Thursday, 20 September 2012

Review: Dark Age Apocalypse Forcelists Book


This review should have gone live yesterday, but I was trying to cheer a friend up who suffered a bereavement, so apologies for that. On Tuesday of this week  I reviewed the Dark Age Apocalypse rulebook, well today it's the turn of the Dark Age Apocalypse Forcelists book. It's a far bigger beast than the core rules, and is far more filled with that lovely fluff that many of us so enjoy. As with yesterdays review, this book was a review copy sent to me free of charge, I'm making this clear just for the sake of full disclosure, so you can judge my review with all pertinent information at hand.

The cover art in all its gory glory!

Product Description

As with yesterdays review of the Dark Age Apocalypse Rulebook, the Forcelists book is a full-colour hardback rulebook, that comes in at a whopping 356 pages long.  That's a pretty hefty tome if you ask me, and it is a very heavy book that you really won't want to be carrying around with you to clubs and tournaments. The pages are yet again satin finish... mmmm... satin... I'm still a fan of satin finished pages. The pages are this time crammed with fluff and some utterly fantastic artwork, plus there is a veritable bucket load full of unit profiles and rules. Everything currently available in the Dark Age universe in fact. If you like your games to have a strong and detailed background, history and setting then this book certainly ticks that box. Obviously it also provides the Forcelists for the games five main factions, the Forsaken, Skarrd, Brood, Outcasts and Dragyri.

Content 8 out of 10

I only just coined 'content' as a section in my reviews a few days ago for the Heavy Gear Blitz Perfect Storm Field Guide, and here I am already using it again. What am I like! Each and every page in this book is crammed with information and content. Artwork is given full pages or double page spreads so you can get a real sense as to what they are like, without having them squashed into a corner of a page amongst text. Sometimes in other rulebooks I actually feel like the artwork that exists to give us an idea of the worlds we play our games in, aren't given enough time to breath properly. Not so here, and while some may view such visual extravagances as unnecessary I happen to take a different point of view. For what it is worth the plethora of artwork that festoons the varies faction pages actually made the book a joy to pick up and read. Sometimes rulebooks and faction books can rapidly become dry turgid affairs Ive found, but I actually read this Forcelists book from cover to cover in no time at all, and I truly believe the artwork and the different graphic design page templates for each faction all kept me wanting to turn the page.

A nice colourful page layout, typical of the pages in the book.

So what of the content by factions? Well here is the first little gripe for me, the factions by page listing, by options and by sub-faction are anything but equal. The Forsaken clearly have a faction bias, with 90 pages of the overall 356 devoted to them a good 25% of the book is given over to them. They are, if you will, the narrative focus for the world of Samaria, and as such this extra content could be understandable. They do though have the most options in the game, having 14 generic options and 5 options in their four saint sub-factions. Then there is the fact that they can also field the 6 Bounty Hunters as well. There are two ways of looking at this though, the Forsaken options are actually split between 4 sub-factions, which mitigates any benefit that having more choice might provide, or you could say that having 4 sub-factions is again more choice than the other factions out there. What it does mean though for Forsaken players is that they can build up a good set of generic Forsaken options and then for minimum outlay switch to the various saints at a later date.

An Outcast profile page.

The next most favoured faction for my money would have to be the Skarrd. At 74 pages devoted to them they have the second largest section in the book, accounting for 21% of the book. They have 17 generic choices across the faction, and then there are 7 options each for the Blood and Toxin Cults. This does mean that per sub-faction that Skarrd players have 24 choices as opposed to the Forsaken players 19 choices, although as I say they still have access to 6 bounty hunters. What I'm saying is that the two main factions in the game seem to have a very similar level of options available to them when you break it down. The Skarrd are, in current fluff terms the biggest threat or opponents to the main protagonists in Samaria, the Forsaken. But, the Skarrd have another trick up their sleeves, they have a third sub-faction, that of the Heretic Saint Johan, once of the Forsaken. This entitles this sub-faction to have access to the basic troops in the Forsaken list. Meaning that for my money the Skarrd faction actually offers players the most choice.

Next up in terms of amount of space given over to them in the book are the first of the non-human factions, the Dragyri. At 66 pages and 19% of the books content they're a pretty hefty chunk of the book. They have 5 generic slave options and then there are two sub-factions. The Ice Caste with 10 further options and the Air Caste with 13 further options. It is fair to say that from my limited experience with the game the Dragyri actually have the least number of options, and this does play into them not perhaps being as versatile in actions on the board as some of the other factions. However, the choices they do have are amongst some of the best in the game. The other non-human faction the Brood though are the most versatile in my experience. Although only 10% of the book and 34 pages are devoted to the Brood, they do have 22 options to play about with, and these aren't split between sub-factions either. A Brood player can field some fearsome close combat experts, as well as some pretty handy ranged troops. They can choose to go down the elite force route or a horde. Yep the Brood are pretty well served if you ask me.

Some of the very different looking Dragyri artwork.

Nope the faction which clearly suffers the worst in terms of options available to them is the faction I've chosen to play... the Outcasts. This isn't exactly surprising as they are the newest faction in the game. They only have 18 pages devoted to their existence in this book, that's a measly 5% of the book, which is only half of the second lowest faction, the Brood. Their choices make for slim reading too, what with only 10 options and the same 6 Bounty Hunters that the Forsaken have access to the Outcasts are clearly currently the poor relations in Dark Age. However, I've found they're actually a pretty good 'average' faction with the choices that they do have. Their three units the Brutes, Wasteland Warriors and Scuts all offer a nice degree of variance and a spread of abilities, and so far I haven't felt like I'm being unfairly disadvantaged. Although some more options wouldn't go amiss for the Outcast... none too subtle hit to those responsible for the game there.

Skaard Blood Cult profiles.

All in all the presentation of the 5 current factions (there will be another released in the Devastation book) is handled pretty well. The various options for each force come with a nice piece of artwork, and a good description as to what they are and how they function. Their stats are also presented next to all the other information, and this makes it very easy to see if they're just the troops your army needs. I guess the bias towards some factions in terms of detail and information is to be expected. It would though be nice if in future releases these discrepancies were tackled, and that some of the less well covered factions like the Outcasts and Brood got a bit more love. The Forcelists book though does give you access to the rules for every currently released miniatures in the game, and a great and very highly detailed introduction into the world of Samaria. I guess for fluff bunnies and crunch fans alike this book is a must if you want to play Dark Age.

Detail 8.5 out of 10

There's a lot of information contained in this book, be it written or visual every milometer of every page has something of the Dark Age Universe to it. The book is positively dripping with the world of Samaria. All of it is handled to a pretty high standard too. The pictures and artwork in this book are of a vary varied style, and yeah varied competence as well, but most of it is good and all of it interesting. Now that does mean that in some respects the book lacks a cohesive artistic style. I mean there are 15 individual artists that have contributed significant works to this huge tome, yep it's not all Brom you know! Some of my friends have queried whether this is a good thing or not. I mean looking through HoMachines books there is a strong brand identity to the artwork, much of it done by the exceptional Andrea Uderzo. I have mixed feelings about this as somebody who loves art in all its forms. I quite like Dark Ages quirky approach, and the differing visual styles that each artist has brought to the party in my opinion gives the world of Samaria a bit more character than many of the worlds our games exist in. True its not as instantly recognisable or strong as most others, but the variance does add a certain 'gritty' charm to proceedings. It also means that genuinely this is one f the most colourful rulebooks that I own.

So what about the writing? The real reason most of us choose to buy books after all. Well that's not too bad either. Each of the factions sections start with a large amount of highly detailed, and for the most part entertaining fluff. The stories aren't going to win the Booker Prize, they aren't that good. But, they do evoke the world of Samaria pretty effectively and give you an understanding of what the world and the game is all about. The writing is therefore competent at least, and at times actually highly entertaining and funny... in a dark sort of way. I think that when I first looked at Dark Age, and gave the game nothing more than a cursory glance I felt that it was a bland generic post apocalypse game, with all the Mad Max, mutants and BDSM themes that title normally entails. Don't get me wrong, there's more than enough Mad Max, mutants and BDSM to go around for everyone, but this book shows that there is actually a little bit more to the game of Dark Age and its setting than meets the eye. It's just a shame that many won't even pick the book up to give the game a chance. For me if you buy one Dark Age product it should be this, if for no other reason than it is jammed full of cool artwork.

Every faction and sub-faction has its own colourful hue!

Quality 8 out of 10

I sort of think that all books have an upper limit to how big they can become, before their own baulk starts to damage them. The current Warhammer books in my humble opinion have gone way past that limit, and like the HoMachine rulebook the Dark Age Apocalypse Forcelists book sits just on the cusp of this limit. It's not so big it is unwieldy and therefore suffers from crack spine syndrome, but it's not far off. Like the rulebook before it the hardback cover is actually a pretty sturdy construction and it is thankfully stitch bound. The Forcelist book is also crammed to bursting with excellent full colour artwork. In fact I don't think I own another rulebook that is as full of artwork as this book. This obviously could actually backfire if the printing quality wasn't good enough or the paper was poor. Thankfully the book uses high quality paper that is nice and thick and has a slightly waxy quality to it, so they won't tear or damage after repeated use. The printing quality is also very high and all images throughout the book have been reproduced to a very high standard.

Service N/A out of 10

As I said yesterday, It's not really fair of me to judge the service, considering I didn't pay for it. But, yet again I'll reiterate that the package took about two weeks to get to me front the USA, and was pretty well packed.

Price 8.5 out of 10

The RRP for this book here in the UK is £29.99, and that would be a fair price for such a well constructed book, crammed with as much cool content as this is. If you are anything like me, and I guess because you're reading my Blog you might be, you'll love beautifully constructed rulebooks. This is one of the best I've seen in recent years and if you shop around you can find it for as cheap as £26.99, like at Maelstrom Games.

Overall 8 out of 10

Like the main rulebook for Dark Age, this Forcelists book is exceedingly well presented and fills in all the blanks about background and setting, while actually being a really useful tool for helping you decide what faction you want to play as, and what warriors you want to include in your warbands. Ironically I happen to think it's more of a must have for some that the rulebook, but it still falls short of getting an Approved by Cats award. That's because the game as a whole is in need of a bit of TLC. It feels like as a product it has bumped and fumbled along for over 12 years, just ticking over and suffering painful growth spurts every now and then. Yes I like the crazy, disjointed and varied style of it all, but some of the games miniatures are in drastic need of updating, and the world of Samaria needs bringing into sharp relief and focus more. This book is a great start, and it's certainly more of a must buy than the core rulebook is, mainly because you can get the quickstart rules for free, to get you started playing the game. So yep, if you want the fluff you have to buy it, and this book presents the world of Samaria so well. From the splendid artwork that is literally littered throughout its pages, to the cool stories that explain what the world is like, this book sets the scene for your games of Dark Age far better than many more established games achieve. That it is also an easily navigable multiple army rulebook too is just a very welcome added bonus. If you are interested in Dark Age, this is the place to start for me. Peace out!

I'd just like to remind people that I am currently running a Dark Age Story Competition. I have already received some entries, and... they've been 'interesting' so far. Pop on over take a look and give it a go!!!


  1. Even if I won't ever play a game of Dark Age, I'm glad I own this book. It's just nice to read through or just look at the artwork.

    I'm glad to hear you've already had some entries, I hope it's a good start to a roaring succes! But they are fast, I'm still in the phase of 'hmmm, where should I go from here'. Maybe that makes me bad or maybe just slow :p

    1. Honestly given the length of time I've given people to enter the competition I'm genuinely surprised that people have already entered. But hey, if you can get your entry in early and it rocks there's no point hanging on to it is there?

      As to the book... yeah it's one of my "I've got half an hour to kill books" you know the sort of book you pick up and glance at pretty pictures for while waiting for the Walking Dead or Game of Thrones to come on TV.

  2. It is a nice book book, but I felt the contents page is just a mess. It would have so easy to simply embolden or enlarge the font for each Faction listing to make it clearer wheer each section starts, but only a minor quibble there.

    Good review FG.

    PS - are you in the Brum area/region?

    1. Yep south Brum / Solihull border area. Why?

      Yeah the contents page isn't the best, but actualy I found it quite easy to navigate the book, the different coloured pages by faction helped a lot, as did the profile pics for each unit. As I'm dyslexic it was far better for me than most other books. Yep that does mean my brain is odd!


    2. Brum-based here too! Well Brum-ish. And looking to maybe start Dark Age. :)

    3. Whereabouts are you exactly? Maybe I could run you through a game or three?

    4. Sunny Smethwick my good man. :)

    5. What local clubs can you get too?

      Could you make it to the Warlords of Walsall or Dudley Darklords? If not if you email me I can arrange to meet up somewhere with you and we can retire to my man cave... that just sounds so wrong!!!

    6. I too have a mini man-cave. But Walsall could be interesting; what night of the week do they meet?

    7. Local club is Ladywood, and a guy local to me is trying to satr a North Brum club as well.

    8. The Walsall club meet on Friday nights, is the Ladywood club the one run by Leon?

  3. Thanks for the review, two of my friends have been prodding me to get into Dark Age. I've even gotten as far as picking a faction, the Brood. Unfortunately the new Brood models are terrible, they look like 90s Tyranids.

    1. It is arguably the games biggest downfall, that some of the miniatures are less than stellar! My Outcast on the whole are OK, but even with them there are the off bit of sculpting I'd personally think could've been done better. The side of the Brutes head in the starter set makes it look like the poor sod has had a stroke!!!

      It's a difficult product to know how to develop though. It must be washing its own face, otherwise CMoN would have killed it. So the question as to whether investing to rejuvenate the miniatures line, for what actually is a pretty good game is a difficult one. Especially when there are new games seemingly announced every day.

    2. I understand that older models aren't necessarily going to be the greatest, but the older Brood models are what drew me to that faction. That sexy, sexy Numbskull!

      Other new releases for Dark Age are great, like Mongo and the upcoming Toxic Abomination. I guess I just feel slighted by the newest Brood releases. Like you said there are a lot of new games out, and I think it hurts attracting new people. Also, maybe I'm in the minority in not liking the new Brood models.

    3. Hey, if they don't appeal to you they don't appeal. Just out of interest, which of the newer Brood mini's do you not like?

    4. You're not alone Greg, I too loved the Numbskull and several other older models. But the Alpha Broodling, Pod and Bloat don't do it for me.

      Those Core robots look mighty sexy though!

    5. Interesting I thought it was those, I don't like them either A_G I'm also not keen on some of the original Brood stuff either. But other pieces I think look bloody awesome.

    6. Yeah A_G those are exactly the models I don't like. I thought the concept art for them was pretty good but they just didn't translate to the models.

    7. @Greg, nope I can understand you not liking those mini's as I myself really aren't that keen. It's such a shame that the miniatures range is so hit and miss. Because if they'd nailed the mini's I think the game would be doing far better than it currently is.