Monday, December 5, 2011

Product review - Blood in the Badlands

Welcome to another week. Holidays are nearly upon us and this release by Games Workshop could not, in a manner of speaking, be coming at a better time. Read on...

What is it?
Blood in the Badlands is a campaign that has been, apparently, played by the GW staff over the course of the current year. It is not a rules expansion the size of, for example, Storm of Magic. That said, it does have notable rules sections, but if you are looking purely for the rules you will be disappointed.

Scenarios and rules aside, it is essentially a very big piece of narrative that could easily appear in several issues of White Dwarf.

How does it look like?
The book is a hardback, a hundred or so full color pages. It's the same format as the new army books, the rulebook or the Storm of Magic book, making for a great look on the shelf. It doesn't have anything in the line of SoM's magic spinner or the like.

What's inside?
After a brief introduction to the publication we get to the description of the Badlands as a region of the Old World. Fable-wise, BitB is a very decent, solid source of information about the region and its places of interest. What is even better, some locations (like the Iron Rock) actually get their own rules in the campaign. A nice touch.

Then come the guidelines for playing the campaign yourselves. The plural here is well justified, as the optimal number of players oscillates in the region of seven to ten. To play the campaign you will need the Mighty Empires expansion (they recommend getting two copies in the book) or some other means of making a modular campaign map.

Sounds more and more like an elaborate commercial, hm? That was my impression as well...

The main body of the book is a report on how the campaign progressed. While nice to read on the toilet or in the bus, I don't think it warrantied such a big section to be devoted to it. I'm not really interested how some other people play. But for those of you who enjoy such things it's a brilliant read. Moreover, it's intermingled here and there with pieces of fiction and bits of background, making the reports quite enjoyable to peruse.

Before the report starts the armies are presented and I must say they don't look half bad. Throughout the book the miniatures painted by the Eavy Metal team are almost nonexistent - all you get are the armies of the involved players. Some color schemes are quite interesting and it's always enjoyable to see miniatures painted by someone other than the "masters".

As for the rules, to start with we get some for playing the campaign as a whole. These are really decent and play quite easily from the looks of it. The only thing that's actually bad is that everything rests on that last battle and the winner takes all - whoever wins that last scenario (and it's batshit crazy!) wins the campaign, which kinda defeats the point of playing for me...

The campaign rules have all kinds of little tasters like changing seasons (each with its own rules), pre-battle events, units gaining experience and so on. All these deepen the campaign play by a fair amount and look pretty darn enjoyable to play with.

We also get quite a few specific scenarios and some of them are very strange. I'm not really in a position to say they are great or terrible, they are just odd. Aside from the last one, which is insane (a seven person game played on two tables simultaneously). You will need the Storm of Magic ruleset to use some of them, however.

The two rules expansions are underground battles and sieges. Both sets are well-written, play very straightforward and clearly were quite thoroughly playtested. The scenarios provided for underground fighting, for instance, use H- or plus sign-shaped battlefields. I'm really curious about how they actually play, but from the looks alone they seem pretty fun.

Siege rules are much more straightforward and, to be honest, much easier to grasp than their previous incarnations. Along the lines set by SoM, you get an extra points allowance for siege equipment (some pieces of which are great, very characterful bits like sallies and undermines). They are designed to play fast and brutal, a trend established by the eighth rules edition and I'm glad GW sticks to it. And siege towers and rams are back - yay!

Who is it for?
Definitely gaming clubs and organized groups of players. The campaign rules are pretty open and there is nothing stopping anybody from adapting them to your own settings. If you can make the hexes for the map (this one is pretty important, the hex shape actually has a point in the rules) you are free to go without purchasing the Mighty Empires kit and I think GW purposefully made it so. The seasons can easily be stretched or condensed (in BitB each season lasts three campaign turns, making for a twelve turn campaign), some scenarios are actually designed to influence others.

Plus, the price tag is bearable as far as GW products go.

As I said before, if you are looking purely for rules, this product actually offers little of them. Siege rules could have easily been published in White Dwarf. But Blood in the Badlands is a clear-cut novelty product, made by fans and for fans. It is purely meant as a curio, a gem for your hobby shelf and a perfect gift for a Warhammer enthusiast, something they would probably not buy themselves.

Because of the above, it is hard for me to give Blood in the Badlands a star score. I can recommend this product as a gift, something to put on your holiday list and to hint to your gift-givers. Otherwise, your money could probably be spent on miniatures.

Unless you are a fan. Then there is no argument. If you are looking purely for anything Warhammer-flavored, you will be satisfied.

Thanks for reading. See you on Wednesday!


Josh Austin said...

Great review, its nice to see an honest break down of what to expect. It sounds alot like the campaign from the Forge World book: Tamurkhan. In Tamurkhan's campaign, you play out 2 battles per phase, receiving army bonuses for the winner of each phase, and then fight a final battle using those bonuses. Sounds alot like what you described and I really like it! It sounds like the amount of rules are going to be disappointing and I'll only really read it once, but to be honest, after 20 years in the hobby I've come to enjoy the fluff more than the rule. I dont think GW produces as much background story as they should, so I'm excited to hear that a large chunk of the world is being fleshed out a bit more. I'm looking forward to getting mine in the mail soon and starting up a fresh siege campaign!

Josh Austin

Sigmar said...

I might have to change my blog post in light of this... "To play the campaign you will need the Mighty Empires expansion"

which is a bit disappointing really :(

Josh Austin said...

Luckily I have about 4 boxs worth of Mighty Empire tiles ready and painted haha :)

chuck said...

I found the book somewhat disappointing. I would have liked a little more content over fluff.