A War Transformed: WWI On The Doggerland Front – First Impressions | Osprey Games

September 28, 2023 by brennon

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We've had trips into alternative history with The Silver Bayonet from Osprey Games recently. It seems like that "weird" theme is continuing when it comes to their newest wargame, available today. A War Transformed: WWI On The Doggerland Front takes the concept of The Great War and turns it into an uncanny twist on history with a good dose of folklore and mysticism!

A War Transformed Cover

Straight out of the gate, it's worth saying that if you're looking for Historical accuracy then A War Transformed isn't going to fit that bill. Whilst A World Transformed draws from our own history and the course of The Great War, including the nations that participated in it, there is a heavy slant towards the weird, playing with monsters, magic and everything in between. That, of course, means that things are going to look and feel a little different from what you might have read in the history books! With that out of the way, let's dive into our first impressions of A War Transformed.

An Engrossing Weird World War I Experience

We should probably start off by looking at what A War Transformed is all about. Set during The Great War, time diverges in this world when an event called The Shattering happens. An asteroid known as Summerisle hits The Moon, and everything is thrown out of whack on Earth. The Great War was halted in the midst of the chaos but it soon restarted with potentially even more bitterness and brutality than before as nations not only fought for glory but also just for survival!

A War Transformed Art 1

That is where you find yourself as you dive into A War Transformed. You will take on the role of small patrols in a competitive game where you control between thirty and fifty miniatures. That patrol comprises leaders, regular soldiers, mystical witches and sometimes even the monstrous beings that now prowl the battlefield.

Talking of the battlefield, your patrols are going to find themselves battling across a landscape that's as uncanny as the enemies you're facing. The naming of the game, WWI On The Doggerland Front, is twined with the idea that the Doggerland, the land mass that once created a bridge between Britain and Europe, has risen from the depths. This new landmass has become the fertile fighting ground of your armies and new trenches have been carved into the landscape. The massive skeletons of hulking dreadnoughts and long-lost lands that were swallowed by the seas during prehistory now pockmark the landscape and offer up some fascinating ideas for the kinds of games that you can play when diving into A War Transformed.

What's interesting about the world that Frederick Silburn-Slater has created and what has been illustrated by Dimitris Martinos is that it creates such a dynamic wargame to dive into and explore. The Silver Bayonet did a lot for those who had always been on the fringes of Napoleonic wargaming but had never wanted to dive in, thinking it too stuffy and dense. A War Transformed takes the period of World War I and does much the same. You've got this semi-familiar background of The Great War but with a massive dose of the Weird and the fantastical for you to get stuck into and have some fun with. No rivet counters here! In much the same way, I feel like this might be liberating for those who already wargame during this period. Maybe you've got a big collection of miniatures but you're also eager to add your Fantasy collection into the mix at the same time. Well, here you go!

All of this comes together to produce a game which manages to tick a lot of boxes for folks looking for a fun and unique gaming experience. What's also nice is that a lot of the flavour of the world seeps into the rules mechanics. Your miniatures have a Zeal rating for example! This is used to see if your soldiers are able to keep their nerve in the heart of battle but also helps with what dice you generate to attack in close combat.

On top of that, you've also got Combat Stress that starts to mount as your units battle onward and come up against all sorts of foes. Talking of combat, this game pulls no punches and the amount of death that you're going to see dealt out on the tabletop is certainly fitting for the game and the period.

I think it's important to get an idea of the background and the feel of a game from the outset. It's one of the first sections of any book that you pick up for a wargame and having a solid setting which really makes you want to wargame in it is really handy. It means that people are going to have as much fun hobbying in your world as they are gaming in it. Additionally, A War Transformed does what The Silver Bayonet was able to do in that it gives you a familiar touchstone for you to latch onto so you're not finding yourself totally at sea when it comes to diving in.

The Macabre Mechanics Of A War Transformed

Talking of mechanics, it's worth diving into a broad overview of what you can get stuck into with A War Transformed. The game features plenty of opportunities for your troops to do their own thing but, much like with World War I, there is still a strong focus on the command element of your games. Your force and your Captain help to build a pool of Command Tokens which you can then use to activate your various units, be they infantry, monstrous allies or vehicles. Additionally, you can even get into a bidding war with those tokens to see if you can take the reins of a turn and get priority.

A War Transformed Art 6

I really like the competition for round priority. To dive into one aspect of the game for a moment, during the start of a round you'll be able to put forward Command Tokens to help you try and win initiative. However, as well as this just being a bid to see who comes out on top, you still have to roll the dice earned in doing so! That means if you blow your beans and roll low, you could still end up losing out to someone who comes out on top with a six on their d6 against your three ones! This bidding comes during each of the four phases of the game so it's fascinating to see if you can swing things in your favour.

Anyway, diving back into the way a round works. You have that initial Command Phase where you can issue orders and do all sorts of magical shenanigans but you then move into close combat for those units that are engaged followed by three phases which break down into the Cannonade Phase, Elite Phase and Line Phase. This covers artillery bombardments, your elite troops that are rushing through the smoke and fire to get into contact with the enemy and then your regular troops who follow up behind.

When a unit gets activated, it can do all the sort of things you'd expect including shooting, running into close combat and perhaps even a handful of special actions. When it comes to the cut, thrust and bang of combat, I really like how A War Transformed makes things nice and simple. A unit uses the current condition of its Zeal to generate combat dice and then, based on being of Low, Medium or High skull in a particular area, you'll simply roll your d6 and have a very simple table to follow. There are no weird comparison charts to deal with, just a set of tables which should be very easy to get your head around in the first few turns of the game.

A War Transformed Art 3

Shooting is a similar process but you don't need to worry about Zeal and instead, you'll find modifiers in place depending on where your target is, the weapons you're using and other elements like cover and such. All of the big World War I hallmarks are there too with big weapons able to leave gaping craters in the ground and everything else in between. What shooting does achieve is the ability to pin an enemy and make it so it's harder for them to activate later in the turn. Pinning isn't quite as devastating as it is in some games but you'll need to roll against your Zeal in order to activate if you've taken near misses and such from your opponent during the shooting phase. Again, it works to build on the chaos and brutality of battle and the vibe that A War Transformed is building.

As this is a game centred around an alternative World War I, you'll also find rules for battling through trench-riddled tabletops and ways for you to dive in and use vehicles and all sorts. Yes, you can send tanks into the heart of your battles in A War Transformed and hope that you come out the other side!

There is even an entire portion of the book given over to that Command and Order element of World War I warfare which is so important. Your Captains can use Ruses at the beginning of the game to do things like call in a Gas Barrage or perhaps get your infiltrators deeper into enemy territory. Beyond that, you can also use Command Tokens to issue a variety of Standard Orders which range from Silence Those Guns to get snipers into action to Forced March which pushes your units past their limit. Each nation in the game, from the British Empire through to the American Volunteers also has faction-specific orders which help add some flavour to proceedings. For example, the British Empire can call Jai Maa Kali and get their Colonial Infantry within a certain range to be activated early in the Cannonade Phase of a turn.

The Mystical Side Of A War Transformed

One of the biggest selling points of A War Transformed is the folklore and mystical side of the game. When building your forces for your games, you can pick up characters that will be able to cast all manner of rituals and more that can change the course of battle in your favour.

A War Transformed Art 5

Witches in your force are able to use their power to perform Rituals. They must roll a number of ones on d6 (although using Command Tokens turns a die into a d3) appropriate to the Ritual in question which is spread amongst a variety of different Lodges. All of these Rituals feel like they work within the themes of the game without being massively overpowering, at least from a look over the book at this early stage.

What's also interesting is that any pairs generated during the casting of a Ritual (so rolling two twos for example) add a Manifestation Dice into your pool and oh boy, these are awesome! Manifestation Dice can be used during your turn to summon monstrous horrors to aid you in your endeavours on the battlefield. You might summon a scampering Snatcher or a monstrous Crusher that has quite a life of its own. A Witch has to put a lot of energy into controlling one of these Manifestations because if they manage to break free, they will end up acting based on their instincts and that might be to turn your unit of soldiers nearby into a sticky paste! It's a great element of risk and reward and helps to sell this idea of a desperate fight playing out in A War Transformed.

The use of the Rituals and Manifestations therefore helps to sell this underlying sense of menace in A War Transformed. The magic can be powerful and turn things in your favour should you be lucky but the forces of nature that you're trying to harness could very easily switch their allegiance should you waver. It's just enough to nail that uncanny feel of the game without it feeling so massively removed from our reality. It's unsettling and great!

Building A Patrol

Last but not least, we come to actually making your Patrol for use in games. Every Patrol starts with a Captain and then depending on the Selection Points available for a mission you can take a number of Line units. From there, you can access Elite, Cannonade and Unique units depending on the amount of points you've spent on Line Units. So, you're encouraged to buy the rank and file rather than splurging everything on getting the best units. It's a good way to inherently balance your experience.

A War Transformed Art 2

You'll have already chosen a Faction but you'll also have to choose a Hermetic Lodge that your Witch can draw from before diving into the minutiae of building your Patrol. Before you dive in too deep though, there's a fun page where you choose your Zodiac Sign for your Captain. This gives them an extra special rule which helps them in the game and once again, reinforces the Weird nature of the game. As a Library, I would be able to perform the Ritual "Justice" without having to spend Command Tokens or roll. Fancy!

To go through all the lists would be quite the task so it's worth saying that all of the options you could think of are present, for all the nations taking part. All of them have unique units alongside the core selection of options so there's plenty of flavour for you to dive into. It's all distinctly Midsommar for the most part and I love reading all of the extra flavour text that has been added to units to help sell why you should go for x or y.

Final Thoughts

A War Transformed follows on from games like the massively successful The Silver Bayonet with a solid alternate take on history. It takes all of the things that make World War I an appealing period to wargame in and then gives it an extra, uncanny twist. It's Weird but in a way that feels unique, playing off folklore and mysticism as much as it does the classic zombies and werewolves that you might expect.

A War Transformed Art 4

I think there is enough detail here for people to get really stuck into A War Transformed, especially from a hobby point of view. You can play around with a lot of miniatures from both the Historical and Fantasy side of things. Build into that the ability to really get in-depth with the way you bring your characters to life, the unique units your force can bring to battle and the tabletops you play on and I think we're going to see a whole bunch of amazing photographs of people's collections once this lands with folks.

Another bonus I think to playing A War Transformed is that it's not a campaign-style game. I love the likes of The Silver Bayonet and Frostgrave but there is a sense that you sometimes have to rely on a solid group to enjoy the game (you can play solo of course). With A War Transformed, you can build up your army as much as you like and then dive into all manner of pick-up games across the different scenarios to see who comes out on top. It all comes down to freedom and creativity with both the hobby and gaming side of things.

Could you be tempted to try out A War Transformed?

"You've got this semi-familiar background of The Great War but with a massive dose of the Weird and the fantastical for you to get stuck into..."

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"It all comes down to freedom and creativity with both the hobby and gaming side of things..."

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