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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

En Garde: Review


I have two games I'm now so I feel I can make a few comments by way of a review.  Skirmish games seem to be the rage right now and this game is of that type.  In this game you pit two(or more) swashbuckling era war bands against each other.  The game officially calls it self a renaissance era game but I feel these rules are valid for skirmish games through the at least the American Revolution (you'll have to write some rules for rifles).
 I certainly plan of doing some F&I Skirmishing with them.  The game has four phases Priority (which is a high level initiative). Move Phase where figures move shoot and perform other actions that are not related to hand to hand combat.  Combat Phase were the meat of the game is and an end phase to deal with recovery from being stunned, moral and so forth.  Starting with the player with priority you proceed through the phases each player taking an action for each of his or her figures.  Its I go you go but only one figure goes at a time which comes about as close to simultaneous movement as I can imagine.  The mechanics are very smooth and easy to follow.
Lets talk combat because that were this game really shines.  Each figure has a combat pool a number between 1 and 6.  This determines how many attack/defense counters you get  each player must then decide how to allocate his counter. Attacking requires an attack counter, you attack rolling 2d6 and adding your fight (a number between 1 and 5).  You can enhance you attack by spending another counter to employ a ploy (for example Mighty blow which lets you roll an extra d6 and pick the best two).  You can defend for free but you only get to roll 1d6 and add you fight if you do. You can spend a counter to employ a defensive ploy parry is the most common defensive ploy letting you roll 2d6 for your defense  helping you block an attack.  Combat continues until one figure or the other is killed or both are out of counter. In the case of multiple combats the player with priority get to decide the order in which each will occur but then initiative is determined separately between the two figures(1d6 + their initiative score + any modifier for their weapon).  Its actually simpler than it sounds once you've done it a few time.
Fire arms have not been neglected and they seem to be done fairly well. Pistols can be used both at range and in hand to hand combat.  Muskets, Matchlocks, Blunderbusses, crossbows and bows all have a stats as do some thrown weapons.  Missile fire is deadly and the rules prohibit war bands form having more than 50% of their troops armed with long range missile weapons.  For a game that is supposed to be about hand to hand combat missile fire has dominated our two games.
This was especially true in our first one where I used line formation and volley fire take down isolated opponents (and I was using less accurate matchlocks).  Archers are even more dangerous as they can fire twice in turn (all black powder weapons can fire one every other turn).  Heavy terrain will help mitigate this and so might lowering the number of figures with long range weapons.(We've suggest 25 or 30%).
 The rules are not strictly historical, there are rules for spell casting magicians and other fantastical figures. So its quite possible to do a pirate/horror cross over like Pirates of the Caribbean.  The game might also work well with 17th centenary vampire hunter or similar themed game.  We've talked about "Frost garde" taking the magic of Frostgrave and meshing it with the combat system of En Garde (which places a greater emphasis of the fighting skill of the figure).
The author Craig Woodfield has another rule set under his belt called Ronin and I have never played it but always heard good things.  I'm given to understand that the two rules are broadly compatible meaning some east meets west games are possible.   The book includes a number of sample war bands and rules for building your own from scratch as well as a number of suggestion for further reading and viewing for inspiration.