Warlord Games are currently on a high, they are one of the biggest manufacturers of tabletop miniature games in the industry, are perhaps the best known historical miniatures company and have a stable of games that ranges from black powder right up to far future!
With award-winning games such as the World War Two skirmish game Bolt Action already under their belt and a huge love for all things historical, it is not really that strange to see the company delving back into the annals of history once again with their latest release SPQR.
SPQR (Latin for Senātus Populusque Rōmānus, “The Roman Senate and People) is a game set in the ancient world and will pit warbands against each other from various nation-states and empires. From Roman Centurions to Gaul marauders, many nations are covered and presented in the lavish rule book for this game, though I am getting ahead of myself, this is a starter set and we will take a much more in-depth look.
SPQR comes in a really well presented and brightly coloured box which features the might of Imperial Rome clashing with the barbaric hordes of the Gaul! Once opened the box really comes to life with seventy excellently detailed miniatures, the lavish 196-page full colour rule book, dice, unit cards and even waterslide decals for the shields of the warriors of both sides.
Here is my unboxing of the product and the review will continue below.
Anicents has long been a favourite for seasoned wargamers, the type who will have a deep passion for history and most likely shun science fiction or fantasy gaming as something that only kids play! That said I know many hundreds of gamers around the world, of all ages and no two, are alike really. Historical games, much like the more modern and popular counterparts all have their place within our much loved hobby and long may that continue to do so.
The period of the game is set towards the end of the Iron Age and around the time of the first British invasion by Imperial Rome in around 55 BC.
SPQR author Matthew Sprange is no stranger to history and has a great love and passion for the ancient world, which carries on over to his work here for Warlord Games. If the name sounds familiar, then it should be as Matthew is the CEO of Mongoose Publishing and author of dozens of best selling roleplaying and miniature games, that include Victory at Sea, Babylon 5: A Call to Arms and a little thing called the Judge Dredd Roleplaying Game (See my article here for more details on this illustrious pedigree).
The first thing you notice when you open the rulebook for SPQR is that this is a high quality product, and not something that has been rushed out or thrown together in someone’s lunchtime on their home computer. Warlord Games are renowned for the quality of their products, with the majority of the staff being former Games Workshop employees where they cut their teeth and it shows.
Layout is excellent and the feel of the cover is fantastic with an almost silky sheen to it that feels very comfortable in the hands. Broken down into the usual fair of rules, advanced rules and expanding on the basics, the game delivers on all fronts with dozens of examples of play and what to do when something arises unexpectedly.
The game has a pretty simple premise and the first seventeen pages or so of the book give you the full basics on not only how to play the game, but offer introductory scenarios to get stuck into. This is a similar format that Warlord have used before time and again and proves that if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it! The more you over egg the pudding the more chance of it not rising in the oven and ruining the meal. Simply put if you start simply you won’t lose your readers with overly complex rules.
The game uses a simple mechanic to drive the system, in which combat is resolved using standard six sided dice with a one always being a failure and six a success. Dice can be modified by terrain, range or size, with plus or minus values being added to the result rolled. Also the combat expertise of the model or unit add to the result, the more experienced then the more likely to hit it’s target!
Example. A Gaul Chieftain has a ranged attack of +2 if he is in direct line of sight and is trying to use his spear against an elephant(large unit) he gains another +1 and would hit the target on a 3/or higher.
The rules follow a pretty standard template these days, with an alternate activation system which has players choosing a unit to activate then passing on to their opponent.
Each unit can perform two actions per activation like in many other Warlord Games products and these can vary from moving your models, charging a unit or throwing a spear or javelin. Units can also perform special actions which may use up both of their action points for that activation and unless stated otherwise units can repeat actions.
This worked really well for both Bolt Action and Beyond the Gates of Antares and of course Strontium Dog.
The remainder of the book covers more about the ancient world and the various states such as Caesar’s Rome and Germania and each state is also given its own scenarios and for the first time as far as I know heroes who are specific to that state can join the fray.
In fact in SPQR it can be the heroes that can change the tide of a battle and win you the fight. And given the fact that you can customise them to give them talents that can make them true leaders of men, then attach them to units to bolster their attacks or saves, makes them a cut above the average.
Further rules are presented to cover other aspects that may crop up such as using war machines like the Scorpion (remember this is a skirmish game and not a full on war game!), a full campaign system that allows your heroes to be used game to game and become the stuff of legends and loads of play examples
SPQR also uses something to determine who goes first each turn, which while not a new idea, is fun and can really make games interesting. Dice of Fate sees the players rolling a normal six sided die against each other with the highest roll winning the control for that turn, but the twist is you can decide to let your opponent take control if you think it will give you a tactical advantage.
This can give some really good cinematic action as the tide of the battle can really change quickly and if you throw in the heroes abilities it makes it even more cinematic and dramatic.
The last part of the book as mentioned covers the many factions and states (detailed below) that make up the ancient world and each of these states has its own history, culture and fighting style, as well as heroes such as Boudica for Britain, Mark Anthony for Rome and Leonados for Sparta! This will let you pit these factions against each other in what-if scenarios! What if Alexander the Great had invaded Britain instead of the Romans? The possibilities are staggering, though of course it would not be historically accurate, fun yes but accurate no!
The various states allow you to create war bands from the following.
- Caesars Legions
- Dacia and Sarmatia
- Imperial Rome
Each state is covered in great detail and makes up well over half of the book’s content.
Okay so with the rules out of the way (only just touching the surface to be honest), it’s time to look at the miniatures themselves.
As I said in my unboxing video, I am not 100% sure if the plastics presented are new or not as Warlord bought out all the moulds from Wargames Factory when they went into liquidation. However what we do get is pretty good value for money and has some superb details
Starting with the Roman legionnaires first and in the starter box you will find.
- Roman Hero
- 8 Caesarian Romans with gladius
- 8 Caesarian Romans with Pilum
- Caesarian Romans shields decal sheet
All of the Roman’s are multi part miniatures and will need to be assembled using solvent. Each model can be posed in a large variety of ways and there are several spare arms and heads on each spruce to allow for a great deal of variation in your war and.
The hero model is a single piece casting and is made from Warlords new formula resin which is very smooth to the touch and holds the detail excellently. He is poised to lead his men into battle against whatever bloody hordes may arise and looks mean as hell. From what I can gather about the new resin and from various sources, it seems that you can paint directly onto the miniatures without the need to prime them first. I will try this just out of curiosity.
The Gauls are up next and make up the largest portion of the starter sets bulk, with fifty three models made from a mixture of plastic multi part miniatures (40 models in total) and resin miniatures (12 archers and the Chieftain).
- Gaul Chieftain
- 40 Gallic Celts & Celts command
- 12 Celtic Archers
- Celtic Warriors shields decal sheet
The plastics assemble really easily and given that the Gauls are not regimented like the Legionnaires, they can be posed in many ways as they don’t need to be placed in a formation pattern. The detail on the plastics is great with loads of extra weapons, pouches, and head options to make totally unique war bands. Some of the expressions are outstanding with looks of pure rage that one would expect to see with Gaul warriors.
The archers are all single cast resin miniatures, with each wearing skins, or cloth and trappings such as quiver and pouches, with great facial details on each miniature.
The shields for both warbands are seperate to allow you to paint your miniatures first before attaching them, and there are also two sets of decals supplied to make them really pop on the shields when used.
These are simple enough to use, just cut the decal to the right size and soak it for a few seconds in warm water then gently using a clean brush place it onto the shield and pull the backing away while keeping the decal in place. Then its simply a case of using the brush to remove any creases or bubbles that may have appeared when you put the decal on the shield. There are loads of great tutorials out there for this if you are stuck.
Finally, if you have preordered your copy of SPQR or are lucky enough to get one of the first batches, you will receive a free miniature called Battlefield Sacrifice which features a druid with a nasty looking sacrificial dagger about to make short work of a goat. This is one of the great wee things that Warlord do that really is neat and this is a great model too. It is cast as a single piece with the new wonder resin.
So SPQR is a skirmish level warband game, that is cinematic and easy to learn. The game can be as indepth as you wish it to be and there are more than enough scenarios to keep you going for months of play.
The game is bound to be a big hit with traditional wargamers but I would urge those into other genres such as fantasy or science fiction to give it a try.