As promised, here's a battle report on Song of Blades and Heroes (SBH). I met up with my friend, Mike, last night and we played a 325pt game. We played a straight up fight between Orcs & Goblins and Dwarfs. It was a good old fashioned fantasy stand-by that worked well for this game.
So I was interested in making sure we had a good mix of models. The Orcs weighed in with one Leader, a Shaman, five Orc warriors and four goblin archers. The Dwarfs suffer from their elite status when it comes to numbers. They had a leader, rune priest, an Orc slayer, three warriors, and two crossbows. We marked off a 3' x 3' area and went at it. I played Orcs and Mike played Dwarfs. Mike won the roll off and had me go first.
The first few turns of any game with a "kill 'em all" objective is usually filled with lots of movement. This was no different. What makes it interesting is rolling for activations. Due to my low quality on Orcs, I generally never got more than two and often ended my turn early. If you fail your activations on two or more dice, you pass the turn back to the other side. Deciding how many dice to throw for activations becomes an interesting "mini game" of risk management. It starts from the first turn, so you are actively thinking rather than just moving up models.
Here come the Orcs. You can see that some models were left at the starting zone because of failed activations. It was sort of a boon later on, as it turns out. (All of these are iPhone shots.. which are not too good when it comes to minis. But you get the idea.)
Orc shooting is crap. You dice off using your combat score, which is low for goblins. So combined with a low quality (meaning fewer activations) and a poor combat, they don't stand many chances to hit. A Dwarf crossbow dueled with my night goblin almost all game. Shooting in this game is more effective than LotR but not as deadly as WHFB. It's about the middle ground, which is nice.
Eventually the first Orc charges up around the house. Because you move in straight lines, it takes a lot of activations to run around a corner and fight. I manage to get him into combat, but he doesn't have enough activation to fight. It's OK, because he can fight when the Dwarf activates. Besides, I was hoping to bring up some help. I had contacted the Orc Slayer, which is lethal vs Orcs (not Goblins!). This means as long as he wins combat, he will kill any Orc. So this guy was a priority target!
Now it comes down to the big scrum in the middle where the game will be decided. Mike had been holding back his Dwarfs, but was now bringing them up. The warriors become Q2 when in range of their leader. So they could do some serious damage. I form up a line and the dwarfs engage. Rather than write up the outcome, here's a before and after set of pictures.
The leader special rule is essential for low quality troops like Orcs and Goblins. But part of the special rule is that when the leader dies, all remaining models take morale checks. This was a doubly bad thing for me, as the Leader's death was also the 50% break point for my force as well. So models would take two tests. I didn't have to do that, as most models ran off the board when they saw their mighty war boss finally stagger and fall under the angry dwarven axes. Only a goblin and the shaman remained, and they probably wouldn't last another test. We called it at that point with a major victory for the Dwarfs. They protected the village from the Orc invaders!
This was just such a fun and quick game. It took us about an hour to play, even with all the casual talking that fills up most of that time. If we'd been playing a campaign or linked series, I could've checked to see which of my models lived, were wounded, or taken captive. But it was our first "real game" and just wanted to see how it played.
So it held up as I expected. The rules play well, the two stats augmented with special rules make for well rounded troops. One thing we noticed is that the points system is a little bit "fudged." By that I mean my Orcs cost nearly as much as the Dwarfs. However, Dwarf quality and combat were better. This is significant because it makes it harder for me to double their combat rolls for a kill. I should've had more models or better stats to make up for the similar point costs. I guess if you are playing with friends, just don't be a douche bag and select a power army. You could easily do that and get something way over powered for the points. But this is not a tournament game, and so should not be a problem with friends.
I can't say enough good things about this rules set. I was really able to get involved from the start and play out a skirmish encounter with hardly any referral back to rules. Not that it's perfectly clear rules. In fact, the book organization needs a lot of work. But for most of what you want to do, the basic rules and quick reference guide has all of it handy. I will definitely be playing more of this game. I'm planning some lists specifically for it. So watch for more on that front in the future.