After seeing Relic Knights at Gen Con last year, I ended up pledging to its Kickstarter campaign. While the game has been delayed (its original target was May with a new target of November), I’m still really looking forward to its arrival. Recently, a new preview pdf of the rulebook was released on the Soda Pop Miniatures site, so I’ve been spending a fair bit of time thinking about the game as I read through the rules and the unit cards for each faction.
As with many miniature games, the first thing that caught my eye from Relic Knights was the miniatures. Relic Knight’s miniatures are anime-inspired, but not chibi-style like in Soda Pop’s Super Dungeon Explore. The sci-fi anime styling encourages bright colors and figures that are a lot different from what you see in other miniature games like Warhammer or Warmachine. The last few pages of the rulebook pdf has a pretty good gallery of the miniatures, but you can also see a lot of them in this update on the Kickstarter.
Beyond the miniatures, Relic Knights has game play drastically different from any other minis game that I’ve seen. The game mechanics support a feeling of a fast-moving, dynamic skirmishes between anime heroes rather than clashes between armies. The first interesting thing about Relic Knights’ mechanics is that the game doesn’t use dice. Instead, the random factor is provided by a deck of cards that grant esper points. When you want a character or squad to perform an action, you need to be able to pay for it with the esper cards in your hand. Most actions also have boosts that make them more potent in exchange for increasing the amount of esper needed.
The other big change from other wargames is its turn ordering. On each turn, you move and activate a single character or squad. You also maintain a ready queue of a couple of units that determines which units you’ll move on your next couple turns. That approach means that you always need to plan ahead a couple turns in order to get the most out of your army. You also aren’t required to activate all of your units before activating one for a 2nd time which allows you to focus on hot spots of the board or your best heroes rather than having to cycle through every unit in your cadre. The ready queue also opens up abilities that trigger based on whether a unit is in the ready queue or even knock a unit out of the ready queue.
Beyond those big mechanical differences, there are a ton of other interesting bits in Relic Knights. Ranged attacks have infinite range by default unlike the very short ranges featured in many other miniatures games. Movement is allowed both before and after a unit’s action, so it’s possible for a character to move to get line of sight, take a shot, then move back to cover on a single turn. If you enjoy miniature wargames or even just tactical combat in rpgs, then I really recommend taking some time to look through the rulebook to see an interesting new take on tabletop wargaming.
Relic Knights offers players six factions to choose from. Each faction corresponds to one of the types of esper. The Doctrine are witches who are tied to essence. Cerci Speed Circuit is a faction from a race-focused casino world that are tied to creation. The Shattered Sword are knights in shining armor that are tied to law. Black Diamond is a group of ruthless mercenaries tied to corruption. The Noh Empire is made up of demons and slavers tied to entropy. Finally, the Star Nebula Corsairs are space pirates tied to chaos. In addition to the factions, there are a handful of characters who are tied to multiple essence types. Radiant units are linked to essence, creation, and law. Void units on the other hand are linked to corruption, entropy, and chaos.
Sample Cadre Lists
I’m going to be getting all 6 of the factions as my kickstarter reward, but my plan is to start with playing Doctrine and Cerci while my wife likes the Shattered Sword. Relic Knights supports 4 game sizes: encounter, skirmish, clash, and battle. Our first few games will almost definitely be encounter-sized, so I’ve been working on some cadre list ideas. An encounter game allows for 35 points of units and 1 knight per cadre.
Cerci Speed Circuit
- Marie Claude & Esmee (questing knight & cypher) – 13 pts
- Betty (unique) – 10 pts
- Lug (unique) – 11 pts
- Dampening Field (boost) – 1 pt
Betty & Lug are some of my favorite minis from the game, so this list is really built around them. Lug is a big robot with solid melee attacks while Betty is a mechanic with a ranged rivet gun attack. The two characters are linked so they have a lot of synergy in their mechanics. For example, as long as Betty is within 3″ of Lug, she gains armor. This cadre’s knight, Marie Claude, seems to have pretty well-rounded abilities as well as some nice buffs that can be used to improve the cadre as a whole.
- Delphyne & Ekhis (questing knight & cypher) – 12 pts
- Fiametta (unique) – 10 pts
- Hasami (unique) – 10 pts
- Psychic Amplifier (boost) – 2 pts
- Esper Condenser (boost) – 1 pt
This cadre’s knight, Delphyne, is interesting because her combat abilities are really focused on her cypher. That allows her to put Ekhis into melee while trying to stay out of it herself. Fiametta is a fire witch that has some great battlefield control powers plus a ranged attack that doesn’t require line of sight. Hasami on the other hand is a melee combatant who carries a giant pair of scissors. The leftover points buy an esper condenser and a psychic amplifier.
- Francis Malory & Quill (questing knight & cypher) – 13 pts
- Isabeau Durand (unique) – 9 pts
- Purifiers (minion squad, 3 models) – 6 pts
- Swordsworn (minion squad, 5 models) – 7 pts
This Shattered Sword cadre is a fair bit different from the other two because it has more of a focus on minions rather than unique characters. The Swordsworn are the faction’s standard soldiers who have decent attacks for both melee and ranged combat as well as relatively good defenses. The purifiers are less useful as attackers, but they can counter areas of effect that an enemy tries to use for battlefield control. Isabeau is a melee fighter with a healing aura. The cadre’s knight, Francis Malory, has a lot of versatility with the ability to manipulate the ready queues of both his side and the enemy.
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