Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Battlesworn Rules Review

Ganesha Games has good standing here at Mik's Minis, every one of their games has been thoroughly enjoyable, easy to get into, and provides what we're all looking for; getting minis on the table.

Song of Blades and Heroes is no stranger to us, and there's tons of posts on it here.  Love it, great friggin' game.  There's even been some Flying Lead around these parts, just ignore that broken image link.  Now there's a new addition to their rules stable, and unlike the first two mentioned that share many of the same mechanics, Battlesworn; Bid for Victory is completely different in scope and incredibly fresh to boot.

It says 'fantasy' right on the cover, but you can just as easily use it for any genre you want.  Really, you can.  In the rulebook it gives suggestions for zombie survival, alien bug hunters, wild west, historicals, and more.

The best part of the game is that troop types are defined by fourteen archetypes and the rules are inherent within each type (ala another of my faves, Hordes of the Things).

If you have a "shooter" on the table that could be anything you define as a shooter; an elf with a bow, an orc with a spear,  a Colonial Marine with an M41A pulse rifle, a gangster with a tommy gun, you think of it, it's a shooter.  The troop types also include brutes (hit more often), tanks (hard to kill), rogues (hard to hit), and so forth.  There are some spell-casters in there too, but a fireball thrown by a wizard has about the same effect as a Vietnam War-era trooper tossing a frag grenade.  It's all how you interpret your army during creation.

What makes it different though?  It says so on the cover; bidding.  When you start a turn both
sides bid a number from one to six for initiative.  The lowest bid goes with a number of actions equal to their bid.  The initiative loser gets a number of reactions based on the difference between the two rolls.  I bid a 2, and you bid a 4; I get two actions and you get two reactions during my turn.  You won't get any actions this turn, just reactions to what I do.  It's a quick turn, then we bid for initiative again, rinse and repeat.

Combat is in the same fashion, it's all about the bidding.  Say I'm going to hit you with a melee attack.  I bid a number between one and six again, you bid the same.  The lower bid strikes first, and if the higher bid is still standing they get to strike back.  So why not just bid "1" all the time then and always go first.  Because you roll a number of attack dice equal to your bid, and you need 5's and 6's to hit.  If you bid one die, chances are you won't hit.  If you bid six dice to attack with, chances are you'll get some hits, but you'll also roll some 1's in there, and 1's cancel out hits.  Ranged attacks are handle in a similar fashion, with the targeted player bidding for a dodge.

It sounds pretty different so far, right?  It gets better.  No measurements, no ranges.  None.  Now I've played some games with "Line of Sight" movement before, horizon to horizon, but Battlesworn takes it further.  Ranged attacks are not measured in increments, but shots are at "the closest model" be the closest target two inches or two feet away.  Same with spells and pretty much everything else.  Being that ranges are relative and not measured, and movement is done in straight lines until you hit a new terrain type, you can play on any size table you want, with any scale figs you've got.

The first time we played we hadn't even read the rules yet, but within twenty minutes we were knee-deep in the battle and didn't think twice about the rules, end of story.  It is a pretty non-traditional minis game, but you get the hang of it quick enough, and when that light bulb dings, you really get it.

The rules are solid, versatile, and easy to grasp right off the bat.  The best part, the PDF of the rulebook is a mere eight bucks.  Eight bucks!  I could've save you reading this entire post and just written this last paragraph.  Here's the one line review: Battlesworn is great fun and innovative enough to deserve room on the bookshelf regardless of your preferred genre.  Plus, did I mention it's just eight bucks?

14 comments:

  1. This sounds very interesting. I shall have to check it out.

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    1. Yup, it's worth checking it out at the very least.

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  2. I enjoyed them too, but ran into to my groups age old problem: Too many people. This ruleset really shines as a 1 v 1 game, not 3v3 or 4v4.
    -J

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    1. Definitely, this is a pure two player game. You can swing it with more but all of the 'neatness' goes out the window unfortunately. For more players at the table, good ole Song of Blades still works pretty well methinks.

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  3. Even SoB wears done with 6-8 players I think. I've been using ITEN/IHMN for big Fantasy skirmishes lately.

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    1. SoB has worked for us, but only up to about five max, usually just four though. For a big table like that, 6-8 players I don't have a lot of suggestions. Not a big fan of the two sides versus each other but with four players side, too convention-like for me. But a ruleset where I could get 6-8 individual warbands out there in a free-for-all...that would be cool.

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  4. Very interesting indeed! Have to check it out.

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    1. Hey Mats! Yes, check 'em out, I think you'll like them.

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  5. Thank you for the review, much appreciated As for the number of players, I need to sit down one day and write a game for large number of players. Unfortunately where I live one is lucky enough to find an opponent! So playtesting a multiplayer game is going to be difficult.
    BattleSworn is also available as a color paperback https://www.createspace.com/4413049?ref=1147694&utm_id=6026

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    1. Always nice for the author to stop by for a few words, thanks! If you're ever looking for playtesters...

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  6. I've played this game a few times now and we all think its a great new novel system. We've yet to come up with a way to play true multi-sided games but it does work well with 2 sides, regardless of the amount of players. Here's how we did it; one player from each side does the bidding and the number of actions/reactions are worked out as normal, now each player of a side gets to activate/react with that number of actions. So if team A bid 3 and Team B bid 4, all Team A members get 3 actions and all Team B players get 1 action.

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    1. That's not a bad way to treat multiple players per side; everyone gets something to do and the action moves along even faster.

      As for initiative, I didn't put this in the review but for both games we played like this and loved it. We randomly rolled the initiative for each side each turn. You know, for your multiple players per side, you could have all the players of one side secretly bid for initiative, then average all the bids together then pit that against the other side that does the same thing. Eh?

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  7. Great review Mik! Haven't been able to play Battlesworn yet, but looking forward to it.

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  8. I just started trying out SOBH and am very happy with it. 2 games under the belt :) Was planning to buy SoGD but your article is making me want to try battlesworn too. Thanks for the review!
    http://meninboxes.blogspot.com/

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