I recently managed to pick up a second hand copy of the new starter set for Tale of War’s pirate themed miniatures and board game Ron n Bones. Now, doesn’t it look great?
The box arrived a little battered, but the miniatures hadn’t been assembled, nor the deck of cards opened. In fact, it appeared that the previous owner had only flicked through the rulebook once before selling it all on for less than half price. I can see his point.
Tale of War are a Spanish company who do a fantastic series of characterful miniatures, with a mixture of generic fantasy and a more cohesive set of pirates – they’ve obviously got some talented sculptors working for them (there are a lot of excellent figures coming out of Spain at the moment). Of course, the best way to sell your own miniatures is often to provide a game to go with them and here we see the problem – the rules seem to have been translated by Babelfish.
Now, Tale of War aren’t alone in this – Rackham’s Confrontation suffered from dodgy translation yet was immensely popular until their well documented self-destruction; Asmodee’s Hell Dorado only had a fan translation until Cipher Studios bought it out and released an English rulebook; the list goes on. Still, given the existence of the internet that’s really no excuse, particularly because this is the second edition English starter set. I’m fairly sure that there are some native-English speaking gamers out there who wouldn’t mind reading these things before they go to print.
Putting the rules aside for a moment, the box set comes with two finely detailed metal miniatures. They’re both lovely figures, so I’ve linked in the cards so you can see the painted versions. Now, take a look at Melinette – how is she staying in that position? She comes in three pieces – the barrel and lower left arm, the body, the right hand. To the best of my knowledge, there’s no glue on Earth which will allow you to defy gravity by resting that amount of weight on a shoulder joint. So, it’ll need to be pinned.
Now, remember that this is a starter set. Anyhow – out comes my pinning drill with a 0.8mm drill bit and I neatly hollowed out her lower arm, her shoulder joint, her right wrist and the right hand. I also neatly hollowed out my left thumb, which bled for 10 minutes. A few bits of paperclip later and she was assembled, just like the picture above. Then the cat jumped up next to me, and a quick swipe of the tail saw her unassembled on the floor. I rebuilt her in the much more sensible pose of leapfrogging her barrel – shown here, alongside the offending drill.
Her companion wasn’t so bad, but still needed his right hand and wrist drilling out for assembly.
At this point, I’d love to talk about the game in a bit of detail. It uses a mixture of cards and dice, and all movement is carried out on printed boards – the starter comes with a small ship and there are a few other layouts to print out on their forums. A quick flick makes the rules look quite interesting, with sections for various fighting styles, special actions and most importantly – Drunkenness. Sadly, I can’t bring myself to sit down and read them – possibly drink would help.
So – a starter set which requires fairly advanced modelling techniques, alongside a rulebook beautifully presented in broken English. I really couldn’t recommend this to anyone barring the most dedicated, and I dread to think what would happen if someone bought this for their kids. That said, I will plough through the rules (I’m fairly sure that there’s something good here) and when I’ve made sense of them I’ll be back to let you know how I got on.
Oh, and one last thing. You expand the game by buying more figures – that seems obvious enough. Sadly, they don’t come with the necessary rules or cards – you have to also buy expansion decks. These contain the rules for either 4 or 8 figures, which means that if you just want to add a single character you’ll not only have to pay the £10-ish for that miniature but also between £10 and £20 for the rules. Now, I know that this isn’t rare – many companies expect you to buy army books and the like, but I can’t name a single other card-based minis game which doesn’t supply the cards with the figures. If Warmachine, Malifaux, Anima Tactics, Hell Dorado, etc all manage it, then why not here as well? It’s particularly annoying (and expensive) if you want two figures who are in different card decks.