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Hamlet's Heroes Reprised

My pals Zach and John came over to the house last night for a skirmish using the Advanced Song of Blades and Heroes rules. While I'm really wanting to do more play testing on my home-brew dungeon delving ASBH variant, I didn't have as much time to prepare for last night's game as I thought I would. So we instead gave my recent scenario, "Hamlet's Heroes," another run through, an easy choice since it lends itself to three players (two players for the heroes and villagers and one running the orc reavers) and neither Zach nor John had played this scenario. (For the scenario background and warband profiles, see the earlier post of the initial play through).

I tweaked the rules a bit for last night's game. First, I swapped out the Wizard's Apprentice unit's Fear spell in exchange for the Protection from Arrows spell. While thematically I liked the apprentice having a lesser version of a spell his master casts (Aura of Terror), having two spellcasters who could force the orcs to make morale checks unbalanced the game a bit. Protection from Arrows was still potentially helpful given all of the archers on the orc side. This time we also allowed the orc player to alternate placing half of the villagers (four of the eight that start in the fields), still abiding by the distance rules outlined in the earlier scenario. This also helped the orc player get a bit of a jump on attacking villagers compared to the last game.

Because I created some new scatter terrain this past week while on staycation, I incorporated those pieces into the battlefield design as well, replacing some pieces that we used last time (again, compare the overhead maps from the original and this post). Mostly, though, the layout was essentialy the same.

Slightly tweaked battlefield with new homemade scatter terrain.

On the downside, my wife was not around with her great camera and better eye, so all of the photos below are my doing. My apologies in advance. (I grabbed a couple of photos from the orc's perspective I've subsequently found on John's Twitter feed just now and added those below, too...hope that's cool, John.) Also note that these shots are meant to provide a sense of the game's flavor, and are far from being a blow-by-blow battle report. That said, click any image to enlarge.

Hamlet's Heroes Reprised

John's orcs rush toward the village, slaying peasants as they go.

An orc's eye view of the warband on the bridge.

Having killed or chased back to the village all of the peasants in the fields, the orcs prepare to cross the bridge and confront the hamlet's awaiting defenders.
Crossbow reloaded and ready to end another orc.
Arrows volley back and forth while the orcs dash for the bridge as their captain and his lieutenant shout orders from the rear.
Unable to get in range to cast his Flame Jet spell from the safety of the village's embankment, the apprentice swims the river to get closer to the action and finally test his mettle in battle.
An orc archer who managed to swim across the river went scrambling into the heart of the village on the hunt for the remaining peasants. The wood elf  gave chase to the orc and scored a gruesome kill with his longbow before darting back to his post at the foot of the bridge to loose more arrows at the oncoming reavers.

The young peasant boy may have lost his parents out in the fields to the orcs, but this wood elf pledges to keep him from harm's way or perish trying.

The village children taking refuge at the rear of the hamlet as the battle at the bridge rages.
The high elf, veteran warrior, and amazon brawler give better than they got this day.

The orc reavers' leader gets knocked into the river by the amazon, who immediately pivots to face his lieutenant.

When over half of their warband falls to blade and bolt, these orc archers decide it's much safer to watch the battle's outcome from back here.

Post-Game Reflections

The wandering adventurers won again, though it was a much closer game this time around with only three villagers surviving (one maid died from an arrow in the back, slumping into the arms of the amazon warrior waiting on the bridge). It's interesting to see the different play styles of various players in the same scenario. And it's always particularly enjoyable to play with folks who enjoy thematic fun as much as winning or losing and who appreciate the aesthetics of this type of gaming experience.

One thing that worked well this game that we forgot to include the first time we played this scenario was that recoils on the bridge could result in falling into the drink. This turned out to be a fun, slightly chaotic mechanic, with a number of orcs getting knocked over the side, and the heroes' dwarf fighter getting knocked into the river in full armor, not once, but again just after swimming to the river's bank when a well-shot orc arrow sent her recoiling right back into the water. If we play it again, I think I need to tweak the rules for swimming across rivers, as those outlined in the original scenario might be a bit too onerous. Zach recommended a table of some sort might help sort out the rolls needed to cross under various conditions and multiple troop types (e.g., short dwarves or with and without heavy armor, etc.). I may also tweak the bridge rules so that a Q roll is required on recoils into the river rather than having it be automatic (unless the bridge is so congested that there is simply no other direction in which to recoil).

I also worry that having the bridge flanked by two defensive walls on the village side, while thematically logical, might provide a bit too much cover for the heroes when they dig in to repel the invaders.

John also suggested a tweak that could make it more attractive for the orcs to split up and race toward the ford on the other side of the village rather than concentrating solely on the bridge. He suggested that if he had had some wolf riders who could cover more terrain per turn, he would have sent them around to that side of the map. This troop composition would definitely change up the game in interesting ways, and almost surely force the hamlet's heroes to split up to try to cover other access points to the village.

I guess now I'm going to have to get some wolf riders painted!

In addition to a well-fought skirmish, the evening's pleasures included pizza, margaritas, and talk of Robert Altman, George Romero, Werner Herzog, Klaus Kinski, Alex Gibney, the Dirtbombs, and The Stooges. Now that's my kind of Saturday night.

Finally, I can't recommend John's and Zach's respective blogs enough. I've learned a great deal from both, and they are a pleasure to peruse. In fact, John's tutorial on scatter terrain inspired me to create the new terrain that appeared in this game.

Check out John's excellent miniatures gaming blog, 1,000 Foot General, and fall down the old school D&D rabbit hole with Zach at Zenopus Archives.


  1. Thanks for hosting the game Joe! Had a great time rolling dice with you guys :) Maybe next time the orcs will assemble en masse for an all out assault on that pesky village!

    1. Sounds like a sequel in the making to me! But first we'll have to find a way to repopulate the village's much depleted citizenry.


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