Cooperative fantasy skirmish games have become a thing over the past few years. Right at the forefront of this development we find Sellswords & Spellslingers.
Ganesha Games‘ Sellswords & Spellslingers, written by Andrea Sfiligoi, was released in 2018. Interestingly enough, not to much fanfare. This is a thing we see sometimes with Ganesha Games releases. I like to think that’s because they’re just too busy putting out solid, solid rules sets.
What Sellswords&Spellslingers does is nothing less than letting you and your friends play fully cooperative Fantasy adventures on your tabletop in a fast and fun fashion.
First, as always, a look at…
The rules are available for USD 8.00 for the PDF version or USD 18.00 via the Ganesha Games website. Usual Ganesha Games prices and thus just an excellent deal.
I ordered the printed book from Lulu.com. Still from the US, but they regularly run Free Worldwide Shipping things. So keep an eye out for these sales.
At 69 pages (A5 size, thick paper, full colour) the rulebook is a slim one, but it comes with all the information you need to play.
There’s a particular look to Ganesha Games rulebooks, which I, as mentioned in previous reviews of their games, really enjoy. Throughout the book we find a mix of artwork and photos of miniatures.
Both come with a certain ‘old school aesthetic’ which just appeals to me. It’s colourful, it’s fun, it’s ominous, some is a bit creepy – the kind of stuff I like in my Fantasy books. Just evoking ideas and getting ideas going.
What do I Need to Play?
Apart from the rulebook you’ll need a set of Sellswords&Spellslingers cards (more on these later), three 20-sided dice (D20), two or three six-sided dice (D6), character sheets and pens for each player and corresponding hero figures.
The gaming area is 36″ by 36″. Usually I’m of the opinion that a larger table makes for a better game. In this case I’d say stick to the suggested table size as enemy movement is worked out to fit that size.
Speaking of enemies, you’ll need a lot of those. Be it skeletons, Deep Ones, Orcs&Goblins, Gnolls, toadpeople, … you’ll need a large supply of enemies. For a party of eight hero characters (four players with 2 characters each) I suggest getting about 30 just to be sure. If you only got like 5 heroes on the table you’ll get away with 25 or so, but you never know how many baddies pop up.
Of course there’s scenarios which require fewer figures (right down to just one really nasty baddie), but in general I sugget having a lot of baddie at hand. You’ll also want to have a bit of a range of enemies at hand, as wandering monsters or sudden appearances of third parties on the table can and will happen.
How Does it Work?
This being a cooperative game we need a sort of randomizer. This game uses a special deck of cards for that.
What sets this game apart is that it’s a completely cooperative fantasy miniature game. This positions it right between dungeon crawler board games (like Decent and Heroquest) and Pen&Paper RPGS (like GURPS, The One Ring, The Dark Eye, etc.). Each player plays one or multiple hero characters. Baddies are all played by an AI which is built into the game, which works really quickly and efficiently. At its core Sellswords and Spellslingers is based on D20 rolls; as with most games written by Sfiligoi everything starts with activation rolls. It’s a player’s turn, the player chooses one of their characters they want to activate. Then they roll one, two or three D20. 8 or more means the die may be used for a hero action, any dice showing less than 8 means a card is drawn from the events deck.
Most of the time these cards will activate or spawn enemy models. Some of them are scenario-relevant event cards. The thing is that the less dangerous cards usually get removed from the deck after being drawn, so each time the deck’s empty and gets reshuffled and more and more only the enemy activation cards (usually the dangerous ones) stay in the scenario gets more dangerous for the heroes. So there’s a certain time factor worked in as well. You won’t want to stay on the board endlessly and loot everything because those enemies will go wilder and wilder.
Enemies who get activated act in a very simple manner. Scenario design is a large part of the game, if you don’t want to play the same thing over and over. This also means though that you can do ANYTHING with these rules and really get some fun adventures going on your games table.
The event cards (including spell cards, monster cards and potion cards) are free to download from the Ganesha Games website. Printed cards can be ordered from Drivethrucards.com. I got mine from Made By MelBel, who does tremendous gaming accessories and carved out a nice niche for herself, getting well-known for custom cards and whatnot throughout Germany and beyond.
Apart from event cards there’s also a large number of spell cards, potion cards and monster cards. The base game contains 30 different monster types on cards.
These monster cards give you all the information about a monster type to play it in the game: the creature’s Danger Level (basically the target of your D20 roll when fighting the creature), hit points, close combat damage, the loot they drop when slain and of course special rules. Based on this simple scheme you can design your own creature types or adapt creatures from other games without a problem.
That’s it. Simple.
In the beginning of the game, or – even better – campaign each player creates their character(s). This is a very simple procedure as well. A player gets a total of 60XP to create their characters, there’s a certain minimum and maximum to spend on each character. XP works basically like a points system. The rulebook contains a large number of character traits (positive and negative) to customize your characters.
This is just like in Song of Blades and Heroes – you can do pretty much anything. And due to the fact to how simple the system is it’s rather easy to come up with additional traits and give them appropriate XP cost. This way you can incorporate pretty much any hero miniature you want in the game.
As mentioned before the game is scenario driven. The rulebook contains 10 scenarios. Unfortunately there isn’t much in the way of additional campaigns or scenarios out there. However, there are some people who put their own scenarios online and once you played the 10 scenarios from the rulebook you’ll have enough of a feel for the game to quickly and easily make up your own.
On top of that it’s unlikely that any scenario will ever play out the same due to the card drawing mechanic, due to different player characters, events, and so on.
…as always makes the thing work even better. Characters gain experience points (XP) and loot (usually expressed in the way of Silver Pieces and/or potions).
There’s a wide range of activities to be done between scenarios as well. These include pretty much anything characters would do in any other role-playing game: Enter Archery contests, join the city watch for a bit and patrol the streets, gamble, pickpocket, do some PR work for your character, research monsters, enchant a weapon, work as an exterminator (ie go into the sewers and kill 10 Giant Rats), scribe a scroll, bond with another player’s character, and many more. Each character may only indulge in one of these activities (with the exception of Carousing and Mingle with Courtesans, which can be combo’d up for either ultimate refreshment or a nasty itch combined with a nasty headache next game). These of course are generic and can be interpreted to fit the specific campaign and setting you’re playing
Most of these activities come at a cost in Silver, others can be done to make some money. Some will give you a little bonus on the next game, others might have other effects.
Of course equipment can be bought and sold as well between games.
I really dig this game. It’s a bit of an odd duck, but cooperative games like this popped up more and more over the past two years. I like it a bit better than Rangers of Shadowdeep as Sellswords and Spellslingers is a bit less predictable, and just feels a bit more fun.
Its big advantage of not being set in a particular setting or style of game is great, but to some who are less used to taking initiative in their gaming it may be a bit daunting. Here the scenarios from the book work really well. And once you got a feel for the game you can do anything. Get the minis you want, play what ever setting you like, have at it. Games go very fast and flow well and so far each game has been memorable for one reason or another. It’s the little things that happen and the little chaotic moments which introduce drama to the game and thus fun.
The basic rules are really simple, but got the same little risk-reward system built in as Song of Blades and Heroes does. Add to this little things, like each slain enemy dropping loot which can be picked up. Usually this “I know we should head off, but I’ll just spend one more action to grab this…” is what leads to disastrous situations.
Sellswords and Spellslingers works great for a light-hearted multi-player game. As there is no ‘enemy phase’ as such, so there is next to no down time for any player involved.
Highly, highly recommended.