I downloaded Ganesha Games' Song of Blades & Heroes last month with much anticipation. Here, I thought, was the miniatures game I was looking for: fast, rules-lite and beholden to no particular manufacturer of miniatures. I could paw through my miniatures collection, scrape together a motley handful and create a warband in 10 minutes flat.
All these expectation were exceeded in my first game, which took place last weekend at Chicagoland Games. I met up with Brian, a friend and fellow player in ChicagoWiz's Dark Ages AD&D game. Brian was in the same boat as me: he wanted a super casual minis game that retained a bit of tactical appeal. Like me, he had tried Mordheim but found it lacking.
Anyway, we were joined by Tim, who had actually played Song of Blades & Heroes before (and boasted some keen custom miniatures to boot). We played two games: the first with about 8 models per side, the second with about 15 models per side (it was a two-vs-one game where Brian and I teamed up to take on Tim).
In the game, players take turns activating miniatures one at a time, generally using them to move, shoot and attack where appropriate. To activate a figure, players roll between 1 and 3d6. Each dice that rolls at or higher than the figure's Quality value (one of only two stats for each figure! simplicity!) grants one action. BUT if a player ever rolls two failures on a single activation, his turn is over. This means that if you get greedy and try to squeeze too many actions out of a low Quality figure, your turn can end prematurely — leaving one whole flank exposed, as happened in my game against Brian.
So there's some risk — and some tactical decision-making — that goes along with activating your troops. Do you roll three dice for your lizardman warchief, knowing that if he fails your turn will be over? Or do you play it safe and roll one dice, knowing that you will only be able to do one thing with your guy?
Beyond activation, combat is a simple d6 roll with each figure's combat score added to the result. A few other modifiers get thrown in as well, stuff that's pretty familiar to anyone who's ever played D&D 3.x. If you double your opponent's score, he dies. If you beat him without doubling, a couple other cool effects can happen.
In any case, the sheer speed of the game and the fact that you can use a huge variety of miniatures won me over. I daresay this game would be an excellent wargame option for folks seeking to add a little strategy into their D&D campaigns. And it's perfect for my beer and pretzels miniatures crowd.