Last month I found some time for a quick game of Song of Blades & Heroes, my go-to option for fast-playing, generic fantasy skirmish. My opponent was John, a fellow I’d contacted through Meetup a while back, but our schedules didn’t align until just now. He was familiar with Song of Blades & Heroes and surprised me by bringing a spiral-bound copy of the rulebook and three or four supplements.
I provided all the miniatures for this game, but I’m hoping we can entice John to collect a small warband before too long. I set up a fun scenario where John’s barbarian hunting party was returning to its camp in the forest, but a foul necromancer and his undead warband were attempting to interdict the barbarians’ as they passed through the forest.
In game terms, John deployed his warband in one corner of the table, and I plopped about half of my warband dead center among some ruins, with the rest of my guys (mostly single skeletons and zombies) scattered throughout the surrounding forest. The idea was that the undead infantry were dispersed in the forest searching for the barbarians and weren’t necessarily deployed in the most cohesive manner.
We had some special rules for the barbarian camp. John’s guys had the option of checking each of the three tents to see if they could find any reinforcements (a barbarian raider sleeping off his ale, perhaps?) or just more danger (various undead nasties, as well as the possibility of a giant worm!). We had a random chart to roll whenever you searched a tent.
John’s barbarians had a pack mule with a special rule — if the pack mule made it across the battlefield, it would grant a re-roll on the tent search attempt. Not bad, considering some of the ghastly baddies on our random chart!
The game got underway after a brief refresher on the Song of Blades & Heroes rules. The game is super easy to pick up and start playing. John had read it a few times, and of course I’ve played literally dozens if not hundreds of games of Song of Blades & Heroes since it was released almost 10 years ago.
With that, we got underway! John started with a series of cautious moves, trying to anticipate where the undead might go. Here’s a gnarly barbarian named Laegsold the Red-Bearded setting setting out through the woods. Check out those abs of steel!
For my part, I had a helluva time trying to activate my recalcitrant skeletons and zombies. They just did not want to get moving! So instead, I sent my wraith flapping over to perch on a ruined parapet near the barbarian warband.
This was the high point (no pun intended) of this wraith’s efforts in the game, as he became our first casualty of war after an attack from, I think, Bronsky the Wolf.
But eventually I managed to scrape together something akin to a core of troops, arrayed around my necromancer in the center of the table, just in time for John to get off a spectacular series of activations that saw his mounted horselord barbarian come crashing into my lines with reckless abandon.
Alas, he succumbed shortly to the small ocean of zombies and skeletons nipping at his heels. The horselord died, and my necromancer loomed over the fallen corpse, cackling maniacally and opening his leather-bound spellbook. It was time for a ritual!
I wish I could say I raised the horselord as a zombie the next turn. But it actually took me three successive turns of attempting to reanimate the dead body before I actually succeeded! By the end we were both laughing at how inept this necromancer appeared to be. He’s probably going to get demoted to apprentice!
Here’s a look at the undead’s main body of troops, with a dice denoting the location of the horselord’s corpse.
Lots of gnarly things! And soon, they were joined by one more, as the freshly slain bodies of the barbarian horselord and his faithful mount were reanimated by the foul energies of the necromancer. Luckily I had a suitable figure to use.
From here, it looked like the tide might turn against the barbarians. But in fact they fought their way all the way across the table to their camp!
It was in the camp that the barbarians’ good luck ran out. John searched a tent, rolled for a vampire lord, wisely chose to re-roll (he had the pack mule nearby) and promptly summoned a giant worm!
This, then, was the final scene of the game, as the giant worm swallowed the barbarians whole before, presumably, picking its teeth with dismembered skeletons and zombies.
All in all it was a great game of Song of Blades & Heroes that definitely made me remember how much fun the ruleset is. The wide-open nature of the game makes it excellent for narrative style play. Back when I lived in Chicago, it served us well for four annual campaigns, each building on the story developed in the previous campaign. Hopefully we’ll play this one again soon and start forging our own stories!