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Baron's War

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Designer Rob Markham’s latest entry in the genre of medieval combat games is Baron’s War, published by Clash of Arms. This is a little game (small box, map and limited counter set) that offers a big punch as the de Montfort family and his allies rebel against the government and of Henry III. The two battles offered in the game are Lewes and Evesham, two pivotal battles of history that are rarely covered in strategic wargames, so designer Markham breaks new ground.

The Baron’s War occurred because Simon de Montfort and other nobles felt that Henry III had wasted England’s resources on foreign wars. In the battle of Lewes, de Montfort was able to capture Henry and subsequently act for a period of time as monarch, even if he was unable to claim the actual title of King. In the battle of Evesham, the very barons who had once supported Montfort responded with betrayal even as he faced the brilliant Prince Edward on the battlefield.

The design uses an original system for determining initiative. Players are given a set number of leadership points to begin the game. They divide these points (represented by chits that are numbered 1-4) into various denominations and assign them to their leaders. These chits are used to bid for initiative. In order to prevent imbalance, leaders have a limit on how many 4 chits can be placed on a particular leader. To further prevent a lack of balance, a player may not have initiative more than two turns in a row.

Players quickly learn that killing other units isn’t as simple as might be believed. Each unit can take 6 step losses before being eliminated. Therefore, rushing into battle, even with Cavalry units is not a great strategy. Further, stacking provides no benefit either, so it is wise to spread units out as much as possible in order to create a battle line that can hold against the onslaughts of an enemy. Once this is accomplished the game becomes something of a slugfest between the two opponents.

The thirteen-page rulebook has rules that are well written and organized for the most part. Clarity on most issues is quickly discovered within the rules. However, Clash of Arms, like a number of other publishers, needs a small education on the difference between a table of contents and an index. Offered in this set of rules is a table of contents,which is mistakenly called an index. A table of contents outlines the rulebook rather than providing an alphabetical index to quickly find a rule.

The hex-based maps are smaller than most wargame maps, measuring 11” x 22”. Both maps please the eyes by offering a number of terrains to consider while plotting out movement. The 280 chits are colorful and easy to read. Once again, Markham places a design with a publisher who is not afraid to spend money to create a game, which has bright, colorful, and pleasing components. There are a number of quality charts provided which place helpful information at the players‘ fingertips.

The design offered by Baron’s War is elegant, practical, and easy to learn. The game is easily played in about two hours. Most important, the game is fun. Markham manages to create a number of interesting mechanics that evoke the feeling of thirteenth century warfare. For example, the movement of an enemy unit may incite an opponent’s cavalry to immediately charge the moving unit. The game’s excellent mechanics manage to cover morale, leadership, ranged fire and the utter bedlam of melee combat.