|So I picked up Scott Malthouse's “Darkest Warrens” kind of on a whim. I'm not going to lie, I liked the cover. I really like the “old school” look. I've never really looked into the “minimalist” games mostly because I didn't think they would be any fun. I was wrong. My sons and I played this today, character creation to adventure to done in an hour and a half. And we had a blast, six sided dice, army men and cowboy figures all over the table. So here is my review of this nifty little gem.
In Darkest Warrens is a whole three pages, including character sheet, five if the cover is printed: so it's not going to break the bank printing it out. Character generation is two entries totaling six paragraphs; assign attributes and choose a class. There are four attributes: Brawn, Nimble, Mind and Person. The player gets four numbers to assign: 5+, 4+, 4+ and 3+. Lower numbers are better, (we had to get used to that), because tests are a roll-over mechanic. For instance, if you want to notice something it is a Mind check, roll a d6 +/- modifiers and roll over the stat, so the 5+ stat will actually be the worst. Combat is just as simple, each player tests Nimble, successes act before the enemy, failures after. There are two actions; move and attack/other (draw weapon, cast spell, use item). Attacks are made by testing Brawn (melee) or Nimble (ranged) and each successful attack does one wound of damage. There are five classes in the main game, (others in the third supplement) Warrior, Rogue, Mage, Ranger and Barbarian. Each class has a certain number of wounds (hp) and each has one class ability. The Warrior for instance, can (once per combat), make a number of extra attacks equal to half class level rounded up. Spells are simple and quick. The Mage has three spells; Hold, Heal and Hex. Spells are cast by rolling a successful Mind Check and each spell can be cast once per combat. Characters can advance to sixth level each level with each level giving an additional hit. Treasure is randomly determined on a d6 table and there is a small bestiary listing creatures like Bugbears, Goblins and Iron Golems. Page two offers an item list for things like armor (+2 wounds) when worn and weapons (all weapons do one wound of damage). There are some advanced options for combat, like parry and two weapon fighting and a list of status effects. The main rule book also includes an introductory adventure, “The Cow of Boburn.”
That's the game in a nutshell, two pages of fun. The great thing about this game is one can do pretty much anything to it and it won't break; you want to go higher than sixth level? Go ahead, you might have to use dice other than a six sider but that's easy enough. More monsters? Go ahead, extrapolate them from other games, we all do that anyway. This game is rare in the minimalist realm in that it hits that syzygy of playability, engagement and fun and does it well. This baby can be put in the old game bag and kept for those times when a gaming chance just happens to present itself. Also, it's my opinion that this game presents solid solo playability for those times when no one else wants to game, ( I hate that). Honestly I paid less than three bucks for all three books, there is no down-side to that. Give this game a shot, there won't be any regrets.
[5 of 5 Stars!]