First Impression: Sword & Sorcery

SowrdSorceryDesigner: Simone Romano & Nunzio Surace
Publisher: Ares Games
Players: 1 – 5
Ages: 12 and Up
Time: 60 – 90 Minutes
Times Played: a demo game in Essen

Evil is on the move again. After centuries of bloodshed and war, the last heroes fell to the growing tide of monstrosities, their memory fading away like sand in a gale. The land of Talon Coast is helpless, as the armies of darkness surge forward, threatening to extinguish the very light of the sun. But there is one last bastion of hope, one final attempt at abating the flood of corruption: Claudius, High Priest of the Temple of Heavenshine, sacrifices the holiest relic of the land to summon the fallen heroes back to life! Weakened by their own resurrection, yet determined to return hope and justice to the land of Talon, the reborn heroes will wage war against this scheming evil in its many hideous forms.

Few days left for the Kickstarter Campaing that has already collected more than 350.000$ with more than 3.000 pledger.

After the big success of Galaxy Defenders, Nunzio and Simone decided to implement a fantasy version of the system. Years of Role Playing experiences and the feedback from GD helped the two designers to improve the core mechanic.

The idea of the game is quite easy to explain. Up to 5 heroes try to complete a quest/mission. Like most of the Dungeon Crawler the components in the box are enough to prepare several missions and you can play, like in GD, a full campaign. The game is totally cooperative: all players against the game.

During the turn, according to the stats on his character, each player can move, attack and perform “special” action. Each character has powers, abilities and, of course, weapons and equipment. During the game, like in typical RPG, characters gain experience and level, increasing their power.

There are many things that make S&S different from other Dungeon Crawlers like Descent or Mice & Mystics. First, the map is organized in areas and not in boxes. You move from area to area and combats are resolved considering characters and monsters in the same area. Have a majority in an area can really improve your chance of success and so it is usually wiser to join a battle against the monsters instead of walking alone. Weak monsters can be a problem also for a good characters surprised alone far away from his partners.

SS_maps

The game turn is like in GD, alternating one player and the monster. Which player will act first is an important decision the party has to take. The monsters act according the AI rules displayed on the monster’s card. You can have monster rushing for a close combat and others firing with bows from the distance.

SS_wepaons

The characters are really different and can be developed in different ways. How to combine powers, abilities and weapons is great.

I really like Galaxy Defenders and, according to a single demo game in Essen, I also like S&S a lot. I was able to ask Simone and Nunzio something about the game.

[Liga] The Dungeon Crawling is quite a crowded market. Descent, Mice & Mystics, Krosmaster Quest, Arcadia Quest and many others. Tell me 3 things do you think will make S&S stand out?

[Nunzio-Simone] An extremely strategic-but-easy-to-master combat system. Based on custom dice, no math or tables are required, just a well-balanced mix of: a bit of luck and the right combination between equipment, used powers and strategic decisions.
Cooldown management of hero powers. Each power now has a cooldown, so while some powers are always active (passive ones), others have to be recharged through this cooldown. Each Time phase (first phase of each round) makes the cooldown advance of one step. Most powers may be used with several rank of strength, strongest are the effects chosen and longer will be the cooldown!
Wide characters customization. Each hero of S&S can be played in two different classes, representing the choices done by the hero in its previous “legendary” life, during each of the 7th Soul Ranks (levels), the heroes will gain different stats, powers and talents sometimes based also on their soul nature: Law, Neutral or Chaos. The combinations of all these elements make S&S really unique in terms of creating your legendary hero!

[Liga] S&S was funded in just 2 hours. Do you think it is due to the success of Galaxy Defenders or do you think you are catching new bakers?

[Nunzio-Simone] Both things, as we have quite a number of GD players in the project, pledging because they liked GD.
Yet we also have people that know nothing about GD, and even some who have never used Kickstarter before.

[Liga] One of the key strength of GD was the story and the campaign. It will be the same for S&S?

[Nunzio-Simone] Of course! S&S is also characterized by a campaign following a precise storyline. The plot will be revealed to the heroes quest after quest, and players can follow them through the map of the Talon Coast. Furthermore, the game expansions will follow the same storyline, our idea for the future is to create a huge setting formed by all quests of the S&S saga.

[Liga] The key of success in a cooperative game is the setting of the difficulty level. Too much difficult and players will be frustrated. Too much easy and will be bored. For a party of average gamers how much difficult will be to complete the missions? Are there optional rules to increase/decrease the diffult?

[Nunzio-Simone] You can adjust the difficulty level by choosing between: squire, normal and legendary, with different impacts compared to GD: In S&S each enemy may receive a random additional power (thus increasing difficulty), or you can cancel the level penalty when a character dies (to lower difficulty).

[Liga] It looks like S&S and GD share the core mechanic. Can you point me out the main differences and the main affinities?

[Nunzio-Simone] The first and foremost difference between the two games, therefore, is in the type of game itself: while GD was a skirmish tactical game, S&S is more like a coop dungeon crawler / adventure game. For this reason, the maps in S&S are divided into areas, not into hexes; movement and range are expressed in areas, and the areas are even more important during combat and tactical movement. The Death of an agent in GD means player elimination until the end of the mission, while in S&S the death of an hero is not the end, but just the beginning of a different playing style, in fact dead heroes becoming ghost souls, ethereal presence able to interact with the world and with the enemies in several ways! Do you remember in the first Conan movie, when Valeria helps Conan from the otherworld blinding the adversary? The Ghost Soul of our assassin can do the same! Until the party gains enough soul point to permit the resurrection of that hero! The last other main difference is the setting, S&S has a Dungeon crawler “soul” so loots, treasures and traps are pretty common! All these aspects are completely absent in GD. There many other things but the list is too long and we don’t want to abuse of your time
About the main affinity? Most likely is the challenge offered by the two games, in both, taking a “red cross” token on the map and rolling dice is not enough to win ;)

[Liga] Usually the party in fantasy RPGs is essential. A good party is the first step to the success. Does S&S scale well with different number of players? Does it plays well with 2-3 players too?

[Nunzio-Simone] We have playtested the game in 2, 3, 4 and 5 players, and it seems to work well with any number of players.

[Liga] In classical RPGs a party without the Cleric has few chance of success. Is it the same in S&S?

Nunzio-Simone
While in S&S a healer is quite important, you can go on without him if you use other characters healing powers and some curative items you can find in the emporium or as treasures, like healing potions, bandages and healing elixirs.

[Liga] Tell me which are the mechanics you are most proud of

[Nunzio-Simone] The power cooldown and the random enemy powers, for sure. But we also appreciate the possibility to use city locations (to enchant weapons, ask for Gods blessing, gamble, and so on) :)

[Liga] Collecting the feedbacks of the GD’s fans you got a lot of incitements. Which are the rules you have fixed/changed thanks to this support.

[Nunzio-Simone] The Defense step of the enemies, we have reduced a lot the rolling of def dice for the foes, because it was not fun for most of the players, only the elite and master enemies have a dice based defense now. The secondo most important change is the player elimination removed thanks to the Ghost Soul system.

[Liga] Desiging a game is usually thinking about players’ experience. What do you think players will feel playing S&S?

[Nunzio-Simone] Well, the most common thing playtester told us has been “can we keep playing the next mission, please? I want to see my character grow and see the story through!”

[Liga] Thank you and good play!

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About Andrea "Liga" Ligabue

Andrea "Liga" Ligabue is a game expert contributing to many games related international projects including Gamers Alliance Report, WIN, ILSA Magazine and Boardgamenews. Member of the International Gamers Awards Committee is coordinator of Play - The Games Festival and founder of the project Ludoteca Ideale.
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