Friday, 9 March 2012

Review: Tribes of Legend

So orange the Dutch would feel at home!!!

So this is the big one! Well it's the review some of you will have been waiting for, as soon after I'll be announcing who has won the Jake Thornton signed copy of the book. I don't even know yet as I haven't drawn the raffle ticket from the hat! Oh this is exciting... well maybe not for some of you but for me this is my first prize give away and that makes it a big deal! Any who I would just like to say thanks to Matt and all the guys at the Foundry for:

A) Giving me a copy of the game to review and
B) Giving me a copy to give away as a prize draw

I guess I should also say thanks to Jake for signing it too... so... erm... thanks Jake. So what is this product all about then?

Product description

Well it's a full colour hardback book full of rules. With an exceedingly orange cover, by exceedingly I mean it wouldn't look out of place amongst a bunch of Dutch football fans! The hard cover is a really nice thick hard cover with a nice glossy surface, so if you spill any Bovril on it, it should wipe right off of it. There are also 112 good quality satin finished pages. I like satin finished pages as they tend not to be a horrid feeling in your hands as glossy pages and are still 'smudge' resistant unlike matte finished pages. You can't beat a nice satin finish! The book contains 3 sets of rules though to 3 different games... what a coincidence. It also has a small amount of Greek Mythology background in it, as well as a few painting guides in how to paint the miniatures the Foundry paints using their own brand of paints, which by the way are bloody extensive.

Gameplay 7.5 out of 10 (overall)

The overall score for gameplay might actually be a bit meaningless actually now I think about it. The game is 3 games in one, and I've reviewed each separately on gameplay below. So I guess you could ignore the overall score and just look at the individual scores for each game. The overall score for me represents the total aggregation of gaming goodness contained within the book.

Tribes of Legend (7 out of 10)

The above score would undoubtedly have been more, IF there had been more choices for each faction. Because simply put the game is really enjoyable to play. As it is the 3 choices that each of the games 5 factions gets just doesn't seem enough. They leave you wanting more options to put down on the table. I guess that's a good sign because if the underlying game mechanics were poor I wouldn't care less if they were more options or not, so clearly Jake has got something right! But having played the game and got to grips with it now I really do want more options. I'd like to see some mounted cavalry, maybe some chariots and personally some of those mythical beasties too. Just more options all round, hell maybe even a monsters faction. Jake tells me that there are indeed more articles for the game on the way at some point, but when, where and in what format they will be released has yet to be decided. However, it is good to hear that Foundry games do indeed plan on supporting the product after this initial launch.

That's the biggest downside to the game for me, and now that's out of the way I can tell you how it plays. The entire rules for Tribes of Legend fit onto 17 pages, and that's including diagrams and pretty pictures. There really isn't too much to the game. That is in no way an insult either, because if you've read my Sunday Sermon on Locus of Control you'll know that I don't really like games to be massively 'input' complex, and you certainly couldn't accuse Tribes of Legend of that. Rather than calling it simplistic, which many deem an insulting phrase, I'll call it stripped down. Because it is a mass combat game stripped down to the bare essentials. Everything has been distilled down to the very basic mechanics required to make the game flow very quickly and easily. It actually has some fairly elegant solutions in it for some quite interesting problems faced by mass wargames. The first wise decision is basing everything in terms of on the board play around unit leaders.

Huzzah, it's horsey men thingies... probably from Essex.

All movement and ranged attacks and combat is measured from unit leader to unit leader. All the other miniatures in a unit are quite frankly superfluous in terms of on board mechanics really and are there to act as wound counters for your units... oh and to look pretty. It's a decision that actually helps speed the game up no end and totally removes any potential measuring shenanigans, although I have place the rest of the unit temptingly close in terms of charge range and left my leader at the back of the unit to fool people into making mistakes with ranged attacks etc. because I'm sneaky! The other thing that helps move the game along at a fair lick of pace is the alternating activations, yep I move and use a unit and then you do likewise until we're all done and then we start a new turn. Coupled with the fact we only really have to be accurate about moving our leaders, while I'm finishing up placing my 'wound counters' my opponent can be moving their unit. As I said it's a very quick game and you can easily finish a fairly sizable game in an hour.

Look it's Amazons... also probably from Essex.

Everything in the game is worked off of unit profiles, again to keep things nice and simple. So how does combat work? Well both ranged combat and close combat are fairly similar insofar as as each has an attack value on a profile. Those with ranged weapons have a shoot skill with a value and all units have an attack value for close combat attacks. So are there any tables to look up or memorise? Nope, the value for either type of attack is the value you need to roll on a D6 regardless of the unit you're attacking. The number of attacks is usually equal to the number of miniatures still left in your unit, so those 'wound counters' prove useful still. To defend these attack you simple check your defence stat and then roll a number of D6 equal to miniatures in your unit and if you score the number required or higher you cancel out a successful attack for each time you do so. Simple isn't it. The other parts of the unit profile include Special Rules, like Drunk, Movement, which is the value the unit can move in inches and Models, which is the amount of miniatures the unit starts with.

One of the many clear diagrams.

The final bit of interesting profile information is Type. This refers to whether a unit is 'Loose' (think skirmish formation) or 'Formed' (think rank and file). These are the two unit types in Tribes of Legend, and there are some interesting differences between the two on the table. I won't go into them too much, but suffice to say that Formed units do not run away and are easy to outmanoeuvre by those Loose formation units. Loose formation units can't be flanked and are easier to move therefore, but do run away far easier. Unlike Formed units Loose units are removed from play once they have taken half damage. There is a pretty big points difference between Formed units and Loose units, but I think the points differences seem fair. I'm sure at first glance at the rules many will think Formed units aren't worth the points, but trust me they are, especially if you keep a nice tight line of them and have skirmish troops of your own to protect flanks.

Ranked Amazons face horsey people... Amazon's butchered them to a man, no a horse, wait! What?

I suppose the final thing to mention are the 'Hand of the Gods Cards' that you and your opponent draw at random before the game and can be used to influence the game. They're not game 'changing' in a sense but they do add another nice little tactical edge to proceedings. So that's it really, that's the game as it stands. I think it's not a bad bunch of rules, I'd personally like to have seen heroes involved in it given the setting, maybe skirmishing heroes with bodyguards. Possibly some more of those mythical beasties and some war engines. But as it stands it's a decent game that's fun to play and very, very quick. There's nothing in the rules that I can see as being too controversial or contentious, and it's all well written and clear to understand. Had it been the only game in the book I think it would have been a little bit disappointing as a purchase, even though the game itself is enjoyable, however there are still two more games to go.

Ancient Heroes (6 out of 10)

Of the three games within the book I personally think this is the weakest of the bunch. I'll just put that right out there at the start of my review of it as a game. I don't think it was designed to be a highly in-depth skirmish game with lots of options. The fact the rules for the game only stretch to 7 pages should be enough of a give away on that score! Personally I think it was designed with a bunch of mates, maybe 3 or 4, getting together around a table and having a simple no holds bared fight! It's designed to be a quick, simple and fun game. On that score I guess it works, although once you start heading north of 4 factions on the table, it rapidly gets a little too hectic... but not many wargames allow 4 players to duke it out at once without grinding to a halt or taking far too long do they? As a two player skirmish game though? Nope, I don't think that's what it was designed for and if that is what you are after you might as well look elsewhere now. If you are interested in a lighthearted fun party game, then read on...

Lots more horsey people! Crumbs you'd need a lot of sugar cubes to keep them happy!!!

The game clearly places an emphasis on just having fun. The first rules you get are the rules for the scenery in the game which include Vineyards that attract drunks, water features with Water Nymphs that can heal wounds, Olive Grove's that contain Wood Nymphs so attractive heroes get transfixed and so on and so forth. I think it's tongue is firmly placed in it's cheek. The next thing in the rules is selecting a band of heroes. There are 3 types of band, Noble, Drunken and Mischievous. These 'types' limit which sorts of heroes each band can take, the options being Human, Centaur, Satyr, Harpy and Minotaur. Each band gets to choose a selection of 5 heroes based on the 'Band Type' they are. It's hardly rocket science and I think is just designed to get people playing a game as quickly as possible without too much fuss. The next thing to note is that although you'll need a couple of dice handy for the odd scenery event etc. the game is actually played with a deck of 52 playing cards and the 2 Jokers both black and red.

It's all very nicely presented.

The profiles of each character are pretty simple Movement Rate, Fighting Skill and Armour. Then there are the abilities each race has like Noble, Drunken, Monstrous etc. again not too much to remember. This game doesn't have any range combat, which is a shame as in skirmish games I like the dichotomy you usually get between ranged combat and close combat, so that's something I think it misses. Each miniature has 3 wounds, so they can take 2 wounds and on the third wound are removed from play, apart from Minotaurs who have 5 wounds so they can take 4 wounds and are removed on the fifth wound. The attack dynamic is pretty straight forward flip card add stat compare to flipped defence card etc. There's a little bit more too it than that but I don't want to republish the rules! It's not complex and I found it a little bit too simple for my tastes. And while I understand it's stripped down for a reason, it's just not for me personally. I can see people having a simple laugh with it, but I can get four player skirmish games from Freebooters Fate personally and I find that have more depth (obviously) so this doesn't grab me.

Amazon's in rocks with bows... sneaky.

I haven't really found the combat mechanic that enjoyable and the game needs a lot of scenery I guess to make it 'fun', because that's where I see this being aimed at. It is a party game, but for me and my friends I guess we have plenty of party games already to play in board game format, or otherwise. I think running a game for a bunch of young kids or at a gaming club where space and time are at a premium it'd actually illicit quite positive responses because it is quick, simple and as I say just a good honest little game that doesn't take itself too seriously. I suppose you could use it as an entry point to wargaming with your kids, and then sort of progress to Tribes of Legend when they're all OK with some of the basic wargaming principles. The only downside for me to that plan being generally in my experience kids like dice way more than cards. Still I think as an entry point to wargaming it's not a bad starting point, or as I say at that gaming club where you're pressed for time and space as you can get 4 people round one board and be done in an hour. There's just not too much here for me personally, as I have my own gaming room and plenty of clubs to go to, plus despite popular belief I'm not a total n00b! That's fine because it's just one game of 3, which has provided me with a few fun games so far while reviewing it.

Trials of a Demigod (8 out of 10)

It's bizarre to think that the game that I've enjoyed playing the most is the one that requires no opponents. But it's true. Perhaps it's because in my old age I'm becoming more and more intolerant of other people. I have to say it's a distinct possibility as quite frankly most people annoy the hell out of me now in day to day life. Mainly telesales people who phone at really stupid bloody times of the day! Go away I don't want an iPhone, nor double bloody glazing. It's like the world is mostly made up of telesales people now. So a solo mode is welcome as it cuts down on the possibility of getting annoyed. Many board games have a solo play mode, but I honestly can't think of any other wargame that has a solo mode. I might be wrong, but I think Trials of a Demigod is actually a first for the industry. If it is Jake Thornton deserves a pat on the back for giving something new a go and Foundry deserve some credit for letting him run with it so to speak!

But is it any good? Well yes actually it really is actually quite entertaining. I don't really want to talk about the mechanics of the game but more how I view it and in what context. With the board games you play in solo mode it's normally the full game as it were, just with the difficulty tailored to deliver an easier test than it would be with more players. It doesn't always work that well though. Gears of War for instance works with 2, 3 or 4 players, it's not that great when it's 1 player it has to be said. Here however we have a rarity, we have a game specifically designed to be played by one person. It's more of a puzzle in wargames form, and as such I view almost in the same way as say I would a Rubik's Cube, or maybe a cross word or Sudoku... just with more dice and more random. But it's that sort of feeling I got from it as a game.

I could step away from it at any point to continue painting or writing articles and reviews for the Blog. Then I can come back to it a few hours or even days later and continue, as long as I can leave it set up somewhere so the cats don't 'play' with the miniatures. The premise is that there are 12 challenges of quite a varied nature, and your task is to go through them 1 after the other to see if you can complete them all. If you've played the God of War games on any of Sony's consoles you'll have seen the Trial of the Gods mode. It's kind of like that but without decapitation and the chainblades...and dice... OK so it's nothing like that, but the idea of going through the challenges one after the other is the same. You randomly select the challenges from a stack of cards. And so far my little dude has failed massively to complete all twelve challenges... Bloody Bronze Bull and Diomedes Horses. But it is nevertheless engaging and challenging. Plus to help you along you way after completing tasks there's a good chance you get a decent reward that will make your little hero harder.

As I say I've found this game really good fun to play, and as something entirely different to what I normally play it does have a role in my gaming library as it were. I will certainly keep giving it a go until I complete all the challenges and even after I've done it I can see myself going back to the game and trying it all over again. I'm not too sure how much longevity there will be is this game beyond a few completed attempts, but I can see me sticking at it until I've completed it at the very least. Plus knowing me I'll want to complete it a fair few times to ensure I've actually mastered it and not 'fluked' it. But as the third game in the book I think it's a really good companion to the other two, and a bit of a hidden gem. 


So there you have it, the three games in a nutshell. I hear tell that Jake's next game for Foundry Miniatures the fantasy based God of Battles is actually based off of the basic nuts and bolts of Tribes of Legend. If that is the case and there are more layers added to it and there is more scope for personalising your armies, and maybe a few other tweaks and changes, it could be a very interesting  game indeed and I'll keep my eye on it. As it is I think the 3 games contained within the book represent a bit of fun with Greek myths, to be played with friends. I think all 3 games though share their simplicity in common and as such I don't think this book would be a bad starting point for younger gamers.

Detail 7.5 out of 10

Firstly that Eddie Izzard video is there because someone I know thought it was a bit 'lame' there wasn't any 'fluff' in the book. Now I'm not normally the sort of chap who looks down his nose at people for not being intimately acquainted with the classics but... for the love of the Gods it's a game based on Greek Mythology! What are they teaching at Eaton nowadays!!! Right, if you want some 'fluff' to go with this game can I suggest you go purchase a book on Greek Mythology? Something like Robert Graves' The Greek Myths: The Complete and Definitive Edition (well it'll be complete and definitive until the next bloody version someone else releases), although obviously there are many other fine versions and translations of the Greek Myths on sale at your local Bazaar I'm sure. I needed to get that out of the way I guess, because it's kind of like criticising a Napoleonic wargame for not telling you who the French were. There are 3 pages covering the Gods to be found on Mount Olympus and explains a bit about them, but I just feel the product is more aimed at people who are already aware of the Greek Myths and wish to play games based in that 'universe'. Plus I'm sorry but if you're into your wargames how can you not be aware of a few Greek Myths? Failing that just go play some of the God of War games, there not accurate but hey they are fun! Would it have been nice to have a bit more info and background in their? Yes sure, but it would have been padding and I don't think it was needed.

A typical looking page spread

The pages of the book themselves though are actually really nicely designed and laid out by Kevin Dallimore, who has also done much of if not all of the photography throughout rulebook. Speaking of the photography while the pictures are clear, sadly this actually shows up a few blemishes on the miniatures like mould lines not been cleaned, which for me is a cardinal sin. The pages are subtly colour coded so you know when you are entering new sections of the book, or indeed exiting old ones depending on your point of view, which is a handy visual guide. The pages themselves have a nice textured and printed background, with subtle Greek text printed on them, it's all very artistic and very well done. It might not seem like much, but again to me it's these touches that really add to a products ambiance, even if you don't notice it at first. All the diagrams are exceedingly clear and really help with explaining the rules in a visual format, although to be honest the rules are so clearly written I don't think the diagrams are needed, although they are welcome. The concept artwork by Martin Bruck although simple line drawings are actually rather in keeping with Greek frescoes, and the more elaborate artwork by Howard David Johnson is certainly characterful. In short I'm saying they have thought about how the book looks and the little details a touches do add to the product.

A double page of some of that artwork I was talking about.

In this section I get to prattle on about the others sections in the book that aren't the game sections. I guess the biggest section is the large amount of painting guides there are in the book. Tribes of Legends the game is only 17 pages long. Ancient Heroes the game is only 7 pages long. Trials of the Demigod is only 15 pages long. Yet all the painting guides for the various games and the nice river tutorial add up to roughly 39 pages. So while the rulebook contains 39 pages of rules, when you throw in the 3 or so pages on the Greek Gods and a few pretty picture pages the book is actually slightly more hobby than rule. Not by much I grant you, but it is an important point to make I feel. Tribes of Legend feels like more of a complete 'hobby guide' like my dad used to buy than the current trend for rulebooks that I get, where there are reams of rules, maybe a lot of specific fluff too, but not much 'other'. I guess I hadn't realised it but flicking through the Tribes of Legend book I do get the sense that maybe the hobby has sort of lost something over the years. I have a slightly better appreciation for the hobby guides in the Warhammer 8th Edition Rulebook now, and I get a sense of what they were trying to do.

These are what the painting guides look like.

Tribes of Legends is just about the rules to play the game, it's about the holistic approach to the hobby. It's about making you want to build nice gaming tables to play over, I actually found the river tutorial really interesting. It's about encouraging you to paint your armies, but not setting you the daunting task of painting like the 'Eavy Metal team or Angel Giraldez. It's about setting you achievable goals. They provide a good number of easily followed painting guides, with big bright clear pictures and clearly written stages. All the painting guides are unsurprisingly centred around the Foundry Paint range, and the myriad of tones that they offer in their range of paints. I'm going to be honest here, there is absolutely nothing in these painting guides for an experienced painter like me. I'm not wanting to sound big headed but I know I can paint better than the standards achieved within this book. I'd imagine an awful lot of experienced painters wouldn't draw too much from these guides. They're very simple and seem to be aimed more at beginners or people who just want to get miniatures on the board quickly and neatly. But again I feel their not aimed at me.

Quality 8.5 out of 10

In recent months I have picked up a fair few rulebooks, it's kind of a personal affliction and addiction of mine. So when I say this I think I speak with a fair degree of experience in such things, the Tribes of Legend book is one of the best constructed rulebooks I've purchased in recent years. The hardback cover is a blessing and I really do wish more rulebooks came with them, most people are willing to pay extra for the privilege of a decent hardback book. The pages as I mentioned in the Product Description are a nice thick paper, in a nice satin finish. People look at me like I'm mad when I talk about pages in rulebooks and what I like, well actually they look at me like I'm mad period. But, I do so hate matte pages in rulebooks, they rapidly become grubby and worn as you thumb through them. Meanwhile really high glossy pages feel horrid and can be a pain to read. So yes I'm a fan of the Satin finish. Best of both worlds, and so I appreciate that this is the finish the Foundry have gone for.

Service N/A out of 10

The only downside is that I actually had to get up and force the Cursed to drive me to Nottingham to pick it up. A small price to pay I guess, well for me any way. Matt handed it to me in person and I even got a free cup of coffee and an intro game ran by Jake Thornton. So service was pretty darn good actually... but you'll not be getting similar service I'd warrant. Asking around some of the more 'mature' gamers I know though they've all only got good things to say about the Foundry's service, and considering these guys probably think Argos (British reference) is the greatest thing ever and that eBay is a Greek island and Amazon is a river... that's saying something. But seriously I've only heard positive things.

Price 8.5 out of 10

The recommended retail price is £22 and you can buy it from Foundry Games here. However, if you are willing to shop around or just go to Amazon you can get it for as little as £14.30 with free delivery. Seriously who doesn't love Amazon?

EDIT: Just been informed that Foundry are actually selling the book for £14.08, which is a bargain!

Overall 7.5 out of 10

Are any of the games in this book 'the game' you know the 'one'. Nope. That's not the point though of this rulebook, or the games within it. They were designed as a bit of fun to be had with some of the Foundry's Ancient Greek and Mythological Greek miniatures ranges. An excuse to put miniatures on the board with some mates and roll some dice. In that respect I'm going to say it is a success. Sure it'll not be the game for everyone of you. Indeed I'm not sure it is the sort of game I'll go to myself as I kind of prefer my Greek Myths in page format, but Trials of a Demigod is definitely worth a look, if only as a curio and I do think the main mechanics behind Tribes of Legend the main game show significant promise and there's certainly enough in there to have some enjoyable games. However, where I see this product as having some real merit is in getting youngsters into wargaming. I'm not sure whether that was Jake's or indeed the Foundry's intended target, but the games are simple enough for a youngster to grasp and teach them the wargaming basics. The painting guides too are a nice introduction into the hobby for youngsters, even if they don't offer much to the likes of me. So if you have young kids and want to perhaps usher them into the world of geeks and dice, this isn't a bad place to start. Peace out!

PS. If you would like to read another review of the game to get another perspective then perhaps you could read Minitrol's Blog Strange News From Under There.

PPS. I'll be off to draw a random number out of the hat now!

Edit: If you haven't already seen then the winner of the free give away was The Angry Lurker as you can read Here.


  1. Fantastic review and a beautiful looking book.

    1. Hi Lee, thanks. I actually think it's a good all round product. It's also not normally the sort of product I'd look to pick up myself, and honestly I was very pleasantly surprised. I'd certainly look at their other games now.

  2. Yep fab review and very refreshing to have have 3 games in one book. And not 3 games in 3 books. Great value and a very nice looking book. Cheers.

    1. I'm sure you've had a few games of it already haven't you? ;)

      I think at around £14 it is a decent purchase actually.

  3. Thanks for the link! (it thought it was odd this morning there was an explosion in page views!) I don't think there's all that much difference in our reviews to be fair just your strange predilection for enjoying the the third game best ; ) - but each to their own. It is great value and I think the "fluff" is pretty well covered in all the descriptions.

    What I also like is it possible to use exiting historicals if you had the or small outlay for a skirmish force for game that can be picked up and finished in a very short time...maybe in-between two "larger" games for change of pace?

    PS check out the Beasts of War review on the minotaurs in "person" they are quite nice sculpts ...still not keen on the Amazons though!

    1. Heya, I actually think some of the Foundry's miniatures are really good. Some of the Renaissance stuff I saw on the open day was lovely it really was. I also loved the look of some of there new fantasy stuff. They have a pretty vast range of stuff too. But because of that there are bound to be some duffers in there, as with most large ranges. On the whole though I think people give there stuff a bit of a hard time because of the paint jobs.

    2. Yeah the fantasy stuff is great and their Renaissance / "Empire" fantasy range I just think the Tribe of Legend range is the weakest in a number of models. Yes there are some lovely ones but for the price? Not quite good enough (remember it's more expensive where I am) I would love some of their Dwarfs and the Condottieri range is pretty sweet.

  4. Interesting review, and I will probably buy the game.

    Unfortunately Jake isn't first with a solo wargames. Check out Platoon Forward, a solo wargame without any wargame rules... errm, what I mean is, Platoon Forward is a solo system which bolts onto your favourite WW2 wargame rules.

    The rules are available here:
    ...and the author's blog is here:

    But I think Jake is first with a "glossy" solo wargame at least ;-)

    1. Cheers Laffe. I'll have a look and see what that's all about. I think ToL is worth a look at least if you're the sort of person who is interested in rules... which I am.

  5. thanks for posting the comprehensive review and the amazon link! I saw the book at WMMS last weekend and was very tempted then - no I have no excuses as the amazon price is so much cheaper!

    1. The Foundry themselves are selling it for £14.08 too. At that price its a good little book.