done their best to add as much period flavour as possible whilst at the same time providing a game that is fast-paced and fun, keeping both players involved at all times. The lower model count means that the major hurdle for many people to get into Napoleonic gaming – namely the number of models required to play – is removed, allowing players to dip their toe in the water and perhaps discover this period for the first time.

The low model count for this game is also great for playing this game in larger scale. Though designed with 28mm in mind, I would think that this is ideal for 40mm or even 54mm figures, such as those from Perry Miniatures or Victrix Miniatures

I have really enjoyed the games of Forager I have played so far, and I’m looking forward to creating my own campaigns in the near future – even I can manage to paint a dozen or so Napoleonic miniatures in not too great a time period!

If you want more details of how a game of Forager works, you can watch a demo game video here.

The Forager rules are currently being funded on Kickstarter, with the project due to finish on Friday 13th October at 0923 BST. You can find more details here.

A further set of rules – Forager 2 – is planned for early 2018, expanding the rules into the wars in the Americas, from the French Indian War to the American Civil War.

A PDF copy of the Forager rules were provided by Stand To Games for review purposes

 

6 Comments on Review: Forager

  1. I agree this is in ideal way to get into Napoleonic minis gaming. My friend and I found even SP2 daunting from a painting pov. This and C&C Naps covers a lot of bases (pun intended) without amassing hundreds of complicated and repetitive figures.

    • Interestingly, if this game scratches the ‘Napoleonic Skirmish’ itch, with C&C Naps and Blucher (which can be played with the cards) for larger battles, I may not have to paint any large Napoleonic armies at all…

  2. Funnily enough I’ve been looking at Blucher for the same reason. However MikeH does keep posting pictures of lovely minis for Over the Hill.

  3. Oh and forgot to say, great and very informative article.

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