Monday, October 24, 2011

(Gnome Wars) Gnome Wars 2.0 Review

This July, Brigade Games finally released the much awaited Gnome Wars 2.0, written by Jim Stanton. The Gnome Wars universe had expanded much since the 1.1 release and it was getting difficult to properly play with incomplete or missing nationalities in the book, Australians and Living Gnomelings being just two of them.

I'm assuming a bit of knowledge amongst the casual readers of the blog. I hope you've seen pictures of the figures, know a little of the core nationalities, and might even possess a copy of version 1.0 or 1.1 of the rules. If you do want a full break-down of the core nationalities, drop me a line. I may thrown something together early one in this blog, but I won't mind putting another one together, maybe a "Gnome Wars Primer," or a permanent link on the front page.

The book is 89 pages, spiral bound, although it was noted that future printings may be perfect bound.

Being a Gnome Wars homer, you might expect a rave review. Certain things just piss me off, so I'll cover the negatives before going ga-ga over the new stuff.

Typos: The 1.0 and 1.1 editions were riddled with typos: shaky grammar, bad spelling, and inconsistencies between the the rules pages and the reference sheets. I expected most of them cleaned up, yet upon the first page of rules (pg 5)

Step one of sequence of play.
1) Check Moral.

I don't want to be holier-than-thou, but unless there's a Roman Catholic Gnome Army coming out soon, no morals need to be checked. Not a huge error, but the same one from the 1st edition rulebook, and repeated twice more on the same page

Just reading this got me in a foul mood, but I continued.

Reference sheets are different from the rules pages.
Alphorn: Rules: needs to be tested each turn on a 2+ to see if Swiss units can advance. Reference: one just needs to be in play.
Tunneling Rules 2+ save/ Reference: 3+ . Plus how long does that 16 inches take, one turn the end of the next?
Rule changes
American Medics - Northern medics heal on a 5-6 on d6, Southerners 3+ on d6. They are new units, but a d6 and not d8?
Sikhs can be healed? I couldn't find anything saying they still eschewed western medicine.
Santa: With the new armies, is anyone NOT allied? Nothing is specified.

And while I'm not sure what the best way to construct an index for the book, one is needed for those item not usually found on reference cards. "Vehicles", "Artillery", and "Moral/Morale" might be three broad suggestions for items I regularly reference within the main rules.

System-wise, it's still the same tried-and-true mechanics. d6 to hit, 95% of ranges are in feet, with very basic modifiers to hit.

Moral/morale is a rarely used but critical mechanic that works well. In most units, morale doesn't kick in until 2/3 of the unit has been lost, and then the roll gets progressively more difficult to make each turn until it's impossible. Most of our units here at Casa del Viscount don't make it so well, but we did have some tense moments in the first Tanga game with morale.

Of course, the healing phase is what makes most new players giddy and confused at the same time . After all the movement, firing, hand-to-hand, and artillery one could stand, the medic figures roam the battlefield "healing" their comrades with bier. St. Bernards, Bier Doktors, and a few saucy Bier Maidens have a set amount of special movement to use only during this phase, and each healing attempts deducts three inches from the total. In most cases, a number of figures could never be saved, and even those that do are saved only 50% of the time!

The New Stuff!

  • The Holy Gnoman Empire. While the name conjures up miniature Charlemanges, These are strictly classic Romans. A lost legion(s), if you would. Unlike the Irish, who have a tendency to be slaughtered in a charge, the Gnomans use a number of different shield defensive formations to provide cover from ranged weaponry, form square to ward of cavalry, etc.

  • The Americans: The classic Civil War without that whole slavery issue. Northerners are technologically advanced, and their "hero" makes the Terminator look like a jack-in-the-box. They even have to option of creating one "black legion" with extra bonuses depending on the number of Northerner units fielded. The Southerners use their rural homeland to their advantage. Southerners move at normal rate in the woods and gain additional cover modifiers while there. Plus in the "Unit and Army Creation Section" there is mention of Naval units for both sides. Could little gnome sailors not be far off?

  • Highlander Cavalry - Not only do we have to worry about berserkers, now we have to worry about stampeding Scots? Sweet Baby Jesus in a kilt! The new stampeding rules . Still no medics, thank God! Scottish Golfer is a bit overcomplicated, but right up my alley.

  • Japanese - Riceball Pitchers and the Sushi Cannons were added.

  • Irish - A full expansion of the Irish from 1.1 limited info to all the rules from the con games. Rainbow connection, et al. Plus the Orangemen are fleshed out, with room for an expanded mini line.

  • Australians- Aussie Cav on kangaroos is detailed, but no infantry or other units.

  • Gnomelings are quickly covered, the clockwork IED that are associated with the Gnome Wizard, and the living breathing ones who drive little tanks and grasshoppers, and attack en masse.

  • Russians: Officer and regular troops. I never realized the sentries fired blunderbusses!

There is enough new information that the other issues can be forgiven, to a point. The new nationalities with rules has created some excitement. My buddy Nichols, who swore up and down he was happy with 2 1/2 units of Highlanders, giggled with glee at the notion of Scottish Cav and he has callied dibs on an army of Southerners. I, on the other hand, have the Gnomans on my list and can't wait to assemble a Northern army, only it will be the Imperial Guard of the Republic of California.

Rules clarifications need to be made, but I suggest working off the unit cards in the back of the book for the time being. I know I will be at Fall-in! this weekend. I know plenty of people who bring there own modified units that aren't covered in the rules to the con events, and we just work with it. As I have used in another set of rules, "This Ain't No Avalon Hill Game." We have people playing with teddy bears, zombies, gingerbread men, and one guy replacing the alphorn with a gnome in sunglasses with a boom box. If you love the gnomes, and want to play with them the way they initially conceived, the rules are necessary. Mechanics-wise, I find little fault in the core rules. It's my worry that the rules/stat conflicts interfere with gameplay. There are enough discrepancies in the rules for people to bicker over 3+ vs 4+ rolls and forgot that they are playing with freakin' gnomes

And I just want to play with freakin' gnomes.


  1. So this is what Stanton has been doing with his time! I have been trying to get him to help me build my gaming table in my basement so we can play 40k and the man has been too busy to give me the time of day. :)

  2. To Eric and All,
    Hey – I wanted to respond to the review.
    Sorry about the typos – that is something that we will definitely work out. I have to take the blame for that because, as this is my hobby and I’m new to the printing game, I didn’t request to look at the final “typeset” before it went off to printing. I will be more diligent in the next batch that is printed. I’m sorry that it pissed you off.
    The tunneling should be a 2+ save. It takes two turns to go 16 inches – you put the first marker down, the second time the unit’s card is pulled after that you can put the exit/air hole up to 16 inches from the first marker in a straight line. My intention was that the above ground units would have to guess where the tunnel was headed.
    I gave the American medics a d6 as kind of an anti-metric statement. (In the rest of the world they use metric, we use feet – the rest of the nationalities use d8, the Americans use d6)The subtle joke was to amuse myself. Sorry.
    Not being able to heal the Sikhs is a Jim Stanton convention rule, not a rule.
    Alphorn - one just needs to be in play evolved as play testing was done and, I guess, was never changed by me in the rules. Sorry.

    Santa - Nothing is specified on purpose. Any unit can end up with Santa – I just do the “non believers” and “bad guys don’t get him” at conventions.

    "Vehicles", "Artillery", and "Moral/Morale" – I will work on reference cards for these.

    I’m sorry about all of this. I will be at the convention this weekend if anyone wants to discuss any of this or make suggestions.
    “The Gnome Guy”

  3. And that is why I love Jim.
    The typos are a peeve of mine I developed in college and the rules vs card conflicts needed clarification to avoid arguments that end in someone saying, "They're (expletive) gnomes!"

    Thanks for the clarifications on the con rules, I swear the Sikhs had those rules in 1.0/1.1, and it's nice to know that Santa can love the pagans and the sometimes naughty.

    Don't apologize too much Jim. I've destroyed a copy of the 1st edition out of love and reference, rather than frustration with rules. If it wasn't for you, we wouldn't be having loads of fun with gnomes.

  4. Thank you Eric for the review and Jim for the reply to your questions.

    I'm awaiting for my rules so an overview like this is very good, thanks.