Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Shadows of Brimstone review

Alright, the year is 1869. The American West if rife with opportunity for money making, shenanigans, prospecting, lawlessness, cattle ranchin’ and general bad assery. Now it seems that in the town of Brimstone the miners there have uncovered some fancy purple stones, Darkstone (not to be confused with Warpstone as that is green, but fundamentally the same). These stones have all manner of useful properties. This of course leads to further mining and the inevitable digging too far and discovering a whole mess of monsters. Even worse is that creatures from beyond are drawn to this darkstone as well. Now it is up to an intrepid band of persons of local color to delve into the mine to fend off said monsters. Heck they cn even dive into other realms to look for adventure there. Well that or go exploring for shiny magic expensive rocks. Either way they’ll need to gear up and gird their loins to face the encroaching darkness that is….The Shadows of Brimstone!

Shadows o’ Brimstone is a miniature based co-op quasi-rpg for 1-4 players. Yes playing by/with your self is an option, as it always is! You pick a character and are encouraged to use them over numerous games to acquire money, gear and XP. It is comprised of a lot of components (cards, tables, minis, map tiles) and a descent amount of rules. When opened it looks daunting. However, the core rules are simple and it doesn’t take much to get into and through the first scenario.

Did not expect all this had to be assembled. No big deal for me!

Assembly Required
If you are looking to dive into a game right out of the gate, realize that won’t be happening. Why? Well the models that come with the game have to be removed from sprues and assembled. This was no big deal in our home, but it might pose a problem for non-miniature gamers. If you are buying Shadows of brimstone then buy super glue as well! REPEAT BUY SUPER GLUE! There is a healthy amount of cardboard tiles and token removal as well. Plan on unboxing for an hour or more (depending on how you deal with miniature assembly) prior to even looking at the rules.

We bought Shadows of Brimstone: Swamps of Death. This is the complete boxed set. There was also Shadows of Brimstone: City of the Ancients big box set. Plus there was the Caverns of Cynder Expansion. The big boxes are similar core games, but have different  characters and other worlds to explore. We chose Swamps of Death as swamps are so much cooler than frozen lost cities. We passed on the expansion as we were not sure about extra purchases and this is a bit of an investment for a game at $100. We did splurge on a box of extra monsters, the swamp slugs. They looked proper cool!
This isn't even all the bits! There are all the map tiles as well!

I’m guessing if there is enough buzz and sales then there will be options to buy the alternate characters and monsters right?

Great bad guys, and can great proxy models!

The game is movement and random exploration that involves an objective of some sort. You encounter a room, fight, survive, possibly loot and then move on toward your goal.

This is a D6 based game that uses a healthy amount of card drawing. Once you get going it moves quickly. There is really a time where nothing is going on in game. Which is good since game downtime is bad.

This is a co-op so everyone should be helping the party survive. If you only worry about your own character there is a real chance that you and everyone else will meet a bloody end. Never go into a spooky mine without a buddy!

This is a stripped down turn based miniature game. Every character and monster has an initiative and the actions all run in initiative order from high to low. The rules for encounters, monster actions and their movements are simple. It boils down to them getting as close to the group as they can as fast as they can.  It makes the monsters super easy to use and keeps the gameplay moving.

There are rules for close combat as well as ranged. So far it seems that ranged combat is the way to go as the characters start with access to firearms. The beasties all are all melee oriented in this pack and that also makes combat fast as there isn’t any return fire to have to worry about. Yet.

Each game involves a tracking chart that shows how far you have explored and how much of the “darkness” that is creeping up on the party. If the “darkness” ever makes it to the end of the little chart, then you lose no matter what. This makes every game a bit stressful as you want to get exploring and meet the objective as quickly as possible. The longer the game goes the harder it becomes.

The game even scales with the party. The more people the harder it becomes. The more XP and gear the harder it becomes. I’m not sure how good this is yet as we haven’t done the whole XP bit. Yet. I’m not super keen on the game scaling to be more difficult. I find it tough to be successful already.

There is even a post-game explore the town bit as well. This has potential to be a game in itself. I guess it is best described as a post adventure mini-game based on character boosting/building.

Hell, the map tiles are even reversible to form a swamp board, the Swamps of Jogoro. A whole new set of scenarios to play after/if the mines are conquered. It is like two games in one box!

Brimstone is fairly easy to play, but this game is not easy. It is unforgivable and can get out of hand really quick. The game can go from difficult to nigh impossible with a few botched rolls.


You have a choice of four characters all centered around western archetypes: Native American scout, rancher, priest and law man. Each character has a set of skills : strength, agility, cunning, lore etc. These are used for non-combat encounters. They also have an initiative, close and melee combat stat. All have varying amounts of health. Finally, they also special abilities unique to them.

The preacher is really the only stand out in the group. The other three choices all begin with ranged weapons and are a choice between quantity and quality of ranged attacks. The holy man is the support character. He has sermons that act as ranged attacks, buffs, e-buffs or heals. He can be given a gun at the cost of spell, or sermon, slinging.

Randomness abounds.
When playing you explore a mine (to start). This is done with tiles and by drawing random cards. The cards show which tile to lay down, so the mine is randomly generated each time you play. 

Encounters and fights are done the same. A random card is drawn and that shows what and how many creatures you will be facing off against.

It does give it a Diablo type feel. I’m totally fine with that.

Loot and associated gear is randomly generated as well. The same for between games when you go to town to sell your spoils. You have a lot of random events there as well.

When you level a character, there is  random chart to roll for ability increases. The length of each game is random.
The random amount of randomness here can get a bit too random. The sheer amount of random is overwhelming for me at times. It is the only downside of the game for me.

Well? How is it?
Shadows of Brimstone is tough. The game is easy to learn, but it not easy to win. We have played seven games and have only won three of them. The other four have been losses to the encroaching darkness. The last two games played we did survive to go and buy equipment for the next game. Now we start the process of gaining XP to level our characters.

The game feels like a mash-up of Mordheim, Arkham Horror, Diablo and the NES Old West shooter like Commando…Gun Smoke! Yeah Gun Smoke. The co-op aspect is enjoyable and different since we play so many PVP and screw your neighbor games already. I really like the background and the survival horror-ish feel.

The models are good for a non-miniature company game. If you hate the game, the models can easily be re-purposed for any number of other rpg or miniature games. The assembly of the game prior to play can be irriataitng to some, but it is fairly easy and shouldn’t take too long.

I am not 100% sold on Shadows of Brimstone yet. Yet. The randomness of it is really hard for me to enjoy. There is just sooooo much of it. The dungeon crawl exploration, co-op game play, the setting and monsters are all great stuff and will keep me coming back. It is old western co-op non-Mordheim Diablo! How can I really not like this game?

"Tentacles. N, T. Big difference."


  1. Warning! Do not use superglue, use plastic 'cement'! Better bonding, less of a mess, less glueing fingers togethers, etc. Less tocix.

  2. Thank you for the heads up.
    Am looking to get a few extra monsters and knowing this will help put them together with less mess.