Sunday, April 3, 2016

En Garde! in the Bronze Age

Kevin Smyth, Phil Bardsley, and I gave Osprey's recently-released En Garde! rules a first play on Saturday at The Panzer Depot in Kirkland, WA.

These rules are a variation on the author's earlier Ronin rules. The game engine is pretty much the same only the game is moved from feudal Japan to 16th-18th c. Europe (or places where Europeans trod in that era, for example, the Americas). Kevin and I are working on Aztecs and conquistadors for these rules, as well as for a variation of Lion Rampant. In lieu of any figures for the period, we reached back into the Bronze Age for our play test and used my 40mm Monolith Designs prehistoricalistic Europeanoids for the game.

The game

The rules work for this era without any variation required; the technology is all there. I made up some character sheets for Bronze Age warrior types and checked to see who I could sucker in. Only Phil and Kevin were takers, so we played a 3 against 3 scenario (theoretically, that is. The game wound up as 2 against 1 with me being the 1).

Splitting my forces, a great tactical maneuver in the Custer tradition
I have myself to blame for the 2-1. In every cutthroat kind of scenario, I instinctively split my forces assuming—incorrectly—that my two opponents will also split theirs. This is the reason I hate playing Risk. I always wind up being the muggins who gets wiped out first.

Kevin advances into the woods—against me
I was in a big field, while Kevin had a wood to hide in. I ran my two bowmen out to start taking pot-shots at his open flank.

First shots of doomed men
Kevin, however, ran a couple of his slingers against me and soon knocked me silly. Being a confirmed slingophile, I should like that, only it was me on the wrong end of the lithic trajectory.

Phil's band cowering behind the hedge
Phil ran his warband up to a hedge in the assumption that I would attack him across it. In a rare impulse of good sense, I decided to go around the hedge instead, prompting him to change front. It also gave me the option of getting a brief 3-2 advantage against him.

The 3-2 advantage worked in my favor. I managed to put two of his warriors hors de combat before he brought the rest of his warriors, including his champion and chieftain, against me.

Bardsley, last of his tribe, steps into the open
Kevin and I wound up fighting in the woods. I had a bit of an advantage, but wound up getting my champion killed, my chieftain wounded, and my other warriors killed too.

I wound up with 50% of my war band killed off and had to check morale, which I passed easily. However, we called the game since it looked like certain doom for me (Kevin and Phil operating under a truce).


The game played very well. The rules are pretty simple, once you get the habit of them. We did one thing wrong. I assumed that combat results went either way. Instead, an attack that fails spectacularly is just a failed attack; the attacker suffers no adverse effect. My chieftain was lightly wounded as a result of a  poor die roll against one of Kevin's schlub warriors. The result would have been grievous if not for the chieftain's armor.

In making the character sheets for the war bands, I gave the slingers a 2 shooting value because I feared that they would prove to be anemic otherwise. I got that wrong. Kevin's slingers were death-dealing sharpshooters. My bowmen, with only a 1 shooting value were outclassed.

We each had nine figures in our war bands. Handling them was no problem. We completed the game in just over an hour, though it might have gone longer if we played it out to the bitter end.

Kevin, Dave Schueler, and I are planning another En Garde! game at Meeples in West Seattle later this month. I'm hoping to have some conquistadors, Aztecs, and Tlaxcalans ready to roll by then.

Dice fetish update

We used my newly-acquired 3/4" vintage bakelite dice for the game. I got these just this last week from an Etsy shop. This purchase may just satisfy the bakelite phase of my ongoing dice fetish. I rolled consistently badly. Phil and Kevin tended to roll much better. My evaluation of the shooting may be skewed by Kevin's hot-dicing me in the missile exchange between his slingers and my bowmen.

Original box
The dice came in their original box from the 60s.

Looking all vintage-y
The bakelite dice have that wonderful ivory-like patina that yellows with age. They also have a denser feel than the plastic dice that are all that's available today (except for metal dice, which are too dense).


  1. Good to see the bronze ages chaps fighting,they look great.

  2. Looks cool, would it be easy to adapt this for the cattle raiding style of mid 1500s Ireland? I ask because i know you did an army for a Pikeman's Lament, i'm just looking for something smaller to play the wilds of Elizabethan Ireland :)

    1. I think it would adapt very well. I think we tried this with Aztecs and conquistadors, so 16th c. worked well with it.

    2. You could also try "Flashing Steel" from Ganesha Games. We've done ECW with it and it plays well.