Ran a playtest of Advanced Song of Blades.
The rules are updated from the original and are indeed Advanced. See post below for pictures of the terrain and figures.
My first game involved the company of dwarves taking on the Undead. The profiles were mainly taken from the Hammer and Forge supplement. It was interesting to see how the two different types of leaders worked once I got the rules straight which took a little time.
The scenario was a Treasure Hunt with 3 treasure locations based on the map which was set up as the old Fortresses ground floor with a large feasting hall or audience chamber in the centre with a smaller raised platform within and then several rooms surrounding this. One of the Treasure locations would contain a valuable chest of gems and artefacts which each side was searching for. Either defeat the enemy or take it back to their baseline which would end the scenario and then VPs would be calculated. The dwarves were searching for gemstones and a map rumoured to be inscribed upon a large crystal. The Undead had been instructed/ impelled to stop them by their Lich Lord.
The Company advanced rapidly into the main hall and the thief headed towards the dais or platform. The Undead moved more slowly towards the Hall opening the doors but not entering whilst the Wight adanced quickly also towards the dais. The Thief reached the top of the dais first but was unable to cause any damage through sling shots at the advancing Wight. The Dwarves decided to advance towards the Undead in a line with their leader in support. The Undead formed up to meet them and then both sides stood and faced each other for a split second. The Wight charged the unfortunate Thief with incredible speed. Hoping to disengage the Thief attacked but suffered a terrible wound, falling to the ground out of action.
The Undead charged led by their Leader (lead from the front) and supported by the spear armed Undead warrior. They managed to force the Dwarves into combat and then were able to push their advantage subsequently. The Leader moved forwards to assist a downed colleague but was struck down mortally wounded in turn. This caused consternation amongst the dwarves who were already hard pressed in combat. Soon they were down to half their original strength and a further morale roll sealed their fate. The Wight picked up the treasure finding it on the first attempt and the Undead claimed a Major Victory.
I learnt about the two different types of leaders and how the new Lead from the front is useful when the lines are closing for battle. The other form of leader is still useful especially with his quality bonus but he can be left out of position when the lines close plus he cannot React with his groups during the opponent’s turn. The Reaction rules certainly added a great deal. It made moving low Q troops like the Healer harder and it gave good Q troops like the well led dwarves very quick on the battlefield despite their short legs. The biggest difference was that no longer can you just throw 3 dice with your final model and just get away with it.
Next I played a straight forward engagement as the goblins and the Dwarven Infantry set about clearing the caverns below the fortress. The Dwarves moved quickly into the chamber being split into two groups. one the leader with his axemen and the others in the second. The Goblins also had to split with their Leader (old style) with the archers to their left and the rest in the centre having to move around the shallow Lake (difficult ground).
The Goblins found it very difficult to activate at Q4 or 3 and this gave the Q3 (2 with Lead from Front in their Group) plenty of Reaction opportunities which they tended to pass. The Goblins always seemed to fail their reactions.
The result was that the Cave troll entered the main chamber quite isolated and was set upon by a large force of Dwarves. The Acolyte created a Wall of Wood to channel him towards the warriors. Meanwhile the archers and throwing axe armed dwarves took the high ground. The Goblin infantry charged and was looking quite bad for the archers until one defended himself so well with his short sword he scored a gruesome kill on the attacking goblin who failed to block. As can be imagined this caused a minor rout jut at the wrong time for the isolated Troll. To add insult to injury having finally got his group of archers into position for a concentrated shooting attempt they failed to activate. The Goblin Chosen bowman did score a great kill on one of the dwarves which was quite fun to see The Tough Troll though was eventually pulled down and the dwarves began to threaten the Leader breaking through the Goblin shield line. The Goblins decided at this point to give up.
This game really made me see how poor quality Q4 troops can have a hard time. It was difficult in old SoBH but with the new reaction rules it is even harder as your opponent keeps benefitting from your fails. I think a new player might get quite dispirited being given a Goblin Horde to fight off the mighty dwarven infantry backed up by a Healer and a Hero in their ranks. So I have created an alternative Orcish warband who are slightly better in terms of Q rolls and with less troops it is easier to benefit from the old style Leader. It transpires that a Leader can only issue one Group activation order a Turn and it is his final action of his activation so having two large groups of cheap goblins is not always ideal.
I also liked the new weapon types and spells which add a lot more detail and flavour to the game.
All in all I much prefer the new Advanced rules but it is definitely worth remembering that poor Q troops are rated poor for a reason. Q4 is considered poor whereas most trained troops would be expected to be a Q3 at least and the game is designed with this in mind.