Always a step behind, we assembled and played the Firefight Games version of For Bloody Honor about a month after the ATO Magazine version hit the streets. Anyway, based on three games played, here's what was learned:
We're dealing with an area-movement, strategic treatment of the Russian Civil War, originally produced as a desktop-published effort and sold via Firefight Games. Military units represent between 5000-15000 combatants. The game lasts ten turns beginning in late 1918 and concluding in 1921, with each full year comprised of three game turns.
I like the counters. I like them a lot, actually, and after having seen the blocky, generic things from the ATO production, I'm glad I knocked this one together. You get a look at them in the gallery but the various faction units are adorned with such things as a photo of their leader or a coat of arms type symbol. The counters are well rendered, colourful and sharply detailed given their small size (½ inch).
The map is less appealing due to two factors. First, the main colour is a rotten shade of green and not printed particularly well, either. Second, it's really too small at 11"x17", as many of the smaller areas, representing territories in Russia, are barely large enough to accept one counter, let alone two or more stacks when battles occur, as well as the obligatory control marker. If we haul this game out again I'll have it printed larger.
The rules are a mixed bag. Generally, they are well executed, with the information presented in a logical order and the major elements of the game explained in a clear and easy to understand manner. I discovered a couple of areas referred to on the players aid sheets that the rules failed to cover but these amounted to no major concern. There are, however, at least two direct contradictions; one in the rule book and the other was a disagreement between the rules and the players aid sheet. I will confess that I took a peek at the ATO Magazine rules for their edition of this game in order to obtain a final ruling on these questions. There is a link to those rules in the forum for this game.
Shockingly, Denikin is misspelled several times throughout the rules and players aid materials.
The players aid sheets, consisting of charts and reminders are short of the mark, also, as they omit some important things that I feel should have made it onto these resources, while a set up reminder appears twice on the same sheet. Material is sometimes incomplete, referring to one type of modifier but forgetting another. They just seemed a bit thrown together. The Political Influence Track, the single most referred to bit of info throughout the game, is useless as provided; we had to make our own track that was large enough to accommodate the markers.
All that said, I found the physical qualities of this game, as provided, to be slightly better than what I have come to expect from Firefight Games/Perry Moore Games.
Very good, actually. Once we finished wrestling with the few issues the rule book brought forth we found the game quite enjoyable. Here's how it works:
- The game begins with combat units assigned to the various White Russian factions and to the Bolshevik "Red" force and instructions for initial set up are provided.
- The game hinges largely on a chit-pull basis, with three types of chits available. First, each White faction and the Reds have a Movement chit which, when pulled, allows that faction to conduct movement. Units of the appropriate faction may attempt to move a "force" from one area to an adjacent area. A force may consist of any number of combat units from an area but a maximum of three forces may be moved from any one area. This is important because movement is not automatic; once the move is announced the player must roll to learn if his force may, indeed, complete the move. White forces may make their planned move on a D6 roll of 1-4, while the Reds have it a little easier with a roll of 1-5 allowing the move. We soon learned that splitting one's available manpower into smaller forces is often the way to go in order to better ensure that at least some of the forces complete their move, as planned.
Second, there are two Combat chits, one for the Whites and one for the Reds. When either of these are pulled combat may occur in Contested areas, that is, areas in which both Red and White forces reside.
Thirdly, we have the Recruit chits which enable the factions to rebuild units lost in combat and to recruit new units.
Since the chit pull will invariably produce a different order of events each turn one had best make plans that have a certain amount of flexibility in them. You may very well move your Czech Legion forces to attack the Reds in Kazan, hoping that your comrades from Kolchak's faction will soon join them, only to have your opponent draw a combat chit in the meantime, leaving your Czechs in the fight on their own. Equally hazardous is the possibility that one may plan a conflict based on the enemy's current dispositions, but before combat occurs find your opponent has drawn the Recruit chit, enabling him to reinforce his positions and spoiling your attack plans.
- The object of the game is capture areas, not only for strategic purposes, but in order to accumulate Political Influence Points (PIP). Ultimately, the player with the highest PIP will win the game, but PIP also play a role in how quickly you are able to reinforce your combat units.
- The game is enhanced by details and restrictions relating to the individual factions. The Polish faction, for example, are fierce fighters, rolling twice as many combat dice per unit than most others, but they may not enter an area with another White faction. Should Denikin's forces be eliminated the player will immediately "reboot" with Wrangel's faction stepping in from sidelines to take up the fight. Nestor Makhno's anarchists arrive late in the game, displacing any factions currently occupying the Odessa zone. There are numerous other special considerations, all of which contribute to the flavour of the game as a whole.
I will concede that the game hinges largely on luck. First, the luck of the draw, as you hope the order in which the chits are revealed prevails in your favour. Second, combat is resolved via the "buckets of dice" method; roll a six, take an opponent's unit.
Nevertheless, we found For Bloody Honour to be a light, quick and engaging game. It certainly lacks the depth of Triumph of Chaos (although chaos is abundant) but with only ten pages of rules and a small footprint, it certainly has a place on my game shelf.