Bitesize battles that don’t take an age to play
War was endemic in the ancient world; history is littered with the ashes of civilisations and the bones of the slain. Aiming to recreate these fierce struggles on the tabletop, Milito sells itself as a card-based, diceless wargame for two players. The game is a reskinned version of Field of Glory from designer Martin Wallace, its main new feature being six nation-specific decks in contrast to its predecessor’s generic two.
The setup is simple. Five terrain cards are drawn from a deck of nine and laid in a horizontal line between the players. Most of these cards represent plains, although there’s also three cards for a forest, a hill and rough terrain, which all have different effects on gameplay. Each card in the line is a column players seek to control; capturing three wins the game.
Players choose their army by taking the appropriate deck. Each contains a number of different unit types, most of which are exclusive to that force. Each army has different strengths – the Republican Romans boast hard-as-nails elite infantry, for example, whilst the Carthaginians have mighty war elephants at their disposal. Each faction is balanced against the others, although the Ancient British – who lack any heavy hitters – take a bit of mastering to play correctly.
Every deck is split between leader and unit cards, though only the latter are deployed in columns. Combat is resolved by comparing the attack and defence values of two units, which are modified with a card from the respective player’s hand or top of the deck. Modifier cards are played facedown and then simultaneously revealed. Whilst unit cards played as modifiers have no effect, leader cards confer benefits or penalties to a unit’s stats, and occasionally have special bonuses for specific troops as well. It’s a simple way of adding uncertainty to combat, and revealing one’s card makes for a nice ‘a-ha!’ moment in a turn.
Milito’s rules are straightforward, though since victory is usually only a turn away beginners may need a few playthroughs to get the hang of things. The leader cards and the way that units can opt to withdraw convey a suitably ‘historical’ sense to the proceedings, conjuring up images of generals galloping behind the lines to issue orders and units attacking in feints. That said, Milito still feels like a straightforward card game with a historical warfare theme, rather than its self-styled description as a wargame that’s been translated into a card game. This isn’t necessarily a criticism, but it seems unlikely that anyone transitioning from a wargame to Milito is going to feel like the gameplay has been replicated to any great degree.
Overall, Milito is a popcorn game – a short, pleasant experience, but one that leaves little impression after playing it. If you’re a fan of ancient warfare games and often find yourself with half an hour to kill this may be the title for you, though it wouldn’t go down as one of history’s great tragedies if you gave it a pass.
PLAY IT? PROBABLY
Designer: Martin Wallace
Artist: Peter Dennis
Time: 30-45 minutes
This review originally appeared in the August 2019 issue of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.