A Tale of Two Expansions: A Dark and Bloody Ground & The Age of Bronze

By Bill Gray 24 Apr 2019 0

As I have noted before, historical miniature wargaming is pretty much a cottage industry; small companies producing on demand, high quality products as a part time endeavor by enthusiasts. That’s not always the case, however, and one of the 800 lb gorillas in the full-time, professional wing of the hobby is Warlord Games Inc out of the UK. Formed back in 2007 by former Games (shudder) Workshop sculptors John Stallard and Paul Sawyer, the kitchen table company has now grown into a firm boasting over £ 2.0 million in assets with 50 plus employees. Purveyors of fine in-house produced 28 mm wargaming figures, Warlord also has several rulebook franchises and its own very extensive paint line. Seriously, people, one of the colors produced is Modern Soviet Body Armor. Partnerships abound as well, most notably Osprey Publishing via the Bolt Action wargaming rules for World War II.

This means when Warlord drops a new piece of merchandise, they do it big time, to include the principal product plus brand new peripherals and supporting fare. So it was and is between last month and two weeks from now. Two of the firm’s biggest rules franchises – Black Powder (BP) and Hail Caesar (HC) – just got some expansions, so let’s check them out.

The Age of Bronze

The Age of Bronze is the newest expansion for the Hail Caesar ancients wargaming rules penned by Monsieur Rick Priestly et al. Like Black Powder, from which it was derived, HC is actually based on an older Games Workshop tome called Warmaster, and continuing a tradition of driving us Colonials absolutely nuts, there is no scale whatsoever, not for time or turns, ground distance or unit size. Like Warmaster, HC was made to replicate big battles, and for space and cash strapped folks across the pond, one of the issues was the big table and large numbers of troops needed. HC remains a game of medium complexity, occupying a spot somewhere between the abstract DBA (De Bellis Antiquitatis) and the graduate degree granularity of Field of Glory 3e tabletop. HC’s claim to fame were rules that forced players into historical battle lines, die roll based orders using a commander’s rating that enabled a unit to do nothing, multiple functions or a Blunder, and lots of dice.

Age of Bronze 1

The new Age of Bronze supplement officially moves HC into the time of Pharaohs and their kin, and is a scenario book with a twist. The book is 160 pages long with the typical high quality presentation format one expects from Warlord. This means full color glossy paper with lots of professionally designed maps and diagrams, all garnished with spectacular pictures of wargame dioramas from the likes of the Perry’s and others. Like the core rules, language is a bit British and somewhat non-specific, reminiscent of more gentlemanly gaming where compromise and tradition easily solved a disagreement or imprecision in the text. If you have a player with a Juris Doctorate in Gaming, get ready to hurt him.

There are also 32 scenarios in the book, and this is where the twist comes in. Normally supplements to HC revolve around historical big battles and big games, but not always in Age of Bronze. Because this was both an age of heroes punctuated by small skirmishes, many of the scenarios are smaller, and one of those is a unique little ditty called Chariot Duel.

Age of Bronze 2

OK, think the Brad Pitt movie Troy, and the scene where Achilles and Hector hack and slash each other. In this scenario each side has one chariot and crew, each representing one chariot and crew, of which one of the passengers is a mighty uber warrior. The way it works is that each chariot is treated as if it were a regular game unit in and of itself, but with enhanced combat values in the same way the concept of “Champion” works in fantasy gaming. Within specific game limits, each Champion can also draw special personal attributes, weapons or armor from a designated list, thus personalizing each and every combat.

Price for Age of Bronze is £10.00 for digital PDF or £24.00 for hardcopy, but if you order the latter direct, you also get a free wargaming figure of Rameses II.

But that’s not all. Simultaneously released last month with the book are a plethora of special Starter Sets. These packs use existing Warlord produced figures for generic Army Lists, all designed by their partner firm Cutting Edge Figures. The Starter Sets mirror the period covered by the supplement and include Chariot Duel (duh; with the rulebook BTW), Sumerian, River Pirates, Akkadian, New Kingdom Egypt and Hittites. There is a sale right now, so prices run from £40.00 for the Chariot Duel to £295.00 for an Akkadian Army. As an example, the colorful New Kingdom Egyptian Army Starter Set demands £255.00 for 136 foot figures, 12 chariot crew and 6 chariots divided as:

First Division

  • 1x Commander
  • 1x unit of Shardana Guard
  • 2x units of Medium Infantry with mace-axes (New Kingdom Egyptian Close Fighters II)
  • 1x Chariot squadron

Second Division

  • 1x Commander
  • 3x units of Medium Infantry with Spears (Egyptian Spearmen)
  • 1x Chariot squadron

Third Division

  • 1x Commander
  • 3x units of Libyan Light Infantry (Libyan Close Fighters)
  • 1x unit of Libyan Light Infantry Archers (Early Libyan Archers)

Figures are 28 mm, medium rough sculpt and just a very tiny bit short IMHO. Nevertheless, anatomy is excellent and the Warlord tradition of favoring animation over absolute gaiter button accuracy holds true.

Age of Bronze 3

A Dark and Bloody Ground

The second release, about two weeks out, is the BP expansion A Dark and Bloody Ground covering the French and Indian War, the North American campaign of the Seven Years War. In many respects what goes for Age of Bronze goes for Dark and Bloody Ground, but also like the former there is a twist. First, the book replaces a previous supplement called The Last Argument of Kings, although this time the pub is French and Indian War specific. Second, this new tome is really more of a reference book than it is a scenario book with Army Lists. To quote Warlord:

Inside this book, you will find a complete history of the conflict with details of every major battle fought between the two sides. Also included are details of the uniforms, organization and commanders of the European armies, their colonial regulars and militias, and the various Native American tribes that supported or opposed them. Scenarios are provided for many of the battles of the war along with suggestions for campaign games.

My guess here is that the French and Indian War was both short enough and small enough – at least for the number of units deployed by the warring parties – to make such a unique selling point possible. I’m all for one stop shopping when it comes stuff like this, so this is a good thing.

Dark and Bloody Ground 1

This supplement will run you £22.00 with a PDF digital version yet to be announced. Released simultaneously are also two Stater Sets specifically devoted to two actual battles from the conflict, both of which include the book. They are Last Stand at Fort William Henry (for all you Hawkeye and Magua fans out there) at £155.00 and the other Raid of Fort Duquesne for £230.00. In the latter you are looking at 178 figures of which the inclusion of civilians, canoes and farm animals is noteworthy. The set is keyed to the same scenario on page 126 of the supplement and includes:

  • Dark and Bloody Ground supplement (Including Eagle Eye special figure)
  • French Indian War British Colonial Army (48 Infantry)
  • French Indian War French Colonial Army (58 Infantry)
  • French Indian War Native American War Party (59 Infantry)
  • American Colonial Rangers in Canoe (2 Infantry)
  • Companie de la Marine in Canoe (2 Infantry)
  • Armed Colonial Settlers (8 Infantry)
  • Farmyard Animals Frame (20 animals)

Finally, Warlord has released two legitimate new sets of figures supporting the book, one of dead horses, the other of dead cattle, each £ 5.00 for three 28 mm figures.

Finis

Warlord Games is one of the few full time firms in the hobby and also one of the few releasing stuff all the time. In a tip to the future, their releasing rules in both PDF and Ebook format should not be ignored. I could likely do a weekly column on just what the folks in Nottingham are up to, but obviously I can’t. But anytime something in support of the Black Powder, Hail Caesar or Pike & Shotte franchises is released, its always worth a look.

Why? Because back in May of last year, for God knows why, Warlord offered all three core games for FREE as a digital download, that’s why. This means every time a new franchise product drops, if you are one of the rumored hundreds that availed yourself, then here comes gaming on the cheap with high quality products from one of the hobbies premier companies. But clever lads that they are, I’m betting John and Paul knew this all along, so stay tuned.

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