So, I cracked and bought Warrior Heroes: Legends by Two Hour Wargames.
Now, the heart of this is the reaction system, which I play on an ongoing basis – the campaign most relevant to WHL is Talomir Nights, run under its spiritual predecessor Warrior Heroes: Armies & Adventures, at least so far.
(No Talomir Nights link for you, lazybones, go click on the one in the left menu bar over there. If you want to check out the game engine without spending any money, go to the THW website and get the free Swordplay rules. Or Chain Reaction if you prefer guns to bows and arrows.)
As a review, then, this doesn’t follow my usual pattern, it’s more a collection of first impressions; I daresay I’ll play it in due course, and then you’ll see the rules in action. Mostly, I’m thinking of how it compares with WHAA.
Character creation: Feels more detailed and with more options than WHAA, especially in regard to races. (This is a comparison from memory, mind you, as I don’t have the motivation for a detailed crosscheck between the books.) Like ATZ, WHL now uses Rep, Pep and Sav as the main attributes of a figure; the table of attributes (advantages and disadvantages) has been split into several tables depending on your chosen race and class.
Combat: Uses the latest version of In Sight (roll Rep d6 looking for successes, i.e. rolls of 1-3). However, only the group leader rolls, not every figure individually.
Magic: Is much simplified from WHAA, and more like the approach used in Larger Than Life. There are only three spells, Damage, Defend and Dazzle, which represent the game effect of the spell rather than the descriptive trapping. You want your Damage spell to be a fireball? Go ahead. You want it to be a swarm of miniature poisonous Simon Cowells in spandex? Fine. Magic was the area of WHAA I struggled with most, so I think this more basic system will suit me well.
(As an aside, I notice that WHL and Beasts & Barbarians share a number of similarities in how they treat casters/sorcerors and healers/alchemists. How could I use that? For further study.)
Challenges: Follow the ATZ model in using 2d6 vs relevant skill, which may be Rep, Pep or Sav, although the number of possible modifiers on the roll looks bigger.
Maps: WHL focusses in on the northwest corner of Talomir, covering only four countries: Mirholme (Vikings), Tereken (mediaeval Irish), Altengard (German Imperialists, much like the Empire in Warhammer), and the Capalan League (condottieri). WHAA has many more nations, but not Mirholme or Tereken. Campaign movement sees these broken down into 3-6 provinces each, with a map showing how they relate to each other, rather than WHAA’s more abstract view that you’re either in the heart, the countryside, or the borders of a nation.
Items: The use of Items to represent equipment, as in 5150: New Beginnings or ATZ. The principle here is that bookkeeping is boring, so you start with as many items as twice your Rep, and an Item can be anything you like – a gold coin, a starship, a house, a sword; anything. This sounds like it would be easy to abuse, but I have yet to see that happen in play. Plus, as you’ll have seen in my game reports, the life of a THW Star is often brutal and short, so why not let him enjoy his Items while he can? This replaces the WHAA approach which effectively subsumed all that stuff into a character’s Social Standing rating. Items need more bookkeeping, and I’m not sure which I prefer yet. One new wrinkle – or at least I haven’t noticed it before in other THW rules – is that if a Star cheats death (using one of his special abilities to escape an otherwise certain demise), he loses all Items on his person. Looted and left for dead.
Settlements: These are treated in more detail than WHAA, being split into villages, towns, cities and dungeons; WHAA treated all urban areas much the same, whereas in WHL what kind you’re in determines the services available, and there are now rules for what neighbourhoods are in the settlement, what the buildings are, and when they’re open for business. Encounters now include potential employers of various types, and missions on which they might send you; the rules here look to be right in the sweet spot between not enough guidance (WHAA) and too much information (5150: New Beginnings).
Dungeons: Curiosity about the dungeon rules is what finally convinced me to buy WHL. Like the magic rules, these are much simpler than those in WHAA; possibly too simple, as dungeons, which are now built by drawing cards from a deck, consist of undefined areas; each area may be a treasure room, stairs, or neither, and may or may not have enemy forces in them; all areas are three figures wide and 12" long, so you can think of that as being all tunnels and corridors, or an abstraction of whatever is really there, much like Classic Traveller‘s personal combat on a pad of lined paper. I will probably want to embellish that, I think.
Pre-Generated Grunts: As in the latest edition of ATZ, the quick reference section includes a range of pre-generated characters, which speeds up encounters considerably. There are also a range of partially completed character cards for recurring characters, including possibly your Star and his band.
As with the SF universe of 5150, Two Hour Wargames seems to be splitting their fantasy setting in two; one set of rules for wargamers (Rally Round the King) and one for RPG enthusiasts (Warrior Heroes: Legends). WHAA covered both bases.
In adopting the latest version of various rules, it feels like a hybrid of WHAA and 5150: NB, which is not a bad thing.
Overall Rating: 4 out of 5. I expect to play this at some point, but I don’t get the urge to drop everything else and do that right now which would give it the coveted 5.