Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Games that currently intrigue me: Dark Age


Before I start prattling on about this game I need to inform you all that when I contacted the guys at Dark Age Miniatures to ask some questions about the game they decided they wanted to send me some mini's and the rulebooks. So as always keep that in mind as you read this 'first look' at the game. I personally don't think I'm that easily bribed, but you might have differing opinions. Right I'm going to be honest with you here, the whole post apocalypse road warrior thing has been done to death in many walks of life. Be it comic books, films, novels or indeed wargames. The dark, destroyed, dystopian future where humanity has descended into a mass of unruly, brutal sects hell bent on clubbing each other to death, with whatever household implements, or piece of masonry they have to hand... and then probably eating their victim. We've all seen it and we're all I'm sure familiar with many of the themes. Sometimes it's done really well, and other times it's done not so well. Part of me loves the whole genre, and another part of me detests that many don't try to do anything new with it or spin it in a different way.

Concept art mutilation Juggernaut

So for me Dark Age sat of to the side along with two other skirmish level games, Eden and Urban War, amongst others, as products that were potentially a bit samey and covering similar ground, certainly in terms of broad brush strokes and a few visual ques and themes with the miniatures. So when it came to looking at them for these articles I knew I'd have to decide on one and just run with it. This was because I couldn't really muster the will to go out and learn the differences between the three products to decide if any of these post apocalypse skirmish games were for me or not. In short I benched them all, this despite many of the miniatures from the ranges looking cool and appealing to me personally. I decided I'd stick with games I could distinguish from others easily and shoot for them first. Then I started getting into the swing of things with this series of articles on 'games that intrigue me'... and I started getting requests from readers to cover certain games. A few raised my eyebrows, as quite frankly I wasn't expecting them to be of much interest to many people.

Amongst that list, nay, right at the top of that list was Dark Age, while none of its post apocalyptic competitors have received any requests at all. It was almost a two pronged assault actually, what happened was I got a lot of people asking me if I had looked at Dark Age as they were interested in playing it and would appreciate my thoughts on it... and the second group were a very small (but vocal) handful of readers who played the game and told me I should cover it because it's a great game. Now I'll be honest, had that small group of devotees sounded like slavering poltroons with barely a brain cell between them I might have skipped over the game again, but they didn't. They actually sound like grizzled wargaming veterans, like me, and the more I prodded away at who they were and their gaming experience, the more they started to sound like me. They told me I'd enjoy the game and that I should at least get myself a copy of the free quickstart rules. So yeah I became intrigued...

Company: Dark Age Miniatures are actually their own company, there has been some confusion amongst me and my friends, and indeed wider hobbyists as to whether or not the game and miniature line were now fully owned by Cool Mini or Not. Turns out it's 'or Not' as Bryan Steele has informed me. The game is published by Cool Mini or Not and David Doust obviously owns a stake in both parties, but Dark Age Miniatures is its own entity. So Dark age is currently brought to us by 3 games designers, David Doust, Michael Shinall and Bryan Steele. Obviously they're not the only people involved, and there are an impressive array of people all over the world supporting the product, too numerous to list them all. Now here's something that genuinely surprised me to hear, Dark Age has been going for over a decade now as a game and product line, it just goes to show how many good games have been going for so long under the radar. I knew it had been around a fair old while, but I am very surprised to hear it actually predates HoMachine. So the fact that it has stuck around this long bodes well for it in the future, plus it seems to be gathering a bit of momentum. There's also the added bonus that with Cool Mini or Not behind them as publishers you have a pretty strong firm. They seem to be growing in strength what with their Zombiecide and Sedition Wars Kickstarters they're really fashionable right now.

Starting cost: They're not too bad actually. You can actually download the rules for free, which will save you a bit of money when starting out, and you can pick up the various starter sets for £27. Hell if you wanted to you could pick up the full hardback rulebook for £13.49 from the likes of Maelstrom Games. The rather splendid looking and large Forcelist book can also be purchased for £26.99 from Maelstrom Games. Do you need both books right away? No, as I say you could just download the free rules to start with, but I do think the Forcelist Book is pretty essential, so it's handy it's a damn good read full of excellent artwork (full review soon). I would imagine you could happily start off with the £27 starter sets and free rules, but to do it properly, with a few extra miniature options you're probably looking at around £90 to £100, that's with all the books too.

Game: First things first you can download all the quickstart rules to Dark Age yourself and give the game a blast, as I said above in the starting cost section. In my other articles in this series on games that 'intrigue me' I have lambasted other companies for not having the balls to put thier product out there for people to sample and make informed choices. So Dark Age deserves credit for making all the counters, profile cards and rules available for download. That takes guts and shows they have a confidence in the product they are producing. Kudos guys! So how does it play and is it worth having a look at? Well I always think if a games company actually puts its rules out free of charge for us gamers to look at then it's worth playing at least one or two proxy games... and I'd urge you all to got out and do that, because Dark Age is an absolute riot of a game. I was expecting much, but when I play new games I normally go in wearing my skeptics hat. If after 15 minutes of a game I've already got a beaming smile on my face I know it's not a bad game.

The other thing I like about the game is that it uses D20's, so the collection of D20's I've collected for playing Infinity get to come out for another game. Why do I like D20's? The range they give games designers to bring in subtle changes and nuance, which I'm very pleased to say seems to have been fully exploited by Dark Ages games designers. Whereas Infinity rolling high tends to be good in Dark Age it is 1's that are what you want to be rolling. Dark Age is all about getting in close and smashing, slashing and slaughtering people. It's an interesting game to play on the tabletop though, because there is powerful ranged technology in the game, and if it works it can be utterly devastating. But, it comes with a serious level of risk. You see the technology in the game is old, and badly maintained, and if it goes wrong, which from my experience is often it's just as likely to melt the face off of the poor schmuck operating it as their target.

Pinnacle Recovery Bot concept art - The Core

That's the crux of a good game for me though, risk and reward. You want a game to give you choices and options as a player, you want a game to entice you to engage the enemy to go for it. You want fortune to favour the brave... but not too much. You want a balance and on the whole, although I haven't exactly played much of Dark Age, it seems the balance is there. It tempts you to throw people forward, to engage your opponents and to take some of those risks. But it also rewards clever tactical play as well and if you spread your forces too thinly, or don't fully commit to an attack you'll fail. You certainly need guts to play this game and win, it doesn't do half measures... but I like that. Some people won't though, because it can be very, very harsh when you are first getting to grips with the game. It doesn't reward being careful and timid, it rewards being brave and trying to take the initiative.

Because quite often the first person to get a heavy blow in can carry that attack and if you allow your opponent to get too many first blows in on your force you are going to struggle horribly. Giving you some broad brush strokes in terms on mechanics in the game though Dark Age uses alternating unit activation, so player 1 activates a unit and then player 2 activates a unit until both players have activated all units in their force and then the turn ends. This actually brings about an awful lot of bait and switch tactics and also stops one side getting too far out in front from one turn of total domination. The next important concept in the game are action points. this is a mechanic that I think isn't used enough in games for me, it's a great way of differentiating between units, but also giving players tactical choice, you spend Action Points doing things like move, shoot and twat somebody with a giant lump of concrete, and how you spend them is up to you. Just use them wisely... it's a really cool little resource mechanic and using them right is crucial. But the other resource that quite often you don't think about clearly in other skirmish games are wounds, because like chess you'll have to lose some to take some off your opponent, and sacrificing the right things at the right time is more important in Dark Age than many other skirmish games.

So it has some clever mechanics, and some very tight rules. It feels to me like a game that's had plenty of time to mature. It's probably not perfect because no game is, but my first impressions are that despite it giving off the fun, bombastic and explosive vibe it's actually quite a deep and involving game. It's entertained and impressed in equal measure... and I'm going to have to admit I wasn't expecting that. I'm not too sure what I was expecting to be honest with you. All I know is that Dark Age probably wouldn't have been a game I'd have walked into a shop and picked up. Well actually I've picked up Malifaux, Infinity, Hell Dorado, Anima Tactic and most recently Freebooter's Fate over it. Every time I picked up a new game Dark Age was in the equation, it really was, but for some reason I always passed it by. I'm now slightly regretting that decision, but hey I guess better late than never, right? So I'd like to say to all of you out there who asked me to take a look at the game for you, thanks. You've done me a favour, because this is a game I will be playing from now on. Now where did I put that PVC cat suit and gimp mask, I need to get into character!

Miniatures: Ah yes the 'shinies'. I'm yet again going to be honest here. When I first glanced over the miniatures range there were the odd pieces that stuck out, and not always for the right reasons. Like many small skirmish games Dark Age is a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to miniatures. We're essentially talking about companies operating on limited budgets and time frames to get a decent sized range out so their game can thrive. In these situations the odd duffer is bound to appear, plus as Dark Age has been going so long I'm certain having seen some of their recent miniatures in the flesh that some of the ones I'm not so keen on are probably old sculpts, given the game has been going for over a decade. It's an inevitability, even Infinity with its miniature range, which is commonly marked out as being the highest quality in the industry had some right duffers early on. Malifaux too has issues with some pieces and the 2D static pose syndrome. I think on the whole the Dark Age range is average, with some really, really nice miniatures and some right duffers thrown in. So it's like a lot of these skirmish games, Malifaux, Bushido and so forth and so on.

Both the male and female Outcasts are 'treated' in the same way

What you're looking for then from a miniatures company is normally to be 'characterful', 'distinct' and 'unique'. I'm glad to say that almost all Dark Age miniatures are indeed 'characterful'... in a PVC cat suit and gimp mask sort of way. The factions themselves are clearly distinct from one and other, but on the 'unique' scale, there are a lot of post apocalytic miniatures ranges out there. Doesn't matter who predates who really right now, there are some unique things like the Dragyri and little touches though, I'm just pointing out it's a crowded marketplace. It's also fair to say that as time has gone by it's clear that the standards and levels achieved with the sculpts for Dark Age have increased somewhat. Especially the newest faction, the Outcasts, who for example are all pretty much splendid looking (starter set review coming soon), and I'd imagine that the next faction 'The Core' will also look pretty darn sexy I'm sure. None of the miniature stray into truly awful territory, and not many are outright bad. But, as an entire range there is a massive lack of consistency, and there's no getting away from that. But on the whole I think the range does have a certain rusty nail ridden baseball bat charm to it, and soupcon of S&M gimp mask wearing freakery.

Some never before seen 'greens' for the Outcast faction. Looking good!

For the main the miniatures are pretty standard bondage gear wearing post apocalyptic tropes, which is no bad thing, because lets be clear that look is very, very popular. We all love a bit of latex in the morning and cyberpunk stylings... right... right? No just me then? OK but it's not all leather chaps and nipple rings, nope there are two factions (soon to be three) that break with the overarching style of the game, and that really helps the visual aesthetics of the game and breaks it all up a bit and helps Dark Age stand out a bit. Firstly the biological weapon faction called the Brood, and secondly the alien faction called the Dragyri. They do break the mould somewhat from the staple human warrior with lump of masonry / iron pipe. The Dragyri look weirdly feline-esque in the face shape, but without the fur, think thundercats crossed with smurfs in a Turkish harem and you're probably most of the way there. Meanwhile the Brood have a touch of the mutant zombies about them, maybe even a hint of the Flood from Halo universe. So there is variance in the setting and miniatures range and with the robot deathmachine faction the Core coming soon it'll get even more varied.

Background: One of the things that rarely gets spoken about in terms of backgrounds with wargames is the artwork. Seriously, we flick through the fluff skim reading it and decide if we like the background or not, but I wander how many of us truly appreciate the artwork in such books? Many companies also overlook the importance of having lots of nice evocative artwork in their rulebooks, and they become filled with diagrams and walls of text, with a smattering of art because they have it hanging around the office after having some concepts drawn. The people behind Dark Age deserve a massive pat on the back for the shear amount of awesome and interesting artwork that surrounds the world of Dark Age. It seems to me that the artwork wasn't just produced to give sculptors a sense of what they wanted from the miniatures, but that the artwork was intended very much to set a visual tone for the whole game, it feels integral to the vision of the game. It's a real strong suit of the game for me, it has given me a very real sense of what the world of Dark Age is really like. It creates a very strong image in your mind and I love that. Is it a bit sexy and racy some of it? Yes. Would some of it look out of place in an S&M club or fetish porno? No. It has some mature content, and some people won't like that, but at least it has a different look, and this week I've been thinking about the portrayal of women in the hobby, and yes there are women who are naked or wearing bondage clothing... but the men on the whole are treated in the same way. That's not always the case in our hobby, so again that deserves a mention.

I guess this is where I talk a bit about the world of Dark Age. The planet the game takes place on is called Samaria, it was never really a great place to live on to begin with. It was situated in a remote part of the galaxy, far away from law and order (I bet it still had a Starbucks) and was always a bit of an inhospitable hell hole. A place where nasty corporations went and did questionable things and developed questionable products. So what went wrong? Well the corporations fecked off and left loads of people stranded on the planet fighting for survival... and... well fighting each other. Sounds like a lovely existence! So who has been left behind? Lets start with the Foresalken, these are the human remnants of what the various corporations left behind on Samaria. They have formed a sort of civilisation with agriculture so forth and so on, they have however rediscovered religion and they are sort of the religious whack job faction too, with born again 'saints' leading crusades all over the place to crush the other various elements on Samaria.

The next faction I'd like to talk about are the Skaard. These are the outcasts from the Forsaken factions religious revolution, the members of the Skaard were those who decided religion was a pile of old toss and stuck two fingers up to the emerging church. Yeah they'd clearly not heard about religious persecution, and guess what this rag tag bunch of atheists had to flee into the wilds to survive, which on Samaria is pretty hard to do... so you can imagine the sort of 'persecution' they faced. So far they sound potentially like the good guys don't they? Don't let that fool you. These poor schmucks ended up stumbling across a military research facility and unleashing all sorts of chemical and biological mutagens that have turned them into superhuman freaks, who are ever so slightly mad and with a penchant for the eating of human flesh. Yep, these guys have turned to cannibalism... well I guess it's one step above Starbucks. So this faction is all about poisons, chemicals and other such things, as well as a Blood Cult that well, aren't very pleasant. You'll be hard pressed to find a vegetarian in their ranks.

The Outcasts are my faction. So obviously they're awesome! Well actually they're a rag tag bunch of maladjusted loners who can't get their arses in gear to form a proper society. As such they're basically a collection of waring gangs and tribes that have to fight for their right to exist and survive. On the plus side there's no religion and as such no of the witch hunts that go on in Forsaken settlements. Also thankfully there seems to be a cheery lack of cannibalism. Basically these Outcasts hold their freedom dear and above all things, I like that. They also believe in the survival of the fittest, so they're Darwinian's... yeah so I'm clutching at pretty slender straws, but I wanted a human faction and religions nut jobs and cannibals weren't really for me. Plus these guys are the stereotypical post apocalyptic human tribes sort, you know a bit like Mad Max and hopefully stuff all like Water World! They're also the miniatures range that I happen to like the most so that's an added bonus.

The Dragyri are an alien race that actually bears a striking similarity to a certain brand of blue aliens recently unleashed on the world by James Cameron, in his film Dancers with Smur... I mean Avatar. However, the Dragyri actually predate that box office smash / awful film I believe and so I think that needs pointing out. Dark Age had them first. These Aliens were actually stranded on Samaria long before any human corporations turned up, so really it's there planet, but hey when has that ever stopped human colonisers? In a way the Dragyri are the 'Native American' faction. They were minding the planet for some type of crystal or other when a great big bloody asteroid hit. Yeah, Samaria sounds like a lovely place doesn't it? Their society has split in a few ways, firstly there are two distinct species, which they see as classes of the same race, the Trueborn and the smaller 'Slaves'... yeah, classes, that's what they sound like. I think their names pretty much describe what they are. The Dragyri have formed elemental casts, the only two I've found evidence for being the Ice and Air Castes, these are ruled by powerful Arbiters. These guys are an interesting faction to have thrown into the mix and I'm really glad they exist.

And so onto the Brood and also the Core. These two factions are the two sides to the same thematic coin if you will in the back story of Samaria. Both are the remnants of some very dodgy research into some rather questionable weapons of war. On the one hand you have the biological weapons of the Brood with their acid blood, regenerative ability's and no doubt really sharp teeth and slashing claws. There is a controlling intelligence behind the Brood known as the 'Mere', I think they're actually a really cool little faction. On the other hand we have Dark Ages newest faction, the Core, who are robotic deathdealers. Bugger all is really known about them, but the scope for an AI intelligence and old technology coming back to life is just too furtive a background to screw up. The concept sketches I've seen so far look utterly brilliant and I have to say I'm really looking forward to the expansion book that contains them as a faction. So that's your lot. That's my whistle stop tour of the world of Samaria.


+ Firstly I think I have to make it clear that I think dark Age is just a really fun little game.
+ There are already five fully fledged factions, with a sixth on the way shortly.
+ It's actually far more tactical than many people first think.
+ The two books, the rulebook and Faction book look fanbloodytastic. The artwork is splendid.
+ After 10 years the rules are very tight and not ambiguous.
+ Also as the game is 10 years old the fluff is well developed, so you fluff bunnies will be happy.


- The extreme bondage / tits hanging out look of the game won't be for everyone. Especially as the blokes sort of get the same treatment.
- Some of the miniatures in the range could do with being re-sculpted.
- The game is unforgiving, and although it's easy to learn and play, I can see it being difficult to master, for some they'll embrace that challenge for others... well they'll end up as a smear on the asphalt.
- Despite being around for 10 years or more the games profile isn't huge, and not many people seem to play it, certainly here in the UK (that's a genuine shame).

Mutilation thrall Concept - The Core
So overall what do I think of the game? Well I'm actually pretty glad other people got me to take a look at it. Sure, I'm not so sure it'll ever become my go to game, but then again I'm not so sure I have a go to game anymore, given how many games I actually play nowadays. I do think though it's probably earned a place at my gaming table, and the fact that I'm already scouring the Internet for suitable terrain tells me that I'm already sold on the game. It's a fun game that's highly visceral, violent and it certainly lives up to its tagline 'everything dies'. If you like brutal games, and brutal imagery then you should at least take a closer look at Dark Age. Although the miniature range has some weak sculpts in it, it also has some real gems amongst its ranks, and on the whole I'd say it's comparable to other skirmish games for quality out there like Malifaux, Bushido etc. it's just not quite up to the very high consistent levels set by the likes of Infinity and Freebooter's Fate. the final thing I need to tackle though is the thorny issue of tone. It's has many adult themes, not just in turns of miniatures, but artwork, fluff and gameplay, it's an adult game... and it is dark. I've had some people tell me they've found it too dark, and I can understand that, but hey it takes all sorts and I'm glad that Dark Age exists as a product, and it seems to treat men and women in the exact same, everything is half naked in bondage gear... and... well, everything dies. Peace out!


  1. What a coincidence!
    I'm thinkin about starting Dark Age.
    Artwork is really really good. I do love it.
    But miniatures is mediocre,judging from images on official site.

    But I'm pretty impressed by for article. Maybe I'm better be start searching more.

    1. Some of the mini's aren't great, but some are. The average standard though is average. In terms of sculpting quality I'd place it at Malifaux levels of quality not good but not awful. The main problem being awkward or static poses. I do think on some of the miniatures though the paint jobs don't do them justice. Wait for my reviews of the starter sets. I'll try and take some good pictures for you.

    2. It might just be me, but I own a Forsaken starter and a few other and I find that the miniatures look better in person than they do on the pictures.

      It might just be me though.

    3. I'm not so sure Aeria_Gloris, the Skaard starter set might look better with a better / different paint job on them, but I think the pictures do them justice. Some of the Outcast mini's though do look better in the flesh... although one in particular looks worse.

    4. The Forsaken are all I own at the moment, so I can't really comment on that. I didn't really like the Coils and Banes in the pictures to be honest, but when they arrived I was pleasantly surprised.

      But like I said, it could be just me. Perceptions and expectations and all that ;)

    5. I've played in one March to Immortality and two other tournaments and it's fun. I know that they are coming out with some new rules because some of the guys I play with play test for them. But over all The game rocks.

    6. Also the models are cool but not as cool as some other models in the same skirmish genre like the INFINITY models Or The MERCS models. To me they seem like lower grade Privateer Press models, Which could be good or bad depending on whether you like those minis. I do.

    7. @usernamedast, I'd agree that the rules tend to work well. I've not played hundreds of games, in fact I'm probably not quite yet up to 20 games, but it does seem to be functional at least. As to the mini's... well we all love an exceptionally well sculpted miniature don't we, and although I've not seen all of the MERCS miniatures I know they're of a decent standard. Infinity mini's though tend to be on another level.

  2. Thanks for the review, it looks like a really nice game that I certainly wouldn't mind trying out.

    I think my biggest obstacle (beside geting together another £100 without being caught out by the missus) is having someone to play against, and ultimately getting together a long running group of gaming companions. Lets face it, who wants to play the same guy with the same models every week!

    I know I could proxy, but to be honest I don't really like to. I guess it's a bit like the problem people have playing with unpainted miniatures, only this could be considered even more of an issue if you are that way inclined. Do you ever find that's an issue? Simply getting started in a new game?

    1. As I said to start the game you don't need £100. £100 gets you a full faction and both really cool books. You could happily start with the free downloadable rules and a £27 starter faction. Get a mate or two to do likewise and you're away.

      Also be honest, how many people do you really play at any game? I bet you it's way less than you actually think it is. I bet you you'll find at most you have 5 or 6 opponents you regularly play. If as a group you can all decided on what games to play you'd have decent sized playing groups. It's what we do.

      As for me finding opponents... I don't really have that problem. I have a large number of close gaming buddies, and most of them are like me, they want to play more games and the fact we have so many great games around now means they don't want to miss out. So where I am is a bit of a hotbed of gaming.

    2. That doesn't seem to be the way it works here unfortunately. At my regular club it's mainly 40k and Fantasy. After initial interest in starting anything new it's rare for many to follow through on the idea - the Necromunda campaign was a spectacular failure containing one 20 minute game! It really can be quite depressing! I certainly don't resent people wanting to play 40k and Fantasy every week, but I just don't have the mental capacity to play the same army and tactics continuously.

      Fortunately a group of Malifaux players came along so we now have regular games of that, but again it's difficult to move people on to try out other games.

      I even tried another club as a few people there were playing Dust Tactics (and I wanted to give it go), but other than a small group at the club everyone else there appears to be fixed on HoMachine to the exclusion of all other games.

      When I think about it, there seems to be a very heavy tournament focus around here. Almost every week people are wanting to play their tournament army for 40k/Fantasy/HoMachine. What happened to just wanting to enjoy playing a game, eh!?

    3. I think the tournament scene or just competitive gaming has always been around actually. and for ome people it is actually quite fun. However I do find the idea of trying to be the 'best' ay a game like WFB 8th which is all about the random is laughable.

      I guess you just need to stick at it. For years and years I was in your shoes, desperately trying to get people to play other things. I kept on at it and I kept plugging away and eventually people started to give things a go. Once they've tried one thing it's easier to get people to try another.

      there's too many good games and if you run demo games and eulogise about them eventually people will listen. Maybe not many at first, but once a couple start a few others will become interested. Rome wasn't built in a day my good man, and good things come to those who wait. Now can I fit another platitude in? No I think that'll do for now.

    4. Platitudes are always appreciated. I shall now go forth and fight the good fight regardless of the reception it receives. If you want me, I'll be the one on his own in the corner with the 4 x 4 table all neatly set out.

      I jest, even I'm not that negative ;-)

      Alternatively I could just indoctrinate my three kids...hmmm...

      Having said that, this probably would not be the best game to involve them in! On that point I really appreciate you covering things like the adult elements - it's extremely useful to us geek dads that want to introduce their children to games. So often these points are not covered by publishers and reviewers. I realise that to a lot of people it makes no difference, but it's really useful to those of us wanting to play games at home.

    5. Well I know that not everyone is the same. I'm a trained psychologist and I think it's really important to give as much information about a product as I possibly can, including things like tone and setting. I don't have children, but I do have young nephews and I therefore am a bit attuned to these sorts of thing. Especially as they think playing with their uncles toy soldiers is cool.

  3. Nice review.. and I have to say that throughout the review I kept flipping over to Maelstrom to look at the models closer for the factions and the costs associated to them.

    Will need to check out the rules a bit more, and see how it plays out.

    Like the fact that it is also using the d20s. Not enough games utilize this style, and its a shame indeed.

    Now, its not a question so cash for a change, but a question of time investment to get it started over here in Turkey. That and waiting for the Core to show up. Wouldn't mind a post Apocalyptic robot force.. would be a lot of fun to paint up.. unless they are also in latex and gimp masks?!?! Could be really interesting models then..

    1. This isn't quite a full review. It's my first look at the game as somebody looking to get started / getting started. I'll be reviewing the Skaard and Outcast starter sets soon, along with the Rulebook and Faction Book. So keep an eye out for those.

  4. - The extreme bondage / tits hanging out look of the game won't be for everyone. Especially as the blokes sort of get the same treatment.

    I beleive you will find the same in Eden ...

    I still think game designer make confusion they often say :
    "We will make a game for Adult .. so let's do Adult Material"

    But IMHO "Adult Material" are not for Adult, they are just for Teen.
    For all arts, the major problem is to create an erotic sugestion without vulgarity.

    Miniature designer are often on the wrong side

    "Mark Copplestone's Future Warriors" represent for me what should be Post-Apo miniatures. Ok it was the first set i really collect in my stupid life.

    1. I think you are right about seeing similar issues in Edean, having seen the studio miniatures up close at this years Salute. I think the adult material in Dark Age is far more than just a few tits on show though. The back story deals with some pretty adult themes, such as religious oppression and persecution amongst others. And while some on the miniatures in the range do look a little puerile at times, extreme leaning over to accentuate cleavage for instance, that's not the adult themes I was talking about. There aren't as many boobs on display as might first be though either, in fact I'd say that on the whole they're pretty well covered, but S&M is an adult theme, and many of the mini's seem to lean towards that.

    2. I think i dont agree with you on "What is an adult theme"

      religious oppression and persecution are too much present in "Miniature small worlds" (W40K fatal infection) and it is often very very badly done.

      The only inspiration seems to be the spanish inquisition bloody period. It is not adult, it is bad "stereotype".
      Playing a bloody church just interessing in torture and burning are for Teens not adults.

      Religion present in Infinity or HellDorado are for me 100 times more adult than some bloody priest.

    3. Well we clearly disagree then. Because the religion in Dark Age isn't simply 40k religious zealotry. It's actually a tool and a device the ruling elite don't believe in and use to control the masses. You keep saying things are for teens and I don't quite get where you are coming from. Are you saying these things only entertain teens? If so you are clearly wrong, or are you saying they're immature, if you think they're immature say so, and stop slurring teens. :P

  5. Look you already got me burning a huge hole in my wallet with Sedition Wars and now you go and do this to me...sigh...lol, good overview I've been on a fence about Dark Age this is helped push more to it.

    Though if you had to choose between Dark Age and Freebooter which would you go for? I ask cause that is the other one I'm looking at for skirmish gaming.

    1. Sorry about that. As for choosing between Dark Age and Freebooter's Fate... that's a tough one because genuinely the games are so very, very different. Purely on quality of minis I'd say Freebooter's Fate has the more consistent miniatures range. But gameplay isn't so straight forward. Freebooter's is more lighthearted and not as 'intense' in many respects, and offer a really unique attack and defence system that is fun, but there's a hidden depth there. As for Dark Age, it's a bit more tactical from the offset and clearly wears it's mechanics on it's sleeve from the start. You know you're playing an in-depth game from the start whereas Freebooters Fate because more tactical the more you play. Honestly I couldn't choose and for you it has to come down to the sort of experience you and your friends want.

  6. Thank you for the overview. And perfect timing too, both rulebooks arrived in the mail last week. Like you said, the artwork is stunning and it's an integral part of the books, especially the forcelist.

    Too bad you won't be checking out Eden though. The settings are very similar, but as a game I they are very different

    The starter set's all contain 100 points worth of miniatures, which can be seen as a complete army, which is somewhere between 3 and 5 models. The rulebook advices not to exceed 200 points, which translates into 6 models for my ISC. They are the elite faction of robot samurai (what's not to love?)

    Like Bushido, there is at this time no 'published rulebook' but every starter set ships with a small 30-page pamphlet. This rulebook can also be downloaded from the site along with all the unit cards. There might be some lag for the new releases though.

    Like Freebooters's Fate attacks are made against specific area's, namely head, arms, leggs and torso. But which limb is attacked is determined by diceroll. When a model loses all hp of an area, it dies. Which, I have to be honest, could be frustrating.

    I personally think the miniatures are fantastic (seriously, robot samurai..) And like Anima Tactics you can build your army per faction or per allignment, so you can mix and match a bit. Which might be good news for the collecter's among us :)

    The site could be better though, it looks clunky and even in the english setting parts of it are in french (like, for instance, the background). And on the subject of translations.. I'm told the rules are translated from french to english by a native speaker, but that translater wasn't a wargamer. And it kind of shows sometimes.

    But for those who want to check it out, you can find the download link here:

    1. I'm not saying I won't look at Eden, I'm just not going to look at it now. I have however looked at the rules and the targeting system looks a bit random and not really fully in control of the players... and it's very, very dangerous. So on first look I have to say I have some concerns about the core mechanics and how random they are. I haven't looked at it properly or rolled any dice in anger, but I'd be lying if I didn't say I hadn't got grave concerns.

    2. I agree with all your concerns. When I read the rulebook, certain parts of your dreadfleet review came to mind. But the rules are free so with a proxies it might bring joy to someone.

      Or they can just love the miniatures like me :p

    3. The miniatures are lovely and I wish Taban all the best because they really do make great pieces... but that game... too many flaws in it for me right now and it just needs some serious reworking for me.

    4. Sorry for kidnapping this topic... Eden has a fast system with high mortality, where luck (bad luck) can be managed at your own interest. It has lots of mechanics used (activation points, p.e.) in Anima tactics, and full info on cards makes you free not to learn hundreds of special skills.

      It´d be great to read some about Eden in your blog. And it´d be great to play some matches to understand all "high violence" present in the game.

      Concerning Dark Age, I don´t like too much its look so I won´t buy any minis or play it.


    5. No problem, you're not hijacking the topic, I mentioned Eden in the article, so its fair game in the topic of discussion. For me when I read the Eden rules it didn't instantly grab me... unlike some of the miniatures which I kinda like. I'll get round to looking at it. It would be good if Taban miniatures returned emails though.

  7. Very nice review, as always, Frontline.

    I had to sit up and pay attention when you bought up the subject of risk and reward- this is a huge concern of mine in every game I play.

    Many games screw risk/reward up, if you ask me.
    Low risk/high reward mechanics create massive game imbalances that lead to 'power armies.'
    On the other side of the coin, high risk/high reward mechanics lead to army builds that rely on good dice to win.
    When a game can be dominated by a handful of 'popular' builds (as many can) there's something wrong. Usually the problem lies with risk/reward, and the balance it provides...theoretically, anyway.

    Sigh...there's blog post in there, somewhere.
    Do ya think it would get as many views as scantily-clad models?
    (totally kidding, I dinna think I wanna go THERE again any time soon!)

    1. Again I think Dark Age is a game you might enjoy SinSynn... it even has aliens. Also given your last HoP article you might want to tune into this weeks Sunday Sermon.

  8. I've been playing Dark Age for a while now, since the release of the current edition, in fact, and it is a very fun game, with a decent amount of minis.
    Some are overdue for a remodeling (especialy the first batchs of Forsakens) but other are amazing (get your hands on a NIB Mongo and you'll understand).
    The rules are simple yet offer great options for tactics. My only cons is the number of player, but it's the role of the pioneers to recruit new people.

    1. I've never had a problem finding new recruits, my nickname round these parts is games pimp, or pusher. :P

      I'm used to having to convince others to take the plunge with a new game, but if the game is strong mechanically and fun, I know a half decent intro game is all it takes to win people round.

  9. I have had a few of the minis sitting in my collection for years... still not painted. yet another game that I have to get round to playing. Just don't have the time in the day.

    But if you are looking games to review, perhaps you should try Wargods of Aegyptus. I've had that for years too but no one else locally wants to make the commitment to buy in to it.

    1. I had a demo of wargods by somebody I can only describe as being strange... well not strange as in strange for normal... I mean strange for our hobby. I'm sure he was harmless, but he came across as slightly unhinged and maybe a bit bonkers. Learned bugger all about the game, but he told me an awful lot about his tin foil hat... yessss... moving along!

      I'm looking forward to playing more games of Dark Age, its a very cool little game.

    2. I loooooooove wargods. My favorite ranked fantasy game.

    3. I'm sure it's a good game... but the guy who ran me through the intro did put me off a bit. Didn't explain anything and what I took for shyness and poor social skills at first turned out to be just a creepy weirdo. So not exactly the greatest introduction to a game.

  10. Have to admit that I've been on the fence for Dark Age for a while now, I just can't seem to find a faction that really hooks me, despite the fact that some of the minis are really nice. I do love the Groundwerks base inserts though, an absolute godsend for those of us too lazy for DIY basing.

    On a slightly different note, I would encourage you to take a look at Urban War - the game has some nice mechanics and the mini range is pretty high quality.

    1. I did take a look at 'Urban War' the first time around and I just felt the game would struggle. I couldn't put my finger on why, just didn't seem 'together' and it still doesn't to me. I might eventually get round to looking at t again... but I'll be brutally honest, it's not at the top of my list.

  11. Loved this game when I was playing it's last version. I miss the centimeters. I've personally found very few minis that were below average, though the aesthetic of the Skarrd were not wholey my cup of tea. Honestly from a design standpoint I dislike almost all of the outcast minis. Definitely looking forward to the core though.
    This game has a great set of mechanics, and there can be a lot of variance in how you can build a force IMHO. I personally like how all the ranged attacks have a chance to explode in your face, which is a nice balancer for the safer CC options.
    I am totally gonna complain that the game got more expensive when CMON starting making things. It's gone up like 60% which is a shame (still inexpensive though).

    1. It's gone up 60% really? Because I honestly look at it in terms of amount of metal per £ and it looks a fair bit better than most. Plus the two books are exceedingly well priced compared to their competitors. I'm not doubting you, but if it has gone up 60% I'd suggest it's because without that sort of price hike they'd have gone bust otherwise.

      Glad to hear that there are so many people who like the game though. The more I researched it the more I found how well loved it was in certain pockets of the USA and also mainland Europe. Even found a smattering of UK players. That so many people in so many different parts of the world are willing to stick at it speaks volumes for it as a product in my opinion.

    2. Not everything hit that high (prolly closer to 40% overall) for example X'cess was $6.99 when I bought her (maybe $5.99, been awhile). She's now $9.99. Not all have gone up a ton, like contradiction has only gone up a dollar oddly enough. Units got more expensive coils used to have a box that was retailing for 30 and had 6 figures in it, now its 3 for 20.
      May memory may be crummier than I'm giving it credit for.

    3. I'd have to ask if that was over night or over a number of years because you've just described the sorts of price rises I've seen in other wargames in the last 4 to 5 years. So it seems to me that you might just be witnessing an adjustment that would have happened any way regardless of CMoN being involved. If it's only certain products that have leaped up in price it's probably adjustments that needed to happen to keep the game profitable. I'll admit it makes me wince but it's something that's happening across the board in the hobby.

    4. When CMON restructured most prices changed. It was just a long time coming. Box sets were hit hardest IMHO. Old forsaken box set was St. Mark themed and a 500 point force right from the start. The new forsaken one is just over 300.

    5. Yep it's a bummer for sure, but I guess you fans of Dark Age just had it a bit too good for a bit too long. Still sucks that it had to happen though, but I guess with the price of metal it is sort of inevitable isn't it?

  12. Thks for the review! I bought the books and 2 factions to give it a try with a couple of friends but as we live in Brazil we still are waiting for our package! :D So I really appreciate your review!

    1. NP, I'm glad it could entertain you while you wait for your swag. Hope your parcel arrives soon and you guys get to try it out for yourselves. No doubt you'll enjoy it. :)

  13. Hey FG!

    Solid review, I really dig Dark Age myself and am working at building a bit of a group here when time permits. If I may share a couple of things that really have me impressed with the game - the 2 greens you have shown are the sculpts of the last March to Immortality winner - if you don't mind I do detail that on my blog here:


    If you want to squash the link I understand - but the long and short of it is this. If you run a March to Immortality event with 24 players minimum, Dark Age Mini's will fly you to GenCon to play in the MtI tourney. Winner of the tourney gets to work with the development team to create a version of THEMSELVES to be added to the game. You can take a look at past winners in the Forcelists book - they have their signatures on their creations/warriors page.

    Also the art of the game was originally based off of the work of Gerald Brom - which is where the S/M style comes from, it was actually a card game to start that was produced by a company that folded a long while ago and the art was picked up by DA and the game was born of that so to speak.

    And finally, I do know from a good source that a number of the older models are on schedule for re-sculpt so we'll be seeing some new things come from the old hopefully sooner than later.

    Great write up J!!


    1. Hey O, I don't squash links on my Blog, unless they're nothing to do with the topic / hobby/ Not my way. I only squash links for penis enlargement and viagra... after I've made a personal note of them of course. Please don't take that as an open invite to spam my comments sectins with links because that does damage the debate I get going here, but if you have an article you feel might add to things by all means feel free to post it.

      As to the greens, I was actually aware of that but I didn't put it in the article because I wasn't sure how to shoehorn the fact in to the article. It's really cool though I think. Again I'm aware of the Gerald Brom links and will be bringing that into my actual reviews, in particular for the forcelist book and the rulebook. I did not however know it was a card game first. Now that is interesting, and I might have to look that up. So cheers for that.

      The news on the resculpts is very welcome indeed. There are just a few things that seem to let the side down in some of the older factions. Nothing truly awful, but they are noticeable next to some of the newer stuff.

  14. The game's appearance and artwork is based on work of Brom. That alone is awesome.

    1. Cheers, I'm already aware of that, and will be covering it in my later reviews. Thanks for trying to help enlighten me though. It is appreciated. Genuinely. :)

  15. Cheers for reviewing Dark Age, I really like some of the models and it's always intrigued me. Won't ever get time to play it, but if by some freak occurrence I am in the market for a new game, you've informed me well :)

    1. Good lord look how long it's taken me to respond to this comment. How unlike me!!! Glad I could inform you.

  16. Given that I still have Dark Age ccg starters lying around, this game has been tempting me forever...and now it's fun, too? Damn!

    1. As with the above comment. Really sorry for not responding, hope you did give the game a go though.