Well on saturday the 25th of February 2012, myself and the Cursed decided we really ought to trek over to Nottingham for the Foundry open day. Primarily because we lead sad lives devoid of any real meaning or purpose... nah it's because we're geeks and we like toy soldiers. Although some might argue, and with some merit, that they are indeed the very same thing. The reason for our excursion though was that Jake Thornton was running intro's of his new game for them, Tribes of Legend. As I'd been having discussion's with him, on and off now for months, about issues we both have with various rule sets I thought it would be really interesting to see how he dealt with the issues he'd identified as being of concern to him. Plus it was a chance to play with toy soldiers, which is always good.
Who are Foundry Miniatures?
Foundry Miniatures is one of those gaming companies that you've probably never heard of, or half remember from a brief conversation with some old guy at a gaming club with an impressive beard. Most gamers of my generation won't have heard of them at all, although they've actually been in existence for quite some time. They were founded in 1976 by Bryan Ansell, not 12 months after Games Workshop were themselves were founded by John Peake, Steve Jackson and Ian Livingston. So they themselves are a venerable old beast of a company, who must have been doing something right all those years to have actually survived as they have. Like Games Workshop, and indeed much of the British based wargames firms, Foundry Miniatures are based in Nottingham, also like many other manufacturers of miniatures in the area they too have a little bit of an incestuous relationship with the Lenton Lane Behemoth.
|Well most of them are fully clothed.|
The most obvious link though would be their founder Bryan Ansell who himself had a big role to play in making Games Workshop the company they are today... erm... yeah thanks, I think. It was Bryan who Steve Jackson and Ian Livingston turned to when they needed somebody to help set up Citadel Miniatures in 1979. So you can thank him for making that little tower logo so synominous with Games Workshop. A few years later in 1983 he actually brought Games Workshop from Steve Jackson and Ian Livingston and so could be credited with turning Games Workshop into the success they are today. He later sold the company through a management buyout in 1991 to current hobby bête noir Tom Kirby, yes he of the forked tongue and horned head, that if you believe some people actually looks like this:
|From left to right: Mark Wells and Tom Kirby (artists impression)|
Although I personally think they're probably both far less charismatic, suave and debonair than those two. At this point though Bryan Ansell left Games Workshop, probably with a bag marked oodles of cash and another bag with a load of moulds of Citadel's historic miniatures range, which have become part of Foundry's range.
|Some of their Italian Wars historic range.|
That's enough about the life of Bryan though, because what the Foundry have concentrated on over the last twenty or so years is creating an absolutely vast range of historic miniatures from all periods of history imaginable. You name it, they've probably made it. Throughout this period they've remained either refreshingly, or stubbornly Old Skool, depending on your point of view. I'm not too sure Foundry Miniatures have ever even heard of plastic. As far as I'm aware they've only ever made miniatures out of metal. I'm going to be honest, I like that the Foundry seems to exist in a bit of a time warp at it's St Marks Street site in Nottingham. Yep so not all their miniatures are amazing, in fact I'm not too sure any of them are, but they're actually not as bad as many people continually make out either. True some are dire, but I've got to say I had a bit of a nostalgia rush seeing their trolls and I really like their new rotund dwarfs that I saw. There range is absolutely huge too, and extremely varied and some of their historic stuff is actually very good.
|One of their rulebooks.|
They don't just produced little metal toy soldiers though, they produce their own actually very popular range of gaming paints. I've never actually tried any of the Foundry's own paints so I couldn't really comment on them, but they do sell over 350 different colours / shades of paint, so if you're after a specific colour then they're likely to have it I guess. They also produce many, many different books too. From the painting guides of Kevin Dallimore, to the military history books written or edited by Ian Heath. Obviously as they're a miniatures company they've also produced a good number of rulebooks by the likes of Bryan Ansell, Jake Thornton, Rick Priestly, Frank Chadwick and Matthew Fletcher. It all has a nice cottage industry feel to it as well, and I mean that as a compliment, because they're all under one roof and everything happens on the one site. Plus their staff are extremely friendly and welcoming. Well that's the history and introductions out of the way, now onto the day...
Tribes of Legend
The Tribes of Legend rulebook actually contains three separate games. There's the eponymous 'Tribes of Legend', which is the game we played, it's the largest of the games in terms of scale and leans towards mass battles. The second of the games is a very small skirmish game called 'Ancient Heroes' and finally, an interesting concept for a solo wargame called 'Trials of the Demigod'. It's 'Trials' I'm actually most interested in as a concept, but on the day it was as I say the mass battle game Tribes of Legend we played. First thing I have to say is that it was really nice for a change to see some demo boards that weren't bloody Realm of Battle boards, and had a bit of charm and character. It really helped with the setting of the games being played.
|Ooooh look horsey people! The Cursed played as the Centaurs.|
The Cursed decided he wanted to go with the Centaurs, which left me taking the Amazons. Now I'm not really a prude when it comes to the female form, and truth be told I don't really give a monkeys uncle about nudity, and if done well it's acceptable on some miniatures. But an awful lot of the Foundry Amazon figures had more on display than I felt was needed.
|Good job it's a bit warm in Greece hey?|
I guess it wouldn't be so bad if they were actually really well done, but lets be honest here, they're not really are they? They look a bit awkward for me and not wanting to judge, but a bit puerile to. Thankfully though the Foundry also do a range of Amazons who actually remembered to get dressed in the morning. These actually look really nice as miniatures.
|Far more sensible attire if you ask me.|
But on with the game. It works off of alternating activations, so you're never left waiting for long periods of time. Everything is also based around your unit leader, the remainder of the units being a sort of mobile tally chart of damage and unit effectiveness if you will. All movement and shooting is measured from the unit champion and is really simple to follow and clears up any unit coherency shenanigans etc.
|Charge... quick question, how do they wipe their own bums?|
Getting down to the game it was an exceedingly brisk affair with no hold ups at all. It was all very fluid. The Centaurs had a really cool little rule whereby they'd get more drunk as the game went on, which made them harder to control, but also more deadly in close combat as the game went on. Meanwhile the Amazons were just a little bit more organised and predictable.
|The Amzon Hippolyte's Guard are butt hard... avoid tackling head on.|
The games units are split into two rough types, loose and Formed. Formed unit's are your usual rank and file units, while loose units are your usual skirmish game scatter formation. They're not just for show though and they do have a bearing on how units behave or perform, but lets leave the details until the full review. Suffice to say my formed Amazon unit the Hippolyte's guard proved a real thorn in the Cursed's side. I eventually won the game and it all took just under an hour, and that was with me taking my time and asking lots of irritating questions. On first glance it looks promising and lots of fun. It's a simple game but that doesn't mean it's not got any tactical depth. I'll leave any further thought's for the full review I'll be doing on it in the next few weeks.
Sadly as we were on a bit of a mission I didn't get the chance to stick around and plays this game based on the 'Italian Wars'. That was a real shame because it's actually a period of history I know a fair bit about and have a real interest in. In particular how the entire Italian penisular sort of became a play ground for the various European super powers of the day. It's a great period of history, where it seems everybody was shafting everybody else, probably metaphorically as well and actually... well it was Renaissance Italy! Here's some pictures of the board any way, sorry they're not very good, I must have been shaking with excitement... I mean I am a nerd.
|A really nice Renaissance tower, Ezio Auditore would approve!|
|As I said the scenery was nice. I really liked this canal and lock.|
|They're blurry but hopefully you can see the bright lurid colours that capture the period so well.|
|Battle lines are draw.|
As I said, I'd have liked to have had a look at this in a bit more depth and maybe have had a game of it, or at the very least watch it being played.
The other game... erm sorry I didn't catch what it was called.
Yeah, so there was this third game being played right, and it looked like it could've been based around the American War of independence. But, don't quote me on it! Again as we had to skoot I didn't really get to see this mystery game, although the guys playing it seemed to be having a whale of a time with it. Always a good sign, here are some more badly taken blurry pictures:
|Don't you just love the smell of gunpowder in the morning?|
|It's a good job I wasn't prepping those cannons as it looks like I was drunk!|
|You want me to march Where? In front of WHAT!!! The life of a grunt, it never changes.|
|It did look impressive all set out like it was.|
So what was this mystery game? If anyone can tell me I'll be eternally grateful... well I'll say thanks and put an edit in my article, but you know what I mean.
Well I found Tribes of Legend to be an interesting game. Obviously I haven't yet been able to sit down and read the book in any real depth yet, or indeed play further games. But, from what I've seen and played of it I think there's a good solid nucleus of a game in there. I'm not just saying that because Jake seems like a thoroughly nice fellow either. Genuinely it's core mechanics seem sound. My only real qualm would be that for me there doesn't seem to be enough of it. So that's either a good sign that it's a good little game, or a bad thing because there's not enough to get my teeth sunk in to! However, Jake has said there will be rules for more units etc. at some point, so maybe it'll grow a bit more as a product. So was it worth going? Well yeah, because I enjoyed myself even if the Cursed didn't like losing again. I've always thought the Foundry was the sort of place people of my dads generation went to grumble about the good old days, but the age of people turning up was a good mix. Although I was told the Friday was the better attended day... I don't know skiving off of work, hows the economy going to grow with behaviour like that? It's not the sort of 'gaming' I'd normally seek out I have to be honest, and that's one of the reasons we made the effort to go. Not simply dismiss it as something for grumpy old gamers like my dad. I'm glad I didn't dismiss it, even though I'm not 100% sure it's how I would personally choose to spend my hobby time, they also very kindly gave me a present to giveaway, but that's for another time... Peace out!