As schoolchildren, we all learned of the great general Moleon II and his many victories over the mice and capybaras of the Mare-Civitas city-states. Now you can relive those historic battles on your own tabletop with Brushfire, an indie miniatures game designed for both fast skirmish and deep campaign play.
There are tons of miniatures games out there, but virtually all of them involve World War II, giant robots, or death orks. Brushfire, by On the Lamb Games, is something else entirely, concerning itself with anthropomorphized animals living in a society and with a level of technology vaguely based on our world’s 19th century. Inspired by the Redwall series and other sentient-animal-based literature, Brushfire is backed by a deep and twisting chronology outlining the latent conflicts between various empires, all made up of rats, rabbits, dogs, hamsters, badgers and other critters.
The combat rules are fairly straightforward and contain no huge surprises for anyone familiar with other miniature war games. Units have stat cards, movement and line-of-sight are measured with measuring tapes, and D10s are rolled to see if attacks succeed. Units can move and act individually, but you can also group like units into squads which move and attack together. Squads can be arranged into various formations which give them situational advantages, a nice touch that adds tactical depth. There are also hero and exemplar units that have additional special abilities and benefits. Playtesting went smoothly, and we were able to scale up from the quick start rules to more advanced scenarios with little difficulty.
Most mini games use a point system when building armies so that each side is fairly equal in strength. Brushfire uses three types of resources for army building: food, lumber and gold. Different units and unit types require different types of resources to recruit. That makes army building more interesting, and it has major implications for longer campaigns.
In fact, the campaign system is one of Brushfire’s major strengths. You can play out single battles in a variety of ways, competing for objectives, creating unbalanced “hold the fort” scenarios or just fight until only one rodent is standing. In a campaign, you create a map showing multiple regions or tiles, some of which are under the control of various rodentia empires (you can see a gallery of some painted Brushfire minis here). In a battle, the armies fight for control over a particular map segment. The tiles generate resources, which players can then spend to recruit and improve their armies. They can even improve their regions of the map, building forts, cities and other upgrades. It’s the kind of campaign system my friends and I invariably try creating for any miniatures game we play, so it’s very nice to see one built into the game.
I mentioned the ability to improve your armies — hero units can be “leveled up” to gain improved abilities, while other units can be equipped with better weapons and armor. One of the things I disliked about Brushfire is that all of the equipment is listed in the main rulebook or in a free PDF. It would be nice if at least basic weapon stats were listed on the unit cards so you didn’t have to keep looking them up. Still, customizing your units with new gear is a cool feature.
Brushfire is an old-school miniatures game — the minis are unpainted metal. Most of them require some assembly, and putting together metal minis does require some special supplies (easy to find at a hobby shop). Although I am not an expert on metal minis, I found them to be of high quality and nicely detailed.
The easiest way to jump into Brushfire is by buying a pair of warband packs. These sets come in a plastic case with a set of minis of a particular faction, along with the quick start rules, the stat cards and some ten-sided dice. The full rulebook, available as a PDF or paper version, contains more detailed rules along with the campaign rules. The bulk of the book is filled with stats on every unit available, along with a ton of fictional history about the political squabbles, bloody battles and charismatic characters of the Brushfire world. It is, frankly, rather amazing to see the level of detail that’s gone into writing this faux history of anthropomorphic warfare. They even produce PDF newspapers detailing in-world events.
If you think Brushfire looks interesting, the official website has more info and ways to purchase warbands and units. If you’re on the fence and need one thing to push you over, all I have to say is: Hamster Berserker.