Soldiers of God (SoG) is a set of rules for the Crusades era written by Warwick Kinrade and published last summer. I came to notice the rules very recently in a Twitter post addressing this review in the Historical Games website.
Frequent readers of this blog know my preference (obsession according to my gaming group's pals) for playing games designed by TooFatLardies and this review left me intrigued. After circulating among my group, we acquired a copy and finally played a game today.
The rules are very nicely printed in 94 half A-4 size pages, with soft cover and contains enough photos and diagrams explaining the different topics covered in the different chapters. The text includes detail explanation of the mechanics and examples of play. The game engine is card-based and the book is sold together with the full deck.
The book is divided in chapters covering the game mechanisms (move and terrain, missiles fire, melees, morale, formations), characteristics of the different unit types, the battle plans, description of the cards, the special events, an example of a battle, a desert terrain generation system, scenario types descriptions, army lists (Saracen and Christian), special rules for siege warfare and a campaign system.
In order to play, your armies are organised in “battles” or wings (left, center, and right) each with their own commander. This way you can play with up to three players per side.
Before the game, each side plans what type of fight they want to fight, from more aggressive (full frontal attack, envelope, etc) to less aggressive (hold the line or harass...). Obviously, when you select your army, you must have in mind that type of battle you’d like to fight.
Depending on your choice of battle, you are given 1 card aligned to that type of battle for each of your wings. After that each side is delivered 4 cards that can be used, reserved or discarded sequentially. When both sides run out of cards, a turn is concluded and cards are delivered again.
Cards have some basic actions, allowing to move or making complex manoeuvres, fight or recover disruption points. They also have some “special events” that you can play, in some cases only once during the game: challenges to be fight between army champions, heroic feats, flank raiding moves, inspiration from holy relics or commanders to allow recovering extra points of moral, etc
Melees are resolved in very simple terms: depending on the quality of the unit and the weapons used, a d6 is rolled against a fight level and then the enemy unit is allowed to make a saving throw against the hits achieved.
Morale is based on an accumulation of “disorder” points by the units. At the beginning of the game, the number and quality of your units set a certain Army Morale level which is affected during the game depending on the effect on the individual units of the accumulation of these disorder points.
Disorder is gained by failing to save hits, move through difficult terrain and some special events; it is recovered using specific cards, by special events cards or discarding a card in your activation phase and doing nothing else.
At the end of a turn, all units showing a higher number of disorder points than bases on the table are routed and must abandon the field; units with an even number of points and bases also affect the Army Moral level. When one side’s level falls to zero, they have lost the game.
As you see the rules definitively have a Lardite flavour in different dimensions:
- The use of cards to activate the units and the need to plan in advance the sequence of use of your hand or cards each turn, whether to reserve cards to be used in following turns, etc. helps simulating “friction” (i.e. uncertainty) of command in the field.
- The battles or types of fight you’d like to undertake in each game also determines the resources (assets and cards) in absence of “official” army lists (impossible for this period).
- Army moral is also a concept introduced in Chain of Command and likely to go (if I’m not wrong) in the new version of the black powered era Sharp Practice and personally one of the most interesting mechanisms developed by TFL recently.
- And finally the possibility of playing campaign versus one-off games, which has changed completely the way we play battles since the arrival of the TFL’s pint-sized campaign books for Chain of Command.