Monday, 14 July 2014

Battle Masters - The Epic Game of Fantasy Battles

Now, we're all aware about HeroQuest - the attempt to boardgameify (yes, it's a word) the RPG experience - but was did anyone else know about this MB Games/Games Workshop collaboration to do the same for Warhammer Fantasy Battle?

Whilst browsing through some US comics from the early 1990s (it's important to stay well-read), I came across this three page advert:

Battle Masters - The Epic Game of Fantasy Battles
Are the orc, the ogre and the knight actually playing the game?
That's a tough demographic to market to.

The advert paints a better picture than I could, but let's look at the talking points:

  • The mention of Altdorf, and various locations, would actually place this in the Warhammer world (although those bases don't look tournament-legal)
  • They appear to be using skull-and-shield dice from HeroQuest, rather than the classic D6. For shame.
  • It's supplied with the usual crappy assortment of plastic miniatures (although quite a lot of them), and they even supply adhesive stickers so you can decorate shields and banners if you're too damn lazy to pick up a paintbrush.
  • This stickers-for-banners must have been a key selling point - they even interrupt the sales blurb to accommodate them.
Crucially, they manage to make the battle sound really dull. The flavour text is supposed to sell the game with the promise of excitement that bears no resemblance to the dull reality of gameplay (my attic is filled with such misleading games).

The description of "you opponent turns a card and you're losing ... then you turn a card and win!" sounds like Arnold Rimmer's diary of his Risk campaigns.

"Anyway, to cut a long story short I threw a five and a four which beat his three and a two, another double six followed by a double four and a double five. After he'd thrown a three and a two I threw a six and a three."

It's not until you get to third page of the advert that things get interesting...

Battle Masters - The Epic Game of Fantasy Battles
MB Games is a long way from Hungry Hungry Hippos...

  • The Mighty Cannon. That's not hyperbole, the full name for the artillery piece is the "The Mighty Cannon". From now on, I'm going to use that all the time.
    "I shall now fire my Mighty Cannon! My Mighty Cannon has misfired! My Mighty Cannon has exploded!"
  • Read the list of contents: in fourth place: "4 Hedges". That was considered a better selling point than the Ogre Champions, Skull Dice or Cannon (Mighty Cannon) tiles.
    I can see the MB Games executive: "For God's sake - make sure we tell them about the hedges!"

Anyway, if anyone can get their hands on a copy, we should totally play this at the next WoffBoot (dibs on the Mighty Cannon).


  1. I had a copy. I played it several times and I still have some of the miniatures. Hands up if you're surprised.

    Which, for the record, weren't actually all that bad. You've even seen one of the chaos warriors repainted in my units, as well as a few glimpses of the Empire Knights in proxy shots. The main reason I got the box was for the ton of models it gave you. I thought it would give me the basics of two armies, but I didn't really think about what I was getting properly. The Ogre would have made a good giant, I think. But the horsemen were all in units of three (three!), and orcs, goblins, beastmen and chaos warriors all fairly disparate in terms of what you can include them in these days. Good set for Empire, though.

    The plastic tower was pretty cool too, although I've forgotten about the hedges. I think there were some swamp hexagons as well. Clearly, I found them more inspiring.

    Cripes, we should definitely not play this at a Woffboot, except to make us much gladder about the game we'd all be bitching about otherwise. 'Can you save the Empire?' it says at the end of page three there. The only way I could find you couldn't was to take all the mighty cannon cards out of the deck. Dibbing it has basically already netted you the game, Stylus, it added what could politely be described as a mild skew to the sides' balance.

    The mechanic for firing it was you slapped out a chain of cards linking the cannon to the target (up to six hexagons away, if memory serves). Then you turned the cards over, and it showed you if the ball bounced, exploded early or sailed through the air. If you got to the target without an early boom, the target was flat out killed (I think) with no dice being rolled! It still got a misfire on a 1 in 6, I suppose.

    This rather trumped the Ogre, who got three moves and three attacks in a random order. You'd usually waste an attack here or there because nobody was nearby to hit. At least he took a couple of cannon shots to bring down, but that was okay because the cannon, sorry, Mighty Cannon had more turns in the deck than the Ogre did.

    Still, I regret nothing. If only there had been a way of taking the hex grid off the battle mat, it would have been a great buy for any starter Warhammerer. Sadly, my copy was given away (!) to a jumble sale many years back, although I kept a few models for the Bag of Minions.

    Given away.


    1. I knew I only had to shake the tree and some fantasy fruits would tumble out.

      That said, one of these days I am going to find that elusive battle/strategy/fantasy/board game that Kraken HASN'T played.

      It's out there.

    2. What about Kuhhandel - German card game of bluff and livestock trading?

    3. Yes, and that. And also Ludo. Never played it. Never will.

  2. Mind you, there's one on eBay right now for a tenner. Race you.