30 August 2014

Brink of Battle: Epic Heroes fantasy rulebook review

Following the release of Brink of Battle, writer Robert Faust has been busy working on his follow up release and expansion for fantasy themed gaming. The original ruleset works perfectly for recreating pretty much any type of historical force and soldiers for skirmish games but it didn't fully support fantasy settings. 

With the release of Epic Heroes you get indeed a truly Epic expansion book, totaling 223 pages it is 100 pages longer than the core rulebook and filled to the brim with so many new profiles, traits, powers and spells that it is both impressive and overwhelming at the same time at first glance.

Not only does the book burst with content, the production value of the expansion book is also amped up, with full color print, improved graphic style for examples and in-game pictures of a variety of BoB: Epic Heroes games in progress to show off the diversity of the rules.

The book starts of by introducing new concepts to the Brink of Battle system. The game still uses the "Period 1,2,3" settings to roughly place your game within a framework for how developed the technology is (roughly translating it the period 1 being sword and sandals, period 2 medieval/renaissance, period 3 early modern/modern). 
This means that a fantasy setting can be placed in a high fantasy world, weird WW2, Victorian horror and modern Lovecraft games and so on. The book is not only "high fantasy" mind you and it's important to stress this fact.

To help players narrow down and highlight the chosen setting for their fantasy games an additional tweak called "Power Level". The game features Power Level 1, 2 and 3 traits, spells, items and powers. Power level 1 games use barely any magic or fantasy elements, and would be perfect for Victorian horror, steampunk and adventure type gaming. Power level 2 is pretty much the default fantasy setting, while power level 3 is high fantasy and includes all types of magic, crazy magical creatures and monsters as well as super powerful traits allowing you to build very powerful characters and monsters.

The historical period and power level combined really is a fantastic feature, and only the imagination sets the limit when thinking about how to come up with Power Level 1 and Period 1 games or Power Level 3 Period 3 games or any other combination?  I instantly think about the PC game Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura which had a Victorian setting with industrialism but was populated by classic fantasy races and combined both gunpowder technology as well as magic.

Speaking of magic, three types of magic are covered in the game which
could be translated as Good, Neutral and Evil type of magic. Magic is directly affected by the Power Level of your game, the higher the Power level the more powerful the magic spells become but also increase the likelihood of devastating effects if a casting failure occurs. Casting magic works similar to ranged attack/defense rolls in that both players are rolling dice - the attacker having to equal or surpass the roll of the defender to inflict a successful result. However, unlike "running out of ammo" with ranged weapons the failure to properly cast a magic spell has a different effect depending on the power level. Weak Power level 1 spells simply fail the caster, while Power level 3 casting failures counts as wounded and removed from play as the immense power of the spell becomes too much to handle.

Furthermore, the more powerful the spell/power level of the spell the more complex it becomes for a character to cast it. Low level spells can be cast "on the move" with a snap of fingers - while more complex Power level 2 and 3 spells either reduce your mobility or require you to be completely stationary to pull them off. Two mages attacking each other may also use the "Break" (reaction attack)  rule from the core rulebook where the defender quickly throws a spell of his own at the attacker.

Other news that affect the gameplay are the new rules for flying models which are comprehensively described with lots of examples for moving, fighting in the air, damage effects of flying models being struck down and how such characters/creatures react when their morale breaks.

Flyers are accompanied by rules for exotic mounts/cavalry. At the core the rules for exotic mounts use regular horses and war mounts, but with added traits they can be turned into pretty much anything from flying unicorns to He-Man style tiger mounts. The book does a great job giving examples of multiple fantasy mounts such as riding spiders and dragons to show players how the concept of building a mount works and what kind of traits should be used from the exotic cavalry trait list.

The game also provides 6 types of traits that characters can use, (not counting the exotic cavalry mount traits). These are Champion traits (such as specialist training), Inborn traits (typical fantasy race traits), Power traits (such as use of magic), Prestige Traits (enhancements/evolution of other traits), Vocation traits (pretty much character classes from RPG games such as spellcaster, warrior, cleric etc) and Profile traits (which are new traits that can be used in both classic historical Brink of Battle or in the Epic Heroes expansion).

Additionally gear also has new subcategories, "prestige gear" which requires characters to have specific traits and "magic gear" which constitute classic fantasy items, weapons and armor.

Everything listed in the rules using the above mentioned traits comes with a power level symbol indicating whether the item can be used in Power level 1, 2 or 3 games narrowing down the option with ease.

The amount of detail and range of traits in the book is really impressive, it covers every kind of common and uncommon trait and skill you can imagine. "Hive mind" for added control radius, "Horrible Stench" that act as a natural defense, "Ghost sight" for having Line of sight through terrain, "Battle mage" that allow you cast spells without penalty while engaged in combat, "Alchemist" which allows models to boost the party with a chosen effect at the start of the game, "Armor of faith" that add supernatural armor, and hundreds more! In fact the book boasts some 270 traits and it is what makes up the bulk of the content.

The trait chapters are divided in such a way as to allow players to navigate character building - the alchemist gets several pages of available "Alchemic formulae" to pick from while the Witch hunter gets several "edicts" that boosts his character with specialist attacks and powers. The same goes for Monks, Mages, Druids, Warriors, Paladins, Rogues and so on.

All in all Brink of Battle: Epic Heroes is a fantastic resource and toolbox for those interested in crafting their own fantasy settings from scratch. The book also features sample army lists for fantasy warbands as well as several campaign settings that can be picked from ranging from high fantasy to weird spins on historical periods. The number of traits and profiles is as already said impressive to say the least, it is hard to think of anything left out or that which cannot be created by using the contents of this book.

Mind that you will need the core rulebook to play this expansion!

The rulebook will be released on August 31st and may be purchased in a digital edition through the Wargame Vault

You can also learn more about Brink of Battle and the Epic Heroes release directly from the Brink of Battle homepage HERE

Publisher: http://www.brinkofbattle.com/
Contents: 223 pages full color
Authors: Robert Faust & Andrew Davies
Format: 2-players, alternate activation, toolbox type ruleset for skirmish games
Gaming aides: D10 dice
Price: $33 for digital version of the rules. Not yet specified for softback version.


  1. The sounds a pretty neat game in a quick overview, but it seems an expensive for a pdf version.

  2. Extremely expensive for a pdf, especially when you have very good skirmish rules like Warrior Hero Legends, Song of Blade and Heroes, Vortex, etc out there for cheap.

  3. i like BoB for shooting games but will have to try it out for fantasy fighting. i hope its better organised then the original BoB-book as it is so "pagey".


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