Well I could just list what’s in the book, but you know I won’t do that. Instead, before I get to the details of each individual army, I’d like to talk a bit about the overall philosophy I adopted for choosing the forces to go into this project.
Firstly, this is a commercial project. It’s Foundry’s game, so needs to help support their rather large range of fantasy figures. Some of these figures have been around for many years – fantasy is nothing new for Foundry. Other armies had been sculpted but were not released when I started to write this. All of these existing races had to be included. However, the brief allowed me a great deal of freedom to leave models out if they weren’t needed, or add things in (that could be sculpted and added to the ranges) if they would be characterful and fun. In addition I had to come up with at least one entirely new army that they would sculpt to my specifications. How cool is that?
The challenge here was that they wanted 10 armies in the book. That’s quite a lot.
On top of Foundry’s brief, I added some notions of my own.
- Every army would have to look and play differently. Obviously with this many forces there would be similarities (there aren’t 10 radically different tactical styles to pick from).
- Story was going to be important. In the end there are something like 20-25,000 words of background in the book, mostly in the army list sections. The histories of the various forces are interwoven and to get the whole picture you have to read them all.
- I wanted to bring together other elements to add depth of character to each army, not just a colour scheme. Each army worships its own gods so gets its own set of miracles to call on. They all come from different places so they all have their own terrain tables. You get the idea.
- Character is achieved by cool miniatures as well as text, so I built in as many opportunities for fun little projects as I could. Each army gets a camp and a baggage train for free, so there’s no excuse. These are great opportunities to show your army’s character. They are occupied by camp followers and sutlers who are also good for character and offer a chance to use those cool non-combatabt models which Foundry do so well. Every unit has a leader model who is critical for the game rules. He also dies last. This means that he is well worth the effort to model and paint distinctively as you know he’s important and will be on the table for ages.
- For the armies, I wanted a range of different races from the familiar to the unheard of. Even in the familiar armies I would add a little spin so that things were a bit more interesting.
Types of Troops
God of Battles includes formed and loose troops of a wide variety of types. Perhaps the single most unusual facet of this overall mix is the rarity of cavalry. Several armies have none. There wasn’t really one reason why I did this, though it is a nice point of difference. It’s also worth considering that things are always more scary if they aren’t familiar, and the rare cavalry units, especially the heavies, are fearsome indeed when they do make an appearance. Even light cavalry are worrisome to face, not least because they can do their (historically) favourite trick of running round your flanks and sacking your camp – and that’s worth victory points!
Of course, in terms of rules it doesn’t matter whether you’re foot or cavalry in GoB. There’s no mechanical difference.
So Which Armies Made It?
I’d rather you worked out some of the more obscure links yourself so I won’t describe the background in detail. However, the following should give you enough of an idea to start cogitating on. I’ll use the formal army titles.
- Battle Host of Quithnilian: this is the most formal and old fashioned of the elf armies, under the Emperor Quithnilian IV. Their armies are exceptionally well trained, at least the elves in them are. Most of Quithnilian’s soldiers are actually human vassals, organised in their traditional formations and used as cannon fodder by the elves: “if ten humans die instead of a single elf then the trade is well made”.
- Sea Elves: this is an odd army as it exists partly between dimensions. Like their Imperial cousins, the Sea Elves bring many subjects and allies to war. Unlike their cousins, none of them are human. The Sea Elf Marines and the elite of Shushain’s Chosen are well trained and deadly. Unfortunately they are not plentiful. Armies often include units of Merfolk to bulk them out, and then there’s the Ambassadors of the Deep (one of my favourite units in the game).
- The Godless Horde: in a world where the gods walk the battlefields dispensing blessings and curses, who but a fool would deny their existence? Well, this lot would. The Godless are regarded by most as entirely insane, and that’s about right. Insane, that is, in a particularly nasty and vindictive way. In fairness, it’s not really their fault, but that is little solace to their many victims. This is an elite army with the most expensive units in the game. They’re worth it. Godless armies will usually be outnumbered, though they can always bulk out their forces with the deranged remnants of their unspeakable tortures.
- Norse Dwarfs: one of the more “normal” armies is the Norse Dwarfs. Basically, these are short, fat Vikings (with crossbows). They have no steam or gunpowder technology, and a grand total of zero war engines. However, they can sometimes persuade fire drakes to accompany the army. Oh, and the sky god they worship gives them one of the nastiest miracles in the game: Skies Fall.
- Orc Warlords: professional brigands and bullies, as you’d expect. This includes goblins, orclings, wolf riders and lanky trolls. The army is surprisingly flexible with a wide variety of options available, though units of War Orcs are always a good standby. Goblins don’t turn up in massive units. Instead they are in relatively normal sized units – you can just have loads of them. I like this as a way to model the force gradually running off rather than a huge number either being OK or leaving a huge gap – it’s less binary. I envisage goblins as having a vast spectrum of abilities and bravery so having large tides of them moving at once feels wrong.
- Mercenaries: this army is centred around the “Free” Cities – free, that is, from the meddling of the Elves. Their lands have been encroached upon by Quithnilian’s armies, and so they have turned to professional soldiering to both defend themselves and earn a crust. Foundry have long had orcs, dwarfs, ogres and humans all dressed in the same Renaissance finery of slashed doublets and be-ribboned hose, and this army is designed to include them all. In the background, this finery has become the symbol of the resistance to Elf dominion, contrasting as it does with the practical and rather dour equipment of Quithnilian’s vassal troops. The army has loads of choices and though the core is often humans it doesn’t have to be. This army is also the only one with black powder weapons as it is an invention of the Free Cities. There’s a reason why the Elves don’t want to use it.
- Blood Gorged: these are beastmen. They live in the forest and over their short lives strive mainly to reach that pitch of perfect battle which forces a physical change from youngling to brute. They have little patience for subtlety and are a scary army to fight against. The Blood Gorged ability lets them save trophies from early kills to trade in for extra attacks later in the battle. If there’s anyone left to attack.
- Lords of Undeath: a boney undead army. There are (shock, horror!) no zombies here, nor vampires. Instead there are a variety of grades of desiccated or picked-clean dead, resurrected with more or less care and skill. The trick to remember is that it takes more effort to raise someone with their memories and skill intact. You can’t train the undead, so if you want decent fighters you’ve got to find dead ones and carefully raise them up. Of course, any fool can raise the dregs if all you want is a big horde…
- The Thousand Tribes: the Southlands are, predictably, far to the south. Here the sun shines and men dress like Conan. And why not? Actually it’s somewhat more African than that, but let’s not split hairs. Like the Mercenary army this offers a huge choice of tribes to fight with. Not quite a thousand, but a lot. This includes the second most expensive cavalry unit – Bison riders. In fact they have an unusual number of mounted options including pygmies on terror birds who are rather fun.
- T’lekkan Empires: the most bizarre looking of the armies is perhaps the T’lekkan. These insect warriors are literally bred for battle and have various troop types who are designed for specific tasks. They can take their Queen to the battlefield to inspire the army, but it is a risk. Luckily they can also take the behemoth to protect her. As you might imagine, he is quite big.