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Mapp vs Gaming Waffle: Relic Knights

So our Relic Knights pledge arrived this week - my brother and I are winners of the prestigious "Last Backer Award: EU Division", which came with some Ninja Division throwing stars, some headbands and a copy of the rulebook signed by the game designers. Neat. I'm sad that it took over two years from the Kickstarter funding to the stuff arriving on my doorstep, but now it has, the loot has been divided up and all's well with the world. Sprog and I busted open the starter boxes, took out the cards and got together some proxy models to give the rules a try. We'd both read through the quick start rules that were available online, so we weren't going in completely blind, but we both thought it'd be a good idea to just dive straight in with some small scale games. There's a pleasing amount of stuff in the box; cards, rulebook, more cards, models and - best of all! - delicious tokens. The tokens are reassuringly thick and chunky, and you get plenty of them.

I've not yet had a really good look at the models, as we weren't wanting to start assembling them this evening, we just used some stand-in models. I've heard online that some of the faces on the miniatures are a bit... lacking in detail, so that'll be something (possibly) to deal with once I've got to the painting stage.

My brother opted to pick up the Star Nebula Corsairs and the Noh Empire as his two preferred factions. The Corsairs are pirates in space, which is an idea I can get behind, especially after watching BodaciousSpace Pirates(I think that's what it's called...), while the Noh seem to be a faction made up almost entirely out of big, scary, hard-hitting red monsters. I picked Cerci Speed Circuit, which puts me in mind of Redline, and the Black Diamond, which are a rather shady mercenary operation. Our first game was Cerci versus Corsairs.

There were some changes made to the starter set for Cerci Speed Circuit, so I found myself receiving not only the models that made up the old set, but also the new starter set as well. Thank you, Soda Pop Miniatures! The new starter set is rather less about speed - although Marie-Claude has a rather nifty speed bosting support action - and more about wrecking all kinds of face with the rather correctly named "Royal Wrecker". I came out of the gates pretty strong, with the Wrecker activating first and charging straight into a rather threatening cannon. The Wrecker was, without a doubt, the most effective thing I had on the table - it's mobile, it knocks people around and it can tow models away, which resulted in some ridiculous combos involving AOE effects that stop people moving around. However, for all the problems I was causing on one side of the table, Marie-Claude (who'd ran off to interact with an objective) got cornered by Captain Harker. Captain Harker is mean and, despite the best attempts of my own Knight (and the Royal Wrecker), he managed to take down Marie-Claude.

The second game was Noh Empire squaring off against Black Diamond. In the true spirit of proxy-gaming, a large whiteboard served as our playing surface, with terrain rather crudely drawn on. While this makes for a rather one dimensional gaming board, I figured that the visual spectacle of the game was already pretty compromised (proxy models!), so what the hell. Armed with dry-erase markers, we set to work drawing up a ruined church or, at least, something that sort of looked like a ruined church. While it's  never going to replace lovely, three dimensional terrain made with care and love, the ability to simply draw out the terrain gave us the opportunity to incorporate different kinds of terrain into the game, and create an environment for the game to take place that wasn't constrained by our (fairly small) terrain collection.

With a slightly firmer understanding of the rules now under our belts, buckled firmly by our little bit of experience, the game went rather differently - an early gamble by Paul didn't pay off (he'd hoped to flatten my Black Diamond mercs with a well placed shot on the first turn) and it allowed me to go on the offensive, driving my plucky tank up into the fray and pouring damage into everything. The blast rules proved to be quite hilarious, and I realised that I could focus on shooting his Knight, which would force her to redirect the attack on to somebody else. With Magnus threatening to do horrible things if the enemy knight held on to esper (a magical resource which makes performing an action successfully a lot easier), I could force Paul to burn through cards (it's a no dice sort of game). Paul couldn't gain a foothold in the church, and he conceded the game when both of our stomachs began to rumble loudly. Final score was five to nothing and, while it wasn't exactly a proper, decisive victory (unlike what Paul achieved in the first game), I like to think I was in a position to deliver a final blow in the next few rounds.

So my impressions of the game mechanics, after two small introductory games, are generally positive - I appreciate that it's a game which tries to do something different and doesn't just follow in the manner of other games. I especially appreciate the deployment rules, which eliminates the "that's my side of the table and that's yours" found in other games and the slow posturing that happens in the first turn or two of other games. With infinite range on ranged attacks, melee troops capable of achieving long charges, you can get stuck in very early on. Scenarios haven't come into play too much yet, but I believe that's a function of the small sized games we're playing - for instance, one of my secondary objectives in the first game was "destroy three enemy units" - which would be the entirety of the enemy force at that particular scale! I know that there have been some people who aren't happy with the game mechanics, and I think a lot of these issues boil down to it being quite unlike other games; the success of Games Workshop must mean people like games in that style, and this is not a game in that style. Will it take off and become popular? I hope so. I doubt that it will ever unseat Games Workshop, nor would it keep the Privateer Press folks up at night worrying about market share, but it's a game that deserves to do well.

Hopefully Paul and I will have some more games over the coming weeks. Fingers crossed.