Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Gloire - Swashbuckling Rules Review

I got this a while back while searching for a swashbuckling miniatures game - I was wanting a rulset to handle my Warlord 30YW, Helldorado minis, and my Black Scorpion pirates. I think they are by the same guys who did .45 Adventures, a well-regarded set of pulp skirmish rules.

 The combat is simple, but Gloire contains more record-keeping and stats than most RPGs.

The Shiny
 The pdf is 101 pages - a rather largish print off. It is B&W with a colour cover.  Illustrations are sparse, but I had no trouble reading through it.  The combat tables were not as easy to use as I would have liked. I found the ruleset a tad hard on the eyes.That said they were written with a lighthearted feel, and have a pleasant tone as you read.

The game uses d10s, which I approve of heartily.  The old chestnut that d10s are not easily available just doesn't wash anymore, and a d10 offers more options and more gradual modifiers.

However there is a heck of a lot of stats.
Brains (fortitude/willlpower)
Brawn (strength)
Guts (morale)
Blade (melee)
Musket (missile)
Defence Rating (damage resistance)
Weapon Strength (damage caused by weapon; compare to Defence Rating)

Models succeed in actions if their stat + d10 equals 10 or more.

Initiative & Actions:
 The models with the highest dodge goes first, then the next highest etc.  Roll d10 to see who has the initiative; which means the initiative player wins any ties (when models have equal dodge stats).

Players can perform one action per activation; a move, jump, climb,  melee, shoot, reload, etc.  Players can "hold" their action until later to interrupt an opponents' turn.

Players have "hero points" which they can use as a resource to change dice rolls up or down depending on how many hero dice they spend. This can also be used to increase the range of a weapon or move 1" per point; or increase or decrease damage taken or inflicted.  I like this as it adds an  extra element of tactics/resource management. 

 The Three Musketeers movie - hip revision or gauche travesty?
Given that Dumas was a pulp writer of his time, a little leeway is fair
Never did come at the flying sailship though...
This seems to revolve around a "weapon chart" which is broken down into range bands (close, medium, long.) Within each band, weapons are rated for Range, "To hit" bonus, and "Weapon Strength" which is compared to target Defence.  Weapons include rapiers, whips, pistols, muskets, and similar swashbuckling gear.

Combat is resolved by attacker's melee/musket + d10 vs targets' dodge + d10; if the attacker wins it is a hit.  There are also rules for suppressive fire (forcing morale checks).

Then roll a d10 for location.   If weapon strength exceeds defence rating, a box is crossed off for that location (i.e. head, torso, arms, legs).  Whoa - wait a  minute! Ticking off hitboxes on specific damage locations?  If the defence exceeds weapon strength, roll d10 and add the difference tot the roll. If the roll is 10+, the damage is prevented.  A little confusing as one minute a high roll for the attacker is good, the next minute it is bad.

To add to my ire, the game adds totally uneccessary record-keeping in tracking ammunition. I mean, it is probably safe to assume that a model will have more than enough ammo for a short skirmish, given the slow reload time of most flintlock weapons. 

Close combat allows for pushbacks, drawbacks, disengagements, repulses and turnabouts - allowing a winner to maneuver his foe around the battlefield. This adds some interesting flavour and tactical choices to fights. You can also challenge opponents to a duel.

Similar to "Flashing Steel" there are improvised actions that allow swinging from chandeliers, improvising attacks etc. In addition there are horsemanship rules allowing mounts to be jumped over fences etc, and rules for coaches.

At 21 pages the main rule section is not onerous but I am very concerned at the record keeping involved - far more than most skirmish games and exceeding a lot of RPGs...

Other Stuff
This is where the game reveals itself as a wannabe RPG.   There are animal rules, and rules for character creation.  Character "archetypes" show an immense array of skills - i.e.  a "courtier" has a dizzying 9 combat skills, 5 knowledge skills, and 9 other skills.  Toss in individual armour levels for 5 individual hit locations, weapon bonuses, and of course the basic 9 stats... and yeah.

Most RPGs are much simpler to keep track of.

Overall, there are about 30+ combat skills, 15 knowledge skills, and 20+ miscellaneous other skills to chose from, and half a dozen virtues and flaws.  You might as well get a fully functional RPG for that amount of detail. In fact, the Savage Worlds RPG series plays faster, is a lot simpler, has just as much flavour and can handle far more troops as a miniatures game.

As a wargame, "Flashing Steel" does the same job - with 3 stats, 2-3 traits per model, and no record keeping besides tipping a model on its side. It even has the same "swashbuckling" actions as Gloire. In fact it can do all the RPGish stuff Gloire can to boot.

These are very thoroughly explained and contain lots of flavour and detail. They are kinda specific though and are not generalised like most game scenarios.  "Capturing Rupert's Poodle" is not exactly as generic as "escort"  "retrieve the item"  "escape the ambush" missions most game have.

The game seems to have been written as a labour of love - it is warm, amusing - without the annoying smug tongue-in-cheek of many rulesets.   I simply wish I liked the game mechanics more....

Relatively simple rules, with interesting combat choices, are burdened with a ridiculous amount of attributes, skills and stats to keep track of, and heavy record-keeping where ammunition and individual hit locations and hitboxes are marked off.  Looking at the half-page stat sheets for each character will give you a clue of how involved it is.

People often call such games a "RPG lite" but that does many RPGs a disservice.  The Savage Worlds RPG engine would handle far more troops, more easily, with similar results AND is a fully functional RPG.  Gloire is simply a miniatures skirmish game with a lot of record keeping.

Recommended?  Try "Flashing Steel" and "The Savage Worlds of Solomon Kane"  unless you adore record keeping and intend to play with only 2-3 miniatures per side. They have the same flavour, with far less clutter.


  1. Have you tried playing the rules? Your review makes them sound hard work, yet we find that they play very well. The rules will cope with larger numbers of figures than you suggest, because they assume that the majority of the figures on the table will be Grade 1 with a smattering of heroes (Grades 2 and 3) to back them up.

    I recognise that they may not be to your taste or they may not fit the style of game you want to play, but this review does not reflect my experience of playing the game.

  2. Remember I am comparing it to a game (FS) where a typical 10 v 10 game would last 30-40 minutes with nothing to track. Some may say the skill lists and recording are well worth the extra investment.

    In that case, I would compare it to a fast play RPG. Perhaps this is unfair, but Gloire lends itself to the comparison.

    Reviews are by nature biased - there are plenty of reviewers who like that style of play - I found Gloire neither fish nor fowl.

  3. Actually the "2-3" miniatures per side WAS a bit harsh - for people who don't mind the stats, and spending the time, more like 4-6 - kinda the level below where most "warband level" skirmish games kick in.

  4. Yes, 4-6 sounds about right, more if you have a lot of Grade 1 models, because they are pretty much hit to kill. How heroic is FS?

  5. Ah, wait, I have answered my own question by reading your review of FS. SoBH is a game I really wanted to like but it always lacked something for me despite trying it several times. I think it lacked character despite the skills. Gloire has the crunch that SoBH and its sequels do not have, and which I want from this style of game.

  6. Gloire isnt my cup of tea from that review

  7. But good luck to those whom it is! Its all about enjoying what you play after all. We used a mix of RPG/Skirmish rules for our Viking campaign and loved it for over a year


  8. I don't want to imply Gloire is a bad game - I just think that other games can do the same thing better.

    Want a fast bit of swashbuckling fun with mates? Flashing Steel is many times faster and simpler and allows the same semi RPG feel with 'swashbuckling' rolls and a simple action resolution system.

    Want more of a RPG experience, with more crunch? Savage Worlds plays faster AND is a fully functional RPG with a far wider range of options

  9. I agree SoBH is flawed too. They have reused the system a zillion times. A shift to d10 would be simple to do and allow a much wider range of Quality and Combat stats.

    I personally would prefer the "Combat" stat to be separated into Missile and Melee at least, instead of being modified by skills.

    These two changes would do wonders for the lack of "crunch" in SoBH....

  10. I agree about separating out the melee and missile factors. That would make SoBH a bit more varied with Elven archers being better at missile than melee or somesuch. A separate magic score would suit me too. I seem to recall that I found the missile combat to be too ineffective when we played, which did not suit me either. One other thing was with the implentation for other periods. We tried Mutants and Death Ray Guns and just dropped it because it had so little flavour. Shame really, because I liked the campaign concept.

    Another thought about Gloire. You can download the free trial rules from the forum, which include a all the rules but none of the character building stuff. It includes a scenario (possibly two, I have not checked) and some characters, so you can try the game at no monetary cost. Rattrap does that with all its games. The link for Gloire is:

  11. I also agree that all the SoBH spin offs are inferior to the base game. Flying Lead & Mutants are clunky and nowhere near as good as the original. SoBH and FS are good, but the shooting in particular is a bit silly in modern versions. It's a case of the same game engine being reused too often, for too many periods that they were not originally created for. Lots of other companies are guilty of this - 2HW springs to mind. It's the same reason 90% of movies are sequels - probably a combination of guaranteed fanbase and laziness. They practically resell you the same game.

    I like Brent Spivey's rules (check out the Battlefield Modern Warfare review) as he seems to design the game around a concept, rather than re-hash the same mechanics with a slight change in fluff and special rules.