Standing on the “Brink of Battle” Part I

This is the first of a series of reviews of wargames rules. The emphasis will be on skirmish level gaming although there will be the occasional sidetrip into others as well.
“Brink of Battle” (hereafter referred as BoB) is designed by Bob Faust and was published last year by his Strategic Elite Publishing company.
Basically, the game is about one to one small level combat. According to the rules, the maximum number of figures per side is 20 while the minimum is five. You can use a number of different scales up to and including 54mm. The recommended table size is 4′ x 4′ although I use a 4’x6′.
The rules define three different periods of play. Period 1 is Ancient/Medieval covering the period from 3000 BC to 1450 AD. Period 2 is Early Modern that covers the period from 1450 to 1880 AD and Period 3 covers 1880 to Present Day. As you can see, this is quite a time span but BoB handles all of it very well. There is a Sci-Fi addition that covers various future settings but these are still in the playtest stage as are the rules and setting for Fantasy.
Once you’ve selected a period, the next step is to decide from what year within that period you wish to build your force. For example, I wish to create a Period 1 force. Since I have a number of Viking/Saxon figures available, I choose the year 1000. It is quite possible to have two units meet on the battlefield that are centuries apart. For instance, the aforementioned Vikings going up against Late Republican Roman Legionaries. The rules are written in such a way as to make this not only possible but playable as well.
So how do you create a unit? Well, first off, let me say this. There are no pre-genned units in the game so you will spend some time doing this. It’s a point buying system that is easy to learn mechanically. The challenge comes in the actual designing of your forces. In this aspect, BoB is similar to a number of RPG’s that are currently on the market.
You begin with 500 Supply Points (SP’s) that you can spend on Ratings, Traits, and Equipment. If you a follow a theme i.e. a Viking Warband or a Union Army Patrol complete with appropriate names, you get an extra 25 points…on yea…don’t forget to flock the bases either.
There are three different types of Battleforce Organizations; Horde, Standard, and Elite. Each type has it’s own unique makeup. There are also three types of soldiers, Commanders (only 1 per force), Veterans, and Troopers. The type of force determines the maximum percentage of points that can be spent on each type of figure. There is also a minimum and maximum number of troops of each type allowed. The highest total being the Horde at a maximum of 20 figures and the lowest being the Elite Battleforce at 3. In practical experience, given the standard 500+25 SP build, I cane up with about half of the maximum figures allowed.
There are three ratings for each figure. Combat (CBT), Command, (CMD), and Constitution (CON). Combat is how well the individual figure can fight in either Close or Ranged Combat. Command is how well their morale holds up on the battlefield while Constitution measures the physical ability of the individual. Each type of figure has a maximum level that it can have.
Commanders have 7, Veterans 6 and Troopers 5.
The next step is to select Traits. These are various individual characteristics that can add to the individuals Ratings to make them more effective in battle. Commanders get thee Traits (actually two as the Commander Trait while free does count against the total.) Veterans get two and troopers get one. All of which is paid for out of the Supply Points allotment. These should be chosen carefully so as to reflect the character of the individual soldier. I personally found it fun and challenging to create a force this way.
Finally, each figure has equipment purchased for it out of the Supply Points. Although the rules make it plain that WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) i.e. the figure can only have what it is cast with. I tend to ignore this rule simply because I have a whole lot of figures that I’ve painted and mounted long before I got my hands on BoB. I figure as long as I have paid the points and make sure that my opponent knows that Einar has a spear as well as that big ass axe that he’s wielding then no problem.
Another step that I take is to make up “Standard Kits”. I put these on a 3″ x 5″ index card. They include wpns, armor, and shield with the SP costs already figured out. It’s a great help and I highly recommend it.
All in all, while it may take a bit of prep time, the payoff is IMO well worth it.

Next Up: In Part 2, I’ll go through the design process in more detail using the Invasion America 1905 as a background.

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