Last night John and I dragged Battlesworn out of the archives. We played it a few times when it was first published, but it's been tucked away at the back of the games cupboard since then and we've bee playing other stuff. But we enjoyed the games we did play, and John was keen to try it again, so out it came.
Battlesworn is a two-player fantasy skirmish game. Although dice are rolled to determine hits in combat, the rest of the game is based around bidding and bluffing your opponent. This covers initiative, with both players bidding to see who gets to move and fight and who gets to react to their actions, and also combat where the bids determine how many dice a player rolls, allowing fast weak attacks against slower more deadly ones. It's a clever system with some quite interesting subtleties. A force is made up of twelve 'slots' of troops, with each slot being spent on one of a number of simple, generic classes in a similar manner to HOTT. Some figures are allowed to have multiple classes
I threw together a quick scenario during the day; each side was looking to search three cairns towards the centre of the board, looking for treasure. Victory went to the side that could get two of the three pieces of treasure off their side of the board before the end of the game. If time ran out then victory would be assessed on kills, with a bonus for treasure retrieved.
I brought along a few warbands, mostly based around my GW Middle Earth figure collection. In the first game I took Elves, whilst John played the Moria Goblins. We skipped magic as we didn't quite feel up to the extra complexity.
Here's the board set up. Movement in Battlesworn in infinite, as are shooting ranges, but the former stops at any change of terrain and the latter can have the line of fire blocked. As you can imagine, having plenty of terrain is important. We had plenty. The Elves are in the foreground and the Goblins in the distance. They have a cave-troll.
I pushed some elves forward as quickly as possible to search the cairns in the centre and on my right. I found the treasure almost immediately.
Whilst I was searching, though, John moved goblins around to block my run for home, whilst the troll watched. On the hill my elven warrior found himself in a bit of trouble.
Amazingly he defeated both of his opponents, but not without taking serious wounds (the red counter). This made him an easy kill for the troll.
I was a bit erratic about taking photos in the first game, mostly as we were trying to remember how to play. However I found all three items of treasure and, whilst I lost the one in the middle to the troll I got the others off the board just as the time ran out to win the fight.
In the second game John carried on with the goblins, whilst I took the Uruk Hai. I pushed my crossbows forward to try and dominate the centre of the board with shooting. They immediately came under fire from sneaky goblin archers in the ruins.
On the other side of the board Uruk Hai warriors advanced on the cairn there whilst goblins rushed over from the other side.
We simplified the terrain a little for the second game, which made the game flow more smoothly.
Goblin archers in the woods came under attack from the Uruk Hai berserker, One was sliced in half by a single mighty blow.
Meanwhile, whilst one of my warriors searched the cairn the other found himself facing a troll. On his own. He didn't last long either.
The stage was set for an epic fight in the centre - berserker vs cave troll!
They hacked each other around for a couple of turns, but it was the Uruk Hai which triumphed.
Again I stopped taking photos at this point. This second game was a more fluid one, with the Uruk Hai having trouble finding the treasure and the goblins finding it but having trouble getting it away from the cairns. Eventually the game ended and the Uruk Hai won on kills.
Both games played fairly smoothly, although we still found that we had to house-rule a few things; the rules aren't totally clear on how some of the reactions work. For example we decided that all reaction moves take place after the player with initiative has finished, to prevent issues we were having with who went first. It probably prevents some clever tactical play but offset against this is consistency and ease of use, and I think that's important for any game which is designed to move quickly and smoothly. As before we found that the effects of terrain need to be tightly defined from the start, and that the rules assume you're going to do this for yourself on an individual, game by game, basis.
Caesar and Gary indulged in some ancients again - Romans vs Germans (depicted below) and a second game featuring Sassanids vs Sarmatians.
Going back to Battlesworn, these are the warbands we used:
4 x Fighters (Goblins with hand-weapons)
4 x Shooters (Goblins with bow)
2 x Rogues (Lightly-armed goblins)
1 x Brute/Tank (Cave-Troll)
(I had two extra lightly-armed goblins allowing for the possibility of replacing the two Rogues with four Rabble)
4 x Fighters (Elves with two-handed swords)
6 x Shooters (Elven archers)
1 x Brute/Leader (Elrond)
(I managed to forget to use Elrond's Leader ability for the whole game. When we feel confident about magic I'd run Elrond as a Leader/Warmage)
4 x Fighters (Uruk Hai with pikes)
4 x Brutes (Uruk Hai with sword and shield)
2 x Arquebusiers (Uruk Hai with crossbows)
1 x Brute/Tank (Berserker)