Broken Legions: Fantasy Skirmish Battles in the Ancient World
In this day and age, with tabletop hobbies and enthusiast publishing houses catering to just about every niche in existence, it’s very easy to miss out on a newly announced game as it gets caught up in the swirling storm of constant new releases. I’ve fallen victim to this on a number of occasions due to my broadly cast net of interests, and one such time that I missed out on a game came on August 25th of 2016.
In the world of wargaming, and in this particular instance in the world of Skirmish Wargaming, there exists a publishing body by the name of Osprey Publishing, and in their own words, they have been, “providing books for enthusiasts since 1968,” which is an impressive claim to be able to make. On the aforementioned August 25th, the wargames portion of Osprey Publishing, simply named Osprey Wargames, published a skirmish wargame from Mark Latham, a writer, editor, and games designer from Staffordshire, UK.
Mark was the 13th Global Editor of Games Workshops magazine, White Dwarf, a position he held from 2007 through to 2010.
Latham’s Skirmish Wargame went by the name of Broken Legions: Fantasy Skirmish Wargames in the Roman Empire and, as someone who has studied Roman history through both my schooling and personal life while also being an avid tabletop wargamer, it should go without saying that the idea of a skirmish wargame with fantasy elements set in a post-Marian reform Roman Empire is something I’m interested in.
Having not known about the game at launch, it came as a surprise to me when I recently came across a copy of the rulebook while doing my usual poke around on ebay for miniatures to salvage from horrible paint jobs. Intrigued, and not going to say no to an £8 asking price, I picked it up and waited for it to arrive.
A few reads later and I’m currently enjoying one of the most straightforward, but immensely enjoyable skirmish games that I’ve played in a while. But before I go on, I want to give a shout out to the artist, Alan Lathwell, who provided some amazing artwork for the game. You, sir, are a king among men. Anyway,the rules are exceptionally straightforward in that all dice rolls (D10) are tests or contests, that means you either need to simply roll higher than your opponent (which is where the nuance of unit buffs comes into play) or roll 10 or higher after adding your own skills and buffs to the roll. All the units have a set movement range across the board, such as Infantry 6”, Cavalry 10”, Beasts 8” etc. You can move and perform an action, or charge and fight. All very simple stuff that expedites the gameplay and lets you focus on the fun opposed to constantly checking charts. There is, of course, more to the game than that. But it’s the ease of play and unique setting that really makes the package all come together.
One of the real gems in the crown of Broken Legions is the accessibility of it all. Osprey don’t release armies of miniatures to go with every single game under their name, so you can use practically anything to fill out the ranks of your force. I, for example, used the contents of Warlord Games new-ish boxed game SPQR to build the basic infantry units for both a Roman and Barbarian faction, then I spent a few pounds here and there on Ebay buying single sprues of Legionaries, Cavalry and some monsters. Voila, Broken Legions is ready to go.
Throughout the scenarios or battles that you fight, you can drop roaming enemies onto the game board at specific locations of your choosing to help make things more chaotic. Perhaps while a patrol of Roman Auxiliaries encounter a band of foreign invaders, the skirmish can spill over into the territory of a dreaded Gorgon, perhaps better known as one of Medusa’s ilk.
These wandering beasts are controlled by a predefined set of rules in the game that makes them act independently, causing trouble wherever they see fit. What makes this a nice inclusion in the game is how it opens up a number of gameplay scenarios and modes that are structured around non-player controlled units. You could, for example, have your gladiatorial pit fighters battle a mighty Hydra for the entertainment of roaring crows, or re-enact the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest, but with the Germanic Tribes having “cursed skinchangers,” otherwise known as Werewolves, swelling their ranks. Broken Legions can be found in a number of places in a paperback rulebook, and you can also get it straight from Osprey Publishing in paperback, epub or PDF formats for less than half the cost of your average GW codex. I strongly recommend it to anyone who’s looking for a quick and cheap game to get into. Sure, we’re very late to the party, but what a party it is.