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Shadows of Brimstone Initial Impressions (AKA The Triumphant Return of Warhammer Quest)

Ah Warhammer Quest. I have sunk more hours into that board game than any other. Across multiple gaming groups, it never failed to create memorable moments and characters (Jesus Hotrod, Jr. 4EVAR!) For all its faults, it came with an ample supply of the most important thing for any game: fun.

Ever since it has gone out of print, I have been looking for a worthy successor to take its place. There have been asynchronous dungeon crawl that don't capture the pure coop feel of WQ. There have been dungeon crawl (such as the D&D Ravenloft/Ashardalon/Drizzt) games that lack the campaign / character development aspect. Nothing has been able to scratch the same itch.

Within the past couple of years, Kickstarter has lead to an amazing board game boom. We are seeing a great influx of new games across all genres. Among all the new games, there is one that appears to finally fill the void left by WQ. That game is Shadows of Brimstone.

What Is It?
Shadows of Brimstone (SoB) is a cooperative dungeon crawl featuring character progression and a Weird West theme and using miniatures. All players cooperate to beat missions. The primary gameplay of the missions involves exploring randomly generated dungeons, fighting monsters and getting loot, gold and experience points (XP) along the way. Missions typically culminate in some main objective (usually a difficult boss fight).  All monsters are played by the game; that is, they are controlled by specific rules so no Game Master is required to play them.  Once missions are completed, the players can travel to a town to resupply, buy/ forge new items, visit different locations in search of bonuses, and level up (actually, they can level up mid dungeon if desired).  The Weird West theme is basically Wild West meets Cthuhlu - PCs are typcial WW archetypes, but the mosters are nightmare creatures from another world.

All but the final sentence of the last paragraph should sound pretty familiar to anyone who has played WQ.  I'd go as far to say that you can have a pretty good idea if you would enjoy this game based on how much you like WQ. Other than theme, there is so much overlap to the feel of the game, down to things like rolling on an event table when travelling to town, experiencing random events in town, and getting all sorts of good and bad permanent changes to your characters.  That is not to say they are identical. SoB has its own mechanics for how things like combat work, has streamlined some of the clunkier things that WQ had, brings a bunch of unique mechanics to both the dungeon crawl and the in-town aspects of the game. And, most importantly, SoB is an actively supported game, with many expansions planned (just the stuff from their Kickstarter alone will take a couple years to all reach retail).

My next post will go into a little more detail about how SoB plays. I also plan to point out the things that may bother some about the gameplay (pretty much the same things that may bother someone about WQ, primarily the randomness involved). I'll try to get that post up in the next day or two.
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Comments

  • 41 Comments sorted by Votes Date Added
  • Thanks for writing up! If you can, include some thoughts on how it plays solo in your game play write up. I loved Quest back in the day and while it would be fun to play as a group, being limited to 4 players would make it tough for us Erie players to really get a campaign going. I am searching for something beside Mage Knight to play solo though.
  • edited April 2015 Posts: 0Vote Up0Vote Down
    I am so about this game. Please tell us more. I know it would be tough to play here as Aron mentioned, but I'm still extremely curious.
    Post edited by TheLion at 2015-04-28 01:06:12
  • Holy shit, this already sounds awesome.
  • I'll definitely add my solo thoughts in my next big post. I actually controlled two characters during my solo game; I think controlling one character solo is definitely extra challenging.

    Also, I believe their are rules to support up to 6 players if you combine both core sets.
  • Yeah I was reading a little bit about combing both sets on BGG yesterday but I would want to make sure I really liked a game before dropping $140 on it. :D
  • Ouch.

    I know I had to pay extra to get a hard-to-find copy of WQ, but I don't think it was nearly that high.  Could be wrong.  Plus, that was, like, 1990's money.  
    :P
  • So...still feeling pretty excited about this game.
  • Yea, the downside of combining sets is it makes the game pretty pricey (why I started with just one set, although I'll probably get the other down the line), especially since all you need is the extra heroes.  Actually, I am pretty sure if you didn't mind doubling up on characters, you could just play with one set and proxy the models ...
  • Actually dumps, 90s money is definitely the difference. The GW board game releases now (Space Hulk, the new Assassinarinmononnoriumass game) go for $125. But I would hazard to guess if they did release a new WQ with similar amount of components to the original, it'd go for $150 to $200.
  • One more quick note before my more detailed post on gameplay.  SoB has been released as two separate, complete core sets. Each set contains a different set of heroes, a unique "Other World," unique items, and their own set of monsters. They overlap in a few elements, and things like town travel.  You can combine the two sets, but each is fully playable on their own, with more than enough gameplay with just one to last quite a while. 
    There are also a number of expansions on the horizon, including additional "other worlds," new classes, item packs, etc.
  • Gamplay
    SoB has two distinct gameplay sections: the dungeon crawl, and the town visit. This will be familiar to any WQ players.
    Most of the gameplay is in the dungeon crawl, so I will go into that first. (Probably across a few posts as time permits).

    At its most basic level, SoB is similar to pretty much any dungeon crawl. Players take turns moving and attacking (in the presence of enemies), or exploring / scavenging.  The map is formed randomly via a deck of map cards, with new tiles revealed as players explore.  In combat, player and monster turns are intermixed, with everyone taking their turn according to initiative. The game is typically won by finding an objective room and defeating the threat inside. Again, if you have played WQ, you should be familiar with the general flow of the dungeon crawl.

    That said, there are a number of things that give SoB a unique flavor.

    The most obvious is the Depth Track. As new tiles are revealed, the "Posse" token is moved further along the track, indicating how deep in the Mine the players are. At the other end of the track is a second token, representing "The Darkness," the unspeakable evil trying to get out. At the start of the turn, the players make a roll to see if the Darkness moves one step up on the track. This roll gets more difficult as the players det deeper on the track. If the Darkness ever reaches Mine exit, the mission is lost. This provides a nice time limit that adds tension and prevents players from dawdling too much. Furthermore, at some spots on the track, the players are forced to draw a Darkness card (bad things), or occasionally a "Growing Dread" card (really bad things). The latter get added, facedown, to a pile that is not revealed until players reach the missions objective, where they are revealed all at once.
  • Exploration
    When players explore a new room, they draw an Exploration Token, which is revealed at the end of the turn. The token will contain several key pieces of information: how many exits the new tile has, if there are any Encounters (draw card from encounter deck), if there is an Attack or Ambush (draw card from Threat deck), and finally if there are any "clues."  Clues are mission specific things. For example, for the tutorial mission, the second clue you find indicates the location of the Objective room.

    The Threat deck is the deck of monsters you will encounter. There are four level of Threat decks: Low, Med, High, and Epic. Which one you draw from depends primarily on the number of heroes, although you may be drawing from a different deck at times.

    Players can also Scavenge any tile, in the hopes of finding loot. If you succeed, you draw one or more scavenge cards.The scavenge deck is 1/3 good, 1/3 neutral, and 1/3 bad, and is reshuffled for any scavenge attempt.  Tiles can only typically be scavenged once.  
  • Movement
    I should throw a comment in here about movement, since it is a little different from most dungeon crawls. The big difference is that it is random (1d6) for heroes. Now, at first I was not really certain about this. In fact, they even provide an optional rule for fixed movement for the faint of heart. However, having played a couple solo games, I can say I am really warming up to it. Aside from the added tension of the roll, it makes it so you can't just math out ahead number of turns from point x to y, and prevents the "fast" character from going way ahead and getting all the scavenging in first. Fluff wise, it also fits a little better with descending into these mines, where footing could go from solid to shaky in a few steps.

    The move roll also serves another function. In the unfortunate case where you roll a '1', you get to recover one Grit.  Grit is most often used to reroll dice, but is also used by some special abilities, or for additional movement.
  • Combat
    As you may guess, combat is resolved by rolling dice.  Essentially, you pick whether you are doing melee or ranged, roll a number of dice based on the weapon you are using, and compare the results against your Range or Melee to-hit value. This tells you how many hits you scored. You may then assign these hits to any eligible target(s), and roll damage. The target's defense is subtracted from the damage roll, and that gives you the number of wounds you inflict. Pretty straight forward, no different to-hit against different monsters or unneeded complications like that. There are Critical hits, which ignore the monster's defense. Do enough damage and you kill the monster, scoring XP. (Note that big monsters give XP for any hit that wounds, not just kills. So no situation of kill-stealing a Minotaur).

    Monsters attacking heroes is a little different. Each monster will focus all attacks on one hero. Any hits can be countered with a defensive save roll by the hero. The amount of damage unsaved hits do is fixed.

    But then there is a big difference: heroes have two kinds of "hit points."  They have Health and Sanity. So, some attacks will tick away at your health, some at your sanity. If either reach 0, you are KO'd.

    Actually, there is a 3rd, less common type of hit you can take - Corruption. Corruption points stack on your character until you get too many, at which point you are forced to roll for a Mutation :) In this game, everyone can be a Chaos Warrior!
  • ph4t l3wt
    In addition to XP, there are other rewards you get from scavenging, defeating threats, and overcoming various encounters.
    There is of course $$$, necessary to resupply, buy things, heal injuries or exorcise mutations, etc.
    There is also Darkstone, which can be used to forge / upgrade items and weapons (at the risk of Corruption).
    There are a number of "side bag" items - one shots that can be used at anytime to heal health, sanity, or damage / disadvantage enemies.
    Finally there are the item decks, divided into the more common "Gear" and the rarer "Artifacts."  
  • Other Worlds
    Another thematic item that makes SoB stand out is the possibility of finding a portal to another world deep in the mine.  Each core set comes with its own unique Other World, with more planned for expansions.  Other Worlds feature specific encounters, new versions of the enemies, environmental threats, and much greater chance of getting powerful artifacts (higher risk, higher reward). Like ancient alien tech, aka laser pistols. Yes, you can be a wild west sheriff fighting tentacled horrors in the depths of a decrepit mine armed only with your badge and trusty laser gun. Says a lot about why I like this game.
  • I'm in.
  • BakaKuma said:

    Other Worlds

    Yes, you can be a wild west sheriff fighting tentacled horrors in the depths of a decrepit mine armed only with your badge and trusty laser gun. Says a lot about why I like this game.
    This. While also being a lethario and lover of women.
  • From the looks of at least one of the boxes, you can play as a bar wench.  In which case, I could play the bar wench, and you could be a lothario and lover of me.  HIYO!
  • That's the set I have :). My current solo team is the Saloon Girl and Gunslinger.
  • dumps said:

    From the looks of at least one of the boxes, you can play as a bar wench.  In which case, I could play the bar wench, and you could be a lothario and lover of me.  HIYO!

    I will never have the imaginative capacity to role play that. However, if you can convince Kate Mara to be the bar wench, I'd role-play the fuck out of that. And her, but ONLY for the sake of staying in character. #methodacting
  • First:
    MattyDoo said:

    dumps said:

    From the looks of at least one of the boxes, you can play as a bar wench.  In which case, I could play the bar wench, and you could be a lothario and lover of me.  HIYO!

    I will never have the imaginative capacity to role play that. However, if you can convince Kate Mara to be the bar wench, I'd role-play the fuck out of that. And her, but ONLY for the sake of staying in character. #methodacting
    Amen, Brother.

    Second, we so, so need to play this.
  • Also, any game where you can earn "grit" is classic in my book.  I could use a bit more grit.
  • We used to sell it at Wild Birds.
  • I've been playing a few games of this solo (using two characters, the Saloon Girl and Gunslinger) while the girls are away and it is easier to leave all the game stuff out on the dining room table.
    I am thoroughly enjoying it, I'd say even more that Warhammer Quest. I ended up picking up the second starter, some gencon preview models, and order the first expansion (which should arrive this weekend).
  • Sweet.  I'd really like to try this.
  • I'd still love to try this.
  • I think Mike wants to try it.
  • I've given it a lot of thought and I agree with Joe - I'd really like to try it! :)
  • Mike, I think you should really consider trying it.
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