First Look: Forager Napoleonic Skirmish Game

Despite having been a historical wargamer for about 30 years now, I’ve rather surprisingly never previously owned any Napoleonic miniatures.  I’d played a few games over the years but could never quite bring myself to start collecting an army in my preferred big-battle scale of 10mm figures.  It’s a period of history with a vast amount of detail for a wargamer to immerse themselves into and, frankly, a lot of scope for pedantry over using the correct facings, buttons and flags for specific units at specific battles and that’s always been something which has put me off getting started.

That is until Episode 224 of the excellent Meeples & Miniatures podcast featured a preview of Stand To Game’s Kickstarter campaign for their Napoleonic skirmish rules, Forager, and I was intrigued by the possibility of the alternative approach they offered so decided to investigate further.  Forager is what’s best described as a micro skirmish game or ‘RPG Lite’ designed for games of only about half a dozen figures per side in narrative-driven scenarios where each figure is an individual named character with specific attributes and traits, presented on their own profile card.

The Kickstarter offered an excellent value pledge level which for GBP 34.00 included the printed rulebook and 13 (later 18) 28mm metal miniatures with accompanying printed character cards (six each of British, French and Spanish).  This was a very tempting prospect as a way to dip a toe into a new period without the need to worry about researching all the uniforms and organisations as it would just be a case of painting up a handful of figures based on their profile cards and getting them on the table using scenarios provided by the rules.

Fast-forward a few months and the rules and first of the figures have arrived – the printed cards and last few miniatures (the Spanish) being due to follow on in a couple of months.  PDF cards for the British and French were provided for use in the meantime.

The miniatures are well sculpted in a variety of poses which convey a sense of motion and have been crisply cast in metal which feels study enough to avoid their bayonets snapping off too easily.

The rules themselves are in a slightly unusual, but very sensible, format of a wire bound book with pages printed on pretty thick card which results in a substantial tome of 74 pages that will lay flat on the table for reference during play and withstand the rigours of flipping back and forth to locate specific rules.   In addition to being terribly practical, the rules are also generally well presented and laid out so feel polished and easy to navigate – other budding rules authors please take note!

I’ve only had the briefest flick through the rules, but I like what I’ve seen so far.  Each character card includes ratings for their Battle Experience Level, Skill, Combat, Field Craft, Fatigue and a list of their Weapons, Equipment and personal Traits.  You can use the supplied characters to get you started or there is a full character generation system if you want to make your own or tinker with the existing ones.  Interestingly, you can either determine some characteristics randomly (like an RPG) or use a points system to ensure evenly balanced forces – I personally find the random method more appealing as it’s more fun to try and make the most of what you’ve got than it is to agonise over every detail and try and find the perfect combination.  Whichever method you choose, there are plenty of battle, personal and command traits and options for weapons and equipment to ensure that no two characters need ever be the same.

The core game rules are only about 18 pages long with a few further pages of optional rules.  Everything is d10 or d100 based, which I personally much prefer for a game with this level of detail and it gives a wider range of probabilities than conventional six-sided dice.  Models activate for movement individually based on their Skill characteristic (lowest first) and NPCs have scenario-specific behaviours.  Once everyone has moved, characters shoot in Skill order (but this time highest first), next comes combat (again, highest Skill first) and finally a recovery phase.

I’ll describe the other game mechanics in a future post, once I’ve had the chance to read the rules properly and play a few games.

Five standalone scenarios are included (optional random sub-plots will increase re-playability) and a there’s mini-campaign of a further six scenarios.

So there you have it – I finally own some Napoleonic miniatures!  I don’t think I’ll fully succumb to the mania and start dreaming of recreating Waterloo or counting buttons in my sleep, but hopefully Forager will provide a good opportunity to see what all the fuss is about and tell some good stories on the tabletop.   While the current miniatures are focused on the Peninsula War of 1808-14, the authors have recently teased Kickstarter backers with a North American expansion to follow at some point.


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