TravelBattle Battle by Perry Miniatures
With this blog having a focus on playing games in small spaces and my own like for using grids for wargames, it should be of no surprise, Dear Reader, that I pre-ordered this game when first hearing about it.
The fact that the game covered the cross-over of using figures and a boardgame style grid was of intrigue and I both wanted to support the project and of course have a look how the Perry's had tackled a grid based system.
This post is a detailed of 'out of the box' look at the components and system.
Please use the 'read more' tab for the rest of this post.
First a word about the Perry brothers. They are renowned for producing beautifully sculpted 28mm miniatures and in 2008, when everyone seemed to be saying it would never succeed, they produced the first historical hard plastic figure range in 28mm. Of course hard plastic 28mm has gone from strength-to-strength, with several companies now participating.
So here we are in 2017, with fresh innovation and a background in producing miniatures, again the Perry's have brought something very different to the table.
TravelBattle is basically a small plastic battlefield, marked in a grid of one inch squares, with plastic terrain and small plastic units. It comes with simple rules, representing the napoleonic period. The two key words here are small and simple.
Missing from this description is the excitement in my mind that this could jump start a direction in gaming that could increase the amount of time that players spend actually playing games (especially on a mid-week evening) and generate a host of house rules and varying complexities and size of game that could stretch across into any era. This is something that potentially has got legs to become something bigger. I have already heard rumour of an ACW version and have seen a photo of a WWII game being played - so here is hoping to success.
Anyway - on with the goods. TravelBattle comes in a nice box with nice artwork to the front and a good descriptive to the rear. It comes with a plastic carrying handle and so in effect it can be carried a bit like a briefcase and this is perhaps its first credential as a travel game.
The Components are packed away amongst some dense foam, which protects the products, but also reminds me of those cases you can buy with foam inserts that protects figures, so again, some credentials as a travel package.
The battlefield consists of two hard plastic boards (they are different to each other). They are strong and each is gridded with 10 x 10 squares. they abut to each other to form a battlefield that is 20 squares wide by 10 squares deep. They are fully geomorphic, so any side of one board can match any side of the other board and I am told that the maths means that the battlefield can therefore be set up in 16 different configurations.
On the board, there are roads, hills and fields, together with woodland and building sectors moulded into fixed positions. The woodland areas have a plastic tree canopy that fits onto the board and the building sectors have individual buildings that drop into place. The other terrain is formed into the tile itself, so that the fields and roads give visual texture and the raised hills give a 3D effect.
The buildings are nicely done, they come on a sprue in two halves and look to be a good fit. Again these are hard plastic with very good definition. Likewise the tree canopies are on a sprue together with the bases for the troops to be fitted to.
There are four sprues of troops. (Note above is bluer than it should be because my white balance is out on the iPad camera), all identical, with two red and two blue. Both sides have identical forces and these are; Brigadiers (leaders), heavy cavalry, light cavalry, infantry, guard infantry and artillery. They each have a strip under their feet, so that they can fit into what is best described as slotta bases. For this reason, I think for those who wish to paint their figures, it is best to do that before cutting from the sprue.
The Perry's describe these as 8mm figures and while there are different ways of describing figure heights (scale creep - yikes!), these look to be true 8mm, that is from their feet to their eyes is about 8mm and I would add another 1mm on for the shako. They are slim and proportional. It is possible that they may not be too dissimilar in frontage (I don't know, I don't have any and am going from memory) from modern 6mm's, but they are noticeably smaller than my Pendraken 10mm, which actually seem to be around 12mm from foot to eye and I have included them here for a comparison, they are on a 30mm base.
Above - a close up of the infantry. You can see the cross-belts are visible if you want that level of painted detail.
The rules come in a A5 sized booklet, with 8 pages, but only 4 pages are rules (and well illustrated). One and a half pages are dedicated to describing how both the figures and the terrain boards can be painted / flocked and this does look very tempting. All of the plastic can be painted with acrylics without using a primer. They suggest block painting followed by wash and then adding the fine bits such as flesh and white belts. The wash interested me, they suggest black or a mix of sepia with dark blue, I have never heard of that mix before and am eager to give it a go.
The booklet does not include scenarios, rather there is something of a randomising system for board set-up and then both players get three brigades and set up on their edge of the board.
The system - I will not do my usual in depth look at a system and mechanics as I am blatantly aware that in these early days at least, the Perry's need to move product and make money on this and that potential players should explore these rules and their potential to mod them or port them over to home made sets by buying the game and buying the right to do that. Sorry if that annoys anyone, but I would like to protect the Perry investment through responsible blogging and being a buyer and not a reviewer, I am at least putting my money where my mouth is.
However, I can give some general insights. The game and tactics come from the deployment of Brigadiers. Units need to be with leaders to move, so the brigadiers will keep their formations together and will become rather busy if their force gets fragmented. In what is a fairly generic system, quite a lot of player attention will be placed in their brigadiers and unit proximity.
Fighting is done when in contact with an enemy (adjacent) and artillery gets ranged fire. Infantry can go into square when there is a cavalry threat and there is a rally rule to help keep units in the game that have significantly lost a combat.
Units can fight and move in any direction. I have never really had a problem with units that can fight / move across diagonals when square grids are used. I know the maths is suggesting that they get a distance advantage, but it's not really a big deal in a game at this scale and the same rule applies to both sides. It is a broad brush rule that helps keep the system simple - good!
There are other little one liner rules to add some flavour and help differentiate between troop types.
In the sequence of play, one side goes first, do all of their 'things' and then the other player does the same, then the turn starts again.
Winning is simply based upon defeating two enemy brigades.
Above - an example on the back of the box of a painted Brigadier figure - nicely done.
Conclusions - I am pretty sure that this game will succeed and that expansion will follow. Whether the 'travel' aspect was a primary design goal or not, it really is an excellent travel set, but equally useful at home, especially for gamers who have difficulties reaching across tables or have limitations in storage space etc.
I can see this game also grabbing the attention of innovative gamers who will want mod the game, perhaps with their own rules or to do full table-top conversions with larger squares and bigger figures. The system is stable enough for gamers to bring some of the rules they like from their more complicated system to this board if they wish.
A few years ago, Neil Thomas brought out a book called One Hour Wargames, its simplicity has its critics, but never-the-less, it has won itself a big fan base, gets modified and importantly, gets people playing, I see TravelBattle much in the same light. I can see myself turning it into all sorts of things. By the same token, for those who do not like the One Hour Wargame level of play, they may feel that TravelBattle is not for them.
At this moment in time, this is a very unique product and I appreciate its release and I hope it does well for the Perry Brothers.
EDIT 27th April - The boards come with fields embossed, but they are not mentioned in the rules. Officially they are just aesthetic and so so count as open. Players may want to consider them as non-open, which would effect how many units can be held in the grid square at any one time (there .... a first possible mod :-) ).
Time - The box says a game can be played within an hour. Since I have really only just opened my copy, I am happy to take that on face value.
Solitaire - This is a two player game, but I can't see anything that would get in the way of a solitaire play.
Size - Well this does 'what it says on the tin'. It is specifically designed for small space gaming and travel. Needing only a 20" x 10" board the player does not need any extra space for charts or anything else that often sits aside game tables. The box that holds all the parts is roughly 15" x 11". I can't imagine getting much more compact than this.
Complexity - The box says 'this simple system' and that is of course spot on. For those that like numbers, saying 1 out of 5 for complexity would be fair. This is a very accessible game, both in terms of size and space and the complexity level just adds to that to make this a very useful game in many settings including mid-week gaming and parents getting some quality gaming time with children. If you put this to one side for two months and then got it out to play, you would be rolling dice within 5 minutes. Everyone has their own idea of how complex they like things to be or what facets they want simulated, this system seems basic and solid enough that bolting on extra rules would be easy.
Price - I don't usually comment on price as everyone has their own place and space as to their available budget and what they see as reasonable. I have seen some respondents to blogs say they will sit on the fence for a while because of cost, so am including this paragraph. The only observations I can offer are, the two plastic boards by Renedra are of a very satisfactory quality and I cannot imagine them to be cheap, the game is comparative to mid range boardgame prices. I have bought boardgames and never played them, this at least does seem to carry the prospect of playability and replayability, especially within a family setting. The rules are simple and that will mean too simple for some, though the whole thing does deliver the prospect of modding and for some, that has a value of its own.
I will likely put up further observations, mods and playing notes over on my sister website COMMANDERS. Please check out the 'This Week' page from time to time - LINK
The Perry website - LINK