I've finally had the chance to try 'Tail Feathers'. I know the game is no news by now, it was somehthing to deal with from a long time ago.
The game is set in the world of 'Mice and Mystics' (you can see an example of that game in this very blog) and it can work both as an expansion pack or as an independent game, which is certainly something you don't see everyday. If you play it as an expansion, then it's considered an additional chapter of the story (If you are familiar with 'Mice and Mystics', the game is presented as a tale, in wich each game of the campaign is a different chapter of the whole story). It takes place within the main course of events and you can use the lead characters just as taking part in the confrontation here. If you choose to play it as an independent game, then it's just a battle among two warbands, one side being the mice and the other the rats.
As we just wanted to give it a try, we chose the one stand game. Yup, I haven't even painted the minis, sorry, it was just a test game. Won't happen for the second game, but the lead mountain is still demanding!
|This is the display of the game|
Both sides have infantry soldiers and birds. This board represents the warbands climbing on trees and warring over the objective on the central tree. For this game, the final goal was also to destroy the enemy nest.
The board is quite unusual, a piece of genius. Infantry minis can only move through the branches or tree leaves, but nothing out of those, the rest of the board being just empty space, the realm of the birds. If you look closer, you'll see different areas on the branches (the nude branch, bark, moss...). Those are the tiles. We'll see more of that in a minute.
First of all, you roll initiative each turn, and then you have alternate activation of your respective units. At the beginning of each turn, you will have to secretly select a mission from your deck card and allocate some minis to it. After the unit activation, you can try to accomplish the mission you chose that turn (it can be patrolling the area in order to take enemy birds down, attacking the enemy nest, rescuing a fallen bird... We'll have some examples ahead).
Let's go step by step. I'll be playing the rats. I got the initiative and moved my infantry from my nest through the tiles of my tree. But... how can the minis move from one tree to another?
|Wait, Bob. You mean we're using this leaf as a transport?|
|Wooooo! I'm flyiiiiing!!|
The leaves have two holes, one each side, so you use the gauge (right, that plastic branch also serves to calculate short/long range when shooting!) and spin the leaf using the gauge as the axis. It's quite a fun and cool system I had never seen before :D
|Mice do the same. Wiiiiiiii|
OK, birds. Birds can move along the whole board, the only thing they have to be careful about is the tree trunks. At the beginning of the player's turn, they have to choose if they're simply flying ahead or they're turning right or left, and position the mini accordingly. Beware! As this positioning is made at the beginning of the turn, your rival can assume what you are doing, and then plan an opposing strategy for his own birds. That's why, when the activation comes, you can choose to roll dice to change your positioning in the last minute. If you pass the roll, the feint has been successful and you can do a different movement. That gives you a high degree of fexibility to adapt your tactical decisions as the turn is taking place.
|Movement is made using these gauges|
|Range attacks use the branch|
Dice system is just the same that in 'Mice and Mystics'. Swords are close quarters hits, shields are defense and bows are long range hits. Cheese give bonus tokens you can use for certain options during the game, as we'll get to see later.
|Birds can also engage in combat|
|If none of them are dead, they turn back and leave some... tail feathers ;)|
|Another combat. What would you call a dogfight between birds? Birdogfight? Hmmm|
|Chirp chirp chirp|
Once all your units have been activated, it's time to accomplish the mission you chose for this turn.
|In this case, trying to hit a bird from the ground. Unsuccessful|
At the beginning of turn 2, our respective airborne troops reched the central tree.
|A close turn to avoid stomping into the tree!|
|Swoop attack! Quite a thing, trust me|
|Ehhm... Black...hawk? down|
|Blackcrow down at the most|
|The rats take the central objective after taking the mice down|
|As the bird goes by, the rat character jumps on it, now it's a transport unit!|
|Mice unveil their mission: They put the rats nest under siege!|
Both nests have a number of damage points each (can't remember exactly right now, 11 maybe?). Destroying them is easy, you have to follow the regular combat rules, but the nest doesn't roll any defense die.
I talked about cheese tokens earlier. You receive them when you roll a cheese on a die or with a number of other events during the game. When you collect eight of them you can retrieve some of your fallen warriors in previous turns. You place them in the Reserve space and in the next turn they can go back to their nest.
|Just in time!|
But the mice had also neglected their own nest...
Another aerial shot:
|Now things look like less crowded, don't they?|
|The bird manoeuvres so the rat character can jump on the enemy nest|
|In the meantime, mice have wiped the rats out|
|So the bird leaves the mice infantry and flies to attack the rat on the central tree|
|The other bird tries to defend the mice nest against the rat attack|
|This is how it all looks like|
The rats recovered some infantry and took back their nest. They also got contro of the central tree and the objective. The whole fight was on the mice nest, where a bloody battle was being fought.
|This is all happening so fast|
|The bird kills the rat on the central tree|
At that point, the rats nest was 11 points strong and had no attackers on it. The last defender rat used the Siege mission to attack the mice nest, only 4 points strong now. Things were really, really tough for the mice...
|Right, this all would look definitely better in colour, I know, I know|
|In an unsuspected twist of events, mice take the enemy bird down|
|Finally, when it all looked lost, the last rat succumbs|
Right, it looked like there was no hope for the mice and that their nest was under constant siege. However, they managed to eliminate all the rats, so the victory was finally for them!!
I had not enough cheese, so I couldn't retrieve my troops. In the end that was the key to my defeat, though I was putting all the pressure on my opponent. I think we made some mistakes (I noticed that I should have been taking more cheese that I really took during the game, for example), but that's part of these testing games. We had an enormous amount of fun and I cannot but recommend the game.
'Tail Feathers' is different than 'Mice and Mystics' in several ways. First of all, the approach. While M&M is entirely narrative and it's all about storytelling and adventure, Tail Feathers provides quite more a wargame-oriented experience. About the similarities, of course there are a lot. The game system is essentially the same. Profiles, dice, combat... it's all the same, which makes the gameplaying really smooth if you come from M&M. However, if you don't, the game stands perfectly on its own. Rules are easy and quickly apprehensible, not many special features, and it has a solid way of developing the events. It has quite unique elements, such as the mentioned leaf transport (it was really mind blowing for me, so fresh and original) and, as you can see, provides a really balanced experience, in which both sides have their options for victory.
We still have to play it in the campaign mode, as part of the larger M&M tale; looks promising. But before, I have to paint the minis! Well, it looks like I have some work ahead...