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Swamps Of Death Review

swamps of death

Shadows of Brimstone is a dungeon crawling rpg boardgame which features a group of 1 to 4 heroes taking on eldritch, mundane, and mythical foes as they uncover the mystery behind the brimstone eruption that broke time and space. Opening portals to bizarre and distant worlds from the past and future. Swamps of Death serves as one of three options as a starter set for Shadows of Brimstone. The alternatives being the City of Ancients and Forbidden Fortress. Each offers a different offering in terms of enemies, hero classes, and even genre. Swamps of Death is a Wild West themed core set with the ‘Swamps of Death’ serving as the otherworld. The swamps are full of horrific beasts and conditions. Insects, serpentfolk, dinosaurs and even poisonous slugs. Although the pickings are rather slim within the confines of the single core set and most of the exotic enemies are found in separate expansions.

Core Gameplay

At its core Shadows of Brimstone is an Ameritrash dungeon crawler. Your heroes explore the cavern system, fighting enemies and acquiring loot as well as increasing their level. This all persists between games and after each dungeon mission there is a town phase where you can engage in a number of activities such as gambling, buying gear, and healing injuries on top of a host of other western themed activities. The dungeon delving is solid but does feel somewhat limited at times depending on which hero class you picked as some have more options and versatility beyond just moving/shooting. Being an Ameritrash style game it inevitably has handfuls of dice, cards, tokens and more. The actual amount of content is staggering as you receive literally hundreds of components covering both the town and dungeon phase.

Each of the core sets features four different hero classes. Some are similar but they all have a good degree of customization. When you select a class, you get a choice of three different archetypes with varying abilities and then you receive a randomly assigned heirloom so there is a very slim chance you will play the same character twice. Some of these starting options also give the chance to completely mix up the way the class plays. E.g. letting the preacher class who cannot usually use guns the ability to do so and gain a unique holy shotgun that generates faith(mana) for him. This is a great system for immediately giving the player agency and get investment in the character by giving an immediate and meaningful decision to them


Double sided tiles, event cards, items, artifacts, otherworld artifacts, character sheets, town sheets, enemy cards, AND sheets. There is a veritable cornucopia of material included in the core set. Not even counting the plastic miniatures you get a lot. The card stock is of decent quality, the printing is good and the packaging is also reasonable with molded slots for most of the cards. It does however take a bit of work to get everything packaged again once unpacked/pushed out.

It is worth investing in a storage solution as the minis and map tiles are a pain to get secure again. It also has considerable put up and tear down time with multiple stacks of cards bordering the play area which sprawls larger than any reasonably sized coffee table. This being the revised edition it also has updated graphics, rules, and miniatures. The first edition miniatures are on the static side with some soft details but for the revised edition these have been updated to crisp and better proportioned designs. There is also a handy assembly guide that makes the assembly a lot easier to complete. Although fair warning, assembly is required but if you have ever built an airfix kit then you will be able to quickly assemble the models.

The Actual Game

So how does Shadows of Brimstone play? It is a big, crunchy dungeon crawler with handfuls of dice that dominate the combat phase when enemies pop up via events or ambush. It is highly thematic and there are strong random elements that make each mission play completely differently.

Sometimes you might discover the final boss in the second cave tile. Others you may get through an entire adventure with no enemies beyond one final encounter where suddenly you are surrounded by every enemy type included in the box! It is a chaotically random game with a lot of development choices for characters and advancement.

The main critiques however come in two parts. The first is that the game is somewhat superficial. You move, fight, and do events. A lot of the enemies also have no tactical way to fight. You just position next to them and fight. It is by no means a particularly bad thing but it does not offer the tactical challenge of say ‘Kingdom Death: Monster’ or ‘Gloomhaven’.

The second complaint is in the logistics. There are a lot of components and the rules that are needed are spread across a lot of different sheets that you need to reference. The best solution I have found is having a notepad to track rules/character sheets rather than trying to use the cards to track most of the info. This is also a problem with the tiles where you will have to locate each and if you enter an otherworld there is no indication that the specific tile you are looking for is already upside down and used in the cavern world… This is where a storage solution such as a filing book is handy.

There is also a fun to be had in the sheer chaoticness of it all. It is reminiscent of old school heroquest and feels a lot like someone tried to make the ultimate dungeon crawler in terms of pure imagination and amount of stuff that can happen within the game. For instance, you can fight a zombie horde with a flaming hellsword in the hands of a repentant preacher and then grow a tentacle mustache while returning to town to forge a darkstone infused hammer. It also gets bigger and more random with every expansion which is just purely shuffled into the base game. If looking to expand it is mostly a case of find an expansion that looks cool and buy that one.

The only ‘essential’ expansion would be the frontier town which greatly expands on the town portion of the game. Overall, I very much enjoy Shadows of Brimstone and Swamps of Death is a solid starter product with a very engaging theme to it. I do however wish there was some consolidation of all the rules and bookkeeping that is core to the experience.