Or: Episode #2 of "Games I don't play cos of Hit Points."
Like Carnevale, this is an atmospheric game with solid rules and a good miniature line. Likewise, this is more opinion than careful playthrough; as I mostly chugged dice and decided against buying the minis.
Now, the minis are kinda the whole point. This is a game of warbands of anthropomorphic animals. This is for everyone who liked Redwall as a kid. Plucky mice, mighty badgers, sinister foxes, wicked weasels - wielding a range of weapons, going on missions in a Mordhiem-esque campaign.
Setting & Fluff
While it won't be for everyone, the setting is easy to connect to. The animals are statted as you'd expect if you are familiar with Mouse Guard or Redwall. The minis are characterful. If it's the sort of thing that appeals to you you'll probably be adding minis to the shopping cart already. The rules work competently and logically. There is far less fluff than Carnevale but it is very clear what the game universe is.
Overhead & Rules
A bunch of d4s to d12s are needed aka D&D dice. Each model rolls a dice appropriate to their stat. I.e. a Mouse with d6 Ranged stat rolls against a Weasel's Nimbleness of d8 to score a hit. It's usually an opposed roll, highest wins but sometimes it is to beat a static number i.e. roll 3 to unlock a chest. It's simple and consistent. The dice 'explode' if you roll a maximum i.e. a 4 on a d4, or a 8 on a d8. This means weak minis like mice have MORE chance of pulling off an unexpected feat. Normally I dislike exploding dice but it seems suited to the theme.
I'm usually pro stats, but this may be a little over the top...
There are a lot of stats for each animal profile - 9 of them - which is very much bucking the trend. (Move, Strike, Block, Ranged, Nimbleness, Concealment, Awareness, Fortitude, Presence) and usually an innate skill, like a Flying. Although I'm not on the 'one stat for everything' bandwagon, a few probably could be condensed together to be honest.
Turn sequence is the usual alternate activation (like Chess). Industry standard at this point. You can hide, climb, jump etc - all the usual typical of skirmish wargames. Fighting and shooting (and magic) is just rolling dice against each other - i.e. an attacker will roll its Strike dice against the defenders Block dice. Once you've lost the usual 50% of models you test for each mini to see if it routs each turn - typical fare.
The ~30 pages of rules are familiar, clean and consistent. Very easy to grasp. However (ominous: duh duh duh) each model has 16 hit points which you need to chip away at. Only every 4th hitpoint actually has an effect (-1 modifier to rolls). I only figured this out from reading the unit profiles as it wasn't clear in the book. Many people won't mind this, but blog regulars will know this is an instant deal-breaker for me.
There seems to be a focus on hiding (suiting a game of small woodland animals) and there is a cool thing called 'heroic sacrifice' where your wound penalties become bonuses but you go out of action for the rest of the game after your heroic feat. Not sure how often you'd use it but it was a cool concept. Also, some magic spells require ingredients to boost or even cast the spell which is something I don't think I've seen before in a wargame.
Although the rules are easy enough, the rulebook was a little hard to use and needs a few illustrations to break up the text and make finding things easier.
Mordhiem for Furries
The remaining ~90 pages are campaign orientated. This is NOT a lite, token campaign but is full featured. You can upgrade your den and gain bonuses. You can be aligned to one of several factions (Royalist, Rogues, Freebeasts, Wildbeasts). There is ~36 spells to learn from six schools of magic. (6 spells each school, convenient for d6 random rolls).
The equipment list is thorough yet sensible with generic bows, thrown weapons, muskets, one handed weapons, polearms etc. Armour and equipment is also detailed just enough yet kept simple. The skills/abilities list is a bit gluggier - there's about 70 of them which waaay too much. Everything else has so far has been in the sweet spot of 'just enough detail, yet simple.'
There is very detailed injury tables (~20 results), and there is jobs your gang members can do "Wanderings" kinda random events you roll for between games to gain money, random gear and various advantages. The den upgrade choices are likewise very detailed. You can trade/buy gear and must pay upkeep depending on the size of your model (badgers eat more than shrews, naturally!).
Warbands also get Fate Points allowing them to add an extra dice to a roll, and choose the best one. This works both in-game and on the campaign rolls (could be handy with avoiding injuries!). There is also an attempt to rate/balance warbands. There are 8 scenarios and ~20 secondary objectives to add flavour and variety.
This is one of the most thorough, detailed campaign systems I have ever seen. It's not complicated, but there is a LOT you can do.
A logical, simple, consistent set of rules which I'll personally avoid due to everyone in the warband getting 16 hitpoints to record (o joy!). Otherwise, strikes a really good balance of simplicity/complexity with 'just enough' detail. The skills were the only other area I went "OK that's a bit too much." It is the sort of game that might appeal to non-wargamers and is actually a decent entry point to wargaming. It's simple, but you could adapt it into a RPG with little effort.
A very strong, fully-featured campaign. This is not the usual 'lite campaign tossed in as an afterthought" but Mordhiem/Necromunda+. It's not super complex but there is a lot going on. There are characterful minis and a clear, familiar setting.
A solid set of rules and an excellent campaign.
Random shower thought: Postage (I'm Australian btw) is now making GW look cheap compared to other manufacturers.
If I have to pay $30 P&P on top of a $60 order of cute but clunky animal minis (Oathsworn) that turns a $6 mini into a $9 mini. That's the same as GW - for a worse sculpt! Kinda kills the impulse purchase.