Saturday, 24 August 2013


Catherine and I played a game of BattleSworn this morning. It's a new fantasy skirmish game from Ganesha Games, which uses a rather nice bidding mechanism to drive movement and combat. Like Songs of Blades and Heroes it uses forces of  about 10-12 figures, with scale being unimportant. Indeed in this game there is no measurement at all*; figures move in a straight line until their movement is stopped by an enemy or a change in terrain, and shooting takes place anywhere within line of sight. So terrain is very important, breaking up lines of fire and movement paths.

Forces are made up of 12 'slots', each sloth being occupied by one of a number of very generic troop types. Most use one slot, some use two and Rabble use half. There are limits on how many of each type a force may have, and all forces must have at least four of the basic troop type, Fighters (although in fact there's no reason to have more than four either). Some figures may have more than one type.

As I said, the game is driven by bidding. Essentially when doing anything which is opposed, both layers bid a number from one to six; the lowest bidder gets to go first, with that many dice (whether it's shooting, dodging or attacking in melee), then the other person goes with the number of dice they bid. So the game is a constant decision of how soon you want to act compared with how potent you want to be when you do it.

Initiative is handled the same way. On a turn both players bid from one to six. The lowest bidder has initiative and may act with figures equal to their bid. The high scorer gets a number of reaction moves equal to the difference.

Anyway, I threw together a couple of forces which I thought would be easy to start with. I avoided magic, as spell-casting adds a whole layer to the game I didn't want to get involved with on a first try.

Catherine took a force of Elves, led by Elrond. They were:

4 Elves with big swords - Fighters
6 Elves with bow - Shooters
Elrond - Brute/Tank (A Brute is better at hitting things in melee, whilst a Tank is resistant to damage. In reality I'd run Elrond as a Brute/Warmage)

I had some Goblins. They were to have a Cave Troll (of course), but I couldn't find it. So instead my force was:

4 Goblin Warriors - Fighters
4 Goblin Archers - Shooters
2 Scouts - Rogues
1 Wolf - Cavalry

We decided on a terrain by simple co-operation. The hills, wood, boulders and ruins blocked line of sight, the ruins and woods provided cover and the boulders were impassable. The ford allowed you to ignore the river. A figure on a hill was allowed a 1 die melee bonus against a figure that wasn't on a hill. To set up we both rolled a D6 each, and the one who rolled lowest had to set up that many figures on their base edge. We kept going until one of us had all of their figures deployed, then the other deployed the remainder of their force.

Opening moves were on the ruins side of the river. I pushed my Fighters and Rogues forward, but hid behind a hill when Catherine occupied a ridge with Elrond and a couple of archers. On the right of the picture you can see the first hit of the game, when one of my Fighters was nicked by an arrow trying to reach the cover of the boulders.

On the other side of the table, opposing archers skirmished, but the elf came off worse; that red counter is a serious wound.

The fighting intensified on that flank; Catherine brought in some elven Fighters to clear away my archers, and I reacted by moving the wolf in to support them. It all got very bloody.

In the ruins a lone elf held off a couple of goblins

I finally got my act together on the other side of the table (mostly because I started to understand how moves and reactions worked), and went for the elves on the hill. Rather than have one of her archers doubled up by my goblins, Catherine charged Elrond off the hill to intercept my attack.

Of course this caused a massed brawl in the centre.

Elrond fell to a sneaky Rogue attack - Rogues get a bonus dice in combat if there is a least one friend in contact with their opponent.

Casualities had mounted on both sides, and victory would go to the first person to kill six opposing models. However wounded figures also partially counted towards this total, and my injured goblins pushed me over the boundary. This was how the game looked at the end. In fact we made a mistake, assuming that victory was assessed at the end of the turn, not the moment a side reached 50% casualties, so some figures died after hostilities had actually ceased.

We both enjoyed the game, but took a little while to get used to how it worked. Not that the rules are complicated - they aren't - but the actual process of achieving what you want to do isn't immediately obvious. For example, if you want to redeploy in the face of enemy Shooters it may be better not to have initiative, as you can move as a reaction, and such moves aren't open to opportunity fire. Once we understood roughly what we were doing the game flowed very well.

BattleSworn is an interesting game, and it's going to be fun trying out some different force structures and styles.

*Not strictly true - a number of mechanisms revolve around the 'nearest enemy', so it helps to have some way of measuring that.


  1. Just played a game, takes a bit of getting used to the tactics needed. I found that shooters were quite powerful, causing the most damage, particularly if they have targets in the open. They attack the same as melee, but do not get hit back, and the target has to be lucky to dodge. Main lesson was to try to approach shooters by using terrain as cover, or try to take them out first. And brute/tanks are good!

    Victor, otherwise known as anonymous as I don't have a profile :)

    1. Yes, I thought that Shooters were a bit useful.

  2. Saw this advertised but as I game mostly solo was a tad put off by the bidding.Any thoughts how this could be got over?

    1. None, really. To be honest I partially judge a game by its solo playability, but I was willing to give this a try as it required only a small investment - I have the figures and it's a cheap PDF.

  3. It seems like it is different from SoBH but I find myself asking why Ganesha Games made this? They already had a fantasy skirmish game.

  4. Nice review and report also hoping to play this soon

  5. I assume that's Catherine in the first picture--man, is she having fun or what??!!


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