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Author Topic: Song of the Splinterd Lands review  (Read 10512 times)
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grubman
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« on: July 07, 2009, 03:21:13 AM »

Song of the Splintered Lands
A review by: Dave Bezio (aka grubman)

Introduction

Song of the Splintered Lands (SotSL) is the 3rd official supplement for the Song of Blades and Heroes “fast play fantasy skirmish miniature rules” from Ganesha games (http://www.songofblades.blogspot.com/ ).



This supplement is a bit different from the first two (which mostly include new rules and expansions).  SotSL is a primarily a campaign book (although there are several new rules and expansions included in those campaigns).  It includes a brief campaign setting and 3 campaigns designed to play in that setting.  In addition, this supplement is made in conjunction with Splintered Light Miniatures, so it has an “official” line of miniatures to accompany the supplement (a review of this miniature line is included after the main review of the SotSL review).

This supplement informs you up front that it is not a stand-alone product, and you need the SoB&H rules to use it, and it recommends the other 2 supplements as well (Song of Gold and Darkness & Song of Wind and Water).  For the most part, you don’t need the other 2 supplements, BUT, some of the special abilities listed in the troop profiles are from those supplements.  It’s safe to say you will want the other two supplements to get full enjoyment and use of SotSL.

My opinions in this review

I’m a huge fan of Song of Blades & Heroes (you can read my review of that game here: http://www.rpg.net/reviews/archive/13/13575.phtml ).  That being the case, I took special care to separate my personal opinions from the facts.  My opinions follow each section indicated by “grubby sez”, read them if you like, or ignore them if you don’t care. 

The Look of the Book

This review is of the PDF copy of the book (also available in dead-tree from Lulu).  The book is 40 pages long (including a 1 page advertisement) with black and white double column interior and full color cover.  The print is easy on the eyes (probably a 10-12 point font).  The book is profusely illustrated, and there are only 8 pages without some sort of illustration. 

grubby sez:  As usual, Ganesha Games delivers an attractive product that makes locating things quick and easy. Many of the illustrations are, in fact, actual photos of the Splintered Light miniatures and fit the book very well.  Many of the original illustrations, obviously made specifically for this book, are really top notch and some of the best in the line so far (Including the cover that is sure to suck in anyone who likes the idea of sentient animals in a fantasy setting).  A few pictures are reprints of ones we’ve already seen in past supplements…some more than once.  Also, there are some ugly clip art ones jammed in for no other reason (that I can see) than to fill a little space.  IMHO we could have done without these.

The Setting

The first 10 or so pages of the supplement describe the setting of the campaign, including a map.  It is concise and for the most part well written and enjoyable to read.  The obvious slant is toward creating a chaotic war-torn backdrop for miniature battles.

The premise of the setting is as follows:

There is a land to the south (Wyldewood) that is controlled by a nameless Druid (there has always been a Druid and the current one picks his successor from a pool of apprentices when he is ready to retire.  It implies that the Druid is usually an Elf, but never specifically says.  In fact, other than this causal mention, Elves aren’t really detailed further in the supplement at all.) and populated by his “children”.  The Druids Children are talking, tool using, sentient animals.

There is a land to the north called the Moonglade, where King Shade of Nightfast dwells, controlling orcs, goblins, and all forms of nasty races and creatures (including the enslaved Kobolds).  He worships the darkness in circular forest glades called, what else, Moonglades, and desires to take over Wyldewood by hook or crook.

In between the above two lands is Mountain Home, the home of the Dwarves, who ally themselves with the Druid of Wyldewood.  Another central land is the “Dark and Bloody Ground”, an area that is highly contested and where many of the battles can take place.

King Shade wants to invade Wyldewood and create a moonglade (a place of darkness worship and power) there to lessen the Druids power.  The Druid has infiltrated Moonglade and built several fortified hamlets on his borders in an attempt to push back and destroy King Shade.  The Dwarves, allied with the Druid, are just sort of along for the ride (and give you the option to include different miniatures in your army).

To add to the chaos, both sides have set the seeds of rebellion in the other army’s camp.  King Shade has convinced some of the carnivorous animals (such as foxes wolverines, rats, weasels and pine martins) that they should be eating their sentient peers (the rabbits, mice, squirrels, otters, hedgehogs, badgers, and moles), and the Druid (along with the help of the Dwarves) have been secretly helping the Kobold Slaves become powerful enough to mount their own rebellion against King Shade.

grubby sez:  What’s not to love about this setting?  I have a soft spot for talking animals, and this setting really highlights them.  The setting is concise enough that you can really wrap your brain around it and make it your own.  Most importantly, it is a great backdrop and excuse for a ton of varied battles.  If people take their fantasy very seriously, they might find a setting with talking animals sort of silly.  I’m guessing those people won’t pick up the supplement in the first place.
 
The Campaigns

The bulk of the book (about 20 pages) describes 3 campaigns that you can use in the setting, The Flowering and the Faithful, the Kobold Rebellion, and A dark and Bloody Ground.  As far as Victory Points and running a campaign, they use the basic rules found in the core SoB&H rule book, but also offer many variances.

The Flowering & the Faithful

“The Flowering” is the ironic term used to describe the rebellion of several carnivorous animals in the Wyldewood.  In this campaign the rebellion either gains serious momentum, or is crushed (at least for the time being) by destroying the rebel leaders.  The campaign includes stats for the leaders of both sides, rules for fighting unequal battles (determined randomly at the beginning of the battle), rules for using “dummy markers” (chits that represent real troops and fake ones, so your opponent can’t determine the size or location of your troops until he can actually see them), and secret missions (that each side chooses before the battle for additional victory points or new victory point conditions).

grubby sez:  I love the premise of this campaign, and the stats and information on the two factions and their leaders are both cool and useful. The rules for variable strength warbands really throw a random factor into the mix that will be interesting in play.  I definitely plan on running this campaign asap.  But…I feel an otherwise great idea is slightly marred by the inclusion and extensive use of dummy markers.  Some of the missions even involve you trying to make it to the end of the table without revealing your dummy markers.  I play this game because it uses miniatures!  I don’t like the idea of moving around chits instead of miniature figures as much as is required in the campaign.  Others may really enjoy this new aspect, however, and it does open up the possibility of several new types of scenarios.

The Kobold Revolt

The Kobold Revolt is a campaign that takes place inside Moonglade with the Kobolds revolting against King Shades forces (of goblins, bugbears, ect.).  The campaign is further broken up into 3 “stages” (hit and run, hit and hold, and all out war) which are sort of mini campaigns themselves. The campaign determines the success or failure of the Kobold Revolt.  Added to the main story is the interesting element of the Battlebeast, a dinosaur that the kobolds can use in the stage 3 battles (before then, they are simply trying to smuggle the beasts eggs into tactical locations).

grubby sez:  Again, a good premise to base lots of battles in a new terrain (primarily swamp).  The battlebeast is a cool addition, although there is no “official” model for it…yet.  I personally find this campaign a little less colorful than the first.  The ideas are good, but the execution is a little more drawn out than it needs to be IMHO, but it might go faster in actual play than it appears on paper.  By the end of the campaign, you are fighting 500 point battles (plus victory points).  When I can afford some Kobold and other Goblinoid miniatures, I’ll certainly run the Kobold Revolt campaign…but I will most likely shorten it up a bit.

A Dark and Bloody Ground

The third campaign is the most ambitious of the three, and will definitely be the most ambitious attempt of anyone who attempts to run it.  The campaign consists of four battles consisting of multiple warbands, so you will be playing with about 1,500-2,000 points on each side for this campaign.  The campaign involves the forces of the Druid and Dwarves and their construction of strategic hamlets in Moonglade territory.  The rules for this battle contain considerable new rules involving woodland fortifications (basically, wood forts and the defenses around them).

grubby sez:  The rules for the woodland fortifications seem sound.  These new rules will be handy to have and use separately in other scenarios, and people itching for a seigh style campaign will really appreciate the material.  I feel that with so many new rules all included in the battles of this campaign (and each with its own special rules), you will be doing a lot of reading and rereading of how things work.  IMHO this campaign pushes the game rules just a little beyond the limit of the complexity level and warband size I personally feel comfortable with when playing SoB&H, but, perhaps that is the whole point of the campaign, to show that SoB&H can be played with much larger forces.

Special Rules

This supplement contains 9 new special rules contained on 2 pages.  A few are specifically designed to pertain to the troop types in the campaigns, while some will continue to be useful in other SoB&H games.

grubby sez:  There are some good special abilities here, despite the relatively short list.  “Music” allows for the inclusion of musicians, and since so many command packs include standard bearers (which we already have rules for) and musicians, it’s only fitting that we can now use these models (and their ability is cool!).  “Unique” is another one that is an important addition for further campaigns in future supplements or ones of your design.  The “Battlebeast” special ability for the Kobold Battlebeast is a bit complicated for my taste (dealing with a howdah, individual riders, mounting, dismounting, drivers, ect.), but others have used the rules with great success, so I’ll have to give them a try before passing judgment.

Profiles

SoB&H is known for its large and thorough selection of army lists, and SotSL certainly doesn’t disappoint with 7 pages of troop types.  The profiles are all of troops appropriate for the campaigns included in the supplement, as well as further battles in the Splintered Lands campaign setting (or any battles, really).  Many of the troop types are new (most notably the Druids Children), several other ones are revisions and/or expansions of ones we’ve seen in other supplements (like the Kobolds, Dwarves, and Goblins).

grubby sez:  I would have purchased this supplement for the Druids Children profiles alone (both the Faithful and the Flowering).  The Kobold list is greatly expanded, and makes the Kobolds an interesting and formidable warband to run.  The Dwarves are a bit more interesting than the standard Dwarves, and anyone who likes to play Dwarves will probably want to use this list instead of the list in the original SoB&H rules.  Finally, the Woodlanders list contains a variety of Faun and Satyr profiles that certainly make me want to pick up those models (which are also cool looking) and run a warband of these types as well (or mix them with the Druids Children for a Narnia-like effect). 

People who have been playing the game for a while will definitely see a change in the fact that troops are starting to have several more special abilities than they used to.  For example, a Kobold Warrior that had Short Move and Gregarious in the original rules now has Shieldwall and Swamp Walk in addition.  That’s 4 special abilities for a line troop.  In fact, many of the troop types in this supplement have 3, 4, or more special abilities (a Squirrel Archer has 6 and the Battlebeast has 9).  Hopefully SoB&H won’t expand TOO far and become bloated in this regard, as much of its charm and playability stem from its un-cumbersome rules.

Conclusion

Giving my all around opinion of the supplement as a whole…I really like it!  As I mentioned, it is very different from the other SoB&H supplements, and probably doesn’t have as much all-purpose general use, but, its focus makes it an enjoyable addition to the SoB&H family. 

Highlights are a fun and interesting setting that is a very good location to place battles and a built in excuse for having them in the first place.  The setting is also an interesting location for role playing adventures when the Tales of Blades & Heroes RPG is officially released (I already have an idea for the first one I will run).  The army lists and corresponding line of miniatures for the Druids Children is a huge addition to the game.  Not only is it a really cool army list for people who love talking animals, but the “official” line of miniatures begins to make SoB&H a more formidable miniature wargame when it comes to recruiting new players to the fold.  Finally, you may or may not use the campaign, but, even if you don’t, there is a lot of useful and interesting information there to use as inspiration for your own campaign designs.

I give it a 4 for style due to the coolness of the setting, the inspirational ideas, fun layout, and original artwork.  I give it a 3 for substance, because the majority of the book (the campaigns themselves) may only be useful to a select number of people.

Bonus Review:  Splintered Light Miniatures, Druids Children line

I’ve always loved the idea of talking animals.  I’m not sure if this love came from cartoons, the chronicles of Narnia, fairy tales, or something else from the days of my youth.  One of the first things I wanted to house rule into Basic D&D when I first started playing where “smart-animals”, a race of intelligent tool-using animals who were the result of a long dead wizards enchantments.

When I found out about Songs of the Splintered Lands I was excited because the cover had just such animals on it.  When I found out that the supplement was supported by a line of miniatures from Splintered Light Miniatures (http://www.splinteredlightminis.com/index.html )I was almost shaking with excitement.  When I went to the website and saw the wonderful sculpts, I was hopelessly sold.

Then and there I ordered the entire line of the Faithful.

Of course, before my order was processed I was informed that the Rebels (the Flowering) were also ready for distribution, and was asked if I would be interested.  Being the sucker I am, I spent way more money than I should have and ordered that complete line as well.

Well, pictures of miniatures don’t always tell the full tale.  So what do I think of the miniatures now that I have them?  Read on…

Scale

Before we go any further, I should mention that Splintered Light makes 15mm miniatures.  While they are on the high end of that scale, 15mm is about ½ the size of most miniatures you are used to seeing, which are a 25-28mm. 

The Druids Children line has some even smaller figures (like mice) and bigger ones (like Wolverines) so this line runs about 12-20mm.  The picture below shows a size comparison with some other figures from my collection, including a playing piece from Risk 2120, a couple 20mm Battlelore figure, a 1:72 wizard from Caesar miniatures, a 25mm Starguard Dreenoi, and a 28mm plastic from EM-4 miniatures, and a GW gobo wolf-rider (converted model).




15mm figures are both easier and more challenging to paint.  More challenging because they are smaller (duh!), but, easier because there is less area to cover. Personally, I’ve become addicted to painting this smaller scale, and 28mm figures seem humongous to me now…but that’s a personal preference.  I think 15mm miniatures are easier to store and more resilient to damage as well.

The Product  

The Splintered Light Miniatures I ordered arrived via USPS Priority Mail in a very reasonable time (3 business days).  The transaction was very friendly and the miniatures were packaged well enough to resist any handling damage.  There was minimal flash, and no minis with molding problems.  There were several bent weapons, but they all bend easily into the correct position.  Overall I was very pleased with all of that.

My Opinion

The miniatures themselves are beautiful sculpts that any miniature fan will appreciate.  For 15mm, they are very detailed (without be overly so) and have a lot of personality.  There are also various sculpts of each troop type, so every hare swordsman (for instance) doesn’t look the same.  I probably over-ordered, as I will never be using 150+ of these miniatures at one time, but, they were just so cool I couldn’t resist.

Conclusion

What can I say but Splintered Light Miniatures (and the Druids Children line in specific) gets a big A++ from grubman.  Customer service was great, friendly, and personal.  Shipping was fast and safe.  The product was exactly what is shown in the pictures.  I have just a few of their other sculpts, but I hope (when finances permit) to expand my collection to include many more of their figures.

Side Note:  It’s also worth noting that if you are running a Redwall, Narnia, or Mouse Guard RPG adventure or miniature battle, you could do worse than to check out this line as well. 
     
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The Hooded Claw
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« Reply #1 on: July 07, 2009, 06:46:34 AM »

I love these figs. Calling them 15mm almost seems wrong as they are nicely scaled to accompany 28mm figures as the small creature they are.

-Eli
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« Reply #2 on: July 07, 2009, 12:47:27 PM »

Thanks for the review. It looks interesting, but I thought it was aimed at younger players. Battles with 500 pts of kobolds and miniatures with 9 skills are even more complicated than the regular SBH!
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grubman
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« Reply #3 on: July 07, 2009, 01:46:57 PM »

Thanks for the review. It looks interesting, but I thought it was aimed at younger players. Battles with 500 pts of kobolds and miniatures with 9 skills are even more complicated than the regular SBH!

Oh no, not IMHO.  There is a little bit of "cute" about playing a mouse warband, but, the setting is no more aimed at kids than adults, it has a pretty neutral level of maturity.  The new rules add a lot of “crunch” to the SoB&H rules, especially the ones for fortifications.  The campaigns are definitely for serious wargamers.

If I was going to play with kids, I’d definitely stick to the core SoB&H rules.
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« Reply #4 on: July 07, 2009, 02:27:06 PM »

Good morning. This is John McBride, author of SONG OF THE SPLINTERED LANDS.

Thanks for the thoughtful and thorough review.

Just a point on miniatures scale:

SPLINTERED LIGHT MINIATURES (SLM) is indeed a company selling 15mm minis. However, the Bob Olley line -- particularly the dwarves -- are not precisely in 15mm scale. David McBride (my son, and owner of Splintered Light) can explain in more detail, but Bob's dwarves are 15mm in height, and so are not really "dwarves" in 15mm SCALE, if you follow that. The Dark Dwarf line that Sandy Garrity did for SLM ARE 15mm, with the dwarves being about 12mm, iirc. The leonines done by Rod Campbell, etc., are also true 15mm.

But the Bob Olley stuff tends to be a bit larger -- though many of the troops are quite compatible with standard 15mm humans; if you think it is too big to be a goblin, well then, it's an orc.

The animals play well together; they are not precisely proportional in size (otherwise the mice and shrews would be far too small to use with the foxes and wolverines) but they are roughly correct: the mice are smaller than the rats, etc.

If one wishes to use them with 28mm humans in a Narnia type setting, that works: the mice heroes make greta Reepicheeps, the badgers are smaller than human but large enough to imagine them fighting, etc.

But david deliberately does not advertise the Bob Olley figs as 15mm. They are what they are, and he does give their height in mm so buyers can get a sense of how they stand.

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« Reply #5 on: July 07, 2009, 04:02:45 PM »

I did a  series of "kid friendly" games at Origins, and they were enjoyable enough that several groups of players came back for a second game. Several were family groups. I did NOT use the campaign rules, hidden markers, etc., as I was teaching the rules and wanted fast, fun-for-beginners games. But the kids enjoyed, and had no trouble understanding, that of course a squirrel is a forester and an acrobat, of course an otter is amphibious, of course kobolds who live in a swamp don't have to worry about quicksand. And they LOVED the hare spearman's leaping attack. That may be a combination of running blow and free disengage, with a +1 to Combat for being higher, but it is so easy to imagine what is going on that the "rules" are not a handicap.

The rules for the battlebeast have to go into detail about what happens when a flyer attacks occupants of the howdah, or what happens to riders if the beast gets knocked down. But in the several games we've played with that unit, neither of those things has yet happened, so one need only know that the rule is THERE and consult it only as needed.

But the games with variable strengths and victory conditions, etc. are emphatically NOT aimed at kids; they are rather sophisticated games of bluff and counter-bluff and of making decisions instantly on the basis of very little (and possibly misleading) information.
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« Reply #6 on: July 08, 2009, 11:32:15 PM »

I too own several hundred dollars worth of the Druid's Children. Hopelessly in love.

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« Reply #7 on: July 09, 2009, 01:03:20 PM »

I want a warhamster.....  Wink

Seriously, I'm going to introduce my 6-year old daughter to Ganesha-style wargames this coming summer vacation, I think - and she is absolutely CRAZY about animals. I may have to jump to using this kind of minis very soon....
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« Reply #8 on: July 09, 2009, 01:14:38 PM »

I want a warhamster.....  Wink

Seriously, I'm going to introduce my 6-year old daughter to Ganesha-style wargames this coming summer vacation, I think - and she is absolutely CRAZY about animals. I may have to jump to using this kind of minis very soon....

I think a warband of mice or hare will delight anyone, but especially a 6 year old girl. Smiley
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« Reply #9 on: July 09, 2009, 10:09:10 PM »

I think a warband of mice or hare will delight anyone, but especially a 6 year old girl. Smiley

or a 30 year old girlfriend
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« Reply #10 on: July 10, 2009, 01:06:59 AM »

My 9 yr old daughter and I are also going to do some gaming with these minis. I have not picked up the Ganesha rules yet, however.

-Eli
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grubman
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« Reply #11 on: July 10, 2009, 04:25:44 AM »

My 9 yr old daughter and I are also going to do some gaming with these minis. I have not picked up the Ganesha rules yet, however.

-Eli

The main rules are down to $5 for the PDF (and printing 34 pages is pretty painless).  IMHO it's the skirmish best mini game I've picked up in 10 years (although Legends of the Old West rocked too, this one iis much more versitile).
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« Reply #12 on: July 22, 2009, 10:59:17 PM »

I also own a bunch of the Druid's Children and the Evil rats.  Cheesy  These are fantastic figures for sure.

I would love to see more people post their painted Druid Fluid figures online.  I plan on taking some pictures of my painted ones tonight.

Cheers
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« Reply #13 on: July 31, 2009, 06:37:05 PM »

I want a warhamster.....  Wink

Seriously, I'm going to introduce my 6-year old daughter to Ganesha-style wargames this coming summer vacation, I think - and she is absolutely CRAZY about animals. I may have to jump to using this kind of minis very soon....
Didnt someone on Cmon produce one, think it was sandra garity, it had a bottle top shield and nail for a sword
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