Saturday, 14 March 2009

Song of Blades and Heroes - First Fight and Comparison with WHAA

When the search for Griselda ended rather abruptly with the capture of two of our stalwart heroes, we decided to try Song of Blades and Heroes. We both created a 300 point warband, set up our figures and set to.

I had a Viking warband with a hero and a magic user. Most of my troops were Q3 but three of them were Q4, which was a major disadvantage without a figure with the Leader characteristic, as I was to find out. Steve had a warband of mixed Elves, Humans and a Dwarf. The early part of the game saw him using his leader to move his troops forward as a group. His archers managed to knock my Magic User down with some shooting but did not hurt anyone more than that. My archers either refused to activate or did no damage when they did activate.

I did not have the option of moving as a group, so had to move my troops individually. My hero and a couple of the main warriors charged forward, with Sunniva the Valkyrie knocking two of her opponents down.

Unfortunately Sunniva's opponents then promptly stood back up and killed her. My other warriors consistently failed their Quality rolls and just stood there while Steve's troops swarmed all over them. He was able to isolate my troops and kill them off piecemeal. The magic user tried some spells but never scored well enough for them to have any effect. The end result saw me surrendering with three of my figures killed, including my hero and my two best warriors. Even when outnumbering the enemy, and with him on the floor my troops failed to score a kill. Aargh

This was a good fun game and felt different from Warrior Heroes: Armies and Adventures in many ways. Both rules provide a good game, both have army lists and a campaign system, and both are designed primarily around skirmish games. WHAA does provide for larger, unit-based battles, but it still feels more like a skirmish game than a big battle game.

Where they differ is in their approach to command and control problems. WHAA uses reaction tables and you read off the results, which can see your troops charging uncontrollably or just halting in place rather than advancing towards the enemy. You also roll for initiative at the start of each turn with the number you roll indicating which of your troops you will be able to move. SoBH uses a Quality number that you have to roll over to activate your troops individually. Thus, in WHAA you know which of your troops you will be able to activate this turn, while in SoBH you will only find out when you try to activate each figure. You also do not know if you will be able activate all of your troops because the turn can end if you fail to activate a figure. Both approaches work and both are quite elegant in the way that they take total control away from the player.

Combat in WHAA uses the reaction system too. You can wind up rolling half a dozen dice and counting up your successes to compare with your opponents successes. The more successes you beat your opponent by, the worse the damage to his figure. SoBH uses a single die mechanism for combat (roll a die and add your combat score); you are trying to score double your opponent's score to kill him. Combat results for WHAA include being pushed back, out of the fight or dead. SoBH includes pushed back, fall down or dead. Both systems work well enough. Where SoBH falls down in my opinion is the lack of more detail in this stage. The combat score represents your weapons, armour and training. Some skills can be used to represent additional armour or possibly bigger weapons but there is no provision for a broadsword doing more damage than a dagger. WHAA allows you to outfit your figure with armour, which affects how badly you are damaged, and weapons, which affect how much damage you can inflict on your opponent. I prefer the WHAA system for this, because I like the idea of outfitting the figures. On the other hand, the SoBH system is very simple and makes for considerably fewer dice rolls during combat, which speeds the game up a lot.

Morale is dealt with similarly in both rules sets with rolls versus Quality / REP, and the tests are taken at similar times.

SoBH includes attributes for your figures, which WHAA does not, although WHAA Book Two is supposed to be including those when it is produced. I like the attributes in SoBH. They can add character to your figures beyond the basic weapons and armour.

SoBH is cheaper for the first book than WHAA, but you can quickly spend just as much if you buy the additional supplements. I have not read these yet and so this comparison is based on the first book in the SoBH series.

Overall, I like both rules sets a lot. Each brings something different to the table and can be played in a short space of time, which gives you the chance to get a couple of games played in an evening, or even to play a mini-campaign in a day. One thing that SoBH lacks, which WHAA has is a system for generating enemy troops randomly. This is very useful for solo play and I would like to see something like that for SoBH. We shall certainly continue to play both rules sets, but I suspect that I shall stick to WHAA for solo play because of the ability to randomly generate enemies.


  1. Great report. If one warband has a leader and the other doesn't, it can be a very bad thing. Of course, that isn't an issue if your figures are all Q 3+.

    The lack of a detailed way to generate enemy army lists is disappointing, but not game breaking in my opinion. But definitely something that gets in the way of solo gaming...

  2. very interseting comparison.

    I think I'll have a go with WHAA

  3. I agree with you in all you said except in the attributes. There are a few in WHAA such as frenzy, climb, dread, elite trained, fanatic, poison, terror, vicious, etc.
    I'd also add that WHAA allows you to play cooperatively and multiplayer, and SBH not.
    I also play both systems indistinctly
    Thanks for the review.

  4. I have to say that I prefer WHAA over SBH, but the good thing about SBH is that it is more player vs dice system, and that makes it good for different kind of solo play than WHAA. I developed whole solo campaign for SBH (PDF can be find in files section of SBH yahoo group) based on that fact...