The air is rife with magic, so thick you can almost taste it. You spent your whole life looking for the lost and forgotten tomes of magic known as Necromolds. And now that you've found them, you're sure victory is close at hand. But even as your clay-molded golems splat and slop their way across the battlefield, you can sense that your opponent has also raised an army of golems! Do you have the tactical prowess, courage, and canniness to smash your foes into heaps of burbling clay? That's the question put to players of Necromolds, a brand new tabletop wargame from Necromolds LLC.
In Necromolds, a miniatures skrimish-level wargame, players take on the role of powerful mages forging armies of golems in an attempt to fight it out across a battlefield strewn with impediments. The real catch here, and what makes this game so unique, is that each miniature in Necromolds is formed from modeling clay (think Play-Doh, though it's not official Play-Doh). By pressing balls of this clay into spell-book shaped molds, players create their forces from scratch at the start of each game.
Playing the game is wonderfully simple, as far as wargames go. You build your army using the spellbook molds, which both press the clay into shape and provide you all the stats for your golems (more on list building in a bit). Then, each player starts with a set of command dice, which feature four symbols on them: Movement, Ranged Attack, Magic, and Wild. Each turn, players roll their command dice and allot a symbol to spaces on their golems' spellbooks. Want a golem to move? Spend a movement dice on their spellbook. Want them to use a ranged attack or a Magic ability? Spend that command die!
When two golems get up next to each other, they fight! To engage in melee combat, you'll roll your attack vs. that golem's defense, and whoever wins the roll off destroys the other player's golem. There are no hitpoints in this game. If I roll more attack symbols than you roll shield symbols in our roll-off, I win and your golem is destroyed. Conversely, if you roll more shield symbols than I roll attacks, my golem is destroyed, even though I'm the one who instigated the fight.
Golems who lose a battle are smashed, which is done by the winning player pressing their signet ring (included in the game, no one expects you to have your own signet ring, after all) down into the clay of their opponent. The resulting smashed mass of your former foe stays on the battlefield, and even impedes movement (as golems can't end their turn on the squished remains of another golem). This fun and simple mechanic has the exciting effect of completely altering the late game board state, as the map will be littered with the splattered corpses of fallen golems.
Perhaps the most ingenious aspect of this game is the way it approaches list-building. Traditionally captured through a point-buy system or a series of checks and balances, in this game list-building is all about volume. Each player starts with the same amount of modeling clay in their canisters, and that clay will be used to build their entire force of golems. Smaller, less powerful monsters literally take up less clay! While more powerful monsters require quite a bit more clay to create. When you run out of clay, you can do no more, and you've successfully built your entire army.
Along with fun clay colors that every '90s kid like myself will fully appreciate (the core box comes with neon green and purple, as you can see in the photos we took in this article), the board and cardboard cutout terrain itself is evocatively illustrated to capture the colorful, madcap energy of this game. The modeling clay works great in the molds, and the molds themselves are easy to dismantle and clean should you need to (though we rarely found a need to do a deep clean in all our playtests). The amount of clay each player is given is meant to mimic the size of other brands of clay, so if yours dries out some day you can easily replace it with a small pot of Play-Doh.
The ruleset is incredibly easy to learn, but wildly fun to play. Everything I described above in two short paragraphs pretty much describes most of the rules you'll encounter in the game. There are also added "Advanced" rules scattered throughout the book for more experience wargamers, and even simpler "Beginner" rules at the back of the book which completely re-write the rules to be extremely child-friendly.
At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, I think Necromolds is the most exciting innovation to the wargaming hobby I've seen in the last decade (at least)! While it's use of modeling clay may seem like a gimmick at first glance, it's anything but, as the Necromolds team clearly thought about how to utilize their materials in a way that deeply integrates them into the game rules. With the squished remains of monsters serving to clutter up the battlefield, and the volume of clay being all the "points" you have to create your armies, it's clear that the use of clay in Necromolds furthers the play experience. This is a wargaming experience you can bring your kids to or completely dive into with your regular group. To that end, it fills a void in the current wargaming market as an approachable, affordable miniatures game with a strong vision, solid rules, and unique approach.
Get This Game If...
- You like molding and smashing stuff in clay!
- You're looking for an affordable and approachable miniature wargaming experience
- You're looking to get your kids into the wargaming hobby
- You always wished you could make your Creepy Crawlers and Play-Doh creations fight to the death
Avoid This Game If...
- You're not interested in a lighter wargaming ruleset
- Your favorite part of the hobby is assembling and painting miniatures (though you can paint these if you let them dry out)
The copy of Necromolds used in this review was provided by the publisher.