The day has finally arrived when I give Relics by Tor Gaming a shakedown. So without the usual procrastination and nonsense I shall get straight to it.
The premise behind Relics is that a cataclysm has laid waste to the world. A magical conflagration intended to wipe out humanity (because we’re not very nice) as destroyed much of the world and twisted its inhabitants into shadows of their former selves. Not least amongst these are the humans. Some of you may have seen the puppet army of the Britanans. Clockwork and good will doesn’t keep these soldiers marching but the tormented souls of soldiers killed when the world was sundered.
So, this is not an entirely happy world. In fact, as backgrounds go – and considering the heavy use of magic – it’s a very interesting concept. My only complaint is that the background story is all a little vague. If I can be so bold as to suggest an alternative way of presenting it – the cover story should be more of a ‘this is the world in which we live’. The calamity should be talked about in the vague sense but the world and the forces at large in the world should be the focus. Then, when it comes to the individual backgrounds they can fleshed out with all that lovely background by detailing the Britanan, Orcnar etc involvement, and for their unique perspective. The result would be the gamer has a much clearer idea of what went on as well as an empathy with one or more of the factions. I think it’d make the world feel a bit more cohesive whilst making the game grounded ‘in the now’.
The rules, although in beta, seem very tidy. The system lends itself to speed of play but the ‘doubles to hit’ mechanic will prevent an overwhelming arse kicking from an overly shooty Britanan army. I also especially like the Command rules. If you’re in command range you can do more than if you’re not. Which makes sense. If you’re commander is shaken that range is halved. If he’s dead, you’re buggered.
The forces are nicely varied with each offering an obvious playing style but I imagine, as with so many games, they’re easy to pick up hard to master. And, oddly, I think the Britanans are a point in case. Although they have an obvious way of fighting there’s more to them than just point and shoot.
The scale and the story means that the board can be pretty much as wild or as desolate as you want and as pretty much the whole world is trying to cave one another’s head in you’re not limited by setting which gives the game tremendous scope.
As the rules aren’t finished yet there’s no scenarios or campaign rules yet but if done correctly there can be some brilliantly characterful games to be had. If it were me I’d actually be tempted to write two campaigns sets – one as a ‘free to roam’ campaign and the other taking the opening story to its conclusion.
I think it’s fair to say that creepy looking puppet armies aren’t for everyone. They are precariously balanced on that fine line between cute and creepy. Similarly the other critters in the game appear almost comical until you notice the dagger teeth and cruel daggers clutched in hand. Or the enormous fangs and clawed talons. The casting of the models is good and the detail clear. My only slight grumble, and this again comes back to the game being in beta, is that with no images readily available I had to go to the website to figure out how to build the Dragoons that Tor Gaming kindly sent me.
The ranges are expanding but so far the three factions – Britanans, Orcnar & Vaettir – are nicely varied with a reasonable ranges of units available so you can start building up your forces.
I’ll have some pictures up once I’ve painted my Dragoons but I’ll end by saying that Relics is a well-rounded Skirmish game that offers a very unique gaming experience partly due to a well-considered game mechanic but mainly due to a range of models that stand out amidst a sea of generic fantasy. Some features of the game may sit uncomfortably to start with as they are very different from ‘main stream’ games like Warhammer and the like, but it’s totally worth it. Long live the Britanan Empire!