Sword & Sorcery

Sword & Sorcery is a boardgame for 1 to 5 players created by the Gremlin Project and published by Ares Games. In this game you take on the role of hero recalled from death as an immortal soul. Together as a group you venture out on different quests to save the kingdom and break the spell binding their souls.

The game comes with three different manuals. The rulebook which is 55 pages but has a lot of examples and pictures helping to explain the game. The storybook that contains the different quests and their setup. The third manual is the Book of Secrets. This book is referenced by the different quests to denote certain events or dialogs that you might encounter on your quests.

In this game you can choose to play a single quest or go on a campaign. When you choose to go on a single quest you already start with more abilities and items. The campaign on the other hand makes your character progress and grow stronger while playing.

First off you have to choose a character. In the game you have a total of five characters to choose from. Each of these characters has two different alignments: law, neutral or chaos so this makes ten different characters to choose from. An example of this is Thorgar the Dwarf. You can choose him as a cleric which is law or a runemaster which is chaos. They have some abilities that can be used by both and some that are alignment specific. The rulebook advices you when making your group to choose only one alignment of characters combined with neutral. Each hero comes with its own hero sheet that has a place for a primary and secondary weapon, its armor, artifact, inventory, powers ad hero card. The hero card lists its own special ability, inventory size, speed and save roll. A hero also has a Soul Gem token which shows its health, the number of attack actions and normal actions it can perform and the number of powers it can have.

 

Once you have chosen your group of heroes it is time to start the quest. The storybook has a detailed description of what is needed to setup the quest. It notes how to make the enemy and event deck. It states which map tiles are needed and how to create the map, which tokens are needed and where to place them. It might also note some special rules that are in effect. It also shows how to make the shadow reserve. Which might be enemies or even citizens. Usually the reserve is more than needed for the quest so you don’t know what to expect while exploring. The storybook also states to which Book of Secrets paragraph a story event or waypoint refers.

Once you are done setting up it is time to start playing. Each round is comprised of three phases, the Time phase, the Battle phase and the Event phase. The Time phase happens simultaneously for every hero. The first you do is the effects cleanup. First you apply the damage effects before the other effects. Afterwards all of your powers with the sand timer on top refresh then your other used powers cooldown and rotate 90° clockwise. Now you have the option to use the soulpoints to enhance your soulrank or resurrect. You cannot advance your soulrank if another hero still has a lower soulrank than you.

When the time phase is over it is time to start the battle phase. Each hero has its own battle phase and one must be fully completed before another player can start theirs. You as group can choose in which order you want to play. A battle phase always starts with a hero turn and afterwards an enemy turn. During the hero turn you have a movement action equal to your hero’s speed. Each map tile has different sections and you can move between these sections. Some sections are hazardous and might give you one damage while others are difficult terrain and need one extra movement to move into. This movement can be interrupted by any other action except for combat. For your normal actions you can choose from the following. You can Dash which gives you one extra speed or lets you stand up after being knocked out. You can focus an Attack which adds one hit to the next attack you perform. Dash and Focus an Attack can only be used once a round. The other actions you can perform are to Bash a chest or a locked Door and draw a trap card to see if it did not have a trap. You can reorganize your items when you are not engaged with an enemy. You can search the search area token and hopefully find some nice things. You can also provoke a Master Enemy once per round.

A number of free actions is also available to choose from. You can always open unlocked doors again drawing a trap card to see what happens. You can also freely pick up and drip items and crowns (coins). You can also try to evade when engaged with some monsters and you want to move away. This is no problem when you dominate (twice the number of heroes versus the number of monsters) the area. Otherwise you get one reaction from each monster you want to evade from.

Of course you also have the option to attack the monsters. In this case you can choose between ranged and melee attack. When you are engaged with a monster you are not able to attack outside of the area. For ranged attack you have to check the range of your weapon and line of sight. Line of sight is determined by the possibility to draw straight line from the mark X in your area to the mark in the target area. When this does not pass a blocking terrain, an external map tile edge or another area with monsters then you have line of sight to the monster.

Combat is split up in two stages, the hit stage and the defense stage. In the hit stage you roll your dice according to the weapon or spell used. Afterwards you can use any item, power or activity to enhance the attack. You get an extra hit when dominating the area. This makes a total of all the hits you scored. Now we move on to the defense stage. First off you check for any resistances and weaknesses and then you apply defense effects. Your armor value reduces the hits unless you are knocked out or the hits are lethal. Now magic shields can be used to reduce the number of hits even further. When there are still hits remaining you can now roll one blue die for each remaining hit up to the maximum allowed by your equipment. Again you can use any item, power or activity to enhance the defense. When there are still hits remaining you suffer that much damage.

After the hero turn is an enemy turn but only if there is at least one enemy on the board. During this phase you simply draw an encounter card and resolve it. This usually activates the enemies and makes them attack you. Each enemy has an enemy sheet that states how they react when they are activated and also there preferred victims.

When each hero has performed their hero and enemy turn it is time to advance to the event phase. This is something special, if the top event is not revealed you draw one and resolve it. Afterwards you place it face up on top of the event deck. Otherwise, if the top event card is face up you simply discard it.

This continues until you either complete the quest which grants you victory or the event deck has run out of cards and you have lost. When you are playing a campaign you can visit the town to buy additional armor, weapons potions and so on…

Besides all the above mentioned you have critical hits that might have a permanent effect, several status effects for a figure to be in and so on. As you might have suspected I did not go into detail on every little thing but I hope this has given you a good general overview of the game. First things first, we love this game. For the moment this is our favorite dungeon crawl compared to Descent second edition, Imperial Assault, Doom, Level7 Omega Protocol, D&D adventure system, Shadows of Brimstone, Super Fantasy, Zombicide Black Plague and Mice & Mystics. The game system itself works very well. I love the combat system and the recharging of the spells. I also like that you do not have to have a certain configuration for your party (read tank, healer and so on…). It helps a bit but it is definitely not necessary. The story is well written and helps you immerse in the game. The map for each quest is fixed yet through some choices and other stuff you might be directed in different directions or encounter different things in some areas. The storybook makes for some interesting choices that might persist through the quests in a campaign. The campaign is our favorite way to play because of this and it is just fun to take a character and improve it over a couple of games. For campaign play I can definitely recommend the official companion app that helps you with keeping track of your party’s inventory and choices from game to game. The monsters have a possibility of getting some extra ability or equipment when entering the map and this can make for some unique and interesting combinations. We also like the different alignments of the characters and how they influence the abilities and storybook choices you can choose from. All these things combined make it pretty replayable and feel like you have a big influence in how things work out during a game. We had lots of games that came down to the wire because the event deck almost ran out and sometimes you make some choices to ignore stuff just because time is running out. Dying in this game is not really that bad. It sets you back one soulrank and you drop everything in your inventory but you can pick this back up when you have respawned. You can even still help your party when dead which is a great feature. We also greatly approve that they have promised that everything available in the kickstarter edition will become available in retail. Now that’s some customer support and I wish that more companies did this instead of working with kickstarter exclusives. We can’t wait for the expansions to come out so we can experience even more dungeon crawl sweetness and we can highly recommend this to anyone who loves dungeon crawls.

Play with Honor

Johnny