Song of Shadows and Dust is an urban conflict skirmish game - but a rather original one. It is based on the lawlessness and conflict in the cities of the Roman Empire during the late Consular period and the Early Principate, roughly the first century BC.
The author is Nicolas Wright and the game is based on the popular Song of Blades and Heroes skirmish engine devised by Adrea Sfiligoi.
Song of Blades and Heroes is a stunningly simple system. Models only have two characteristics, combat ability and morale. It achieves this by using a variety of unique special rules that are thrown onto the scenarios. This is very much a story-based game that is entirely unsuited to competition play or rules lawyers. Games last less than an hour so it is possible to get an entire campaign into an evening.
Heart of the game are the activation rules. To activate a model, a player throws one to three dice - his choice - and every successful throw as measured against the model's morale factor allows one action. Actions are basically move or fight. However, as soon as a player rolls two misses his turn ends immediately, without being able to activate his remaining models.
Very simple but intricate game play. In that property it reminds me of In Her Majesty's Name - although the mechanisms are different.
Song of Shadows and Dust rules are a complete game. You don't need the core rule set. Many preprogrammed 'characters' are listed. Characters include people like: Militia Officers, Magistrates, Faction Leaders, Street Leaders, Patriarchs, Politicians, Gladiators, Prophets, Witches, Courtesans and others. There are also pregenerated plebs: Militia, Henchmen, Retired Soldiers, Apprentices, Assassins, Muggers, Thieves Urchins, Gladiator Bodyguards and so on.
There are some lovely touches. For example, your forces may get distracted by a model such as a famous beauty or a popular soothsayer, or kicked over by an ass.
That brings me to a key point. The city is full of neutral civilians that can get drawn into the fight. One of the characters is the Demagogue who can make a speech to start a riot. Off hand I can't remember another game that handles the civilian side of an urban conflict so elegantly.
Similarly the game ends when seven people drawn from any mix of factions or neutrals are 'killed' (injured badly enough to be out of the game). The logic is that the mayhem is reached such a serious scale that the authorities have summoned soldiers. Everyone clears the streets before the Urban Cohorts or equivalent arrive.
Models come in three types:
Unarmed: civilian improvised hand weapons from a knife to a club or something agricultural
Armed: military grade hand weapons weapons like swords, spears and shields (very illegal for civilians to carry these in Rome)
Projectiles: slings and bows
Civilians can come together to stone some unfortunate :)
This is a great game - simple, tactically challenging, atmospheric, well thought out, historically accurate.
You don't need many models but you will need civilians. Some great packs are available from Foundry.
With Song of Shadows and Dust you jump straight into the worlds of Falco, Marcus Corvinus, Gordianus the finder or Vespasian - by chance I have just read the Crossroads Brotherhood by Robert Fabbri which is about one of the crossroads collegia in Rome. Such collegia were a sort of cross between a religious group, trade union and organised crime network.
Next post I will take us through a game. Watch this space.
Saturday, 20 September 2014
Thursday, 18 September 2014
Wednesday, 17 September 2014
I am very taken with FFG X-wing range of ships. They are not exactly cheap but they are very high quality. Shop around, there are discounts to be had especially on unpopular ranges.
Queue sinister music.
A Tie Phantom leads two Tie Fighters followed by a Tie Bomber
Apparently a Spaceship game is acoming - but can I afford it?