Flintloque is a set of fantasy Napoleonic rules that is showing up on the shelves of retailers as an alternative to GW. Comicville in Halifax and Travelling Man in Leeds claim sales have been good, although they would say that. There is also an increasing degree of awareness on the figure games circuit with 2nd hand figures turning up at shows and attracting some degree of recognition. On the other hand the concept has very little pull for the pure boardgamer with paint and terrain models being required.
The basic Flintloque is sold as a boxed set at about £20 with 10 Elf Frenchmen and 6 Orc British Rifles. There is also Deadloque, which has 6 different Elves and 10 Russian skeletons, it also contains the rules. Finally there is Grapeshot, which contains artillery rules and again a copy of the basic rules set with some additions but only 2 guns with no crew, both these last 2 boxes cost the same as Flintloque. The rules are very simple and so free form that several house rules will have to be made up before they can ever be played. To start there is no concept of who moves when, movement is probably simultaneous. A few rules have to be made up to stop models waiting until the last minute before acting or even running past the other side. Grapeshot includes the original rules exactly as in Flintloque with all the holes still there plus various options that greatly aid play. Many of these options should be put into the game straight away and it is strange that the basic rules were not updated with them. In the Flintloque set muskets and rifles both take 1 turn to reload but the rifle is far more useful. The option is given in Grapeshot to have a rifle take 2 turns to reload or 1 to hastily roll in some ball to give the same chance of hitting as a musket.
Clearly the design philosophy is to keep the rules very basic but as with the GW ranges numerous new figures all require new rules. There are figures out now that have no representation in Grapeshot such the Goblin dragoons riding lizard thingies. These additional rules probably come out the Flintloque zine "Orcs in the Hills" which used to cost £1.95 but has gone A4 and 64 pages and gone up to £4.95. Orcs comes out quarterly at best and having seen a couple of copies can say that it is well worth looking at but hardly worth buying because it is pretty darn thin. When there are rules updates these are worth getting hold of but with such a simple system it is not hard to guess some sort of solution. Flintloque is also covered in Canadian magazine MARS, issue 3 has the basic rules and could be worth a quick look on the game shop shelves.
A revised set of the rules for infantry only is printed with the manufacturer's price list and as this appears to be free (the girl who sent mine admitted that she was new there) we might as well all get a copy. The people are Crescent City Industries of High Langmuir, Kilmarnock, KA3 2PG, telephone 01563 520222. Although artillery and cavalry are cut out this version is notably clearer than the basic set and ties up some of the loose ends making it essential for any player. Rules are included for humans and as a freebee is well worth picking up.
To summarise the rules, charges are declared without which hand to hand is impossible. Charges force the target to check morale with roughly a 30% chance of passing otherwise it will run or freeze, if the target does pass then the charger is probably dead meat, hit chances at 0 range are about 70%. A figure can do nothing in a turn for a roughly 10% better chance of hitting during the next turn, perform some action such as loading or move. After that the figures fire with the better shots having 1st pop but most firing is simultaneous allowing 2 firers to kill each other. Most races take 2 wounds, the 1st seriously reduces the ability to do anything and the 2nd will kill. Orcs take 3 wounds so are still going well after 2 hits other races can take more such as the undead who are easy to hit but hard to put down. In almost all cases a single shot will not put the target out of action even in the unlikely situation that it is hit. Within every race a unit of about 10 to 20 figures can be well, average or poorly trained and in each unit every figure can be good, average or bad, there is also an optional veteran class that is close to heroic in abilities. Naturally the rating of a figure and its unit affect morale, firing and hand to hand with the good being very good, the Flintloque box has 6 Orcs based on the Sharp books, Sharp himself is very hard to stop and his team are not far behind
A rough idea of what goes on can be summarised from a recent game of 20 foot Orcs and 8 mounted against 35 foot Elves, 12 mounted and 3 guns. The Elves swamped the Orcs in melee but the Orc horse charged through 2 unloaded Elf guns. Faced by the 3rd gun and a line of infantry the Orcs charged to have the gun blow up taking out its crew and the Elf infantry legged it. I took the Orcs and handled all the rules including some fudging to handle situations not too well covered (I got firing wrong making it too effective) with 2 Elf players in about 2 1/2 hours included setting up and packing away. In summary, Orcs are very strong and bad dice rolls can mess up everything, firing does not do much and the only way to really get anywhere is to charge in and rely on numbers.
The attraction of Flintloque is that is available (at least around here), it being easy to pop into the comic shop and buy a pack or two of figures at £4 for 3 or 4 figures, slightly less than the GW rate. So much more instant than messing around with phones and credit cards then waiting for the postman. The figures do vary in quality but as a whole are pretty good, some were obviously made on a bad day, the figures are GW size about 35mm or so tall. Usually all figures in a pack are different and with the infantry there is enough variety to have all figures different in a game. There are not enough different cavalry of the same uniform types to do this, a case of too many different units each of 2 to 4 different castings compared to a good spread of infantry that can be thrown into the same unit. To cut costs I have bought a good few sight unseen 2nd hand which has lead to several duplicates that had to be sorted out with the hacksaw and Milliput, these do not look as good as the basic figures but do keep up the variety. I can imagine that a group or large scale collector would quickly run into duplicate figures.
Judging by the less than entirely trustworthy words of the retailers’ lots of packs are sold for painting up and are never used. Considering that 20 figures for each player is plenty to play with sales must be based on collecting rather than playing or the concept would peak. Artillery for example can be very powerful yet there are a lot of gun packs about, 2 of which come in boxes with all the limbers and such. 1 on each side per gaming group is quite enough but they do look good made up which probably accounts for their sales.
Flintloque has grown a lot in the last year or so from a couple of boxes and the odd blister to a theoretically decent range although getting the right packs can be hard. The same people have put out a Fantasy and Science Fiction range in the past that are now sinking but are still pushed in "Orcs in the Hills", Comicville claim that they are sending back these ranges to be replaced by Flintloque. It is quite possible that Flintloque will also peak, the basic box is certainly a once only purchase and to anyone with access to the basic rules it is cheaper to build up figures by individual packs. Certainly new packs are coming out pretty quickly, £10 and £20 boxes as well as the blisters but there is every chance that the system will get as far as it can. Reaction at the Halifax club was pretty limited, it seems to attract the GW types who are too old to play the average GW adept and want simple games. Having recently played Warhammer 40K again I can say that 40K is a far better presented and better playing set of rules. It would not be unwise to say that in a few years the now popular Flintloque may become hard to find, I am stocking up just in case.