Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Fear & Faith: playtesting the horror skirmish rules

Fear & Faith is the horror variant of the most excellent fantasy skirmish rules, Song of Blades & Heroes. The reason I didn't use SoB&H for the recent battles in the Bloodbath At Orc's Drift campaign is because it really caters to minor skirmishes of 10-12 models per side, maximum. At Ashak Rise alone, the orcs brought 30 of their number to the party, plus 1o wolves.

SoB&H is a simple, fast-playing system that can play out in an hour or two max. It has branched out into a number of other genres, and I was keen to give its Gothic horror variant, Fear & Faith a go. The opportunity to test it out with the Hove Area Wargamers (HAWS) arose recently, so I took the plunge.

F&F plays fast, and brings with it many of the concepts that have made SoB&H such a hit, including the activation mechanic. Each character is assigned a Quality score, which a player needs to roll above in order for that character to take an action. You can roll up to 3d6 in the hopes of getting up to three actions, but should you fail more than once -i.e. two dice come up less than your Quality score - you automatically turn over to the other team. In many ways it feels a little like Blood Bowl in that respect. You are forced to prioritise the actions you want to take, while balancing this against the superior quality troops in your force.

Thus a Q5+ character is a bit of a risk, and it may be worth rolling only 1d6 to avoid losing your turn. A Q3+ character is competent, and worth taking a 2d6 punt on, in the hopes that he'll be able to take at least one action. It is worth leaving poorer quality troops until last, giving you the opportunity to move your best guys first. Some traits like Hero and Mob let characters have free actions - Heroes are allowed one free action per turn without needing to roll (although they are still limited to three), while Mobs get a free Short move per turn regardless of their activation rolls.

Combat is very simple: both combatants roll 1d6 and add their combat score, plus any other modifiers - e.g. -1 if there is another enemy adjacent. You need to double the opponent's score to kill him. Triple his score, and you get a gruesome kill, forcing other members of his team to make a morale check.

Our game featured a group of five vampire hunters attacking an abandoned church at twilight. Their job was to slay three vampires who were resting in the church's graveyard. The vampires were protected by a wolf and a posse of escaped lunatics (a nod here to Dracula), plus a rogue grave digger with a big shovel (which could instant kill if the player rolled a 6 on his attack).

From the off things went badly for the vampire hunters. Their priest leader entered the fray first, but then a failed activation roll left him isolated as no other members of his posse could arrive. He was ambushed and killed by a minion almost immediately, thereby costing the hunters their most powerful character in the first turn. It went downhill from there.

The vampires begin the game asleep, but can be awoken by minions or by gunfire or characters being killed. The minions had a poorer activation score (4+) so long as the master vampire remained asleep. Despite this, they were able to hold off the hunters' attack, with no hunter managing to get into the churchyard. Two lunatics were slain, however, one gunned down and another killed by Professor Van Helsing in a fit of pique.

The only point where the vampires looked threatened was when the nun character, Sister Eva, lobbed a bottle of holy water over the churchyard wall, with two vampires standing well within its 'blast' radius. Tragically, neither was hurt and Sister Eva was soon dispatched by a minion.

F&F features a fear mechanic on top of the usual morale mechanic, but I think we were still getting our heads around this. It features in the Ban Vampire special power, which forces undead to make their own Fear check if they want to attack a hunter with a crucifix. Similarly, a hunter can use a crucifix to try to Ban vampires within a Short radius.

SoB&H uses an excellent measuring system that uses Short (7.5cm), Medium (12cm) and Long (18cm) measuring sticks. Thus, holy water has a Short thrown range, a wolf makes a Long move for one action, and most characters make a Medium move with one action. Base widths are also used - being driven back one base width is a possible combat outcome.

Overall, the hunters did well on their Fear checks. They passed most of them with flying colours, and even when they failed, it was only to step back a bit, not to flee or pick up any Insanity. Still, they lost, and died to a man, at the cost of only two minions and no vampires killed.

The undead begin the game with some serious handicaps - three of their number Insane and grappling with different forms of insanity, and three more asleep. Yet even with this, the hunters were able to make a prime mess of it, with some heroically bad rolling. Sister Eva was the stand out MVP for the hunters, as she came closest to actually taking out the vampires.

I'm keen to give F&F another go, perhaps this time with my werewolves. I DO like SoB&H as a system. It is quick, simple, easy to teach, doesn't require a lot of miniatures or terrain. Ideal, really.


  1. Thank you for the review, I'll be linking to this on the GG website

  2. Sounded great fun Stuart even though the odds were seemingly stacked against the hunters. Like the fear mechanic :)

  3. Nice write up Stu - shame I couldn't make it to the game last night. I didn't realise you had a blog until Pete told me. I've done several batreps on my blog, and like you think SBH is probably the best skirmish set available although, as you know, I'm far more partial to Song of Splintered Lands.