Brave and Noble Fights – Boardgame Review
Passed Inspection: Interesting subject. Fun to play. Great value to price ratio.
Failed Basic: Typos and rules issues. Needs more editing. Ship combat should use exactly the same system in each scenario to avoid confusion. Turns can go on for far too long in the Wei battle.
High Flying Dice Games (HFD) is well known for designing games on subjects not usually covered and for extremely high value for the money paid out. As HFD library of titles expands, so does their willingness to explore many facets of military history that few games have covered.
Brave and Noble Fights utilizes the same system as HFD’s previous game A Brilliant Combat: The Battle of Manila Bay, 1898 , previously reviewed on ArmchairGeneral.com) but expands the system with rules for ground combat and bombardments. It also shifts the time period to China in the 1800s.
Brave and Noble Fights covers the final battles of the 1894–1895 Sino-Japanese War; specifically, it covers the Battle of the Yalu (September 17, 1894) and the Battle of Wei Hai Wei (January-February 1895; the latter virtually ended the war and helped create the breeding grounds for the Russo-Japanese War, 1904-05 and arguably for World War II in Asia).
Each unit is one ship or, in the case of torpedo boats, may be several ships. Additionally, ground units are one fortification or one brigade.
The game contains two rule books (one for Yalu and one for Wei Hai Wei), full color counters, an 8 ½ x 11 page of charts, three 11 x 17 maps and an “addenda”—aka errata—sheet, plus a full color cover. All are contained in a clear slip cover. If you don’t pay for the counters to be mounted and cut, you have to do that yourself. All the components are attractive and easy to read. A 6- and 10-sided die and a standard deck of playing cards are not included but are necessary to play the game.
Each ship is identified by its name and type and rated for its firing arcs, movement points, primary and secondary battery strength, protection factor and special abilities such as ramming or torpedo attacks. Each ground unit is rated for its combat strength; if it is a fortification it also has rating for its primary and secondary battery strength.
Each battle uses a similar turn sequence:
1) Initiative and Random Events Phase
2) First Player’s Movement
3) Second Player’s Movement
4) Mutual Combat Phase
5) End Phase
Each battle can last up to 10 turns before the forces run out of resources and must retire. Each turn in the Battle of Wei Hai Wei is quite a bit longer than in Yalu. Victory determination is similar for each battle.
Each battle has a random event phase, which can radically re-shape the way the battle is progressing. These events can include things like “Chinese Command Breakdowns” in the Battle of Yalu or “Severe Weather” in Wei Hai Wei.
Initiative is determined differently in the more tactical Yalu battle than in the more operational Wei Hai Wei battle. In Yalu a 6 sided die is rolled with the player with the higher roll deciding who will go first. In Wei Hai Wei, a deck of cards is used and a red card means the Japanese have actions while a black card means the Chinese have actions. The value of the card divided by ½ is the number of units that can activate—either move or attack. This number can be modified by the morale of each side.
In Yalu each turn represents one half-hour, while in Wei Hai Wei (hereafter, Wei) each turn is one week. In Yalu each ship can move from 1 to 3 areas while in Wei each units can move up to 2 areas or attack.
In the more tactical Yalu, each ship can move in the direction it is facing or sacrifice 1 movement to turn up to 90 degrees. In Wei, the facing doesn’t really matter as the scale is larger.
Naval and fortification combat is similar in both games, with each unit rolling a die 10 and then basing results (modified by environmental factors) on either the target’s protection factor in Yalu or the target’s combat factor in Wei. If the modified results are greater than the target’s protection/combat factor, the ship or fort is hit. Damage degrades the target’s abilities until it is crippled. If a crippled ship or fort is hit again, it is destroyed. Critical hits can also apply to destroy a target faster. It would help if the system for ship/fort combat was kept the same in each battle, but it’s not and this can add to player confusion.
Ground combat, i.e., combat between infantry units, is different and is based upon a card draw. If the value of the card after specific modifications based upon morale, previous damage and such is greater than the unit’s combat factor (in the rules it says defense factor but each ground unit only has a combat factor listed), the unit is “reduced.” When a unit is hit again after being reduced, it is destroyed. Both naval and ground units have the ability to repair damage, and destroyed ground units can be reconstituted as a fighting force to be brought back later in the game.
The balance in the two battles seems to be weighted towards the Japanese (as was true in real life), but the game designer provides optional rules to even the battlefield.
Victory is based upon either sinking all or most of the enemy’s ships or, in the Wei battle, causing the morale of the other force to collapse. Points are assigned for enemy units destroyed, and whichever side has the most points at the end of the game wins. A table showing how many points equal a minor or major victory would have added to the gaming experience so that, during replays, the players can attempt to get a more definitive victory.
Additionally, in the battle of Wei, turns continue until the second joker is drawn out of the card deck, and then the cards are reshuffled for the next turn. I found this created a situation where some turns lasted for over 50 phases while others ended after just 10 or 20 phases. The longer turns with more phases added to player fatigue with both players wanting to just jump ahead to the next turn to make the game playable in one afternoon.
While the “Addendum” sheet helped clarify some rules confusion, there were still other issues not addressed such as set-up areas on the map, which were referenced in the set-up part of the battle but no such numbers existed on the map itself. Additionally, at least once the set-up seemed to violate the rules against stacking over 2 units in an area.
There was also a mislabeled area on the Wei map: “L3” which is south of “L12” should really be “L13” as the “L3” coordinate also exists south of “L4.”
Also, what are the white-sided hexagons on the map for Wei? I looked and could not find anything in the rules. Maybe an index would help?
While these editing problems can be frustrating, they don’t hurt the overall game play and Brave and Noble Fights offers plenty of fun and excitement and is great way to spend several hours.
Armchair General Rating: 83 %
Solitaire Rating: 4
About the Author
A college film instructor and small business owner, Richard Martin has also worked in the legal and real estate professions, is involved in video production, film criticism, sports shooting and is an avid World War I and II gamer who can remember war games which came in plastic bags and cost $2.99 (he’s really that old)!