I've played a handful of tabletop wargames in my relatively brief time engaging with this side of the hobby, but I haven’t kept around with any single one for extended periods of time. Be it because of faltering communities, lack of time, companies going under or just the game not having that 'it' to keep me interested for the long run, I ended up moving to the next one, and then the next one. And then the next one.
I admit, I do have a pretty short attention span. Sometimes I spend a good amount of time getting excited about a game and end up not even playing it before switching my enthusiasm over to the next 'hotness'. Kickstarter takes a big part of the blame for that, but it’s a minor compulsion, I can control it if I want to. Really, I’m quite fine. Especially after that last intervention.
Speaking of Kickstarter, this is where I first learned of Firelock Games and their debut, high-seas wargame, Blood & Plunder. Twice I tried to nurture a local community that would allow me to follow the game, and twice I failed… BUT NO MORE!
Truthfully, I’m still not getting into B&P, but I’ve got the next best thing, and one that’s even more up my alley.
If you've been with us a while, you know I like my wars and my wargames (in case the logo still isn’t a giant tip-off), and I tend to prefer renditions of the two real-life, worldwide endeavors over most other conflicts. Unfortunately, getting into Bolt Action was about as successful for me as Mad Mike Hughes’ last ever rocket launch, and Flames of War’s scale is not my thing (and not in my painting skill bracket), so I only skirted with the idea until now.
Enter: Firelock Games’ Blood & Valor which does several things well and comes at an interesting time in both history and wargaming, as I’ll expand below.
Designed by Rufus & Kai Devane, B&V is a skirmish wargame that uses a variant of the same competent and thematic Fatigue system that its older, piratical cousin popularised. This sees units slowly but surely getting more and more shell shocked as they take casualties and eventually risk losing their will to fight, having to flee away from combat. I found this incredibly fitting for any type of armed conflict when it initially came up, and was very glad to see it take on a WWI veneer.
The game handles a few dozen 28mm miniatures a side (set up in squads of one to twelve, depending on their type - command, MG, sniper, trench raiders...) and focuses on manoeuvres and tactical thinking. I prefer this format in lieu of fielding more numerous forces and chucking bucketfuls of dice, hoping some of them end up hitting by the time you’re done rolling and rerolling and then rerolling some more. Hopefully sometime before Christmas.
The main mechanisms are d10 based as opposed to more commonly used d6s or all-too-expensive, system-proprietary specialty dice with weird squiggles on them (read: bullshit). This allows for a greater spread of basic squad skill that doesn’t need the literal kitchen sink of extra rules to differentiate between units... as opposed to other games I might mention while hoping I don’t get a copyright strike.
Further, it deals with the Great War, a slightly less explored part of history. This is true for both life as well as wargames, with this being one of the few dedicated rule sets that cover said war in this particular scale, for instance.
The rules dropped pretty much one hundred years after the War ended, and I feel like this particular time stamp has refocused our attention on that conflict following what seems like decades of rehashed WWII spotlights and stories.
Not that there’s anything less heroic or admirable about the soldiers who fought through the second great conflagration, but the ratio of ww2/ww1 documentaries out there are heavily skewed in favour of the former, and there's A LOT to learn and be amazed at with the latter.
As an aside, lately I've been checking out many of the Western Front Association YT channel lectures and talks.
The combination of a fortuitous publishing schedule (there's more content coming…), a neat, logical basic rules system, and a set of affordable main rules with no absolute requirement for buying licensed miniatures means the game has the best of all worlds: it resonates with a wide audience, it’s easy to get into, and allows for a great degree of freedom in terms of game material - be it miniatures or other paraphernalia.
Take what I’ve been working on over the past few weeks alongside my cousin, for instance:
What you’re looking at is significantly more than the base minimum required to play a decent game of BV, including some proxies that we decided to use to beef up our initial troop count just a bit.
No, of course there are no fantasy/dystopian miniatures there, and we’d appreciate it if you only reported the news as we deem them appropriate to those back home, cheers!
Should you lack any sort of WW1 miniatures, you can pretty much get away with only getting the rulebook, a tape measure, two starter boxed sets (one a side), and a couple sheets of printed counters to start off. All in all, that adds up to around $170, which split neatly in twain means you’ve got around $85 as an initial, bare minimum investment. Not bad for this day and age.
Mind you, this takes into account you’re getting the pdf rulebook for $18 (and having it bound) and using plain, printed tokens (supplied in the rulebook) and your own dice instead of the official sets provided by Firelock Games or, if you’re a filthy East European like me, GamingFigures.
While having your fatigue modifiers showing plainly on dice and chucking about laser etched tokens is always a blast, we are (and will be) dealing with a down economy, so making do is the word of the day. Same goes for the miniatures: you can use whatever you have or buy third party, there is no absolute need for the proprietary Phalanx Consortium miniatures as long as everything is based around the same guidelines and makes sense for all involved.
But it’s safe to say that BV can be enjoyed to a great degree with very meager means, and I’ll be expanding upon that in future spotlights, beginning with the tokens, crafted terrain, and my half assed attempts at getting the miniatures table-ready…
I’ll leave you with this short take on the “official” minis themselves: we opted to go Germans/French for the starter sets. My cousin, Alex, went for the Huns and myself opted for the hairy baguettes. To this end, Alex chose the plastic Wargames Atlantic German Infantry coupled with a Maxim MG Crew for sheer bang for his buck, and I grabbed a metal Phalanx Consortium French Army Starter.
Now that we’ve received our stuff (in a very timely fashion might I add, with the package having spent as much time with the local PO as it did traveling from the UK all the way to Romania, fucksake...) I can say we’re both very happy with the quality of the products… with a caveat on my side of the issue.
Almost all of the French rifles and bayonettes were bent around in such a way that it looked like I would never be able to straighten them… I was so shocked by the state of them that I forgot to even take ‘before’ pictures, so I can only share the end results.
Thankfully, everything came out fairly straight, not without taking years off my life in terms of having to manhandle nigh on each rifle and blade. These things are way sturdier than they look, or than I’ve been accustomed to similar, thinner metal bits, so all’s well on that front. Just be patient and slowly pull and twist everything back to its intended form and you’ll be fine.
An additional thing that’s worth noting is the way the assembly works, with many of the pieces that have their arms detached and in need of gluing snapping perfectly into place. Hell, if you’re using these for display purposes you can sometimes even get away without using glue on them.
There are still some less than perfect bits here and there, but overall I’m very happy with how things ended up looking. And I’m not exactly skilled enough to work in greenstuff to cover any remaining gaps, anyway. Alex has yet to begin work on his, so pics of that are still upcoming.
I’ll keep whittling away at this stuff and come back with a short spotlight on the tokens and what I’ve done to spiff them up a bit in the next BV piece I’ll put up in the following days.
Thanks for reading, and have as nice a day as you deserve!
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