Sword & Sorcery & So many tokens

Don't let it be said that all I ever buy and play are Mantic games.  While they are great, once in a while I do enjoy something else (we (me and three others) have a group playing Pandemic: Legacy after work every other Tuesday and we are having a blast (so far we are doing really well - we are 7 & 1 and about to hit August).

I've also mentioned that I tend to like Kickstarter (no I don't have a problem, why do you ask?  I can quit at any time, I just don't want to).

I talked about a kickstarter project from Ares Games a while back, which was scheduled to ship last October.  Like so many projects, it was late, and is now broken into multiple waves.  However I did get my wave 1 shipment the other day - so time for more unboxing!  Sword and Sorcery has arrived!

Two boxes had arrived - the bottom one was simply huge and heavy - the top a bit smaller.

Inside the top box was the extra copy of Vastaryous' Lair that I had ordered.  The bottom box had the Kickstarter version of the game, the expansion and a white box with more stuff.  Actually very efficient for packing - very little extra space or packing materials, and three of the boxes are shrink wrapped - indicating they are set at the factory.

So, of course, I opened everything backwards - saving the biggest box for last.  So into the white box of extras .It contains several bags - the first of which has a LOT of figures in it.

There are several smaller bags in it as well

So I open the bag with the multicolored figures first.  These are the aliens from Galaxy Defenders. As a stretch goal they made cards for all of the figures from the two GD releases - and if you didn't have that game (which I don't) then they allowed you to purchase the figures.

Sword & Sorcery and Galaxy Defenders use similar mechanics - each of the enemy figures are color coded.  Green are the weakest (and you typically get 2 of these), blue are the mid-level (you also get two of these) and red are the toughest (only one).  Then purple are the main, final bosses.  Much like the MMORPG that the game tries to emulate, the final bosses have different rules and are much harder to fight.

The first one is a pretty cool hybrid of a Gyger-esque xenomorth and insect.  My figure was a bit bent, but it looks like a little hot water should sort it out pretty well.

The insect abdomen makes this alien horror much scarier.  Unfortunately, they were not yet able to provide the cards to use this beasty.

The first and weakest of the GD aliens that DO have cards are the Spine Critters. The simplest and easiest to kill, they do have the Acid Blood ability meaning that they still damage heroes even when they die.

Aracnos are next in power.  These spider like creatures have natural armor and can capture the heroes in their webs, taking them away to devour later at their leisure.

Finally are the Xeno-Beasts.  These rampaging monsters have a cannon on their shoulder - the better to shoot you with my dear.

Again, not having GD I'm not sure, but since these all have cards I believe they are all part of the original game, while the other figures are from the expansion.

For the cards, there is one for each of the levels of each of the enemies - green, blue and red.  These 'enemy scrolls' have all the AI rules for the appropriate monster on them, so not only does each monster act differently, but each level of monster may act differently.  In addition, there is a small card for each model.  So there is only one enemy scroll for a green spine critter, there are two smaller monster cards.  All monster cards have the same backs - so you may be able to randomize them if necessary.

The enemy scrolls can really differentiate these.  Plus you can add enemy powers as well, so you may never end up facing the exact same monsters twice.

Since the rest of these did NOT yet have card (they are coming in wave 2) I don't have names, or stats, or anything beyond the sculpts (and colors) to judge the remainders.  First up is the big purple worm - the boss for the GD expansion I am guessing.  Or is this the head and neck of a dragon coming out of the ground?

There are actually 10 total little worms - so I can't help but wonder if they can swarm up (like gremlins in the base game).  It is also making me think of the entire Tremors series (what - 5 movies and a tv series?)

Did the worms in Tremors eventually fly?  I remember the little ones grew legs (ok, they looked like p*****s running around), but I don't remember if they ever evolved wings.  Even so, there are baddies with wings.

The last GD creatures are big, bulky creatures with dual tails.  Their heads are not feline like the bodies appear, but with all those muscles I expect they will be fast and hit hard.

So on to components for THIS game.  One thing that came in the big pledge that I was kind of 'meh' on was metal coins for the crowns - which are currency in the game.  Cute but not really necessary. Of course now that I've used them, I rather like them - go figure.
Three denominations, front and back
I did see someone asking if there were enough to replace all the crowns including those from expansion packs - I figure if you actually run out of these you can always go back to using some of the cardboard tokens.  Though if you have more than 1000 crowns and aren't spending any then you are most likely missing the point.
25 5's, 20 10's and 15 50's
I didn't follow the kickstarter nearly as closely as some others, but I remember back when Mantic did Dungeon Saga - everyone lost their minds when they added doors!  The base set still comes with the standard punch card doors, but these add ons definitely make the game better (the chests are nice too, and (whether intentional or not) the chest tokens just fit inside the chests - so you can actually put them on the board and just turn them over when you open them.
doors and chests
Of course the game requires dice - and this one has their own custom 10 siders.  The dice bag is nice, but in the Immortal hero pledge you get a second set of these.  The bag is big enough so one will hold all the dice, and the other the metal coins!
Dice and dice bags
Next in the white box was a bag containing light blue versions of all the hero figures - 19 in all (14 heroes plus 4 companions - and a werewolf - there is no card at all for the werewolf).  These are all the exact same sculpts as the 'standard' models, just another color (you can use these as the ghost versions of your heroes I guess).

So a second set to paint if you like.  As a board game, I doubt I will ever get to painting these anyway (so many more armies to do), but having a second set never hurts.

There are two hero expansions included in this pledge as well.  The first is Onamor & Volkar. These are interesting - as they are enemies sculpts being used now as heroes.  You get the deluxe hero cards (really beautiful artwork on these two sided cards)
Of course, more tokens as well.  The addition map tiles will ship in wave 2.

A full set of hero cards for these two, including the two demons that Onamor can summon.

The four minis in the set.
The second expansion set is Samyria and Bjorn.  This is different, as Samyria doesn't summon Bjorn as a companion, she transforms into the bear!  As such, the bear version has it's own hero card that you place over Samyria's when she transforms.
Unlike 'normal' heroes, everything is on the one card
and more tokens - so many tokens
Bjorn and Samyria
And that finishes off the white box of extras.

Next is the expansion, Vastaryous' Lair.  I mentioned before, I was so impressed by the render of the hydra with this set that I bought a second one!

Beautiful artwork on the box
Opening the box, there are several sheets of punch tiles and tokens - because there just aren't enough tokens in this game.

Hmmm - 80 more health points - I'm guessing the hydra has quite a few to deal with

Underneath the token/tile sheets is a vacu-formed tray with a lid.  However conspicuously absent are cards.  There are three big empty spaces.  But there are models - the big five headed hydra and five dragon minions.

The whole reason I got the second expansion was for the hydra model.

A big, beautiful, five headed, winged hydra.  It is about three times taller than the heroes.  Not quite as imposing as I had hoped (the render did not have a scale with it) however as a gaming piece quite cool.  I'm still not sure what I'll do with it but give me time, I'll find a way to sneak it in somewhere. I can't help but wonder what size square base I could fit it on (I don't think a 50, but maybe a 75?)

A couple of size comparison shots

There are the minions as well - 2 green, 2 blue and a red.

If you liked the smaller hero dragon - there are now 7 copies of him - 2 green, 2 blue, 1 red, 1 grey (hero) and 1 light blue.  A comparison shot.

I am really surprised that they shipped this expansion - shrink wrapped even - when it isn't complete. The expansion will require rule/story/secrets books and cards in order to use it.  It is beautiful retail packaging - but sorely incomplete.  I can see people buying this and then raising a stink because it is missing so much stuff.  Plus if it comes this way from the manufacturer, then when wave 2 is available they will have to remove the shrink wrap and open EVERY box to add the cards and book, then re-shrink wrap it.  It seems to me to be a logistical nightmare to have to fix all of these and make sure that none of them slip into retail.

It seems like it would have been a lot simpler to hold this until it was complete in wave 2 - it isn't like the models and tiles are usable without the cards anyway.

And then there is the main box itself.  It is huge and heavy - so much stuff in it.  Of course the artwork on the box is fantastic.
One thing though - the back of both this box and Vastaryous' Lair are basically plain black - it would be nice to have a picture (and list of content) of the game components inside.  Ok, the kickstarter box doesn't need this, but the retail box (which VL is, I assume) do.  Opening the box is a tray full of miniatures in bags, except for the one demon boss.
Beneath this tray is the Rulebook and Book of Secrets.  Nice glossy pages, I do wonder why they choose the format instead of more 'normal' sizes.

inside the rule book, with plenty of example (could use a getting started section, and index)
the most intimidating part - 55 pages of rules - definitely does not feel like an introductory game.  Not one I would give pre-teens based on the complexity.
Beneath those books is the Storybook. This has the setup for each adventure, while the Book of Secrets has the information that should be kept hidden until it is revealed during the game.

They also included a quick reference sheet - which is a very nice feature to have

The kickstarter edition also includes a full checklist of everything, including listing those items (cards, tiles and books) that are due to ship with wave 2 in October.

The back side lists the add ons as well

Beneath these are a huge set of punch card materials, shrink wrapped together.  The top is part of the components for the card holder.  These are a major component of the weight of the box.

so many tile sheets
Then there is a bottom tray, with cards, dice and stands (for the punch card doors).

The kickstarter edition comes with a dice bag and 8 (4 each) of dice.  I did notice that one of my red dice did NOT have the lightning bolts colored yellow - most likely a manufacturing slip up, but not really a big deal.

Five big stack of cards (ok, 4 big ones, and the smaller GD set (same set that came with the figures))

It also has a set of scrolls for all the monsters in the base game (as well as for the 3 GD monsters)

The player card stack was also quite thick - with 15 deluxe cards, plus the boss monster card and the base game player cards.
Player card stack
The deluxe ones are so much nicer than the retail versions, which while excellent quality (and the exact same artwork) - the retail versions are just so thin and flimsy feeling compared to the thicker ones made out of the same cardstock as the tiles.
Retail vs Deluxe player card
Opening the tile stack, we first have the three sheets for the card holder.

Nice and quite easy to put together, this is actually very useful for organizing all the stacks of cards that are needed for the game.  There is a place for each type of card.  Almost.  On the end, the slot is marked with the crown symbol - so implies it is a place to put the crowns for use in the game.

However there is another card stack that doesn't fit now - the event deck.  I figured I'd use the crown slot for the event deck, and just have the crowns loose instead.

The biggest issues with this nice accessory is that once assembled, you (of course, from the size) can no longer fit it in the box.

There are then 10 tile/token sheets.  I think I mentioned with the expansions that there were a lot of tokens - well this is where they are.  Well over a two hundred tokens (I don't know why this is a selling point in the kickstarter - I've never been influenced to buy a game because of the number of tokens it included).

The sheets are the size of the box, and just barely fit in my light box.

oh god so many tokens.  I did take the door and crown ones out and put in a separate bag as I'll use the metal crowns and plastic doors instead.

The tiles come in various shapes and are two sides.  Each tile has one or more 'areas' on it, separated by illustrations.  Each one has a LOS (line-of-sight) mark on it, because apparently placement within and area doesn't matter.  The tiles are nice and heavy, and all have 'puzzle piece' type connectors on them.  That means that you don't have to worry about tiles moving around or sliding - at the slight cost of some flexibility in your dungeon layouts.  A very decent compromise.

Now onto the figures (my favorite part, being mainly a miniature wargamer).  There are two bosses in the base game (this because there are only two boss scrolls, so the other three purple figures are for the expansions and won't get their cards until later.

One is a troll

The other is an Orc Warlord

Nice details on the cape
For minions, we start out with the base gremlins

Then come five raiders

Orc Warriors

Orc Shamans

Next up are the heroes from the base set
Laegdon and his wolf
Thorgar and Ariel
The paladin and rogue
Of course you also get the rest of the kickstarter heroes
Lycanthropy Curse Hero and Demon/Witch hunter

Blademaster / Bard

Berserker / Slayer and KS Exclusive Standard-Bearer / Warlord

Captain/Pirate and Barbarian / Dreadlord
Then there are the monsters from later expansions.  No cards for any of these yet.
Hellspawn Master Enemy
Nicely detailed (and I like the double wings)
Undead Lord Master Enemy

Count Daly (Vampire) Master Enemy

I'm not sure which monsters will actually go in which set until the cards actually come out.
comparison to the hero version
comparison to the hero version
comparison to the hero version
Death Knights
You definitely get a LOT of stuff in this - and with so many more cards, tiles and tokens coming, as well as the books.  I look forward to another box in October!

I figure that in order to make this a bit more than just an un-boxing, I should actually give the game a quick try.  The first thing is that the game is NOT quick.  Even knowing that playing any game for the first time adds significant time to it, it still seemed long.  Not boring and drawn out - but I started setting up at 10 pm Saturday night (right after the Dr. Who season finale) and when I was finally finished it was 1:45 Sunday morning!  Assuming I doubled the needed time, it was still almost 2 hours for the first, introductory game (which should be the easiest).

game set up and ready to play
What this needs is a walkthrough of at least the first few turns.  It isn't that the rules aren't clear - but at 55 pages there is a lot to attempt to digest at first glance.  Now there is the quick reference which I love and found very handy. There were some questions I had through the game that I couldn't find the answers for in the manual while I was playing.  I remember seeing something relevant to them, but could not find it again (a good example was whether or not weapons with a [1] or higher range could be used on a target in the same area as the attacker (i.e. can ranged weapons be used in close combat?))  The answer is yes (pg 22), but I had to do a search of the PDF the next day (looking for "ranged") to find it.

I also wasn't sure if you could shoot into combat.  However on closer review, I realized that I was bringing in other game terms and concepts into this one (something I try to warn my players NOT to do when teaching Kings of War - so shame on me).  There is no shooting or close combat. There are simply weapons with a range - and you attack with them.  It is a melee or ranged attack based solely on if the weapon has a range greater than [0].  As such an attack is an attack - there is no penalty for using a ranged attack into an area with a friendly model, just like there isn't one for using a melee weapon.  In addition LOS is taken from area to area, and figures do not block it.

The other thing that took me a bit was how to 'create' the starting characters.  Having a "Read Me First" walkthrough of the first couple of turns would have solved this.  It was fairly clear how to add powers when you "leveled up", but there are not guidelines for the initial selection (which apparently is simply what you like best based on what us available to you).  It also seemed pretty strange that you would start the game essentially 'naked' - with no equipment (this was quickly fixed, though I did not know it starting out)..

I did a three hero game - Thorgar, Ariel and Laegon, choosing the law nature for the first two (and archer for the neutral Laegon).

So the first turn I move with Thorgar and that activates the waypoint in the next area - which allows each hero who passes it to select three items out of the stash.  But what is in the stash - back to the book - to find that some of the item cards are marked "stash" instead of having a point value.  (Having a walk through that tells you to separate these cards as part of the setup would have solved this and some other minor issues)

So after the first turn, the dwarf has armor, a shield and a battle hammer, the elf has a short bow, leather armor and a dirk, and the mage a staff, dagger and wizards robes.  Much better.  There no enemies on the board, so none of the heroes has an enemy turn yet.

Thorgar again goes first (I seem to be developing more and more of an affinity toward dwarfs lately), so he opens the door (oops, forget EVERY door has a trap). and that spawns a blue gremlin.  With two more movement left, there is just enough to reach this nasty, so time for the first combat!
Thorgar charging at the gremlin
It wasn't until a bit later that I realized this should have triggered the next shadow to spawn. However it didn't actually make a difference).

So Thorgar has his trusty battle hammer - like any good dwarf should.  It gives him 2 red and 2 blue dice to attack at range 0.  The Gremlin has a blue reaction token - but looking at it's scroll that is just if it is injured.  It has no specific defense, so it gets a single blue die.

Thorgar rolls three hits, two lightning bolts, a star and a shield (I started to really hate rolling shields when attacking :-) ).  Looking at the card, I spend the two lightning bolts to add two more hits, for a total of 5.  The gremlin rolls a single shield, reducing this to 4 (and he has four hit points, as shown in the heart on his card) - and he is dead!  Yes, first combat and Thorgar one shots the little monster.
First blood to the heroes
I go on to activate Laegon next, but then realize that I missed something.  The night event is in effect - and because we are all still weak from being summoned back to life, we all lose a  hit from every attack.  So I realize I only did  three wounds, leaving the nasty bugger alive but wounded.  Damn.
Fixed combat result
So now I do have to take an enemy turn since there is an active enemy.  I also realize that I should have revealed the shadow as well, so that becomes a green gremlin.  Drawing an encounter card - all green enemies activate - the green gremlin runs over to attack Thorgar.  He uses his claw attack, which gets two red dice.  However there are now twice as many enemies as heroes, so that gives him an automatic hit.

Thorgar's armor gives him 3 blue dice.  Looking at the cards now, I mistakenly thought his shield gave him an armor point AND a blue die - I now realize that the 1 blue die was if I was using the shield to attack with.  So maybe Thorgar isn't quite as tough as I thought (he never took a wound for the entire game).  His armor did allow him to re-roll one defense die though.  The gremlin rolled two hits (and added one more for because they dominated the area), and Thorgar got a shield, combined with the one from the armor and the one from the shield, he blocked all three attacks.  I do think that maybe having a specific attack and defense icon on the card (instead of having attacks at the top and defense at the bottom) might make things a bit more clear.
Can't get through the dwarfs defenses
Laegon then moved one area and, after not being able to find anything preventing it, shot at the blue gremlin with his shortbow, and not only killed it, but that allowed him to take a second shot at the green one (who easily dodged the arrow).  The enemies again got a turn, but Thorgar was a tank and laughed it off.  Ariel then moved into the area and attacked with her staff (because it wasn't until after she died (she got better) that my brain finally turned on and I realized that she HAD spells and should be using them because they would be MUCH more effective than hitting monsters with a stick!  Had I remembered she could cast, the eventual fight with the boss would have been a bit easier, she might not have died, and thus might night have needed a soul gem to resurrect, so I would have had four at the end of the game instead of three, and someone else (Laegon already had leveled up) to advance a soul rank.

It didn't help later that she crosses a waypoint, triggering a trap and poisoning herself (though she passed her save on the next time phase.
Laegon was the main explorer - first finding the merchant and later searching and finding a pouch of crowns.  One serious tactical mistake I made was after Laegon found the merchant, Thorgar figured he would give him most of his crowns so that he could buy a longbow - which would be much more effective than the short bow.

Then I get the next event card - and everybody does a critical this turn.   Thorgar runs in and gives him the money so he can purchase the bow in his activation (because I'm an idiot), but suddenly there are two gremlins fighting.  Not a problem I think, Thorgar isn't worried.  However I then realized they go after the hero who has the MOST crowns - so they instead attack the elf - stunning him on the first critical (though he luckily blocks the next one) - losing his turn so he can't get the bow.  (I told you I was an idiot!)  The gremlins continue to pound on the hapless elf for a couple more turn before he and the dwarf kill them (both missing on their next turn, so it took three turns before they were dead).  I also didn't think that the elf could use his bow to attack in the same area he was in, so he just fought with his ineffective dirk.  He then purchased the long bow (finally).
Laegon searching the area, finding 10 crowns
The heroes finally won the day and are ready for their next adventure, finding some decent gear already.  I haven't decided if I will keep these going and either try another solo game, or draft some friends in to play with them.
a lot more tokens and cards at the end of the game than the beginning
So the main item - was it fun.  Almost surprisingly it was.  I had gone in with a little trepidation after seeing how big the rule book and the amount of tokens - oh god so many tokens - and cards.  I laugh to myself because I thought the game with all the components would actually fit in the box.  Foolish me - it didn't take any time attempting to set up the game for me to realize I needed more storage for these tokens - emptying out a divided organizer that I used for bits (and while I would never throw them out, I haven't actually used any of those GW goblin shields in several years).  18 compartments though may not be enough as I learned what some of the tokens were and how they were used (like the condition tokens).  But with that organizer (and the card holder) everything does not fit back into the box.  Also some people sleeve ALL their cards - I generally don't worry with board games.

I've only played a few dungeon crawl games in the past (and always as the Overlord player) - an old (because it was old by the time I had kids (and it didn't exist when I was a kid)) copy of Heroquest that they loved, and lately Mantic's Dungeon Saga.  These were both excellent introductory games, but this one is a bit more advanced.  I wouldn't give this to a twelve year old and expect the he could sit down with his grandparents and play a game.  A group of slightly older kids however could probably really get into this, especially with the freedom to advance the heroes as you like (and with 15 heroes in the kickstarter set that is a lot of freedom).

It does need a detailed walkthrough (just a few turns) to get you started on the first game - this may seem a waste once you know the game - but how many times are people going to be buying and playing this for the first time without anyone who has played before.

I really look forward to the additional scenarios (one on-line I believe, and three more hard copies) that are coming in wave 2 to add even more variety (oh, and I don't remember if they are adding in adventures for the GD models - but YES PLEASE!).

If I get more familiar with the rules, I may even bring this in to our quarterly game night at work (it is actually after work in our large conference room) to see if people want to give it a try - and maybe do a full campaign (Maybe even my Pandemic Legacy group since season 2 is not coming out until fall (I was so hoping it would be a Gencon), this may fill the gap between them).

I do look forward to playing it again and seeing if I can get grok it enough to not be looking up details every turn (and also remembering ALL the rules).

Because it is all fun and games . . .


  1. What a massive amount of stuff, can't believe it, must have cost a fortune. A very impressive haul :-)

  2. Quite a detailed walkthrough and write up! Thanks for taking the time. I have a couple questions though: 1) where did you see that enemies get a blue die? I know Heroes do but in the combat section it says that if there's no defense value then no dice are rolled.

    2) How did Laegon block a critical? The only way you can do that is to avoid the attack altogether, before rolling defense dice. I don't think anyone has a way of doing that at these soulranks.

  3. Many mistakes were made. I have since played it again - went a bit smoother, but still a fairly complicated game.


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