Eldfall Chronicles – Kickstarter Review
We’ve been very excited about Eldfall Chronicles, a brand new Fantasy Tabletop Skirmish Game from Freecompany currently live on Kickstarter ever since we caught glimpse of it earlier in the year (you can read our early preview of the game here). For those who may have missed our earlier coverage, Eldfall Chronicles is a miniature skirmish war game which sees players take command of a small party of warriors, mystics, mercenaries and even elemental contstructs in a multitude of quests/scenarios that see them facing off against an opponent’s warband and even monsters controlled by the game’s own AI system.
The game is played with highly detailed miniatures representing each member of your warband over a 3’x3′ battlefield consisting of varying amounts of scenery and terrain which form chokepoints and provide cover. Each model in your warband has an individual profile card with unique stats, abilities and wargear (which can be further customised using upgrades and items). You’ll use a combination of D20 rolls, templates and tokens to do battle against your opponent and the game’s AI.
At launch there will be four factions available to build your warband from, each with their own unique aesthetic and playstyle, ranging from the spellcasting focussed Sand Kingdoms to the more militaristic Empire of Soga. In addition the game includes a range of neutral monsters such as Earth Elementals and Golems – some of these creatures can be summoned to battle and controlled by models in your army whereas others will roam across the battlefield, their actions and movement determined by an AI system!
There are several ways to play Eldfall Chronicles, a PVP mode which supports the traditional 1v1 and team games in addition to a semi-cooperative PVE mode which sees players joining forces against AI controlled monsters and creatures! I’ll go into much more detail of the different rules, mechanics and gameplay elements below but suffice to say if you are familiar with games such as Games Workshop’s Warcry and Necromunda or Corvus Belli’s Infinity you will find a lot here to your liking.
The game itself is set in a rich and vivid fantasy world with a surprisingly detailed background and history. Rival Nations and great City States co-exist and compete with one another in a world inhabited by monsters, daemons and more. All out war between the civilised peoples of this world has been avoided so far and instead the game focuses on battles of a smaller scale, both between the different factions and also within them. Small conflicts arising from trade disputes for example, border hostilities between rival states or even skirmishes between the warbands of rival lore seekers over some sought after arcane relic from a forgotton age perhaps.
We’ll first take a look at the background, lore and individual factions before we move on to cover the gameplay and ruleset itself!
The Factions and Setting
The game is set in a fantasy world called Calad, a world full of rival States, monsters and magic. The developers have done a fantastic job at fleshing out the world and setting and I could not possibly do it justice here so I’d recommend you head over to their website where you’ll find an extensive account of the history and background of the world of Eldfall Chronicles.
The developers have provided lots of material covering the different ages of Calad, its ancient gods and the creation of its inhabitants. There are small snipets of fiction describing the great cataclysm known as the Age of Dusk, the coming of “The Invaders” and the formation of the nation states as they are known today – it really feels like the beginning of an impressive universe and I get a real sense the developers have given careful thought and consideration to the setting. There is an impression of knowledge lost, mysteries yet to be revealed and an underlying menace which reaches back to the earlier ages of the world.
I especially liked reading about the Magic system that the developers have created, with it’s different elements and relationship with the varying factions and the effects it has on the different peoples of the world. Each faction has it’s own backstory and place in the wider setting and there are plenty of hints at future models and expansions!
Talking of factions, at launch the game will release with four playable factions for players to choose from, each with their own unique aesthetic and playstyle. From the aforementioned Sand Kingdoms and Empire of Soga to the two Rin (think elves) based factions of the Helian League and Coalition of Thenion. The developers have spent a lot of effort bring these factions to life and I’ll again recommend you head over to their website where you can learn more.
Overall the style and aesthetic of the game is quite unique with a strong mythological influence. This is married with real life historical influences evidenced by the Japanese inspired Empire of Soga faction or the Ancient Greek inspired Helian League. The developers mention on their website that they have a keen interest in mythology, as well as more traditional topics such as history and warfare and I get the impression that this has all heavily influenced both the design of the factions and models and also (as you’ll see shortly) the rules and gameplay mechanics themselves.
Rules and Gameplay
Before we begin I would like to caveat this review with the following statement. The Eldfall Chronicles ruleset is still being developed and playtested by Freecompany. The review below is based on the current version of their rules as published by Freecompany to their Kickstarter Campaign.
As mentioned previously there are several ways to play Eldfall Chronicles, a traditional PVP mode where you pit your own party of warriors and mystics against that of a human opponent in an attempt to complete specific objectives (be that slaying opposing models or capturing territory as just some examples) or in a semi-cooperative mode where you form ‘loose’ alliances with your opponent’s warband and do battle against the game’s AI controlled adversaries. There are a variety of different scenrios (or Quests as the developers refer to them) to play though, each with their own unique victory conditions and interesting gameplay elements.
Players begin a Quest by choosing a faction from the four available and then constructing a warband. A warband will consist of between 3-5 models, with one model being designated the warband’s leader (an important decision as you will see below). Each model in your warband has a recruitment cost, similar to the points based systems in games such as Infinity and Age of Sigmar. Once the Warbands have been created the player’s roll off to determine how the warbands are deployed to the battlefield and then the game begins!
Typically a game of Eldfall Chronicles is played over 5 rounds, with each round being split into a number of player turns. In a normal 1v1 game there will be 2 player turns in a round, one for each player. During your turn you’ll activate each of the models under your control and perform a variety of different actions such as moving, running, jumping, attacking, casting spells and more!.
Each model in your warband will get a varying number of activations determined by their Stamina stat but what’s really interesting is that as you’re activating and performing actions with your own models your opponent is not idly standing by and watching, they also get to participate during your turn using a reaction mechanic. As you activate and move models around the battlefield and perform actions such as attacking or firing a bow the opponent will be able to react with their own models, attempting to dodge an incoming blow or even counter attack with their own weapons or spells. This makes for highly interactive and fluid gameplay when compared to the traditional “I go you go” turn system common to most miniature war games.
Players use a combination of a D20 roll and a model’s own stats to determine whether their actions are successful. This gets even more interesting when opposing models are engaged in some form of confrontation, for example when fighting each other in close combat or exchanging attacks across the board using ranged weapons or spells. In these situations both players roll the dice for each of their models simultaneously and compare results in order to determine the victor, who then gets to land their blows or cast their spells. It’s possible to roll Critical Hits too (normally on a dice roll of 1) which grant additional bonuses in some situations.
Each weapon and spell has its own profile which determines how many dice a player gets to roll during an attack and the subsequent effects should those rolls be successful. This could range from damage or a status effect being inflcted on an enemy model (perhaps as the result of a poisoned blade attack for example) to an arcane shield being thrown up around an allied model, negating the harmful effects of an enemy’s attack. Model’s also have access to a number of special skills which can enhance their actions, perhaps granting re-rolls or modifiers to dice rolls or augmenting the attacks or spells in other ways.
In those situations where an attack is successful players make a Damage roll, compare the power of the attack (as shown on the profile of the weapon or spell) to the opponent’s Armour stat to determine whether the attack inflicts any damage and wounds the target. Once a model has suffered a number of wounds equal to its HP stat it becomes incapacitated although it is also possible to revive or restore models that have been incapacitaed using various spells, items or skills.
Models, Profiles and Classes
Every model has an associated double-sided profile card which provides all of the information you need to use that model in your game, including its stats, skills, abilities and wargear in a similair fashion to the Warscroll Cards used in Age of Sigmar. As you can see there is a lot of information on these cards and at first glance it can appear overwhelming, however after multiple playthroughs of the game itself I can say it has proven invaluable to have such information readily to hand. Eldfall Chronicles is a detailed game with lots of different skills, abilities and rules etc. Having all the relevant information about an individual model on one profile card has meant that I have not had to reach for the rulebook to look up a particular ability each time I’ve activated a model allowing the game to continue flowing.
Each model in your warband feels really unique with different stats, weapons and abilities. The Empire of Soga’s Onitaoshi for example is armed with a large Greatsword and has a bunch of skills and abilities which allow it better hunt down and slay larger targets such AI controlled monsters or the impressive Earth Elementals summoned by their opponent. The Helion League’s Flameshaper on the otherhand forgoes a weapon and instead uses her impressive magical abilities to target her opponents from range, with a unique ability to ‘chain’ attacks with those of her allies. It’s worth pointing out there appear to be lots of synergies and combinations between the abilities of different models and I think the developers have done a great job of putting together a game with lots of depth and strategic options for its players.
In addition to its stats, wargear and abilities, a model will also possess one or more Class archeotypes such as Warrior or Sorceror. These Class archeotypes provide additional bonuses or abilities to the model. For example a model with the Assassin Class is able to score a Critical Hit on dices rolls of 1,2 and 3 whereas the Mage Class is able to spend Activation Points to re-roll dice when attempting to cast spells for example. There are a currently over 20 different Classes in the game which add lots of variety and interesting abilities to use during your game.
As I mentioned earlier, Eldfall Chronicles uses a really interesting Activation/Reaction mechanic which results in a highly dynamic and interative gameplay experience. At the beginning of each player turn every model on the battlefield is assigned a number of activation points determined by that model’s Stamina stat. During your own turn you’ll spend these Activation Points to perform a series of actions with that model. Models can be activated in any order and you don’t need to spend all of a model’s Activation Points in one go.
When a model is chosen to activate you’ll follow a specific Activation Sequence which consists of a Movement Step, Reaction Step, Action Step and Resolution Step. During the Movement Step you’ll first decide how you want to move your model, either walking a number of inches as shown by the model’s Speed stat or running by douubling your Speed stat. Models can be moved around the battlefield and even into melee range of enemy models. There are a variety of different Movement Actions availble to models which include walking, running, jumping and climbing. These different Movement Actions can be further augmented by a model’s own skills and abilities (such as the Thenrin Swashbuckler’s Dash skill, allowing him to perform a melee attack after a Run move).
Once the model has been moved the opponent then has an opportunity to declare any reactions with any eligible models during the Reaction Step. An enemy model may declare a reaction if they were able to draw line of sight to the activated model at any point during the Movement Step or if the activated model started or ended their movement in the enemy model’s Awareness range. The Awareness range of a model is determined by their Agility stat and extends in a circular bubble around the model. The are number of different reactions an enemy model can declare such as dodging, attacking, casting spells etc. It’s important to note that enemy models must spend Activation Points to declare reactions, meaning that once you’ve spent all your points that model will no longer be able to react to their opponent’s actions. This mechanic can make for some highly strategic gameplay as players attempt to bait out reactions or exploit areas of the board where the opponent may have limited reaction options.
Once the enemy player has declared any reaction it’s time to declare your own action for the activated model. Perhaps you’ll fire your bow at a target across the battlefield or attack with one of your own melee weapons. Alternatively you may decide to attempt to cast a spell or summon an elemental creature to your side. It’s possible your opponents declared reactions will have forced you to reconsider your original plan and rather than attacking with your model you may now decide the most prudent course of action would be to dodge to safety. Once you have declared your action players move to the Resolution Step.
It is during the Resolution Step where you resolve the declared actions. In the most cases this will involve rolling a D20 and comparing the result to the relevent stat on your profile card (Offensive stat for melee and ranged attacks, Intelligence stat for casting spells etc.). To be successful at your chosen action you need to roll equal to or under the relevent stat on a D20. It’s quite common for these dice rolls to be modified in some way as a result of a skill, item or game effect too.
It gets really exciting when enemy reactions are considered. In cases where an enemy model declared an opposing action, such as a casting a spell or an attack action, both players must roll their D20 and compare their results. In these cases it is not enough just to be successful at your action, you must also beat your opponent’s successful results. The winner of these Confrontation Rolls is then able to perform that action, successfully landing a blow against their opponent in combat or evading the attack with a successful dodge.
The Activation/Reaction mechanic of Eldfall Chronicles works in a similar fashion to the ARO and Face to Face roll systems in the Infinity game however there are a few differences. Unlike Infinity, each model in Eldfall Chronicles has only a limited number of Activation Points, meaning a player has to really consider if and when to both activate and react with their models. There are a number of skills and abilities which can influence this precious resource, reducing the Stamina of models and even forcing individual models to spend Activation Points and react in situations in which they would prefer not too. This makes for a highly strategic gameplay experience which I feel does a great job of simulating that high pressure, knife edge combat experience as warbands clash with each other in battle.
Magic System and Combat Arts
Lots of models in Eldfall Chronicles possess the ability to cast spells or summon powerful Elemental Creatures to their side during battle. The developers have created an extensive variety of lores and spells which would not feel out of place in a traditional DnD type RPG game. Spells vary from offensive magic such as Ignite or Arcane Bolt to defensive magic such as Ward or Redirect Damage and even utility spells such as Hastened Recovery and are drawn from a large range of different ‘schools’ such as Earth, Fire, Elder etc.
Different models have varying proficiencies with magic, with the most powerful practicioners having access to multiple schools and levels of spellcraft. Some of the factions are more magically inclined than others and possess formidible spell casters and summoners so if this element of the game appeals you will probably want to check those out (although it’s worth pointing out that all factions will get ‘some’ access to spell casting in some form, be that in future expansions or via allied models).
In addition to skilled arcanists, many of the Factions have access to warriors proficient in various forms of combat, from traditional swordcraft to assassination. A model’s proficiency in each Combat Art will be shown as appropriate on its Profile Card. Each Combat Art is broken down into a number of levels, with each level granting access to a specific bonus. A model with the Combat Art “Fencing Level III” will be able to choose from 3 different bonuses to apply to their melee attacks for example. There are some really cool and powerful Combat Art bonuses to take advantage of, such as the “Assassination Level IV” bonus which causes all of a model’s hits to count as critical hits!
Skills, Traits and Stratagems
Model’s possess a variety of different skills as shown on their Profile Card and determined by their Class archeotype. Skills provide the player with the option of augmenting certain actions or effects during a game and vary from simple modifiers to unique effects such as being able to regain lost wounds during their turn. There are around 20 or so different skills to exploit, with some of my favourite being Protector, allowing a model to intercept an enemy attack on behalf of an allied model (useful for protecting your squishier models from assasination attempts by enemy Rogues) to Finishing Strike, allowing a model to attack again after successfully wounding an enemy model!
Traits on the other hand are passive abilities or effects that apply at all times whilst the respective model is in play. These are again determined by a model’s Profile card or Class but can also be gained via an item or piece of wargear a model is equiped with. An example might be the Poison or Armour Piercing Trait found on a weapon equipped by a model or the Affinity Trait allowing a spell casting model to make use of a particular spell lore.
Stratgems on the other hand are unique abilities possessed only by a selection of models within each faction. If the leader of your Warband posseses any Stratagems they can choose one to use at the beginning of each of their turns. If you’re familiar with Command Abilities in Age of Sigmar these are very much alike, either providing powerful buffs for models in your warband or targeting enemy models with a debuff which can be exploited to help gain the upper hand in a battle. As of now each faction possesses only a single model with access to Stratagems but I expect we’ll see more as the game expands. Some of my favourite so far are the Helian League Expeditionary Hierophant’s Nursing Aura, healing a number of models in your Warband (and even recovering incapaticated models) and the Thenion Coaltion Nightshade’s Swift Retreat Stratagem, allowing models of the Assassin and Rogue Class to perform an additional movement at the end of their turn!
PVE and Cooperative Elements
As mentioned earlier in this review, some of the Quests in Eldfall Chronicles allow players to join forces and fight against AI controlled models. These AI controlled models usually take the form of monsters or elemental constructs that move around the battlefield and enage with the player’s models as determined by their individual Hostiles Behaviour card.
AI controlled models gain a number of Activation Points each turn with which to both activate and react with in a similar fashion to a human controlled model. During the AI turn, the AI controlled models will activate in a sequence determined by their Tier level (basically a ‘power’ rating). Once all AI controlled models of a single Tier have spent all their activation points models in the next Tier begin to activate and so on.
The Hostile Behaviour card of an enemy model will determine what movement and actions they declare based on a series of “If…then” checks and in what situations it will apply the effects of any Skills it may possess. For example an AI controlled Golem will attempt first attempt to engage a nearby enemy model, failing that it will try to move towards a model within line of sight, running if nessecary and finally if there are no enemy models in line of sight it will turn around.
Player’s can react to such activations in the normal way during the Reaction Step, allowing them to dodge incoming attacks or counter attack themselves. Likewise AI controlled models will also react to player Activations as determined by the Hostile Behaviour card. Tier 1 Gargoyles will prefer to dodge incoming attacks and attempt to disengage whereas the larger Tier 3 Earth Elementals will attempt to close the distance towards player models and attack in melee if possible.
I really like how the developers have incorporated this PVE mode in to the core game, it does not feel like a simple after thought. Some of Quests will see you competing with your human opponent to slay the AI controlled monsters whereas in others you’ll be forced to form temporary alliances with your opponent to remove troublesome AI controlled monsters blocking your path to victory (although be careful to watch your opponent closely lest they betray you!). This is an extremely unique and exciting part of the Eldfall Chronicles game and I feel will appeal to both traditional war gamers and solo and cooperative boardgame fans too. Each Hostile Behaviour card provides a different challenge for each AI controlled model and the inclusion of a PVE element to some Quests is both unique and entertaining! I’m really excited to see how this element of the game is expanded in future and I would not be surprised to see some of the more established war games follow suit with their own AI system in the future too!
I’ve covered most of the game elements above but I just wanted to briefly touch upon a few more advanced rules within the overal Eldfall Chronicles ruleset. The first of these is a model’s inventory. As you can see, each model’s Profile Card contains a section detailing the wargear and items a model is equipped with. This is quite common for those familiar with war games such as Age of Sigmar of course but I feel like this aspect of Eldfall Chronicles more closely resembles a table top RPG or dungeon crawler. For example, in addition to the standard information you’d expect to find here (range, damage, traits etc.) we also find information about the quantity of such wargear or equipment and its weight.
It’s possible for model’s to pick up items during a battle and add them to their inventory and you can even ‘upgrade’ your models before a game with a selection of items or weapons you may have collected over the course of a campaign (see below). Models carrying too much weight become over-encumbered, limiting their choice of movement and actions.
There are four types of item that a model may store in their inventory – weapons, shields, accessories and consumables. Some of these items provide a passive effect whilst equiped whereas others must be used or consumed to grant a tempory effect. It’s also possible to trade items with other models during a battle, perhaps you’ve found an antidote or throwing weapon and wish to hand it to a more suitable model in your warband. I’ve not had much experience with this inventory system in the games of Eldfall Chronicles I have played so far, but I can definetly see the appeal for RPG or boardgaming fans. It will also be great to further customise your warband to suit your own tastes and strategy with unique upgrades and wargear.
Just like Age of Sigmar, Infinity and others games, Eldfall Chronicles provides players with a number of Quests (think of them as missions, battleplans etc.) to play through. Individual Quests are basically standalone scenarios which detail deployment, victory conditions and other gameplay elements that you play through with an opponent in a one shot battle. In addition, the developers have created a series of Consecutive Quests designed to be played in sequence. I’ve had access to one such Consecutive Quest during playtesting which sees your Warband attempt to first break into a guarded ruin in one quest before reaching and interacting with an ancient piece of machinery in a second quest. This particular Consecutive Quest included a semi cooperative PVE element with respawning AI controlled monsters and was great fun to play through!
Another element to add some additional variety to your games is the Schemes mechanic. Schemes work like Agendas or Secret Objectives if you’re familiar with those mechanics from Warhammer and provide additional objectives for your warband during a Quest. There are a mixture of Common Schemes that can used by any Faction and Faction specific schemes too! You don’t have to use them but they can spice things up a bit and I’ve found that they fit quite nicely with the playstyle of the different factions.
Overall Gameplay Experience and Final Thoughts
Overall I have had a great time playing Eldfall Chronicles, the highlight by far being the activation/reaction mechanic. Quite often during miniature wargames you can feel a bit powerless during your opponents turn as you watch them move their models and attack your own. This is not the case with Eldfall Chronicles, you’re always participating during your opponents turn, looking to execute strategic reactions to thwart your opponent’s plans. You’ll soon learn that the careful management of your Activation Points is the key to success. Do you attempt to bait out your opponent’s reactions by feigning attacks before moving in to exploit a gap in their defences or go all out on a single enemy model but risk leaving yourself exposed to a counter attack? The different combos and synergies between the models in your warband should also be a factor in your planning and gameplan.
Another unique and interesting gameplay mechanic that sets this game apart is the PVE and semi-cooperative game modes. This really adds to the immersion of a game and gives you an additional element to consider as you attempt to negotiate a Quest. The ability to form fleeting alliances with your opponent mid game is tremendous fun, as is stabbing them in that back at the most opportune moment!
I would not say that the learning curve for this game is too steep, but it definetly has a more involved ruleset than a game such as Age of Sigmar for example. There are a lot of different skills, actions, spells etc. in this game to keep track of (although the Profile Cards do help) which can be a bit daunting for a new player. I’d say it is comparable to a game like Necromunda or Infinity really, and after a few games you should have picked up most of the main systems and rules.
So I’m impressed by the gameplay and ruleset but I am also equally as impressed by the models and overall aesthetic of game itself. We’ve been lucky enought to be sent a sample of some of the models themselves and they are great, highly detailed and characterful (keep an eye on our painting streams where I’m sure they will soon appear).
The artwork itself is great and the rulebook and website is full of fantastic imagery showing off models, monsters and maps and more.
At the time of writing this review the Kickstarter Campaign for Eldfall Chronicles is currently underway and is set to exceed its funding goal. You can check out the campaign for yourself here and I’d also recommend heading over to the developer’s Discord channel here where you can find all the resources you need to try the game for yourself! The developers are in regular communication with their growing community of play testers and backers and respond quickly to any kind of question related to the game, campaign or setting. It seems Freecompany have big plans for supporting the game going forward, with new and alternative models for existing factions (including monsters) planned alongside expansions to the games magic system etc.
The rulebook itself is actively being tested and refined by a large community of playtesters which I would hope should help ensure that backers recieve a quality product when the game eventually releases later in 2022.
Freecompany provided Sprues and Brews with sample miniatures, components and rules for review purposes