Shadows of Brimstone is a game I’ve been wanting to get hold of for some time, since 2015 in fact when I started getting back into the hobby. I wasn’t bothered which version, at the end of the day they can all be played mixed together, but I could never seem to get my hands on a copy, at least for a price I was willing to pay, that is.
So, Black Friday arrived, and I did my usual thing, which is Christmas shopping for my wife. By that I mean, shopping for what my wife is going to get me for Christmas😉 I’d already pulled off one great purchase, more of that in my bi-monthly geek post, and wasn’t expecting another of such proportions to come along. Imagine my surprise then, when casting an eye over Chaos Cards’ Black Friday offerings, when I find Swamps of Death for the greatly reduced sum of £60 (retails at £119!). With my members discount I got it for £53, bargain!
Anyway, Shadows of Brimstone: Swamps of Death is a co-operative dungeon crawler set in the old west, but everything isn’t quite as straightforward as it sounds. This old west has more than its fair share of other-worldly portals and, of course, plenty of horrific creatures. The revised edition comes with updated miniatures, which have fewer parts to assemble and are cast with greater detail. All the FAQ’s and Errata have also been incorporated, so it should have a smoother learning process and gameplay, we shall see, but that’s for another post.
Let’s get to work unboxing…
Starting with the box itself. It’s exactly the same as the original, which is superbly dramatic, apart from the inclusion of ‘Revised Edition’ at the bottom and a label stuck over the number of players and age – it was obviously uprated from ages 12+ to 15+ after production, at least in some countries.
Opening up I’m confronted by bags of sprues, let’s take a closer look…
Having seen plenty of images and read many posts showcasing the miniatures from the previous edition, I’m pleased to say these look a vast improvement. They’re hard plastic with a reasonable level of detail, which is nicely defined, and each figure needs minimal assembly.
There are three identical sprues, each containing 2-tentacles, 2-hell bats, 1-slasher, and 4-hunrgy dead. A sprue holding the 4-player characters. And a sprue with a large, nicely posed Harbinger. Oh, and there’s a bag full of standard bases for the figures.
Addendum – I’ve just started to assemble the miniatures and here’s my thoughts now. The sprues are really beefy where they hold the parts, and so when clipped you’re left with a big sprue mark. There are a lot of prominent mould lines, but they do clean up quite easily. I did say a reasonable level of detail, but I think I need to quantify that. For boardgame pieces they do have an okay level of detail, which, as I said, is well defined, but I got thinking… This is the level of detail I would expect from a boardgame where the miniatures come pre-assembled, or moulded as one piece, not what I would expect for something that you have to assemble yourself. The detail isn’t fine, but quite bold, so when painted they should look good at gaming distance, however, there are some areas that lack detail and this is especially evident in the faces. Some faces have so little detail, such as the Rancher, that you’ll have to paint eyes and mouth freehand – I would expect more from miniatures that come on sprues. Lastly, they may have cut down on the number of parts per miniature, but they don’t go together very well at all, with some large gaps between the joints. Make of this what you will.
Underneath the sprues there’s a card detailing assembly instructions, and they do look easy to put together.
With the sprues out of the way we have a nice, large plastic inlay containing the character and monster cards, the rulebooks, dice, and 3-sealed decks of cards.
The character cards hold all the stats and abilities for the individual characters, Lawman, Preacher, Indian Scout, and Rancher. They’re a little on the flimsy side, but I can’t see that being a problem. They’re also double sided, identical other than a change in sex. I like this option to play either male or female characters, it’s just a pity that they don’t provide the miniatures to represent both – other than the Rancher the other 3-miniatures are represented by men.
There are 6-monster stat cards, one for each of the earlier mentioned monsters plus one for the corpse pile, whatever that may be (I’m sure I’ll find out later!). These hold all the information I would imagine you’ll need – Size, Initiative, abilities, To Hit bonus, etc. There’s also an elite chart at the bottom, when rolled on gives the creature a special ability. Flipping these cards over upgrades the creature further, to a ‘Brutal’ form.
It’s nice to see that the majority of the dice are standard d6s, so you can easily substitute in your own or add more if needed. There’s also a d8 and a custom d6, which has two 3s, two 4s, a 5 and a 6 on its sides.
Next I open up the sealed cards and separate them into their individual decks, there are lots of them – Gear, Artifacts, Starting Gear, Personal Items, Hero Starting Upgrades, Map Cards, Darkness Cards, Encounters, 4-Threat Decks, Loot, Growing Dread, World Cards, Scavenge, Other World Map and Artifact decks, and Preacher Sermon Cards… Phew, that’s a fair old number of decks. On top of theses there are several aid cards, showing what some tokens do and highlighting certain rules – sounds useful!
I’m not going to bore you by looking through all of the decks, but as I glance through them there are a few that catch my eye. I like the Threat Decks – Low, Med, High, Epic – which appear to tell you what monsters you’re going to be up against, with many of the higher threat levels telling you to draw a number of lower threat cards on top of what they throw at you.
The Growing Threat cards contain some wonderful, thematic flavour text…
You loosen your collar and unbutton your shirt as a powerful wave of heat rolls over you from ahead, draining your energy and causing a sweat.
It’s things like this that helps create an atmosphere, and I can easily envisage my character reeling from a blast of heat coming down a corridor.
The encounter cards are equally as thematic, but I avoid paying the too much attention as I like to experience them for the first time in game.
The Map Deck looks quite interesting, giving a random element to its creation – I’m interested to see how well it works in play.
There are lots of equipment and loot cards, some of the later cause you to draw other cards, so there’s a good degree of variation to what you’ll come across. I also find several cards that change the monsters slightly, the Otherworld Threat cards, for example, Bog Bats, which are Hell Bats with slightly different abilities, so again, there’s going to be some variation in what you’re going up against. Whilst flipping through the decks I came across the Side Bags for the characters, or at least some of them. There should be four, one for each character, but I can only find three, it might have eluded me and still be in a deck somewhere, but I’m not too concerned.
Putting the rulebooks to one side, along with the Shadows of Brimstone soundtrack, I lift out the insert to reveal a multitude of token boards.
It’s nice to see they haven’t been vacuum sealed and are in an easily opened bag. There are 9-box sized token boards, holding a fair number of tokens, but the majority is taken up with the map tiles.
The whole thing is a delight to the eyes, with bright tokens and thematically shady map tiles, all with a gloss finish. The finish certainly makes them pop, and they do look gorgeous, but gloss finished tiles aren’t a favourite of mine, as they reflect the LED lighting where we play and I end up squinting or leaning over at funny angles to see things clearly – or maybe, it’s just old age!
The map tiles really are a pleasure to behold. They’re double sided – mine on one side, otherworldly on the other – and the artwork is superb, with little intricacies to look out for. When the miniatures are painted the game’s going to look great on the table, and I’m really looking forward to getting to that point.
Okay, let’s take a look at the rulebooks and associated gubbings.
There is a rulebook, and adventure book, and nine, double sided, reference cards.
Working backwards, the reference cards detail the town locations and what can be done in each – Blacksmith, Church, Doc’s Office, General Store, Salon – there are also cards for a Frontier Outpost, Frontier Town, Madness/Injury chart, and a Depth Event chart, all of which seem straightforward and delve into the roleplaying aspect of the game, as each character can wonder off and do what they wish in town.
The adventure book is filled with much more than just the adventures you’ll be playing in, which is what I expected. Inside there’s things like the story of Brimstone, maps, and lots of mission, both basic and advanced. The book also contains information about the town, how to set it up and how to spend your time there. There’s all you need to know about the hero classes and levelling them up – each has their own upgrade chart – and an overview of your enemies. There’s even a much-appreciated painting guide, which, even if you’re an experienced painter, will at least give you an insight into colour schemes.
It’s a very polished production with some superbly gritty, comic book style artwork, in both colour and greyscale.
The rulebook is equally well produced, but with less art and a lot more words! At 39-pages there’s a lot to take in here, and I’ll be interested to see how well written it all is in terms of trying to learn the game. With the prospect of all the glitches having been ironed out, this revised edition shouldn’t be too problematic, we shall see. A quick flip through, though, really excites me, as the game has everything I look for in a dungeon crawler – lots of dice to be rolled, upgradable characters offering lots of personalisation, and a good variance to the gameplay. My eye was drawn to the fact that, if you throw dynamite, there’s a bounce table to see where it lands if you miss – it’s the little things that please me!
I was really excited to lift the lid of this game and it didn’t let me down, I’m now bursting to get those minis assembled and crack a game out.
The miniatures look a definite improvement on the earlier edition and shouldn’t take much time or skill to put together – there’s nothing worse than getting a game like this and having to spend hours putting it together before you can play the damn thing – so in my eyes, the new minis are a big winner here.
Overall, the production level is very high, especially those map tiles. The rulebooks are colourful and really look the part. At the end of the day, though, it will all come down to gameplay and I just can’t wait. I’ve wanted to play Shadows of Brimstone for years and am so looking forward to it. Look out for my first thoughts coming up, hopefully, very soon!