Master Strategy With Signum Games’ Fantasy Commander

February 16, 2022 by avernos

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Signum Games have an upcoming project that will be landing on Kickstarter next week and I've been giving Fantasy Commander a run-through on both the tabletop and even virtually via Tabletopia! (I know, no one is more surprised than I am)

Signum Games // Fantasy Commander

Background

Fantasy Commander explores the world of the Legend's of Signum in more detail through a single-player narrative mode. Fought between the Holy Grypharium Empire and the Styx Undead Empire.

The siege of Vallor has failed.
The tragic death of prince Celebrian – son of the Grypharim queen Zenobia – forced the Grypharim to withdraw their forces, and marshal Roland to return to his Emperor empty-handed.

Incensed by the failure of the campaign, the Emperor has demanded an official oath of fealty from the Grypharim Queen – terms which the Empire’s winged allies cannot accept. With the Grypharim having departed to lands unknown, the Holy Grypharim Empire is no more. It is now called the Iron Nest in honor of the impregnable citadel which serves as the Emperor’s headquarters.

Now in unofficial exile, Marshall Roland has retired to the Empire’s borders with Styx. But he does not plan to remain idle. He hears more and more troubling rumours of undead, necromancers, and worse.

Thus far, his loyal and capable adjutant Pavel Starkov has managed to keep the undead at bay, but both understand that an attack from Styx is imminent. They are aided by a mysterious seer – Anna Dark – who is desperately trying to save the Empire with the help of her gift of foresight.

Holy Grypharium Empire // Signum Games

After the ancient queen Jadwiga obtained the «gifts of darkness» and was transformed into a banshee-queen, she became a true nightmare both for the baronies of the Western Kingdom and all of the Free Baronies. For a considerable time, her power was contained with the help of the Bell fortress, which guarded the passage to the Styx barony.

With the appearance of manticores under the command of the dreaded Siris, the fortress was destroyed.

The darkness and will of the Dark Strangers very soon came to enslave all the baronies neighbouring Styx. The once-flourishing lands turned into an Empire of fear and dread. Necromancy, vampirism, the summoning of dark emanations is a mere fraction of the filth that became subject to the new barons of darkness.

Styx Undead Empire // Fantasy Commander

Gameplay

The game itself is a blend of boardgame/hex map strategy wargame mixed with a deck-building game. List building is very simple with units coming at three levels, conscript, veteran, and champion. Each level is generally a five-point increase from the previous level and one of the things I like about it is that the stat lines stay constant and instead the units are modified by gaining additional abilities through keywords.

It makes designing an army very easy and if you have to drop to conscripts it will not be to the detriment of your battle line while at the same time more experienced troops feel tougher and fightier (which is a word).

Pick A Card Any Card

Every time you add a unit, be they monsters, characters, or regiments, you have the option of adding one of two Special cards to your Event Deck, and this is where they added a balancing mechanic to the list building. Every time you add a unit you add a card and you can never have more than two cards with the same name in your deck so you are capped at four units. If you add any more in some spam filth list build then you have to add additional Misfortune Cards.

Every Event Deck is constructed the same way with your choice of Special Cards and a set number of Misfortune Cards. In order to determine the number of Misfortune cards in your deck, you need to halve the total number of your units (rounded up). Misfortune cards are numbered from 1 to 6. You must add Misfortune starting with the first card in order.

This Event Deck is very important to gameplay, the first thing you do in activation is to draw a card and then play it on the unit you wish to activate. In most cases this will be a card you've added and will give you a little perk, on the other hand, Misfortune Cards can really put an end to a clever plan. This added friction means you often have to improvise on the fly and as we learned no plan survives contact with the enemy.

You can pay to remove these from your discard pile which brings me onto...

Shapes And Colours Excite Me!

Activations

Each unit will generate an activation token (or sometimes several). The tokens can be Red, Blue, Green, or Purple, or they can be randomised. Every turn you generate your tokens and then place them on the board face down. Once both you and your opponent have placed every token they are revealed and this gives you the order for the turn. Reds activate first, then Blues, and Greens. The Purple token can be used as any colour at any time so it is the strongest.

These coloured tokens are also spent to activate some abilities and that brings us to the gold tokens, there are an infinite amount and all they do is let a unit rest they can't do anything else but it means you can use these to bluff your opponent or hold a position on the tabletop while allowing you to spend the real tokens to provide a much more forceful attack elsewhere.

Also because you activate in colour bands, it brings the event cards into play. You may have several reds to activate but drawing a misfortune card that would kill a unit may require a quick rethink in your battle plan. That's an aspect of the gameplay I really enjoy. Activations themselves are fairly simple move, fight, shoot and run so gameplay is very easy to pick up which means you can concentrate on how abilities change your basic units behaviour and even then it comes to about a page so fast to interact with.

Jaegers In The Forest

Terrain

Here we have the typical types of terrain, difficult, impassible, blocking. In some cases, you can gain benefits from occupying the terrain hex, like +1 cover or restoring a wound to a unit resting in a town. Apart from the scenario-specific terrain that you layout at the beginning of the game some units can also add faction themed terrain, like a forward camp.

These are added to your Event Deck in the build stage and once they are drawn you can place them on the map and gain the effects. You can build up some interesting synergies with the terrain in the game and bonuses to melee for high ground or allowing ranged troops to fire over intervening troops make them valuable to your strategy.

Victory

So how do you win this game? I'm glad you asked the friendlier voice in my head.

When you are setting up the scenario you will be told to construct an objective deck. They contain things like the first person to damage a unit gains a VP. Once you achieve the requirement you take the card and flip the next one. Once all the cards are lifted the game is over. Often the objective cards will have secondary scoring on them that is totalled at the game end, so you can never be sure who has won until all the conditions have been checked.

Built into these are also some more balancing mechanics gifting your opponent additional activation tokens. So while you may be ahead on points and models on the tabletop they have more resources available to them.

Miniatures

Both factions have a range of infantry, cavalry, heroes and monsters. The initial pledge has 60 models and the quality of the 3D prints I've seen is superb, there is a larger pledge that contains a couple of additional units and characters. I've been impressed by the quality of Signums sculpts and casting for a long time so I have no worries about the final product.

The miniatures are 20mm so they are are a good size for gameplay while still having all of the detail if you plan on painting them. Signum will be producing the figures in resin, which may be a deal-breaker for some but I have to say that I can't see it being a big issue with the majority being one-piece sculpts. If it is though there is a basic pledge that uses card tokens in place of figures and as far as the game goes I would have no problem in picking this up even without the figures.

It's a cracking wee game with a ton of depth and replay built-in and hopefully this is the being of a much larger long term project from Signum Games.

Fantasy Commander // Tabletopia 

If you want to give it a try yourself beforehand you can click the link above and jet off to play it on Tabletopia, you can also get a look at the renders for the minis as they're in the game along with the cardboard tokens. I can whole-heartedly recommend giving it a whirl, and if you don't do the digital thing there is a playthrough video with Shay and myself coming next week.

I want the Wolfen Expansion Now!!!

" I can whole-heartedly recommend giving it a whirl, and if you don't do the digital thing there is a playthrough video with Shay and myself coming next week..."

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