Armies of Arcana - Thanes Games
The popularity of Warhammer probably has less to do with the models associated as the fact that they were the first widely available commercial rules that allow the fantasy gamer to engage in larger scale battles in the same way as the historical gamer. That said, the process is still slow and the size of battles fought using Warhammer still tend to be, for practical purposes, rather small.
Armies of Arcana takes the idea of fantasy battles beyond the large scale skirmish to full scale army actions. I must admit that when John passed these rules to me for review I was prepared to be remarkably unimpressed, as I have been by a series of other such publications. I was surprised then when i found myself really enjoying these rules, and that I was able to use them to fight a large scale battle, quickly, sensibly and to a clear conclusion in a Saturday evening.
The rules include army lists which give details of all the major fantasy type forces that you may be familiar with, and obviously some thought has gone in to this. Not only are there the Beastmen forces, Saurians and Ratmen, familiar to Warhammer players, but you could also raise Roman style armies as in the Lost Legion tales from Harry Turtledove, or maybe a 1001 Nights style army, or a barbarian horde are more to your taste, all can be accommodated. Although these lists are not fully comprehensive, they are varied enough to provide the beginner with all the guidance they need, and a not just a few tips for the more experienced gamer.
The fighting rules are easy enough to follow, and are clearly illustrated in the text and decisions are moderated by the throw of a 6 sided dice. There is nothing particularly innovative in these tactical rules, but they do flow and are easy to pick up. The key to a successful set of fantasy rules though does not lie in the straightforward tactical simulations but in how these integrate the more unusual aspects such as the characteristics of Heroes, and of course the impact of magic and magicians.
Daya again, maybe a self portrait!
Magic has to been very powerful, without being all powerful. There is little point in having a really well balance, drilled and equipped army, if the rules allow them to be blown to dust by the whim of some Chaos inspired sorcerer as some rule allow. Armies of Arcana seems to get the balance right. There are a limited number of spells available which fall into the area of the four alchemic elements, chaos, death and nature. The spells have a positve or negative effect to the combat capabilities of tactical units, and so are not of themselves battle winners, but may have a decisive influence on the final result.
Warrior from Vendal
All in all a really good set of rules that I found easy to use, and enjoyable to play. I would certainly recommend them to anyone who wants to fight larger scale fantasy battles, though you may have to convert a few dedicated Warhammer fans. The format is an A4 shiny softback of 88 pages including army lists. for full details visit www.thanesgames.com
D. Carr 1/11/02
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