I blame Fantasy Flight Games’ Star Wars: X-Wing Fighter game. It was my gateway drug to the world of miniature wargaming.
My habit started small: an A-Wing here, a Tie Interceptor there. As a lifelong Star Wars fan the purchases were easy enough to justify. I didn’t even intent to play the game at first. I just liked buying the tiny little space ships. That all changed one day when I couldn’t get enough people together to play the Star Wars: Edge of the Empire game. Still, the gaming monkey was on my back, and it demanded to be fed. I broke out those little space ships and tossed a handful of dice, and all of a sudden, I was engrossed in a desperate battle against dastardly Rebels. (Yes, I was the empire. Why ask?)
Despite a long and illustrious career in roleplaying, I had never played the grandaddy of tabletop gaming: wargames. They always seemed dry and tedious: all-day affairs that required strategic faculties that I scarcely possessed. They were expensive, too, or at least the miniatures were. I looked at games like Warhammer 40K and cringed. I could preemptively feel the punishment a hobby like that would inflict upon my wallet. I also worried about the lack of an emotional connection to the dozens upon dozens of tiny soldiers. Better to stick to the tabletop storytelling games I preferred.
X-Wing changed all of that for me. It wasn’t a giant war with block after block of miniature ships, this was a skirmish; a dogfight. I could personalize each little ship in myriad ways, and not break the bank building massive tabletop armadas. Better yet, these little wars could be played out in an hour or two. I was in.
Star Wars was great for science fiction, but what about my fantasy wargaming needs? I knew what I liked: Skirmish combat, but my tastes are odd. I like pseudo-historical fantasy: Celts and Romans, knights and footmen. Real-world stuff, but with a dollop of magic and monsters. I looked around a long while until I stumbled upon Of Gods and Mortals, a set of mythological wargaming rules written by Andrea Sfiligoi and published by Osprey, a longtime publisher of military history and wargames.
Of Gods and Mortals is a skirmish-style wargame written for two players, each of whom fields a war band of mortal warriors, legendary creatures, and a god drawn from a real-world ancient culture. Celtic warriors, Cuchullain and Cernunnos battle Greek hoplites, Hercules, and Zeus. Romans battle Egyptians. Battles are short and lively, with most taking about an hour or so.
Figures are classified as mortals (human soldiers), legends (heroes like Achilles, or mythological creatures like banshees), and Gods. Each player receives a certain number of points to build their war band, and with the exception of having only one god, they can build their armies in a variety of ways. Gods and mortals have reciprocal relationships on the battlefield. The gods draw their energy from their mortal followers, who in turn rely on the gods for battlefield support. Gods can battle other gods on the battlefield, and can also wreak havoc upon enemy mortals.
The rules are extremely light but robust, and very beginner-friendly and easily adaptable to nearly any kind of mythic pantheon you can imagine. Thanks to an included list of “traits”, as long as the players can find the miniatures (or substitutes), they can build a war band from any culture. Suitable miniatures can be found online from a variety of retailers, and there’s no mandated brand or make required.
Of Gods and Mortals is a delightfully anachronistic, fun little game that’s perfect for fantasy fans who want to dip a toe into wargaming now and again, and it’s a great diversion for those days when the rest of the gaming group can’t get together.