Brutality Skirmish Wargame: First Impressions

February 9, 2021 by avernos

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Brutality Skirmish Wargame is a self-published rule set by Scott Wainwright that bills itself as Versus/Solo/Co-op, RPG-lite, Any Genre, Any Models and since it's release it has gained a dedicated following with more people jumping into the game every day.

BRUTALITY-coverimage

Brutality // Scott Wainwright

Available as both a PDF and a physical book, or a quick start set from the Brutality Website or Facebook Group Scott says that...

"I created this game for my own purposes because I had models from many different universes that didn’t have games associated with them. So I came up with a way to bring them all together and forge new and exciting narratives involving characters I loved. I appreciate you giving this a look, and hope you enjoy it!"

So I'm going to take him up on his offer and give Brutality a look...

Danger Comes In Small Packages // Brutality

Let's kick things off with the book itself, it weighs in at a tidy 100 pages for the full game, the quick-start rules are roughly half of that page count. The book is full colour and its presentation has been elevated by lavish colour illustrations throughout, the majority from the talented Lane Brown and you can find more of his work under Wildweasal339. But what exactly is Brutality all about?

The Lore Of Brutality

The first third of the book is devoted to the lore of Brutality and right from the start this is fascinating.

"The Goddess Ishtar pulls people from their time and dimension, trapping them in her prison realm where death isn't permanent. The Goddess grows more powerful everyday as she feeds off her victims' sex, violence, and prayer.

It turns out that living here is worse than death."

There is a myriad of figure-agnostic games out there but what makes Scott's work stand out is that agnostic doesn't mean generic!

It Doesn't Look So Bad To Me // Lane Brown

The first third of the book is devoted to the lore of Brutality and right from the start this is fascinating. There is a myriad of figure-agnostic games out there but what makes Scott's work stand out is that agnostic doesn't mean generic! A great many games sell themselves on letting you tell your own narrative with your miniatures and create a unique world and while this has a definite appeal Brutality has tackled the premise of getting a Bronze Age Spartan to fight a Necron in an altogether more interesting way.

Pratchett once asked where gods go when people stop believing in them and for Mesopotamian Goddess Ishtar we have an answer. As belief wanes the gods of old are forced to reside in the Ether Realm, an ageless place where they dwell eternal and static, not dead merely forgotten...

The Oathsworn Running Repairs // Brutality

Ishtar, however, formed a plan and over millennia used her meagre powers to pluck people from the Mortal Realms and deposit them in a place of her own creation, the Brutal Realm or as it is known to its inhabitants the Brutality.

Life In The Brutality

Every mortal who has been plucked from their life and dumped into Ishtar's playpen have had the existence of the Goddess proven to them, and with their faith, her power infinitesimally increases. Over the aeons this has allowed her to reach out further and increase the number of captives to feed her hunger for renewed power, spurring her reluctant followers into greater displays of prayer, lust and depravity to sate her.

Even the saintliest pacifist is eventually broken to her will as there is no release from Ishtar's grasp even in death as they are resurrected continuously, awakening where they last slept as if from some terrible nightmare, but the memories of death are not easily dismissed and in each rebirth, a part of themselves is lost until their sanity cracks and they wander off into the wilderness believing that this world is the only they have ever known.

For others, they try to make their life if not exactly comfortable at least bearable. Through her power, people are able to communicate regardless of what language they speak and over time factions have emerged as like-minded people have banded together.

The Factions Of Brutality

There are nine main factions within the Brutality from the devotees of the Cult of the One Mother, who have thrown their lot in wholesale in the hope that Ishtar will favour them greatly, to the criminals of Ephrant's Consortium or even the Oathsworn attempting to enforce something resembling laws on the madness of the Brutality, each faction has two pages containing a richly developed backstory that gives a solid impression of the feel and flavour of the group as a whole alongside a potted history of the group and how they view others. In the Zenith's case that would be with contempt.

Even robots have a home here in the Cognite Matrix, with Ishtar being unable to distinguish advanced Artificial Intelligence from humans various machines have been scooped up and left to fight for spare parts.

In a very short space of time, Scott has done an amazing job in detailing the inhabitants of his world and in them you should be able to find a place to fit your existing collections of miniatures into either one of the main factions or even a wandering Plunderbund, a haggard warband of unaligned drifters exploring the landscape.

Lands of Ishtar map w grid

The Brutal Realm // The Felix Map

It's wonderfully freeing to be able to grab a handful of figures and drop them into a game that can still be narratively incredibly compelling.

The Landscape Of The Lost

The Brutal Realm has been mapped supposedly by a man named Felix one of the first inhabitants who named the various regions he found. This landscape is as important as the people who occupy it for within the Brutality for they not only give you inspiration for the world in which your warband finds itself but also in-game effects that can help or hinder.

lava_loops_by_wildweasel339_d4djwao-fullview

Difficult Terrain Takes On A New Meaning // Brutality

There are seven regions detailed in the book two of which are generic, Wilderness and Towns, and can be applied to many places on the map but the other five regions have both thematic flavour and sometimes constant game effects as well. Places like the Whispering Woods that increases the saves of all characters on the tabletop, but can also cause them to become confused or even lost within the fog.

My personal favourite has got to be the Flesh Lands a skin covered region where everything bleeds and the ground can try to eat you! It's especially gruesome when you learn that Ishtar created the Flesh Lands as a punishment for a mighty mage who sought to challenge her.

Krenell clashed with the Goddess in a mighty battle that shook the world and when defeated she stretched his skin across the region, immortal and transfigured he lives in endless agony feeling every tent peg hammered into him, his blood running as the River Sanguine and a reminder of Ishtar's pre-eminence.

From swarms of beasts to cyclopean Goloths the fauna and flora are touched on to realise the world. Brutality is a rough sketch of a finished masterpiece. Throughout the book, glimpses of the world and its story are woven to form a setting that is both complete and yet allows room for expansion and exploration within the players own imagination. For tabletop gamers there is plenty of background to set your games within and roleplaying groups can discover their own version of the Realm without worrying about the background being too prescriptive.

System & Mechanics

Brutality is written for 28/32mm figures with a list of suggested base sizes as well for ease of entry, but honestly, any size could be used depending on what you have and with little adjustments required to ranges if any at all. The game mechanics themselves are d10 based and the statline itself is straight forward, movement, fight skill, dexterity, hit points, will power, attacks, and save.

The Beast Kingdoms Is Not Just A Clever Name // Brutality

The majority of tests require you to roll equal to or under your modified stat with unmodified rolls of 1 being critical successes. The exception being ranged attacks where the number of dice rolled is equal to the weapon being used and the target number is the targets Dex or higher.

Activation is alternating with each figure having a move step and a combat step and within these, they have multiple actions available as you would expect in a skirmish game. This allows you to take aim, staunch the wound on a bleeding fighter or even stamp out the flames.

With the system being simple it and the low model count on the table it allows the wound system to be more in-depth and wounds differing types of weapon can have drastically different effects in combat for the same number of wounds caused.

Creating Your Warband

The world of Brutality can be played as one-off games but where it really shines is in playing linked narrative games, watching your group fight and die for Ishtar's whims leads to a strong narrative feel in a short amount of time, as every victory adds to the story of your warband and the members grow wealthier and stronger over time, however, every death adds to the strain on the minds of the group and they can develop insanities that change their personalities on the tabletop. A sniper who refuses to go off by himself can be problematic, to say the least.

A Trapper Replenishing His Stock // Brutality

Models are created from simple archetypes to which you will boost two stats and add an ability to make your characters. Add to this traits and powers and in short order, even characters that began with the same profile can end playing very differently. Faction traits offer a warband wide layer of additional tweaks to help give you a real flavour on the table for your minis.

Because the games play so quickly you could easily play out a short campaign in an afternoon and avoid the burnout that comes with trying to maintain narrative campaigns over time. With every mission being followed by a home phase allowing players to rest or explore the regions for traders or interesting loot but this is not without its risks.

The game contains ten scenarios as standard and on top of this adds a further five more that can be played solo or as co-operative ventures between multiple warbands. In this final section of the book is an AI mechanic for hostile warbands that you will face in these solo scenarios as you pit yourself against Ishtar's servants. Sprinkle in the occasional wandering monster or terrifying terrain and Brutality truly lives up to its name.

Final Thoughts

So overall what do I think? I'm glad you asked, overall Scott has done a magnificent job of creating a light system with a degree of complexity and depth to it that it will not bore players and keep them constantly engaged in regards to both gameplay and to the setting itself. The snapshot into a larger world tantalises and leaves a huge amount of room for growth.

Don't End Up On the Scrap Heap // Brutality

As far as Cons go, they are few and minor. There are eight different status effects on the wound chart and while wounds are never going to be as high as to have them all it is possible you could end up with a mini with several different status effects on them at the same time. The book itself has some charts that will require you to flick back and forth to find although after a few plays that shouldn't be an issue. But these are small quibbles and easily set aside when viewing the whole. I am seriously impressed with the work Scott has put into Brutality.

What's Next?

Well if you fancy checking it out the free quick-start rules should be your first point of call, you can get it directly from him or if you're a social media type the Facebook group has a direct download.

From there the sky is the limit, Scott is expanding on the individual Realms within Brutality and they are available in the group expanding the half-page briefs from the main rules into twenty-page rough guides to the areas although not a place to holiday, The Psycho-Tropics is already available to dip your toes into.

The first expansion is available to buy already, Beastiary and Gauntlet Mode is proving that he has no plans to rest on his laurels. In this supplement, you’ll find seventy-nine pre-made NPC profiles for monsters as well as 10 new Model Abilities, three new Legendary Traits, a new Mission, Merchant Specialties, and two new Behemoth Mission monsters! Not to mention the gruelling and dangerous Lord Dreadmore’s Gauntlet.

So there you have it the Brutal Realm is out there for you to explore in any way you see fit whether that is with your friends or by dusting off some old figures off the shelf while in lockdown Ishtar awaits.

Question your eyes and ears in the Brutal, but never trust your heart.

"The first third of the book is devoted to the lore of Brutality and right from the start this is fascinating..."

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"Scott has done a magnificent job of creating a light system with a degree of complexity and depth to it that it will not bore players and keep them constantly engaged..."

Supported by (Turn Off)