I'll start by reviewing the two core sets for Shadows of Brimstone by Flying Frog Productions. The two starter sets, called City of the Ancients and Swamps of Death share a lot in common but are also sufficiently different to present their own unique set of challenges.
|The components of the City of the Ancients Core set. Note, the cards and counters are not shown.|
Each Core set for Shadows of Brimstone has a shared Rulebook as well as a unique Adventure Book. The main rules for the game are found in the Rulebook, while Special Rules and notes about elements of the game that are specific to the appropriate Core Set can be found in the Adventure Book.
The game is designed for co-operative play by 1 to 4 players but if you own both sets you can play it with 5 to 6 players. For me, the big draw was the option for solo play. The layout of the Tiles, the encounters and threats, gear and artefacts, and many other events are all determined by drawing a card from the appropriate deck. Please note that this game does use lots of different decks of cards.
|The components of the Swamps of Death Core set. Note, the cards and counters are not shown.|
The aim of the game is to take your characters down into the mines in the foothills surrounding the demonically overrun town of Brimstone. The Heroes can embark on a variety of missions, from finding and sealing a gateway to another world to rescuing a farmer's son who was hauled off in the night by a horrible creature. The Heroes explore a dynamically generated mine, overcoming dangerous encounters and fighting savage creatures, while collecting up useful Gear and ancient Artefacts to help them during their adventures. It is essentially a Wild West dungeon crawl. Heroes can even find portals to other worlds, stepping through to continue their adventure on the other side.
In the City of the Ancients set, the Other World featured is the frozen over Targa Plateau. This is a dead world that has slipped into the ice age, covering over alien architecture with ice and snow. Though the city is long abandoned, its technology and systems are still running and it is still being watched over and maintained by robotic custodians and massive Guardians that awaken to defend sections of the city against invasion. The icy corridors have also become infested with hordes of Ancient Void Spiders, Ice Scarabs and lumbering Snow Terrors.
In the Swamps of Death set, the Other World featured is the overgrown Swamps of Jargono. There you will find a hot and humid swampland, with knee-deep murky water and massive bundles of roots and vines erupting from the marshy ground and dangling from the dense canopy overhead. Tribal drums can often be heard in the distance and the wild roar of massive predators stalking the half-sunken ruins for their next meal. The thick bog is also infested with slithering serpents, poisonous Bog-bats and carnivorous plants.
|The Heroes from both sets. These were not painted by me.|
One aspect of this game that I really do like are the campaign play rules. You can link your games together and watch your Heroes grow more powerful as they increase in Level and gain more skills and abilities as well as increased stats. The game even provides rules for what the Heroes do between adventures as they rest in a nearby town. They can have encounters on the way to town and in the town itself. Once in the town, they can buy new items, get healed physically and/or spiritually or sell some of their loot. This game has really been well thought out with a high level of re-playability.
|The Hungry Dead aka Wild West zombies. Not painted by me.|
Moving on to the monsters, they do look like they'd be right at home in a Call of the Cthulhu setting (check out the two pictures below). The monsters supplied with the City of the Ancients set are 1 huge Goliath (fits on a 60mm base), 3 large Night Terrors (fits on 40mm bases), 6 Stranglers and 6 Tentacles (both fit on 30mm bases) and 12 Void Spiders (not provided with bases). Note that the Heroes also fit on 30mm diameter bases. The monsters supplied with the Swamps of Death are 1 huge Harbinger (fits on a 60mm base), 3 large Slashers (fits on 40mm bases), 6 HellBats, 6 Tentacles and 12 Hungry Dead (all of whom fit on 30mm bases). Note that the Tentacles in both sets are identical. All monsters come with double-sided stat cards. On one side are their normal stats for when they go up against level 1 - 4 Heroes and on the reverse side are their more powerful Brutal stats, which they use against level 5 - 8 Heroes. As with the Heroes, most of the monsters are multi-part models that must be assembled. The Goliath and Harbinger are particularly impressive.
|The Heroes and monsters of the game.|
|A pair of Slashers, superbly painted but not by me.|
There are a few potential negatives to the game. First of all, not all board-gamers like making model figures. Some of the parts of the figures are very small and could prove problematic to a novice modeller. Secondly, the figures are mostly based on 30mm diameter plastic bases and the grid of squares of the game Tiles are 30mm square. This means that the game tiles take up more space than if they used 25mm square tiles. Be aware, this game can potentially take up a lot of table space. I'm not a fan of the lipped plastic bases supplied with the sets and so I'll be substituting my bases for smaller sized 25mm diameter wooden bases in the case of the 30mm bases and similar sized wooden bases for the large 40mm based and extra-large 60mm based monsters. Finally, it has to be said that there are a lot of rules to learn. I would not recommend this game for novice gamers. Being familiar with Flying Frog's previous games, Last Night on Earth and A Touch of Evil, gave me a good grasp of how the game should work as all three games share a lot in common rules-wise.
|The components of the Frontier Town expansion set, showing everything you get in the box.|
When playing Shadows of Brimstone, after completing a mission, the Heroes would ride into town, possibly having an encounter on the way, and once they arrived in town, they could heal wounds, buy new items or sell stuff they'd found. What Frontier Town does is open up the possibilities for more adventures. Instead of visiting just one generic town, the players can choose from the size of town - small, medium or large. A small town has 4 location slots on it, a medium town has 6 and a large town has 8. These location slots are randomly filled by buildings, meaning you can never be sure of exactly which locations will be available once you reach town. In addition to the 6 standard buildings found in the core sets, 6 more have been added - Gambling Hall, Indian Trading Post, Mutant Quarter, Sheriff's Office, Smuggler's den and Street Market. Once the Heroes have completed their travelling and have reached town, they should roll to see what type of town they have found. On average, the Heroes will find a normal Frontier Town without any special rules. But depending upon the dice roll, they might arrive at a speciality type of town. This could be Town Ruins, Haunted Town, Plague Town, Rail Town, Mining Town, River Town, Mutant Town or Outlaw Town. All come with their own unique set of challenges, which can be good or bad, depending upon what is rolled.
|Six Bandit figures are included with this set, all in identical poses. These were not painted by me.|
I have only just recently purchased this set and consider it a "must have" set for Shadows of Brimstone. The extra depth it adds to the game is something to be greatly applauded. This expansion set, for me, takes the game to a whole new level. It adds so much that I felt was missing from the two core sets - adventures in town. The game board is one of the best I've seen but there is no reason at all why you couldn't replace it with 3D Wild West buildings. This is what I plan on doing... eventually. I'm thinking long term here.
Shadows of Brimstone has quickly become one of my all time favourite games and believe me, I have big plans for it. You'll be seeing lots more posts about the game both on this blog and on my Vampifan blog. The Vampifan blog will cover figure and scenery reviews, whilst my batreps and campaign play will feature on this blog.
Bryan Scott © 2016.