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Men of Iron» Forums » Reviews

Subject: For King and Country! Chaaaaarge!!! rss

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Michael Debije
Netherlands
Eindhoven
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Men of Iron was designed by Richard Berg and published by GMT games in 2005. It is playable by one or two players in a couple hours.

What You Get

In the thinner GMT-style box attractively illustrated (as always) you get two big, colorful, really nice foldout mapsheets depicting terrain for the six battles contained in the game. You get three sheets of counters, very colorful and with nice illustrations. They are easy to read, but, as many of these types of games, small to handle. But, no worries, there is no stacking, so the piles never get high, nor is the density too awful. You get a couple player aid cards and a terrain card, 2d10, and a scenario booklet along with the rules. The scenario booklet is a joy to read, with great historical notes, tips, and anecdotes. The rules are short (12 pages) and relatively straightforward, but with some little gaps that can be ‘played through’ if you can appreciate the designer’s intent in the rules. When laid out the game looks very good. A pity there are no depictions of the leaders on the counters, but otherwise it all looks top-notch.

What You Do

Men of Iron is a game depicting six battles between 1298 and 1367 (Falkirk, Courtrai, Bannockburn, Crecy, Poitiers, and Najera) to be individually recreated using as much historical knowledge as can be found on the battles. Each is given its particular ‘flair’ by the designer, from the schiltrons of Wallace to the ditches at Courtrai, each with special rules to add to the flavor. I’ not going to go through the rules in detail, but give a flavor for them instead. I find this easier for wargames, because most people don’t care for the details, except the true wargamers, who instead want to download the rules and read them for themselves instead, anyway.

The game dispenses with the standard ‘I-go-you-go’ method, and instead allows leaders on both sides to attempt continuation by activation rolls, each leader given a rating to allow him to try and move immediately after his colleague. If this roll is failed, the opponent gets to go with any desired leader. If you feel you MUST gain the upper hand, it is possible to try and ‘steal’ the activation, but if you fail to roll successfully, your opponent can choose to activate any leader, even the one who just finished moving!

Combat units are rated for movement, defensive value, and each troop type has its own attack advantages/disadvantages for its weapon types as compared to the defender’s weapons. Shock combat involves comparing the number of opposing units locked in combat, their relative positioning, comparative weapon types, terrain, presence of leaders, ‘charge’ modifiers, cohesion of the unit: quite a few variables, but they become second nature after a while. A d10 is rolled, modifiers applied, and the results are determined, whether ‘no effect’, disorder among the attacking or defending ranks, retreats, retiring, even outright elimination. Missile units have their own attack tables, and these units can have profound impact on the battles (like at Crecy!)

The battle continues until one side has reached a level of casualties where it is forced to leave the field, as set by the scenario conditions.

There are, of course, line of sight rules, zones of control, and the like, but this is the basic idea.

What I Think


This is the more important part, I think. And I really like the game. To be honest, this was my first tactical combat game. It covers my favorite era, has straightforward rules in only a dozen pages, and gets you right into the action. There are charging knights, airfulls of missiles, leader deaths, and desperate shield walls causing horses to rear and wail. The battles, of course, are almost all pre-determined, as the historical edge held by one side is pretty tough to overcome, although optional rules allow one to fiddle with things to allow alternate possibilities. I have played the first three scenarios, and I really now can understand much better what happened, and more importantly, why it happened.

I fought Bannockburn without knowing anything about this conflict, and purposely did not read the historical details. I just set up, and played with an opponent. My English decided to disdain the archers and charged directly at the pike line of the Scots. My horses shied, and confusion set in. My men were unprepared and wallowing about when the Scots archers shot them down and when the pike lines charged down the incline, sweeping me away before I could even get my reserves on the field. We lost in a disaster. And you know what? That’s exactly what happened to the English that day in 1314 as well. Now the battle is firmly implanted in my memory.

This is not a Eurogame. There are dice rolls, nasty swings of fate, paper maps and cardboard. It is less complex than other wargame treatises on the Middle Ages. However, the complexity hit me just right, and got me so interested in this scale of simulation, I’ve moved ‘up’ to SPQR: different era, tougher rules, but great stuff. I look forward with extreme pleasure on visiting the next three battles in this game, and its (eventual) sequel, Infidel, now on GMT’s p500 list. Well worth the price of admission.
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Jason Carter
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Nice review Michael. If you like Men of Iron I am currently running an illustrated turn by turn game in my blog over at Consimworld. You can follow along here:

http://talk.consimworld.com/WebX?14@531.7Higamc06Vw.30@.1dd2...

Its been a few days since I have posted (been busy with work) but I promise to get back at it this weekend!
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jus ren
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Good review Michael, and I read your blog Jason, sounds exciting, and you left us on a cliffhangerwow. I liked the techniques you used Were you playing the Battle of Crecy or Poitiers?

PU
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Jason Carter
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Poitiers!
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jus ren
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I should of got that from the way you used those hedges! From what I've read that played a major part of how the Black Prince won this battle with his armies, espwcially his archers, so it's good to see the technique in action. I'm playing Banockburn solo, and I think I've played it badly with the Scotscry, and given the English plenty of time to mobilize, and my schiltrons under Edward Bruce are not having as big affect on the English mounted men at arms, even with archers behind the pikemen. At the moment it's looking quite close on the flight track. I think I need to play more aggresively with the Scots. It's funny saying it as I'm playing both sides, but I do want the Scots to win, but not by playing the English deliberately badlyshake.

PU
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Richard Berg
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Thank you for the kind words . . . and glad you enjoyed the game. the follow-up - INFIDEL, Battles of The Crusades - is coming out soon.

RHB
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Jason Carter
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BROG wrote:
Thank you for the kind words . . . and glad you enjoyed the game. the follow-up - INFIDEL, Battles of The Crusades - is coming out soon.

RHB
Richard,

I'm really looking forward to Infidel, I've enjoyed this system so far and cannot wait to give it a go with the Crusades, especially the Battle of Arsuf! Its on my wishlist already!
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Lee Massey
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Has anyone tried the Agincourt module in the C3i magazine? I don't remember the issue!
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jus ren
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It's C3i issue 22 Lee. It's a good module for learning the rules, but played historically the English don't have much to do apart from sit there & make sure the french don't get to their supply wagon or standard. Its does take up less space than the normal maps though

Pugh
 
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Freddy Dekker
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no stacking.

that's good.
I try and avoid games with huge stacks as I allways fear for them to topple and for the whole thing to end in chaos.

When I first looked at this game the box reminded me very much of a game called Cry Havoc.
I assume that's the only familiarity with it?

Is it just the six scenarioes?
There is no room to come up with your own, or indeed further scenarioes to get on-line?
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Ralph Shelton
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In Cry Havoc, the scale was individuals and here each unit represents several hundred men.

There are just six scenarios in the box. There is not a design your own system as in something like squad leader. The maps are maps of the individual battlefields, not geomorphic, so while you could take the units provided in the game and create another battle from the time period, you would need to make your own map. You might also have to make some leaders if you couldn't use the ones provided.

There was an issue of GMTs magazine C3i(#22) that had Agincourt in it.

There is a second game in the series, Infidel, with six battles from the Crusader era.
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Freddy Dekker
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So it is in fact Cry Havoc on a larger scale.

I saw the ingame charts which also reminded me of that game.

Not that it's of any importance of course.....
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Ralph Shelton
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I would say it is more like the a simplified medieval version of GMT Games Great Battles of History series.

Of course, that could be because I have never played Cry Havoc...
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Michael Debije
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I recently finished the last of the six battles. This is like the first game ever where I have completed every encounter within the box. The battles are of a range of interest. Najera was a lot of fun, which one army forced to struggle to maneuver to respond to a surprise attack. Others, like Falkirk, are a little dull as one side is strictly defense only, and they get smoked (poor Wallace). I had always want to fight out Crecy to see how the English managed to hold off the French.
 
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Freddy Dekker
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Recently?

With the recent weather we've been having that must mean you have a very well airconditioned room.

 
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Michael Debije
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Eindhoven
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sagitar wrote:
Recently?

With the recent weather we've been having that must mean you have a very well airconditioned room.



I'm pretty dedicated, and play despite the weather. But, yeah, just sitting there I sweat through my shirt...
 
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Ralph Shelton
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I am glad you liked the game enough to get through all of the battles.
 
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