Britain is in trouble! But A Tale of Bravery is a board game not about the UK in 2023, it is set in a mythical time some 20 years after the death of King Arthur Pendragon. The kingdoms of Britain are not getting along so well and the threat of vikings, saxons and other foes await you and your fellow adventurers.
What awaits you in the box is a new table top, co-operative, story driven role-playing game from designers Kent-Ove Lindstrom, Nils-Erik Lindstrom and Lars-Stellan Persson, published by Barksark Entertainment which launches on Kickstarter in 2023.
Either alone or with up to three other friends, you will work together through a number of different quests from the included quest book. As you progress, your story will take different branches to ensure that no two run throughs are going to be the same. As someone that grew up playing choose your own adventure books, I enjoyed the decision making and different routes that could be taken through the game, with the decisions you making having a definite impact on the story you will experience.
You each begin with a character, a skill sheet and some starting items. You must choose a specialisation from one of the three available on your character sheet, providing ongoing abilities that can be used to aid your character, companions or hinder opponents. These all felt unique and provided an opportunity to build a balanced party with the expected complement of knights, rogues, rangers, thieves and mages on offer.
Throughout the campaign, you will upgrade abilities and gain new items that can be equipped or sold in standard RPG fashion as well as recruit companions or retinues to aid you on your journey. There are also condition cards which you may start with or gain that can either help or inhibit your character depending on the situation you face.
Quests involve skirmish battles which play out with a combination of standees and miniatures on a tile based map similar to other dungeon crawlers, and the set up for these can be found in the quest book, providing a range of different locations, including environmental hazards to be aware of, and objects that might block your line of site for ranged attacks. Depending on your scenario there can also be objectives on the map that require skill checks to be completed as part of the quest.
As you progress, and gain more experience, these skirmishes become tougher and the enemies more powerful, and this is tracked via a power chart. Combat is resolved through skill checks based on each of the character's stats, adding together the base skills and bonuses to give you the number of dice you can roll and comparing against the power chart to see how many successes are required. Attacks can be made via a series of ranged, close combat weapons or spells, with a hit on a 5 or 6 and failures a 1 or 2, with bravery tokens being able to be spent to increase your dice rolls.
Each turn if you can’t or don’t want to attack you can also perform a number of other actions. These include the option to switch up your equipment between fellow players and enable you to change your loadout to enable you to change your strategy depending on the opponents you face, pin enemies to stop them attacking or moving, or performing a skill check. Another option is the action to prepare for attack or cast, increasing the number of dice you can roll in your next attack, and I enjoyed that this can be stacked to help provide that knockout blow to a high value enemy.
Enemy movement and attacks are covered by behaviour cards with a number of ranked options to determine their actions and target conditions which I found to be simple to implement and effective. If you lose your health points, you character has an additional wounded side of the character sheet, let it happen again the are knocked out and removed from the battle which could result in death and the end of the campaign.
So this leaves you the option of fleeing and resigning if needed, plus you can also skip any scenarios you don’t want to tackle. Win or run away, your story continues and I enjoyed the failing forward system as it helps to drive on the narrative although you can lose if one of your characters in your party die or you are unable to pay money and don’t have enough, the latter seeming like a slightly odd way to end your epic adventure.
I particularly enjoyed the retinue and companion system in the game. You have the option to hire a retinue, effectively a follower that won’t assist you in battle but will aid you in skill checks. I also enjoyed the ability to play as the ‘bad guys’, allowing you to take more immoral decisions through your quest rather than being bound to being good throughout.
Although I haven’t had the opportunity to play this epic fantasy to its full conclusion, my group and I have enjoyed picking our way through the first few scenarios and battling it out together against a range of different foes, as well as following our chosen path through the quest book. I’ve also tried a couple of scenarios solo, and that works just as well as playing with others.
A Tale of Bravery had a real old school fantasy feel about it, from the artwork to the questbook, it really captured the experience of bringing a choose your own adventure book to the table, combining a healthy level of nostalgia with some more modern mechanisms found in newer RPG and dungeon crawler games. The game provides an engaging story steeped in fantasy with an easily implementable character progression system and a broadly clear rule set and I look forward to seeing where the remainder of my quest will take me.