Recently, I got an opportunity to organise a skirmish game after a long time. With the same players as usual, I decided for something new - a system that offered interesting decisions even with low model count. At first I had thought of Open Combat, but considering all its paperwork I picked Bladestorm instead. Why? It offered more weapons, interesting turn structure, single combat roll for both hit and wound, more choices for the player (which attack to block, whether to put one's skill to attack or defence,...) - and I wanted to try it for almost a year. It looked like a solid plan. How could anything go wrong?
I have read the rules there and back. I knew there are point values for everything, but I decided that we all roll our characters and minions, with the dwarves being slower and more cumbersome, but also tougher and more disciplined, goblins being rather a small and nimble nuisance and orcs rather average. So far, so good.
|Quite a long trek for short legs...|
But, I set the limits and averages not having played at least a small solo demo. And, which was worse, in my pride (and ignorance of the flow of the game due to the sin above) I decided not to use one of the rules - the "death die" (it is not used in the intermediate rules anyway). As a result, it was difficult to hit anyone, but a hit that succeeded was likely to kill a character, or at least take more than half of HPs, calling for a morale check - thus the game was dull, until the moment someone felt extremely unlucky.
...let's do it again.
So, have I learnt from my mistakes? I believe so: Two weeks later, the dwarves (in teams of 2 and 3) had to escape with a secret map of the underground tunnels stolen from the orcs. How-ever, many things changed...
Having pity with their short legs (and considering the time limitations) I used only a single map. In best case, the dwarves had to break through a week and negligent garrison of the fort (an orc archer and three night goblins) - quickly, because on their heels were another three orcs, and the pursuit was closed by black orc boss with another two goblins.
My opponents made a tactically sound decision to let the map-bearer run for it, using the rest of their force to tie the garrison and get in the way of the pursuers. And, with a bit of luck, escape too.
|The archer took a key position.|
Things went more or less just as planned - one of the three goblins from the garrison was mown down, orc archer took a position of such strategic importance that he wasn't able to participate in combat and the key dwarf, heading round the fort, was tied by a single goblin.
|That brown bead means a failed morale check. At least his shame didn't last long.|
The goblin didn't last long, but kept alive and stabbing long enough for the first pursuers to arrive, and suddenly, there was enough greenskins for everyone. Except the Axe-dwarf, who obeyed his orders and ran.
|Almost there. Note the massacre in the background.|
The rest of the dwarves put up a resolute defense, with their leader even showing his back to the orc boss only to stop possible pursuers. The only one who could do anything to cross the dwarves was the dumb archer, so he charged the escaping longbeard, hitting him hard - being hit even harder in return. By then we had ran out of time, so we decided that the dwarves eventually succeeded, though at a cost.
Summary: Bladestorm is a fine game. Its RPG roots are quite apparent, as it offers enough granularity to distinguish fighters of the same race, of the same type, from each other. I can well imagine awarding them experience and improving their stats - assuming they survive the deadly encounters, because not even the steel clad knight nor the nimblest of elves is safe from a random hit getting through. I also like the turn structure, although the "move or shoot" rule is a bit harsh on ranged attack types. Having played SoBH and Open Combat I also miss any kind of push-back. The reception in our group, however, is rather a mixed one. One guy likes it (used to be GM, so he's open to new ideas and he's not afraid of stats and modifiers), the not so much (in the late evening, after work). Well, gone are the days of our youth... With second edition is on its way, I hope that the issues can be amended with some training, because Bladestorm deserves it.
P.S.: Regarding the turn structure, I'm coming to like the one used in BattleTech, LotR or Blood Eagle (there may be a difference, but the gist is the same) - Everyone moves (alternating or player by player), then, everyone fights. Maybe next time? Or maybe I'll go wild and try the reactive nature of Rogue Planet... (Just to see their heads pop, muhahaha)