This tactical combat card game from veteran designer Martin Wallace pits armies of the ancient world against each other in a head-to-head conflict. The mechanics of the game are not new; Milito is a revised and much expanded reimplementation of Field of Glory, published in 2013 by Treefrog.
The bumper pack of cards includes those representing Alexander the Great's Macedonians, Persians, Republican Rome, Imperial Rome, Carthage and Ancient Britons. Each of these six different armies comprises 30 cards depicting different combinations of troops unique to that army. This is a big contrast to Field of Glory, where each player started off with an, albeit customisable, identical deck. The game involves hand and card management as some cards are discarded and so recycle back into use when the player's deck is shuffled but other cards are 'destroyed' and taken out of the game. Don't worry, it's not a Legacy game and you won't actually be tearing up or physically destroying any cards. :-) Some of the seemingly more powerful units demand that cards be discarded from the limited number in a player's hand simply in order to bring them into play.
When cards representing a player's military units are placed out they are played to one of five columns. These are marked by their terrain type, and some of the special terrain hampers or hinders certain types of unit. To win, players have to control three of the five columns. This might on the face of it sound very easy: but there's a world of difference between taking three columns and holding them for the two turns necessary before you can declare victory.
As you'd expect, Milito is a game involving much jockeying for position, especially as troops can offer support to an attack and attacks can be made from flanking columns. Combat is diceless but that doesn't mean it is wholly devoid of luck. Every unit has a specific attack and defence strength, and that's open information. If your attacking unit's strength exceeds the defence of the defending unit, you win the combat and the defending unit is destroyed (removed from the game). The same fate applies to an attacking unit that's defeated, and that can happen because the visible attack and defence stats are modified by the single card each player chooses to play as a 'bonus'. This can be a card from the player's hand or one drawn blind from the top of their deck.
This combat, combining public with hidden information, is reminiscent of the use of Leadership cards to boost attacks and defence in Martin Wallace's recent game Lincoln, which was also published by PSC. If you know your unit is weaker than the attacker and you have only low-value cards in your hand to throw into the defence, you can gamble on a lucky card draw from your deck or you can accept that discretion may be the better form of valour and 'withdraw'. If a defender withdraws, their units are discarded rather than destroyed, so they will recycle and live to fight another day.
Although there is subtlety to the game play of Milito, it's a game that's easy to learn. And at Board's Eye View we've especially enjoyed the variety offered by the different armies. The six supplied in the box make for 15 different combinations. The Ancient Britons may not actually have had to face Carthaginian elephants but it's fun to set up these unlikely opponents as well as those that are more historically accurate. The variety isn't at the expense of playability, so there's a decent overall balance between these highly asymmetric forces. Just as you'd expect, the art by Peter Dennis adds hugely to the flavour and the game's visual appeal.
Shown here is a preview prototype of the game. Milito is now live on Kickstarter. Click here to view the campaign and back the game.