15 September 2014

By Fire & Sword: Armored reiters

Been painting more By Fire & Sword during the evenings, and been working on some much needed armored mercenary reiters for my lists. Reiters are one of the best units in the game imo and with  armor 6 for armored reiters they can take a beating in close combat.

These will be used for a variety of Polish-Lithuanian lists such as Courland, Gdansk, Lithuanian skirmish forces etc, but also double as mercenaries fighting in Swedish and Imperial skirmish lists.

09 September 2014

Pictures from boardgame session with the GF

Caroline loves playing Gloom so we played it again - still wondering whether or not I should purchase the expansion "unwanted houseguests" which is supposed to be the best one. And while we were in "boardgame-mode" I also introduced her to Merchants & Marauders as well as Carson City - two games that I seldom get to play these days but which I really like.
Carson City being the worker placement game set in the wild west, the similarity to games like Lords of Waterdeep being what she likes a lot and thus it was well received. Ideally you should play this game with 3+ players but it works OK with 2 as well. With 2 players you recycle characters quite a lot, while playing it with more players you end up using a wider variety of characters that help you out each turn with their special rules.

Merchants & Marauders was also well received, it has more of an adventure game tone to it with characters, quests, ship upgrades, raids, trade and of course I managed to get sunk by a pirate Sloop again (happens in every game of Merchants & Marauders....). It's lighter in tone than worker placement games, and not as competitive but still a lot of fun. I have only ever played it with 3 players, it would be great to play with a maxed out player number to see how the dynamics of traders vs pirate players would work out.

07 September 2014

Song of Blades & Heroes first impression

My buddy Thomas invited me to his new house to try out Song of Blades & Heroes a couple of weeks ago. I had only heard about this game on forums and had played but a single quick game like a year ago so I had forgotten about the rules and the feel. Thomas is really enthusiastic about the rules, and they come with a slew of expansions for various settings such as Gothic Horror.

Anyway, this will be a short summary of my first impression of the game and the rules as we played a single battle and learned the game as we played it. At the core it is a dead simple skirmish type game, you build a warband from pre-determined characters/units and fight it out over a couple of existing scenarios or something that you come up with yourself (the game also lends itself well towards a campaign format).

The game has its own twist on how long a turn is, how you activate units and the stats.

I will begin by describing units, they only have two stats and that is Quality and Combat. Quality is what you need to roll on a D6, such as 3+, in order to pass an action/combat/climb/cast magic etc. Combat is what you add to your D6 roll in close combat to see the total amount of your roll when players determine which model won the fight. Dead simple right? A bit too simple maybe? Perhaps, but only if it had not been with the next couple of things that I think
make the rules well thought out in all their simplicity.

There is no real "turn" in the game, instead players take turns in activating a model/group of models at a time by rolling Quality checks. Each unit or group of models can perform 1-3 actions per turn, which is reflected by how many D6 dice you get to roll. The more Quality checks you pass, the more actions you get. However, if you fail 2 or more Quality checks upon activating a model it is a "turnover" and the opponent gets to activate his stuff until he in turn gets a turnover.

This means that you will sometimes, out of pure tactical necessity, only attempt "single action" activations so that you don't risk a turnover (especially with rabble of poor quality). Heroes and good fighters may be well off attempting all 3 actions every time you activate them. Each action is used to move a predetermined range, shoot a ranged weapon or fight in close combat.

I was a bit weirded out by all of this but played along as I'm always interested in new types of gaming solutions and rules. The basics of the game can be learned within minutes. Measuring sticks are used to check movement rates and shooting ranges for projectile weapons and magic. The Quality checks for activation and performing actions are also learned fast.

What makes the whole thing not fall flat is a fair number of special rules that add abilities to your units. This is needed as there are only two stats in the game, and you cannot build your own units - and unit equipment isn't really described in the ways of "heavy armor and shield gives you a 2+ save". Instead the equipment and armor of a unit along with its training is supposed to be represented in Quality and one or two special rules that come with the unit profile.

Units are killed only if the difference in the combat roll exceeds a specific number (IIRC it was 5), if you score a difference less than that the enemy is either pushed back or knocked down. You also get combat benefits from ganging up on a single opponent (obviously) but having units too close may also turn against you if one of them gets killed in a "gruesome way" as the game calls it - since that forces a morale test using Quality. For each failed quality test a model flees a single movement range band.

It takes some time to get used to this stripped down game, especially if you have recently played a super detailed game like Brink of Battle where you build each character from scratch, allocating stats and every piece of equipment with care point by point. Song of Blades & Heroes is a more "get started and finish a game within an hour" type of deal that requires little from the players in terms of pre-game arrangements or list building. You pick ready to play profiles and roll some dice with simple but well working mechanics.

But within this simplicity there is enough variety and choice in tactics, unit activation and leadership decisions to make it a fun game. I can honestly say that I enjoyed the demo at my friend Thomas house, I may be interested in using my HP Lovecraft themed collection of models to play the "Gothic Horror" version of the rules. It's not a game that requires a lot from the player, and I can see how this may be very popular with people that have little time for games and want to keep their experience ready to go and quick. It certainly had enough both funny and cinematic moments where minions killed the warband leaders, and how certain characters kept failing with everything attempted. My Orc Warband was about to whack the humans real good when luck turned and my warboss got shanked to death by a lowly archer with incredible luck in the combat rolls.

I hope to get back with a more in depth review of Song of Blade & Heroes in the near future. It's a different type of game compared to most games I play, but the "pick up and play" element of it should not be underestimated.


30 August 2014

Brink of Battle: Epic Heroes fantasy rulebook review

Following the release of Brink of Battle, writer Robert Faust has been busy working on his follow up release and expansion for fantasy themed gaming. The original ruleset works perfectly for recreating pretty much any type of historical force and soldiers for skirmish games but it didn't fully support fantasy settings. 

With the release of Epic Heroes you get indeed a truly Epic expansion book, totaling 223 pages it is 100 pages longer than the core rulebook and filled to the brim with so many new profiles, traits, powers and spells that it is both impressive and overwhelming at the same time at first glance.

Not only does the book burst with content, the production value of the expansion book is also amped up, with full color print, improved graphic style for examples and in-game pictures of a variety of BoB: Epic Heroes games in progress to show off the diversity of the rules.

The book starts of by introducing new concepts to the Brink of Battle system. The game still uses the "Period 1,2,3" settings to roughly place your game within a framework for how developed the technology is (roughly translating it the period 1 being sword and sandals, period 2 medieval/renaissance, period 3 early modern/modern). 
This means that a fantasy setting can be placed in a high fantasy world, weird WW2, Victorian horror and modern Lovecraft games and so on. The book is not only "high fantasy" mind you and it's important to stress this fact.

To help players narrow down and highlight the chosen setting for their fantasy games an additional tweak called "Power Level". The game features Power Level 1, 2 and 3 traits, spells, items and powers. Power level 1 games use barely any magic or fantasy elements, and would be perfect for Victorian horror, steampunk and adventure type gaming. Power level 2 is pretty much the default fantasy setting, while power level 3 is high fantasy and includes all types of magic, crazy magical creatures and monsters as well as super powerful traits allowing you to build very powerful characters and monsters.

26 August 2014

Royal City of Gdansk infantry regiment

The Gdansk infantry are now all painted up and I finished the bases late this evening. I still have enough miniatures for two more bases but the Gdansk skirmish list allows only 10 bases of musketeers and 2 bases of sharpshooters so I will probably save the remaining minis for something different.

Very happy with this regiment and will give them a baptism of fire this weekend. Hope to get some armoured Reiters painted up as well for my Gdansk force but it's a tight schedule...

Also a reminder about the ongoing Kickstarter for By Fire & Sword: Deluge which is nearing its end with only 4 days to go!
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