Steven K. Mariner
|Last Updated: 18-Sep-2008|
Swords & Sorcery
Swords and Sorcery, original blue box edition and later red box edition. The contents of both versions were identical; only the artwork changed.
|Swords & Sorcery is a game designed by Greg Costikyan, developed by Eric Goldberg, and published by SPI in 1978; when SPI fell circa 1982, TSR bought them out and republished the game with new cover art on the box. When TSR was bought out by Wizards of the Coast, the game remained out of print and Greg has reaquired the rights to the game.||
I love this game, so I try to keep at least two games of Swords & Sorcery going via
at all times.
|snser78c.htm||December 1978 Errata|
|http://www.yahoogroups.com/group/spi_sns/||Swords & Sorcery E-List|
|http://spotlightongames.com/||Rick Heli's web site, which includes a bunch of Swords & Sorcery material, including a summary of the game, some homemade scenarios, and other useful information. It's probably one of the best Swords & Sorcery web sites out there; I hope to make my S&S page at least that good at some point. :-)|
|PBEM Support Files|
|CyberBoard||CyberBoard - This is a PBEM support program. It's free.|
|SNS_D6a.ZIP||CyberBoard gamebox for Swords & Sorcery made by me. It's still under development, but has seen some playtesting and is approaching final form.|
|Aide-De-Camp II||Aide-de-Campe v2 - This is a PBEM support program. The last time I checked (28-Feb-2003) it was $49.95 plus $7.00 shipping (in the USA; shipping is more elsewhere).|
|swordsorcy-n.zip||ADC2 gameset for Swords & Sorcery by Kjell Lövström (updated 19-May-2003)|
Swords & Sorcery is simply one of the most enjoyable games I've ever played. I still think Diplomacy takes the blue ribbon for its luckless design, and other games will always capture my fancy for one detailed reason or another, but I always come back to S&S for an enjoyable hex-based wargame.
It actually comes as two games; an Army game and a Quest game. I pretty much ignore the Quest game, but it is akin to role-playing; each player takes a character (or creates a new one using the fairly simplistic character generation rules supplied) and randomly draws a Quest, which they then pursue, trying to get to theirs before the other players do. They romp around the same map as is used in the Army game, and there are special rules for character interaction (read that as "hand-to-hand combat") which do not have any use in the Army game.
The Army game, however, is a work of art. Wonderfully integrated into the already well-developed movement and combat systems, apparently derrivative from most of the successful systems of the late 70s, is a system of magic, with interesting spells to affect things on the map (demoralize enemy troops, rally friendly troops, conjure extra troops, cause a sudden winter) and a mathematical mechanism for using magic to directly affect combat.
The game comes complete with an entirely fictional history for the world and the characters in it, and the scenarios fit right into the historical timeline. There are Elves, three nations of Dwarves, three political varieties of Humans, Two nations of Orcs, an unusual race called the Cronks, which are large, hairy, orange apes that smell terribly and can apparently live for up to two weeks on nothing but dirt, giant Spider-Folk, a nation of Swamp-Creatures which includes in its military muster a species of intelligent mold, and, of course, a nation of Dragons headed by none other than Gygax Dragonlord himself.
For those who might not know, Gary Gygax was the founder of Tactical Studies & Rules (TSR), first known for producing a set of rules for fighting tank wars with miniature tank tokens called Tractics, but later, and much more greatly, known for publishing Dave Arneson's Dungeons and Dragons.
The game is actually littered with puns like this one; there is a Hill of Avalon (Avalon Hill was the other major producer of wargames in those days, although they were bought out by Hasbro circa 1997 and much of their legacy has died at the hands of a company interested in mass market games); there are the Evelyn Woods (as in Evalyn Wood Reading Dynamics, a speed-reading method marketed heavily in the 70s) and the Nattily Woods (a tribute to an American actress); the rebel Orc nation is called the Orcish Revolutionary Coalition (O.R.C.), and their capital is, of course, New Orc City; the leader of a human religious cult nation is Unamit Ahazredit (most people have to work on that one to get it); and the list just goes on and on.
The fourteen scenarios that come with the game permit anywhere from two to seven players, which is nice flexibility for gaming groups, although admittedly most of the scenarios are for two players. Most of the two-player scenarios have too few pieces involved to permit additional players to take on subcommander roles.
However, the last scenario of the game, where the Empire of Man (which apparently owns almost all of the rest of the world except for the Valley of Ararlve, depicted by the game map) makes its final bid for conquest of the Valley, descending upon it with nearly every Imperial unit supplied with the game; what's left of the Valley races and refugees after decades of war, both with the Empire and with each other, suddenly find a common enemy and unite to fend off the attackers. Everybody's in on this one. And unlike most of the other scenarios, which are so small that winning is most often determined by counting victory points for how many enemy units were killed or the occassional "sack the city" sort of missions, this one is in plain English: If the Empire can take five of the nine provinces owned by the Free Peoples Alliance by the end of the game, they win, otherwise, they lose. The scenario is so large that each side could easily subdivide their forces and many extra players can play, which actually helps to speed things up if the command divisions are done intelligently and the subcommanders are actually left to do their work like they would in real life in a competently-run battle.
If you've actually read all the way to here, you probably have no difficulty understanding that I really like this game. It is almost certainly my favorite game of all time.
© 1997-2008, Steven K. Mariner