I will only be looking at the frugal free ruleset here. The army composition is pretty generic, as you'd expect, and focuses on a Good vs Bad force set up. This lets you mix Human, Dwarf and elven forces against Orc, goblin and undead alliances - very handy if you don't have enough of one race to fill and entire army list (as is my case). The "Units" are of regiment size, with each regiment having attack, damage, armour, health and morale stats by way of number or different dice types. So the weak goblins have an attack with a d4, where as the stronger Human Infantry have d6 attack. There are charge and flanking modifiers that can be added as well, and some ranged troops. The basic attack is just a comparative roll-off between meleeing regiments, winner rolls damage, anything more than the losers armour stat is translated into wounds until wounds get to zero. No saving throws, etc - pretty quick.
After each armies turn, any regiment that's taken wounds rolls a morale check (again on a d4, d6, d8, etc) and on a 1 flees the battle field. The rule led opponent rules are pretty simple, basically order of activation runs with the regiment strength and engages the nearest enemy. To make things more difficult for you (considering the basic rules for the opponent) , at the start of each turn you have a 1 in 4 chance of having to roll on a random event table to determine what happens - anything from rain halving your arrow range to one of your regiments turning against you!
After running through a game I have to say I enjoyed it. The different dice used as stats moves along quite smoothly and the enemy actions are simple and intuitive. The brutal morale system and random event table really try their best to put a spanner in the works. A drawn melee results in a wound and hence a morale check, and when rolling on the event table you really do "pray for rain". It does give a feel of the rules being "out-to-get-ya", but as long as you realise that (and the rules are so simple you can't fail to notice) it's a quick and enjoyable game. I'll definitely being trying to induce the young lad to the rules (assuming I can tear him away from his new Space Marine fascination)
As a sub note I've bought the first premium expansion which adds extra heroes, simple magic and leaders into the fold, which should give the regiments a bit more individuality on the table.
Test Battle Report.
A quick run through the test battle for the above review. Hopefully the auto-changing gif won't be too quick and you'll be able to follow it. Also you should bear in mind that I as I never play massed games tactics were beyond me!
The graphics are from using Battle Chronicler, which is an excellent free battle report program (which my first time fumblings below don't do justice to!), and GIMP (the open source graphics package - NOT the bloke in the rubber suit in Pulp Fiction)
The forces were taken directly from the rulebook:
The Golden Alliance
- MaA1: 10 Human Infantry, Men-at-Arms 1
- MaA2: 10 Human Infantry, Men-at-Arms 2
- MaA3: 10 Human Infantry, Men-at-Arms 3
- DS: 12 Dwarf Infantry, Dwarven Stoneguard
- SOTS: 5 Angel Infantry, Soldiers Of The Sun
- KOTR: 5 Human Cavalry, Knights Of The Realm
- ER1: 10 Elf Infantry, Elven Rangers 1 (Ranged)
- ER2: 10 Elf Infantry, Elven Rangers 2 (Ranged)
- OW1: Orc Infantry, Orc Warriors 1
- OW2: Orc Infantry, Orc Warriors 2
- GW1: Goblin Infantry, Goblin Warriors 1
- GW2: Goblin Infantry, Goblin Warriors 2
- GW3: Goblin Infantry, Goblin Warriors 3
- GW4: Goblin Infantry, Goblin Warriors 4
- BD: Demon Infantry, Battle Demons
- DK: Demon Cavalry, Dark Knights
- SH1: Undead Cavalry, Skeleton Horsemen 1
- SH2: Undead Cavalry, Skeleton Horsemen 2