I have been wargaming for many years and have always been attracted to rank and flank style games. The sight of massed ranks of troops marching across the battlefield is what got me interested in the hobby. I enjoy the skirmish games that have grown in popularity over recent years, the ability to play games quickly and with less miniatures are undeniable advantages. However, since WHFB was discontinued I have been looking for a rank and flank game to take its place. This is the reason that Para Bellums Conquest The Last Argument of Kings caught my attention.
Having a look at the Para Bellum website it is clear to see that this is an ambitious company who have big plans for their game. The effort that has been put into developing the background of the game, the lore for each faction, and even the artwork shows that this company are in it for the long haul. Units for 4 factions (The Hundred Kingdoms, The Spires, The Dweghom, and The Nords) have been released, and there are ambitious plans to release up to a further 14 factions. This will take a few years to achieve, but this level of forward planning makes buying into a new game a more attractive option.
All of this is an impressive start, but is the game itself any good? On the surface this might look and feel like a generic rank and flank wargame, however this would be an unfair assumption. The rules, written by Alessio Cavatore (Mordheim, Kings of War, Bolt Action, LOTR Strategy Battle Game), have enough differences to allow them to stand out. I will be doing a full review of the rules soon, but if anyone wants to have a look for themselves they are available to download from the Para Bellum website.
So, on to the core box set. The first thing I noticed was the size of the box, it is massive. Also, the box art is fantastic, setting the dark fantasy tone of the game that is carried on through the artwork in the rulebook. Upon opening the box I was pleasantly surprised, for such a large box there was very little empty space. It is completely packed with sprues.
The box contains:
29 Spires Miniatures
- 1 Pheromancer
- 24 Force-Grown Drones with 6 Infantry Stands
- 3 Brute Drones with 3 Cavalry Stands
- 1 Abomination with 1 Monster Stand
40 Hundred Kingdoms Miniatures
- 1x Noble Lord with 1 Cavalry Stand
- 24x Men-at-Arms with 6 Infantry Stands
- 12x Mercenary Crossbowmen with 3 Infantry Stands
- 3x Household Knights with 3 Cavalry Stands
6 Objective Markers
20 Command Cards
You can see that you get a lot for your money, but what about the miniatures themselves, are they worth it?
Looking through the sprues, the size of the miniatures stands out. Para Bellum have designed the game to have its own scale, which is around 35mm. For some this may be a deal breaker as the miniatures will be more difficult to include in armies for other rule sets, having to get miniatures that can only be used for one game is something that some will not commit to, especially for a relatively new game. However, for me this is not an issue. I don’t mind investing in miniatures that can only be used for a specific game, especially if they are well designed and interesting.
A further issue that the scale has thrown up is that some gamers feel the game will need its own scenery. This would make getting into this game much more expensive. Whilst I agree that this may be a concern with some types of scenery, buildings for example, you can have great games using basic terrain pieces (hills, trees, rivers, roads etc.) and the pieces designed for 25 or 28mm can be used for this larger scale with no problem. There are also a number of gamers that believe buildings designed for 28mm miniatures can be used, and whilst the difference in scale may lead to a slightly strange aesthetic I personally feel this is a minor concern that will not really be noticed once the battle has begun.
The quality of the miniatures is not bad at all, in fact for a new company that produces its own miniatures they are actually really good. Granted the miniatures in the core box are not Games Workshop quality, some of the details are not sharp enough, however they are easily good enough to compete with the majority of miniature manufacturers. In addition, having seen some of the later releases it is clear to see that the quality is increasing rapidly, and some of the resin miniatures are comparable to Games Workshop.
Another nice touch is the inclusion of a number of ball joints on the larger miniatures which makes posing them really easy, allowing for aesthetic variety within units. This is a plus point when comparing the miniatures to those from other ranges that can all look similar or have very static or robotic looking poses. These ball joints are particularly prominent on The Spires Abomination, which is a beast of a model and can, depending on how you build it, stand at 8 inches in height.However, a word of caution is needed here. Whilst the ball joints make posing the brute drones easy, they do cause slight problems with the Abomination. Each of the 4 legs has 3 ball joints on them, and whilst this is great for getting your miniature into a unique pose, it does make building it a challenge. New or inexperienced gamers might find it difficult to build and so will probably have to use a very robotic looking pose just to get it put together. It is still a great looking miniature however it is built, it is just something to consider when approaching this box set.
My personal feelings are that the miniatures are great. The variety of poses that can be achieved makes even The Hundred Kingdoms Men at Arms unit look alive and interesting. The larger scale, for me, is a bonus as it makes painting them easier, it is possible to get a unit ready for the table in 20 minutes using a basic technique of a few colours, liberal use of washes, and minimal highlights.
Of course, with any box set there are down sides. Whilst there is a lot of miniatures in the box, none of the units come with command upgrade options. If you want to have banners and leaders for your units you would have to buy separate unit boxes. Also, there are no building instructions in the box and, even though they can be downloaded from the Para Bellum website, I feel this is an oversight and they should have been included.
So, what do I think about this core box set and the game itself? Is it worth the price (£63.75 on the Rogue Wargaming store) and is the game worth investing in? I feel that with the amount of miniatures included in the box, and the quality of them, this is a good value set. You will have the basis for 2 armies, which will give you enough miniatures to play with and learn the game before you commit to investing more time and money in expanding your collection.
As for the game itself, it looks like a good game that could, in time, fill the hole left by WHFB. It is also kind of exciting to get involved with a new game early on, to watch it develop and grow. Para Bellum have dedicated a lot of time to building a community around the game and have in place a Vanguard programme, a group of volunteers that are used to demonstrate and promote the game. There is also an extremely active Discord channel that is really useful if new players have any questions about the game rules, background and lore, or future developments. Para Bellum also listens to the feedback they receive from the community members and take this on board when planning future developments, this helps to make players feel personally invested in the game.
Looking through the core box and into the game itself has increased my interest in it. I am looking forward to having a more in depth look at the rules and will be posting an article with my thoughts on their strengths and weaknesses. What are your thoughts on this game? I would be interested to hear everyone’s opinions.