Last week I was down at the club again. While Virago and Annatar continued their Sharp Practice saga, Sigur and I had a game of Advanced Songs of Blades and Heroes. I was familiar with the basic concepts, as I’ve played Flashing Steel, which is based on the Songs of Blades and Heroes engine, quite often. However, I haven’t had a game in a while and never played the new version.
There are a couple of small changes in the new version and one big innovation, namely reactions. If you fail one activation roll, your opponent may now react by trying to activate one of his or her figures for one action. If you fail two rolls, the opponent may either make two reactions or take over and start a new turn. I was curious how that would play out – I feared that it might drag out the game a bit or might make it a bit convoluted, distracting from the simple elegance of the rules.
We played on a 6’x4′ table using Sigur’s game mat, which he got from DeepCut Studios. He also brought along his splendidly painted buildings, most of them from Ziterdes, and his stunning figures. The whole set up look extremely nice!
I took the human faction, led by noble Count Daunenfein on his fine steed. His brave companions were Smirre, another mounted guy with a bald pate and a humongous hammer, as well as a slightly crazed inventor with an arquebus. They also had some lackeys, two guys with greatswords and three with spears. The sinister Dark Elves confronting them were led by a Sorceress. Their party consisted of a witch, an assassin, a harpy, two elves with crossbows and three Raiders with hand weapons.
We played with the secret mission generator and each of us drew a paper slip with an objective. My aim was to get at least half of my people across the table.
While Sigur concentrated his guys in the middle, I had a more extended line, with Smirre on my left flank, my leader and the harquebusier in the middle and some foot soldiers on the right.
The sorceress charged into the town square and threw over a table to get cover. My harquebusier also ran forward, ducking from cover to cover to get into a position to shoot. As my right flank lackeys were showing little interest in confronting a horde of shrieking Dark Elves, my leader rode over and made them get a move on.
I realised that a mounted leader is a very useful thing to have, what with him giving a +1 on activations within long range!
The harquebusier finally stepped out and shot. He was as surprised as anyone when one of the crossbow Elves fell down dead. Excited, he fumbled to reload while I rushed forward a lackey to cover him. In vain – before he could get off another shot, he was cut down by the ghastly Witch Elf and an Elf waving a flag. A melee started to develop in the town square, with two of my lackeys pitted against the assassin, the witch and a Raider.
Meanwhile, the Sorceress had hidden behind a stone wall. A wild charge by one of my spearmen was thwarted by the harpy, who faithfully defended her mistress.
Now Smirre decided to even the odds and attack the Sorceress from behind. However, the wily wizard did see him in time and sent a sleeping spell. Smirre promptly started to snore!
This was bad and thwarted my carefully laid out plans. I had moved two of my lackeys around the house to my right and brought them into position to slip around Sigur’s flank.
Having drawn most of Sigur’s guys into a melee in the town square, I wanted to rush my two mounted men over to the other side of the table. And now one of them was sleeping!
The only way to wake someone up is to move into contact. As Smirre was quite isolated on my left, I had to move my leader over. Grudgingly, he trotted in Smirre’s direction, hacking at the harpy on the way.
However, another shock was to follow: Suddenly, the assassin grabbed a chest lying around in the town square and started to head back. Count Daunenfein didn’t know what was in there, but he was going to make damned certain the dirty Elves didn’t get their grubby fingers on it!
The cards were now on the table: I knew Sigur’s objective and he had guessed mine. The whole battle started to move to the Northern table edge. The Elves had two stragglers, which rushed over to stop my sneaky flank lackeys.
While my guys in the town square tried to stop the assassin carrying away the chest, the Count had managed to wake up Smirre. Both heroes spurred their horses and rode around the melee to help out the lackeys trying to cross the table.
Their charge shocked the Elf rearguard. One Raider was cut down, but then the Sorceress rushed forward and tried to send Smirre back to the land of dreams. This time the bleary-eyed warrior resisted – no one makes better coffee than Count Daunenfein! Angrily, the Sorceress resorted to throwing a fireball, which knocked Daunenfein from his horse. Fortunately, he fell lightly, so he could remount. Meanwhile, Smirre cut down the second Raider. But now a new danger lurked: The assassin had managed to break free from the melee and was getting close to the table edge. Recklessly, the remounted Count charged him.
The assassin, however, quickly sidestepped and tripped the horse, causing Daunenfein to fall down again. Smelling coffee, from the sky above the harpy shot down and gave the poor Count a good kick. The noble heroe was out cold. When his lackeys saw this scene, horror struck them and they ran away. Even brave Smirre took to his heels! One single lackey stood with grim resolution, prepared to sell his life dearly. The game, however, was over…
Victory for Sigur and his Dark Elves!
What a fantastic game! It was dramatic and exciting, with some unexpected twists and really dynamic action which moved from the town square to the table edge. The reaction mechanics is great, it doesn’t slow down the game too much and makes the other player constantly involved.
The only thing that surprised me was the length of the game: We played for more than three hours, which is much longer than what I am used to with Flashing Steel (and longer than the Sharp Practice game on the other table!). The reason for this might have been that we had larger forces – with FS, we normally play with six figures per side and this time, we had eight respectively nine per player. But the main reason, I think, was the size of the table: SOBH is geared towards a 3’x3′ table and using a larger table means a lot more maneuvering. Don’t get me wrong, there was not a minute I was bored during this game and I really liked how the action moved from one part of the table to another. However, for a quick game, it may be better to use a smaller table or at least to designate an area of the large table as the playing field.
This game reminded me again of how great a system SOBH is! I really hope we’ll have another game soon.
Sigur has also written a great AAR, which gives a bit more background information on the warring heroes and which can be found at Skirmish Wargaming. He also kindly let me use some of his photos.