The Red Book Of The Elf King Preview

May 2, 2018 by brennon

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Lucid Eye is currently in the process of opening up pre-orders for The Red Book Of The Elf King. This model range has certainly grabbed me with its alternative take on Elves and the fact that the rules are written by Rick Priestley just adds another layer of anticipation on top of an already exciting game.

The Elf King Art - Lucid Eye

I’ve been lucky enough to read an early copy of the rules for The Red Book Of The Elf King (known as The Elf King from here on) and so I thought I’d give folks my views on what I’ve read so far.

Of course, everything is subject to change, so don’t take what I’ve written as gospel. However, it should give you a good impression of the game that awaits you.

The World Of The Elf King

The background of The Elf King is set during a time where the aforementioned ruler has fallen to sickness and melancholy and vanished from the kingdom. In his wake, he has left terror and panic as the other Circles and the Thanes of his Kingdom strive to take control or indeed exercise what power they can.

This is the beginning of the Fae Revanche and battles between the Thanes and their loyal Companions. Whilst some might be fighting for noble ends, all are fighting battles without reason and they will no doubt be their own undoing.

If that doesn’t sound like a great setting for a tabletop miniatures game I don’t know what does?

Thanes & The Circles

As mentioned above, the game is played by gamers controlling one of the many Thanes from the Kingdom of Eas. Some of these warriors are martial scions of might and swordplay, whilst others are dread sorcerers and wielders of magical power.

Vashel Golden Hand & Companions - The Elf King

Each of them has their own backstory and unique way of playing on the tabletop. For example, Vashel Goldenhand is probably the most famed warrior in all of Eas and so his focus is towards close combat and fighting with sword and shield in hand.

At the other extreme, we have the more capable mages like Meksant Farseer who has sight beyond that of normal Elves, able to predict the future and prevent his death. As well as this, he can also draw on more power to cast deadly Glamour spells.

There are many more Thanes for you to choose from, all focused towards different playstyles and making your Companions unique at the same time.

Salian Trollblood & Companions - The Elf King

One of my favourites is Salian Trollblood, an Elf who was captured and imprisoned by the Trolls for 2000 years. There he learned troll knowledge from his would-be captors and has returned with his Circle to seek revenge. He is an adept caster of spells but also carries with him vicious weapons like his sword Faurblade and the dagger, the Blade Impure, which slowly but surely cuts deep, unhealable wounds into any enemy he strikes with it.

Once a Thane has been chosen you simply need to grab your six units of three Companions (nineteen models in total, counting the Thane) and you’re ready to go.

Companions - The Elf King

Each unit of Companions works similarly, with a base stat line for each, but the choice of Circle/Thane then adds special abilities to their arsenal. Vashel’s Companions, as an example, have Scorn For Rhud Magicks and hate the use of its spells, therefore not taking Courage tests for wounds suffered by its effects.

With your Thane and Companions assembled you then simply take to the tabletop and play through a plethora of interesting scenarios!

Gameplay

Games of The Elf King are played between two rival Circles, although there’s no reason you couldn’t play multiplayer games. There is even a rule in the book that says that if two of the same Circle happen to be fighting each other, well, that’s just the weave of fate doing something odd with the world.

The Elf King Banner #1 - Lucid Eye

When you set up a game you choose your scenario, assemble your warband of Thane and Companions (as noted above) and get stuck in.

We’ve talked about how each of the Thanes and Circles is different, but one of the big aspects of the game that stuck out to me is how Glamours work.

Glamour is the powerful Rhud Magick of The Elf King. You can either choose the spells that your Thane has at his/her disposal or (and this is certainly the option I’d pick) draw randomly from a card deck to discern which spells you have at your command.

The Elf King Banner #2 - Lucid Eye

The game will never force you to take spells you can’t use (more on that later), but this already means that each game is going to be very interesting as you learn to develop new tactics around your spell selection. It feels very much like learning the powers of Warcasters and Warlocks in Warmahordes - working out the best spells to suit the abilities of your Thane and their Companions.

Games are then played out over seven rounds (the magic number in The Elf King). At the end of this period of play, if you’ve achieved your objective, you won. If you manage to slay/wound/force off the enemy Thane then you also win. It’s as simple as that.

Thanes are powerful, very powerful indeed, usually with multiple attacks, bonuses from their weapons and of course the Glamours we mentioned above. They could easily carve their way through multiple units in the game but you have to be careful because one slip up and you could end up getting cornered and stabbed to death by eager enemies!

During a round, you have a number of actions you can perform…

Move - Ranged Attack - Move & Ranged Attack - Charge - Glamour

Move is simple. You can move anywhere up to your model's movement. Ranged Attack is, again, very simple. Each character in The Elf King, be they Companions or Thanes, have access to Rhud Magick and can fire bolts of magic from their hands - these are all immortal Elf warriors after all.

The Elf King Banner #3 - Lucid Eye

Moving and Ranged Attacking means that you can move half your movement value and then attack, usually with a minus applied. Charge is, again, very simple, and has you moving your units up into melee combat to strike at your foes. Combat in The Elf King works a little like in Lord of the Rings or SAGA, where you break off after a fight and ready yourself to charge in a subsequent round.

Glamour has you casting mighty spells that are only available to your Thanes and usually have big game-changing effects. Each Thane has a Glam Rating which will determine if they are able to cast certain spells (noted on the card) and this is where you have to make some careful choices.

All rolls in The Elf King are done with a d10. You simply roll the number of dice equal to the number of attacks you have, or to match a certain skill, and if you get equal to or under it, you succeed.

The Elf King Banner #4 - Lucid Eye

In a standard combat between Companions, the aggressor would look at the statline for their soldier and see it says Attack 2x 5. This means that the Companion strikes twice at a value of 5.

In defence, let’s say both of those strikes hit, the other Companion rolls against their Defence, also of 5. They roll their dice and if they succeed they negate the wounds. Standard Companions each have 2 Wounds with Thanes having more, and obviously better defences.

While this gives you the gist of a regular turn, the real meat of The Elf King comes in the way units are activated and the choices that open up.

Action Counters & The Draw Bag

At the start of a round, each player will roll a single d6. That score is added to another central d6 roll and this dictates how many of your Action Counters are put into the Draw Bag.

The Red Book Of The Elf King Bags - Lucid Eye

To see who activates, you simply draw from the bag and whichever token comes out means that a unit on the table of the corresponding faction gets to do one of the actions we talked about earlier.

The twist in this is that when you draw Action Counters, you MUST use them as evenly as possible, so one unit cannot activate twice in a row until all others have had a go. In many cases you won’t have enough Action Counters to allow this, or even activate all of your units, so you’ll have to choose wisely which units you use in a given turn - it feels very Bolt Action as a point of comparison, but with some unique tweaks.

Now, another additional point here is that units can suffer Penalty Counters from all manner of effects be they magical or just from losing combat and suffering wounds. This COUNTS as an Action Counter on the unit and means they can’t activate till later on in a turn, or even maybe at all. You can test to remove these counters, it isn’t that harsh, but there is something to be said for working out the best way to exhaust enemy units and put the other Thane into a hard situation filled with tough choices.

When units die, a counter is also given to the opponent. This counts as a minus to the amount of Action Counters you can put into the Draw Bag after that dice roll, again mimicking the idea of fatigue, exhaustion and shaken nerves as your force gets worn down.

There are plenty of variables involved here too, what with gameplay, Glamours, the various Thanes abilities and more, but this gives you the gist of how gameplay works in The Elf King.

What’s Next & Final Thoughts

Currently, the pre-order period gives you access to all manner of Thanes as well as their Companions. However, they have also started to show off the Urdane Mortals, humans who have invaded the Kingdom of Eas and have their own agenda. Even the mighty Trolls are looking to stake a claim on this Fantasy world and both have access to their own Thanes and Companions, adding to this game considerably.

Salian Trollblood (Painted) - Lucid Eye

The Elf King feels like a very well considered and interesting skirmish game. It has the edge of being rather cutthroat and bloodthirsty, what with the way the Glamours work (some of them are horrifying) and the powerful Thanes at the centre of these Circles, but also one that has been built on a good narrative base with plenty of scope for expansion as the story unfolds...

It helps that the game effectively only needs you to own nineteen models too. You can simply choose the Thane you like most and buy the Companions to fit them. I’m personally going to paint my Companions in a very neutral theme and then switch out Thanes depending on how I feel like playing.

Fae Revanche Pre-Order Deal - The Elf King

However, if you want to get stuck into the game and play with smaller forces there is an introductory scenario where you just use three sets of Companions and a Thane (with a cut-down Glamour selection too), meaning that you can get playing with as few as ten models.

I think this game is going to invite collection. The artwork by Julien Delvant that you see on the cover and the sculpting by Steve Saleh is superb and it’s hard not to just want everything Lucid Eye is making right now.

The Elf King Companions Unpainted - Lucid Eye

Having painted up some of the models already, I’ve been having a lot of fun. I have Burrows & Badgers and Lord of the Rings as my campaign games and The Elf King fits into a different niche, away from those style of games. It embraces a different tactical angle and philosophy where you’re still telling a story, but with a much more of an edge, juggling Glamours, unit activations and your powerful Thanes.

The Companions (Painted) - The Elf King

Considering your turns, weighing up which units to use with those previous Action Counters and such feels very in keeping with The Elf King, its fae roots and the twists of fate. This also brings me right back around to the background and lore for this game. Each of the circles has been developed to feel different and tell a narrative, and each of the Thanes has a rich backstory to draw on. This is a game world which has been designed with a very refreshing take on Fantasy, one which could very easily have felt too samey with its practically ‘All Elf’ cast.

Instead, The Elf King finds itself to be a game rooted in Nordic and Germanic folklore, able to dive into these amazing stories told from our very own world, then mirrored on the tabletop by an enthusiastic and eager team at the helm.

Does this sound like a game and world that would appeal to you?

"This is the beginning of the Fae Revanche and battles between the Thanes and their loyal Companions..."

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"The artwork by Julien Delvant that you see on the cover and the sculpting by Steve Saleh is superb..."

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