Battleground Fantasy Warfare: Umenzi Tribesmen
List Price: $14.95
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(Worth 1,195 Funagain Points!)
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The Umenzi Tribesmen is the sixth faction for Battleground: Fantasy Warfare, the award-winning tabletop wargame in which cards, rather than expensive miniatures, represent your forces. The Umenzi Tribesmen draws inspiration from the great Zulu armies of earth as well as a cinematic take on Voodoo, adding a new level of magic to Battleground play. As with previous Battleground factions, the Umenzi Tribesmen is packaged in two decks. Starter decks include all the cards needed to play -- 18 units, the 30-card Command deck and two reference cards -- plus the basic rules. Reinforcement decks include 50 unit cards, including two types not found in the Starter, plus the advanced rules.
Your Move Games
Ages: 12 and up
Weight: 109 grams
In order to play Battleground Fantasy Warfare: Umenzi Tribesmen, you will have to provide six-sided dice and a dry-erase marker, wax pencil or crayon
Language Requirements: This is a domestic item. Manufacturer's rules are printed in English. Game components are printed in English.
- 18 unit cards
- 30 command cards
- 2 reference cards
- basic rules
Average Rating: 4 in 1 review
(This is a review of two of the armies for Battlegrounds. I’ve already reviewed the game elsewhere – this is just a discussion of those armies.)
The units included in this army are Bowmen, Crossbowmen, Hammermen, Militia, Axemen, Battleaxemen, Ballista, Shortbeards, Longbeards, Spearmen, Miners, and Antonian Horsemen (the only unit that is not Dwarven in race).
The stats for the units are about what you would expect from a traditional Dwarf army. The entire army is slow as molasses, with only the Horsemen able to move farther than 2.5 inches. On the flipside, they can take a good amount of damage – eight of the unit types can take twelve damage before running. Their courage is fairly high for the most part, hovering around 12; but their armor is amazing, making them some of the best units to get into close combat.
My personal favorite of the bunch is the stalwart Longbeards. These slightly expensive warriors (394 points) pass all fear checks and have some of the best toughness of the game. They are easily the center of the line, but in reality there are going to be very few weak points in the Dwarf line. The Shortbeards are the cheapest unit, but they can hold their own fairly well, although they do pale compared to the regular army. With little cavalry, the Dwarven army isn’t going to be one that outflanks the opponent. Instead, they must use archers (or the wonderful Ballista) to back up their line and simply crunch the opponent.
At first, I was a bit wary of using the Dwarves, as I felt that the strategy would be limited – simply run up and engage the enemy. But two things changed my mind.
- The first was the command card deck for the Dwarves. It has a lot of the same types of cards as the other decks, but it also has Rune cards. These cards are two colors, and sometimes they allow the player a choice of one of two options. For example, the Rune of the Wary allows a player to add one to their defense and three to their courage before being attacked OR simply three to their courage before rolling any courage check. Others give a good bonus but limit other cards played on the unit. The Rune of the Warrior gives two extra dice and two extra courage but allows no other offensive Command cards to be played on the unit. These cards allow a little variety to the Dwarf race.
- Even better, each Dwarven unit has a small box on the front of the card – the Rune of Uruz. The Dwarf player may use a Command action to check the box, which gives that unit an extra attack die for the remainder of the game (!), or until they are routed. It’s tempting to do this for all one’s units quickly, although it means that the player forgoes other options. The Dwarves can also use a Command Action to “sprint” (move 3.5 inches), but this isn’t as useful as the Rune of Uruz rune. Fortunately for the dwarf enemies, this Rune doesn’t effect ranged actions, but it does make some nasty dwarves even more annoying!
Without a doubt, the Umenzi are the most varied army thus far in the game (even more than the Undead), making them very fascinating to play. The units included in this army are the Spearmen, the Javelineers, the Warriors, High Priests, Chosen, Beserkers, Initiates, Worthy, Possessed, the Atlatlmen, the Shaman, and the Giant War Elephant.
Let’s get the Elephant out of the way first, since it’s all people are going to notice. I don’t think I’ll ever field a Umenzi army without it, if only for the sheer grandiose “coolness” of it. It’s the first “Colossal” unit in the game, which means that it is composed of two cards, is easier to hit (anyone on the table can most likely see it), and tougher to wound. It’s also “Terrifying”, which is similar to “Fearsome” from the original game, except that Fearsome units are afraid of it, and normal units make a fear check against it at “-1”. One pays dearly to get this sucker on the table (523 points!), and it’s difficult to maneuver – but who cares! It’s an elephant, although it closely resembles the giant elephantish monsters from Return of the King. It can make two attacks – a close combat attack, as well as a ranged attack from the archers on its back. If you see one of these in your opponent’s army, it’s time to weep. My new favorite unit in the game, it has sixteen hit points!
The other units are interesting, as many of them have low morale checks. However, if they are within the leadership range of some of the other units (such as Shamans, Worthy, Chosen , and High Priests), their morale goes up to a much stronger level. This encourages the Umenzi player to keep their leaders in key positions, even if they are weaker – only to encourage the other units. Berserkers don’t need to be near leaders, as they pass all morale checks. Sadly, this is balanced by the fact that they always have the Close standing order. Possessed are some of the cheapest units in the game (77 points), but are easily destroyed and get few bonuses. Javelineers are neat in that they have a small short-range attack but can also make this attack freely when making a final charge into close combat.
Shamans and High Priests are where it’s all at, however. They can be given a special “Follow” order, which allows them to move towards the nearest friendly unit – out of danger. This is nice, since they are pathetically weak and easily destroyed. More importantly, however, is the fact that they can cast one spell per turn if they were not engaged this turn. The four spells are:
- Hex: gives an opponent’s unit one less die for their next attack.
- Bless: gives a friendly unit one more die for their next attack.
- Heal: removes one damage from a friendly unit, transferring it to the caster (although the caster can heal themselves with no penalty).
- Death Curse: (only High Priests) – does one damage to a unit and one damage to the caster. This is a deadly spell, which allows you to nick away at a much more expensive unit – like those annoying trolls or Ents.
The army also has the ability of “Faith Armor”. Like the dwarves, the Umenzi may check a box they have on each unit card to cancel the next point of damage, erasing that mark instead. The Possessed and Elephant don’t have this ability, but it really comes in handy for the other units – especially the vulnerable High Priest. The deck for the Umenzi is as varied as the army, with some “Devotion” cards in it, allowing them to play havoc with the opposing army. Examples:
- Devotion of Karma – play after your unit takes damage to do one damage to the attacking unit.
- Devotion of Fury – Play to get one extra point in Power and one extra point in Offensive skill, if within range of a leader.
While I’ve talked at quite lengths about the Umenzi, and I LOVE the elephant, they are a difficult army to utilize. An opponent can easily cripple them by killing off the High Priests and other leaders, then picking apart the remainder. The theme of them is a refreshing addition to this fantasy game – that of mystic tribal forces from Africa.
Dwarves are easy to use but have more options than initially appear. They are slow, but tough and strong. Umenzi are not for beginners, but offer some really interesting combinations, and have a very unique feel.
I think I like Dwarves a little better, although I’m still sticking with my Undead army; unless I can use that Elephant. Then I’m always happy.
“Real men play board games”