22 April 2013

By Fire & Sword rulebook (English version) review

I'm still exhausted from my lightning raid to Salute this weekend but I thought I would give this topic priority due to the Kickstarter for the By Fire & Sword that went live this weekend.

The guys at Wargamer.pl were at Salute promoting their game, and I think, dipping their toes in the "western market" to see what the interest there would be for a 17th century game with primarily central and eastern European theme would be. To do so they brought a limited run of but 100 copies to Salute for sale, and I picked up one copy, as did the guys at my club. Briefly summarizing the talk I had with Konrad who is head of Wargamer.pl I learned that the game seemed to go over very well, they expected to sell all books and had already sold most of them when I arrived. There was also a bit of a buzz about the game when I talked to other guys I met, doing my pit stops at various manufacturers and demo games. So fingers crossed for a smash hit. The game deserves it.

Now onto the English version of the rulebook. I won't review the rules again as you can find the 3 part review of them here:




Instead I'm going to focus on the book itself. First of all, I noticed that it was bound differently than the Polish language version which I heard had some issues after prolonged use. The new binding came with a swap of printers but the rest of the book is the same high standard as the Polish version in terms of paper thickness, quality, colors and feel. But that is not the only direct improvement, the past year the Polish edition have been played at countless tournaments and been really put to the test.

As with all rules questions arise, player do things that the writers hadn't expected and some typos snuck in during final editing. As such the English version takes all lessons learned and the entire errata section from the Polish Wargamer forum and adds that to the page count, making the English version 8 pages longer. There are now stuff like new diagrams showing more examples of various combat situations for Cossack war wagons.

The book is now just over 400 pages long, but is still made up of high quality content that should appeal to a broad spectrum of gamers. Newcomers to the hobby or the game will find an introduct discussing painting miniatures and a basing standard for the game. This is followed by all the core rules and the advanced and optional rules which really enhance the game (with such things as "limited ammunition" for all units that make combat more realistic and interesting, scenario lists and army lists and unit rosters for all nations.

I think the best part of the rulebook itself from is being able to, from a purely readers perspective, read up on all the nations and units of the period. Unit formation history, their tactics, information about weapons, equipment, how armies were raised and maintained, the quirky but interesting details are all in there - embedded in into each nations chapter.

You still get all the stats, units, army lists for both skirmish level games as well as larger division sized battles. Scenarios for skirmish games are also included. I think I may have underestimated the Skirmish level myself, it has been the main focal point of the Polish community and all the tournaments that I know of ran by Wargamer have been played at Skirmish level. Me and the guys at the club will start playing these next week, as I break in the rules for Andreas (Swedes and Ottomans) and Christian (Cossacks). The rulebook includes everything and anything you would need to play the game.
I should add that there are a couple of additional and free PDF lists that are written around historical raiding forces and thus vary a bit from the ones you find in the core rulebook. These are however still only available in Polish, though I'm confident we will see them in English soon enough now that work on the English translation finally has come to an end.

For those looking into the future I may also mention that the first expansion is already planned, and it will be "Deluge" themed. That means Swedish armies invading and plundering the Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth. The expansion is going to add a couple new factions (Brandenburg and Transylvania) and add additional flavor to the Swedish armies and put even more emphasis on skirmish warfare between the main opponents - as the Polish campaign turned into a skirmish warfare of attrition for the Swedes who had proven themselves to be strong in open battle but troubled by the hit and run tactics of Polish warbands.

Back to the core rulebook then. It would be a crime not to recommend these rules to anyone who likes the warfare of the 17th century, and especially if you are looking for something else than the English Civil War and Thirty Year War which dominates the period. But even if you are not familiar with the period it offers a great deal of flavor, great battles and campaigns to tickle your imagination. The By Fire & Sword rules bring a lot of new and less common fighting styles and armies that differ greatly from the western European theaters. The Swedes are really the anchor of the Western armies and tactics in the rules, while everyone else - from the Muscovite Russians to the Ottoman Empire bring their own vastly different flavor, style and formations to the battlefield. Caught between them is the Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth which becomes this melting pot of tactics, ideas and constant warfare along its borders and inside its territories.

Pressing home, once again, the fact that the game is written for both smaller battles between the spearheads of great armies ("Skirmish level") as well as regular battles between divisions where whole regiments march or ride into battle should be considered one of the main strengths of the rules design.

The English version of the rules is currently being part of the ongoing Kickstarter, and should be available after the Kickstarter through regular distribution channels after the KS ends and has been shipped.


  1. Great review! Your reviews are a great contribution to bf&s community.

  2. Thanks for the kind words MiSiO :-)

  3. They had a very appealing product and stand - very colourful! Even my brother lingered a moment, he's tough to please!

    I wonder why they're doin a Kickkstarter if the rulebook is already completed and a first print run completed and sold. Is it jus a preorder system to know how big a print run to do or raise money for additions for the game?

    1. The books they had with them were just a very limited run of 100 copies, brought to Salute to check the interest. I think the Kickstarter in this case is mainly used as both a marketing tool but also to see exactly how big the interest is internationally outside of Poland's borders, something that helps when they are going to print the book up in the first larger volume.

      There are great deals in the Kickstarter, and stretch goals are being worked on as well.

  4. by olus:

    too bad the shipping is 25USD.

    I know the book is big, but to "sacrifice" at least 25% on shipping makes me want to delay a purchase, which is bad...

    I will get it, but sadly I think I will wait out the kickstarter and buy a regular copy.

  5. Very nice review!
    I am also suprised that rulebook is already ready. I thought the Kickstarter is raised for preparation of english version.

    1. They have been working on the English translation for over a year, the translation was finished something like a week before Salute.

  6. Hello Anatoli,

    A friend and I have been viewing your sight and have also pledged on the Kickstarter for BF&S. We are trying to determine if it is worth it to purchase a Faction through a Skirmish set or by buying units separately to build a faction.

    If we purchase Skirmisher set & later purchase a box of one of the units in the skirmisher set will we end up with extra figures that we won't be able to use?

    Example: Polish Skirmish Set you get: 3 stands spear armed Pancerni, 3 stands Wallachian Cavalry & 4 stands of Cossack Style Cavalry. Lets say I bougth another box of the Cossack Style Cavalry-another 6 stands. Now I have 10 stands of Cossack Cavalry. Would this be more than I could ever use in the game?

    or if I bought another box of Pacerni-6 stands, This would give me 9 stands of Pacerni Cavalry. Would this be more than I can use in the rules? Since we do not have the rules and you do. we figured maybe you can help us on deciding how to best purchase our Factions/Army. With Starter sets or through individuals unit boxes.

    Your help would greatly be appreciated.


    1. Hi Rich,

      I would recommend going for the Skirmish forces so you both can learn the rules of the game and get a feel for how your nation plays. However if you already have plans to play Division sized battles (3-5 regiments , each containing 4-8 companies of roughly 3 bases each) then I would need to know what armies you both are interested in to give you a bit more info.

      In general I can say that the skirmish forces that offer the most variety in troops are harder to expand into regiments directly. By that I mean that a Skirmish force with lots of troops belonging to a single unit type such as the Swedish Reiters, will be easier and cheaper to convert into a Reiter regiment.

      For the Poles you need 50-50 Pancerni and Cossack style bases, in some configurations slightly more Cossack style than Pancerni, to form the basic Polish Crown Cavalry Regiment (in which Winged Hussars are add-on troops whose numbers depend on how large the regiment is - but never more than 6 bases in a regiment and 10 bases in your entire division).

      Spear armed Cossack style and Pancerni cavalry are also a minority, you will be able to field a maximum of 6 bases of each troop type with spears in your regiment (that is also what you get in the boxes). The rest of you regiment is armed with swords, bows, arquebus and pistol.

      Wargamer.pl are going to post some kind of force building guide on the Kickstarter in order to help people understand the way armies and skirmish forces are built so keep an eye open on it :-)

  7. Hello Anatoli,

    Thank you for you reply. It is our goal to play the Division size game. However, We are trying to maximize the ability to obtain the different armies/factions that we want to play.

    Well initially, I wanted to do the polish-Lithuanians. However, my friend also wants to do the same. In order to make sure we have forces to play against each other, I will let him do the Polish. He is also looking at the Tartars. I will start with the Swedes. I am also going to do the Ottomans.

    He wants to start with the Polish-Lithuanians. His plan is to purchase the skirmish set for the Polish and the skirmish set for the Lithuanians. He also wants to pick up the Polish Special Skirmish set. He is concerned that if he does this and wants to buy additional units to augment his forces, He will end up with extra figures/units that he can not use.

    I think that Wargamer.Pl have designed the skirmish sets to allow you to buy additional units and that you won't have that problem with additional units that are not used. But that it just my opinion.

    I thank you for the information of the units and will forward to my friend. I know the Polish-Lithuanians core units are cavalry, but my friend wanted to know what kind of infantry support/units he would be able to add on to this army. I have advised them that based on the games you played, it appears that they can use mercenary polish infantry and the dismounted dragoons. Is there a limit on these units or other infantry that they can include with their force?

    I am really excited about these rules and can not wait to get them and the minis. Thanks for providing us with the AARs and your reviews. This really helps inform us how good they can be. Have you played any BF&S games recently and will there be any new battle reports. Keep them coming.

    Thanks again,


    P. S.

    Can you give me a little idea of what the choices are for a division of Swedes? How many cavalry units? what types?



  8. The Swedish army has two divisions to choose from, "Field" and "Garrison" division.

    The Field division has more cavalry (2 Reiter regiments to make up the core) and can if you want include all cavalry regiments (including a single Polish Crown or Polish Light cavalry regiment as allied troops).

    The Garrison division has 2 infantry regiments to make up the core, but you can actually go all infantry Pike & Shot regiments for all 5 regiment slots if you so wish.

    Giving advice on how to build Swedish regiments is the easiest since their regiments are so small that a single box of any type of Pike & Shot or Reiters make up enough models/bases to build the foundation of each regiment.

    The Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth too has two divisions to choose from. Polish Crown and Lithuanian divisions.

    A Polish crown is mainly made up of cavalry units, Crown Cavalry (cossack style, Pancerni and Winged hussars). Light Cavalry (cossack style, pancerni, Wallachian and Tatar banners), Volunteer and Levy of the Nobility regiments. The Polish division can field two slots of infantry based regiments, either Dragoons or Foreign infantry contingents of Pike & Shot troops.

    The Lithuanian Division can field a maximum of 1 infantry regiment (but can field 2 Dragoon regiments if you really want to field infantry support) as is even more cavalry heavy with basically the same cavalry troop types used in a Polish division.

    Divisional support units for the Commonwealth consist of Reiters, Dragoons, Musketeers of modern type, Polish-Hungarian infantry banners and Enlisted infantry. Though these units are small company sized clusters better used as support units to guard your artillery, base camp etc.

  9. Also worth mentioning, you can't have more than 12 bases of Winged Hussars in a Polish Crown division, and no more than 10 bases of Winged Hussars in a Lithuanian division. A cavalry regiment must really be maxed out in terms of cavalry units to be able to field 6 stands of Winged Hussar support (which are "unlocked" gradually and increase in numbers with the size of a regiment).

  10. Hello Anatoli,

    Thanks for the information you have provided. It is helping us understands some of the organization of the forces/factions since we don't have the rules yet.

    Because the Winged Hussars are badass and pretty well reconized, this is the first thing most people will want to make and have in their force. The information you provided and the download I got off the BF & S site Re: Using the Army Lists is starting to paint a picture on the basics of how the individual units/forces would be purchased for a game and how you need to get the core units before getting some of the other units. It all looks facinating. I am really looking forward to when the English version finally gets released.

    I just received a set of German Mercenary infantry-new type yesterday. I was curious and ordered them to see what the figures looked like. They are rather nice. I can't wait to start painting them up. They will be my first unit for the Swedish Force. Your painting Tutorials have been really helpful and I am looking forward to trying some of the techiniques out.

    Thanks again for your replies. I will keep in touch.



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