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Author Topic: Brink of Battle: Epic Heroes, Skirmish Gaming in the Realms of Fantasy  (Read 7064 times)

Offline roguepokemon

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Brink of Battle: Skirmish Gaming Through the Ages, and its expanded fantasy supplement Epic Heroes: Skirmish Gaming in the Realms of Fantasy, is the best miniatures war-game I have played; it's something fantastic. The ground-up method of creating any sort of warrior you want by buying it stats and traits gives the game an absolutely unparalleled depth of creation, allowing you to make anything you want, in any time period. I use it for nearly every kind of skirmish gaming I do these days, save for space fleet combat, (but its creator, Robert Faust, has winked at me the few times I have asked after that supplement, so I'm holding my breath). The rules are deep, though not overly complex and certainly free of reference tables, and the sheer magnitude of what you can play with them will keep the Brink of Battle book on your shelf for years to come.

   My review of Brink of Battle: Skirmish Gaming Through the Ages, and Epic Heroes: Skirmish Gaming in the Realms of Fantasy, should be qualified with a little information about myself and my involvement in these books and gameplay. I've been playing miniatures combat games since 2nd Edition Warhammer 40k, before it was slain by a radical change in rules structure in 3rd Edition. The changes were, in this reviewer's opinion, such an embarrassment to Games Workshop and to its customers that we've seen a new edition hit shelves every 3-4 years for the past decade and a half in a vain attempt to fix what was ruined in 3rd edition, and what failed to change much in newer editions from the first abortive dumbing down in 1998. That was pretty inflammatory, I know. I have strong feelings about a game system that abruptly ended such gems as Necromunda, Gorka Morka and the other unnamed games that Rick Priestly and Andy Chambers hinted at in the latter book's editorial note, (another feature Games Workshop did away with, to stomp out community connection to the creation of the game. Notice that artists names and credits to specific painters are no longer published in GW books.). All that being said, I come from a time when gaming rules were deeper, more comprehensive, and honestly, not geared to gouge your pocket to field an army of any worth, (yes, I'm talking about 55 dollar box sets of specialty miniatures that are 70 points in a 1500 point army list).

   I was fortunate enough to befriend Robert Faust, (Brink of Battle's designer), and Andrew Davies, (co-designer of Epic Heroes), a while back now, and participate in play-testing and even some miniature painting of the Epic Heroes book. I was hooked on their dedication and passion immediately. Bob has sat down with me on a number of occasions and divulged his reasons for his own game and its mechanics, where he came from in terms of his gaming history (see above; it is similar to my own), and the philosophy behind his game and its scale. It is all laid out very well in an editorial in both Brink of Battle and Epic Heroes for you to read on your own. Suffice it to say he has spent years developing a game which was nominated for the Origins Awards best historical war-game of 2013, and which delivers a game by gamers for gamers that will stand the test of historical gaming scrutiny and play out any scenario in history you can think of—to your own specifications, using any miniatures you want, and which you might already own! Brink of Battle brings back the feel and excitement of those first years of gaming—before a time when new editions of rules invalidated years of painting, modeling and rules comprehension.

   Its first draw for me: I essentially already own everything I need for the game save for the very affordable rulebook. I found myself pulling out an old sprue of Games Workshop's High Elf spearmen, dusting off my old half painted Dwarves and painting a whole war-band of Reaper's Bones figures for play! Brink of Battle is skirmish level gaming geared to use somewhere between 3 and 20 miniatures, with 7-12 being a good median range of figures you'll be setting down.  No more painting 30 Ork Boys for a week or more to take them off the table by the handful. In fact, no more nameless hordes at all. Brink of Battle isn't about masses of nameless troops; it's about a small cadre of soldiers with names, with unique gear, and with a personality born of their special design and team makeup. That's the second draw for me—the story of your combat force. Suddenly my 10 Ork Boys have a personality. I find myself poring over the fluff in Gorka Morka again to get a sense of what Orks are like in a day to day routine between their cosmically huge battles; what drives them to do what they do, (which is fight mostly), and why they would be on the battlefield of Brink of Battle at all.
   
   And here's reason three I am wooed by Brink of Battle; I am using troopers that I create in totality. There are no pre-designed rules for Orks from Warhammer 40k in Brink of Battle, as there are no predesigned rules for a cowboy, a fallschirmjager or an elf. What it and Epic Heroes do provide are rules to grant your small force of combatants each a 3 attribute stat line, (Combat, Command and Constitution), a large selection of weapons, armor and gear from 3 major technological periods (including magical items), and a HUGE amount of Traits—the special abilities that really design your individual troopers with their extra strengths, elite skills and focused tactics.

   Play is conducted on typical war-games terrain, perfectly balanced for 3'x3' or 4'x4' tables. Play during a round shifts back and forth between the two combatants, one miniature at a time, adding a significant level of strategy to simply choosing who will attack in which order. Many actions and abilities available to a model, such as adding defense dice to a roll for having a shield, are subject to still having your action with that model yet unspent. Ten sided dice are used in small quantities, (typically one or two dice), and the game is notable for an opposed roll system. Rather than simply figuring what number a trooper needs a roll to hit or wound based off of his own skills, the skills and armor of his target are also factored into the rolling as his opponent rolls against him. This allows a trooper of even mediocre skill to occasionally land a killing blow on the most elite of troops, while maintaining the strength of higher stats and killer Traits that those elites carry! How often have I rolled a ten, added it to my abysmal ranged combat modifier and dropped an arrow right through the chest of a friend's elite miniature after he rolled a 1 in response! The chances were slim, but they were there!

   The overall feel of play is total immersion. You don't have down time where you sit and watch the opponent play and roll and take your figures off of the board, you participate constantly. You have to remain aware of the battle as your troops are called on one by one to add to the swirling melee on the battlefield. In fact, you can't sit down much at all! Those familiar with Necromunda and Mordheim will understand the rules for game-ending route checks in Brink of Battle from having taken similar tests in those games. And like those games, Brink of Battle has a campaign aspect in which your troops can gain further stats, gear and Traits beyond what they began with as they slug it out with their most hated adversaries—should they be Zulus, Spartans, Mind Flayers or Techno-priests.

   Epic Heroes itself is the new supplement for Brink of Battle, and it brings not only high fantasy to the original historical gaming system, but also more modern action elements, including traits that let you reenact the struggles of Archeological Adventurers in the steamy jungles of pulp era Congo, dueling Grammaton Clerics in a dystopian near-future, and Cultists of the Elder Gods routed from Old West towns by Law Dog marshals and the town gambler! A huge amount of traits exist to craft any number of non-human races and their hallmark attributes, including traits like Stout, Construct, Insectoid, Aquan, Diabolic, Undead and many many more. Add to that magic, (a very powerful albeit expensive addition to the rules), and the fantastic weapons such games would allow to be wielded, and you get a fantastic and endless world of possibilities in which to wage eternal war!

   I find it hard to get excited about new skirmish games now, as Brink of Battle allows me to play any of them—with the figures those other games provide or otherwise—using a rock solid rules system. I'm a painter first, and now a whole new opportunity has been opened to me and others like me to explore those old coffers of forgotten, unpainted, and unbuilt miniatures. I cruise sites online, drooling over the possibilities of using beautiful figures from lines like Wargods of Aegyptus, Infinity and even the new line of Warhammer 40k Orks. All the wonder has been returned to the tabletop. All the hours painting rewarded. I've made good friends and had good times thanks to Brink of Battle, and as long as that book is on your shelf, I'm sure the same will hold true for you. Pick it up, play a few games, and then play more. Show your friends, and theirs. Someday you will look back and know you were here during the beginning of something fantastic.


Chris Wolfe
roguepokemon@gmail.com

Check out Brink of Battle at http://www.brinkofbattle.com/
« Last Edit: October 29, 2014, 04:27:09 AM by roguepokemon »
\"How much more grievous are the consequences of anger than the causes of it.\"
                                                                                          - Marcus Aurelius

Offline PatrickWR

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  • Posts: 318
  • Fully Painted Since 2010
    • Comrade's Wargames
Re: Brink of Battle: Skirmish Gaming Through the Ages Review
« Reply #1 on: October 29, 2014, 03:54:12 AM »
Great review, thanks for posting.
My thread: <a href="leadadventureforum.com/index.php?topic=52011.0">Fantasy Skirmish Warbands[/url]

My blog: Comrade's Wargames - painting and gaming in Oregon's Willamette Valley

Offline Gallahad

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  • Posts: 289
Re: Brink of Battle: Epic Heroes, Skirmish Gaming in the Realms of Fantasy
« Reply #2 on: October 29, 2014, 08:38:19 PM »
Roguepokem,  thanks for the review.  I've been very tempted to cough up the dough and buy and print the Brink of Battle and Epic Heroes supplement, but I still have a few questions.

How balanced have you found games in terms of the variety of viable warbands?  One of my complaints about SOBH is that swarm type warbands with lots of low quality troops aren't very viable in competitive games.

Do you have any thoughts about morale in the game and what triggers checks?

Thanks for your time.

Offline roguepokemon

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Re: Brink of Battle: Epic Heroes, Skirmish Gaming in the Realms of Fantasy
« Reply #3 on: October 29, 2014, 10:44:54 PM »
Neat question. Lots to say!

Players are allotted Action Tokens by the math of the commander's CMD (command) rating (typically 5-7 if you're wise) plus 3 if you got the initiative roll for the turn. (Don't worry about  the disparity of actions to be allotted between the winner and loser, you can only ever have initiative, or "The Edge", for two turns running, and the player who doesn't have it has The Break, which allows him to interrupt any but the first action the player with The Edge declares).  With a leadership of 7, and The Edge, a force can allot up to 10 Action tokens to its miniatures, though never more than 1 per miniature to begin with, the excess are lost. The player who lost initiative, or who has The Break, has just his Leader's CMD worth of tokens to allot his force.

In this way, yes, 7 miniatures is a sweet spot, and ten is good when you have The Edge, but leaves folks without Activation tokens when you don't. At the most basic level, this initiative mechanic curbs higher body-count forces, who, given a few well placed Traits in ranged combat, could very well riddle a smaller force with bullets if left to shoot at full force every turn.

There is a trait that any Horde commander would take (yes Horde is one of the game's force organizations) that allots an additional 3 Action Tokens per turn, so forces of 10 become very viable, but this is at the cost of one of the Commander's precious Trait slots. Also, as I learned the hard way, and this is crucial: When you go beyond 7 to 10 models, the points you can spend on them diminishes, and the disparity between your stats and enemy stats starts to become profound. I ran, out of pure fun, a 17 model ratman force versus perhaps 8 heavily armoured Samurai. Not only was I leaving behind between 4 to 7 rats a turn to twiddle their thumbs, but the ratmen who WERE in combat were so diluted in stats and Traits that they literally killed themselves over and over on the charges into the Samurai.

Now, that's not to say that a Horde couldn't work. I believe if you learn from your mistakes and play to their abilities next time around, you can get a different result, just as the player who gets mauled by 15 crazed goblins can change his tactics the next game around.

In conclusion to all this, I'll say that I love playing 7-9 models. I like having characters that can tank three lesser miniatures and I like having vermin to throw out ahead to draw fire. Don't forget the Meta of choosing a force based on the loot and experience handed out between fights if you're playing a campaign, and the Meta of how many models you must lose to start making route checks. I have literally lost a game on the first turn when my 4 man force lost their leader to a well placed Colt .45 bullet to his sombrero, leaving the team down 25% it's starting forces with a straight D10 roll vs a D10+1.

Keep asking questions, I can talk about BoB all day.

Offline roguepokemon

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Re: Brink of Battle: Epic Heroes, Skirmish Gaming in the Realms of Fantasy
« Reply #4 on: October 29, 2014, 10:49:02 PM »
Oh, silly me, you were asking if Hordes were viable, not asking if they were overpowered. In short, no, the pay out of every 1-2 turns giving you extra Action Tokens, the liberal use of staying Hidden with Ambush until you can bring weight of numbers on an enemy, and the ease with which a smaller unit must begin making route checks all balance this.

It's all about Traits. 17 Ratmen without Traits is death. 14 Ratmen all with a maxed out CBT (combat) skill? Killer.

Offline Hatamoto

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Re: Brink of Battle: Epic Heroes, Skirmish Gaming in the Realms of Fantasy
« Reply #5 on: October 30, 2014, 07:22:52 PM »
This sounds like a good thing to spend some time and money on ... are there any battle reports out there? And are there any "pre-made" stats for existing figures? Say i want to quickly use AT-43 UNA soldiers in a battle group against some Karmans (just an example)
« Last Edit: October 30, 2014, 07:25:00 PM by Hatamoto »

Offline Gallahad

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Re: Brink of Battle: Epic Heroes, Skirmish Gaming in the Realms of Fantasy
« Reply #6 on: October 30, 2014, 09:56:34 PM »
I would also like to know how effective archery is.  Another problem with SOBH is that archers are either near worthless (individuals) or can become dominating in large numbers.

Also, are there trait combinations that are overpowered?  As in you arrive at a game, look at the traits the other guy has stacked up and realize "Uh oh, I'm sunk.  I can't handle that with my current list."

@Hatamoto, Epic Heroes is really more of a fantasy supplement than sci-fi (although sci-fi is in the works from what I understand), and my understanding is that there really aren't any "ready made" lists, so you would have to stat all of them up to play.  The lack of pre-made lists is a bit of a sticking point for me, as I'm not sure I want to take the time to stat up everything I want to play with.  I prefer the "look through premade fantasy trope lists to find something whose stats look appropriate and then modify as needed" approach.

Offline eilif

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    • Chicago Skirmish Wargames
Re: Brink of Battle: Epic Heroes, Skirmish Gaming in the Realms of Fantasy
« Reply #7 on: October 30, 2014, 09:59:25 PM »
The lack of lists is a downside to me as well. Is there a forum where folks are sharing lists or plans for there to be PDF's of premade lists available from the publisher?

I like modifying my own lists, but having a basis to work from is always a good selling point for me when dealing with generic rulesets.
Chicago Skirmish Wargames:
http://games.groups.yahoo.com/group/chicagoskirmish/
Chicago Skirmish Wargmes, Club Blog:
http://chicagoskirmish.blogspot.com/

Offline roguepokemon

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Re: Brink of Battle: Epic Heroes, Skirmish Gaming in the Realms of Fantasy
« Reply #8 on: October 31, 2014, 01:17:56 AM »
As for the lack of lists, as it turns out, there are actually 13 prebuilt lists in the Epic Heroes Fantasy book, with more to come as a small PDF download after the 1st of the new-year. These lists exist in part because of folks like you guys from THIS forum who suggested them. They are a great way to break into the Fantasy genre of Brink of Battle and get a taste of many of the coolest aspects of the game, including ranged and close combat, diabolic and "outsider" type forces, a full troop of centaurs, a cavalry force and even some Ascendant angel types. These lists provide ready to play examples of forces that will get you quickly into the game.

Like I said before, there are no Spartan stats, or Zulu stats. But I see the modularity of BoB's game system as something akin to Magic the Gathering. Imagine the new player having never touched the cards. You wouldn't hand them 10 boosters and say "Make a deck", you'd hand them a pre-constructed Intro Pack and let them play a few games. After a while they might say "I like this deck, but my favourite part are the big hitters, the green monsters... I'm going to drop a few of these convoluted blue sorcery spells for more muscle" and then proceed to change up your deck. That's how the pre built lists work. After a couple of games you realize that your two smallest troopers are ineffectual versus your enemy's mid-range troops. You decide to drop one, add armour to the second and give him a Trait which he didn;t have before.

 I know I may have likened this game to Mordheim, but I want to make it clear that it's the rigid system of set racial stats and traits that makes Mordheim so limited. Everyone has a race or a build that they won't use because it just SUCKS. I can't stand Undead in that game, just not how I like to play. In Brink of Battle, Your undead can be whatever you want. They can be shambling, dry-twig-limbed skeletons who attack in hordes, or you can use the same figures to represent elite crypt guard, endowed with their own intellect and graced with preternatural dexterity.


Galahad, as for bows, I'll say this for ranged combat in general. On a strictly numerical/mathematical level ranged combat is less deadly than hand to hand because hand to hand factors the attacker's Constitution stat into the damage dealt. However, that statement is based off of no one taking Traits. I recently played a game of Feudal Japan combat, and I gave my Yumi (longbow in this case) a couple of Traits that increased my ranged combat stat and could shoot clear across the board without range penalties. I dropped TWO arrows through two well armoured samurai in a row, and without extreme luck on the roll. My bastard friend Jason (the bastard) typically sits back on his edge of the table and drops arrows on my hand-to-hand forces to great effect. And don't get me started on the most dangerous era of all to use ranged combat in, Modern! Cowboys, Prussians, American GI's and agents from The Matrix all have one thing in common in BoB: None of them were armour. Standing in the open is a fantastic way to get a non-armoured person killed by a gun-shot or arrow. In that way, ranged combat is absolutely brutal on lightly to un-armoured foes. Remember too that even if a foe has no Action Token in BoB, and he is attacked, he gets to defend himself, and that includes a build in "attack of opportunity" type hit if the attacker flubs his roll enough. Ranged combat keeps you safe and sound. I do tend to build forces of about 1/3rd ranged, unless I'm rocking my Elves, then it's 6 VERY mean pointies with bows that pop opponents like over-ripe watermelons...



Offline roguepokemon

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Re: Brink of Battle: Epic Heroes, Skirmish Gaming in the Realms of Fantasy
« Reply #9 on: October 31, 2014, 01:30:33 AM »
Oh, Hatamoto, your AT 43 figs are a great way to start. For around 500 points (a small, starting game) you could probably kit up a group of 6-7 troops, one would be your leader, two veterans of pretty good skill, and 4 average troops who you'd want to give a single Trait that really focused them for some purpose (say increased ranged combat skill, or all able to air-drop in, or heck, all able to shrug off panic checks when one of their buddies die, because life is cheap, right?

The best way to build a force is to choose a force size, like the 500 points I suggested, then understanding that in a standard force organization, you Leader can be up to 20% of that, your 0-3 elites 30%, and your 4+ troops at least 50%. With that, I'd give my leaderhis three stats and see where you are, 60+ if he's tough and savvy, leaving me with 40 points to use on Traits and gear. You'll see that a game that uses armour as standard for most troops will be a bit expensive, so already 500 seems pretty small for AT43, but you could give him light armour and a couple of decent traits and move onto your elites, who can be allotted 150 points, and then to your troopers.

I played BoB with my Dust Tactics miniatures. That was a lot of fun, because I got to give some of the Axis models the Undead Trait, and my Axis Gorillas (read Karmans) an Inborn racial trait that pretty much made them frenzied death-apes. And since I made both forces for my friend to try out the rules, his Americans included a leader in a powered armour suit (which I handled with Heavy Armour and the Brute Trait).

As for battle reports, I have casually reported a few encounters on the Brink of Battle facebook page. I suggest going there and gettng to know Robert and seeing about a detailed battle report, round by round. It's also the very first page where news goes, and I like to keep up with the game and my friend. Also, he's LOVES answering questions about the game, frequently. ;)
« Last Edit: October 31, 2014, 01:36:42 AM by roguepokemon »

Offline Faust23

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    • Strategic Elite: Skirmish Wargames for the Discerning Strategist
Re: Brink of Battle: Epic Heroes, Skirmish Gaming in the Realms of Fantasy
« Reply #10 on: November 03, 2014, 02:14:35 AM »
Author of the Origins Award 2013 Nominated Brink of Battle: Skirmish Gaming through the Ages; Epic Heroes: Skirmish Gaming in the Realms of Fantasy; and Scrappers: Post-Apocalyptic Skirmish Wargames published by Osprey Games

Offline DeafNala

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Re: Brink of Battle: Epic Heroes, Skirmish Gaming in the Realms of Fantasy
« Reply #11 on: November 03, 2014, 01:37:56 PM »
OOH! COOL Old Ral Partha Fantasy Dudes! You've done a SPLENDID job on some VERY OLD friends. VERY WELL DONE!
I'd NEVER join a club that would have me as a member.  G.Marx

Offline Hatamoto

  • Assistant
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Re: Brink of Battle: Epic Heroes, Skirmish Gaming in the Realms of Fantasy
« Reply #12 on: November 03, 2014, 06:27:25 PM »
I was thinking of getting some old Confrontation kelt barbarians and have them worship a "god" (in their view), in the form of an Ilyad games Chaosmorph lord ... this would be fun as hell to stat up myself i imagine. Just got the base rulebook cheap on ebay, any idea if the fantasy expansion will be available as a physical copy as well?

Offline sundayhero

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Re: Brink of Battle: Epic Heroes, Skirmish Gaming in the Realms of Fantasy
« Reply #13 on: November 03, 2014, 07:20:26 PM »
WOW

I've got several of these minis ! Your painting is very inspiring ! Could you take detailed pics of the 2 minis on each end (left and right) ? I don't know these ones !

Thank you

Offline Faust23

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Re: Brink of Battle: Epic Heroes, Skirmish Gaming in the Realms of Fantasy
« Reply #14 on: November 04, 2014, 05:37:25 AM »
Thanks to all for the kind words.  Here's a link to our first Plug n Play pregenerated Force Rosters RoguePokemon was mentioning: 



The beauty of the game is its flexibility. Using whatever miniatures you want either on square/rectangular or round bases is one of the core premises of the design.

With all of the great miniatures out there from both past and present, I'm always excited to see what someone has come up with for their BoB or Epic Heroes games.  :D

 

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