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.

Party
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.

What I did during the last weeks…

Life has been busy, but in a good way. I’ve got a new job and still have to settle into the new routines. I haven’t actually neglected playing games and painting (though it’s going slower), but I didn’t find time or leisure to write blog articles.

Here’s a quick update on my gaming-related activities. I hope that in the future, this blog will again resume a more structured appearance.

My painting has been rather eclectic. I really enjoyed painting the mole at the Vienna Nerd Institute painting workshop, so I’ve continued to work on the fantastic anthropomorphic animals from Oathsworn Miniatures. Here’s my collection so far:

animals

Inspire by our recent sci-fi game, I’ve also finished a landing party for an IPU (Interplanetary Union) starship:

IPU

It get’s even more idiosyncratic. I recently met a very old friend again. When we were youngsters, we played a lot of games together, among them Man O’War. Now he wants to rejoin the hobby and bought a whole load of Man O’War stuff. I couldn’t resist and by chance found a couple of second-hand Orc flyers, so I decided to give them a coat of paint:

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I haven’t yet committed to build up a fleet, but I did get some Renaissance galleys from Navwar, which might do double duty as Orc ships if I can convince anybody to play the excellent Galleys & Galleons

And my final product shows that I haven’t completely lost my sense, as it leads back to my perennial obsession. Using the Busch maize field sprues, I built a corn field for the ACW. I’ve made it modular so troops can be placed inside.

 

I’ve also played a couple of games. Most of them Sharp Practice, but we’ve also started T.I.M.E. Stories, an interesting cooperative game about which more in another blog post.

And I had a game of Flashing Steel, still one of my all-time favorites!