Review By Bruce Campbell
The Space Gamer #28 (May/June 1980)
SWORDQUEST (Task Force Games)
Designed by R. Vance Buck.
Softpack, with 14 page 5 1/2" x 8 1/2" rulebook, 108 die-cut counters, 16" x 20" 6-color map, damage point chart, and tactical combat display.
1, 2, or 3 players;
Playing time 1-2 hours.
Good, evil, and Druidic forces search the towns of the land of Tirrane, hoping to find the lost Sword of Lumina. In each town is a guarded treasure. The guard may be an enemy, a monster, or one of your men. Hostile guards must be defeated before you can acquire their treasure and learn what it is - magic spell, weapon, armor, or sword. Once you find a sword, you must evade enemy forces and return it to your home citadel to find out if it is the true Sword of Lumina or a worthless copy.
The background for SWORDQUEST is better than average for a small game, because the designer has previously written a novel with the same setting. I was also pleased by the components. The map and counters are vividly colored. Game design stresses playability. Combat, movement and other rules are quickly learned, and you can be playing in a very short time.
However, once you begin play, you may find some situations where the rules are not specific enough. When entering sanctuary, does healing take place immediately, or must the full turn be spent there stationary? I also dislike the unique "Telshir" combat system, which is designed to give a smaller force an "equal" chance. The designer weakly cites a code of fairness that requires the larger force to use only as many fighters as the smaller force has available. Further detracting from realism is the weakness of the monsters. Fire giants can take only 2/3 the damage of most humans.
SWORDQUEST has enough good points that I don't feel my money was wasted. However, better games are available for less money, so I don't recommend it for any category of gamer.
Review By Tony Watson
Dragon #40 (August 1980)
Produced by: Task Force Games
Retail price: $3.95
Tolkien's trilogy has spawned a number of games, and these games in turn have given birth to a variety of clones. There is something about the basic situation of The Lord of the Rings that lends itself to game creation.
SWORDQUEST, a new game by Task Force, is a case in point. In his designer's notes, the game's creator R. Vance Buck tells us of the importance of creating an ordered fantasy background for a game of this type. This he has done, but there is some question as to how original his background is. The inspiration seems to be drawn heavily from Tolkien; witness a world peopled with dwarves, elves, giants, a fearsome dragon, and large Winged creatures named Wrogs (read Balrog).
The game situation is familiar, too. Two coalitions - one good, led by bearded wizard Adam the White and one evil, led by Shaymar, the chief sorcerer of the evil entity Sogmoth - scouring the countryside of Tirrane searching for the lost Sword of Lumina. The good guys want to destroy the weapon in the fires of Sogmoth's Citadel, Dray-neg, to remove all threat to their master's life. The rules also allow for the interjection of a third player, the Druids, who seek the sword so that they may hold the balance of power.
Each side's forces center around five paladins. They are just about the best fighters in the game, but are, unfortunately, not differentiated from one another beyond the fact that some may use spells. All are the same, which is too bad; a lot could have been added to this game by offering some personalization to the main characters.
The quest of the paladins is to search out the lost sword and get it to their respective citadels. On each of the map's numerous towns is placed at random an inverted magic counter. This is either a spell scroll for use by a magician; a piece of magic armor or an enchanted weapon for use in combat; or a sword, one the real sword and two others counterfeits. Each is accompanied by an inverted guard counter. Ten of these guards are good and ten are evil; they join the retinue of any friendly paladin who discovers them. Seventeen of the guardians are monsters of various types. All nonfriendly guards must be fought off if the player wishes to obtain the item they guard.
Combat in SWORDQUEST posits a ritualized form of engagement, "Telshir," which limits combat to five per side at one time, and prevents characters from having to fight more than one opponent at a time. The game equipment includes a fold-out battle display which has five boxes per side, each with a stylized name (a nice touch) and a reserve area. Characters are placed in the boxes and fight against their opposing numbers. Unopposed fighters do not attack unless moved to fill a vacated box that is opposed. A comparison is made between the combatants' combat ratings (A through 0), adjustments made for magic items (if any), and a differential chart consulted. Both players roll on their respective columns to determine the wounds inflicted. Wounds are counted on a damage point chart; boxes are filled in for wounds received and as damage is taken, the combat rating of a fighter goes down. When all boxes are filled in, the character or monster is dead.
There is some magic in the game, limited to spell scrolls found in the cities and then used by magicians. They include sleep and bewilderment (both combat spells); and dragon control, in case anyone should wish to harness that creature for his side. The dragon is the most powerful combat unit in the game, but is hard to keep in control, allowing for the possibility of some nasty turns of events.
The game is won by the first side to get the Lost Sword of Lumina to its citadel. This entails searching through the cities for sword counters and then fighting your way across the board (citadels are on the opposite side of the map from a player's setup) to get to your fortress. Two of three swords are counterfeit; a die roll is made to determine whether a given sword is genuine.
SWORDQUEST suffers from some problems. The game is well balanced; no side has a distinct advantage in the set-up and the forces of both sides are scrupulously equal. But the game seems to trade off personalization to attain this balance.
Both sides are too much the same. Adam the White is no different from Shaymar, save his counter is blue and Shaymar's red. Each side uses the same spells; there is no diversity among "good" and "evil" magic. A similar situation exists with the game's monsters. Though they all have some very interesting and colorful counters and a number of creatures are represented, the only differences between them are their beginning combat levels and the number of wounds they can take; no unique qualities, no special abilities that could have easily added a lot to the game. Usually fantasy games suffer from a deluge of material; SWORDQUESTs problem is just the opposite. Because of the movement costs (two for clear and one-half for roads), the comprehensive road network, and the fact that all hidden counters are in the towns, action concentrates around the towns and roads, ignoring the map's considerable wilderness area.
The graphic work on the game is very impressive. The 16" x 20" map is done in full color and is very attractive. The counters feature well-done silhouettes and good use of color. The rulesbook is nicely laid out and well printed.
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