Arcane Legions – An Early Look
One of the perks of writing for this blog is that I can say that I write for a blog. One of the perks of knowing the folks behind Myriad Games is that I get to preview quite a few games these days, some good, some bad, and some SUPER SECRET. During their excursion to Origins this year, one of the many things they took a look at is the upcoming Arcane Legions, a minis wargame from Compound Fun, slated to release this September. They returned with a couple of demo copies and we sat down with it a little while ago to play a demo game.
The game itself is a collectible game, with an emphasis on epic scale combat. Three armies from times long past are in a knockdown drag-out battle. I’m sure there is some actual lore, but I haven’t read it. We just jumped right in. The armies we used were the Romans and the Egyptians. The Han army sat this round out. Our initial reactions to the game were mixed, and setup was a little frustrating, due mostly to the fact that the minis didn’t lock firmly into the provided bases. I’ve heard since playing it that proper production copies are made of sterner stuff and a bit easier to prepare for battle.
The units themselves vary from being partly painted on the more common models, to fully painted with an impressive degree of detail on the less common units, particularly the leaders we had. Setup involves placing the appropriate amount of figures into each unit base, which has a card that slides into it. On the card is all sorts of information, including movement speed and explanations of which sides of the unit are weaker (for example melee units tend to have strong flank and frontal protection, unlike some archer units which are vulnerable head on, but not from the side). In each unit slot, there is also a collection of dice icons. Essentially, your unit strength, in terms of dice, is dictated by what units you have in each slot. So if you have 4 figures left on the base and between them there are 4 red die icons, 3 white die icons, and an arrow on one of them, this means that you can attack with a strength of 4 dice, defend with a strength of 3, and move a single unit base’s length on a move action. During the course of combat you can elect to rearrange your figures for a small cost in order to reform yourself into a more defensive, offensive, or mobile formation. Certain units also have special abilities, and these are explained simply on the card that accompanies each unit.
The game itself plays very fast, and we all agreed that while this game is probably not something an experienced wargamer will run out to pick up, it does have several strengths, one of which being the visibility of information on each base. The actual rules to the game are easily learned, and from then on you just need to refer to the information on each formation itself, which lends itself to very fast and very transparent game.
This is also an excellent game for people who want to experience epic scale wargames, or learn how to play formation based games. The box comes with tools to help you move your characters around, and because everything is measured in base lengths you don’t need to bring anything extra to the table. The cost of it is very low as well, especially for the amount of minis you get. It really is a phenomenal value for the budding wargamer.
Essentially what Arcane Legions boils down to is that it is a fun, fast, and simple war game that is a very affordable way to get a wargaming fix or to introduce friends into the world of hobby gaming. It is tough to beat the value, and once you’ve got the rules down, the game is quite fun. It remains to be seen how well the factions are balanced, though, and if that is a concern I would wait a while until the game has made the rounds. In our game, my Egyptians proved surprisingly resilient due to the leader’s ability to regenerate wounds of his formation or adjacent formations, and the large amount of attack dice against the comparatively low numbers in the Roman army meant that after I made an aggressive play at taking out the heavy hitters, my victory was almost assured as I slowly whittled down the high defense but low attack forces of the Romans, leaving the game very one-sided.
Definitely keep your eye on this one in the future, and if you haven’t tried wargames but would like to, it is almost a no brainer. But be careful. As I have learned, the world of hobby wargaming can eat up tons of your time, and tons of your income.
See you on the battlefield!