Between a member of the Southern playtesting team; Billy ‘Buttons’ Harrington, Sergeant-Major in the 42nd Foot and Mouth VC and Field Marshall Sir Charles Napier Murton (Permanent Private Secretary to the Minister, Lord Craig Arthur Wellesley Cartmell).
A playtest of the up and coming ‘Thud and Blunder’ fantasy skirmish game from the Ministry of Gentlemanly Warfare, Charles and Craig’s next project following IHMN, IHMN Gothic, Daishō, Blood Eagle and various supplements and expansions.
You can see where they’ve drawn their influences and experience into the game; for example, they’re both veteran Dungeons & Dragons players.
We played a classic cave encounter, a subterranean labyrinth strewn with debris, traps and treasure. The whole complex was unlit. Every figure in the orc warband could see in the dark but the knight and his human followers all needed light of some sort; most carried torches while the knight himself had a flaming sword.
Please excuse the pictures and ‘terrain’; as a playtest the aim was to iron out details of various rules and we surprisingly don’t own a cave network (we need to address this).
The cave complex was roughly symmetrical with an entry/exit point on each side. Most of the “rooms” within contained treasure markers (we used Ministry tokens for these), each potentially protected by a trap (we rolled for this when the first figure reached the marker). Access to some areas was restricted by Dangerous Terrain, Difficult Terrain, traps and / or barriers. You can see parts of the cave layout in the pictures below but I forgot to take a picture of the overall layout!
One of the warbands consisted of a knight, his squire, two men at arms, a priest and a mercenary halfling burglar. The other consisted of orcs, worgs (dire wolves) and a gnoll shaman. More detailed warband rosters can be found here.
We played two games, each of us having a go at commanding each warband.
Billy chose to start with the orcs, Charles the knight.
The first few turns were mostly movement with the riders on both sides racing ahead of their foot support.
The orcs were able to get a few shots off without response as they could see the humans but the humans couldn’t see them (only 6” light radius from a torch); none of these shots had any effect. The heavily armoured Priest finally managed to get into a position to cast Light into the room in an attempt to level the playing field but the gnoll shaman immediately countered it with Darkness.
Charles decided the burglar Bolgo would go straight for the treasures as he had the Trapsmith trait.
Each trap has a Danger Rating from 2 (least dangerous) to 9 (most dangerous); for these games we rolled randomly with results of 1 and 10 being taken to mean there was no trap. When a figure encounters a trap, it must roll the Danger Rating or more on a d10 to avoid the effects of the trap; any figure with the Trapsmith trait gets +2 on this roll. Failing the roll means the trap is triggered and the figure needs to make a Destiny check (at penalties for the more dangerous traps) to survive.
Charles opted to block the doorway with his heavily armoured and mounted adventurers but without the Light spell, and thus only 6” visibility, he still couldn’t see the orcs to shoot them.
Billy took advantage of this, keeping his orcs in the shadows and firing pot-shots hoping for a lucky hit. He managed to shoot the horse out from underneath the squire, Markus, who rolled a 10 on his Destiny to stay on his feet and moved back into the safety of some cover.
Billy used this as an opportunity dismount his leader Ghorsht as his worgs were intelligent creatures able to act autonomously. Charles’s warhorses would attack if they were threatened but otherwise would wait for someone to guide them around.
To counter the advantage Billy had with Nighteyes, Charles charged Sir Vyvar into combat with Ghorsht and his worg, hitting Ghorsht and setting him on fire with his flaming sword. This helped provide some useful light!
The gnoll shaman threw a Fireball which took out Horst (archer man-at-arms) and set Albus (priest) and Sven (polearm man-at-arms) on fire. Albus cast Extinguish several times to put the fires out and Markus finally put some shots into the orcs now illuminated by the knight’s flaming sword (and their burning leader), though to no great effect.
Billy had decided that the treasure wasn’t a justifiable reason to lose an orc, with their Destiny stats being lower than the knight’s burglar, so decided to change tactics and wait for the burglar, he just had to get through the knight and his followers first! This looked more difficult when Brother Albus took out the gnoll shaman with a well-aimed Bolt of Fire.
Billy piled into the combat with Jorrg and Oyya while Ghorsht withdrew to put out his flames. Sir Vyvar efficiently split his attacks, setting Ghorsht’s worg aflame and knocking Oyya down.
Jorrg with his 2 attacks and using the outnumbering rule finally made two successful attacks against the heavily armoured knight. Charles made a Destiny roll of 1 (automatic failure) and used one of Sir Vyvar’s Hero Points to reroll and survive. Sir Vyvar’s Destiny roll against the second hit was a 2, another fail … and only one Hero point can be spent in any phase so he was out.
Billy quickly finished the knight’s mount but the burning worg also died.
Billy surrounded Brother Albus and closed on Sven, taking shots at range before closing in and finally finishing the priest off with the outnumbering rule again, funnily enough the priest had more kills then anyone else, mostly with his Bolt of Fire spell; should have paid the points to be a Hero. 😉 He did however take Ghorsht down with him. Sven fell almost immediately afterwards.
Billy had Jorrg drop the one treasure he had collected and charge into the burglar as he made his way out of the tunnels wondering why it was so quiet. Dicing with death, Jorrg survived the Dangerous Terrain (rating 6) and quickly dispatched the halfling. But the dice are fickle … the unstable ceiling fell on Jorrg as he tried to return, leaving a pile of treasure in the middle of the Dangerous Terrain. Oyya got back on his worg and rode away with a single treasure token, thus Billy won the game.
For game two Billy and Charles switched teams with Billy playing the knight and Charles the orcs.
Starting much the same way as Game 1 it took a few turns to get into position, this time Charles had the advantage of having the shaman, with better movement and vision than Brother Albus, being able to get into position quickly.
Billy moved both his mounted characters out of sight and range of the orc archers waiting for the rest of his adventuring party to catch up, having seen the limitations of torch ranges when Charles had been using them.
Billy followed Charles’s idea of using the burglar with his Trapsmith trait to go for the treasure, he wasn’t the fastest but the +2 made a massive difference in dealing with the traps.
Charles waited until Brother Albus finally made it around the corner before going for an all-out attack. He’d sent Kargg on treasure patrol whilst casting Darkness on Albus to take him out of the fight for a turn. He charged Ghorsht and Jorrg into the squire and Sir Vyvar; Billy piled in with Sven for support and to ensure that he had the outnumbering advantage.
Charles used a tried and tested orc tactic of wildly shooting into combat and with the dice gods on his side had hit after hit after hit on the squire’s horse.
Unfortunately he failed to kill the horse but did knock it down, though Markus managed to stay on his feet and in the fight.
Sir Vyvar swiftly cut Jorrg down.
With Jorrg down Sir Vyvar pursued the gnoll shaman whilst Oyya closed on Albus to reduce his spell casting capabilities, Balgg the skirmish archer moved into the dangerous terrain making him harder to shoot and harder to catch for hand-to-hand combat
Ghorsht cut down Sven. Markus withdrew from combat and remounted his horse as it picked itself up, then circled behind Ghorsht to take advantage of Sir Vyvar’s light source.
Markus took Ghorsht clean off his worg with a shot to the back of the head. The gnoll shaman cast Ferocious Visage on himself, which made him Terrifying for one turn. Sir Vyvar laughed at this, having the Fearless trait, but his horse decided it had left the gas on and fled! Luckily Sir Vyvar made his Destiny roll and jumped off to remain in combat.
Markus dispatched Ghosht’s worg with his longsword and the gnoll shaman made a Destiny roll against Sir Vyvar’s latest hit but caught fire.
Whilst all this was going on Kargg had died trying to return through the dangerous passage and Bolgo the burglar was having great success with 3 of the 4 treasures, he unlocked the door, took the 4th and waited by the wooden barricade knowing it was easier to remove then risk the Dangerous Terrain corridor and push his luck!
Oyya made some nice rolls and dispatched Markus and his mount in two good turns. Sir Vyvar finally took the shaman out after Charles had made turn after turn of Destiny rolls.
Oyya took out the remaining horse and returned to aid Balgg.
As Oyya charged into the combat Sir Vyvar calmly took his head off and then charged into Balgg. The final worg tried to assist but was quickly dispatched. There followed about six turns of Balgg trying and failing to break from combat. Balgg needed a 10 to hit Sir Vyvar; he actually succeeded several times but the knight stayed stubbornly on his feet. Sir Vyvar only needed a 4 to hit Balgg but he also proved tenacious and hardy, surviving all the knight’s attacks long enough to finally break away and run.
Knowing he couldn’t catch the 10” moving Balgg, Billy had Sir Vyvar go for the barricade to break Bolgo out and take the win with 4 treasures.
Game two to Billy.
All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon, ‘Thud and Blunder’ follows in the footsteps of IHMN, Gothic, Daishō and Blood Eagle by refining and expanding a ruleset that was already pretty well ironed out. Shooting into combat has become much more straightforward than in IHMN and although we identified some issues (splitting attacks against a rider and mount, Fireballing into combat, etc.) it’s understandable considering it was a playtest of an unfinished ruleset.
I look forward to Salute and helping the Ministry of Gentlemanly Warfare demo the game to you all.