Today we’ll have a look at a very skirmishy fantasy rules set with a strong theme – DEMIGOD, Epic Adventures In The Greek Mythos.
Disclaimer: Other than with pretty much everything else you read about on here, I got a review copy of these rules sent to me by the author. I didn’t go asking for freebies (because I don’t do that. If you see blogs/videos/etc. going for freebies …well. These are things which exist, I’m sure you made your mind up on whether that’s cool or not.), but was contacted by him. Anyway, this is an important thing to clarify. Of course I’ll always try to keep it as honest as possible, because the Tabletop Stories thing is bascially just a past-time thing for me, without any shady motifs like money. That sorta stuff I do elsewhere. 😛
Demigod puts the player(s) in the sandals of Greek heroes. They have to master challenges from classic literature/mythos to accumulate Reknown, makes their patron gods happy, and thus be elevated to the rank of one of their champions, a demigod.
The game says that it’s 2+ players, but I don’t see why this wouldn’t work as solo or cooperative rules as well. You’ll need a 3′ by 3′ table, some terrain and monsters depending on the Quest, three 6-sided dice per side, and a Hero Sheet per player.
I got a rules PDF sent to me from No Name Games, nicely presented, not printer-friendly though. 66 pages, with a little bit of thematically fitting artwork (some illustrations of Greek warriors, some more classic black and white bits in between the text).
The text is pretty clear and well structured. Here and there there’s some bits showing up in placed where I didn’t expect them, but that’s okay. We are led through the process of creating your Major Hero character and his retinue of Minor Heroes and Minions.
Major Heroes are the leader and protagonist of the player’s adventures. The rest of the warband, Minor Heroes and Minions, can be hired for Drachmas. Heroes can be equipped with additional weapons/armour by spending Drachmas as well. In the beginning there are some restrictions on how the warband is composed (3-7 figures, no more than 4 minions, etc.), but these get dropped once the warband progress through their adventures. Heroes all start with the same stat line, but will change their stats over the course of the campaign via equipment and ‘levelling up’ by achieving heroic deeds.
The Statline consists of Movement (in inches), Combat, Speed (mostly for dodging ranged attacks), Resolve (a sort of mix of Leadership, Pluckiness, Spell Resistance, and other esoteric things), Armour, and Health (hit points).
Each Hero has a patron god. Major Heroes can be patronized by the Big Three of Zeus, Poseidon and Hades (who later will grant unique Boons and powers to the hero),
Minor Heroes can be patronized by 8 other gods (which will slightly alter their stats). Certain mythological minions may require a hero of a certain patron god to join your warband.
The next step takes us through the core rules of what happens on the table top (which is of 3’x3′ size, seemingly the new standard for warband-level skirmish games): Roll off for which warband goes first, from then on players activate figures in an alternating manner. Major Heroes first, then Minor Heroes, then the Minions. Then it’s the monsters’ turn – first the Major Monster, then the minor monsters. Monsters work based on a simple AI, sometimes modified by the Quest at hand.
Each figure gets 2 actions on activation, one of which having to be a move action as per the statline, the other one can be anything else. The rules are very straightforward: It’s mostly based on opposed rolls of 3 D6, apply modifiers, if there’s a difference the attacking side wins by that much and does that much damage. If the defending figure gets a higher result the attack is fended off. The loser of the combat has to test Resolve or be pushed back.
The rules come with six (plus two!) Quests to fulfil.
All classic fun times from Greek mythology. The two additional quests are a more generic monster hunt, in which the heroes face a number of minor monsters. The other one I will get into in a bit.
The quests are mostly rather different, but in general it’s about slaying a major monster, either for its own sake, or whilst trying to achieve the actual goal of the Quest. The quest descriptions are rather short, but come with enough specifics to make each one unique.
After the Quest
After the quest is finished, you check if slain heroes are actually dead or took a lasting injury with them. In the case of a Major Hero actually biting the dust, the remaining warband can set out to the other extra quest, an “Orphean Journey ” to get their leader back from the underworld. Which is pretty cool.
Minions just either die or get wounded and take some time off.
After injuries have been registered and/or taken care of we proceed to more fun things: Working out the number of Experience Points the heroes accumulated to level up the Reknown of the group (which adds new options, such as Boons granted by the main patron gods or setting up a permanent camp of different kinds and furthermore modify them and so on for bonuses), …
… individual heroic deeds achieved by heroes during the game, work out how valuable the loot counters taken off the table during the game are (fom a handful of Drachmas to a legendary item) all that sort of warband skirmish campaign stuff.
And then you proceed to the next quest.
That’s it really. Let’s dive into the test game.
Test Game: The Garden of Statues
First I worked out two warbands and chose a quest to do. Since I had neither a Minotaur figure at hand, nor enough walls to turn the 3′ x 3′ area into an elaborate labyrinth, I went with the second quest.
Franfifone (Major Hero), Champion-to-be of Zeus – Sword, Linothorax
Thorsten (Minor Hero), patronized by Demeter – Sword, Sling
Panis (Minor Hero), patronized by Dionysus of course – Spear
Genericos (Minion, Hypaspist) – Sword, Shield, Linothorax
Shae (Minion, Archer) – Bow, Dagger, Leather Armour
Tasha (Major Hero), Champion-to-be of Hades – Sword, Evil Magic Missiles (counts as Gastrophetes)
Drago (Minor Hero), patronized by Ares – Picked up Hinzos and Konzos and made them his minions. Ax
Seer (Minion, Seer) – Dagger
Hinzos (Minion, Peltast) – Possibly a wildman from a former, now possibly cursed, farming community. Or a zombie. Or suffering from sort of illness. Picks up rocks and rubble and throws them by means of long limbs (counts as Javelins (6)), Dagger
Konzos (Minion, Slinger) – Possibly a wildman from a former, now possibly cursed, farming community. Or a zombie. Or suffering from sort of illness. Picks up rocks and rubble and throws them by means of long limbs but in a slightly different manner than Hinzos does (counts as Sling), Dagger, Linothorax
Either groups wander around aimlessly, happen across a ruined temple with lots of stone statues standing/lying around at random. Just as thorsten seems to recognize one of the statues to look curiously like an old comrate they hear a hissing sound from the centre of the former temple…
Turns out the statues are petrified people! Oh no. The Gorgon and his pet spiders took shelter in the temple and are intent on not getting thrown out.
The goal for the heroes is to slay the Gorgon within 8 turns. The figure who slays the monster gains the head of the Gorgon.
Loot markers are placed, minor monsters are placed, deployment zones are rolled for, both warbands deploy.
Fran, flanked by Genericos and Shae, sneak up on a patrolling giant spider through the ruined temple garden..
At the other side of thing, Tasha (with her seer in tow) marches straight across the ruins towards the centre, as Drago and his two inexplicable (and possibly undead?) minions march with him.
The Baddies win the initiative roll. The Seer directs Tasha’s attention towards a huge purple spider to her right. Without a moment of doubt Tasha unleashes a barrage of magic missiles, but the spider proves too nimble.
As per the rules, the other side gets to activate their Major Hero now. Heroically, Fran charges past the statue – a grim reminder of the prize of failure in the struggle against The Bloodthirsty Gorgon – and a loot marker into glorious combat with the giant spider.
Later that turn Genericos and Panos join her and manage to push the monster back. Shae, being more comfortable with ranged combat, stays away from the spider for now.
Seeing his pet spider in danger, the Gorgon turns his malicious Gaze unto Panos, but with Dionysus’ help he withstands the evil magic.
Drago also stays away from their own giant spider for now and instead yells at Hinzos and Kunzos to throw what ever projectiles they have at hand. One even hits the spider, does minor damage and draws its attention to Hinzos. The arachnid charges at the weird wildman.
His comrade joins in, but the behatted scoundrels are no match for the monster. Along comes Drago with his huge sword, and fuelled by the powers of Ares, strikes the monster half down in one blow.
Thorsten, staying well out of combat with monsters, scouts the other side of the temple and finds something interesting wrapped up in a embroidered blanket. He picks up the loot marker.
Just as he gets back up with a self-congratulatory smile he meets the gaze of the Gorgon.
…and is turned into stone.
Luckily the petrification spell only lasts for a turn.
Speaking of which, at this point both sides realized that the Gorgon should be slain by turn 8. And even though Tasha has been throwing some test missiles at the Gorgon with hardly any effect, this might take a while longer. So on both sides the giant spiders rattle down in the target priority list as several figures rush towards the Gorgon, it only to stop him petrifying people.
On the side of the Baddies Drago sends his two minions away from the spider (seeing as how it’s on its last leg anyway and Drago wants to finish it off).
Frans warband of heroes so far was less effective in getting rid of their spider problem. Genericos heroically keeps the arachnid in check so Fran can march toward the temple to face the Gorgon in battle.
High time too, as the Gorgon turns Panos into a stone statue.
Fran hastes towards the monster and pulls herself up the ruined walls…
Right as Drago, freshly after having slain the spider, ….
… drives his minions on to fight the Gorgon, so they can claim its head for themselves.
Fran is the first to get to the monster though. She challenges the monster to a duel to …
! THWACK !
That ghatly Gorgon didn’t even take her seriously (despite the shiny, shiny cloak) and with a mighty blow not only half killed her, but also threw her off the ledge.
Being a Major Hero, Fran gets up right away and back into the Gorgon’s face. An epic battle ensues. Projectiles fly in from all directions (mostly from Hinzos and Kunzos, who don’t care if they hit the Gorgon or Fran, so they keep throwing stuff). Magic missiles fly in from Tasha’s far-off position as well, wounding the Gorgon.
Even Thorsten, still a bit stiff in the joints after the petrification, climbs up, loads his sling and hurls the projectile towards the monster. Unfortinately he hits his boss on he head for one point of damage. Bonk. If Fran survives this battle, she’d have words with Thorsten.
For now she’s still on her feet though and it looks like the Gorgon is getting tired. Seizing the moment, Drago – ever the ulimate opportunist – charges in and swings his axe-like sword at the Gorgon. The head comes off clean and despite Frans protests she’s too injured to do anything about it. Drago bags the Gorgon’s head and takes off.
None of the figures was taken out, so no rolls for injuries.
Tasha’s group gain 240 Reknown for having slain a minor monster and a major monster.This elevates her warband to Reknown Level 1, which means that from now on Hades recognizes her as one of his and she may call upon one of his Boons once per game. Drago heroically slayed a monster, so he becomes Monster Slayer Level 1 , which adds another point of Combat to his already impressive Combat stat.
Franfifone’s group at least get to have a look at what Thorsten looted before he was turned into stone for a bit. As it turns out it’s not only 40 Drachmas, but also a major artefact – a Celestial Bronze Cuirass. Surely a gift from Zeus himself. Fan dons the new set of armour. Her old linothorax gets sold off to buy a Celestial Bronze Sword to go along witht he new armour. In her battle with the gorgon her old sword didn’t do much good; the new one would be much more dangerous to monsters and enemy heroes alike. Next time she meets that Drago he won’t be so lucky.
Conclusions and Opinion
So what do I think of Demigod? Well, I ended up enjoying it way more than I thought i would actually. In general I’m not hugely into the prospect of another fantasy warband wargame; so many of recent years I found a bit uninspired, or just annoying by nature (figures sold by the same company who made the rules to sell the former, abilities, combos, competitive by nature, all of that rubbish. That’s the sort of stuff I can entirely do without.). Others I’ve seen are overly simplistic and then add special rules via equipment, spells, special rules. Which I’m not hugely into either. At first I thought that Demigod fell firmly into the latter category, but when I played it, I actually enjoyed it a fair bit.
What I like
It might sound odd, but the 3d6 do make a difference I think. Granted, it does make the game a bit more “random” than other similar games, but I’ll take “random” over “all too predictable” any day.
The main thing Demigod has going for it though is the heavy theme and how scenario-heavy it is. The scenarios themselves aren’t complex at all, but got their theme and are different enough to keep it interesting. Greek mythology of course is full of possible such scenarios. And once you’re done with those, grab yourself something on any other mythology and have at it. The rules are serviceable and work. The activation reminded me a lot of Rangers of Shadowdeep and the like. The funny thing is that with Demigod I did not have my particular problem of disliking rules which have heroes levelling up, and minions not. I just don’t like the idea of separating people into “hero” and “follower”. It’s silly. Demigod adds the Minor Hero category, and at least in the beginning these are barely any better than your usual Minion and certainly didn’t feel more powerful in the first game at least. I liked that.
Of course it’s important to give each character a name and such, but these games are always half role-play.
What I don’t like
As you may have noticed, I didn’t quite stay on theme with the collection of figures I used. As with any rules set with a strong theme, you’ll need a fitting figure collection. But I’m sure that many players (the Mortal Gods crowds specifically) will have them at hand or will happily collect a bunch. Others may view that as a hurdle and it certainly will test people’s ability to improvise. Some things I just find a bit hard to get done for scenarios, particularly the labyrinth in the Minotaur quest.
But as mentioned above, it’s not really a negative, it’s just up to what you got at hand, what you’re willking to do specifically for the game and in how far you are able to improvise.
If there was one thing I’d like to see is downloadable Hero Sheets. The ones included in the back of the PDF rulebook are on the yellow-ish texture that goes throughout the book, which makes them tough to print. Of course more scenarios would be also very welcome with a game as scenario-driven as this one. But the ones in the rule book are pretty nice as they are.
Things of Note
The rules are very clearly written. There’s a typo here and there, but nothing major. However, I seem to have gotten a pre-release PDF version, because of all things the basic stat line for heroes was not included. I contacted the author who clarified the situation (after I had searched the document three times for the stats to maybe be hidden somewhere) and sent me the stat line within two hours.
But yeah, overall this was way more enjoyable than I initially thought it would be. Not bad rules, and if you dig the theme this might be very much worth a look. Also – they’re really easy to convert to other settings if you’re done with the scenarios. In terms of value I’d say this is easily on the level of many Osprey rules of a similar style. PDF copies of Demigod are available on Wargames Vault for USD 15.00.
I hope that you enjoyed this review and battle report!