1815, Scum of the Earth is a game I’ve been impatiently waiting for since I first heard about it. I’ve played and loved 1066, Tears to Many Mothers, which is a fabulous asymmetric two-player reenactment of the Battle of Hastings. The theme, gameplay, and artwork all bind together to make a deeply satisfying gaming experience whilst making you feel like your learning something along the way. You almost feel like you’re there. This was largely down to designer Tristan Hall’s painstaking research, scouring the Doomsday Book, and bringing the people mentioned within to the table. I remember first meeting him at the UKGE and being entirely caught up by his enthusiasm for the project.
Tears to Many Mothers has now expanded into the Historic Epic Battle System (HEPS), which drives Scum of the Earth, Tears to Many Mothers, and also 1565, St Elmo’s Pay, which takes place during the siege of Malta. Scum of the Earth pitches the French against the English, Wellington v Napoleon, and is looking for Kickstarter funding right now. I can’t wait to get involved.
New to Kickstarter? Check out our crowdfunding primer.
Being Geek 2.0
I’ve talked about the influence my dad had on my geek-life a few times. He was a huge geek, being an actuary, Lord of the Rings fan, and player of Napoleonic wargames. He was a Waterloo nerd, and I have very fond memories of looking through his books, opening up his boxes of miniatures, and playing very basic reenactments on our old home computer. When I first heard about Scum of the Earth, I was really looking forward to showing him the game. Due to the advanced nature of his Parkinson’s, we wouldn’t have been able to play, but I knew that showing him the amazing artwork and looking at the catalog of key figures on the cards would have brought him great pleasure. Sadly, it wasn’t to be. Dad passed away in 2020, so I’ll never get to share the glory of Tristan’s research and gaming ambition. Nevertheless, I can’t look at this project and not feel a bond with it.
What Is Scum of The Earth?
I have no direct experience of playing Scum of the Earth, but I have played some Tears to Many Mothers, which uses the same core mechanics.
The game is entirely card-based and comes with 154 cards, half each for Napoleon and the Duke of Wellington. There are also some tokens, used to track damage, a first player marker, and a dial for solo play. The game is ready to play out of the box. There is no deck-building or card collecting. One box contains everything you need to play a 1 or 2 player game of Scum of the Earth.
In a two-player game, one person takes the role of Napoleon and the other the Duke of Wellington. In a departure from previous iterations, you can combine two sets, and also add in Marshal Ney and General Blucher to make a four-player experience, which is an entirely cool idea and makes me seriously consider pledging for two sets!
If you want a full look at how 1066, Tears to Many Mothers works check out the video below. Scum of the Earth will work in much the same way. There is also a Tabletopia version of Tears to Many Mothers ready to play now and the most up-to-date rules can be found here.
I think the key concept for Hall’s HEPS games is that every card represents a real person (or type of person) that existed at the time the battle depicted took place. It really adds to that feeling of authenticity and pushes the game from abstract recreation to something more real-world and meaningful. If you win with the French, it will feel like you’re actually altering history. Winning with Harold at the Battle of Hastings felt like you were rewriting bad luck and rewarding the Saxons for their heroic march up and down the country.
The other thing I love about the game is the objective scenarios. Each side has several scenarios they must complete before they get to the final battle — in this case, Waterloo. It’s important to keep your objectives in mind, as being late to the battle can be disastrous for the final conflict. In Scum of the Earth, Waterloo takes place over three frontiers, Hougoumont, La Haye Sainte, and Papelotte, just as the real battle was.
This again evokes great nostalgic memories for me. I remember being fascinated by the sound of the words “La Haye Sainte,” having had almost no exposure to French at the time. The words roll around your tongue as you say them. I also have very fond memories of my dad trying to explain to me the significance it gave to the battle; young me couldn’t really understand why they were fighting over a farm. My dad had a plastic model kit of the farm that it feels like he was building for most of my childhood. He didn’t have the time to indulge in his geeky pastimes as I do, but I do remember us trying to make replacement plaster of Paris parts out of Linka. Nowadays, we could probably just 3D print the lot.
Tristan Hall’s HEPS system is a proven success. All the games of 1066 that I have played have come down to the wire. The artwork of the games is incredible, and the love and detail put into each and every card can only be admired. I have deeply personal reasons why this looks to be the best of the games so far, but who isn’t tempted by the possibilities of playing as Napoleon? (Personally, I was always taken by the Prussians — another word thing. The existence of “Prussia” fascinated me.)
And the fun doesn’t stop there. The Kickstarter campaign will also allow you to pick up the other sets in the HEPS system, and they’re all compatible with each other. Fancy seeing if Harold can beat Napoleon? You can do that. Want to try William the Conqueror v the Emperor of France? You can do that too. With additional sets, you can also take advantage of the new 3 and 4 multi-player rules using any of the leaders. And this, hopefully, won’t be the end. Towards the end of the campaign description, there is a list of possible future projects, including Agincourt and the American Civil War. Such is the flexibility of the HEPS system; the only limitation is the amount of research that can be carried out by Tristan and his team.
If you like well-designed games that really capture the moment in which they are set, you should definitely be checking out the 1815, Scum of the Earth Kickstarter.
All artwork included in this review is the copyright of Tristan Hall.
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Disclosure: GeekDad received a copy of this game for review purposes.