Some creators have a lot of trouble with nagging fans, but Fortified Niche is still small enough that it’s actually cute and helpful when our listeners reach out. In the case of Molly, she really wanted us to review
Moonstone, a fantasy skirmish wargame of fairytale combat.
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Moonstone is a light and fast game with characters that may or may not have appeared in European fairytales. With a 3×3 table and armies at most six minis strong, it won’t break your budget or your storage solutions. It’s almost nearly completely dice-less, too.
The basic objective of Moonstone is to have more, well, moonstones than the enemy by the end of turn 4. Stone placement is generated by taking seven d4s into your hand and pouring them onto the middle of your board from some height. Once they land, they’ll represent moonstones, with the number showing how deep they are. It takes one energy to pull a moonstone up a level.
Energy? Yes, energy. At the start of the turn. every fighter in Moonstone generates their own energy pool to be spent on actions. And with the energy points being spread over the fighter’s health track, it can fluctuate as the battle progresses. Generally, magical fairies are more frail, yet have up to five points while powerful giants have but two to represent their slow nature, but they can be twice as beefy, and their energy points are hidden behind a sizeable layer of ablative HP.
With two energy points, the giants won’t be running around the map. You will not be blitzing around either. In Moonstone, each mini only gets one free 4″ move – additional ones cost a point per inch. Nevertheless, you’ll still have plenty attacks, abilities and special powers to spend you energy on. After all, this is a combat game!
Melee in Moonstone is exciting. You can attack an enemy within your melee range. You draw your Melee stats + modifier in cards, then the enemy player does. Each melee card represents a combat maneuver and describes how it interacts with every other combat maneuver. It also shows tags like “Piercing.” You and the opponent reveal cards at the same time and resolve the damage, if any. It’s very good and verisimilitudeous – a lot more than any game that resolves melee with mere dice rolls could ever be.
For arcane powers – which includes any ranged attack worth a damn – you draw from the arcane deck. Or, rather, the defending player draws six cards, then you draw up to your Arcane stat. A lot of powers need certain colors to activate, and the number describes the magnitude. So you choose a card, lay it face down and say what color and number it’s supposed to be. The opposing player can then call your bluff – after all, if you said that it’s a blue three and they already has the only blue three in his hand, the situation is cut and dry. If they caught you in a lie, they can use a card from their hand. The desirable outcome is a Catastrophe card, which makes the power backfire like Perils of the Warp. But if you weren’t lying, the power works AND you can use it again with another card in your hand! This continues until you’re either caught lying or the other player believes what you say.
Moonstone‘s melee has poisoned my mind with The One Correct Melee system. I’ll remember it anytime there’s a Challenge to be fought in 30K. The mindgames involved in Arcane are also amazing – and flavorful, too. Notably, none of those systems involve dice – and the army building isn’t even point-buy, it’s just take-six-miniatures-from-your-faction. What’s there not to love?