Sunday, February 7, 2016

En Garde! Swashbuckling Skirmish Wargames Rules - Review

I have been fortunated to get a copy of the latest Osprey Wargaming rules, En Garde! Swashbuckling Skirmish Wargames Rules - OWG12 by Craig Woodfiled, so I thougth I put up a short review of the rules.

Some basic facts:

En Garde! 
Author: Craig Woodfield
Illustrator: Peter Dennis
Short code: OWG 12
Publication Date: 20 Jan 2016
Number of Pages: 64
Paperback: £11.99
Want a copy: visit Osprey webshop.

First of all I want to stat that I love the Osprey Wargames, OWG-serie as it gives me the chanse to try out nice sets of rules, to a fair cost, that I probably never would have if they should have been published in a 200 pages hardback books. Just by that reason I try to get all the rules published in the serie, 12 so far and they all give me good reads and inspiration even if I´m not really in to the period.

The period that En Garde! focus on are a period I really like and are well in to at the moment, due to my work on the Pikeman´s Lament rules, that also will be published as a part of the OWG-serie, but not untill early in 2017, so it was with a very nice interest I started to read the En Garde! rules.

En Garde! is a small-scale skirmish game based on the Ronin rules (that also been writeh by Craig Woodfield and published by Osprey in the OWG-serie, OWG4), in which small groups of warriors fight each other for honour or riches and the rules covers the conflicts of the 16th, 17th and early 18th centuries, when black-powder weapons started to become common in battle but martial prowess still determined the outcome, as the backcover so nicely state.

The layout of the book are as good as ever in the OWG-serie and one thing that really lift the En Garde! rules are all the stunning new artwork by Peter Dennis, that in combination with greate miniature pictures make me get a good feeling for the kind of game En Garde! want to play out.

I have to admit that I´m a bit biased regarding the En Garde! rule as I have had a go with the Ronin rules and I thougth they wasn´t my cup of tea. The rules had, at least for me, a to steep climb to get a smooth running game, suppouse I wasn´t to perseverant either.

So it was with a dubious feeling I started to playtest the En Garde! rules. The flow of the game are more or less as in other games, in each pahse of the turn the players take in turn to activate their minis, nothing starange at all and a nice way to get a interesting game. There are small differences from the Ronin rules in the game flow and I think that is good, cant decide if it is because the authour wanat to streamline the game or if his view of Japanese warfare difference from European warfare, either way I like the game flow better in En Garde!

The rules in general are well writen but I think that some parts of them have a bit to complicated explanation, like all steps that need to be run through to solve a shooting action, as well as close combat, are a bit confusing, with lots of additions, subtractions and refering to different tables.

As an example I have quoted a part of the Shooting Procedure:

"The model that is shooting roll 2D6, adds its Shoot characteristic and then adds or subtracts other modifiers to this roll (see below). The weapon being used (see Arms and Armour, p21) and certain Attributes (see Attributes, p.23) can also introduce relevant modifiers. Once all relevant modifiers have been applied, the final result is the Shoting Attack Roll.
Subtract 6 from the Shooting Attack Roll. The resultin number is the Hit Score. If the Hit Score is 1 or more, than a hit has been scored. If the Hit Score is 0 or negative, the attack has missed. A successfill Hit Score then becomes the Basic Wound Score. Add any relevant weapon modifiers, and subtract the targets´s AR value to calculate the Final Wound Score and refer to the Wound Table (p.17)."

This sort of mathematics and refering to different table to solve a simple shooting action are a bit to much at least for me, that evedently start to grow old. But as you learn the rules and have played more game than I have, I defently think it will work as smothely as ever in any other set of rules.

It is more or less the same procedure to solve a close combat, but one main difference as the use of Attack/Defence counters that you use to control the fight and the tactic you use - offensively, defensively, or by applying special skills and abilities. This I think is a really nice way to make a close combat interesting. Most often close combat in skirmish games are quite boring, go in and fight untill one are defeated. my only objection are that the minis are looked in the fight by the end of the close combat, I personally prefere the minis to be separated by the end of the turn so everyone are free to move, but that just how I like it.

After my first readthroughts and playtest I indeed think the rules will work fine as soon as the players are geting over the first learening threshold and have learned to run the shooting and fighting in a smoth way.

In the Rules there are also a guide for how to build your own warband list as well as a bunch of example warband lists like Border Reivers, Conquistadors, Landsknechts, Aztecs, French Musketeers, Caribbean Pirates and several others but no one based on Swedish history...

There are also several scenarios that are possible to play out on a 24"x24" gaming board and that is really of my liking that you don´t need a full gaming table as I sometimes just want to set up a quick game at home on the kitchentable. There are also set of Simple campaign rules allow multiple scenarios to be played in sequence and permit warbands to develop over time.

An appendix is also included to provide brief rules for supernatural creatures of the period - monsters, demons, revenants and witches - and new abilities and equipment to fight them, good for gamers who want something a bit different from the norm.

As I said in the begining I had a dubious feeling for the En Garde! rules I have had more games now than with the Ronin rules that uses more or less the same rule engine, I still feel that I need to have more games under my belt to really get past that initial learning threashold that I experience with them. While one have gone past the initila learning I really think they can provide very interesting and intense Swashbuckling games, much thanks to the use of the Attack/Defence counters that make it possible to personalise you fighting style and also add a lot of flavour to the close combats.

Considering the low cost and the greate productions value, the Peter Dennis artwork need to be praised again, I would recomend you to try them out  Give En Garde! a bit of time or be a faster learner than me and I think it is well invested money. I also like that En garde! is a set of rules that dosent need a tremendous amount of minis, 2-3 minis in the fist test games and maybe 6-12 minis later on that also will give good games in an very interesting period of our History.

I hope my little review have helped you out in someway. If you have any questions regarding the rules don´t hesitate to post them here and I try to give my view of it all, or we might have to solve any issus with the baldes...En Garde! ;)


  1. Very interesting review Michael. I find that skirmish games like this really don't grab me anymore. I much prefer Lion Rampant et al as they are less complex and, IMHO, give a good and fun game, which is what I want. Others may wish for more detail and En Garde! certainly sound like it does this.

    1. I´m absolutely keen to agree Steve!

      As you might know i´m a Lion Rampant fan;) the Lioan rampant engine give me the easy approche games i want with a game where I play a game and not the rules if you get me.

      Grown up with RPG and all the details in them, so might have got enought of them:)

  2. Could you compare them to Songs of Blades and Heroes, Michael?

    1. I think it is hard to compare as the two sets of rules give a different feel to the games.

      I always have liket the Song and Blade rule engine, when I read it, but most game I have played using them havent been that fun, unfortunate I cant point on what I don´t like. I might add that the games usign the "Musket era" SoBaH engine have been more fun.

  3. Perhaps not one for me, but it does look interesting.

  4. Chance would have it : i'm waiting for the copy I ordered recently !

  5. Brilliant review well done. You mention 6-12 units. Approximately how many figures in a unit and how many figures overall make a side?

    1. Thanks !

      Sorry for mot be clere, I was refering to 6-12 minis in total as there are no units in the game:) There are quite much detail in the games for each minis so some bookkeeping or markers for wouds etc might be needed.

      If you are a experienced gamer of the rules you might be able to handel 20ish minis on each side.

  6. Looks and sounds interesting!

  7. Nice and thorough review Michael! The game sounds much too fiddly for my liking but hopefully it's someone's cup of tea. :)

  8. I love some good swashbuckling action, but it seems a bit heavy. I think that why I got hook on the game my friends are making, but then again, it is not really a skrimish game, but a boardgame/skirmish hybrid.

    And on the choir of Lion Rampant... tried it last year, and I REALLY liked the mechanics. I might not play the setting/time period, but great mechanics.



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