In my last blog, I spoke about my recent trip to Gripping Beast and getting my fanboy-hands on their upcoming Late Romans. While I was there, Martin was kind enough to give me a run-through of the new Gripping Beast game due late autumn, Swordpoint. Now, I’d heard rumours… but had not yet seen it in the flesh. Having the author take me through the game was an opportunity not to be missed.
A lot of people might be expecting a big battle version of SAGA, considering the company publishing this game. They’d be incorrect. Swordpoint has its own unique system and is not SAGA related nor does it use a mechanic such as SAGA dice. It will be a battle system for all periods from Biblical ancients to late Medieval warfare. Sounds a little like Warhammer Ancient Battles in its ambitions? After all, Martin wrote the second edition of that system. Perhaps in earlier playtest versions it might have had some similarity, but WAB it is not, despite its author. Swordpoint is quite removed from WAB to the point that I’d say it loosely reminded me more of other systems (Crusader Rules or In Death Ground) than it does WAB. These comparisons are loose at best, so don’t draw any conclusions yet. Suffice to say Swordpoint is it’s own animal.
Martin strongly emphasized the logic behind the game and that he’d changed the rules based both on his own and player experiences, with a strong reference to history (both music to my ears). While I don’t want to (and can’t) say too much at this point, I can say the game has evolved to such a point that it looks very unlike its WAB predecessor. The system is designed to be simple to play, and reward good tactics, not extreme dice rolls (which are less likely in Swordpoint).
The concepts, grounded in history as Martin explained them, gel very well with me. No longer will units automatically run away (unless they roll very badly). Instead you’ll have graduated results where a line will fall back and slowly degrade until they reach a breaking pont. Now it makes sense for an army like the Carthaginians to take a fairly weak centre with Celt mercenaries while the higher quality Carthaginian forces outflank a Roman army… Battles will, hopefully, play like historical battles.
I may froth over new releases, I admit it, but when it comes to games I remain skeptical - that’s the game designer in me. What I saw impressed me, however, and I will have to wait calmly (biting my nails) until we can do a ‘Let’s Play’ on the game before we pass final judgement. The auguries are good, which make me say with confidence this is going to be the one to watch come late this year.