Sunday, March 09, 2008

Field of Glory Review

The following is a rather longish review of the new miniatures rules by Osprey Publishing: Field of Glory. I'm posting it here before submitting it to BoardGameGeek, so any feedback is welcome.

First things first, this is not a play-test review. This is a review of the main rulebook based on reading it. Also, most of my miniatures gaming has been using rules by Games Workshop, or rules heavily influenced by Games Workshop. I don't have any experience with the popular DBA/DBM system for ancients miniatures games. Hopefully this gives you some idea of where my biases might lie.

First up is the physical quality, layout and writing of the book. Rulebooks for miniatures games see a lot of use and abuse, and it's important that they be able to stand up to that. It looks like this one can. It's a nicely bound hardcover the size of a standard Osprey book (about 9 1/2" x 7 1/2"), 176 pages in full color. After one reading, it lays flat when open, even when viewing pages near either end of the book.

Chapters are color coded on the edges of the page, and each phase of the game has its own chapter. In addition to a table of contents and an index for the book, each chapter includes a summary of the chapter contents in a column along the left side of every two page spread. This should be a great help in actually using this book during a game.

I do have to say that the index failed me once while I was reading through the book. The concept of a "severe disorder" is mentioned after the concept of "disorder" is explained, but before the concept of "severe disorder" is explained. When I attempted to find "disorder" in the index I was unable to do so. Later, after I had learned what a "severe disorder" was, I was able to find "disorder" listed under "movement" as "move distances and disorder". It would have been nice if "disorder" had its own listing in the index given that it's a fairly important concept. Of course, now that I've read the rules, I doubt I'd have the same problem if I had to look it up during a game.

The rules are filled with illustrated examples of the concepts being explained, and there is an appendix with further illustrated examples of some unusual situations. I found these illustrations very helpful in grasping concepts, especially where I found the text somewhat unclear. Fortunately, the text is usually clear, but there were several cases where I had to re-read a section multiple times before fully understanding the meaning. This was due partly to concepts needing to rely on other concepts that hadn't been fully introduced yet (inevitable when concepts rely on each other yet one has to be introduced before the other), but mostly due to it being written in English and not American English. The latter became less of a problem as I became more accustomed to the writing style. That style is actually quite concise, more so than I'm used to seeing in other rulebooks.

That covers the book, now for the rules.

The game scale is rather loose. Each base represents approximately 250 men, but this can vary greatly depending on the army being represented. Turns do not represent any fixed time period, but instead represents a "phase of battle." Ground scale is discussed as "defined by effective bow range," but is never actually given a fixed definition. I have seen it referred to as 1" = 50 yards in some forums, but not in the actual book. Movement rates are given in Movement Units (MU) which equal either 1" or 25mm depending on player preference. Base sizes are recommended to be 40mm wide for 15mm figures and smaller and 60mm wide for 25/28mm figures. Depths vary depending on the type of unit, but aren't as important as widths. The main thing is that all bases in a game be of equal width.

The game consists of alternating player turns, each consisting of five phases: Impact, Manoeuvre, Shooting, Melee, and Joint Action.

The Impact Phase consists of the active player declaring charges, the inactive player declaring responses to those charges, the active player making the charges, and both players resolving the effects of those charges.

The Manoeuvre Phase consists of the active player moving any units that didn't charge and that aren't already involved in a close combat. It also involves the active player adjusting units that are already involved in a close combat so as to conform to the enemy or bring more bases into contact.

The Shooting Phase consists of the active player doing any shooting that doesn't involve units involved in close combat.

During the Melee Phase, both players resolve any ongoing close combats.

Finally, during the Joint Action Phase, both players resolve ongoing routs and pursuits and then move their commanders.

There are three basic dice mechanics used in the game. The first is the Complex Move Test (CMT), the second is the Combat Mechanism, and the third is the Cohesion Test.

The CMT is used whenever a unit attempts to do something involving movement that isn't automatic and involves rolling two dice and adding them together with any modifiers to beat a target number based on the troop type.

The Combat Mechanism involves rolling a number of single six sided dice based on the number and types of troops involved in combat. No modifiers are added to the rolls, but the target numbers are determined by applying Points of Advantage (POA). POAs are determined by comparing the qualities of the attacking unit to the qualities of the defending unit and assigning '+' and '-' POAs. POAs are a zero-sum amount, meaning that if one side has a + than the other must have a -, and have a maximum of ++ and a minimum of --. The result is applied to the base target number of 4, resulting in a final target number from 2 to 6. So there is always a chance of failure or success no matter how mismatched the opponents are.

The Cohesion Test is similar to the CMT using 2d6 and adding them together with modifiers. It's used whenever something happens that might affect the morale of a unit.

Units in the game are rated on four categories, plus they may have one or more special Capabilities. The four categories comprise the overall Troop Type and consist of Type, Armour, Quality, and Training. Type is divided into two basic categories: Foot and Mounted, which are then further subdivided into more specific types such as "heavy foot" or "knights". Armour has four possible ratings from "heavily armoured" to "unprotected". Quality also has four possible ratings from "elite" to "poor". Training only has two ratings "drilled" and "undrilled".

Capabilities refer to special factors that influence combat, and mainly stem from the type of weapons that the units use. Some examples are "longbow," "offensive spearmen," and "lancers".

The game uses these factors to determine modifiers to CMT and Cohesion Tests, movement rates, POAs, shooting ranges, number of dice used in combat, and whether a CMT is required in the first place.

Commanders are rated on a single category that determines their command range. Having a commander in range can add a positive modifier to some tests. Commanders can also form multiple battle groups into a single battle line, can rally troops that have failed cohesion tests, and can fight in the front line when necessary to gain an edge in a key fight, although this last ability can lead to the loss of your commander.

There are a few more details I haven't gone into, but this should give a general idea of how the game works.

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