For quite some time I have been interested in trying out the Song of Blades and Heroes fantasy skirmish rules from Ganesha Games. If you are not familiar with them, they are a very basic set of rules that strips the game down to a set of two statistics (Quality and Combat) and a few special rules to create a game that focuses on your tactics and not the peculiarities of the game system or the interactions of the unit abilities and stats.The magic system is similarly basic and mages only have two powers; a ranged attack and the ability to transfix opponents. The intent is to keep the rules simple but, as the author says, its not going to be a high-powered mage that is wandering the woods with a few Orcs and a Goblin, it is going to be a low-powered novice mage or shaman instead.
I haven’t played it in the past because it has always struck me as being too basic. That the author has stripped away too much in order to create an easier game. But recently I started to hanker for some fantasy skirmish gaming and once again browsed through the PDFs of the various expansions for the game and thought that I might as well give it a try to see, through actual gameplay, if the game was in fact too simple.
Oddly I couldn’t find my PDF copy of the core rules. Ganesha Games is actually quite good about replacing copies for buyers but I couldn’t remember if I had purchased them or if they were a free copy that I had been sent when I was running TGN. Since I had the cash in my Paypal account I just repurchased them and I was actually glad that I did because the new version of the rules has nicer art and is much easier to read.
I still have a few plastic Warhammer High Elf figures about so I decided to build an Elf and Undead warband. Since Elfs are typically very high Quality creatures they are usually quite expensive so my 300pt (a suggested starting limit) is only 6 figures and the Undead war band is 7. Both groups include a Magic User and a sword-wielding “hero” but the Undead war band has a few more grunts.
The Elf war band is made up of figures from around the house but the only undead figures I have are some Mantic Skeletons. Despite what I said about Mantic’s Dreadball range earlier, these aren’t actually bad minis. The detail is a bit soft but they are nice and, for skeletons, have a fair bit of armour and gear on them. Sadly they are to Mantic’s smaller 28mm scale and so they look like dwarfs next to the GW Elf miniatures.
My first choice for Undead skeleton figures would be GW’s plastic Grave Guard. They are very nice, and include a standard, but they are brutally expensive. The boxed set in Canada is $49.50 and as much as I like the minis I don’t want to spend $50 for ten skeletons. If I was going to spend that kind of cash I would splurge for the fantastic Paul Muller skeletons from Otherworld Miniatures. Those have far more character and while they are the same price, after exchange, the money is going to a much better manufacturer. If I have $50 for minis I feel better giving it to Otherworld.
So while I was wandering around at Sentry Box today I checked out the various ranges that Reaper Miniatures produces. They have several fantasy ranges (Dark Heaven, Warlord and the Pathfinder range) but they also have their Bones range of bendy plastic figures. I am not sure if the pros and cons of the range really balance out. The models are quite bendy and the figures often have bent staffs and weapons. That said, they are quite inexpensive and seem to be a great way to fill out some figures to try a game. So I picked up a set of skeletons (archers and swordsmen), a skeleton hero, a green transparent plastic spectre (it’s already painted!) and, my favourite Reaper mini, the cthulhu-tentacled Mage who will be my necromancer.
I’ve started assembling the war bands and will try to get them painted prior to trying out the game.
Now to find a willing victim to test it out with me