World War I is, inarguably, one of the most pointless and disastrous wars in human history. But what if it got worse, with the Moon breaking apart, bringing back old gods and their blood-soaked magic into the field? What if the Great Powers still clung to their trenches even in the face of – and themselves enthusiastically deploying – supernatural monsters? Then the result would be something akin to
A War Transformed , a World War I miniature wargame by Frederick Silburn-Slater, published by Osprey!
Listen to the Fortified Niche episode.
A War Transformed takes place in 1918, but a much weirder 1918. Magic is everywhere. The Doggerland bridge joining the British Isles and the rest of Europe is resurfacing. Moon’s gone. The great powers are still fighting each other. Americans are joining up to fight anyone for anyone. It’s a bit of a trench-and-magic mess.
And so is the game itself! A War Transformed uses mostly d6s, but d10s crop up in several places. You also have templates and scatter dice. Martial Skill is the only stat that’s not a number – it uses tables. Martial Skill also only affects melee and rifle fire – SMGs and machineguns just have their own tables, operator skill be damned.
Trying to untangle it all has lead to A War Transformed being our longest episode in some time. There’s just so much to talk about as the game spirals out of control. For example, it features morale mechanics plucked from five different games – and they mostly don’t interact with each other!
We also talked about the more fanciful parts of the background. And I’m not talking about magic. No, what’s more notable is that a moon-shattering catastrophe and the emergence of bloodthirsty old gods does not stop WWI. The world governments are largely unfazed by this, the populations just shrug and move one. All socialist sympathizers are crushed by falling pieces of Moon rock, I guess, because neither the Tzar nor the Kaiser are in any peril. The countries are more stable than ever (though the magifash Freikorps is now also a thing), historically speaking.
Granted, not everything is doom and gloom with A War Transformed. For army building, it combines generic unit roster and special country additions to give armies flavor. Everyone can get infantry squads and maybe an armored car – but only the Brits can bring in Mk IVs. Only Americans have Gunslingers that bring trick shooting to the trench. Only the Russians can have a tachanka. Only…
Of course, you can’t see it in the screenshots, but the art in A War Transformed is great. It’s dynamic, it’s evocative, it sets the mood perfectly. While the editor should have really spent more time ironing the book the out, the artist is unimpeachable.
In the end, A War Transformed is a big ol’ mess. Sure, it’s the first miniature wargame title for the author. But it feels very much like a game that was designed after playing mostly Warhammer 40,000 and then trying to do it better. And that just doesn’t cut it