Friday, May 10, 2024

Unboxing: Burning Banners (Compass Games)

A hex and counter fantasy wargame? Has an easier sale ever been made (to me)? No, probably not. I can't remember how I first heard about this game, but after a brief look online at the components and seeing discussion about people's excitement over this game, I quickly placed my order. This is the first game from Compass Games I have ever purchased (although I own one, given to me by my friend Eric S.). After a long reroute, courtesy of the USPS, this game arrived at my door, and I was finally able to see what all the excitement was about.

This is, as I said, a fantasy wargame, where you command one (or more) kingdoms, and fight as part of an alliance against opposing kingdoms. The game contains six such kingdoms, each with its own special rules and heroes. There is also treasure to find, spells to cast, roaming monsters to deal with... really, it seems to have everything you would want from such a game. As with any game, however, it is always nice to see what the components look like, so that is what I am going to cover.

First, a look at the box.

Very nice looking! The Rage of the Witch Queen label on the left me wondering if we could expect to see more of this series someday, and apparently expansions are planned. Great news, and something to look forward to. Now, the back of the box, where we usually find a lot of useful information:

Lots of information, and a list of components, which I will show as part of this article. Low-Medium complexity is good to know- although I certainly would not have minded higher complexity, it probably is not a great fit for a fantasy wargame.

Next up, we have the art print pack, unlocked on Kickstarter:

I do not believe these have any role in the game, just a nice bonus featuring the work of the artist (known for his MTG and D&D art). These are quite nice looking, and the back of the box is wrong, as you clearly get more than six.

There are four books included in the game. First up, the book of lore:

To me, this is a very necessary inclusion into a new fantasy world, so I am pleased to see it included. Something I will have to read whenever I have some time to relax, especially if more products come out for the game.

Next, we get a rulebook:

Always important in a boardgame. I read through it already, and really like what I see. I have *heard* that Compass Games products tend to require quite a lot of rulebook errata and FAQs. I can't personally speak to that, but I feel like it's worth mentioning. I believe there is already a file on BGG with corrections/clarifications that is sitting at about three pages. I'm sure it will be fine.

There are rules for a basic and advanced game, with the latter adding heroes, magic, treasures, random monsters, and more. I am going to be honest, just in my short reading of the rules thus far, I probably will just hop straight into the advanced game.

The final book in the box is the campaign book, which contains the various campaigns (or what I would normally call a scenario).

There are 27 included campaigns (plus an introductory campaign). Seventeen of the campaigns show various periods in the history of the world, with a variety of forces, starting situations, and so on. The final ten campaigns cover the 'War of the Burning Banners', which is the story focus of this game. You can fight out the full war as a single game by starting with the first campaign, and then using the final campaign's victory conditions. You can have a truly epic game, it sounds like, although the various scenarios would be fun for telling you how the war progressed 'historically'.

Ignoring the introductory scenario, here are the counts for number of players and boards:

  • Two players, one map - six scenarios
  • Two players, two maps - two scenarios
  • Three players, one map - two scenarios
  • Three players, two maps - two scenarios
  • Four players, one map - one scenario
  • Four players, two maps - three scenarios
  • Four players, four maps - one scenario
  • Five players, two maps - one scenario
  • Five players, four maps - five scenarios
  • Six players, four maps - four scenarios

Any of these could be played with fewer players, with a player running multiple kingdoms, of course. I will say, I am really impressed with the variety of campaign choices- two players on a single map is likely a common way this will be played, and plenty of choices are provided for that. They did a very good job here.

Next up, we have the dice:

The game includes both six-sided and eight-sided dice. Because the core combat mechanic involves rolling five or better, this provides an effective way to create differing capabilities for units.

The game comes with four maps:

These are mounted, beautiful, and combine to form a large map to fight over. What a great world to play in!

These are just beautiful. The way they will look, with all four on the table in a large game will be undoubtedly incredible.

Some player aids are included:

Nice quality, and there are helpful aids on the BGG page for this game, too.

There are quite a number of cards in the game, separated into decks identified by their backs.

Spells (used in the advanced game if you have Mages available):

Treasure, for when you defeat a Monster (advanced game):

Blessings, with one deck per Kingdom, which are also used only in the advanced game:

There are some quick setup cards, which you can use instead of the rulebook to set up campaigns:

There are a bunch of hero cards, used in the advanced game, which are special characters who can be built and provide special abilities and enhancements to your armies:

Finally, you get some Kingdom reference cards, which show the special abilities/rules for each Kingdom:

The Magic Card Display is used in the advanced game to hold Draw and Discard piles for the various magic-related decks.

The Season Display/Income Track:

This tracks the game turn, the turn order, during each turn, the amount of gold each Kingdom has, the revolt status of the Eastern Kingdom, and space for the Arcane Study Markers, which tell players what to do doing the Arcane Study phase in the advanced game. These playmats (including the next group) are all on very thick cardboard and are extremely good quality. Just a top-notch product.

There are Kingdom playmats, one per Kingdom, to hold your forces, markers, and Heroes (in the advanced game):

The game includes seven nice, thick countersheets, filled with beautiful counters:

(Above is the only one I show the back of the countersheet for, just to give you a taste of what the reverse side looks like).

And there you have it- those are all the components for this game. It seems like incredible value for everything you get- an absolutely wonderful product. I have already read the rules in anticipation of getting this on the table someday, which will be eased by the large variety of campaigns available.

Compass really seems to have hit a home run with this one, just based on the components and the rules. I cannot wait to play it, and I cannot wait to see what they do next with this world.

No comments:

Post a Comment