So, one of my regular players was out of town this week. The rest of us decided to do some wargaming instead of trying to get back into Silver Age Sentinels with a key member of our supers group, The Sentries, missing. Hordes of the Things (HoTT) was our game of choice. (HoTT is available for free here.)
HoTT is the fantasy wargame cousin of De Bellis Antiquitatis (DBA), which is usually my wargame of choice. HoTT has some clearer rules in some areas (like what happens when an enemy unit tries to cross the front of your own unit) and more customization, as each army is built by spending points–instead of a fixed, historical army list as in DBA. This time around, Billy played an army based on the forces of Cthulhu; Robert played an army based around Warhammer 40K Space Marines, and I played my army based around Warhammer Fantasy Battles Chaos Warriors. (Only Robert had actual minis, with the rest of us just playing with wooden bases.)
As in DBA, the game is largely about match-ups. Certain units add more to the die roll when they attack, but often only against certain other units. For example, a unit of Blades might get a +5 to their d6 roll against other foot soldiers, but only +3 against mounted troops. Also, each unit type is only killed by specific other unit types. So, your knights might have nothing serious to fear from a Horde of untrained rabble, with the worst possible result being recoiling from their masses. On the other hand, a Behemoth will stomp your knight flat just by winning the die roll. So, in theory, the game is largely about jockeying for position to get the best troops against the things they can kill most easily. (One improvement of HoTT over DBA is making the “quick kill” rules standard. For almost every troop type, doubling your opponent’s die roll means their unit dies.)
The main thing I like about HoTT is the cleanup of the DBA rules. A number of rules are clearer, and there are actually diagrams that explain key movement concepts. I feel like the units are balanced for their point costs and combat abilities. And I like that I can make anything into an army. I know there are dinosaur armies, Star Wars armies, and even a really cool World War II army.
What I don’t like much is the army building. (I’m often split on core game concepts, both loving and hating them.) Any type of army building adds in a level of meta-gaming where at least part of the tactics are in the construction of the army. Immediately after we play DBA, we tend to discuss the places on the battlefield where we made tactical mistakes, or where the dice failed us in a key maneuver–all part of the game on the table. But immediately after we played HoTT, the discussion turned to talking about how we should have built our armies differently–part of the game before the table. Army building is just one more thing to fiddle with, and I’d rather keep the decision making on the table. (On the bright side, all of the units are equal, so it’s not like you’ll show up at the table facing the Epic Mega Awesome Wizard Unit of Destruction that’s specific only to one army. So, the game balance is more fixed than in games like Warhammer where the expansionary nature of the game leads to some odd unbalances.)
There’s also something about some of the units that changes the game pretty drastically from DBA. Flying troops who can land anywhere seem particularly powerful. They give you the ability to make any engagement a flanked engagement, guaranteeing that a loss on the die roll will spell defeat of your opponent’s unit. (There is balance in the fact that flyers cost more to move, I suppose.)
All in all, I found HoTT fun, and I have lots of ideas for army types. But my go-to game for wargaming remains DBA at the moment.