03 July 2013

Game Review: By This Axe

So I picked up the self-published fantasy / historical rules By This Axe the other day and have read it through a few times. I hope to give it a try tomorrow. I've been looking for a fantasy mass-combat game that didn't cost an arm and a leg and wasn't HOTT. Nothing against HOTT, but I just wasn't taken with it. When I stumbled upon BTA, it fit the bill nicely. I'm going to take off the gloves and say what needs to be said in hopes that it gets back to the author so BTA can be improved and grow.

The most glaring question is "what is a charge?" I've played a lot of WHFB and "charging" is the most important concept in that game. The BTA rules mention charging frequently but do not define it anywhere. I'm left wondering what happened during the proof-read - was the "charge" mechanic dropped during a re-write or has the author simply gone on the assumption that the reader knows what he's talking about. Particularly confusing is the phrasing on page 6, under the effect of the "Diamonds" cards - "All units under charge order must..." I didn't notice any other references to orders, so I'm left wondering if this too was just missed in a proof-read.

The next biggest thing that jumped out was the point value system. There are quite a few Special Abilities listed on page 8, but no points values associated with them. On the next page there is a system for assigning points values to troops, so the ground-work is there - it is just half-finished. I did come up with points values myself, although some may be a bit off.

The magic system is anemic, to say the least. I'll home-brew some better rules for that. As written, there is an offensive "blast" and a defensive "shield" and that's that.

Morale / rallying bothers me as written. More on that after I play-test though. I am curious about what happens to a routing unit that is contacted by enemy troops.

As I said at the beginning, I like the basic structure, the details need to be picked over with a fine-toothed comb. I suspect that the playtesters all know the author and didn't have simply the written rules to go by.

My quickly compiled list of Special Abilities Points Values
Tough                              2
Regeneration                    4
Thick Hide                       8
Breath/Gaze                     20
Fanatic                             4
Darkvision                        1
Flying                               4
Camouflage                      3
Multiple Attacks               2 X FC
Marksman                        3
Undead                            4
Slow                               -3
Quick                               3
Resistance                        20

My 2 Cents... 


  1. I appreciate the tough, but fair review (and bully for you for homebrewing around the rough edges).

    This kind of feedback is especially useful as I am adding a few pages of clarifications and expanded optional rules to the free skirmish supplement coming out in the next couple weeks.

    Re: magic. The one thing that I consider a feature rather than a bug is the abstracted magic system. Having played with many granulated fantasy systems for minis they all seem to bog down around how to model magic on the battlefield (Battlesystem being a train wreck in this department). After a year of trying on different approaches, I made the decision basically to simplify individual spell effects into abstract functions. Personally it's to my taste, but I can see why others might want more chrome. 

    From the above-mentioned clarifications section based on your remarks:
    When the optional Command and Control rules are not in play a charge is simply a movement into a melee with an opposing unit. The only mechanical distinction is that mounted units gain a +1 to hit and lance-equipped mounted units gain a +2 (which doesn't stack with the previous modifier) to hit on the charging turn.

    When using the C&C rules, a unit that declares a charge by playing a Diamond or Spades card with a charge effect adds an additional d6 worth of inches to their movement  to simulate the added momentum of the charge.

    1. I'm glad you got to read my review. I don't know if you read the next blog post - the battle report - but I did enjoy playing the game and look forward to putting it back on the table. Keep up the good work, you've got a good thing going!