Monday, April 29, 2013


The armies muster for battle...
Our Friday night Dark Hersey game was suspended due to low player turn out, so those of us that were left sought out a game that we could play that was quick, easy and fast! Glancing up on the shelf, I noticed Battlemasters, the old MB/GW game, and very soon the night would quickly become entertaining! For a more accurate accounting of what Battlemasters was, check out the wiki entry on it.

Once upon a time Games Workshop actually made an effort to focus on the games aspect of their name as well as the workshop aspect and focused on developing new games all the time, Their stores and mail order even provided a small, yet diverse selection of games for casual board gamers to tip their toe into realms of GW. Over the years this has waned tremendously so, with their main focus being Warhammer Fantasy Battle and Warhammer 40.000 and their tertiary support pretty much devoted too Lord of the Rings support (with a mystery box tossed onto the market every two years). But I digress. It seems some time in the late Ansel period of GW, they had a partnership with MB (Milton Bradly, maker of many games for kids of all ages) to produce and distribute games that were for the most part gateway drugs to the highly addictive plastic (and lead or pewter) crack that is WHRB and WH40K). For many people in the late '80 and early '90s these games were often the introduction to wargaming and the GW cosmologies. These games were Heroquest, Space Crusade and finally the big blow out of Battlemasters. They were decently priced (by board game standards) and easy to find. The ability to get your parents to find a copy of Heroquest at the local Toys R Us as opposed to sending them to a complicated and potentially awkward gaming store was something of a win. Why GW doesn't do something like this now still eludes me....! The above scenario is how by brother ended up with Space Crusade, Heroquest and Battlemasters for either Christmas or a birthday over the course of a few years.

Sally forth! The empire knights storm across the field!

Battlemasters is a massive set! Just huge! To date, GW has yet so make a boxed set with this many figures in it! Scoring one of these sets today would give you an instant Empire army, and a damn fine start on Orcs & Goblins and Chaos.

The game itself is quick to learn, easy to play, yet still reliant upon the player having a sense of strategy and a lucky instinct.

The calvary units clash!
 There were five of us, and we broke up into 2 teams of two while I took it upon myself to GM the game, and act as a rules ref and the card flipper. Let me explain what that means: All actions are determined by a deck of cards that lists which stands can take a turn. A turn is a move and/or and attack. Some cards might allow for additional actions (x2 movement for Gobo Wolfriders for example). It is a shockingly elegant system which eliminates a lot of the time spent on trying to move units in a certain time while also forcing the player to try to leave other models a clear path to get them where you want them to go.

There are two really wonky units: the Great Cannon and the Ogre. Each has a unique system for performing actions. The cannon is used by placing a target circle on the unit you wish to destroy, and you then shuffle additional cannon ball cards and lay them down between the cannon and the target. You flip them over an apply the effects to which ever unit ends up under an explosion or bouncing cannon ball.

BOOM! A unit of wolfriders is blasted to little green and fuzzy bits
The ogre has a really crazy deck of cards of his own, which determines what he does. You get as many cards as he has wounds, which allows him to launch into the field and hopefully pound your foes to death!
The Ogre and Knights fight to the death!

 I haven't played this game in about 17 years, and we had a blast! It also helped that I now have a table big enough to play it on, as before we had to play on the floor and some models are damaged from those days. We had the whole game wrapped up in just a few hours, and I am sure now that everyone knows how to play it we will get more games in down the road.

I hope you enjoyed!



Max said...

Man that game was a formative part of my childhood. I didn't actually realize it was a GW game until I had been playing 40k for a couple of years and happened to run by it when I visited my parents. Now the Ogre proudly waves a banner in my Ogre Kingdoms army, and I think I'll be using the knights for an Empire army when I get around to it.

Excellent nostalgia trip!

neverness said...

Thanks, glad you enjoyed this! The ogre was a pretty impressive model in it's day, there had never been anything like it to this point. The idea that a miniature manufacturer would make a plastic ogre just seemed so unrealistic at the time... How times have changed, yes? :)

Zero said...

Thanks for the memory-jog! I haven't seen this game in decades.

Do you think WFB models with movement trays would serve as a replacement for the models that come with the set?

neverness said...

Yes, we actually did this for one unit. The BM trays have a panel on the back that shows the unit's stats which makes playing super quick as it keeps you from needing a reference page, but yeah it can be done. The hardest thing to replicate will be the dice as they were totally unique to this game.