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Thursday, June 16, 2016

A mini Review for one of Osprey Publishing's war games series.

First off a few things to get out of the way:
I don't work for or know anyone  at Osprey Publishing. I paid for the book I'm going to talk about. This "review" was not solicited. In-fact the good folks at Osprey will probably never know it exists.

On with the fun.
TLDR version:

It's good, the text is a bit dry, but SUPER COMPACT AND FUNCTIONAL.

It's right in my wheel house, and  I heartily recommend the game.

I'm not sure how I first stumbled on Osprey Publishing.
This time I was looking for  a small book about Roman naval vessels. Since I own their "Fighting Sail," a book about fighting ships Circ 1775 to 1815, I thought they might have more like it for other time periods. (they do.)

However being  of short attention span I noticed and  jumped on a section I did not previously know existed. The Osprey Wargames series. What I learned is Osprey seems to have a small traditional style war game for every occasion.

With the books ranging in price from $9.98 USD to $19.98 USD I decided to pick up two of them. The first being "Black Ops" because it might be useful as reference material for my current Loot Box project. The second being "A Fist Full OF Kung Fu.," It's a tabletop mini's game based on Kung Fu moves.. How could I not buy it?

This review Will focus on that "Fist Full of Kung Fu" Product.

About the Book:
  • The book is small, perfect bound, with a glossy cover. The pages are bright white with clear printing. On my first read through I did not see any printing errors such as ghosting or smearing.
  • The  total page count on the  book is  64 pages.
  • It is available in Print, PDF, and Ebook versions.
  • Was Published in 2014.
  • The author and designer Andrea Sfiligoi (also of "Song of Blades and heroes" and much more.)
  • The interior pages are color and  semi glossy. The picture plates are spread between very nice miniature dioramas (way better than Ever make it to my table,) and art works of good quality. (I think digitally painted.) One nice touch each diorama photo is credited with eh company  who produces the  pictured miniatures.


What's in there?

The book dives right in. A table of contents then a brief introduction explaining the goals of the game. Including the phrase "skirmish rules reproducing on the tabletop the wild, extravagant action seen in Hong Kong movies." The right into the "what you will need section."
Here the first sign of the game's flavor peeks through, the  author advises three measuring sticks one for short range 7.5 cm, one for medium range 12 cm,  and one for long range 18cm. To my eye this smacks of a traditional style skirmish game. I was looking forward to seeing how the author would meld that style of mechanics with The goal of  kung fu action.
By page 5 figure types (Protagonists, Bruisers, and Extras) are being defined.  figures are built based on points and  have two major statistics. "Quality" a measure of  speed, strength and, durability is the first stat. secondly there is Combat which is  measure of  how well the figure fights. Individual figures may also have Traits which are like special abilities and gangs as a group will have chi points based on the total groups point values.
Each figure involved in the game can be defined by one small row of information. Simple and straightforward.
By page 6 we rereading  rules, and are well into the game.
Interesting system points include:
  • When a figure is activated the player rolls vs the figures Q score, higher than the Q score is a success, the number of success determine how many actions the figure can take. Failures on the other hand may grant free "reactions" to the opponents protagonist "Main Character Bruce Lee type) or if enough failures are rolled can  turn control of the turn to the opponent (A turn over.) The trick here is the  player activating the  figure gets to choose how many dice  (up to 3d6) he or she will roll for actions. It's a nice risk reward mechanic, and giving actions to the opponents protagonist, so that  it may move around the battlefield  wreaking havoc is a nice touch.
  • When attacking the attacker chooses from list of effects which cost success to apply. For example, if I rolled three successes I could inflict three minor effect to my target or one big effect. I  like this very much. It's through this system of rolling for success then choosing effects to apply to your target that the game infuses the kung fu action into the play at the table.The possibility of knocking out an extra (Mook), having him crash into a giant brass bell (A prop) then using said prop as a weapon next round.... That makes me smile. 
I'm not going to go through all of the rules, I will say the whole system fits between pages 6 and 24 and  even still covers a lot of ground.

Pages 24 to 36 contain the possible traits you can purchase for figures. There are plenty of them (81 I think?) covering most of the things we have seen in various kung fu movies. From "Iron Shirt" to  just being "Giant," I can picture most of these traits cinematic inspirations.

From there there are "stunts" Like chi Leaps, breaking things, and wall jumping . 

Taoist magic is covered, just in case you want to replicate Big Trouble in Little China style effects (and who doesn't?) The magic section is about 3/4 a page and is very general. In the context of the game it will do what the players need it to do.

Pages 40 to 44 contain seventy one individual two line sample character profiles. Each entry shows the profiles name and point value and roll. (Protagonist, Bruiser, or extra.) On the second The  Q and the C scores and any traits the profile has.  More than enough to quickly set up a game.

Pages 45 to 58 contain information about setting up scenarios and locations. Including very thematic location traits like hanging chains and improvised trampoline. 

The rest of book is made up of appendices about more than two player games, building gangs, and reprints of the charts form the main text. (thank you!)



Final Thought:
The rules, while very much classic miniatures rules.I am not familiar with  the other works of Andrea Sfiligoi. I do not know his normal writing style. Hence I do not know if the  very brief manner in which this game is written is just how he writes or a function of page count limitations. What I will say is I like it very much for this style game.

The rules are clear, the sections are focused, the text is concise, with only what you need to play  put in front of you. The book is in it's own way dense.
There are no lengthy explanations or digressions. Simply put this is an effective manual of how to play kung fu skirmish games using miniatures on your table top. There's no room for extras, no wasted space. If you are a lover of fluff and setting details this is not the  product for you. Even the scenario setup section is short on details about what traditionally makes up a kung fu scenario. There is no hand holding, just functional sections about how each setting element can be emulated within the game. That might turn some readers off.
It seems the  game is written from a stance of, -If you are buying this book you already like this genre, and have an idea about what kung fu action is all about.-


 I think the rules and the  features of the game show a well researched product. I don't doubt the author watched martial arts cinema  to come up with the  stunts and the  traits included in the rules.
Based on my read through, I think the system does a nice job of capturing the kung fu action as it set out to. I'm looking forward to getting it some quality time on my table.
Lastly, for me it hearkens back to another time when game rules didn't come with assumptions about how players would use them. These rules give you the tools, it is up to you to build with them.

I recommend this book.
Further I would  advise any who asked to check out Osprey's collection of short but concentrated tabletop war games.
(I'm going to buy a few more.)

Thanks for reading -
Mark.