Big news from ‘Blood & Valor‘ front this week! After almost 2 years of waiting, the much-anticipated expansion ‘End of Empires’ is “confirmed imminent.” The book has been languishing in a ‘top secret’ container aboard a cargo ship for months now, but lead designer Rufus leaked to the community Facebook page that the boat is on schedule for a March arrival in Miami. With any luck, there won’t be any delays unloading it (‘Raise the Black’ was actually snagged in Customs, with the Firelock crew having to hustle down to the docks to vouch for their manifest of ‘plastic pirates’). Also confirmed to be in this container: the materials for the WW2 roleplaying title ‘War Stories’, and the updated edition of the B&P Core Rulebook.
We’ll talk more about War Stories later, but let’s dive in to a sneak preview of B&V: End of Empires.
World War Gone Global
‘End of Empire’ expands B&V to a massive scale. Those of us in the know watched the proposed list of forces grow to seemingly impossible length, with talks about possibly splitting the book down even further. Rufus dug his heels in though, and there are now 38 new factions crammed into this 206 page, full-color, hardcover publication. That makes this expansion the second largest Firelock has released for any game, behind only ‘No Peace Beyond the Line’.
The new forces cover several additional fronts of WW1. Inside the book, you will find full forces for:
The Italian Front:
- The Royal Italian Army 1915-1918
- Austro-Hungarian Army 1914-1918
The Eastern Front:
- German Army of the Eastern Front
- Russian Imperial Army 1914-1916
- Russian Imperial Cossacks
- Revolutionary Army of Free Russia (Feb-Dec 1917)
The Balkan Front:
- Greek Hellenic Army
- Romanian Army
- Bulgarian Army
- The Royal Serbian Army
The Far East:
- Japanese Imperial Army
- Chinese Warlords
The Western Front
- The Portuguese Expeditionary Corps (1917-1918)
In addition to these forces focused on ‘The Great War’, there are also forces included for two revolutionary conflicts which occurred alongside the Great War. There is an exhaustive force list for the Russian Civil War, as well as two forces provided to fight the Irish War for Independence.
The Russian Civil War
- Pro-Bolshevik Forces of October 1917
- Anti-Bolshevik Forces of October 1917
- Kerensky-Kravnov Forces of October 1917
- Prikamye People’s Army
- Worker’s & Peasants Red Army in the Great War
- Worker’s & Peasants Red Army in the Early Civil War
- Ukrainian People’s Army
- Ukrainian State Army (November, 1918)
- ‘Black’ Anarchist Army (1918)
- Partizanschina (Partisan Movement) 1918
- The Don Army (1918)
- Atamanschina (Ataman Local Forces) 1918
- Povolzyhe People’s Army
- ‘Green’ Peasants Army
- Volunteer Army of the 1st Kuban Campaign (Feb-March, 1918)
- Volunteer Army of the 2nd Kuban Campaign (Jun-Nov, 1918)
- Siberian ‘White’ Army (1918)
- The Czechoslovak Legion
- Polish ‘Blue’ Army
- Polish Militia (1918)
- Polish Army East
- Greater Poland Insurgents’ Army
- Northern Russian Expedition (Polar Bear Expedition)
The Conflict in Ireland
- The Irish Volunteer Army (1912-1921)
- The Royal Irish Constabulary
The rulebook provides a “thousand-foot-view” to preface each set of army rules with a little bit of history. This ensures that things remain about as “clean” as can be expected when dealing with the thorniest parts of the rulebook, with Russia and Ukraine as a current international hotspot, and the Troubles in Ireland which are still in living memory. These are both conflicts which I was excited to see rules for, and I will strive for the same impartiality when expanding on the history of those conflicts for the blog.
Armored Cars, Anti-Tanks, and Guns
There are also several ‘expanded’ force options in this book, which can be applied to your original Western Front forces as well as to the new ‘End of Empires’ lists.
Firstly, all forces now have access to the Flagbearer/Musician and to the Medic as part of their command team. These minis replace the usual 2 Riflemen. The Flagbearer/Musician increases your Command Radius, while the Medic allows you to automatically remove 1 Fatigue from a nearby unit (1 point per turn, usable twice per game).
Secondly, Late-War Western Front armies gain access to the Trench Mortar Team, and all forces can now include the Field Gun Team as an option. This is of particular note for the French with their famous 75mm, but also for Early War British who used their 18-pounders in a direct-fire role early in the war; famously, both the French 75 and the British 18-pounders would be used at the artillery battle of Le Cateau.
Germans also pick up ‘tankgewehr’ teams – purpose-built anti-tank rifles firing heavy slugs at enemy armor. These rifles are going to be a boon to German players dealing with tanks and the new Armored Cars.
The Armored Car
Armored Cars are available to all forces as a Support Option, limited to 1 vehicle, unless otherwise specified. In terms of legality, they fall somewhere between the regular lists, and the tank: tournament organizers will have to decide if armored cars are allowed.
Unlike tanks, there are no specific armored car ‘units’ included in the rules. Rather, players are tasked with figuring out their own armored cars, based either on a common design such as the French Renault M1914, or cobbled civilian and pressed vehicles used during the Russian Civil War and Irish Conflicts. If you’re wondering – the beloved Tachanka horsecart machinegun is a completely different unit, and not an armored car.
Selecting from a base of either an armored or unarmored chassis, players are able to pay points to include additional armor, a turret, and even a reverse gear. Armor cars can also mount a heavy gun, or a combination of LMGs and HMGs in either the rotating turret or on fixed mounts.
The rules for the car are pretty simple, and borrow heavily from the tanks. In fact, I would think it odd for a tournament to allow Armored Cars but not the Light Tanks, such as the Whippet or FT-17. Perhaps in the future, Rufus can review the Tank rules and make adjustments to put these smaller tanks more in-line with the armored cars (FT-17s probably shouldn’t cause Tank Shock in the same way the Mark IV did, for example).
Gunboats are something that Rufus wanted to include in B&V from the very outset. Keen historians will recognize this in the inclusion of the African lists for the British and Germans. The story of the gunboat Königen Louisa (actually the Graf Goetzen) and The African Queen (the Mimi and Toutou) is a favorite for many. The real life battle of Lake Tanganyika is an incredible chapter of WW1 history.
Gunboats in B&V are designed similarly to armored cars; you begin with a hull, and then add your choice of armor and weaponry. Unlike Firelock’s other 28mm game with boats and an ampersand, the weaponry on your B&V gunboats comes pre-crewed. The gunboats can still transport units on deck, and these units are able to fight boarding actions if you wish them to.
Is That All?
No. Not by a long shot.
‘End of Empires’ also includes 4 new Competitive Scenarios, as well as 5 new Narrative Scenarios that include a Tunnel Fight between Sappers, and an assault on an Armored Train. These scenarios also make use of a new ‘Weather Chart’ which is rolled at the beginning of the game and has an effect on gameplay for the rest of that battle.
There are also rules for Multiplayer Battles, which is actually quite handy considering the way the usual bidding system broke down in large battles. Under the new rules, each side will choose an overall commander, and then average their initiative pools. The commander then bids with that amount of initiative – and each player activates a unit with each bid. This is very similar to my preferred activation method for large games of B&P, explained in last weeks article.
Of course, the book also features an expanded timeline focusing on the new fronts and conflicts, as well as a handy Index for ease of navigation. Rounded out with centerfold spreads of beautifully painted models, the whole thing comes in at a very dense 205 pages.
There has been zero information provided on cost, but going from Firelock’s previous expansions, I would expect $45 US give-or-take a few bucks. There won’t be a preorder for this one, either. That is confirmed. ‘End of Empires’ will go on sale to the general public just as soon as it comes off the boat. So, when you see it in the store, that’s when they’ve got it. Estimated shipping arrivals put that date somewhere in early March, so we won’t have long to wait! Err… knock on wood.