Sunday, 3 January 2016

Shadows of Brimstone Overview

The components of the City of the Ancients Core set. Note, the cards and counters are not shown.
The two core sets for Shadows of Brimstone by Flying Frog Productions were my main Christmas presents for 2015. I'm going to review them in closer detail in this post. The two Core 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.
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.
This is a complex game but I imagine game play will get easier the more games you play. Be warned, there are a lot of rules to learn. I've read all the books and have a basic grasp of the game but I'm sure I'll be regularly consulting the books when I do play my first game.
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.
Shown above are the four Heroes from both sets. From left to right are the Saloon Girl, the Indian Scout, the Preacher, the Lawman, the Rancher, the Gunslinger, the Bandido and the U.S. Marshal. These are all multi-part models. You get the Bandido, Gunslinger, Saloon Girl and U.S. Marshal with the City of the Ancients Core set and the Indian Scout, Lawman, Preacher and Rancher with the Swamps of Death Core set. Each Hero comes with their own sets of skills and abilities unique to them. One rule that I do like a lot is that the Hero Character Cards are double-sided with a male Hero on one side and a female Hero on the other side, so you can chose the sex of the Hero you want to play. Unfortunately, the figures provided are limited to one sex only. I'd have liked to seen both sets of figures included in the game. However, at the back of each Adventure Book is a page showing upcoming figures and opposite sex versions for some (hopefully, all) of the Heroes will be produced later. For example, the male version of the Saloon Girl will be the Piano Player, whilst the female version of the Preacher will be the Nun.
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.
In the picture above you can see colour illustrations of all of the heroes and monsters from the game. However, whoever produced this has made a couple of mistakes. First up, the Outlaw is not included in either set. Shadows of Brimstone was originally launched as a Kickstarter project (which I totally missed out on), so it's possible he was included as a stretch goal. Secondly, one of the monsters is missing - the Slasher. I have included a picture of a beautifully painted version of two of the Slasher figures below. Finally, the Corpse Pile and Targa Pylons shown above are represented in the game by card counters. They might also have appeared as models in the Kickstarter stretch goals.
A pair of Slashers, superbly painted but not by me.
So, what are my thoughts on the game? Bearing in mind that I've yet to play the game that's hard to say, but from what I've seen, plus what I know about Flying Frog games, I fully expect it to be a great game. It certainly looks good. Everything about the game just screams high quality. If you play the campaign rules, which I strongly urge you to do, you'll find yourself coming back to this game time after time. As I said above, the replay value of Shadows of Brimstone is very high.
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.

21 comments:

  1. I have had one game (core set 1) and despite the fact that I did not know what I was doing (I was coached by the experienced players somewhat) soon picked it up and had a tremendously enjoyable game. I look forward to my next one.

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    1. Thanks, Clint. I'm pleased you enjoyed your first game. I'm very much looking forward to playing my first game of it.

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  2. Thank you for an absolutely spiffing review of this game. I love the Flying Frog game company (they make two of my most favourite games after all: A Touch of Evil and Last Night on Earth). I just KNOW from your review, that this is a game I would utterly adore to own and play.

    But I am in agony now. Because I really am consolidating and don`t plan to buy anything new unless its to flesh out exiting purchases; and when you consider that collecting potential new expansions for these already means buying for.... Super Dungeon Explore, Zombicide & Black Plague, Memoir 44, The Great War, Warlord Games Zulu fighting in Colonial Africa, Dungeons & Dragons (adventure system), and my new Sails of Glory (Napoleonic naval warfare)... and this only covers the main games I play. All the games I mention are new- or new-ish... and wonderful... and offer me years of future play potential and adventures untold: to buy another fantastic game would, for me, just be adding more to an already overcrowded future play load. The games I own now already have that WOW factor which made me want them in the first place.... where do I stop? This new game you describe looks amazing, but then, so will the next new game to come along, just round the corner sometime in 2016 no doubt, and the next game, and the next game.

    No, I can`t. But Bryan, oh Bryan... of all the things you could possibly have shown me, this is the one that is eating at my resolve the most. It is a genre I simply adore, and I KNOW I would be in heaven owning and playing this game and its deliciously macabre looking expansions. It will take a lot of inner resolve to turn this one down.. your review has burned into my brain now, and my eyes have beheld this new Necronomicon of Gaming, and the images of all this evil loveliness has corrupted my better senses and purged into my desires like a alluring demonic succubus.

    No, I must remain strong, I MUST remain be strong.


    Steve :))

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  3. Steve, I can fully understand where you're coming from. I KNOW that I MUST cut down on the games I buy. How many do you really need to be completely happy? Did I need this game? No! Did I want this game? Oh hell, YES! I've been looking at it for the past few months and kept thinking it would be a great way to get back into Wild West gaming, a genre I have loved since I first started war-gaming nearly 50 years ago. I have had a hankering for getting back to Wild West gaming for as long as I've wanted to play zombie apocalypse games.

    As the years passed by, I noticed that Wild West gaming was becoming increasingly popular in 28mm scale. This was a revelation as all my early games were played with 54mm scale figures and buildings. It meant I could set up a decent sized game board on my dining room table instead of using the large table tennis table that I used at my local war-gaming club with my friends. New figures and new buildings were being released all the time and I desperately wanted a piece of the action.

    THW's Six Gun Sound seemed like the perfect rules for me. More so with the recent release of the High Moon supplement. But the big stumbling block with taking that path was my total lack of 28mm scale buildings and scenery. I could make lots of buildings out of card and foamboard with sets I bought from the likes of Stoelzel's Structures or World Works Games. But thes would take a lot of time to construct. Alternatively, I could buy the buildings I wanted but this would cost a small fortune.

    The obvious compromise was Shadows of Brimstone, which included all I needed in these two core sets. As you know, I've developed a passion for board-games that use miniature figures so this seemed like a very viable solution. With the money my mum gave me for my birthday I knew I could afford both sets. Come December and my willpower to not buy any new games wilted and I ordered both sets from Amazon UK. They arrived shortly before Christmas Day and I honestly don't regret my decision to buy them. Wild West gaming, here I come!

    I'd still like to develop my Wild West passion further, as I have with my zombie campaign using the ATZ rules. In other words, play with proper 3D scenery and 28mm scale figures, using the SGS rules, but this is a dream for the future. For now, I can get my Wild West fix with Shadows of Brimstone.

    I don't know whether to tell you to remain strong or succumb to temptation as there are pros and cons to both decisions. Follow your heart or follow your brain? I honestly don't know what to say.

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  4. Nice review, Bryan. Whilst a lot of these board games do tempt me, having a limited gaming budget does prevent me from making knee-jerk purchases, which does work out in the long run. How difficult would it be to add your own figures/heroes to the game as the axes winging Mr Lincoln you've ordered seems an ideal fit?

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    1. I was lucky, Jez, in that I could afford both Core sets but I am well aware that most gamers do have a limited budget. You ask how difficult would it be to add other heroes to the game? very easy providing you stick to one of the eight templates in these two sets. New templates like the Doctor, the Prospector or even Tribesmen or Tribeswomen from Jargono are in the pipeline. I can only see this game growing in future years.

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  5. Not my cup of tea really this setting. Miniatures look rather nice and you get tons have seen some pop up on other blogs here and there. Shall look forward to seeing yours with a coat of paint on.

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    1. No problem, Simon. We can't all like the same things but I'm very taken with both sets.

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  6. These days there seem to be so many of these high quality boardgames with miniatures (and usually with a gothic horror feel to them as well). I really don't want to step down this road, though I admire enormously what the publishers have done.

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    1. Very true, Hugh. You'd have to be very rich to buy them all and I've certainly had to pass on quite a few.

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  7. Oh blimey Bryan... What a fantastic posting, full of minis, gothic horror and temptation ;-) I can see very clearly why you've gone down the route of buying these beauties. Very tempting... very tempting indeed. Any chance of a BatRep any time soon? Or are you too busy painting up your "Black plague"?

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    1. Many thanks, Simon. I'd love to do a Shadows of Brimstone batrep but it won't happen soon. I haven't even made the minis, never mind painting them! And yes, you're right, my spare time is taken up with painting Zombicide: Black Plague figures. Speaking of which, do check out tomorrow's post. Tease, tease!

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  8. Had a chance to play Swamps of Death (with fully painted figures a few days ago... what a treat) and I can confidently proclaim this game the best miniatures board game experience I have ever played in my entire life (possibly exception might be the first time I ever played first edition Space Hulk back in 1990).

    Without doubt, this game is truly masterly, and a pure work of art on a game table. Solo play must be awesome.

    Stamp of approval from me. 10 out of 10.

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    1. Oh, wow! Now that is HIGH praise, indeed! Knowing how many different games you've played I'm amazed to hear you say that. Amazed and thoroughly delighted. Your seal of approval means a lot to me. I've been slowly building up my collection of 28mm scale Wild West figures recently so I'm very much looking forward to testing out Shadows of Brimstone myself.

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  9. Hi Bryan, nice to hear from you.... and yes I know, I owe you a long letter *chuckles* Would you believe I have had more computer problems and had to reset back to factory restart uuugh!!! I was being re-infected over and over from, would you guess, an url on a much loved you tube game play through series I like to watch. I told the guy and he`s removed the offending url now.

    Yes Brimstone really is that good Bryan. I was pleasantly surprised to discover just how good the game is when I stepped in to my favourite game store and witnessed a game being played. I got to join in the next game and found myself instantly thrilled and laughing along with the guys at just how amazingly it all played out.... to myself my mind was ticking over ten to the dozen thinking "hmmm, the theme, the slick style, this game is simple oozing atmosphere and crying out to be played solo"

    Slightly similar to "A Touch of Madness" and "Fortune and Glory" there are visible element and components of both the above firmly entrenched within the make up of Brimstone; and yet it has more of the Cthulhu about it, or even movies like `Cowboys & Aliens` and `Jonah Hex` pegged onto it... the game plays out very much like "Descent Journeys in the Dark" but without all the typical fiddly Fantasy Flight Games indecipherable, badly written rules and clunky mechanics - proving to me once again that Flying Frog Productions really DO screen their rules very well, making them easy to grasp, compared to many of their (bigger) rivals, who might be well advised to learn a thing or two from the Flying Frog franchise.

    A mix between a figure board game (like Zombicide and even the Dungeons and Dragons Adventure System Board Game) and a true role playing game: I would describe Brimstone as a rules lite version of table top miniatures role player.

    Top notch stuff mate.

    I go into spasms and cold sweats when I look at just how MUCH was available for free as stretch goals for the Kickstarter for this game. But am glad I never backed it though. FFP have done a really naughty thing. Yes you get a veritable TON of freebies, but pledgers waited a year then only received the two core games (and one outlaw character stat card... but no miniature) and have been told they must wait a further year to receive the balance of their goodies. Where as just about everything that these poor pledgers are waiting for, is slowly seeping onto the public market and available to all... leaving the pledgers high and dry while just about everyone else gets to collect this stuff wayyyy before they do.

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    1. Very interesting. I do wonder if I would have backed the Kickstarter whilst it was active? Most probably. However, I didn't learn about the game until long after the Kickstarter had ended. I agree that the KS backers are getting a raw deal. Very naughty!

      On the Flying Frog website I see loads of extras for SOB being available or coming soon. Some are of no use to me whatsoever - the same figures you already get with the starter sets but moulded in a different coloured plastic! No way! But others look very useful. I'm purposefully holding back on them but may give in to temptation further down the line.

      As a stand alone game, SOB works exceptionally well but it really excels in campaign play. It's another winner from Flying Frog. I totally agree with your assessment, "I would describe Brimstone as a rules lite version of table top miniatures role player."

      Finally, good to hear you have fixed your computer problems. It is always so bloody frustrating when they go wrong.

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  10. .... and yes, this in now on my hit list of games to pick off. grrrr and I was being soooo good as well :(

    About the extras, yeah, hmmmm: I think some of the alternative male/female character minis would be essential on the `wish list`: such as the female Preacher - aka: the Nun, the male version of the Saloon Girl - aka: The Piano Player, etc. Other than that, I think I would go for the two main core big bog sets (which, lets face it, contain enough to keep you occupied a very frickin long time, these boxes are HUGE), but after these sets, I think I`d have to think very long and hard before I thought about purchasing any of the additional expansion box sets. More monsters, more other world tiles sounds all well and good. But take your eye off the ball with this one, and I think you could quickly find this becoming a mega money drain and too much (over-kill) to manage and enjoy.... i.e. it would just find itself downgraded to the un-played collection mounting dust. No, I think the key to this one is to enjoy the main two gams and play the heck out of them to get full use out of them. I don`t always get this new wave trend of MUST BUY ALL THEY OFFER ME expansion after expansion after expansion. Imagine the old days of Monopoly, did it have any endlessly churned out expansions? naaa, it plays great as is :))

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    1. Usually with me, once I get "into" a game, I want everything produced for it, c.f. Zombicide, Super Dungeon Explore, Last Night on Earth, A Touch of Evil, etc. But in this case, I'm perfectly happy with just the two core sets. I'd love to do what you suggest and "just play the heck out of them and get used to them." I agree that alter sex versions of the heroes would be a high priority for what else to buy but at the moment, none are available.

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  11. Box*

    Games*


    I really must check typos more often haha.

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    1. It's an easy mistake to make, Steve.

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