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Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Review: Armies of By Fire and Sword

by Scott Simoneau

My copy of "Armies of By Fire and Sword" arrived today, and not really knowing what the book was about, I was quite eager to dive in and digest it.

The book is much smaller than the others in the series, clocking in at "only" 148 pages! The ENTIRE book is made up of army lists - much in the same style as the army list sections in the Core rulebook and in The Deluge rebook. You get a few paragraphs describing the army background, then a listing of any new special rules (but existing rules are not duplicated here!), and then straight into the army list. Many of the lists in here are from the BFAS downloads section and have existed previously as PDFs. Whether or not they will continue to be available as downloads, I have no idea, but for now, they're all still there.

First up we have the new Skirmish lists...19 of them to be exact! The very first list shows off a new concept that is repeated several times throughout the book - dual nationality lists, first shown in the Polish-Transylvanian Skirmish Force of November 1653. Oddly, specific, eh? The list contains the standard Polish Cossack Style Cavalry, Polish Tartars, and Wallachians, and also contains Transylvanian  Szekely cavalry and Mounted Handgunners. As far as army-wide special rules, the force retains the Polish ones (and not the Transylvanian ones). For league/campaign/tournament purposes, the list counts as Polish unless you have over half of your units as the Transylvanian options, then it becomes Transylvanian. While the list has two commanders (one Polish, and one Transylvanian), it will provide some unique command and control challenges as the Transylvanian commander cannot do anything to the Polish units!

The Polish lists continue with several more Skirmish entries, including several western-style infantry based garrison forces, and a new unique Polish Highlander list, an all infantry force with improvised wooden "cannons!" The Cossacks gain an entirely mounted Skirmish force, as well as a dual nationality list with the Tartars. There are actually a couple joint Turkish/Tartar lists, in addition to a Turkish infantry skirmish force containing Janissaries! The Swedes gain a dragoon-based skirmish force, and the addition of several Finnish lists, which fall under the Swede banner for the time. Muscovites round out the skirmish lists with some forces based around Karelia, and some of them gain boat rules!

Next, we have some Divisional lists. Many of these are specific historical divisions, based with a named commander and special rules to reflect a specific Division at a specific battle/time period. Sobieski's division is reprinted here, with some flight changes....did someone say 14 FSP Winged Hussar regiment? There are some dual-nationality skirmish lists, but they are also still specific historical lists, since the core divisional rules allow allies already. There are a couple of 3-way alliance lists, such as a Swedish Allied Vanguard list that also contains Imperials, Cossacks, and Transylvanians.

Last but not least, it has the Courtland and Dansk lists (skirmish and division) in print. (Previously only available by PDF), and includes rules for a bunch of special commanders for Divisional games - such as the Cossack Camp Master dancing on a barrel!

All in all, I think it's a pretty good book. It has the same high quality finish that the other two BFAS books have, nice matte cover, thick pages, stitched binding, and artwork ranging from reenactment photographs, pictures of models and artist renditions. I recommend the BFAS books even for folks who don't play the game due to the quality alone.

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