As announced and a bit late here is my review of “Song of Blades and Heroes”. The volume is a new fast and simple (Beer and Pretzels style) fantasy skirmish ruleset, the first product of the newborn Ganesha Games created by the italian illustrator Andrea Sfiligoi, to whom I sent a big thanks for supporting this review.
The rulebook is made of 34 b/w pages and it’s produced in two different formats, a printed version at 10$ and a pdf version at only 4$ (which is easy to be printed at home thanks to the b/w format). The book has a good editing easy to read and consult, very nice also the illustrations (all in b/w) which give to the book a perfect old fantasy book style.
Rule Core System
The rulea are really simple and easy to learn, it’s best suited for small skirmishes between warbands of about 10 fighters each. Created to be played with 15mm minis on a 60×60 cm table, it can be easily converted to any miniature scale also because all the measures are made with only three sticks (one each for short, medium and long distance).
All the fighters are defined by only two values (Quality and Combat Factor) and a serie of Special Characteristics. Those are about 30 special features which add some extra flavour and customization to the various monsters and fighters. Some of them are really strong abilities which define the “Main Characters” of a warband and can be included only in limited numbers in each group.
The core of the system is the Activation and Action rule, in the game is based in a standard “I go, You go” system and in his phase a player has the chance to activate all his minis. Each piece can perform up to 3 action but when activated the owner has to declare first how many of them he wants to perform, then he has to throw a d6 for action and beat the miniature Quality Value in order to perform each action. Also if during the activation of a piece the player fails 2 or more d6 test his turn ends. So the players have to balance the action and activation throws in order to act with as many pieces as possible but also trying to do more than one action each in order to perform more powerfull moves, also some special actions need more than one action to be performed so sometimes the risk of losing the turn is a must.
Combat and Spells
The combat system is simple and fast, the pieces involved throw a d6 each adding to the dice their Combat Value and the various modifiers (there are less the 10 modifiers possible). If you manage to double the enemy score, you succeded in killing him. There is also the possibility to triple the enemy result in order to get a gruesome kill that can shock the enemy warband morale. Ranged combat works in the same way, of course only the shooting piece can achieve a kill as a combat result.
Magic system is really basic and I think this will get a big update with the next rules expansions (like Song of Gold and Darkness coming out this September). The offensive spells works with the same mechanigs of the shooting system, with the only difference that the attack Combat Value depends on the number of action spent to cast the spell, more interesting is the Mages ability to enchant enemy warriors leaving them vulnerable to attack until they recover from the spell effect.
Scenarios, Campaign and Army lists
The rulebook includes an big list of different species of fighters and monster (more then 180 profiles), six basic scenario scheme to help players creating their battles and extra rules for Campaigns and Warband experience and growth.
Extra e Conclusions
The author included in the book a small FAQ based on the main question generated by the playtesting work, also some info about hex map gaming and a really useful formula to create new fighters/monsters.
In the end I can only suggest you to get a copy of Song of Blades and Heroes which will help you in setting up a fast and furious skirmish in a small space and in a few minutes. You won’t need complex tables, bookeeping, lots of dices and rulers. Also the very small price of the book (both the printed and electronic format) is a plus that will convince many to support the newborn Italian editor.
I’m waiting with interest the next expansions, the first (Song of Gold and Darkness) is coming out the 5th of September with new magic users, dungeon rules (also for solo gaming) and an expanded army list.
The main links for every one interested in the game are the Ganesha Games homepage and the page dedicated to Song of Blades and Heroes, really useful also the Yahoo group where you can discuss about the rules and get support from the author and the gamers.