All is not well in Brimstone

on December 16, 2014 | 0 Comment
It’s a Monday and I find myself writing about another new game I’m excited about. For those that have read my previous reviews, you’ll know I’m into miniatures. I mean BIG into miniatures. I’m that guy that still has pounds of unpainted metal laying around closets. Add in a board game, a robust card mechanic and a good slice of roleplaying opportunities and it’s a winning combination to attract my attention. Now I grew up watching all the old westerns. My grandfather was a huge western fan and I spent a lot of time watching reruns with him. Call of Cthulhu is my second favorite roleplaying game behind D&D, therefore Shadows of Brimstone was always going to be a winning combination for me. I wasn’t disappointed. Shadows of Brimstone delivered in full.

Here I was, The leanest, meanest Englishman gunslinger this side of the Rockies entering a dark and cold abandoned mine. To my left is Elsa, the Salon Girl (named by my daughter). To my right is El Bandido the bandido. We’re a creative lot eh? Now you’re probably thinking I’m describing the opening scene of my Call of Cthulhu RPG session. To be honest, it does feel a little like that but overall, the gameplay is very much not like a typical RPG since it uses a card driven resolution engine to control the game mechanics. I say “typical”, as there have been a few RPGs that have flirted with using cards as their engine.

ShadowsofB Stuff 1
ShadowsofB Scavenge cards
ShadowsofB Stuff 2
You’re probably starting to realize this is a cooperative game, with us all against the game itself. You use a party and darkness tracking system (Depth tracker) to see how the game is going and what triggers when. If the Darkness (the game’s definition of the bad stuff) gets to the Mine Entrance the party loses, as it escapes to wreak havoc on the world. Therefore it’s a game of exploration, killing bad guys or things, stop the Darkenss escaping (getting the the entrance) and don’t all die. Simple right? WRONG!
ShadowsofB Bandido

As you explore, things randomly awaken (drawn from the Darkness deck) and Dread event cards (Dread deck) are added to the Depth track, awaiting a time when the game decides they’re to be flipped over and we all scream in horror at what fate has handed us. Usually right at the point of engaging the big bad nasty thing causing all the trouble. This is a mechanic I really like. As the Darkness marker moves and we awaken stuff (signified on the track) we deal with it immediately but the Dread cards are left next to the track, piling up, with nobody knowing what’s in-store until the game state triggers the horror of the dreaded Dread card flip. When that happens, it’s every self-respecting gunslinger for himself.

ShadowsofB Loot Cards
Now no well prepared gunslinger heads off into the darkness without the protection of his trusty six-shooters. So it is with each party member, and there are a variety. Each character starts with a set of items and they can scavenge and get loot as they explore the game board.

Another thing about this game that I like, is the lack of card counting. In most games you get to know what’s on the cards and as the discard pile builds you can start to predict what’s coming. Not with Shadows of Brimstone. Each time you draw a Scavenge card, good, ill or no effect, it is immediately resolved and then shuffled back into the deck. This ensures no two games play alike and lady luck can be harsh or benevolent in that moment or long runs. There are games where you scavenge and nothing happens all game. There are those games where everything seems to align against you. Conversely there are games where it seems everything you need is simply there for the taking.

ShadowsofB cards 1
This isn’t the only random element that makes each game different. As you explore the board (tiles) you draw a card, from the map deck, to see how many exits (connectors) are active and where (by random determination). This means each board layout is unique and really helps with the “exploration of the unknown” feel.

I’ve spoken about the board (tiles), the cards and the feel of the game but in the end it’s all about beating things up and winning right? With Shadows of Brimstone creature numbers and type are generated by the Threat Deck based on the number of players (characters) playing. This balances the challenge out nicely and again, adds a randomness where no two games play alike.

In conclusion:

Shadows of Brimstone gives you a board game with a lot of cooperative roleplaying elements. Extremely high amounts of replayability and it takes me back to those early games of Spacehulk, which were a lot of fun. The only nit-picky negative is all the different decks to make the game run but that’s very minor.

ShadowsofB Game Layout

What I love about this game:

  • The production quality is awesome.
  • Game tiles are printed both sides, allowing a lot of variety.
  • The miniatures are superb. I wanted to paint them as soon as I opened the box.
  • Game play is familiar and fun
  • The mesh of horror and wild west is very well blended
  • The game already has expansions

What I didn’t like:

  • I can’t play it more.
Shadows Core Set 1.
Code: FFP0701 Shadows of Brimstone: City of Ancients; FFP0702 Shadows of Brimstone: Swamps of Death
MSRP: $99.95 (both the same)
Release: Both available NOW!
Shadows Core Set 2

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