Review Dated: 11th, March 2002
Reviewer’s Rating: 4/10 [ Just shy of the mark ]
Total Score: 4
Average Score: 4.00
No. I think not. This book really failed to bring me any value for money. I found the content all too simplistic and patronising. You might as well skip straight to page 137 of a 144-paged book and start reading the mechanics for mass combat. Whereas I can that see some effort has been put into these rules they just don’t sit well with me, they’re rather like the battle rules from GURPS but with all the nice touches taken out. In comparison to the Open Mass Combat System in The Quintessential Fighter the system in War really isn’t up to much.
Even as the book began to irate me more and more I wondered whether I was being too harsh on it. The fact that armies require supplies is not new and interesting information for me, the fact that those warriors who ride horses into battle are called cavalry is just as obvious. I know that people go to war for king, country and religion. This is all schoolboy stuff for me. It’s also the first 40 pages of the book. If War had attempted to help me integrate the unique fantasy aspects of warfare then everything would have been made right. I mean, for example, are cavalry any more effect against dwarfs? By how much? How huge is the impact of a wizard in the battle? Does it depend on the number of rival wizards? War asks these questions but the bugger of a book doesn’t care to answer them. Why did I pay for it then?
Chapter Two doesn’t get any better. Here come the standard new feats and prestige classes. I think there’s a rule somewhere that says you have to include a new feat in every OGL book you write. The contents here range from uninspired to entirely out of place. Power shot or power throw, are two sample feats. I think there must now be over a hundred different minute variations on Cleave. “Swarm Attack” is a feat that one person can use himself but having someone else as an ally (who doesn’t even need the same feat) comes in handy. The prestige classes are worse. A humble footman is, it seems, worthy of becoming a prestige class. When has being one of the masses counted as belonging to a prestige group? Mercenary Captain’s a prestige class, at least that’s a more elite job title, however, do you have to captain a group of mercenaries in order to count as a mercenary captain? Can you count as a Mercenary Captain when you’re just a Lieutenant? Just why is the “Epic Athlete” a prestige class in a book about war?
Chapter Three, the Siege, is only slightly better. They’re proud of their work on siege engines and I suppose that mini section is one of the sparks of light in the book. The rest of the chapter might not have been there. As with the awful first chapter War asks questions like “how important are walls when the invaders can simply fly over them?” and typically never answers them.
War magic comes next. It comes with some made up War gods that are randomly suited to your campaign. There are some new domains like “Conquest” and “Tyranny” but most of the space here is given over to re-printing the domains from the Player’s Handbook. Good luck to you when you find yourself trying to explain how the Tyranny domain is any different to the Evil domain. There’s a tiny collection of new spells and magic items. If you can’t think up your own then these will be useful.
Finally the last chapter fluffs itself up with useless rambling about reasons why different wars might start and why characters of differing alignments might join them. Chaotic neutral characters go to war because they feel like it. Well, thank you, that’ll make my story more convincing.
War isn’t all bad, it’s just mostly bad. There are some nice suggestions in there (always the vague suggestions though – never any real help in implementing them) such as the levels of magic waning or waxing after a long battle. You’ll read these once and then never be able to find them again. War used gigantic font (which further adds to the feel that you’re reading a bad school book) and long rambling paragraphs. If you buy War then you’ll reap the advantages of buying an AEG book. It’s a robust product, the pages aren’t going to flutter out and escape from the spine (although you might feel the urge to rip out all the filler in it yourself). The artwork is pretty good too and is especially useful for the pictures of the siege engines. I thought it was a shame that there were no pictures of armies clashing; the biggest battle depicted in War is of a tiny village being ransacked.
AEG has a very good reputation but it dropped the ball on this book.