The Twelve Elements of War: Kickstarter Hype

12 Elements KS

 Kickstarter is pretty much the defined path these days to get your shit out there. So what makes The Twelve Elements of War any different from any other game out there? It’s based in a Fantasy setting, it’s got Dwarves, Halflings, Trolls, Elves, so nothing new there then. It’s got leather clad warrior women with their….no its got leather clad warrior women who look like they’re going to kick the shit out of you. So that’s one stereotype disposed of then. So all the factions are split into races then, right? Nah mate, it’s all about guilds and clandestine groups, we’re talking fantasy Special Ops here, or at the very least the Dirty Dozen. Oh and if there’s any doubts about the models, check out the Faun.

12 Elements Faun

Mr Tumnus is going to get his head split open by this dude – Narnia would have been a different proposition entirely if Lucy Pevensie had run into this guy. The film tie in is pretty apt too. Maybe not the Narnia one, but certainly the Dirty Dozen. Warbands are made of 7-12 models and the game is geared towards the cinematic rather than the realistic (if you can get realism in a fantasy game).

The move away from typical fantasy stereotypes is a conscious decision from the guys at Sword and Board Games is the company behind 12 Elements which has come out of the fevered imagination of 2 dudes. A couple of bros who have, like a lot of us, talked about “wouldn’t it be great if…” and actually done something about it. Twelve Elements of War is their brainchild but they have called upon some more experienced developers to add the final spit and polish to their vision in the form of River Horse. River Horse, for those of you who don’t know, is Alessio Cavatore’s company which has been involved in the production of some of the more innovative titles of late: Kings of War, Bolt Action, Wild West Exodus, Loka…. the list goes on.

So what’s the gig and what can players expect? Well, the setting for the game is the Eastlands of Dothmora, a land previously riven by war between a number of factions, but a peace has been called for by the Queen of Highguard, and an uneasy truce is in place. However the various factions in the game, of which there are currently five, all still want a piece of the action, but don’t want to piss off the other powers (well at least openly), hence the Shadow War.

The Shadow War is the clandestine, underhand conflict that is still raging between the factions. Each faction is still looking to gain power, wealth and artefacts at the expense of their foes. You control a war band embroiled in the Shadow War. The five factions the players can represent are Highguard , The Mining Guild, The Geniocracy of Toth, The Shadow Hold and The Keepers. All the factions have their own strengths, flaws and idiosyncrasies as you would expect.

The Highguard faction are trying to reclaim the power they once had, whereas the Shadow Hold view the gaining of arcane knowledge and artefacts as the most important thing at any cost. The Mining Guild are well, miners. Hard as nails and tenacious fighters. The Keepers are your fanatical religious nutters who can’t resist a good bonfire and finally the Geniocracy of Toth are atheistic inventors of clockwork technology which they see as the thirteenth element.

The key thing with all the factions is that you can have a mix of races in each war band and you can pretty much build the war band you want to, to fit your style of play. The different races join the war bands willingly in a quest for glory and wealth (or are enslaved in the case of the Shadow Hold). As somebody who procrastinates endlessly over which army to pick whenever I play a game, this is a bit of godsend as now I only have to worry about which faction I want to play. If I want a mix of halflings, goblins, ogres and elves I can have that. Sorted.

12 Elements Troll So if you’re not so turned on by models and painting, and fluff is neither here nor there for you, what does the game play have to offer? The Twelve Elements is not your typical I Go /You Go game, in that each play alternates moving a model from their war band. This makes the initiative phase of the game more critical as you need to start thinking about what models you want to activate when, and try to work out how you can counter your opponent.

Another thing I like about The Twelve Elements is the dice rolling mechanism. Although not unique, it uses a similar system to Dread Ball in that modifiers to your dice rolls means you add more dice rather than add or subtract from the number you’re trying to roll. This carries over into the stat lines for your war band. The stat associated with your characteristics represents the number of nice you get to roll for that type of test. This keeps it simple and removes the need for charts and tables.

That’s not to say there aren’t lots of tables and charts, but those in the book are there for magic Items, scenarios, customising your war band etc… In the rule book, as well, you get the options to recruit named characters into your war band. The cool thing for me is that you get the option to recruit these characters at different stages of their career. Get them early on and they are not as powerful, recruit them once they have lived a little and they kick ass even more. This really lends itself to the narrative / RPG side of the game and the campaign system that is included.

I like the look and feel of this game – the artwork and imagery throws me back to the days of early editions of Warhammer and Dungeons & Dragons with pencil drawings suffusing the rule book, amongst the more to be expected art work styles.

So check it out:

Parting shot: Now a fair few of the crew have been to see the industrial legends that are Nine Inch Nails recently. The support band were Cold Cave. Cold Cave’s front man, Wesley Eisold, came out with something along the lines of “Anybody can fulfil their dreams, they just have to work at it” (or something like that – my ears were still buzzing, so I’m probably misquoting but the message is the same). Point being, it sums up Kickstarter. Kickstarter gets a lot of shit from people for just being the means by which established companies can launch their ranges, but there are still plenty of small start-ups just trying to get their ideas some air time and get their shit out.