Earlier this month I had a chance to sneak in a couple games of Advanced Song of Blades & Heroes, my go-to ruleset for fast-play fantasy skirmish gaming. I’ve been hopelessly in love with SOBH since I first stumbled across it back in 2010. The wide-open nature of warband creation (use any miniature in your collection!) really encourages the sort of hobby purusuits that appeal to me — namely, acquiring and painting up a vast array of miniatures from dozens of different manufacturers and game lines, while being beholden to no particular company or artificial army-building constraints.
So, as you can imagine, I try to get in a few games of SOBH every few months, just to keep my gaming palette in sync. For this month, I was joined by Vince, a fellow gamer who shares a passion for skirmish-sized fantasy gaming and hadn’t yet had an opportunity to try out Advanced Song of Blades & Heroes.
I set up two simple scenarios using the excellent tome of converted Warhammer Fantasy and Mordheim scenarios published a few years ago on the Hour11Gaming blog. (As an aside — I was talking with my friend Karl about this truly epic fan-made gaming resource, and we agreed that it might just be the best free fan supplement we’ve ever encountered. There are literally hundreds of hours of gaming to be had in this publication. Check it out and see for yourself!
The first game was a breakthrough scenario, where my ratmen (composed of Oldhammer and Middlehammer Skaven models) were attempting to push past a stout, armored line of dwarves guarding the approach to their mine.
Vince’s dwarves were drawn from a handful of different sources, but the only one I can remember is this beefy lord from Scibor Monstrous Miniatures.
Vince opted for a flavorful deployment, placing two crossbow men high up in a fortified tower while the rest of his guys milled around their campsite, oblivious to the danger from the approaching ratmen. Click the photos to embiggen.
It was a great introductory game, replete with everything you’d expect from Advanced Song of Blades & Heroes: flubbed activations, strategic reactions, desperate charges, gruesome kills, and cascading morale failures. That last one took place on my side of the table, and spelled the demise of my sneaky ratmen.
After that, we shuffled up the terrain and started another game. This one had six supply caches scattered around the tabletop, and both warbands were competing to search through the barrels and chests to find a particular item of great value. We’re not sure what it was, but we’d know it when we saw it.
Vince swapped out his dwarves for a zany and colorful old-school Chaos warband. It was composed of just 4 models, which terrified me as I began to think of all the potent abilities that Vince had no doubt stacked up on his chaos knights, demon and beast.
We traded blows for a few turns until one of my Skaven scouts managed to uncover the what’s-it at the bottom of a rotting barrel. The game then turned into a mad dash to get to secure the artifact! Vince won the race when his Slaaneshi chaos knight strolled up, bonked my ratman on the head, and claimed the doodad.
From there, I expected him to rush off the board with his treasure behind comprehension, but he surprised me by sending his chaos knight wading into the chittering ratmen hordes. Clearly, he intended to do a proper slaughter before he retired for the day. The Skaven had their hands full dealing with a full-blown Fiend of Slaanesh, so we weren’t optimistic about the eminent arrival of the chaos knight.
In the end we managed to snatch victory from the proboscis of defeat by slaying the chaos knight, scooping up the artifact, and high-tailing it off the board with a few less ratmen than we started with.
Here’s the final photo, showing a few Skaven engaged in a doomed rearguard action against a slavering Beast of Chaos.
Afterward we discussed the game and agreed that Advanced Song of Blades & Heroes is really in a class by itself when it comes to bridging the gap between traditional tabletop RPGs and skirmish miniatures gaming. If you want to add in some narrative elements — things like interacting with town guards, building fortifications, bribing the troll to join your warband — the game includes a basic framework to make that happen. But if you just want to throw together some warbands using your favorite fantasy miniatures, it’s great for that too.
From an inspiration standpoint, SOBH delivers in a big way for me. I always spend a couple weeks after each game digging through my pile of fantasy miniatures and painting up a few favorites. There’s nothing like a game of SOBH to make you remember that you’ve got 8 or 10 goblins lurking in the bottom of a dusty bin, unpainted and overlooked for years but still just as charming as the day you bought them. Hmm, guess it’s time to sign off — my paintbrush is calling…