second chance games

Search This Website of delight

Showing posts with label Draco Ideas. Show all posts

1212 Las Navas de Tolosa by Draco Ideas  The year is 1212 and El Cid has been dead for thirteen years. The deadly conflict between the Musli...

1212 Las Navas de Tolosa by Draco Ideas 1212 Las Navas de Tolosa by Draco Ideas

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!

Draco Ideas

1212 Las Navas de Tolosa


Draco Ideas

 The year is 1212 and El Cid has been dead for thirteen years. The deadly conflict between the Muslims and Christians for Spain is still going on. In fact, the Reconquista will continue for almost three hundred years. The tide had turned and the Muslims, commanded by their Caliph Muhammad al-Nasir, were taking a good number of Spanish fortresses. It had gotten so bad that the pope, Innocent III, had called for a crusade in Spain. I am simplifying the historical tale. Both the Christians and Muslims were a loose group of smaller states that fought each other as often as they fought against their supposed enemies. The crusaders and a number of Christian states banded together to fight against a similarly made-up army under the Caliph. This is the backdrop behind the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa.

 This is an excerpt from a written account of the time:

 "They attacked, fighting against one another, hand-to-hand, with lances, swords, and battle-axes; there was no room for archers. The Christians pressed on." – (The Latin Chronicle of The Kings of Castile)

 This is what comes with the game:


54 Unit Markers

9 Combat Cards

6 help cards

12 special cards (6 from each side)

 This is what Draco Ideas has to say about the game:

 "1212: Las Navas de Tolosa is an asymmetric, two-player wargame in which Almohad and Christian troops face each other, reliving the emblematic battle of the Reconquista.

Fast games and a very contained deployment, in which the battle is decided in about 30 minutes, with a card engine to determine the initiative and the outcome of the combat.

Although small in size, 1212 Las Navas de Tolosa perfectly integrates the theme in a reduced number of components, placing special emphasis on the asymmetry of the sides to revive the different strategies that took place in the battle that would change the course of the Reconquista.

Among other features, Christian units receive bonuses if they are activated by cards with their King’s shield, adding a further decision to the player on when to play the cards in his hand.

For his part, the Almohad player can use a free ‘Tornafuye’ (karr wa-l-farr) action, which allows him to make a counterattack after a Christian cavalry charge, and also has special units such as the Black Guard protecting the Caliph an-Nasir, or the Jihad Volunteers, fanatical troops that will throw themselves into combat advancing if they manage to create a breach in the Christian defense."

A Muslim Counter

 I know it is a cliche, but sometimes good things do come in tiny boxes. Most of the parts of the game are small. The board is a mounted one. It measures around 11 3/4" x 8". It consists of eighteen rectangles (nine for each side). It is pretty much made up of open terrain with a few trees and the Caliph's stockade on the edge of one side. The counters are large at 18mm and come pre-rounded. Each counter comes with a very nicely done picture in the middle of it. The designer/artist (Pablo Sanz) has drawn them to look like period pieces of the battles' time. The Rulebook is small, about half the size of a normal Rulebook. It is however, done in full color. It is only twenty pages in length with the last page being a quick reference for the rules. The regular rules are fifteen pages in length. Then there is a two-page Advanced Variant for the rules. The game comes with two Rulebooks: one in English and one in Spanish. Next up are the Victory Conditions and a Historical Context. The Cards come with six cards for quick refence. On one side is English and the other is in Spanish. There are nine regular cards to be played with the normal game. A further 12 cards (six per side) are used with the Advanced Variant. That sums it up for the game's components. Draco Ideas does put a lot into the physical presentation of their games.

One of the Cards for the Regular Game

 The game was designed to take up a very small footprint and to be played in about thirty minutes. Draco Ideas has succeeded in both of these endeavors. This is a quick playing fun game that also has both strategy and tactics built into it. The addition of the Advanced Variant makes it so the game does not get stale or boring. The regular game is a good game, but it might get too repetitious for some people. The Advanced Variant Cards are either commanders in the game or units. These Cards give the player either Action Points or extra attack power when played. 

 This is the Sequence of Play:

Initiative Phase: 1 card from each player. The highest wins the initiative and ties go to the Christian player.

Action Phase: 2 cards for Action Points, playing alternative turns.

Exhaustion: Tilted units (exhausted units) can neither attack or rally. They recover at the end of the turn.

 These are a few of the rules:

Ties in the standard attacks = 1 damage per side.

If there are no cards left in the game deck, turn over the discard pile Without Shuffling.

 Action allowed per turn:

Maximum 3 units per board zone

Maximum 2 combat actions per turn

Maximum 1 archer attack per turn

Christian Counter

 The Victory Conditions are:

The Christian Player wins if Caliph al-Nasir's unit is eliminated.

The Muslim Player wins if the Christian Player is not occupying any of the nine Muslim zones and there are less than four Christian occupied zones.

Either side wins if they control twice as many zones as the other side.

 1212 Las Navas de Tolosa was designed to be a fun short game that can be setup and taken down with ease. The price point of the game is also easy on the player's wallet. This is not just a beer & pretzels game. It is certainly not as deep as some wargames but to win you have to put on your thinking cap. 

 Thank you Draco Ideas for allowing me to review this game. This game and their SCOPE series of games are built on the same premise. Please take a look at their War Storm series of games. They are tactical gems of games. Their two games on the Spanish Civil War (A las Barricadas! and Help Arrives) are two of the finest tactical games on the subject.


Draco Ideas:
1212 Las Navas de Tolosa:

 Scope U-Boot by Draco Ideas    Churchill said that the only thing that scared him was the war in the Atlantic Ocean between the convoys and...

Scope U-Boot by Draco Ideas Scope U-Boot by Draco Ideas

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!

Draco Ideas

 Scope U-Boot


Draco Ideas

  Churchill said that the only thing that scared him was the war in the Atlantic Ocean between the convoys and the U-Boats. Oddly enough, in 1942, just as the U-Boats were sinking the most ships they ever had, the tide turned against them. They changed from the hunters to the hunted in a matter of months. 

This is what comes in the box

 So, what do we have here? This is a small card game about the war in the Atlantic. It is mainly a game about U-Boats hunting convoy ships. However, in turn the U-Boats are being hunted by the convoy escort ships. This is what Draco Ideas has to say about the game:

"Playing time: 15 minutes

SCOPE U-boot is a game for 2 players, in quick and dynamic 15-minute games, recommended for ages 12 and up.

It is an independent and very different installment of the SCOPE system, the only similarities are its grid of cards forming the board and the many strategic possibilities it offers!

 In U-Boot the German player will remain hidden under the surface and the Allied player must find him and avoid being sunk. The ships move on the surface, although the cargo ships move more slowly. The submarine gives away its position when it fires a torpedo, but beware! You will have to choose as an ally whether you prefer your freighters to dodge it or move your destroyer to the area from where the torpedo was fired and sink your opponent.

SCOPE U-boot has several game modes, with different levels of complexity and duration."
Yes, it is in Spanish. However, the game is simple enough to get the gist even without knowing the language.

 The game is a bit like cross between Stratego and the old card game concentration with the ability to actually move your pieces. The Rulebook is only seventeen pages long. There is both a basic and an advanced version of the game. There are also some Alternative Scenarios to allow the player to play some variant scenarios and to make up their own. You can also have a surface naval combat between the two players. 

 The Game Area is made up by placing Empty Sea Cards as the map that you will use in the game. Four of the Empty Sea Cards make up a quadrant. The game comes with these card and tokens:

12 - Allied Ship Cards
 2 Freighters
 2 Tankers
 3 Destroyers
 1 Battleship
 1 Escort Carrier
 2 Flower Corvettes/Mies
 1 Armed Freighter
7 - German Ship Cards
 3 Submarines
 1 Destroyer
 1 Battleship
 2 S-Boot/Mine

35 Sea/Empty Area Cards
6 Surface Firing Cards
6 Tokens
 4 Torpedo Tokens
 1 Allied Direction Token
 1 German Direction/Ping Token (Sonar)

  The scenarios are listed by the amount of Empty Sea Cards that you will use. These are:

Lone Wolf (One Submarine) 5x5 Empty Sea Cards
Coordinated Attack (Two Submarines) 5X6 Empty Sea Cards
Wolf Pack (Three Submarines) 5X7 Empty Sea Cards

 The German Player then secretly exchanges his units for some of the Empty Sea Cards in the first row on his side of the game area. The Allied Player does the same with the first two rows of the Empty Sea Cards on his side. Each player is allowed one action per turn. They then alternate turns. The actions allowed are:

Submarine Movement
Torpedo Launch
Fast Ship Movement
Slow Ship Movement

 The game continues until Target Points listed for each side in the scenarios are met or there are no more operational Cargo Ships. Each ship has a value number.

 For a small simple game, the players need to use strategy and learn the game's nuances. While this type of game is really not my cup of tea, I can see where others will really enjoy it. The components are very well done and feel like they will last through a great number of games.

 For those of you who like tactical hex and counter games, I suggest you look at Draco Ideas 'War Storm Series'. These are five games that are well worth their price. Their 'Saladin' game is also a good one.


Draco Ideas:

Scope U-Boot:

War Storm Series:

  Help Arrives! by  Draco Ideas  The Spanish Civil War July 17, 1936 - April 1, 1939 was a pivotal moment in European history. It was your t...

Help Arrives! by Draco Ideas Help Arrives! by Draco Ideas

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!

Draco Ideas

 Help Arrives!


Draco Ideas

 The Spanish Civil War July 17, 1936 - April 1, 1939 was a pivotal moment in European history. It was your typical Civil War featuring brother against brother that somehow makes the hatred between both sides that much deeper and darker. However, the war is much more important because it was the training ground for both the Allies and Axis Powers right before the outbreak of World War II. The war saw actions that were much more akin to World War I actions than World War II. The lessons learned or not understood by some of the WWII belligerents can be correctly placed at the foot of the Spanish Civil War. The fighting broke out between the Republicans and the Nationalists. The Republicans ran the gamut from Communists to Socialists, and regular believers in Democracy. They also had some help by the International Brigades made up of citizens from other democracies who went to fight against Fascism. The Nationalists had one advantage in that they were pretty much all Fascists. They also did have infighting because the Nationalist generals were all intriguing to become the leader of Spain after the Civil War ended. The Nationalists also had the help of the two Fascist Powers of Europe: Italy and Germany. The Italian Army was up to par for fighting a war in the late 1930s. Italy only ran into trouble in WWII because their Army was still an army equipped to fight a war in 1936. The technological advances from 1936 to 1940 passed them by. The Germans brought in their Condor Legion. These were 'enlisted' troops and airmen from the German Armed Forces. Both sides had a mish mash of obsolete and new weapons in their armories. The Republicans received help from the Soviet Union in the form of armaments and 'trainers' who actually fought and flew in the war. As mentioned, a lot of the fighting resembled WWI trench style fighting rather than the slash and dash of WWII. So, this is a tactical game about the fighting in the Spanish Civil War.


 This is a blurb from Draco Ideas:

"The Spanish Civil War, recreated in this tactical wargame with a classic “hex&counter” flavour. Choose your side! You can fight not only with the main Spanish military units, you’ll have international support, too. International Brigades, Corpo Truppe Voluntarie, Condor Legion, soviet T-26B, German Pz I Ausf A, POUM militias, all of them will fight in the fierce battles that Help Arrives! brings to your table.

With the improved version of War Storm Series system rules, it adapts the series to the conflict and introduces campaigns such as the Battle of Madrid, Guadalajara or the Ebro, and more.

In addition, the new Tactical Skill of the officers will make military training or lack thereof, one of the key elements in the conflict, along the morale of the combatants.

The scale is set to platoon level, with units representing groups of between 30 and 40 servicemen. Each hexagon in the map portrays a distance of 150-200 meters (roughly 165 to 220 yards). The scenarios are divided in turns that symbolize approximately 12 to 15 minutes of action.

The saga is based in the principle of the simultaneous execution We Go. In each activation you will move a single company, so there is no waiting between turns! This title also brings a set of adapted and didactic rules, to ease the learning curve for new players. After a few pages, you will be able to play the first scenario. The heart of the War Storm Series relies in the command, being the officers the keystone of the game. Help Arrives! goes one step further, introducing a new concept in the series: Tactical Ability. The game uses isomorphic maps and each one may be linked with the others by any of the edges."


 This is what comes with the game:

4 isomorphic maps

8 overlays

5 counters punchboards (3 of 5/8 and 2 of 3/4”)

1 Standard Rules booklet

1 Exclusive Rules booklet

7 Scenarios sheets for a total of 13 unique scenarios

3 Tables sheets (double sided)

2 Battalion sheets

2 six-sided dice

Scenario "Camino de los Toldos"

 The four isomorphic maps unfold to around 11" x 15.5". They are of hard stock material. The above says it comes with eight overlays. I seem to count only seven. These are of lighter stock than the actual maps. You do have to cut the smaller overlays out of the page they are on. The maps and overlays have easy to discern terrain and terrain height. The different features of fields and towns and villages etc. are nicely done. The 3/4" counters are very nicely done with a picture of the weapon (tank, machine gun, or artillery etc.) and its capabilities easy to see. The 5/8" counters are a bit busy and the numbers to see on them are a bit small. Draco Ideas went for artwork on the counters instead of just function. It does add immersion and is much nicer to look at, but some gamers might have problems. The only thing that I do not like about the counters is that they are pretty thin. They are a bit hard to move with old fingers. The scenario Player Aid sheets are wonderful. They are of thin hard stock and are full sized. My game came with seventeen scenarios, not the thirteen listed above. They are also easy to read and understand. I really like that you have separate scenario sheets instead of there just being a booklet of them. This will increase their life and not leave you with a beat up folded scenario booklet. The Player Aid sheets are made of the same stock and are easy to read and are in full color. There are two Rules Booklets. One is for the Series Rules and one is for Help Arrives Exclusive Rules. Both are in full color and filled with examples of play. The Series Rules are forty-six pages in length. The Help Arrives Exclusive Rules are only seven pages long. These are both very nicely done. You also get an eight page booklet to be able to use with Draco Ideas 'Alone in the Storm' (their solitaire add-on for their War Storm Series). To use this you also need to have purchased their Alone in the Storm. So, except for the thickness of the counters, the components are really well done. I know this is nitpicking, but inquiring minds want to know. Do they work as counters? Of course, and they are nice to look at and really add to the immersion.

 I own one of the earlier War Storm Series games 'A Las Barricadas'. This is another game produced by Compass Games about the Spanish Civil War. So, I was already used to the system. For those of you who have had the pleasure of playing A Las Barricadas, these are some of the differences:

"HA while utilizing "PTH" base rules, incorporates new and adapted rules and additions for this new tittle. The WSS promises many hours of fierce fighting between the infantry, tanks, artillery and aircraft belonging to the armies enveloped in this conflict. Just a few of the additions include:

Battalion officers

Communist Commissars

Recon rules

Flamethrower tanks

International Brigades

Corpo Troppe Volontarie (C.T.V.)

Condor Legion

One 8'5 x 11" chart with many overlays"

 This is the Sequence of Play:

The game is divided into turns. Each turn represents about 12-15 minutes of real 

combat time. Each turn is divided into the following phases:

• Command Phase

• Initiative Phase

• Activation Phase and Performing Actions

• Marker Removal Phase

  So, we know that the game is in WEGO or simultaneous execution. Draco Ideas describes it as "a hybrid system of turns and real time". The Rulebook starts you off with the basic rules and then adds more layers to the cake. The War Storm Series emphasis is on command through your officers.


 The game has rules for these and many others:

Spotting, and Line of Sight




Commissars and Chaplains

Air Support

Close Assault 

 The rules also allow you to fight a campaign with your troops. Another great addition is the Optional Rule that puts Events into play. Some of these are:

Molotov Cocktail

Dum-Dum Bullets


Kif (Hashish) This was imbibed by the Moroccan Soldiers on the Nationalist side.

 This is a very good tactical simulation of the Spanish Civil War. I am a bit of an aficionado about the war, so my thoughts might be a bit skewed. However, this game also allows you to use World War I and early World War II armaments. You get to see many of the actual artillery and tanks that span both eras. The game can put you in the shoes of Russian tankers when they first met the German dreaded '88'. As mentioned, this was a war much like World War I with an extra twenty years of armament development. The rules are very clear. This is, after all, the fourth game in Draco Ideas War Storm Series. Many of the concepts will be familiar to players who have delved into tactical wargames. One addition to the game is the ability to create your own scenarios. You are given whole tables of the different units and armaments along with their respective recruitment costs. I am definitely going to buy their solo addition to their games 'Alone in the Storm'. I have seen only good things about how the games play with Draco Ideas solitaire rules.

 These are the other games in the War Storm Series:

Paths to Hell (2016)

A title that retakes the battles of the Eastern Front, adding specific rules such as political commissar, recce motorcycles, flame-thrower tanks and railways.

La Bataille de France 1940 (2015)

It does recreate the most important battles in where the Blitzkrieg tactics were widely used in the Western Front during the invasion of France.

A las Barricadas! (2006-2015)

This was the first title in the series, depicting the fiercest battles between the Nationals and the Republicans across the bloody Spanish Civil War.

Normandy: The Beginning of the End (2018)

It does recreate events related to the Normandy landings and allows the players to revive, at the tactical level, the most relevant battles on the D-Day, from the American beaches to the outskirts of Saint-Lò.

This is what comes with the Normandy game

 Thank you very much Draco Ideas for letting me review this beautiful game. While there have been some games about the Spanish Civil War, not many at all are at the tactical level.


Draco Ideas: Our games | Draco Ideas editorial

Help Arrives!: Help Arrives! – Spanish Civil War | Draco Ideas editorial

  Frontier Wars by Draco Ideas  We grognards have a love hate relationship with toy soldiers. As a group, we look longingly back in time to ...

Frontier Wars by Draco Ideas Frontier Wars by Draco Ideas

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!

Draco Ideas

 Frontier Wars


Draco Ideas

 We grognards have a love hate relationship with toy soldiers. As a group, we look longingly back in time to when we played with them. However, to introduce them onto our tables, where hex and counters reign, is another thing altogether. Some of us are elitists; I am guilty of this at times, where we long for just sixty to 100 page rulebooks and an Ardennes map where each hex represents fifty yards. You know, games where we will only get to play them once or a few times during our lives. I am here to tell you that I was wrong and so was our thinking on games. The smallest footprint game can have great gameplay. A game that is short enough to play four times in one evening can still be a great game. Can a grognard play a game that has plastic toy soldiers? The answer is a resounding yes, as long as he manages to rise above his stuffy thoughts on what a wargame MUST be behind. Chess is the world's oldest and most beloved wargame, and guess what it has: toy soldiers. We must also forget our rulebook mania. A simple game can be a great game, and guess what guys, it might just bring new blood into this elderly hobby. Face it people, we grognards are not getting any younger, and if we really love the hobby we will want it to continue to thrive. So, I am removing myself from the soapbox, and onto the review. 

Here is a blurb from Draco Ideas about the game itself:

"Frontier War" ("Guerra Fronteriza" in Spanish) allows you to take control of one of the four most relevant factions in World War 2.
Choose which role you want to take in the fray: United States, United Kingdom, Germany or Russia in games for 2 to 4 players.
Recreate battles of the largest military clash in history.
Learn how to manage your resources, make bold tactical movements with your troops: infantry, tanks, artillery and airstrikes.
Make alliances that meet your interests, but remember, your allies can stop being so at any time!
Fight Smart and never cease exploring your options, since the end of the battle can arrive at the most unexpected moment.
The game includes 100 fully detailed miniatures, a modular battle field for new and different games each play, as well as 90 cards that will make each game unique.
We’ve worked hard to give the game easy mechanics and a quick learning without losing a high tactical complexity, all of it within the frame of fast, dynamic games.
Are you ready?"

 This is what comes with Frontier Wars:

100 Cards

100 Miniatures

 30 Double-Sided tiles

 4 Army Boards

 3 Game Boards

 100+ Tokens

 Rules and Scenario Book

 In the basic game there are three sets of cards. These are: Attack Orders, Defense Orders, and Tactical Orders. These all have the same backs to them. On the front of the cards is their explanation and usage along with various photos taken during World War II. The action that the cards describe are straight-forward and do not need to be deciphered. There are four types of miniatures in the basic game: Artillery, Infantry, tanks, and airplanes. These are small, but very well done. For their size they are very robust. The tiles are hexagonal, and very large at almost 4" across. There are many different tiles to play the scenarios on. These are:

Neutral Tiles
City Tiles 
Airport Tiles
Strategic Point Tiles
Starting Tile
Water Tiles
Swamp Tile
Port Tile
Fleet Tile
Desert Tile

 Some of these give you extra Resource Cards, Victory Points, or increase your card hand limit. The Army and Game Boards are also large and easy to read. The Tokens are done in very thick cardboard. All of the components are built to last through many games. The Rules Book is thirty-one pages long. It is in full color and is done on magazine type paper. The rules only take up nine pages with a further two pages+ with Optional Rules. The game comes with thirty scenarios. These go from beginner to advanced. They are also from two to four players in size. Some are historical, while others are completely made up for the game. You get a very large bang for your buck with everything that comes with the game, and how well the parts were constructed.

 The game is easy to learn and play. I believe Frontier Wars is a great game in its own right. It also bridges the gap for new players from  simpler wargames, or just games, to more complex games. I mean, that is what we grognards are all about, isn't it? We entrap new players and then feed them a simple diet of beer & pretzels wargames. Slightly more complex games follow, until they start noticing hexes in their everyday life. Then when they least expect it we force them to play an entire weekend of Fire in the East or something similar. Okay, maybe other people do not do that, but I would love to have a dungeon full of hex and counter playing slaves. Enough of that. Frontier Wars is an easy to learn and fun wargame. This is the Sequence of Play:

 Turn Order
 Drawing Resource Cards
 Tactical Phase
 Arms Race
 Frontier Wars is a game that has a small footprint, is quick to play and learn, and most of all it is fun. Draco Ideas did add an expansion that includes France and Japan to the mix. You can also buy trucks with new rules for them. They were nice enough to send me the Solo Rules and the Weather Cards that add a lot to the game. These come with large double-sided fold out player aids that explain in simple terms how to use the Weather cards and play in solo mode. Any game that comes with a built in solo mode nowadays is sure to get my vote, especially if it is as easy to understand and play with as these are. Thank you Draco Ideas for letting me review this sleeper of a game that seems to have slipped under most peoples' radar. 


Draco ideas:

Frontier Wars:


ONUS ! by DRACO IDEAS Like many others, I was struck and puzzled by the game's title, Onus .  I knew it as meaning a burden o...

Onus by Draco Ideas: Review Onus by Draco Ideas: Review

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!

Draco Ideas


Like many others, I was struck and puzzled by the game's title, Onus.  I knew it as meaning a burden or duty or obligation.  Not perhaps the most exciting title, though I had my image, whether of noble Roman or valiant Carthaginian, marching forth to do my duty or carry out the obligation that the burden of fate had laid on my shoulders.  Word from the designer has provided an even humbler perspective.  Onus in Latin conveys the idea of the weighty physical load carried by the ordinary marching legionary -  a heavy burden indeed.  So, here I am, metaphorical pack on back, ready to slog it down the road to death or glory at Cannae or Zama. 

[OK, secretly, I'm still the great Hannibal, braving blizzards and perilous Alpine passes with my elephants, on route for glorious victory at Lake Trasimene and Cannae]

The first thing to lift my weary soldier/reviewer's spirits is sight of the small, colourful box that the game comes in - that's not going to add much to the weight of the digging tool, spare kit, cooking utensils etc...  But, as they say, good things come in small packets. What a compact little war chest is to be found when you get inside the box! 

The war chest, opened, punched, bagged and repacked

[apologies for the quality of my camera work]

Hold on there, I'm getting a bit carried away.  Before I delve further into the components, just a few facts about what the game is about and why I'm so delighted to be reviewing it.

Giving its full title Onus! : Rome Vs Carthage helps.  What another game/simulation of the Punic war?  I still have the original Avalon Hill edition of Hannibal : Rome v Carthage and Punic Island Vol III in the Campaign Commander series, as well as several scenarios in my Command & Colours : Ancients, as well as Battleground : Second Punic War and am currently awaiting delivery in the next couple of weeks of my Kickstarter copy of Hands In The Sea.  So, why was I so pleased to receive such a small footprint game on this historical period and theme?

Well, the obvious answer is that I love all that comes under the umbrella title of Ancients and the Punic Wars, especially Hannibal, elephants and Alps! [Sorry, no Alps in a tactical game - compromises do have to be made.]  But, more than that, I had tried and failed [computer glitches!] to pledge to Onus! on Kickstarter and here I was being offered the chance of a copy to review the very game I had so wanted. 

The next reason was because the game offers the opportunity to fight a miniatures style game without all the problems of buying figures, painting them and storing them along with all the necessary terrain.  [Admittedly, terrain for Ancients battles does tend to be more minimal than for other historical periods.]  Even more important was the impression I had got from the Kickstarter advertising that here was a simulation using miniatures based rules that was accessible and easy to understand and was physically appealing too.

My final reason was that Onus was the first game produced by Draco Ideas and I had already greatly enjoyed playing and reviewing for A Wargamer's Needful Things a composite copy [original Spanish edition with basic English translation of the rules] of their yet to be published English edition of 2GM Tactics.  So, my expectations were high and especially my expectations of the rule book.  As this was going to be the key element for me, I'm going to break my usual pattern of starting with what I think of as a written unboxing  and instead head straight to the rule book.

I had read substantially about the original Spanish edition's rule book and, I confess, the impression given was not a flattering one. 

If you've read my review of 2GM Tactics, you'll know that Draco Ideas went for a cartoonish style of art work and, as you can see from the front of this game box, which is identical to the cover of the rule book, the same influence was there from the beginning.

However, just like 2GM Tactics, Onus's rule book is anything but cartoonish.  Small in size, but with a wealth of depth, it is a wholly serious product.  Print remains on the very small size with every page providing fairly dense text layout, but the main question would be how clear and comprehendible  they are.  The original Spanish rules had come in for some heavy flack regarding tone, which was seen as too chatty, with poor organisation and lack of clarity.  With no ability to read Spanish, I cannot comment on the validity of these complaints. 

What I can happily say is that these English rules bear no similarity whatsoever to that less than adequate picture.  Either those original comments were inaccurate or an excellent job has been done on improving them for the English edition.  First of all, the organisation of the rules is wholly logical, taking us through Set-Up and how to read the information on the unit cards, General cards and Order/Event cards.  A brief Game Sequence is followed by detailed sections on Movement, Charges, Ranged Attacks, Melee, Morale, Flight, the End of Turn and Victory Conditions. 

All is rounded out with brief sections on 3/4 player sessions, Solo play, five Scenarios and a simple Campaign linking the five together.  A very useful page of Golden Rules and a Modifiers Summary on the back cover are a great help, though I must admit that I did need to copy the Modifiers Summary page and enlarge it for easy reading!  There is even a two page Simplified Rules section that strips play down to very, very bare essentials, which could be highly useful for drawing younger gamers into the hobby.

Still, providing an organised rule book shouldn't be too hard a task.
Slightly more difficult can be making sure that they can be understood and then executed with relative ease.  I have to say that my past experience of miniatures rules, whether in the form of purely a rulebook intended for use with figures or in a professional games format like this one, has not been a happy one.  Even the simplest end such as the Strategos set by Philip Sabin or his ravishing Lost Battles boxed game ultimately left me too often confused and uncertain.  Certainly, I never achieved a level were I could largely just get on with the enjoying the game and not have multiple interruptions to check things, a situation that left me dispirited.

Thankfully, I can say that the rules for Onus! are clear, easy to understand and eminently workable.  In particular, Movement and Charges [consistently the most difficult aspect of figure games rules] are well explained with good, picture-illustrated examples.  Because you are moving over a table-top, not a nicely regulated, printed hex grid, and using the traditional measuring stick beloved of figure gamers, there will always be potential  for some uncertainty and argument, but that lies more with the gamer than the rules!  

However, this is the first time I've been able to  easily understand and achieve such things as how to extend either or both wings of a unit or envelop the flank or rear of a unit.  Charge rules in many, many games are the most complex and often awkward to explain and satisfactorily carry out.  Chalk up another successful detail in this game. 

Having once sat watching two miniatures gamers with a sheaf of rules spend a whole 10 minutes resolving one single melee with percentages calculated  endless modifiers added and subtracted and a final result of no losses to either side, I was glad to find melee too works smoothly with both Attacker and Defender throwing the same number of dice  according to the number of sections in contact. 

That's not to say that Onus! lacks the necessary refinements to cover details such as the benefits of the aforementioned movement against the flank or rear, as well as Attacker formation, cavalry v infantry, the presence of a general, broken status, previous wounds inflicted and more.  When you add the ability to throw in the effects of an Event too,  I was more than satisfied with this feature of the game.

I was very well pleased too with the moderate, but appropriate range of modifiers associated with the Melee section and the overall ease of application so that they were soon second nature and rarely needed any reference to the quick summary sheet that forms the back cover. 

I realise that the Battleground system has trodden a very similar path already, but having tried very hard to master Battleground : Second Punic War, here are the main reasons that Onus! has succeeded for me, where the other failed.

The simplest point was the much greater detail and clarity of the rules.  Battleground is sketchy, brief and too often hard to understand.  Next was the fact that the Battleground unit cards have to be marked with a dry-wipe marker pen to change stats as the game progresses.  Personally, I dislike having to write on any game components [even if designed for that purpose] and it is all too easy, when doing so, to get the ink on other elements.  Above all, lifting the cards out of melee contact and returning them successfully in position is a nightmare.

In Onus! these problems are avoided by the simple use of marker chits and I was amazed by the quantity and quality that could be packed into such a small box.

Just a small sample of the range included

And more

And more

As you can see an impressive array and those are only a proportion of the total provided.  I'm still not sure how they've managed to include so much physical material and how it still fits in the box even when I've bagged it up.

On top of that you've got all the unit cards: 30 Roman, 30 Carthaginian and 30 mercenaries.

A typical Punic [Carthaginian] Phalanx

Here's an idea of the range of Punic [Carthaginian] units: Libyan Spearmen, Punic Archers and Cavalry, Lusitanian Infantry, Armed Civilians, Punic Infantry and, what else but ... Elephants!   These are opposed by all the familiar Roman troops: Hastati, Princeps,Velites, Triarii and two different types of Equites while the Mercenaries bring more exotic elements like Celtiberian Infantry, Balearic Slingers and Numidean cavalry, along with a range of missile throwing machines.

Though there are generals, they are sadly few, but famous.

Whereas the number of dual Order/Event cards is  a very satisfying 72 and apart from the variety this provides, their dual use adds in that dilemma of choice that you may becoming familiar with recognising as a game mechanic popular with me.

The typical instructions on the Order half [yellow heading] of the cards are strongly reminiscent of the Command and Tactic cards in the Command & Colours system.  As the battlefield is not divided into sectors, there are no worries about only possessing cards that relate to sectors where you have no units, though I have found occasionally that I have a hand of cards where most of my Orders aren't useful to activate units to move or fire!  As the rules suggest, it's well worth marking those units that you intend to activate and, for once, that is not a type of marker the game contains.  Personally, I tend to use a small die, simple, clear and easy to remove once the unit has been activated and most gamers have more than enough extra dice to hand!

The Events on the other half of the cards [blue heading] are nearly all applicable to Combat in some shape or form and I appreciate  what they often add to the narrative of the game.  Suddenly discovering that your vulnerable enemy suffering a ranged attack has benefited from a Take Shelter card and has become much harder to hit or that an attack against you is strengthened by an additional and unexpected ranged attack give a great deal of flavour to my gaming experience. 

Inevitably Onus! does not have the extreme rapidity of play found in a treatment such as the Command & Colours expansions that make up the Ancients line and, if you've read my review of The Great War, you'll know how much I do enjoy those games.  But I have been well rewarded with a more detailed system that gives the right feel and visual effect of fighting a miniatures battle at a fraction of the cost in money, time and effort that buying  and painting figures and then finding a rules set that didn't drive me to distraction would have been.

I now have to worry about my flanks, about manoeuvring and not being able to move through friendly units without the cost of breaking my own units.  I can take into account formation changes and the particular benefits of certain types of unit and all without disappearing under a mountain of rules.

I was even more fortunate that Draco Ideas generously included in their package to me the Desert Battle mat which greatly enhances play.  Here the Carthaginians advance beyond the village/city [depending on whichever battle you imagine you're playing].

This gives a close-up impression of said village/city. 

Apologies that my camera work doesn't do full justice to this.

I hope in the not to distant future to be able to report back on the first two Expansions:  Onus! Greeks Vs Persians and Onus! Scenery & Fortresses.

[Meantime, a trip to the Iberian peninsular with old long nose himself, Sir Arthur Wellesley, in Espana 20 : Bussaco & Talevera looks on the cards.]

ONUS! Rome Vs Carthage

Normal price £27 approx.