Age Of Sigmar: Soulbound – Roleplaying Game Review | Cubicle 7

November 24, 2020 by brennon

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It's time to dive into a review of Cubicle 7's roleplaying game set against the backdrop of The Mortal Realms! Age Of Sigmar: Soulbound's Core Rulebook is a fascinating book which is packed with information for those that love this new take on Fantasy from Games Workshop and it offers it up on a suitably heroic platter.

Age Of Sigmar Soulbound Cover - Cubicle 7

Before we get into that though, Warhammer: Age Of Sigmar and myself have had a pretty interesting relationship. I was at first appalled at the idea that I was going to be losing The Old World and then gradually I was drawn in by the idea of cutdown rules, interesting new armies and the way that Games Workshop had reinvented the idea of what Warhammer and Fantasy were all about, both aesthetically and in terms of lore. Then I started to drift.

The Right Entry Point Into The Mortal Realms?

My friends weren't interested in the game and collecting all these massive armies and I couldn't bring myself to paint another mass battle wargame. I was taken at times by the idea of Warhammer Underworlds and Warcry and I still think if I were to wargame in the Mortal Realms, this is where I would reside but nothing had overly grabbed my attention. However, when news came about Soulbound I was mightily intrigued. A roleplaying game would require me to paint nothing and it would instead allow me to explore the lore and background of the Mortal Realms without the need for a mountain of plastic to be involved.

Gods Of The Mortal Realms - Cubicle 7

I really enjoyed the previews we saw up until the release of Soulbound from Cubicle 7 looking at the fascinating new Character Archetypes and the mechanical systems which we'll get into later. One thing that also spoke to me was the way in which they were going to be tackling the "feel" of Soulbound and the Age Of Sigmar universe. This wasn't the downtrodden grimdark nature of games like Warhammer Fantasy Role-Play (which I do really love) but instead something more heroic and mythical. Playing a game as more suped-up characters right from the very beginning had a certain appeal and it really works alongside the ideas and themes of the Mortal Realms.

This meant that when the rulebook landed in my lap I was very eager indeed. I had been loving doing a bit of reading behind Age Of Sigmar including some of the initial Black Library offerings and the Audiobooks following the return of Gotrek Gurnnison. This combination of a fascination with the lore of the Mortal Realms and just how much had been written already plus the mechanics present in the Core Rulebook meant that I was itching to give this game more of a go with my friends!

Crafting Your Age Of Sigmar: Soulbound Characters

One of the core concepts behind this Age Of Sigmar Roleplaying Game is that you are part of a group known as the Soulbound (hence the title of the game). You play characters taken from the various factions of the Grand Alliance Of Order and linked together through a shared magical connection. The Soulbound often find themselves separate from the massive goings-on within the Mortal Realms and instead are charged with seeking out adventure, quests and the like which help stabilise the Mortal Realms in a less obvious fashion.

Character Creation - Cubicle 7

This forms a great starting point from which to not only form a group but also begin your adventuring in the Mortal Realms. It means that you can make very diverse characters and (if the group agrees) work together in order to solve a problem which affects you all in different ways. A "murderous" Daughter Of Khaine might find herself working alongside an Excelsior Warpriest who has very different views on the world because by combining their skills; they can help defeat a greater evil that effects them all.

This is the perfect kind of group building and character creation for someone like me who loves the roleplaying aspect of these games. It means that a group will have its elements of internal friction and you'll have secrets from each other that might come out in the midst of play! Maybe that Witch Aelf who has been working with you has other ideas as to what to do with that magical gizmo you just found all along.

The Soulbound - Cubicle 7

I always find this much more interesting than simply being together as a group because "you're all the good guys". But, this leads me on to talking about actually making characters in Soulbound.

Thankfully, Cubicle 7 has made this very easy. When you get started in the game you can either choose to pick from one of over twenty Archetypes or make a unique character from scratch. Archetypes get you going very quickly with their Attributes already assigned and with a new player simply choosing a few Skills and Talents to make them more unique.

You can also make a character entirely from scratch if one hasn't already caught your eye from the list of Archetypes. This means that you have a bit more freedom over where you place your Attributes and what Skills and Talents you choose. Maybe you really wanted to make a Duardin from the Cities Of Sigmar rather than a Fyreslayer? Well, you can do that!

However you approach building your character, you'll have one of these fascinating and diverse personalities completed in no time. This is one of the cool things about Soulbound as a whole. You could have a group which features a dour Stormcast Eternal, a grim Fyreslayer, a silent but deadly Deepkin and then a towering Kurnoth Hunter...all in one group!

This is all tied together mechanically too. Each Binding (the name for a group of heroes) of Soulbound is also able to draw on a combined resource called Soulfire. You also have a shared Doom too, an overarching currency which is used by the GM in order to track the change in the world around the party and also more directly to make their villainous foes more deadly!

Knight Questor - Cubicle 7

You'll also find a group is tied together through other mechanical elements too like Short and Long Term Goals which you are all striving to accomplish. These are something that your party and GM come up with before you start on each adventure and give you something to all focus on even if you've come from very different corners of the Mortal Realms. This feeds into an idea of both episodic play and long-form narratives. You can have fun with Soulbound in one-off sessions and as part of a grander storyline that unfolds over months and years.

Easy character creation and plenty of ways to bind the group together make Soulbound feel immediately inviting and this continues once you actually get stuck into the nitty-gritty of the game too!

The Core Mechanics Of Age Of Sigmar: Soulbound

At the core of Soulbound sits a set of rules which will be familiar to some but have been tweaked to make them suit the more heroic nature of The Mortal Realms. Much like with other games like Warhammer Fantasy Role-Play or Wrath & Glory you'll be faced with tests which can either Common, Opposed or Extended.

Stormcast Vs Chaos - Cubicle 7

When called to take a test you'll be given a difficulty number by the GM. This is often represented like this "DN 5:1" as an example. The first number represents the target number for the test which ranges from two through to six on a D6. In this case, five. The second number indicates the number of successes you need in order to accomplish your task. In this case, the player would simply need one roll of five or more in order to achieve the desired result.

A player's dice pool for any test is a mixture of two things. In most cases, this will be one of their appropriate Skills, and then the Attribute that matches it. If someone was trying to work out how a magical implement has been put together then they could combine their Arcana and Mind together to make a pool of dice with which to complete their test. If they were heaving a vast stone column out of the way then it might be Might and Body. You get the idea.

The same applies in Opposed tests as it does in Common tests with both the player and the GM rolling their appropriate dice pools and then comparing the number of successes against each other.  In this case, you might also be called to make tests which chart the level of success you've achieved in a certain action. Passing with just one success means that you did just what you needed to do. If you succeded and managed to get two or three more results more than needed then you could gain minor or major benefits for doing so, all of which is determined by the GM.

Doomseeker - Cubicle 7

Training within each Skill offers you more dice to accomplish an action but each Skill also comes with a Focus too. Focus allows you to upgrade the roll of one or more dice in a test (dependant on your Focus amount) to help you pass. This means that there are plenty of ways within the core mechanics of Soulbound to mitigate bad luck and enhance that heroic feeling that each character is inherently created with.

Talents provide you with an additional set of actions and bonuses that you can utilise and end up creating new and unique ways for you to get through situations which could range from breaking someone's face through to understanding the complexities of the diverse and exotic Mortal Realms.

Fighting In Age Of Sigmar: Soulbound

Diving into Combat, which is a big part of Soulbound, you'll instead find yourself comparing your abilities against what's called The Ladder. When you work out your Melee, Accuracy and Defence statistics during character creation you'll place your scores on a table which ranges from Extraordinary through to Poor. When you go to strike, shoot or indeed get attacked you'll compare your place on The Ladder to your opponent and that dictates the DN that you (or they) will be aiming for.

The Ladder - Cubicle 7

As with everything in a roleplaying game, there are nuances to all of this. You might be fighting from elevation or a place of advantage, you could be wading through difficult terrain or perhaps you're striking with multiple weapons at once. Regardless of what complication gets added into the mix though, much has been done to make sure that the process flows very easily and I found that it was easy to just see how the DN shifted based on your circumstances.

Damaging your enemies is also really easy and flows nicely on from your strike against your opponent. First, you'll deal damage to an opponents Toughness (minus things like Armour and such) and then beyond that, you'll do Wounds which vary from Minor through to Serious and Deadly. In most cases, your foes won't have Wounds and the vast majority of enemies just have Toughness that, once gone, slaughters them instantly. Key characters and NPCs might have Wounds though and marks them out as much more powerful individuals for your party to face. Wounds, of course, have more implications for you as heroes and even though your essentially superheroes in Soulbound that doesn't mean you can't go down.

Zones & Rules - Cubicle 7

This is where I first got that taste of the "heroic" nature of Soulbound. More often than not you will be more powerful and deadly than your opponents and there is a real power fantasy running through the game where you can easily handle yourself against hordes of enemies. It wouldn't be very fun if the Stormcast Eternal, a living weapon forged by the God-King couldn't handle themselves against a band of Blood Warriors for example.

You'll be happy to know that magic and such is very easy to get stuck into as well. In a world where you're mighty heroes are smashing apart enemies left right and centre with their blades you don't want to find the spellcasters stuck pouring over incredibly detailed lists of how to cast immense spells. Much like with any normal test it's all run through the same DN system and it's easy to follow spells through to their outcome.

This sense of heroics combined with the very free-flowing way in which you can move around the "battlefield" in zones rather than hard-and-fast movement distances means that there is a really cinematic quality to the way in which Soulbound plays. You feel like a badass when you're reaping through your foes and it genuinely then feels threatening when you come up against something with a way to bring you down. It's a bit like feeling like Captain America or Thor smashing up Thanos' thugs before finally coming up against his Black Order and Thanos himself. It makes for some exciting and different roleplaying moments at the tabletop.

Roleplaying In A Very Different World

The simple mechanics and ease at which you can dive into doing anything in the game are layered nicely over the much more complex world of The Mortal Realms. This isn't your standard Fantasy setting and instead, everything in Age Of Sigmar is very much larger than life. It feels like the game was been crafted to make it easy for you to be awesome in a definitively awe-inspiring world.

Between Adventures - Cubicle 7

Because of this though, the Core Rulebook also comes with a plethora of information with which to familiarise yourself with. A significant portion of the book is given over to explaining all of the similar-but-different races in Age Of Sigmar plus The Mortal Realms, its Gods, The Great Parch and the Realm Of Aqshy in which you find yourselves.

Each section of the book which is dedicated to the different Realms and the powers that be also come with a few adventure hooks, something I've enjoyed seeing in Cubicle 7's work of late. You could read through these and have a fun idea of an adventure to run in one of the very unique portions of the Mortal Realms.

This is all very handy indeed and whilst you can easily find some interesting touchstones for players to latch onto (Duardin are still Dwarves, Idoneth are still Elves), there is still a lot that you'll have to introduce your players too, especially if they are unfamiliar with Age Of Sigmar. I would suggest that your players at the very least read through the appropriate sections of background in the Core Rules to get a feel for how their characters interact with the wider world.

Khorne Warriors - Cubicle 7

The wealth of lore presented in the book to help with world-building is also twinned with a fairly extensive Bestiary as well. Much like with the changes to the different races in Soulbound, the creatures and characters you'll be facing are again similar and very different. If you're clued into things like Khorne, Chaos, Skaven and the like then you'll find it easier than someone diving in for the first time. Thankfully, these creatures are described in detail throughout this later half of the book so whilst there is a lot of reading to do, it's not overly punishing!

Is It Worth Diving Into Age Of Sigmar: Soulbound?

I would hope that throughout this article you've uncovered what kind of game Soulbound is. It's Warhammer but done at a much more mythic scale. The rules and core systems are very easy to get your head around which makes it an excellent option for those moving over from the Age Of Sigmar wargame and I think it could make it fun for those who want to try out roleplaying and haven't done so before.

Magic - Cubicle 7

This is made all the more inviting for new players because of the way Soulbound presents being a hero. You are accomplished and powerful from the very start, chosen by higher powers to deal with the ills of The Mortal Realms and powerful cackling villains. You're not adventurers out to prove yourselves to your country bumpkin friends. If you're someone who wants to enjoy roleplaying from the viewpoint of the Avengers then this could well be for you.

Where it might be somewhat daunting however is in just how different the game world is as I mentioned above. The Mortal Realms really is something unique and a bit out there and getting into that headspace might take a bit more time than with other Fantasy roleplaying games despite the wealth of content included in the book. I guess this is a problem most games have when they present something different to gamers but as long as your group is up for doing a bit of reading and your GM has (almost) fully absorbed the Core Rules and its lore, you should be ok.

Despite those reservations, Age Of Sigmar: Soulbound is a refreshingly different set of Fantasy roleplaying rules compared to others out there though and that is certainly in its favour. It's most definitely not another carbon copy of Dungeons & Dragons or Pathfinder and it does feel like Age Of Sigmar through and through. Daunting lore and background full of funny names shouldn't you off playing around with a really heroic set of mechanics.

Darkling Sorceress - Cubicle 7

If what we've talked about here appeals to you then I would certainly recommend picking up the PDF copy of the Core Rulebook or, if you want to just dip your toe, venture into the Age Of Sigmar: Soulbound Starter Set which I'll be talking about next week. It will give you a much more tutorial-based approach to the game rather than just diving off into the deep end.

I can see my group really getting excited about Soulbound at the very least. Mechanically and thematically it's very different from what they've done before and it will no doubt be refreshing to a lot of other groups too who have started at level one more often than they'd like to admit.

If you have any more questions about Soulbound as a roleplaying game, please don't hesitate to drop your thoughts into the comments below and I'll do my best to answer them!

Could you be tempted by Age Of Sigmar: Soulbound?

"Easy character creation and plenty of ways to bind the group together make Soulbound feel immediately inviting..."

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"...it will no doubt be refreshing to a lot of other groups too who have started at level one more often than they'd like to admit"

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