Thursday, January 11, 2024

Unboxing: Norman Conquests: Men of Iron Volume V (GMT Games)

This arrived just a few days ago, and I have been going through it.  I have the first two volumes in the series- Men of Iron and Infideland although I have not picked up the following two, it's a series that has always appealed to me.  There were many interesting battles in the Middle Ages, and it’s a period that is a bit of a gap in my collection, especially at this scale.  This year, I feel like I am going to lean harder into these board wargames, and receiving this seems like a great way to start the year.  So, let’s take a look at it.

What a beautiful box cover.  GMT seems to have changed their box style in the years since I last bought many wargames, moving from the distinctive look of the prior boxes to ones where the art takes up more of the box front.  For example, here is the box front for the previous game in the series:

A really good step by GMT, which is not only more attractive on the shelf, but also feels like a more modern presentation.  Opening the box, here's what we see:

The combined series rulebook, at 28 pages of full color.  A brief look through it shows that this game seems to stick mostly to the same rules as the original Men of Iron (Blood and Roses and Infidel had a number of exceptions to the rules, all called out in this rulebook).  If my memory is correct, the original game had both a black and white rulebook and playbook.  This is a very, very nice improvement.

Moving on, we come to the playbook.

From there, you can see the included battles, covering quite the range (over 200 years!).  Some of these battles are pretty well known (Hastings, obviously), but I admit, quite a number were unfamiliar to me.  A good excuse to learn some history.  Another mention- the full color is a very nice presentation for the playbook.

Next we get a pair of player aid cards, one for each player.

In hindsight, maybe some pictures of the inside and back of these would have been smart, but it's been a LONG time since I've really done a post like this.  I'm rusty, okay?  Geez.

Next, the Flight Point/General Track card, helpfully marked with the Flight Levels for the various forces for each scenario (although, it's not clear to me what the Norman Reinforcements flight level of 12 for Stamford Bridge represents, as they are not mentioned as having a different number in the scenario).

The game comes with two and a quarter sheets of counters (double-sided).  Here is countersheet one:

A mixture of game markers, Saxon, Norman, Norwegian, and Papal units.  Very colorful, sharp looking counters, in my opinion.  Countersheet two:

This one includes Royalists (for the armies of King William's son, Henry, and then for Henry III's and Edward Plantagent's forces), and Baronial units (for the army of Simon de Montfort).  Again, I love the look of the counters, GMT does a great job.  Finally, the quarter sheet of counters:

More Royalist and Baronial forces, and the important Shield Wall counters (which are only used in about half the scenarios of this game).

Next up are the maps.  Norman Conquests comes with three paper maps, two of them printed on the front and back.  Map one:

With maps on the front and back, there are maps for four different battles on this one map sheet.  On appearance alone, the maps aren't particularly interesting, sadly, as armies of this period tended to prefer flat, open, terrain (the rivers are uncrossable in these scenarios, except, of course, at the bridge in Stamford Bridge).  The constraints of the impassable terrain likely has some effect on the table though- in the Battle of Fulford, for example, the Saxon and Norwegian armies both have their flanks against both the river and the marsh, limiting enemy maneuver.

Next map sheet:

The inclusion of a Terrain Chart for these two battles at least shows that the terrain is relevant.  Looking at the setup for the Battle of Evesham, this seems particularly true, as the river is still impassable, but a fight over the bridge in the south-east of the map (on the right side, above the town) is going to happen pretty early.  Lots of space to move around these two maps.  Very nice.

Final map sheet, this one not double-sided.

Plenty of terrain to make this battle interesting.  The scenario mentions there is some historical uncertainty over which of these hills was the site of the battle, so they provide two different setups, to handle the two different situations.   So you'll use roughly half the map, however you play it.  Either way, there will be a lot going on, and this one looks like a lot of fun.

Finally, we have the divider, some bags, and dice.

I mentioned it's been a while since I've done one of these, but I also realize I probably should have taken a picture of the back of the box.  I'll do better next time.  In the meantime- this looks like a very well done package, and with the scenarios having reasonable playtimes (1-2 hours for most of them), I am going to try to get this on the table early this year, likely as a solo playthrough.  Very excited to get back into more board wargaming, and very excited to share it with you all.  

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