Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Lord and Lands - Rules Review

As recent activity on this blog can attest, I've been pretty busying with painting miniatures for and playing games of Kings of War. It's a creative and hobby outlet for a desire I've had for a long time - to play mass fantasy battle games. 

Skirmish and Warband sized games are all well and good, but I've always wanted to fight the epic battles described in fantasy novels, with lines of infantry and cavalry of various fantastic races clashing alongside big monsters. 

Almost a decade ago, I dabbled in Warhammer Fantasy Battles, back when 8th Edition was first released. But even then, Games Workshop's prices and rules weren't very attractive, and so my brief dalliance quickly came to an end. 

Seven years passed before I would try a mass fantasy battle ruleset again, and that was the previous version of Kings of War, in the form of the Battle of the Sta Lat Hills battle report I posted last year. Here, I thought, was a ruleset I could get behind. Fast playing, easy to pick up with apparently plenty of tactics, no individual model removal - everything I could want.

Or so I thought. But after a dozen or so games of the newest version of Kings of War, I seem to be stagnating. It may be because I chose a faction that isn't very fantasy-esque, and so loses in an arms race against the other factions that can field bigger and better units. It may be that I chose to use Games Workshop models for the majority of the army. In my defense, however, they were on sale! But for some reason, I find myself becoming less and less enthusiastic about playing Kings of War, and I'm not about to drop another $200-$300 for a new full sized army. I began to look for potential alternative, like Pendraken's new game, Warband.

And then, about a month ago, I listened to Episode 164 of the Meeples & Miniatures podcast and was introduced to the Lord & Lands ruleset, produced by Craig Armstrong. 


After listening to the episode, I decided to buy the PDF of the Fantasy and Historical versions of the rules directly from Craig for a little less than $12. By the way, if you haven't figured out by now, this is a review of the Fantasy rules.

So, what's in the PDF?

The 60 or so pages are split evenly between the rules and the background for the world of Mikronos, from which Lord and Lands borrows its factions and models. All of these are available from Microworld Games.

I decided to make a physical "gamer's edition" copy of the rules for myself by cutting out the background. Not that you should skip over the fluff, however - Craig has done a great job of fleshing out Mikronos, with histories and conflicts ranging over the various continents.

The factions currently available in the official army list document are:
  • The Army of Rexunus - standard medieval fantasy humans
  • Wildland Alliance -  were-elephants, rhino-men, and simians
  • Dwarves
  • Orcs & Goblins
  • Woodlands - wood elves and their allies
  • Undead
  • Beastkin - the more savage and evil opposite of the Wildland Alliance
  • Vikings - with giants!
  • Dread Elves - evil elves
  • Lizardmen
  • The Firmament Army - molemen and stonemen
  • The Dark Alliance - evil humans
  • Hobgoblins
  • Demons
Fourteen factions to start is a pretty nice, and there's even a points calculation system if you want to try adding in your own races. In addition, the Fantasy and Historical versions are compatible, so if you've ever wanted to see what might happen if Rome was invaded by Orcs instead of Goths, here's your chance. 

So, apart from the factions, what else makes this game intriguing?

First is the use of commands pips (player initiative points). Each player rolls a number of dice depending on the size of their army, adding in one additional die for their General. This determines both initiative for the turn, and how many actions each player can take. 

PIPs can be spent for a number of actions - moving, increasing movement distances, improving combat abilities, casting spells, etc. Since unit activations alternate between players, one has to know when to spend PIPs and when to conserve them for later. You may decide to move your troops all over the table, only to realize that, with no PIPs left, the enemy has the ability to outfight you in every battle.

I find that these kinds of mechanics - those that generate "friction" when commanding troops - are important for mass battle games. In Kings of War, units do exactly want you want them to do, with no chance of messing up or potentially being left behind. 

Another interesting mechanic is the "dips combat system." There's no dice rolling for combat in Lord and Lands! Well, there is if you want it, but what's the fun in that? Instead, players "dip" their hands into a bag full of tokens. You want to have equal amounts of two different colors - one to indicate success, and the other failure. Tokens are replaced after each player's "dip" so there's no chance of diminishing chances. If you want to, the same mechanics can be recreated by rolling dice and counting each result of a 4+ as a success. 

As for potential problems, there are formatting and spelling errors. There are frequent enough that a rewrite might be necessary, but the game is playable from the current rules.

Additionally, a readthrough reveals some odd sections here and there. For example, units can move in groups of up to four bases, but the rules don't cover how units can enter and exit these groups. I assume that units can move out of groups freely, and can join together by having the sides of their bases touch at some point during their movement.

The army lists are a little messy as well, but on a whim I decided to go through them and do a little cleaning for my own usage. 

I'm hoping to get a test game done soon, with some notecard cutouts. In the mean time, why not visit the resource page, or check out Craig's Youtube channel to watch some demonstrations of the game's mechanics.

6 comments:

  1. Are you planning on doing this in 28mm or another scale?

    Gary

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    Replies
    1. When/If I get around to playing, I'll probably go with 6mm.

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    2. Awww. 6mm? And I thought I finally had an excuse to finish painting my 28mm Romans.

      Carl

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    3. It's technically scale agnostic, so toss down some enemies of Rome and you should have a game.

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  2. Thanks for you review Brian. After a few changes suggested by gamers, a few typos corrected, some additional images and a combination of fantasy and historical the book has been re released in a smaller comic book size with a new publisher. I've been able to set my own price for the rules this time so they have been reduced to £10.99 through Lulu.com
    Hope that helps

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for reading. Are the rules only available through Lulu, or is there a pdf version?

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