Sunday, November 13, 2011

Witchfinder General: a Review

When first seeing the fluff on the new Witchfinder General rules I was immediately intrigued. The combination of dark northern European folklore and 16th-17th century wargaming caught my attention instantly with images of foggy cemetaries, mouldy churches and cuirassed pikemen fending off howling werewolves. So I was a sucker for this ruleset at first glance. As fate would have it, I was able to pick them up at Crisis in Antwerp a few weeks later.

WG deals with battling the supernatural evil in 17th century England. Pikemen and musketeers aid witchhunters in their strife against vampires, witches and their human and non-human followers. Among these are the Barguest, the mythical hellhound of English moors and Noctelinger, a kind of ghoul. Humans on both sides fight with musket, pike and edged weapon. If you ever needed another use for your Border reiver figures or an excuse to buy a box of Warlord Pike & Shot plastics, this set is it!

For your money you get a 108 page softcover book with b/w and colour illustrations, mostly pictures of miniatures. Even the examples are usually photographed miniatures. While still a matter of taste, I found them well painted and -presented and actually quite inspirational.

The text is pleasantly spaced single-column and uses bold type to indicate key words and phrases. The book layout seems logical and well thought-out. It has an interactive IGO-UGO system which is explained in a traditional sequence of turn sequence, moving, firing and combat (“Fisticuffs”) and then on to special rules like pikemen, “on guard” (a type of overwatch), skills, troop types and terrain effects. Occasionally one comes upon something not yet explained but reading one usually encounters them soon enough. Fortunately attention has been given to the traditional circumstances of battling werewolves and the like and Gloomy Condition rules are provided for fog and night.  

All this results in a fairly straightforward ruleset that encompasses most things you´d want from it (there are rules for cavalry and cannon as well as for flying witches!) and will probably still function well if you leave everything out except moving, shooting and fighting. I will most likely leave some things out since all the different movement modifiers seem a bit complex to me, but who knows?

It is mostly skirmish “scale”  but besides individual figures units can be given orders as well so pike & shot formations can actually be played as such. The book ends with 6 scenarios to be played separately or as a campaign. Games contain as little as 12 figures or as much as 30 figures per side. Markers are used to keep track of reloading, morale and such things. I am not generally a fan of cluttering your table with markers, so we´ll see how needed these really are...

A downside is that the rules contain a number of tables and no Quick Reference Sheet is provided in the book. There is a main rules summary page that can be photocopied but one memorizes these rules quickly while all the modifiers will require a lot of leafing through the book the first few games. However a PDF version is available as a download on the site as is a PDF with markers .

All in all I am looking forward to my first game and am happily converting some old LOTR Wargs into Barguests. To be continued!

Witchfinder General: days of revelation
Eric Barnes
Dashing Dice Games 2011