Sellswords and Spellslingers: First Impressions

January 22, 2018

Sellswords and Spellslingers is a new cooperative game by Ganesha Games.  The idea behind the game is that a player makes several characters with various abilities and go on adventures (scenarios) gaining loot and and experience to become more powerful.  The game can be played cooperatively or solo.  The scenarios are scaled up based on the number of participating players.

Characters start with 3 hit points each.  Lesser monsters do one hit of damage while greater ones can deal out 2 hits.  A player has 60 experience points to spend among his characters.   He might spend 25 on one and 10 on another and so forth until all 60 are used.  He can not spend more than 40 and less than 5 on a character.  There are also disadvantages which will allow you to gain a few extra experience points.  They do incur game penalties, some quite severe.  My hobbits, for example, had “good shot”, “stealth” and “forester.”  This allowed a +1 to hit with throwing weapons, the ability to hide from shooters who were shooting at longer range than 4″ and the ability to move freely through thick vegetation.  I took the “slow move” disadvantage which makes a character move at 3″ per move instead of the 4″ standard move.

The game works on individual activation as there is no traditional game sequence.  A player moves all of his characters once.  In a solo game, you must move everyone before you can move another character a second time.  In a multiplayer cooperative game, play passes to the next player and so forth.  Like in his previous game series, Song of Blades and Heroes, a player will roll 1, 2 or 3 20 sided dice (D20) to gain actions.  The score is 8+ to get one action.  If a die fails, (7-) an event card is drawn.  Most cards drawn govern how the monsters behave.  Usually it will be something like a horde activates or a loner activates and occasionally a monster frenzy card where all monsters go.  So, like SoBaH, there is a risk and reward to how many dice you roll.  On a side note, for each natural 20 you roll, you may take one extra action or reduce the event cards about to be drawn by 1.

Combat, be it missile or melee, is performed the same way.  The player rolls a D20 and tries to meet or exceed the target monster’s Danger Level.  Danger level is the relative strength of an enemy.  If he succeeds, the monster takes damage.  If he fails in melee, the character takes damage.  Missile fire is just a miss.  Similarly, if the monster attacks, the player rolls a die just like he was attacking.  In melee, if he succeeds, the monster takes damage and if he fails the player character takes damage.  When being attacked by missile fire, the player is rolling to dodge for one of his characters.  A success will avoid damage.

Hordes are a special grouping of low level monsters.  Each of these minions still has a DL rating but for each minion in the group, the DL rating goes up by one.  As monsters are slain, the group strength lessens.  So large hordes (I think the max size is 6) can be quite dangerous.  That is where you will want lots of shooters.  They are not affected by group size.  You target hordes member individually with missile fire.

There are activities between scenarios that players can do like repairing armor, creating spells or potions and so forth.

I managed to get a solo game of Sellswords and Spellslingers in this weekend.  While I did get a couple of minor things wrong, I think I have a pretty good handle on how the game works.  I started play with the first scenario which is quite basic in nature.  The object is to get the party of heroes from one side of the map to the other.  It’s only 3 feet.  How hard can that be?

One green Troll. 4 dead Hobbits.

The scenario called for a 3X3 board covered in about 1/3 brush.  I chose to add some other terrain items including a bridge at the other side which needed to be crossed in order to get to Bree.  I used 4 Hobbits.  You know their names!  I did use the monsters in the scenario.  My hobbits had no melee weapons.  In retrospect, I should have had them as fighting barefisted incurs a -4 penalty.  That will result in a lot of damage to the player character in melee.  They did have a bonus to missile weapons and were always armed since you can always find a rock out doors.  I also used stealth which proved useless since none of the enemies had missile weapons.

My plan was simple.  Move as quickly as I can to the other side.  That meant rolling 3 dice for actions every time.  I rolled an inordinate amount of 7s and lower.  Each failure results in an event card being drawn.  So, that means the monsters would potentially move twice.  Frodo made it up the road pretty fair and discovered a short blade in the hollow of a tree (random event).  Alas, the event deck is not always kind.  While one character did spot something valuable the Troll was wearing, that just enticed my to do something stupid like try to defeat the troll!   I got close, scoring 5 hits, 3 with missile shots and 2 with that fancy new blade Frodo found.  The others tried to fight it as well and were dispatched one by one.  Eventually, it ended in defeat for the Hobbits.  I guess Middle Earth was plunged into darkness after all.

I do like the game.  In some ways it is everything Frostgrave should have been.  It leaves the player with the ability to play any sort of characters they want.  The event deck is a very clever idea.  There are reshuffle cards in the deck so that you never run out of cards in a game.  There are also one-off cards that you remove after the first time you draw them.  I suspect the game will lend itself very well to those that wat to design their own scenarios.  Each scenario has sets of instructions so that the more generic “one-off” cards have some different meanings.

On the downside, there is a relative dearth of concrete magic items.  There are opportunities to find scrolls and potions but not so much magic weapons, armor, staves and the like.  There also is no treasure tables.  The treasures are written into the scenarios.  I am hoping the author will expand on this in future supplements.

As I play more, I shall write more about my impressions.  Until next time, may your adventures end better than mine! 😉