Mythic Battles: Pantheon Review ****

As the regular readers of this blog may know I have gifted myself a big Kickstarter each year for the last few years. After Conan: The Boardgame and Zombicide Black Plague in 2017 this turned out to be Mythic Battles: Pantheon. Made by the same company as Conan and born from a cooperation between Monolith and Mythic Games this game looked especially promising. Last January I received it and could finally start painting and playing!

The Theme
The game is based on the Greek Myths and starts right after a raging war between the Titans (recently freed by a jealous Hera) and the Gods. Monsters and Heroes have participated on both sides and the war tore down Mount Olympus and ravaged the Earth.

Poseidon

In the game, which takes the form of an opposed boardgame, players play teams of Heroes, Minions and Monsters, led by a God or Titan, that score the Earth for Omphalos; the rare pockets of divine energy that are the remains of dead Gods and Titans. Winning a game is usually about winning the most Omphalos.

The Components
As I had come to expect of a Monolith product the game is exquisitely styled. The boards are comparable in function and style with the Conan boards and look at least as good, if not better. Heavy four-part folding cardboard with a gorgeous two-sided print give you two playing boards for the price of one. Since I bought the core game and two of the large expansions this gave me a total of 8 playing boards.

Game in progress. Note the 3D cardboard terrain

Dice, cards, Figure dashboards are all from durable plastic or high quality cardboard or card. The game came with specifically designed 6-sided dice but can be played with normal dice as well.

The game contains a number of scenarios for 2 to 4 players, although the game can simply be played on any board as an opposed battle between teams.

The game comes complete with 3D cardboard terrain features. These look quite good in their own right but can be easily replaced by “real” terrain from any wargamers collection.

Replacing cardboard terrain with real stuff is easy

The figures were my real reason for entering the Kickstarter. They were numerous and gorgeous and worth the money for the figure collection alone. They come in several categories and truly deserve their own spot in this review. The pictures speak for themselves, but I will detail their role in the game for each category.

Zeus

The Gods
Each team is led by one God or Titan that is immediately recognisable because of his, her or its size. At about 80mm or 1:25 scale the Gods tower over the rest of the figures. The Titans (as their name befits) are even larger. Detail is exponentially better and it is a joy (and a rare experience, since I rarely paint figures so large) to paint them. All the well-known members of the Olympus Club are there: Zeus, Hera, Apollo, Athena, Poseidon et cetera down to some lesser known players like Hecate en Helios.

Mighty Aphrodite

Each God has specific strengths and weaknesses in the game so the choice of God determines your strategy and the rest of your team up to a point (literally, but see below).

Gods are easily the most powerful pieces in a game, although some Monsters and Heroes come close. Gods are legendarily hard to kill, but can die in this game. The God or Titan of your team is the only one who can absorb Omphalos. Lose your team leader and you lose the game.

Hecate, She Of The Crossroads

Gods are controlled through a dashboard where their Life Points and abilities are recorded.

Heroes and Monsters
The Gods are reinforced by (more or less) human Heroes and Monsters. These are powerful game pieces in their own right and some may even stand up to a God or Titan. Heroes and monsters are individual pieces of varying size, from puny (28mm scaled) humans like Achilles or Circe to huge monsters like Hydra or Scylla.

Scylla will really grab your attention. And everything else! 

All Heroes and Monsters have specific strengths and weaknesses that may combine with other figures to reinforce or weaken them. So choose wisely!

Pegasus and Bellerophon

Heroes and Monsters are controlled through a dashboard where their Life Points and abilities are recorded, just like Gods are. When a Hero or Monster dies, he, she or it is removed from the game.

Minions
Last in line are the hosts of Minions that may support the Gods and Heroes. Here we find 28mm figures of the Argonauts, the Myrmidons, Hellhounds, Skeletons, Stymphalic Birds and many, many more. Buying MB: P gives you an instant Greek Fantasy collection!

Minions come in units (although all game pieces are called units) of more than one figure. This may result in (for example) 2 Centaurs or 6 Skeletons.

Hoplite Minions

Minion units are controlled through a simple card that records their abilities and lose Life Points by removing figures. Once all figures of a Minion unit have died, the unit is destroyed.

Minion units are recyclable however. Gods may Recall minions to their side, completely restoring all losses and moving the Minion unit to their space on the board.

Skeleton Minions

Like Heroes and Monsters, Minion units have specific strengths and weaknesses that may combine with other figures to reinforce or weaken them.

The Game
So MB:P got form spot on, but does it have substance?

It is an opposed game between 2 to 5 players. That took some getting used to, given that cooperative play is usually en vogue among game designers these days. That should not be a problem however.

Some Heroes: Achilles, Odysseus, Hercules and Leonidas

You assemble your team through a point system. Each figure or unit costs points and you may buy figures up to your max pool of points. You must take one God and one God only (or a Titan) but are free to combine figures for the rest of the team. Players choose Gods and units alternately, so beggars can’t be choosers 🙂

Centaurs and Chiron

Players activate their figures through Activation cards. Each God, Hero, Monster or Minon unit has a given number of Activation cards that are combined into the Deck. Added are Art of War cards, that can be used to recall units, Activate more than one unit or Recall Minions and such. The number of AoW cards depends on the points you did not spend on buying figures. So you can choose between a large team or more AoW cards to give you options with the team you have.

One of the Gorgons

You may draw cards every turn (more if you pass) and may use AoW cards to pick or select even more. Activation cards are crucial, since you usually cannot Activate anything without the right card. Once your Deck has been used up, reshuffle and start again. All the other players receive all their remaining cards in their hand at that point in the game and reshuffle as well. Calling on the Gods for the right cards will be a common occurrence 🙂

Figures may perform one complex action (Absorbing Omphalos) or two simple one (like move, pick up an Omphalos or fight). You may not usually Activate the same figure twice in a turn but may Activate a second figure if and when you have the cards for it.

Helios

Absorbing Omphalos gives you points, but also Omphalos cards that can be used as AoW cards or to restore Life Points to your God. In the latter case they are discarded.

Fighting includes an ingenious sequence of dice rolling which gives you a choice between many dice scoring small hits or few dice scoring big ones. This choice gives you the option to inflict wounds on Gods with even the lowliest Minion (but you have to roll REALLY well then!).

The Great God Pan


The verdict
The rules mechanics give you an interesting game where team members must and can cooperate to grab the Omphalos and pass them to your God to Absorb and score a point. It kind of resembles an American Football; game in that way. Figures carrying an Omphalos can even be tackled and made to drop them.

Absorbing Omphalos is usually the best way to win a game, since killing all opposing Gods and Titans is quite hard. Gods do not tend to die easily and Titans even less so.

Finding the right combos for a team is THE challenge. There are many. many possible choices, especially when you have some expansions at your disposal. Pitting your combos against those of other players is really the gist of the game. And can make for some interesting and challenging choices and plans.

Getting the right card depends partly on luck, partly on choice as you can influence luck with AoW cards and an choose to have more of those in exchange of figures. Fighting is mostly a matter of dice luck, although the “Big Hit Option” does give you some influence there.

It is a turn based, opposed game in which only the acting player of the moment does things. This means the other player(s) must wait until their turn and can’t really do anything. This I found an unexpectedly classic flaw in the game. One that is especially prominent in a multi player game where you might have to wait for three other players until you get your turn.

The Titan Atlas

While perhaps not being entirely reasonable I could not help myself comparing MB:P to Conan: The Boardgame. CTB is of course cooperative and requires all players to participate in every phase of a turn. Even inactive players can and must defend against attacks and still have decisions to make regarding resource management. Player immersion in CTB is significantly better in my eyes than in MB:P.

MB:P also depends more on chance. In CTB the only chance is in the roll of the dice when Fighting or performing Actions. Whether you do Fight or perform an Action is entirely up to you (as long as you have the energy to do so). In MB:P Lady Fortune’s influence is enhanced because of the use of Activation cards. While you do have some influence on those, you still need to depend on luck more than in CTB. Being a great fan of choice and tactical dilemma over plain bad luck I think that is a shame.

So all in all I found MB:P a nice game, beautifully executed and well worth the cost for the figures alone, but not exceptional as a game in itself, despite some innovative aspects like the two-tier Fighting Dice rolling. The dependence on luck and the long waiting periods  between turns compare poorly to that other Monolith game, Conan The Boardgame.

Four out of five stars from me in this case, in which the fourth star is awarded for looks.

Persephone heralding Spring

Pijlie’s Blog

Mimi and Toutou go forth – A book review

Every once in a while you read a book that makes you think:

·     This is weirder than most fiction I ever read.
·    And why has no one made a movie out of this?
“Mimi and Toutou go forth” is such a book. It deals with the battle of Lake Tanganyika (even the name of the battle seems too weird to be real. But it is) in 1915. This battle was fought between British and German Navy ships and resulted in a British victory.
Why and how a battle was fought on the worlds second largest, oldest and deepest lake (not to mention it lies nearly 800 meters above sea level) and how those ships got there in the first place is a tale whose epic proportions are only rivalled by its absurd details.

In the not unlikely case you have never heard of the Battle of Lake Tanganyika, perhaps it helps to know that it was an episode of the Great War in Africa. The Germans controlled the lake through two warships sailing on it one of which, the Gotzen, had been specifically designed for that purpose. This also gave them control of most lines of supply in that arena, since the area consisted mostly of impassable bush, jungle or rivers, everything being connected by the lake, stretching southwards for some 400 kilometers all the way from current Burundi. 

A British great game hunter named Lee came up with a bold plan to transport two heavily armed motorboats to the lake, basing them from the Belgian side and use those to break the German hold on the lake. A British officer named Spicer-Simpson who in many ways was more caricatural than many a caricature commanded this tiny fleet and the rest, literally, is history…..

Giles Foden recounts the details of this incredible story in brilliant tongue-in-cheek prose, serving a bizarre episode of history rich with colonial arrogance and jingoistic madness with a pleasant dose of humour.  


He finishes with no less amusing details about the book and the movie “The African Queen” which were loosely based on these events. So apparently someone did make a movie out of this. It is just a shame the most amazing events were omitted from book and movie alike to serve the public an easier and more believable tale with some romance in it. And to such an extent that few would guess the book was related to the battle of Lake Tanganyika. 

For last, however, he saves the harsh present. Hitching a ride on Liemba, the last surviving ship of that battle, he recounts the hard lives people in that region still have to live, the fleeting benefits of “civilisation” and colonialism and most of all the transience of events once great but now forgotten by nearly everyone. A sobering finale. 

Nevertheless the book is a great read and I’d recommend it to anyone. 

Pijlie’s Blog

Rome was not built in a day….. Part 3

Last episode’s cliffhanger was of course a bridge, to be hung between tow housing block so as to facilitate a second level of play. 

And with that the project is practically finished. The house without balcony received some shades for over the porches and that was it. And of course the graffiti, which was a Roman invention as far as I know.

The entire table, including the not-quite-finished temple from the starter set.

The balconies were made from matchsticks, carved with a motor tool and glued together in that typical Roman symmetrical woodwork. The bridges were made in the same way.

The one piece of graffiti that is not historical, but literary. Anyone (except Sander 🙂 ) who knows its source?

NSWF

Since the terrain is modular it can be placed in all kinds of ways to make squares as well as alleyways.

A game in full swing.

Fierce fighting among the vegetables….

Lucius chickened out….

Mommy mommy I want to see the fight!!!!

My son musing my -extremely narrow- victory which literally depended on the colour of the first pebble of the turn….

On cork….

I built this entire project in cork plate. Growing curious about working with the material and seeing the fantastic results people like Matakishi achieved with it I decided to use it for Rome.

Lets state first that cork plate is a fine material that can be easily worked, glued and painted and even looks like Roman concrete without any special effort. That aside, I don’t think it is very well suited to buildings that can be disassembled. It is very flexible which does not help the fit. It is also not very strong and will tear or break relatively easily. If I would attempt this same project again, I would use foamboard or MDF.

I remain convinced however that it is eminently suited for glued-together buildings. Alas, I usually lack the storage space for such things, so I don’t see myself using cork again any time soon. 

Pijlie’s Blog

Gangs of Rome review

A few weeks ago I bought Gangs of Rome. It was much hyped all over the interweb but I had heard some good things about it. And furthermore, as another example of my usual upside-down prioritising, I felt the need to build me some Roman terrain. That last exploit is being detailed elsewhere but I have found the opportunity to play the game and want to let you know what it is like.

Theme
GoR’s theme is firmly rooted in one of my favourite BBC series: Rome. Violent gangs roam the streets of Rome (see what I did there?) in the service of rich Romans who want to stay or become senator or just very powerful. On the side they have various criminal projects running, like robbing temples, ambushing money-carriers and assassinating the odd rival.

GoR is quite PC in that half of the gangers is female. Probably not very historical (given the extreme machismo of Roman society) but it makes for more variation in the models. Playing either female of male gangers yields no specific advantages.

Game genre
GoR is an alternate turn-based skirmish game. Drawing pebbles out of a bag gives you an activation of one ganger for each pebble of your own colour. Gangs number 3 to 7 gangers depending on the size of your game (or collection). An Activated ganger may perform one or two Actions in fixed combinations like Move and Fight or Move and Bind (a wound to heal a HP (or Flesh as it is called)).

The Blood on the Aventine starter box is a great way to start the game. Its value for money has been extensively dealt with elsewhere so I won’t get into that. It is excellent. It has a temple. Buy it.

Special stuff
One needs a 3×3 ft table and some Roman terrain (or at least buildings and temples and stuff) to play GoR on. The game comes with thematic dice (with Roman numerals) and thematic MDF measuring sticks in the form of a Gladius that in my not so humble opinion are more appealing than practical. But they work. There are a few innovative aspects to GoR that merit separate treatment. These are the collectible character of the game, the Denarii and the Mobs.

Collectibles
When buying a ganger (or “Fighter” as they are officially called) one receives a figure, three head swaps, 5 or 6 weapon options, a 6-sided die with Roman numerals, 4 random Denarii (see below) and a random Fighter card. The randomness of the Fighters essentially makes it a collectible game, as there is no possibility to generate your own gangers. You have to use the cards provided in the set. Since there are hundreds of variations and only a few handfuls of fighter models this sounds a bit strained. I expect (hope…) that War Banner will release a way to generate your own gangers in time or someone will start scanning and posting them on the internet soon…..
I don’t see myself buy dozens of Fighters just to get new cards.

A Fighter carries two counters slotted into its base. One is his ID number to link it to its card, the other one is is Flesh Score (HPs). Flesh 0 = Out of the Game.

The Denarii
This is your gangs collection of special weapons, equipment and allies. The base set provides a small number of them but you can buy Denarii separately from War Banner. This gives your gang some exotic weapons (stranglers rope anyone?), handy equipment (caltrops) and allies (like a Gladiator or a big dog). A Denarius is a card with the Denarius’ description on it and a wooden coin counter that “shadows” your ganger on the table to indicate he possesses it. People who are allergic to counters on the table (I for one am not wild about that) can soothe their nerves by placing the Denarii on the gangers card.

The denarii are limited to the number of your gangers plus 7. You can supply your gangers with them at the start of our turn and may change them every turn. However, they return to the Used Pile which can only be assessed once your hand is empty. So choose carefully, since a Denarius that enters the Used Pile might be away for some time. Denarii offer in-turn as well as out-of-turn effects depending on the description.

A Mob mauling two Fighters

The Mobs
Rome was of course a bustling place full of people. So a number of Roman crowds randomly traverse the table during play like some kind of moving terrain. When angered or panicked these turn into mobs that can flee and trample your gangers or outright attack them. There is even a way to set them onto your opponents! A mob are five Roman civilians on a large round base.

Fighters can also hide in mobs and may use this to surface again somewhere on the table in any mob they so choose. But be careful. When a mob panics, it stampedes off and leaves you behind and that might be right in front of your enemies….

Rules Mechanics
Nothing really new here. A Fighter gets Activated once a pebble of your colour gets drawn from the bag. A Fighter has a number of stats indication the number of dice it may roll. A 4+ is usually a success. In Combat both Fighters roll Attack vs Defence. Defence successes cancel Attack successes and uncanceled attacks usually result in Wounds that diminish the Flesh score. There are a few modifiers like cover. And of course Denarii can greatly influence play by replacing standard attacks or defences. An attacked Fighter usually gets the chance to fight back (if he is not dead or badly wounded). Extreme damage results in gushing wounds that prevent counter attack and lost Flesh (HP) slows your Fighter down. Flesh may be regained by Binding the wound.

Movement is straightforward in inches and moving through hazardous terrain (like jumping from one roof to another) requires Agility checks. It is a decent and elegant system that makes for quick play.

Like most skirmish games GoR excels in scenario play. Three scenarios are included in the book, which is meagre given the fact that it is a game that profits greatly from scenarios. However, six more can be downloaded from the War Banner site.

Other rules
There are a host of other options as yet unexplored by me. There are Incola, wandering citizens of Rome that may influence the game as a sort of NPC. There are the Gods you can pray to and there are the religious affiliations of your gangers that may yield advantages when your entire gang worships one god.

I have a feeling War Banner is preparing a lot more stuff to populate this game.

Campaign play is supported and rules for this variant are given. Winning games yields you Influence Cards that may be exchanged for favours or saved to become senator!

So? 
The combination of a relatively simple rules mechanism and a large number of options offered by the Denarii, Incola and Mobs, all bundled into a scenario-driven game, makes for a quickly-learned but tactically interesting game that plays fluently and intuitively within 90 minutes or so. Your Fighters sneak up on their opponents, fight, blend into mobs and use terrain to their advantage. Using larger gangs and more mobs is only likely to make it more interesting.

Strongly recommended! 

Pijlie’s Blog

Rome was not built in a day….part 2

Following part 1 here is the second phase of me building Rome.

Using self-adhesive cork sheet for windowsills and door posts. And mesh for the windows.

The roof base is posterboard, reinforced with cork triangles to keep the shape.

Some alternative positioning.

Rooftiles made from corrugated cardboard, scored to give the impression of rows of rooftiles.

And it still fits in that one box!

Spraypainting the parts. Grey underlayer and cream white light-up. The rooftiles are dark brown, to be highlighted with Blood Red.

More painting.

All the painted parts so far.

The balcony railings made from matchsticks. I was unsatisfied with my first attempt and threw that away. This looks much better.

And what will these be?
You will see…
In part 3! 

Pijlie’s Blog

WE ROCK. WE ROLL SIXES. WE WARGAME. WE NEVER LOSE.

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