Qin: The Art of War
Publisher: Cubicle 7 Entertainment Ltd.
Page Count: 144
Release Date: 1/7/2013
Price: $17.99 (PDF)
Where to get it: DriveThruRPG
Qin: The Art of War is the latest supplement for Qin: The Warring States, a role-playing game set in a mystical, ancient, and tumultuous China. This is the first supplement for Qin in almost a year, and only the fourth one even though the core book has been out (in English) since 2006. However, it is a welcome addition to the collection. Let’s jump in and see what the book has to offer.
Insert Any One-Liner About War Here
“War, what is it good for?” or “War, war never changes”, something like that would be appropriate here because this book is all about war. I don’t think there are many games where war is featured or focused on (well, except for Only War of course), and less where all aspects of war in the game get treatment in a comprehensive supplement book. This book is 144 pages packed with information about waging war in the Warring States (makes sense, eh?).
There are three major sections to the book, followed by a few smaller sections. The first is a roughly 40-page discourse on all aspects of war from troop recruitment to soldier life to sieges and tactics. It’s fascinating, and the information is well-presented with an ongoing narrative of flavor fiction throughout. This section is light on stats and rules, but explains a lot about the vagaries of war and covers many different topics, even fighting on the sea.
The next section is roughly the same size as the first and covers the forces for each of the seven states individually: Qin, Qi, Zhao, Chu, Yan, Wei, and Han. Again, all of the information is very interesting and I feel that this section, more than the core book or any of the other supplements, fleshes out the other states of the Zhongguo and gives the reader an idea of what these states’ political goals are as well as some hints of geography and social structure. Each state gets a breakdown of forces like infantry, cavalry, archers, engineers, commanders, and so on. There are also a few special characters given that are generally powerful leaders or high-ranking officers. One cool thing about this section is that there are descriptions of elite units and/or special units for each state like spies, alchemists, and saboteurs.
The third section is about 25 pages and contains the bulk of the actual rules pertaining to mass combat and the various activities surrounding battles and sieges. According to these rules, battles will occur via a series of “battle turns” where each general gives orders to his troops. These orders are as simple as attack, retreat, hold, and fire. What spices these up is that the general can attach “battle techniques” to these commands according to their “art of war” skill. These techniques are attached to a basic technique (move, attack, etc.) and command the unit to do something special like feint, concentrate fire, encircle, and a plethora of other special maneuvers. This is, in a word, awesome. I have never seen a book tackle mass combat like this in a role-playing game. I’m not saying it isn’t out there, I just can’t think of a book where I’ve seen it done. I was very impressed by this whole section.
Battlefield Advice and Adventures
The last three sections of the book are small and consist of game master advice and a few adventures. The advice consists of ways that the characters can be involved in an army and how they can perform some sort of task or service according to a rank they hold within the army. Armies have spaces for all kinds of characters besides strictly martial ones, they need alchemists, engineers, diplomats, and even magicians. This section goes over what the different components of an army would do during each stage of a battle, and how each tier of leadership functions during those periods of time. There are also several different types of missions suggested for army troops like disaster relief, escorting, and guarding.
Next up are two adventures, one dealing with barbarians in a desert region of the Zhongguo and the other has the players commanding a small Qin force to hold a southern border region. Both are well-written and thought out, providing some excellent material to get players familiar with the combat rules. The last few pages of the book are some excellent reference tables, an army sheet (like a character sheet for an army), and an index.
This Book is Awesome
I can’t hide my feelings about this book, it’s awesome. Not only is it well-written and presented, just about everything in it is useful and interesting. I have often considered how fun it would be to have players take part in a large-scale battle instead of the skirmishes that are so commonplace in role-playing games most of the time. This book seems to put forward simple but engaging mass combat rules, and tons of information on experiencing army life from all levels of leadership. For me, this book could be useful outside of Qin as well, I would definitely look to these sensible rules for mass combat in other low-technology games I might run, like just about any fantasy game. The adventures included are icing on the cake, as I would greatly enjoy the rest of the supplement even without those.
Qin seems to have gotten some nice attention in the last two years, but I think the core book is long overdue for a second edition. I hope that the continual release of quality material such as Qin: Art of War will signal further support for the game and (I hope I’m not the only one thinking this) a revised or second-edition rulebook. Here’s to Cubicle 7 and the crew for another great product!