Playtesting Song of Hammer & Forge
Last week Tim and I got together to try out the work-in-progress dwarf supplement for Song of Blades & Heroes. Entitled Song of Hammer & Forge, the forthcoming supplement introduces a whole bunch of new rules for the ol' stunty guys, including sections devoted to black powder firearms and artillery. The new additions add a bit of crunch to the game, but longtime SBH fans will be pleased to hear that everything is presented with the same rules-lite flavor of the core game.
We played the Treasure Hunt scenario since we wanted a simple, no-frills scenario to try out the new rules. I made a dwarven warband featuring fighters, halberdiers, a drunk berserker and some boar-mounted cavalry with hand cannons. Here's my warband.
And here are Tim's Tharks, the same warband he's running in our ongoing campaign.
I started out by dispatching my dwarves across the battlefield toward the three treasure markers. We were using a couple new pieces of terrain that I had just completed building over the weekend (the moss-covered ruins).
I kept these guys together for much of the game because I wanted to try out the long reach special rule, which allows the halberdiers to attack over the shoulder of their comrades if they are stacked behind them in close combat. Within a couple of turns, I had my chance! Tim charged his beast into contact with my dwarves, and the halberdier in the second rank was able to dispatch it by stabbing over his buddy's shoulder.
Meanwhile Tim's Tharks were moving ever closer to the three treasure markers on the table. The barrel in the photo below is one of those markers, but only one of the three is the actual treasure (determined randomly before the game started).
The black powder rules are pretty nifty. Basically you fire your gun and it produces a puff of smoke, which drifts across the battlefield according to a the wind's direction (determined at the start of the game, it never changes and is predictable, which is nice). All shooting that passes through a smoke puff suffers a penalty. Here's the outcome after my first shot.
I just so happened to have smoke puffs on hand from way back when I did WWII wargaming, and they looked perfect on the tabletop with my dwarves.
Discharging a black powder weapon for the first time causes all mounts (cavalry, pack horses, etc) on the table to test morale. We forgot to implement this rule, and it might have mattered since Tim's most potent figure was a cavalry model.
Here's another explosive hand cannon shot from the other side of the table.
Black powder weapons and crossbows feature improved stats compared to the SBH shooter rules, but they also require reloading. Depending on the weapon, this typically costs 2 actions and most figures can't move while reloading. I had two dwarves with crossbows and two with hand cannons in our battle, and we found that the reloading rules didn't slow the game down very much.
Song of Hammer & Forge also includes an extensive array of rules about drunk dwarves. Yes, you read that correctly. There are four separate rules to simulate drunken fighters, so I made sure to take one (sloshed) for one of my warriors. The rule proved to just as zany as you might expect; the melee bonuses I received were outweighed by the few times he tottered off in a random direction as a result of a quality check.
Personally I don't see myself using the drunk dwarf rules very much. My dwarves are stoic Norse-inspired heroes, not drunkards teetering from battlefield to brewery and back again. But the drunk dwarf rules do a good job of simulating some of the Warhammer-inspired silliness we've come to expect.
Even though I found the treasure first, Tim ended up winning the scenario, and this photo is a good example of why. No halberdier in his right mind would go toe-to-claw with a Thoat, but my guy decided this was a prudent course of action for some reason.
I've been eagerly anticipating this ruleset for many months, and this playtest showed it was well worth the wait. I'm looking forward to shelling out some hard-earned cash for this supplement as soon as it's available!
-- Patrick, Chicago Skirmish Wargames club member