Rangers Of Shadow Deep

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Playability

Components

Writing

Art Direction

Replayability

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Review: Solo play joy. A hobbyists dream.

June 25, 2020 by dugthefug1644 Cult of Games Member

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Rangers of Shadow Deep (RoSD)
I held off any review until I played the game, but have been blogging and hobbying around the game for two years.

Rangers of Shadow Deep – Solo play project

I think the side blog below, specific to a privateer / navy based warband is actually better for a new starter to see the imagination and hobby inspiration this game can garner and how the Ranger and group building mechanics work.

Rangers of Shadow Deep – Captain Fletcher

Components

The game was initially released as a pdf or print on demand service. This is all black and white in paperback. The author of this game, Joseph A McCullough, is famous for his work with Osprey Games publishers with successful games like Frostgrave. This project was independent of Osprey so the black and white was an aesthetic choice but also a financial decision to make it easier to produce and affordable to purchase.

There has been a free update to the rules. Not a standard errata as is the norm, but available online as a neatly produced 20 page book titled "Rules Update".

They have since produced a beautiful green leather look hardback book with the updated rules and some of the initial expansions included.

The expansions include at the time of writing...

RoSD: Blood Moon

RoSD: Temple of Madness

RoSD: Ghost Stone

RoSD: Incinerator

RoSD: Across the Wastes

I own a couple of these but haven't played them yet.

There aren't any purchasable tokens specifically for RoSD, but the Facebook page for Rangers of Shadow Deep is a really useful place to look for printable components. There are alternative Ranger and Companion sheets to record their stats and equipment, sheets of cut out tokens and guides for the required bestiary and terrain to play out each scenario. The tokens that have been most common in the early missions have been Corpse Tokens, Treasure Tokens and Clue Tokens. Poison and Disease effects can be managed on the character sheets but I don't mind using tokens found online.

Over the last few months there have been a very welcome range of RoSD specific miniatures that look as detailed and thematic as we come to expect from NorthStar and continues in the type of welcome support that they offer for Frostgrave. I purchased a pack of 4 Giant Flies from this range so can vouch for the quality of these at least.

The game is miniatures agnostic by design but the NorthStar and Mantic Ganes plastic fantasy sprues, e.g. Kings of War, Frostgrave and Ghost Archipelago ranges, have been great for gnolls, zombies and the creation of my warbands.

Art Direction
People seem divided on the art style of this game having been spoiled with the amazing colour art work in Frostgrave etc.
I personally like the art choice, understand the financial aspects that may have encouraged a black and white pallette and have been told that this style harks back to adventure books and old RPG games as a favourable and welcome comparison. The balance of artwork and written content is well gauged because leaving lots to the imagination gives players more licence to game in their own way.

Playability
I found it easy to get going. Lots of visiting the book on the first scenario as with all games, but soon found the AI creature activations very intuitive / logical. After making some bestiary cards of my own on the second and third missions the games were speeding up, my visits to the books decreased and my overall enjoyment has been increasing.
The d20 system has been criticised as being too spikey, but I think the game needs that perilous anxious combat to make you be more tactical. Just bulldozing through, knowing you will win every one on one encounter just because of your equipment or skill advantages ahead of even making contact with the enemy doesn't appeal to me.
Sadly I cannot comment on the co/op version of the game as I haven't played that, but from what I have read in the book it will be a very similar game. The number of companion miniatures in play drastically drops for every ranger you add to the game, so that you don't need to amend the scenario, the number of enemies or the size of the play area to play co/op games.

Writing
I prefer watching Let's Play videos than just reading and I did watch the Guerrilla Miniatures Games and recently Battlehammer YouTube channels playing the first mission before I dived into the book myself.
I am a slow reader but didn't find this taxing to follow and really enjoyed the small elements of lore. I have found the index very supportive when referencing things when gaming and found that with just perhaps two post it notes for ease of reference I am set for a game. The game didn't require a lot of table checking beyond the specific ones related to that mission. e.g. Clue marker and Event card tables that add narrative slightly randomised elements to the mission. The tables that support with equipment, treasure etc. are really only needed between games. These progression related tables are all in a handful of adjacent sections that make managing the between mission elements quite easy.

Replayability
As mentioned at the start I have loved making a second warband and am torn between progressing to the next mission with my first ranger or getting my new ranger underway with his crew in missions I have already played. I can see myself using perhaps the opening mission as a template for coming up with my own missions. Just adapting the event card details and what you might uncover with each clue marker etc, you have a brand new level to play through with minimal changes or fuss.

Hobby Focus
This game is brilliant during the lockdown and brilliant for people that struggle with hobby motivation.
The RoSD Facebook page has great guides to help with what terrain and miniatures you will need to play each mission. So when you feel overwhelmed by a huge army or a huge terrain challenge this game doesn't tax you that way. If you are in a hobby funk and you don't want to do a ton of painting you can dial your focus down to what minis or scatter terrain pieces will you need to fight out the next mission. If you get on a roll and start to get a taste for your hobby again you can start to stretch ahead and try to prepare enough terrain for the entire book. The game is miniatures agnostic so you can kitbash and play to your hearts delight. There are even several adaptations on the Facebook page allowing you to play in Weird WW2, Star Wars and Steam punky versions that may scratch a solo gaming itch with your favourite genres instead.
Scale is no barrier either, as we see from our Cult leader Warzan enjoying adapting the game to 15mm and using Joan of Arc miniatures.

I hope you visit and comment on my projects and comment here on this review if you have any questions.
I can't really recommend this game more strongly to you. I am having to build my collection because I don't have a lot of fantasy miniatures, but if you already have some this game gets even easier to step into with whatever minis and terrain you have.

Stay safe and happy wargaming.

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