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Subject: A Fond Review of An Old Classic rss

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Wendell
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Si non potes reperire Berolini in tabula, ludens essetis non WIF.
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I remember when Swords & Sorcery came out, back in 1978. I was 16, and part of a heavy-duty D&D game group. A couple of us liked hard-core wargames as well. And so when we saw S&S on the shelf at our FLGS, I convinced my friend to buy a copy.

It was a hit. D&D meets Third Reich. Or something like that.

Where It Is

S&S is two very different games in one. The common element is the setting: the mythical Valley of Ararlve, on a planet with magic governed by blue, red, and yellow suns. In the S&S setting, the Empire of the evil well BORING humans has gained control over much of the planet. The Valley is a last refuge for the strange, the unusual, and the non-human; the Empire is at the Valley's southern tip, and making increasingly strong incursions. In the era of the game, the Valley is inhabited by immortal Elves (including Linfalas, Algorithm Son of Logarithm) of the Nattily Woods and Evalyn Woods, and Dwarf kingdoms in their mountain strongholds. The intelligent Spiders have their refuge in the dark northern forests. A race of hairy beings called the Cronks that crawled out of a bottomless hole that was the result of Big Magic Gone Wrong. Religious refugees from the Empire led by Unamit Ahazredit (sound that one out) and Peg-Leg Gonzo read their tomes and fly their zeppelins. Orcs and Goblins including Ganab the Nasty inhabit the less desirable areas; Chairman Nashkund dreams of Revolution to raise the Orcs from their lowly state as the laughing-stock of the Valley. Imperial exile Snorri Gundarchuckson rules Endore. Sliggoth and his swamp-creatures have their realm in The Swamp. From the northern wastes at erratic intervals come terrifying invasions of Killer Penguins. In the north also live the mysterious Dragons, and on the Isle of Blood lives The Dark Lord - or X the Unknown, depending on the year in question.

A classic fantasy setting, leavened with a SIGNIFICANT dose of puns and gags. But this is not a silly game.


(the above is a cyberboard version of the game map)

S&S Is A Wargame.

Yes, despite the puns and the fantasy setting, this is at heart a classic SPI wargame. Hexes. Zones of control. Stacking. Combat Resolution Table, Ranged combat. Charging cavalry. Demoralization. Terrain Effect Charts. Rallying the troops. Random Events (love 'em!). "Diplomatic Interest Group Table" and the related "Emissary Results Table". S&S offers fourteen scenarios for from two to six players - a KEY advantage for my teen-aged gaming group.

Naturally, such widely differing polities will have different combat units. The Empire are the top dog militarily, Imperial Pikemen being slow but powerful, and complemented by a full range including archers and the powerful Roc Riders. Dwarves tend to Heavy Axe units; the humans of Endore have lots of sword and strong cavalry. Elves tend to be lighter but more mobile. Spiders are, well, spiders, but powerful! The Cronks fight with pluglunks, the Swamp creatures include Dinosaur Legions and Intelligent Mold, and the Corflu Cultists include zeppelins AND tyrannosaurs, cranked out by the Rex Rotary.



Movement, stacking, and combat are pretty standard - units add combat values, compute odds, roll on CRT. Oh and there are leadership benefits from having somebody like the Paladin Glade or Ramon Cronkovitch in battle.

And there are the spells. Battle spells. Wizards like Theregond or Gwaigilian Elvenlord can conjure centaurs or zombies or kobolds to supplement your armies. You can make the river flood, or cast a river crossing to allow your forces to get across the river. You can rally demoralized troops with magic instead of inspiring words, or blast enemy troops with a fireball. Or if you are a very very powerful magi and are willing to risk death in the effort, you can even summon a demon or the SS Wiking Division from another dimension to fight for you. (Not sure what they do for fuel, but hey it's a game, right?)

But your magician's powers will wax and wane depending on whether the blue or red sun is in the ascendant...

The fourteen scenarios follow the story arc of the game, from an early attempt by the Empire to get into the Valley, through scenarios that describe Snorri's arrival in the Valley, intra-Valley battles, epic attempts by various evil wizards to take over. It all ends finally with the epic, 27-turn "Third War of the League of Ararlve", the Empire's final big push to conquer the rest of the Valley. Scenarios typically include different neutrals, who start on a diplomatic display closer to one side or the other - so there is a frenzy of activity, as you dispatch characters or anonymous emissaries to convince the Swampies to join your side.

You win with victory points, gained variously (differs scenario to scenario and side to side) by killing enemy troops, capturing key places, or defending key places.

My favorite side to play in any game was the O.R.C. That's the Orcish Revolutionary Coalition, founded by the Orcish Workers Party. They overthrew the Orcish King Krawn the Crazy. Under the tutelage of Chairman Nashkund and his able assistant, Zarko, they made the O.R.C. the strongest power in the Valley. Until a coalition of bourgeois elves, dwarfs, and humans destroyed the O.R.C. Ironically, this defeat of the orcs as a military power fatally weakened the Valley and made it much more vulnerable to the avaricious Empire of the Humans...

S&S Is A RPG



There is also a Quest Game. This uses the same map, and you play a character - a warrior, a wizard, a paladin, a freebooter, who knows. You run around, casting spells, fighting monsters, fighting each other, fighting ARMIES, searching for magical talismans, fulfilling quests, all of which can earn victory points. Frankly, I never played the Quest Game - we had D&D for that, and the S&S wargame was so cool.

I was fortunate to find a copy of S&S (complete, in good shape and reasonably priced) on eBay a couple of years ago - I'd never owned it, it was my friend's copy. It's a pleasure to pull it out and remember the epic battles in my friend's basement, in the Valley of Ararlve.

A classic.
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Drake Coker
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A bit of the mythos in S&S owes itself to a long-running play-by-mail Diplomacy variant known as "Slobbovia". An interesting game where writing background fiction for the game was more important than actually playing the game. Cronks and pluglunks hail from there, and probably a few more bits that I've long since forgotten.

A good (if long) article on Slobbovia is here: http://www.costik.com/slobbovia.html
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Caleb Wynn
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This game needs to be remade and reprinted. It looks great!
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Michael Lavoie
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Thanks for the great review, Wendell! I truly enjoy this game and wish that I could play it more often. I've been planning to set up a scenario for solo play, but have been procrastinating. Now I might just get to it very soon!
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Scott Muldoon (silentdibs)
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This was one of my favorite games in high school. I still take it out from time to time and reminisce. Once upon a time I was working on a block-game conversion of this based on Hammer of the Scots but nothing came of it.
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Bruce Schlickbernd
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Olvenskol wrote:
A bit of the mythos in S&S owes itself to a long-running play-by-mail Diplomacy variant known as "Slobbovia". An interesting game where writing background fiction for the game was more important than actually playing the game. Cronks and pluglunks hail from there, and probably a few more bits that I've long since forgotten.

A good (if long) article on Slobbovia is here: http://www.costik.com/slobbovia.html


Omigod! Drake! Neurse Schivosk!

A far more complete entry is available in Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slobbovia. Pluglunks, cronks, Ra-Man the Rotten, the evils of sniffing correction fluid (Corflu) or Spirit Duplicator fluid and all sorts of things that would filter into the New York game design crowd (half of Slobbovia worked for SPI it seems, or at least hung out there if not officially on the payroll).
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Dreamteam
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It looks like it uses a lot of the same game mechanics as SPI's Lord of the Rings (which wouldn't be a surprise I guess).
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Carl Paradis
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One of my favorites games. Got it when I was in high School. I Own 3 copies. The Rulebook is such a great read!
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Rob Bottos
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You own 3 copies?? Lucky bastard! I tracked down a copy, and while looking for the one withthe red cover, had to settle on the blue cover.

licinius wrote:
One of my favorites games. Got it when I was in high School. I Own 3 copies. The Rulebook is such a great read!
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Wendell
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Well, one of my old high school buddies was in town last night and we put this on the table. Played Gundarchukson's Weird, I was Snorri.

Didn't go well! At the end of turn 2 I had a diplomatic setback with the Cronks, rolling snake-eyes to drive them one away; I needed a '5' (2d6) to get them on my side. Then immediately after at start of turn 3, a windstorm demoralized EVERYTHING on the map. The Corflu Cultists had just joined Ganab; the Zeps flew up to where my army was, northeast of the Swamp, flew into my ZOC (Zeps ignore ZOCs except for flying units & archers) despite being demoralized, were rallied by magic from Unamit and Peg-Leg, and put a hurt on Snorri's army. I never really recovered, ended up in a desperate battle in N'Dardia, never even reached Endore!
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Scott Clinton
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OMG this is absolutely hilarious!

I had this as a kid of about the exact same age...lost it and reacquired it just recently.

I was looking for a good post to try to convince my local crowd to try this gem and stumbled across this thing! wow

Good lord, they will think I wrote it!

Thanks a ton,
GG
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Paul Sevigny
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It is possible that we referred to our apartment in college as Aardvark Wallow.

That is all.
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Wayne O'Keeffe
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Dreamteam wrote:
It looks like it uses a lot of the same game mechanics as SPI's Lord of the Rings (which wouldn't be a surprise I guess).


Does anyone know if it plays the same as SPI's LOTR? It's just that Calandale wasn't too favourable to that game and his wargame reviews tend to be spot on.
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Wendell
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Si non potes reperire Berolini in tabula, ludens essetis non WIF.
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DirtyDubs wrote:
Dreamteam wrote:
It looks like it uses a lot of the same game mechanics as SPI's Lord of the Rings (which wouldn't be a surprise I guess).


Does anyone know if it plays the same as SPI's LOTR? It's just that Calandale wasn't too favourable to that game and his wargame reviews tend to be spot on.


Nope, they are very different.
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Scott Clinton
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Oh yes, what Wendell said. I had both as a kid in high school and played and loved them both.

I have re-purchased them now decades later and I have them both again and I have re-read the rules.

They are quite different in the way they are designed and even more so when you actually play the games.
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Eric Raabe
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I was given a copy of this game by a friend, but it's missing the rules. I'd also read some rules from an old fantasy wargame that had a detailed backstory involving the dwarves coming to that world in a crashed golden spaceship, but I don't know if it's this game or not.
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Chris Hansen
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dead jawa wrote:
I was given a copy of this game by a friend, but it's missing the rules. I'd also read some rules from an old fantasy wargame that had a detailed backstory involving the dwarves coming to that world in a crashed golden spaceship, but I don't know if it's this game or not.

That all fits Swords & Sorcery's background of the Dwarrows as the Dwarves are called in the game. The only part that doesn't fit is the bit about the golden spaceship, though for some reason that also sounds familiar to me, possibly from some other source? Anyway, here's an excerpt from the racial histories at the end of the rulebook on the Dwarrows with the story in question:
'V. The Dwarrows - Somewhere in the universe, the Dwarrows claim, is or was a nation known as the Union of Stars, an empire of Dwarrows ruling several stellar arms. A quarter of a million years ago, this nation spanned the gap between stars in machines harnessing incomprehensible powers. One of these machines met with an accident and was thrown across the galaxy - or perhaps into another galaxy - to the world of Ararlve. The machine landed on this world about a quarter of a million years ago. In the machine were 500 Dwarrows, who set about to construct a civilization of their own on the planet. Quickly, however, the Dragons realized the mechanical and mining abilities of the Dwarrows, and enslaved them, setting them to work in the mines and fields of the Dragons.'

A bit earlier in the history timeline part of the rules it also states:
'Dragons experiment on the Dwarrows to produce an all-purpose worker, less intelligent but shorter-lived and quicker-breeding than the Dwarrows. Orcs and Goblins are the products of unsuccessful experiments, Humans the result of successful experiments.'

The Dragons of old were rather cold and calculating. devil

There is quite a bit of background in the rules for the game, and it's clear a lot of effort went into creating it.
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Eric Raabe
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I thinks this is likely that game then. Thank you!
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