Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Shadows of Brimstone – Making a Good Game Great (or close to it, maybe)

Shadows of Brimstone – Making a Good Game Great (or close to it, maybe)    
Shadows of Brimstone is a good game.

Wait.  Let me rephrase that.

Shadows of Brimstone is an OK game that has a lot of really cool stuff in it.

 I love all of the things in this game. SoB has a lot going for it in terms of plastic and cardboard. It’s got tons of loot, treasure, special items, tiles, creatures, monsters, heroes, demons, tokens, and cards. It might possibly have more stuff than a fully expanded Arkham Horror. I can’t say for certain if this is true, but if it’s not its really close (and as a bonus, all of the cards are full size!).

I also love the theme – the weird west is one of my favorite settings, and a great sub-genre of fiction (look for a future article on Weird West Lit). SoB’s theme, along with all the things in all the boxes, goes a long way to getting my imagination all fired up, ready and willing to send my posse of lawmen and outlaws on wild adventures.

Unfortunately, the game itself is only OK. All of this stuff deserves to be in a better game. Now, this isn’t a full review - that will come later. This brief article will detail some of the house rules I use, rules that I think make SoB a much better game, rules that make SoB an almost-great game. I don’t think it’s there yet, but it could be soon, with a little more work.

By the way, I won’t be mentioning the Hexcrawl fan-made campaign system here, at least not in any detail. It goes without saying that the Hexcrawl campaign is a must have for SoB, and I’ll touch more on that at a later time.

Advanced Exploration

Exploration in SoB is pointless. Because of the way the Exploration tokens work, you will always simply be exploring in a straight line. There is never a reason to choose one exit over another. This simple Advanced Exploration system takes the system from Warhammer Quest and applies it here (seeing as how SoB is pretty much a re-themed WHQ, I’m surprised this wasn’t already implemented).

When a branching path is reached:
1. Divide Encounter tokens evenly among the available exits, dealing from the bottom and creating new stacks of tokens, a stack for each exit.

2. Pick which path you want to explore.

3. If the route picked does not complete the quest, Backtracking occurs.

4. Backtracking is different than normal exploration.

5. The party Backtracks towards the first tile with an unexplored exit, moving from tile to tile, not space to space. It’s probably easiest to simply remove all heroes from the board during Backtracking.

6. No rolling for darkness during Backtracking.

7. On each tile moved onto while Backtracking, roll a D6. On a 1, the party is ambushed – draw threat as normal. Set party up as close to the center of the tile as possible.
8. Resume normal rules for movement and Darkness once the tile with an unexplored exit is entered, thus ending the Backtracking.

Advance Hero Actions

This is a way to spice up your turns, add a little more in terms of choice to your game.

      1. Move up to 4 spaces and roll for grit, or roll to move/grit – your choice.

2. Choose from one of the following:

a. Run – move an additional 4 spaces, or up to your agility score

b. Aim – forfeit all movement above (don’t roll for grit) – this allows you to reroll any/all attack dice on your next attack.

c. Throw/pick up an item. You can throw a one-handed item to another hero. That hero can catch the item as long as they have one hand free. Throw using dynamite rules. Range on throwing is STR +3.

d. Search / Scavenge / Look through door – normal rules

e. Attack – normal rules

f. Push / Pull – still working on rules for this option. You should be able to push aka Kick enemies into holes, or physically manhandle enemies. Haven’t fully developed this yet.

g. Capture – I think the rules for this are stated in the Hexcrawl campaign.

These advance actions give you a little more to do in order to help make the turns more dynamic. 

That’s all for now. There will be more SoB stuff in the future, that’s a promise.


  1. I like this. I actually used the grit systems and put it into Mice and Mystics, currently my favorite dungeon crawler. SoB looked cool, but it seemed the long gameplay, fiddly bookkeeping, long setup times, and minion assembly is just too cumbersome. The theme is great though. I wonder how a campaign run through of a game like this is.

  2. SoB is fiddly as can be. But that's part of the charm. It's ridiculous how much stuff there is. It's all about variety, and is best played in a campaign setting, so you can see all the cool ways your heroes improve and get injured. I love rolling on random tables and it had a ton of those.

    I still haven't played M&M, but I want to. Waiting for everything to be back in print so I can grab the base game and all the expansions at once.


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