Saturday, May 12, 2012

Those who are about to die

So I jumped the Red Sun Black Moon (RSBM) bandwagon, so to speak... While I frequently read the Two Hour Wargames discussion group, this title (and its older sibling, Red Sand Blue Sky) had been under the radar for me so far. Actually, what sold RSBM to me were these wonderful battle reports from Carmen's Fun Painty Time (more here and here) and every day new, awesome reports are popping up on the discussion group.

Since this game is played in an arena with sector-based movement, there is no need for a large board even if you use 28mm miniatures -- so I printed a bunch of them to use as my arena fighters. In this picture there are humans from Okum Arts, reptilians from One Monk, dwarves and elves from PERMES, the just-released lion men from Reivaj and orcs from Sanity Studios.
Here's the arena I made, drawing on a corkboard self-adhesive tile. Each of the 9 sectors in the middle is 2" wide. Later on I might add some 3D walls around it (maybe in a flat-folding format.)

While reading the rules I created a few fighters (as recommended) and staged some test battles to get the hang of the procedures. In very broad terms, the game's turns involve movement and when you end your movement in the same sector as another figure, you enter the maneuver phase. The maneuver phase models the fighters trying to find an opening in their opponent's defense and get an advantage. It is an opposed roll that may lead to an attack phase. This is similar to Qwik, but with a lot of additional details both in the test modifiers and in the outcomes. The fighters can also have several special abilities (and some negative effects, too,) referred to as signatures, which add to variety. And while you might roll some handfuls of dice at times, the game flows smoothly and welcomes narrative interpretation.


Here's a battle report of my first complete fight in the arena. I played Karos, a red sun dwarf against Drush, a black moon orc. Dwarves and orcs have been fighting for ages, in wars, skirmishes and arenas. The corruption of some dwarven clans by the black moon cults has only increased the hatred of those faithful to the Red Sun. I counted both figures as wearing light armor (AC 1.) The dwarf used a large shield and a halberd, while the orc carried a two-handed axe. Both of them had good fighting skills and while the orc was stronger, the dwarf was a little more agile.

The two fighters started at opposing sides of the arena, the mere sight of each other bringing hatred to their hearts. Karos ran the blade of his halberd against the side of his shield, shouting, "Each dent on this shield is an orc I've felled! Yours," and he hit the shield with the polearm, chipping a bit of the border, "is this one!" There were both anger and fear in the orc's growl in response.

The first turn was spent moving around, as the match only begins when both fighters are at the center of the arena. Karos moved to the center and the orc charged but his attack was blocked. [I'm using the yellow die to both track turns and mark the active fighter.]

Karos barely avoided Drush's next swing, and then attacked back with his polearm, hitting the orc in the left arm and causing him to move back. The dwarf moved forward, with a stabbing motion of his halberd. The orc was too slow to defend and took a wound to the chest. Drush then recoiled and lunged forward trying to catch the dwarf by surprise but he avoided the blow and cut another deep wound on the orc's chest.

Karos tried to push once more, attacking Drush against the edge of the arena, but the orc avoided the attack, forcing the dwarf to step back. On the following turn, Drush attacked Karos again, this time intently hitting his shield. The blow had such force that the dwarf was pushed back and lost his balance. The orc took the oportunity to swing his axe again and cause a deep wound on the dwarf's belly, who fell on his back.

Drush paused for a moment to breathe. The wounds on his arm and chest hurt and he felt weary after exchanging so many blows. A few feet ahead, the dwarf, laying on a pool of his own blood, tried to push himself back up twice, and then fell on his back, dead. Drush then pulled the shield from Karos' arm, placed it on the ground and smashed it in half with his axe, roaring to the crowd.


This match was interesting. The dwarf actually had a higher rating (a value calculated based on a gladiator's abilities, signatures and equipment) than the orc, and better defenses, but a good damage roll with a two-handed axe can turn the fight around. 

The allocation of bonus dice, which model the fighter's decreasing stamina during the fight, requires careful thought -- burn them all and a bleeding wound will kill you (as was the case with my dwarf.) When playing solo, just remember to allocate your bonus dice before rolling for the bonus dice used by the NPC.

Red Sun Black Moon is a cool game. The maneuver, attack and damage results just beg to be narrated. These and the non-player gladiator system make it a very good solo game, whether you roll for random opponents in a campaign or create a gladiator based on an existing figure.

1 comment:

Sean said...

Nice report. I've managed to resist for now. I have too many titles I haven't played yet.