Tor Gaming is a miniatures company on the grow. Relics, their miniatures skirmish game is looking to make its own place in the world. The genre, labeled “Stitchpunk,” is its own special category, not entirely fitting in with traditional Fantasy or Steampunk styles.
The illustrious Gavin, from Tor Gaming, was gracious enough to send me some starter sets, blisters and the rulebook for Relics and wanted me to share my thoughts on them with you.
So get your dice ready as we dive into another TGN Review. This one's Relics.
In the world of Relics, four factions vie for power. The rulebook contains the rules for the game as well as all the stats for all the models currently available. Units do not come with individual stat cards, so you must have a copy of the rulebook around in order to play. There are pros and cons to that format. The positives are that the models are just a little cheaper and you know someone's always going to have the book there in case there's a rules dispute. The cons are that you have to keep flipping between different units while you play. Of course, you could just write down the details for the units you plan on using and save yourself some time there.
I'll skip over a discussion of the fluff for the game, as I'm not a big fluff reader. I'm all about the crunch. The book does have a lot of fluff, though. For fluff connoisseurs, then there's plenty here. A note about the construction of the book: it's incredibly well put-together. The hardcover book has extremely sturdy binding, nice thick pages, good diagrams to help make points and big art shots of both concept art and miniatures. A lot of companies could learn a thing or two about how books should be put together from this one. This book is designed to last.
The rules start with a terminology primer. Not exactly a glossary, it still gives the reader a look into the jargon used within the book. Most gamers will recognize the words and their use, but for someone who's never played a miniatures game before, they'll be able to tell what the rules are talking about later on when they shorthand a term. Immediately, the tone of the book is also put forth. It reads like someone talking to you. It's very conversational. These aren't stereo instructions, but much more like someone telling you how the game works in great detail.
The book then moves into some of the general rules for the game. This includes things like not being able to pre-measure, how measurements should be taken, what constitutes a squad and an independent model and then moves into a description of the stats for models.
The 6 basic model stats are Move, Combat, Ranged, Defence, Damage and Morale. Movement is how many inches a model can move on its activation. Combat is how many dice a model rolls in melee. Ranged is a split number, denoting the number of dice a model rolls with a ranged attack and the number of inches away that you can target an enemy. Defence subtracts dice from your opponent's attack. Damage is the number of wounds an individual model has. And Morale is a model's willingness to fight on when the going gets rough.
The game involves an “alternating activations” style of play. So one player will activate an Independant model or a Squad and do everything with those models that they will do during the turn. Then the opponent does the same, trading back and forth until everyone is done. In recent years I've really come to prefer such games, as it means it's never very from from being your turn to do something. The “I go. You go” format of many games can sometimes make it so it's sort of a “I'm going to go get a cheese sandwich. Lemme know when you're done.” thing when playing, especially in larger games. Relics avoids that.
What a model can do during their activation depends on whether or not they're within Command range of a Commander model. It is very important during the game to keep your models within Command range, as failing to do so will very much hamper your ability to bring the fight to your enemy effectively. As such, Commanders are a major target during the game and keeping your safe while eliminating the enemy's are a major part of the game.
But what about attacking? How attacks are made can really make or break a system and are a major way that they stand out from one-another. Relics gives you a rather simple system for attacks that leaves ambiguity at the door and is very quick to resolve. First, an attacker determines how many dice they get to roll. This is based on their Combat statistic minus the defender's Defence statistic. As usual, there's the chance for both positive and negative modifiers that can also effect this final number. The most common would be via charging or a gang up attack or even possibly a spell. When the final number of dice is determined, the player rolls them and collects pairs of doubles. For each set of doubles, a damage point is done. Casualties are removed if enough damage is done, but don't just discard those extra damage points. Those are kept and added up as an Overkill modifier to any potential morale checks the enemy unit must make during the current round. So, if during the course of of a melee resolution, a unit gets 2 Overkill points and they need to make a morale check, then the check would be made at -2. If more Overkill is accumulated and they have to make another check, then those would be modified by the new Overkill total.
List construction advocates taking a very diverse army. Except for characters, there are no limits to the number of times you can take an individual squad/independent, but the cost steadily increases as you continue to take the same thing over and over. The first two times you take a model, it costs just the base cost. But then, if you take more, the next two cost an extra 10%. If you still want to take more, they cost an extra 20% and so forth and so on. Once you have the cost figured out, round partial numbers down. For example, say you have a unit that costs 60 points. You really like the unit, so you want to take 5. The first two will be 60 points apiece. The next two will be 66 points apiece. The fifth one will cost you 72 points. But hey, if you really want them out on the board, you can take them.
In Relics, certain models have the ability to cast spells. They are listed as Maaj users because they have the Caster trait. These units come with spells already known, but there are also “Generic Spells” that they can choose from during army creation. Casters have a “Knowledge” attribute that they use in buying spells. Each spell has a Knowledge cost as well. Casters can buy Generic Spell that cost up to their Knowledge stat in cost. But the costs go up like they did when buying squads. Instead of percentages, they just go up by 1 for every set of two you buy. So if a spell is 1 Knowledge, the first two cost 1. The next two cost 2. And on in such a fashion as that until you have as many as you want.
The book does not suggest any particular army sizes, so feel free to play whatever game size you want. If you and your players want it to be a small, skirmish game, you're certainly free to do that. But if you want it to be a squad-sized, thousands of points game, you can do that, too. The starter sets are between 75 and 150 points (be sure to check before playing so you know everyone's on even footing), so you can use that as a factor in how small or big you want your games to be.
Talking about the sets, and just the models in general, they are rather nice. Most of the models are 100% pewter with some that also have plastic parts as well (such as the Nuem Concursus). They are generally clean and free of flash or obvious mold lines. They still need a little cleaning, but what model doesn't? The connection points are easy to get to and nice, except for the Nuem Paenitentiam, but they are being redesigned, so things should be easier later on. The models come with 30mm and 40mm “round lip” bases, though they are generally a lot shorter than what many people would think would come on bases of those sizes. There's plenty of room around the minis to customize their bases as you see fit.
Relics offers a lot of possibilities for the look and build of your force in a unique setting. The models and rulebook are high quality. The rules are quick and intuitive for the most part. The game is scale-able, being able to be played with from a half-dozen models, to several dozen. Go check it out and tell Gavin I said, “Hi” while you're at it.