TableTopTakes: Sword & Sorcery
When it comes to dungeon crawling games, Gloomhaven was the first one that I played and is the one that I love the most. But, with the start of the Malts and Meeples streaming channel, I decided that I should get some more dungeon crawlers because a lot of them you can play solo. Now, if you’ve noticed, Sword & Sorcery hasn’t been played on Malts and Meeples, but I am playing through it now with a friend, so not even solo.
In Sword & Sorcery, you control a character who is an ancient hero brought back in this time of need. You are exploring and different scenarios, getting options presented to you as to what to do, and making choices based on the sort of party that you have. During each scenario, you are fighting monsters, collecting soul points, getting money and other loot and hopefully leveling up your character. Then, as you win, you advance to more scenarios. All in all, the basics of what you’re doing in a game are pretty standard.
Sword & Sorcery does have some unique things, the biggest one being death in the game. When your character dies, you were an ancient soul that has been brought forward in time, so you become a ghost, instead of just being dead. You can do a few things as a ghost, but the main thing you can do and what you want to do, is get to your soul respawn point, respawn, and get back into the fight as fast as possible. Because, if your teammates go down as well, you’ll lose the scenario. This feels unique to me in the game because death isn’t the end. In Gloomhaven, it’s possible to have a character go down half way through a scenario, and while there is plenty of things that player can still help with in terms of running the encounter, you are done playing your character for that scenario. Sword & Sorcery handles that differently allowing you to hop back into the fight, but at a cost. To respawn, you have to use a soul point. And while that doesn’t seem like much of a cost, the soul points are what you use to level up as well, so you’re slowing down your leveling progression, and when you get knocked out and turned into ghost form and come back, you lose a level.
The leveling is also interesting in this game. It’s interesting because it’s not a standard leveling. Characters don’t level up based on XP that is gained, there isn’t a divided amount of anything that gets you closer at a regular rate. You have a group pool of soul points, and you don’t get soul points all that fast. You also have to keep a reserve of soul points because if someone goes down and you have none, they are extremely limited in what they can do until they can get back into the fight. Leveling up is also not a cheap affair. You are spending soul points equal to the level squared that you are going up to. So at level 2 it’s 4 soul points, at level 3 it’s 9 soul points, at level 5 it’s 25 soul points. The game hands them out fairly often, but that’s a lot of soul points to get up to the higher levels.
Another part of the game that I really enjoy, is the character creation/skills aspect of the game. Each character has two sides, a lawful side and a chaotic side. When you start the game, you, as a party, decides if you are going to be lawful or chaotic. That is going to give you a different unique character power than if you have played lawful. It also gives you the opportunity to get different abilities. And when you pick abilities, you have a large variety to pick from. So how you build up a character over time is going to be different than someone else might. Because of that, you really do get a good variety in the game and it adds back in some replayability, even if you know what is going to happen in the scenarios. And, depending on if you are lawful or chaotic, you are locked out of picking some abilities which limits your choices some in an interesting way.
They also have some cool rules for characters and monsters in the same area. If there are more heroes than monsters in the area, you have majority, if you have have twice as many you dominate the area, and just for that, you get an extra hit. But it isn’t just for you, it’s also for the monsters, so if you get swarmed or split up, it’s possible that you’ll be taking extra damage. It’s a nice way to make the majority feel like it means something, but it also means that you can get piled on quickly if you aren’t careful. This is one area that strategy is added into the game where it isn’t just the die rolls.
The game has a massive rule book, however, and like a lot of dungeon crawlers, that can be a deterrent from people getting into the game. I don’t think that the rules are all that complex, however, once you’re used to them. Most of what you need to know is explained on the cards for your abilities, and resolved by die rolls. So, once you know how to interpret those rolls, it goes fast. I feel like that’s fairly common for larger dungeon crawlers where they need to cover the edge cases, but most of those things will be fairly rare so the focus of the game is actually pretty straight forward.
One downside to the game is that it’s a bit fiddly. I bought a ton of small plastic bags and that helps keep things sorted. But the game itself does not come with those, which means that it would be a lot of work finding stuff. I think that a tackle box or a cross stitch thread box would work nicely as well. I feel like this is a common issue with a lot of dungeon crawlers. Without an organizer or organization strategy for Gloomhaven, it would have the same issue as well. Also, because of the size of the maps and the amount of tokens, you need a fairly large table to play the game easily. Once you’re into the game you know what you need and it’s easier to keep track of, but set-up can be a lot, thankfully tear down is a lot faster which is to be expected.
I also will say that right now I’m playing the game two player, each of us running a single character. I think that we’re going to consider going to two players each. The reason for that was that we’ve had good luck. The friend seems to roll defense like no ones business, so their character has never been in danger and is often the one focused on. And I’ve had a lot of luck doing large amounts of damage so it’s been fairly easy. I don’t know how much more difficult it will be controlling two characters each or what that will do to the length of play, but we’re hoping it bumps up the difficulty a bit. It should because you flip an encounter card after every heroes activation, so theoretically characters will get hit more. We also have two magic users, so we are limited in what we can use for equipment and want to get more variety.
I have enjoyed this game a lot thus far. I don’t think that it’s as good as Gloomhaven, but it’s a lot of fun. The story has been enjoyable, and I like the fact that when you’re knocked out, you really aren’t knocked out of the scenario. I wish it felt a bit harder or had a good way to scale the difficulty. But there are unique aspects to the game and I’m excited for playing more of it. There are also a lot of interesting characters to play and way more than I will probably ever get to, plus expansions. This is definitely not a game for those who don’t like the luck of the dice though.
Overall Grade: B+
Gamer Grade: B+
Casual Grade: C-
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