Last week I bought myself Song of Blades and Heroes by “Ganesha Games”. I planned myself a rapid and fast fantasy game I can enjoy playing with my son that would not require a hundred rules and complications. I already posses loads of fantasy figures packed around in my collection from all kind of firms, and decided to get a system that could make me pick up a pair of them to play.
After a little research, it seemed that Song of Blades and Heroes (or SoBH) fit the bill nicely. I like to learn the rules before teaching them, so after a quick read through I loaded up Battle Chronicler (great, free battle reporting software) and ran a quick game to get the feel of the main mechanics. Once I had those down, my daughter and I played a game on my study floor with a handful of figures from a boxed set of Fantasy Armies.
She enjoyed it, as did I. So I went back and bought a couple of supplements. Yes, I know, I’m addicted to buying rules.
What was especially fun, was that she set up the scenario, involving Orcs and Dwarves fighting over treasure guarded by undead creatures. It was great fun to play, and the Dwarves won the day. Considering she is just 6, she has a great imagination that was a joy to watch. Although I do take full credit for feeding it.
After we finished I thought I’d tweak the forces to add magic users and some more intricate rules, and have a go myself. And so Orc Chief Teef Ghoulax marched his forces against Dwarven King, Lars Longbeard to see who could get their greasy paws on an ancient artefact that lay in the ruined hall of Fallsdale.
I am playing on an area about 3 feet by 3 feet. The warbands consist as follows:
- Chief Ghoulax – Orc Warchief, Quality 3+, Combat 4, Leader, Tough (100 points)
- Shaman Snake-eyes – Orc Shaman, Quality 4+, Combat 2, Magic-User (38 points)
- 2 x Boar Riders – Boar Rider, Quality 4+, Combat 3, Mounted, Long move (47 points each)
- 4 x Orc Warriors – Orc Warrior, Quality 4+, Combat 3 (23 points each)Dwarf King Lars Longbeard – Dwarf Commander, Quality 2+. Combat 4, Leader, Fearless, Short Move (95 points)
- Gars Gunthermann – Elite Warrior, Quality 3+, Combat 4, Steadfast, Fearless, Short Move (46 points)
- 3 x Dwarf Warrior – Dwarf Warrior, Quality 3+, Combat 4, Short Move (34 points each)
- 3 x Dwarf Crossbows – Dwarf Crossbow, Quality 4+, Combat 3, Short Move, Medium Shooter (24 points each)
They are around 315 points each warband.
Now the scenario requires them to reach a possible treasure location, use an action to search and roll a dice, with a result of 5-6 indicating the location of the artefact. On a roll of 1 the searcher has disturbed the dead of Fallsdale and 2 skeletons rise up to attack. The skeletons will always use one action dice and will attack the closest creature.
If two locations have been searched, the treasure is automatically in the third. The magic item requires 2 actions to pick up and can then be used by the person who grabbed it.
Victory points are scored at 1 for every 25 points of defeated enemy troops (either routed or killed), and 5 points for securing the item.
Orc Turn 1
The Orcs have the initiative and move first. As they are more then 2 long moves from the enemy, they can take a free move. As they outdistance the slow Dwarves, they figure this is a good idea and surge forwards.
The Orcs move a medium move (12 cm), while the Boar Riders have a long move (18 cm).
Note that I am not moving troops willy nilly. Song of Blades and Heroes is very strict on the fact that movement must be in a straight line using a measuring stick. You can move some or all of the distance, but you can’t move part of it, change direction and move a bit more. What I have decided for the sake of simplicity (and because the rules do not state otherwise) is that you can choose your facing before and after your move. So I can angle the figure, move, and then face any direction I choose after.
The rules don’t say you must spend an action to change facing – and this method keeps with the spirit of the game, as well as having the right feel for a fantasy skirmish wargame. Also, Battle Chronicler has a tendency to draw curved movement lines, and I didn’t want you to think I was breaking the rules.
Dwarf Turn 1
The Dwarves shamble forward. They all move at Short speed (just 7.5cm), meaning they are going to struggle to reach those treasure locations before the Orcs do. Again, the Dwarves are using a free move. While it doesn’t get them too far up the table, it does ensure all the troops move up, rather than risk rolling and have only a couple move forwards.
Orc Turn 2
The Orcs know the free moves are fast running out (once you reach 2 x long measures of enemy troops you can no longer use free moves). So they grab what is probably the last one. They have opted to split up, with the Boar riders heading to one treasure location, and the foot troops moving to the other with the leader.
Leaders are important as they provide bonuses to Quality and Morale. The Quality bonus is really important to Orc activation (as they only activate on a 4+ and with a leader this becomes 3+, making 2 dice activations far more feasible). Also, the morale will keep the force together longer. Given the fact that the Orc leader is Tough makes him really hard to kill, so he can get in the thick of things without too much worry.
Dwarf Turn 2
Now I need to make some decisions. The Dwarves can’t take free moves. While they are just outside the double long measure distance, their troops would only move a couple of centimetres before reaching the distance that they would have to stop. Troops are not allowed to move within 2 long measures of enemy troops – so using that would be pretty pointless as it would just gain me a centimetre or two.
So if I am going to activate the Dwarves, I need to make some choices. Ideally, I would begin with those that have the greatest chance of activation – essentially borrowing a tactic from Bloodbowl in which you make the safe moves first.
In Song of Blades and Heroes you must attempt to activate your troops to perform actions. You can choose to use one, two or 3 dice to do so, rolling the troop’s quality rating or above in order to be successful. Each dice that scores a success allows an action. However, if you score two or more failures, your turn ends and passes to your opponent.
That creates “battlefield friction” wherein you don’t really know how long your turn is going to be. You can play it safe with one dice activations, but then you are either going to move or attack – as each one is a separate action.
Now, the Dwarves are pretty good at doing what they are told – and have a quality of 3+, except the crossbowmen who are 4+. So the odds of getting these guys to move around is pretty good. I(n addition, if they are within 1 long distance of a leader model, they get a +1 to their Quality for activation purposes.
You can see in the above image the radius of command for the Dwarf leader, the green bar being the distance of a long move (I use a yellow one for medium and a red one for short). That means the Dwarf warriors and Elite get a +1 to their quality.
However, I have also realized I’ve made a tactical blunder. By sticking the crossbowmen on the wings, they won’t benefit from the +1 as they are out of the leader’s radius. And as they activate on a 4+, they are not going to do a lot of shooting. Oh well, you learn as you go.
I start with the elite warrior, rolling 3 dice. A result of 1, 4 and 6 allows him to have 2 actions. He makes a double move. I do the same with Dwarf Warrior one, scoring 3, 3, and 6 and he could make a triple move. However, that would leave him exposed to the Orcs, so I decide to keep him by the elite warrior.
Dwarf Warrior 3 rolls 1, 1 and 6. Disaster! He activates for one action, but then the turn passes to the Orcs.
The Dwarves move rapidly, but then lose the turn.
Well, sometimes the gamble pays off, and sometimes it doesn’t.
Second part of post coming soon. I was too busy so couldn’t finish it all today. It will be completed in next few days.
Stay tuned guys! 😀