I knew nothing of Battlesworn until I saw it on the Wargames vault Top Ten. It immediately caught my eye because a) it was by Ganesha Games (and was designed by the same chap who wrote Song of Blades and Heroes) and b) the look and clean visual style of the actual document really jumped out at me. I picked up copy then and there and I’m really glad I did because this looks like it could be a great little game.
Like SOBH it is a fantasy skirmish game designed for about a dozen figure and quick play. In all other respects it owes nothing to the Song of Blades rules and there are a number of aspects that set it apart from other systems I have seen.
First the game uses a bidding system for initiative and combat. At the start of each turn, players bid for 'initiative' by secretly selecting a number between 1 and 6. The player who bids lowest has the initiative and can activate their forces, but the number of figures that can be activated is equal to their actual bid. The player who lost the bid may also activate figures, but they may only react to what the initiative player’s forces do and are similarly restricted in how many reactions they can take based on what they bid for initiative.
Melee combat also uses a bidding system, again by secretly selecting in a number between 1 and 6. The player that bid the lowest attacks first (combat is not simultaneous) but the number of dice they roll for their attack is equal to what they bid. If their opponent survives they may now attack with as many dice as they bid.
This bidding system looks like it could be a lot of fun as you try to out think (or out guess) your opponent and provides a nice risk versus reward style of play. The nature of the rules also keeps players fully engaged throughout the game with little or no ‘down time’. It also looks like it will play very fast.
Another feature that looks interesting is there are no set movement distances for figures; they can all move any distance the player wishes, but may only move in a straight line and must stop moving when they encounter either another figure, or a piece of terrain. Because of this the game recommends that there should be plenty of terrain on the table to prevent combatants from zooming across the battlefield willy-nilly and also creates ‘hotspots’ of action. This slightly abstract movement system means that in theory you can play on any size (or shape) of table with any scale of figure.
In addition there are no ‘stat lines’ for figures; each combatant simply has a Class (or multiple classes) that slightly alter the way they interact with the rules. This gives each figure a unique feel and role within the combat and by combining different classes you can actually get a lot of variety for your forces. The rules for the different classes are quite subtle and not too game breaking (for instance the Shooter class allows a figure to make a ranged attack at the nearest enemy in LOS, whereas the Sniper class may make ranged attacks against any target within LOS – near or far).
There’s more to the game of course (rules for magic, campaign play as well as advice on adapting the system to other genres including SF and historical play are provided). The rules themselves are not overly long or complicated and look like they will give a very interesting and tactical game. As for the rulebook itself, it is very nice; simply but attractively laid out with many colour illustrations that have a stylised ‘cut-out’ look. The pdf also looks great when printed out in booklet form.
In conclusion if any of the above intrigues or interests you, I heartily recommend you pick up a copy. Although some of the mechanics are slightly more abstract than normal for a table-top wargame, it still seems to feel like an actual miniatures wargame (rather than say a boardgame). I’ve yet to play a game myself so can’t really say for sure, but having read the rulebook a couple of times now, I certainly want to give this system a try because it looks like a heck of a lot of fun.