Product: Hordes: Primal Mk II is the second generation of Privateer Press’ “monstrous” tabletop miniatures game. The 248-page rulebook is available in either hardcover or perfect-bound formats. (We received a perfect bound copy for review.)
Primal Mk II is extremely pretty, with lots of full-color art that grabs your attention right from the cover and sticks with you throughout the entire book. The layout is clean, and the typeface is easy to read. As with covers of most softcover game books that get used (and isn’t that what they’re for?), Primal’s corners and edges are going to get dog-eared and worn fairly quickly. However, the binding is sturdy, and should hold up indefinitely under normal wear and tear.
In writing Primal Mk II, Privateer Press concentrated on streamlining and clarifying Hordes rules, which take up about 70 pages. What the designers have produced is a very strong rules set that will carry the franchise forward for another 10 years, allowing the company to concentrate on world building with books featuring new factions, trooper types and characters, and producing new figures.
Gameplay: Primal Mk II is a very straightforward rules set that allows players to concentrate on the flavor of the respective factions they’ve decided to play rather than wrangling over rules.
To begin, each battlegroup is built around a warlock who uses magic to control warbeasts — fantastical creatures with frighteningly powerful abilities — and make war on their enemies. They can also command units of troopers who are often less powerful than the warlock or warbeasts, but can be useful in tactical situations. The size of a battlegroup is limited by a game’s point total, agreed to by the players: 15 being the smallest, with one warlock for each player’s battlegroup, to 400 points with four warlocks in what can be called a proper horde and whole load of figures on the table.
The engine of Hordes’ combat system basically lies in making attack rolls and comparing them to a model’s defense stat. Overcome that threshold, you hit. The same thing applies to damage: for every point of damage over a model’s armor statistic causes a point of injury. As models get hurt, they start losing the ability to function well in combat, may flee the field or could end up attacking other nearby models in a pain-induced rage.
While rolling dice and moving models around on terrain is all well and good, it is the cinematic quality of Hordes that really sets the game apart from other miniature combat systems. Models can pick up and hurl their opponents across the battlefield, while warlocks unleash devastating magical attacks that turn enemy monsters into goopy globs leaking into the soil.
The game gives players a visceral sense of the battlefield and promotes an emotional attachment to models by giving the warlocks and warbeasts a lot of attention, explaining characters and motivations. Even in large-point games, players are side-by-side with their models, rather than getting a view from high above like you do with other miniature wargames.
Marketing: Miniatures games are expensive, and that can be a tough hurdle to leap, especially among younger players. However, there are a couple of ways to get around this potential roadblock.
First, if you are selling the rulebook, be sure to have at least two different Hordes warpack box sets in stock. Each costs $49.99, and comes with a complete battlegroup to get a player started. The most popular groups are Circle Orboros and Trollbloods, but Skorne and Legion of Everblight packs are available too. You might put together a starter package containing two warpacks and a rulebook for 10% off. That’s enough to start playing for a similar price to other fantasy miniature wargames that are on the market.
A big selling point for miniatures games is to see other people having fun. If you have the space, run make ’n’ takes where participants can build and paint a Hordes miniature. For hobbyists, show them that there is more to miniatures than just moving a bunch of figures around on a board. There is real modeling here!
Finally, kids want to be entertained. It’s important to be able to show customers how a game of Hordes works without becoming bogged down in the details. Be able to demonstrate the game’s basic rules with a couple of miniatures, concentrating on the most cinematic aspects like casting spells and hurling opponents. And make sure that the customer is causing all the carnage!
Product: Hordes: Primal Mk II Monstrous Miniatures Combat softcover
Publisher: Privateer Press
Availability: Check with your favorite game distributor or e-mail Privateer Press
Great rules set; easy to learn
Unique fantasy minatures
Gritty and cinematic