The GoB rule book includes 10 full army lists to choose from. In fact, that’s the bulk of the page count.
These lists are a mixture of the familiar and the unusual with some features common to most wargame rules and a few that you might not have seen before.
Overall, choosing an army follows the familiar concept of agreeing on a set number of points for a game with your opponent and then using the army lists as a shopping list to pick what you want up to that value. For God of Battles a small game is 24 points, an average one 36 and a large one 48 or more.
So far we’re on safe ground.
Cloven in Twain*
The first unusual feature comes when you look at the army lists themselves: each is split into two parts. The first part is called the Main Force, and is just that. This part lists units of infantry and cavalry and provides the bulk of the models in an army. It is what makes the army look like an army when you lay it out on the tabletop.
The second part of each army list is called Command & Support. This includes all the bells and whistles that add “chrome” to the army and give it more character as well as offering a lot more to think about during the battle. It has the army’s characters, bodyguard unit, war engines, monsters, and any character or unit enhancements that may be available. Some of the items bought from the C&S section add or modify a unit bought from the Main Force section whilst others are units in their own right.
When you’re choosing an army you get a fixed number of points to spend. In God of Battles, you spend this twice – once on each list. So, a 24 point army really consists of 24 points of Main Force plus 24 points of Command & Support. Note that you cannot swap points between sections – each total is dedicated to a specific part of the list.
I chose this structure for a number of reasons.
- It forces people to build proper looking forces rather than just picking 10 cannons and a wizard, or whatever nonsense the internet tells you is unbeatable this week. It controls the cheese.
- I can play the game with armies that have been chosen from the Main Force alone. This allows for easier training games, quick and dirty games when time is short and so on. The split very simply separates off the core of an army from all the extras, with all the additional choices and rules (and therefore time to play) they entail.
- It helps you to focus when picking a army. The process of building the shape of the army as a whole and the process of adding the fine tuning and the frills are conveniently separated.
- It means that I can have a reasonably balanced way of building an army with no further restrictions (other than occasional things being unique). Again: a simple rule with a lot of useful implications.
I might talk about how the points are arrived at in more detail another time. For now, what I wanted to say about point values is that they are carefully balanced against the overall army sizes. Unless you’re playing a vast game (60+ points) you won’t be able to take everything you want. That is very much part of the plan.
Being able to take everything you want in an army is dull, unchallenging and uninteresting. For me, both the skill and the entertainment of the army building phase (something I greatly enjoy) is based on having to make tough decisions about what to take and what to leave out precisely because you cannot have it all.
It’s also why I am very strict on the points value being a fixed and immutable limit. If you pick a 24 point game and then “let people off” with a couple of points then you’ve just taken away all the challenge and allowed their laziness to win. Don’t let them off, instead show them how to finesse the army. Look harder. Try more options. That way you’ll learn more about both your own decision making as well as the army. In any case, God of Battles plays so quickly that you should be able to get a couple of games in an evening, so why not try out both army builds you were considering?
In order to give you a frame of reference, individual Main Force units vary from 2 to 16 points with most costing 4-6. Units with a cost of 10+ are unusual and tend to have a major impact on the battle, one way or another. You can see from this that most armies will have 4 or 5 units of troops to move about in a 24 point battle – not counting whatever they get off Command & Support.
God of Battles armies are relatively small compared to, say, Warhammer forces. I’ve done this for a couple of reasons.
Firstly, needing to collect vast armies is a massive hurdle to getting new gamers to play, which is a Bad Thing in my book. It’s also a huge barrier to getting armies from the fevered mind of the general and onto the tabletop. I daresay that I’m not the only one who’s had their plans thwarted by the time or expense associated with collecting a vast new force. 24 points is an ideal size battle for a 4×4 table and is a great place to start. Obviously there are a lot of variations between the 10 armies, but 50 models would be a reasonable ball park figure for a 24 point army. My orc army has lots of goblins in it and comes to 57 foot figures and a chariot. If I’d chosen all orc units instead of goblins I could have done it with 24 fewer models.
Secondly, I want some space to manoeuvre. Too many games I see are shoulder to shoulder units across a battlefield with no space to move. All you can do is roll forwards and all semblance of tactics and thought go out the window. Having a lower model count allows some space to move in, and some flanks to protect and exploit. It adds loads more game play and is a real world example of less (units) being more (fun).
Thirdly, I wanted it to be easier to add to an army. Once you’ve built your core 24 point force, you can expand it to 36 or 48 by adding new units, or simply include some extra units so you can try different 24 point builds. By making units relatively small (6-16 models) you can get the fun and excitement of the new tactical challenge a new unit gives you without it costing as much or taking as long to get it on the table.
Fixed Units… Sort Of
One thing that is bound to cause some initial upset is fixed units. When you look at the various units in both sections of the army list you’ll find that they have a fixed number of figures in them. If you take a unit of nymphs there will be 8 of them. I can see people deciding against this as a terrible affront to their choice. Well I’d say give it a try first. I think it’s a really good plan.
To start with, the units aren’t entirely fixed. You’ve got to pick which of the standard bearer, musician or marksman model(s) you want in each. You can add characters to units (in fact you have to), and these characters can have various bits of extra kit and affect the unit in different ways. Most armies include a number of unit enhancements which can be added to units to make them tougher, fightier and so on. Layering several of these choices onto the same unit can make a huge difference, so they’re not quite as immutable as all that.
What you can’t do is faff about with adding a single model here, changing swords for short spears there. That’s all nonsense. You’re a general for crying out loud! You should be worrying about whether you need more cavalry or more elite regiments; whether the priest will be more useful than a really big cannon, and so on. I want to take you back to commanding an army, not piddling about finding a lost farthing in the accounts. A general needs to know whether that unit is city state pike or ogre gunners, not whether Jenkins has tied his laces properly or Hobart is wrapped up warm (his mother did ask). Deal in the big picture, the sweep of the battle, the army as a whole. That’s the general’s job – he has flunkies for the details.
One final quick thought about armies. I want my army to have loads of character and individuality to it. With this in mind, every army also gets a Camp and a Baggage Train for free together with 2 units: one of camp followers and one of sutlers who guard these areas. These are great modelling projects and ideal opportunities to use some of the brilliant models available which look cool and amusing but which have no real place in line of battle. I’m thinking here of things like Foundry’s vignette of goblins torturing a dwarf (by shaving off his beard). Character and fun.
I would also encourage you to collect scenery specifically for your army. When you set up a game in GoB you work out who is attacker and who is defender. The battle is then fought in the defender’s land, using the terrain table for that army (every army has their own) to generate the battlefield. Each terrain table adds more character to a force, and if everyone collects the terrain for their own army (their home turf, if you will) then you always have what’s needed whenever two armies meet 🙂
Only The Start
There’s lots more I could say, but I’ll pause here for the moment. There may be questions or comments. What do you guys think?
* It’s very unlikely I’ll be using this schlock piece of hack fantasy prose seriously, so I thought I’d leave it here, where it can’t do any harm.