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Review: Looking into a new skirmish game

October 10, 2019 by sercoach

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Freeblades by DGS Games is one of many miniature games that I have played, and will continue to play. After seeing the game around over the past couple of years I finally got to play a demo of the game a few months ago. The first impression of the game gave me the feeling of simple mechanics to get started, but with plenty of depth when desired. This was also accompanied by beautiful models and a living rulebook. In the demo I learned the basics of the game which are quite easy for anyone to learn. The game of Freeblades focuses around alternating phases and activations for a players freeband. These freebands are small squads of soldiers or mercenaries that are working for patrons of the world.

Of particular interest for those dice goblins out there, Freeblades uses dice ranging from the lowly d4 up through a d30, and encounters most of the even numbers on that climb. The better a model is at something the larger size die they will use. This is further compounded by the exploding dice mechanics of the game. For those unfamiliar exploding occurs when you roll the max possible on a die, you then roll the die again and add that result to the first, this can continue if you max out again. This is especially fun for the game since if you exceed target numbers by a certain amount you get extra bonuses.

Each turn players roll off for initiative, and while the winner gets to activate things first, the second player can react to those activations as they see fit. One really fun aspect of this game is the fact both players cast, both move, both shoot, and then both fight in melee. This means that no player is sitting around for any long period of time just defending. After the fight phase you check to see if any side has won either through objective or breaking their opponents freeband and if not the game continues.

While many of these things seem similar to other games the one gameplay aspect that really set Freeblades apart for me was the mixture of simultaneous and ordered attacks. In the shooting phase since arrows take time to hit their target all damage is done at the end of the phase, whereas for melee if you can kill your opponent before they get to strike then they are dead and can't attack. But this is helped by the method of determining who attacks in what order, usually this just boils down to discipline, but chargers go before everyone else, but then some special ability may let others go before chargers. So a lot of strategy must be implemented to determine who should get into combat and how. For the final not on gameplay, every game of Freeblades is played using a special scenario, which there are a lot in the book, and it is quite possible that you could lose every fight on the table, but still win the game through the objective.

As for the rules DGS keeps the game updated with a living rulebook. This book once purchased online is constantly being updated with rule erratas and new content. Combined with this is the online community that are quite willing to answer questions about how things should play out, even the creator has a major presence in these groups and will answer these questions, which will often be an errata in the next edition of the rulebook.

Now we come to the models. Being a skirmish game you don't need too many models to play, the limit for the standard sized game is actual limited to 18 models. Each faction has its own core set that encompasses 60% of what you need to play a typical game. Besides this low model count the models look very nice. The only real downside I have for the models or the game itself is the fact that the models are metal and thus can be a little difficult to assemble for people new to the miniature hobby, but even then I would be willing to learn again if I needed to to play this game.

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