Brik Wars: Gloriously Ridiculous Lego Battles
There are reasons I don’t tend to play war games, despite having an unhealthy appetite for moving little tanks and soldiers around a miniature world, cackling maniacally to myself while wearing a general’s hat. The main ones are the high entry cost, the assumption that you can glue, craft, and paint more competently than an anesthetised orang-utan, the complicated rules, and the ‘serious-business’ feel of a lot of war games. These are the barriers that make me steer clear rather than dive in, if you’ll forgive the mixed metaphors implying that my car is plunging into the ocean. I don’t want to spend hundreds of pounds on plastic parts for a tiny little army, to find that the only thing I can successfully superglue together are my own fingers. Assuming that I can assemble something broadly similar to the picture on the box, I often discover my paint work makes the elven archers look more like clones of Heath Ledger’s Joker.
Once the construction is complete, I’m then presented with the daunting task of taking my hastily assembled glue splat-mess of a garrison, trying to work out how to play, and then being laughed at by veterans who will promptly slaughter my poor little misshapen troops before mocking me, filthy little casual that I am, and throwing my humiliated form in the nearest body of water. OK, maybe that last part is mostly in my paranoid mind, but if this sounds familiar, then take heart that you are not alone. Producers of games are beginning to realise that not everyone is a master artisan and doesn’t necessarily have the skill or the inclination to be a master arts and crafts-monger. X-wing, for example, has pre-painted and assembled miniatures, and no doubt others are, or will, follow suit.
Brik Wars does the painting and decorating for you, using, as it does, pre-existing models. It’s a war game that uses Lego mini figures, harkening back to the days of your childhood, when plastic people, robots or dinosaurs were pressed into pointless unending battle. The rules are available for free online, and allow you to use toys, bricks, figures and whatever else you happen to have lying around to create life and death struggles on a kitchen table.
All of this is really a loose set of guidelines allowing you to recreate the times in which you as an infant would get underfoot and cause parents to swear as they trod on painfully sharp plastic soldiers in their bare feet with the addition of a handful of dice to formalise things ever so slightly. Players are encouraged to fudge the rules, and make things up as they go along, with dice rolls determining any disagreements. The rulebook is mostly there to poke fun at wargames themselves, the front cover being an affectionate parody of Warhammer 40,000.
The basics are simple – each figure rolls a dice to hit an enemy, depending on what weapon they have (ranged, or up close and personal). They are trying to get higher than an enemy’s armour score – if they do, that enemy is a goner. That’s it. The fun comes around the edges of this, for instance the ‘exploding dice’ rule, which means that every time you roll the maximum possible with a single die, you roll another die of that same type. This means you can theoretically get an infinitely high to-hit score, and your construction worker armed with a broom might just be able to take out that dragon with cannons for eyes.
Hero units, who can pull off silly Hollywood-style feats like firing two machine guns at once while diving through the air, or surfing down the side of a castle on a shield while firing a bow and arrow, are a lot of fun too, particularly when they try and attempt an over the top feat only to land headfirst into a dustbin. Then there are red shirt units, whose sole purpose is to dive in front of bullets to save characters more important to the plot than they are.
The game encourages creativity and part of the fun is putting together your ludicrous army, units, vehicles, and the battlefield. Think Pacific Rim meets the Lego Movie, meets Lord of the Rings battle sequence. It’s all about winging it – you’re not really aiming to win, but just to enjoy the absurd carnage that ensues. Most likely your pirate wielding a shark while riding Cerberus, dog of the underworld, will be defeated by a man in a chicken costume with a cup of tea.
While you’ll immediately be tempted to amass a grand Lego army, as is right and true and the privilege of all proud Lego mini figure owners, such battles can quickly become unwieldy. Start with a small squad of between 3-6 figures each for a quick skirmish. If you really must use all the Lego you possess (alright, you must) then put together unit blocks to make movement easier before marching into glorious battle.
Building in rules where at least some of your troops tend to be better at shooting each other, trip over their own feet, or march confusingly off the battlefield and over the edge of the table is encouraged. The random haphazard nature with things made up on the fly reflects the more innocent play of childhood, and while range, siege weapons, and various other factors can come into it, there’s no place for po-faced seriousness here.
Don’t feel like you should restrict yourselves to Lego blocks and figures; soldiers and scenery can and should be made from anything. Perhaps that bottle of Pepsi can be climbed by a bold mini figure, and used as a vantage point? It could make an excellent vantage point for your sniper, who happens to be an old man with an owl on his head. Maybe those Scrabble letters can act as cover to protect your useless liability of a squad of battle droids, as they hide in terror from a bloodlust driven Robin Hood? If necessary you might want to think about having one player acting as referee, who can introduce new elements, reinforcements, exploding things, or maybe new factions when the inevitable happens and one side gets wiped out by a drunk Admiral Ackbar driving a fire engine.
This enjoyable chaos can be yours for the low low price of whatever you like – you could use those mass-produced plastic army men if you wanted. For Lego, you’re looking at around £30-£50 for enough bits to create a proper skirmish, but chances are you already own at least some of what you need. You don’t require loads of figures to have an enjoyable game, and balance isn’t that important, so knock yourself out and enjoy the antidote to historically accurate war games.
And remember; if there’s a cat in the house that has a tendency to jump on tables, try and build that in. Chances are that feline will win the game.