|The components of the City of the Ancients Core set. Note, the cards and counters are not shown.|
When you open either of these two large boxed sets you'll be overwhelmed by how much is packed inside. Oh boy, you do get a lot! The game tiles and card counters rest underneath the plastic trays containing all the other stuff. These games use lots of cards and counters and I do mean LOTS! The figures are made of hard plastic and most of them have to be glued together. Some gamers find this a bad thing but not me. I enjoy making models. The game uses Map Tiles, which clip together like pieces of a jigsaw. There are two types of Map Tiles - Rooms and Passages. There are also End Cap pieces for blocking off Room exits that are not Doors and Portal Gates which give access to the Other World. All Map Tiles are double-sided with the Mines on one side and the Other World on the other side.
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.
In my last post, Blaxcleric asked me which of the two sets I preferred? I answered Swamps of Death purely because this set contains the zombie figures. But to be honest, there is so little to choose between the two. I'm sure if you buy one you'll want the other, so if you can afford it buy both together. Amazon UK currently has both sets in stock but stock levels are very low. City of the Ancients costs £74.12 and Swamps of Death costs £69.25. RRP for both games should be £109.99 each, so Amazon is offering a really good deal. I ordered both my sets from them.