Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Down in the dungeon with Song of Blades and Heroes

I got back into gaming through Ganesha Games' Song of Blades and Heroes, which I bought to play with my kids. Since I gave my son a batch of painted miniatures for his birthday a few years ago, we haven't looked back.

We hadn't played SBH for a few months, but last night, we got a dungeon-based skirmish going. My son laid out a quick dungeon using D&D tiles, and then we identified a couple of areas (a temple and a sorcerous circle) as objectives. We assumed a god's eye view, just to keep things simple, and marked out a few areas for wandering monsters. Then battle commenced.

Wandering monsters are a regular feature of our SBH games, reflecting creatures drawn by the noise of battle or the prospect of carrion. What we usually do is have each player roll a d6 at the end of their turn. If it's a six, a monster turns up. Before each game, we set up a row of six monsters, so when one appears, we roll a d6 and take the appropriate one (rerolling if that monster has already been used). A 'monster' could be a wandering owlbear or a band of goblins or anything else from the deepest recesses of the Cabinet of Shame. They typically attack the nearest player-controlled characters, with the other rolling for them. Each monster (or group: they act as one) rolls activations on three dice; two failures does not end the monsters' turn, as each individual or group is treated separately. The monsters are generally inimical to each other.

This works pretty well - especially with the more spectacular monsters. In the past, we've had some climaxes reminiscent of Harryhausen films in which two monsters fight to the death. In one memorable game, these monsters had killed or driven off all the player-controlled characters, so what began as orcs versus lizardmen ended as griffon versus tyrannosaur.

In last night's game, though, we decided that all the dungeon monsters would be on the same side. As the game progressed, we got through the whole batch: a mindflayer, a demon, a gorgon, an alzabo, a flesh golem and a meriod. As the mindflayer ("brain eater" in the Song of Gold and Darkness book) had the Leader trait, the other monsters benefited from his presence when they were nearby.

In the battle between orcs and snakemen, the orcs eventually prevailed, helped by greater numbers and the presence of two leaders. But it was a close-run thing - and a nice way to dust off a superb ruleset again.

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