Mighty Armies Fantasy (v.2) Review

Mighty Armies 2 Review

Mighty Armies 2 is published by Rebel Minis. It’s a unit based game – but the final number and kind of units in your army is completely customizable and up to you. Sound good? It is.

The Rulebook

You get the rulebook for Mighty Armies Fantasy (v.2) from mightyarmies.com as a downloadable PDF. It’s $10 USD, is 43 pages long, and has the following sections:

1 – The Lands of Zatariel – an introduction to the background and races of the rulebook’s fantasy setting. Skip it. If you’re like me, you don’t need yet another fantasy setting for a reason to pit elves vs. orcs. You’ve probably already got the models you want to use too.

2 – Before Play – a kind of clumsily assembled section. It actually contains the rules for “before play”, but also includes core “during play” rules such as initiative, moving, shooting and initiating close combat.

3 – Close Combat – yup.

4 – Magic – a list of 6 spells that can totally undermine your opponent’s strategies. Nice.

5 – Summoning – how to summon units to the field of battle if your army is so inclined.

6 – Victory – winning the game. You win the game when you eliminate half of your opponent’s units in battle, or kill his General with less AP (army points) lost than your opponent.

7 – Building an Army – 2 pages of generic unit tables and upgrades, along with their AP costs.

8 – Larger Battles – Mighty Armies is meant to be played at the 40pt level, which will get you roughly a dozen units to fight with. Larger battles are covered in this section.

9 – Expanding Mighty Armies – buy more Rebel Minis models.

10 – Mighty Missions – there are 6 missions described in Mighty Armies 2. When you fight your opponent, you will be playing against his mission, as well as his army. Because the missions are kept secret, victory points may be quite different when tallied up at the end of the game. Missions are recommended to be 6 turn games.

11 – Mighty Campaigns  – 8 pages on running a campaign!

12 – The Empires – this section is actually an extension of the Campaign section. It describes empires that you might want to play in the campaign along with their accompanying rules – perks, flaws, that sort of thing. These empires mesh nicely with Rebel Minis’ own miniature line.

That’s it! You may be thinking “Hey man – that’s a lot of sections for a 43 page book!” And you’d be right. The unfortunate thing is, not nearly enough of those pages are actually devoted to the rules of fighting. The basic movement, combat, shooting and morale rules are quite brief – and while this is the brilliance of the Mighty Armies system, it is also a source of frustration. After just 1 game, I encountered several battlefield events not covered in the rulebook. Some of these will be shown in my first Mighty Armies battle report. (Coming soon after this review. I’ve already played and photographed it).

Mighty Armies 2 Rules Summary

Players build armies to a recommended 40 AP (Army Points). For the battle I played with Zac, this got me 12 stands of Dwarfs to his 13 stands of Undead. We then set up the recommended playing table – a 2×2’ space – with 2 hills and 2 clumps of trees. Terrain is mutually decided in Mighty Armies 2, and is not strategically placed as in DBA.

Building an army based on points is easy! There’s a chart on page 15 that lists unit costs and stats for whatever you want to buy. There are really only 10 troop types listed:

  • light and heavy infantry
  • light and heavy cavalry
  • archers and crossbowmen
  • chariots
  • artillery
  • monstrous (anything really – could be a giant or a dragon or a sentient boulder)
  • spellcaster
  • army general

The cool thing about buying these units is, they can be upgraded to have one or more of many unit abilities, each costing an additional 1AP. So, if  I bought a Heavy Infantry unit (3AP), I could upgrade it to be both disciplined (+1AP) and fearless (+1AP) for a total of 5AP. It would be a kick-ass unit, but as you’ll find after playing a few battles, numbers mean a lot in this game.

Deployment starts by making a die roll – the lowest roller places his army first. You then deploy your armies within 6” of your side of the battlefield. There are some exceptions to this rule, like the SCOUTS unit upgrade, that allows players to deploy a SCOUT unit anywhere on the table, but at least 8” away from the enemy.

Players roll a die to begin play – highest player goes first. In following turns, initiative is rolled again, and the highest player will go first for that turn. The player’s turn is broken down into 4 parts:
1 – Roll for Movement Points (MP)
2 – Move your units
3 – Shoot
4 – Fight in close combat
Pretty straightforward stuff really, but for people who haven’t played DBA – maybe not!

Rolling for MP is going to determine how many units or groups of units you can move in your turn. You roll a d6 and that is your MP limit.

Units can be moved individually, or in a group of up to 6 units in size. Groups can be no more than 3 units wide and 2 units deep. The units in the rear of a group are said to be ‘supporting’.

For the cost of 1MP, a unit can move up to its speed in inches. Pretty standard hunh? Except – the unit is allowed to turn 90 before it moves, and another 90 afterwards (pivoting around the center). All movement in between these turns has to be in a straight line. In my games this has lead to strange contacts again and again, where you have enough speed to make partial contact with enemy units or groups, but because you pivot around your center, when you try to align, you actually pivot out of contact. That’s movement in a nutshell, but other reform options are allowed as well – but since they all cost 1MP, you’ll never be reforming and moving in the same turn. As you’d expect, moving through terrain other than open doubles the movement cost.

This leaves the player with an interesting conundrum – if I have 4 units (or groups of units) on the board, and I roll a 2 for MP, which units will I move? Should I change formation to receive a charge? Should I try and move into range to shoot? The choices in the movement phase will determine how much risk you’re prepared to take for the turn to come. You can set up a perfect  2:1 charge for next turn, only to be allowed to move 1 unit when the time comes. Yikes! Makes defensive players happy and aggressive players reckless. But it just might pay off.

Shooting is a straightforward affair. Ranged combat for archers and crossbows has a 5” reach. Choose a target within that far of your leading edge, and roll a die. The roll is compared to the fighting value of the target, and if it’s equal to or higher than what’s needed, the target is removed. That’s it! No saving throws, no recoils, just life or death. Shooting can be upgraded to level 2 to make killing enemies at range more lethal. Artillery is quite dangerous, and has a range of 12”.

Close combat is also straightforward, but bloody. Units that are in contact roll a d6 to get the highest score possible. The die is added to the unit’s Fighting Score (eg. 2 for light inf. and 4 for heavy inf.) and may be further modified by charging, difficult ground, flanking, etc. All units can also offer support, by being directly behind a friendly fighting unit. Infantry are really the only units good at this, everyone else is just ok.

Once you’ve added the numbers up and compared them, one of three things can happen:

Equal scores – draw – units stay locked in combat.
Higher score – drive back – lower unit is driven back. Turn the unit 180 and move it its full speed away from the attacker.
Higher score by 2x or more – lower unit is removed from the battle.

Group combats resolve a little differently – group combat totals will equal all the units in the front rank, and all their support plus a d6. A group that loses a combat loses 1 unit (of the loser’s choice) and must be driven back. If a 2x higher score is rolled, the loser will lose d6 units from the group. After a combat has been resolved, players may rearrange their battling groups.

Being victorious in the game means you remove half of your opponents’ units, or you kill his general along with a higher AP of units than you’ve lost yourself. Done!

Magic in Mighty Armies 2 is fairly powerful. While an army can only have 1 spellcaster, in the close combat phase, he can cast as many spells as he has MP, with the proviso that no unit may be attacked/affected more than once. There are 6 spells listed. Spellcasters and their accompanying unit cost 5AP, which is quite expensive considering all their other stats are quite mediocre.

There’s more too! But you can probably guess what’s what from my chapter descriptions above.

Mighty Observations – the Good, the Bad and the Clumsy

Good

A ruleset that plays a lot like DBA, without all the DBA “Destroyed if in a BUA or camp, or by elephants, knights or scythed chariots if in good going, or by Warband not in a BUA or camp, or if shot at. If not, no effect.” crap.

Unit basing. Mighty Armies 2 has a standard basing of 50 x 25mm, or whatever you want to use as long as you’re consistent in being roughly 2:1. Monstrous units and other exceptionals are 50 x 50mm. This means that I could use most of my DBA armies, Warmaster minis or whatever. Going forward though, Rebel Minis will host tournaments using 15mm scale models, and 50 x 25mm basing.

Unit customization. Players can alter units into whatever they want. If you want to play a horde of cheap units or have a specialized, rock-hard, smaller army – you can! Want 9 artillery units and 1 general?! No problem! I can’t find anywhere in the rules that says you can’t. In fact, I can’t find anywhere in the rules that says you can’t have more than 1 general!

Easy learning curve. I could teach a friend to play this game in 5 minutes and being playing inside of 10 if I have the armies already prepared. It really is that easy.

Bad

A ruleset that’s 43 pages, but doesn’t have enough combat examples to solve its own simplified resolutions. What’s up with that? It also doesn’t address partial contacts – you either have full frontal contact or you don’t. There’s no ‘closing the door’ for free in this game, although sliding into perfect alignment is permitted once full frontal contact is made.

Clumsy

A questionably designed rulebook. The “cover” is nice – great colour, lots of menace… But the interior pages are 2 columns surrounded by keylines. Really, designer Ed Wedig? – if that is your real name. I’ve got to ask what program you used to lay this book out in, because it looks like you did it in Word – a complete design failure. This would be ok back in say, 1988, but today it’s kinda amateurish. And it’s a PDF, so why aren’t all my pages in colour? There are black and white photos throughout the rulebook, (most of them kind of murky and not Photoshopped for clarity), but why are they black and white? If I want to print them out I can choose colour or black and white if I want, but not if I don’t have the option!! Good lord.

Some contradictions that could have been cleared up with better proof reading. For instance, on page 18 in the LARGER BATTLES section, while trying to clarify multiple division MPs, it says to complete the close combat of all divisions before moving on with shooting all divisions. But shooting comes before close combat!

Summary

The bottom line is, I like Mighty Armies Fantasy 2. It’s an easy to learn, easy to play miniature ruleset that rewards good army composition, prudent maneuvering and planning. It stands on its own quite well, or can be a gateway game for other mass combat systems. For experienced miniature gamers, Mighty Armies Fantasy 2 is just asking to be house-ruled to suit their personal preferences. It’s a well thought out, if not well illustrated, fun set of rules. And hey – it’s just $10. Give it a go.
– Battlemind

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