Happy New Year Everyone! May this be a year filled with great hobby fun for you.
In Part 1 of this overview of Fireforge’s Deus Vult! rules I gave an overview of what’s in the book. In this post I am going to give a brief rundown of the rules, without going into too much detail but hopefully explaining something of their main features.
According to the authors, a game of Deus Vult! will take about 30-45 minutes when played between two armies of 750 points each, while a 1500 points battle will take a couple of hours (p. 91). I was surprised to read this, as it strikes me that players would have to be very familiar with the rules before it was possible to play in such a short time. In particular, I don’t think this estimate can include the Reconnaissance and Deployment phase of the game, explained below.
Figure basing is not covered until p. 160. The rules assume that units will be made up of stands measuring 60 X40mm for regimented infantry, 50 X 50mm for cavalry and 60 X 40mm for skirmishers. It is intended that the figures on the stands are based individually, or at least enough are to allow the removal of individual casualties, but the rules explain how tokens can be used if figures are based differently. As an example, basing cavalry on a mixture of 5cm wide bases and 2.5cm bases, with two or one figures respectively, would allow units to be made up for Deus Vult! and Impetus.
In my previous post, I explained how armies are organised and the way in which Battle Leaders have characteristics determined by dicing before the game. This then leads into the main rules section of the book, which covers pages 22-79.
Reconnaissance and Deployment
The deployment stage of a game of Deus Vult! looks fun, interactive, and quite time consuming. Indeed, the authors offer a simplified version of the rules for deployment on pages 157-8 for tournament play. If you have the time and inclination however, the main rules would considerably add to the game.
In brief, the battlefield is divided into six notional zones. When purchasing an army, points may be spent on scouts. The initial stage of the game involves the players alternating he placement of scouts in order to gain control of different zones of the battlefield. Once this is determined, the players alternate placing terrain in the zones they control. Scouts can also be withheld and traded for Subterfuge cards, which are drawn randomly and may allow the player to interfere with their opponent’s deployment.
This is an interesting way to manage the placement of terrain, and although highly abstract conveys something of the use of resources to secure the most advantageous terrain for your army. I like it.
Once terrain is placed, the armies deploy, starting with the Vanguards. There is a strong incentive to ensure that your army fields a Vanguard of skirmishers, as an unopposed deployment of skirmishers will seriously disrupt the opponent’s deployment, requiring Divisions to pass a test to avoid starting the game in disorder. If they fail the test catastrophically, Divisions in the Main Force may even find themselves lagging behind with the Rearguard. So spend points on skirmishers!
After placing the Vanguards, players alternate placing a card on the table face down representing each of their Battle Leaders. As they are revealed, each Leader’s Division is placed on the table within 8 inches of them. Rearguards are not deployed on the table, but may enter the battlefield once the game begins.
The turn sequence in Deus Vult looks quite interactive and tense – there will be no long tea breaks during the opponent’s turn in this game. Each player takes their cards representing each of their Battle Leaders at the start of the turn and arranges them in the order in which they wish to activate them. When both players have done so they roll for initiative. Both then reveal their top cards and the player with initiative chooses which Battle Leader will activate first, and so on through all the available leaders until the end of the turn. One suggested variation, which personally I like a lot, gives initiative to whoever orders their Leader cards first, which adds some nice pressure to decision making and hopefully speeds up the game.
When each Leader is activated they issue a number of commands to their Division depending on their command radius (8 inches) and Command Rating. Remember how the Battle Leader’s characteristics are diced for before deployment? Basically, Leaders with poor Command Ratings may find they are unable to issue orders to all the units in their Division, which is something to think about when recruiting your army. Battle Leaders when activated may also influence the Courage and Discipline of units proximate to them. It is worth pointing out here that one of the values every unit has is a score for Courage and one for Discipline, and these are used at different points in the game when a unit has to pass a test to avoid some negative consequence. This is a pretty typical game feature, but the mechanics in Deus Vult are a little more unusual. The scores on a D6 required to pass a test are always the same, with 6 resulting in a Resounding Success, 4-5 a Success and so on. What differs between units is the number of dice rolled by a given unit. For example, when trying to pass a Courage test a unit of Crusader Knights roll two dice, with the player choosing which score to use.
The authors have gone for a heroic flavour in Deus Vult by building in rules for Duels between Battle Leaders, while acknowledging that this didn’t actually happen very much historically. Duels may occur when an activated Battle Leader is attached to a unit in combat against an enemy unit that also has a Battle Leader attached, or a Leader may move into contact with an enemy counterpart and fight it out. The rules for this are pretty straightforward and detailed on pages 34-5. A Leader losing a Duels is humiliated, which has predictably embarrassing consequences for nearby friendly units (which may suffer Disarray).
The process for giving commands to individual units looks good. Each unit can be given up to 4 ‘Action Points’ worth of commands from a menu of 11 different types of commands. For example, Changing Formation costs 2 Action Points, Charging 4, Changing Direction one and so on. This seems like a good system, as it builds in limitations like the inability to change directions while charging the enemy without having to explicitly spell them all out. It may initially seem strange that any unit, regardless of quality, has access to 4 Action Points, but this makes more sense when you realise that different types of actions require Courage or Discipline tests, which will discriminate between better or worse units.
Movement and Combat
The movement rules seem pretty straightforward, and I won’t go over them in any detail. There are all the usual rules one would hope for covering moving through friendly units, the need to test the courage of Cavalry charging infantry, aligning units and so on. One minor feature that struck me was that units simply pivot on their centre when changing direction, rather than performing a wheel that requires the arc of movement to be measured. Again, I see this as an abstraction that would result in a faster and cleaner game than others I’ve played.
Combat is ‘buckets of dice’, with 6 resulting in a ‘Killing Strike’, 4-5 a Strike (a Killing Strike in melee if the target is disordered or against a missile attack if within the weapon’s Killing Range) and 1-3 a Miss. Killing Strikes can be saved by rolling against the unit’s Defence rating, otherwise an individual figure is removed for each. The total number of Strikes can then do bad things to the unit as a whole, depending on how the defending player goes when testing against the unit’s Resilience.
Obviously it’s all more complex than that, especially once you take into account terrain, skirmishers and such that I’ve only skimmed, but this might give you an idea of what’s involved. If it helps, there is a nice example of the steps involved in a melee in the margin on p. 51 that helped me understand the basics pretty clearly.
Traits and Reactions
Finally, Chapter 6 (pages 70-79) deals with all the specific characteristics (‘Traits’ and ‘Reactions’) possessed by different units. This aspect of the rules reminded me a bit of SAGA, and not in a negative way. Like SAGA, the differences between different types of troops are built into the characteristics of units in the army lists, rather than being built into the core rules through loads of exceptions or modifiers and so forth. The array of different Traits and Reactions looks a bit overwhelming at first, and I’m sure that inexperienced players using a diverse army would find themselves forgetting to apply various characteristics, to their subsequent chagrin.
Just by way of an example, I’ve picked a unit from the army lists to serve as an example of their different stats, Traits and Reactions:
Move – 8”
Discipline – 1 (ie roll one die)
Courage – 2
Resilience – 6
Defence – 3
Shield – yes
Traits – martial prowess
Reactions – shielding
(I’ve left out other information such as the equipment of the unit, and the option to give them two handed weapons etc).
So in this example, Dismounted Knights have the Trait of martial prowess, which increases their melee score against various opponents and makes them reluctant to evade an enemy. The Shielding Reaction allows the unit to improve its protection against shooting, at the expense of some of its ability to move during the unit’s next turn.
That’s just one example, and I chose it because it was simple. It isn’t unusual in the lists for a unit to have five or more Traits. This feature of the rules will either strike you as fiddly, or as a good way of achieving the flavour of different historical opponents.
So there we are – some first thoughts on Deus Vult. The verdict at the moment? Beautifully presented rules that promise a strong flavour of the period they are designed to cover, rather than a core game engine with period ‘fluff’ bolted on. I have reservations about the length of games, but if it is indeed possible to play a modest game of Deus Vult in less than an hour, I’m quite excited. The diversity of specific traits looks confusing, but if you are the type of person who loved poring over Saga battle boards to really grasp how to use each faction, you’ll probably love it.
I’m left thinking that I would love to play a game of Deus Vult, and I spent an hour last night looking at Seljuk Turks on the Perry website and comparing prices with Gripping Beast. God wills it!