Sellswords & Spellslingers

I finally had the chance to play two games of Andrea Sfiligoi’s new cooperative fantasy game Sellswords & Spellslingers. For the first game, Sigur, Daniel, Virago and me met at Virago’s place to try out the second scenario (I chose the second one for the game as it features an attack on an Orc camp, and Virago has lots of Orcs, Goblins and even Orc huts). Each of us got two characters, which I had prepared in advance. Our party attacked quite aggressively and, despite some early setbacks (our thief William the Wrongfully Accused wanted to ambush the Orcs and was himself ambushed) we managed to take out all the bad guys. The dwarven berserker Doomli the Depressed was especially efficient, while Hyacinthe the Helpful proved to be a completely useless wizard.

 

The game was fun, but it also felt a bit easy. However, we fought pretty recklessly, something we would probably not do in a real campaign setting. Also, I made some minor mistakes with the rules and forgot some things which, had I thought of them, might have made the scenario a bit more difficult for us.

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Victorious Adventurers

Two days later, K. and I decided to give it the rules a try at home. We both created two characters and played the first scenario from the book, where we had to cross the table to escape from Orcs. This game felt more tense than the first: We proceeded more cautiously and, although all of us managed to escape, three out of four were down to 1 HP. And I think we would have had more trouble had we stopped to loot, which we didn’t, meaning our characters are still pretty poor. We both liked the game very much and want to start a campaign with our characters.

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Amarantia and Bad Boy engage the Orc Brute

I’ve been waiting for quite a while for a cooperative miniatures wargame and had very high expectations for Sellswords & Spellslingers. After having played two games, I have to say that those expectations were not disappointed: Andrea Sfiligoi did a great job!

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Sellswords uses Andrea’s trademark activation mechanics, albeit this time with D20: To get an activation, you have to roll an 8+. You may roll up to three dice, therefore possibly getting three activations. However, if you fail a roll, you draw a card from the Events deck, which usually activates the monsters – before you may take any actions.

The fact that the actions of the foes are triggered by the players’ failed activation rolls has two interesting consequences: First, it means that there is no separate phase for the monsters’ movement, like e.g. in Zombicide. Gameplay therefore is much more fluid – there is no planning phase followed by collectively being clobbered by the bad guys, but a constant flow of action. Second, it means that the monsters’ behaviour is tied into the risk-reward-mechanics of player activations: If you want lots of activations, you have a high chance of also getting lots of monster activities, but if you play it safe, you might get no activation… And as monster activations may harm your friends, it is important to keep the situation of the whole party in view.

This is a very clever way of designing a cooperative game, which elegantly avoids some of the pitfalls of such games (e.g. by eliminating a ‘planning phase’ it’s harder for an ‘alpha player’ to determine what others should do).

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Run!

The game does not feel as nerve-wrecking and dangerous as Zombicide, but then the two games offer different experiences: In Zombicide, you’re a bunch of regular guys trying to survive an onslaught of Zombies, while in Sellswords, you are adventurers out on a, well, adventure. It´s more a RPG light than a survival game.

This is confirmed by the rules, which offer not only rules for some role-playing, but also scenarios with narrative twists. Some of the scenarios have NPCs you can interact with and it will be easy to add more narrative or NPCs . Furthermore, Andrea has already published a mini-supplement for the game, which seems to have a real storyline where the players have to investigate the strange doings of an evil Count.

I have to admit that this is something I have been looking for at the moment. Being a bit tired of dungeonmastering, especially of the huge amount of preparation involved, but still wanting to play something that feels like a RPG, Sellswords hits just the right spot. Without investing a lot of time and effort, I can devise a scenario with a little story and then I myself can actually play it together with my friends, instead of being the guy who is responsible for the others to have fun.

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Bad Boy stems the horde while Inga provides covering fire

The only drawback is that you need quite a lot of figures. Of course, you can also use counters, but the game seems to be aimed at people who already have a collection of fantasy figures. Now I’m not one of them and it may be a bit crazy to start such a game from scratch, but it really caught my imagination and offered me the excuse to dive headlong into 28mm fantasy. I’ve painted up the stuff I had lying around (mainly old HeroQuest figures and a couple of figures I got from Bad Squiddo Games some time ago) and already ordered more stuff.

If you like skirmish games and cooperative games with a bit of role-playing, Sellswords & Spellslingers is highly recommended! I’ll keep you posted on how our campaign is going.

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Dungeon of Doom – Warhammer Quest

Appropriate for my current fantasy mood, Virago invited Sigur, Daniel and me over to play a game of Warhammer Quest, the GW classic from 1995.

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Daniel took an elf wizard, Virago an elf ranger, Sigur a Bavarian Barbarian and I a Dwarf from Uberwald. Our objective was to secure a magical ring from a statue and throw it into a fiery chasm right next to the statue – no wonder the evil masterminds who design those dungeons never get insurance coverage…

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The Anteroom of Anticipations

When the group started out, they were in a very good mood, with much slapping of shoulders and chanting of “hey ho let’s go”. For those who wanted to see, though, there were some sinister portents right away – one of them being the Barbarian dying in the second room because we met a Minotaur. However, blissfully unaware of our fate, we cheated our way through this slight setback (nothing happened, carry on) and continued along the way. “Easiest dungeon ever”, the dwarf was heard to murmur.

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An evil proxy Minotaur attacks – or did he…?

When we hit a junction, the dwarf wanted to go right and the Barbarian left, so of course we followed the Barbarian. What could possibly go wrong?

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The Crossroads of Questionable Decisions

On we went, deeper into the dungeon, killing some Goblins along the way. Maybe they guarded something? Perhaps the magical ring? Or could it even be, the Dwarf pondered, gold?

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The Cell of Suspense, guarded by Goblins

When we examined the next room, however, it turned out to be some stinking chamber with a hole in the middle and no sight of a statue, a ring or a chasm. We took the wrong turn! The Barbarian turned back immediately, but the Dwarf wanted to look inside – there might be some gold hidden somewhere after all. He and the wizard charged in, only to find themselves surrounded by monsters. Lots of them.

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The Impasse of Ill-Advised Curiosity (right before the monsters turned up)

We fought like real heroes, i.e. for our lives. The Barbarian deigned to join us after a while and together, we managed to slay our ghastly foes. Unfortunately, there was no huge pile of gold. “No hard feelings,” the Dwarf laughed, “let’s go back and take the other turn!”

After retracing our steps (and getting healed by the wizard along the way), we finally arrived at our aim: A room full of Goblins and Snotlings, with a fiery chasm right in the middle.

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The Grotto of Gruelling Odds

The Dwarf charged right ahead and got stuck in the ropes of the rickety bridge. Unable (and later unwilling) to retreat, he slaughtered hordes of Snotlings. When he finally managed to cross the bridge, he immediately lunged towards the statue – the dwarf was the only one who could get the ring. The Barbarian followed suit to engaged some goblins and cover his squat buddy, but he slipped and – fell into the chasm! Overcome by blind rage, the Dwarf turned around to revenge his Bavarian comrade, only to slip and – fall into the chasm.

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The Mishap of Miserable Misfortune

Unable to complete the mission, the wizard and the elf looked at each other. “Sod this for a game of soldiers,” one of them murmured, and together, they left the dungeon and rode into the sunset.

Now this was a fun game and a great evening with friends! Everyone was in the right spirit and embraced the narrative, which reached its fiery climax when two heroes plunged to a rather embarrassing and unheroic death.

Warhammer Quest is an interesting game that was ahead of its time in some aspects – for example, in being fully cooperative without needing a game master. It has some lengths, especially if you have to  retrace your steps, but this can easily be sped up by the players. Combat can be very brutal and doesn’t seem to be very balanced. But it’s fun and the randomly generated dungeon, the variety of missions and the large number of different enemies and monsters provide it with a high replay value.

On the Painting Table

Recently, I’ve been painting a couple of 28mm figures for our RPG group and to my surprise, I enjoyed it a lot. So I decided to continue. An additional motivation was my discovery of a new game by Andrea Sfiligoi: Sellswords and Spellslingers. This is a cooperative miniature wargame, something I find very interesting. After reading an inspiring review on the Lead Adventure Forum, I ordered a copy of the rules – I’ll let you know more as soon as I’ve played a game!

This is Inga. She’s from the wonderful dwarf range of Lead Adventure and was a treat to paint. I really like the Lead Adventure dwarves, they are pretty close to my imagination of those guys, which is heavily influenced by Terry Pratchett. I imagine her to be a slightly crazy inventor and tinkerer.

In preparation for Sellswords and Spellslingers, I’ve ordered a couple of fantasy miniatures from Black Tree Design. They come at a very modest price (especially if you take advantage of a sale, as I did) and have a decidedly old school look, which I like very much.

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I’ve also finally started painting my dwarven fleet for Man O’War. First up were the submarines. The colour schemes correspond to the Viennese underground lines… who said dwarven jokes have to be funny?

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On my workbench, you can see some ACW command figures. I’m slowly building up enough miniatures for regimental level actions. I’ve finished a couple of regiments recently, but at the moment, I feel like I need a short break from the Blue and the Grey.

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Fantasy figures to the rescue! On the far left, you can see Cartimandua from Bad Squiddo Games – Annie was kind enough to give me one a long time ago, so I’m happy I’ll finally paint her. The dwarf is again from Lead Adventure and was a present from Virago. The two Orcs are old HeroQuest figures.

Happy New Year!

2017 was a good year for The Raft. In fact, looking at the statistics, it was the best year ever. Thanks for dropping by and reading, browsing and commenting! It really is very motivating to see that someone else is interested in what I do.

I know that, with the new job and all, my blogging declined a bit towards the end of the year. I hope that I will find more time and inspiration for the blog in 2018!

Looking back at my gaming, 2017 definitely was the year of Sharp Practice. I started tracking my gaming on BoardGameGeek in May and since then, I’ve played 16 games of SP – this is double as much as the next game on my list, Battle Cry! I’ve had the opportunity to teach SP to a couple of new players, but most of my games I played with K. Not only do we both enjoy it very much, we also realised that SP is a game that really profits from being played often – the more experience you have, the easier you remember the rules and the smoother the game runs along, letting you concentrate on decision making, command & control and the narrative.

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I’ve also played quite a lot of new games. Empires in America, The Cousins’ War and Zombicide are my favorites among those, but many others have been enjoyable. I’m also glad that I had the opportunity to play a couple of games of Songs of Blades and Heroes (respectively Flashing Steel) – a game that has been a continuous favorite of mine for several years now.

Thanks to everyone who played games and shared the hobby with me!

For 2018, I’ve got two new projects. One might say that the first is a natural outgrowth of my continuing interest in the American Civil War. I want to extend my collection so as to be able to play regimental-level actions. To give the collecting and painting a focus, I decided to do the Battle of Olustee. It was a rather small affair – three small brigades plus some cavalry and artillery on the Union side, and about the same for the Confederates. Also, it ties in nicely with my interest in the USCT.

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Period illustration of the Battle of Olustee

I’m still pondering about what rules to use. At the moment, I’m leaning towards Pickett’s Charge, but I also consider They Couldn’t Hit An Elephant and Longstreet. At first, I wanted to use Black Powder, as I liked the game we played at the club, but I have since browsed the rules and the ACW supplement and got a bit angry… but more on that some other time.

The second project is to paint a fleet for Man O’War. Recently Stefan, an old pal of mine, has rejoined the hobby, and he kindled the Man O’ War fever – Virago and Sigur also joined in, so what could I do? I’ve now got a Dwarf fleet waiting to be painted…

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Coming back to my gaming table in 2018!

Recently, I’ve also started to enjoy painting single 28mm figures. I’ve painted a couple of the anthropomorphic animals from Oathsworn Miniatures and some characters for our RPG group. This is no real project, as I paint what I fancy, but with the abundance of skirmish rules out there, it won’t be too hard to devise a use for the figures once enough are finished – Songs of Blades and Heroes being, of course, my first choice.

I wish all of you a great and inspiring New Year!