Rise and rise again, until lambs become lions.Maitreya The Friend of All Souls
I’ve always had a bit of a love affair with the story of Robin Hood, especially with the films (for better or worse). It began, of course, with the 1973 Disney film (which I also had on vinyl), then on to the somewhat silly 1991 Prince Of Thieves production, up through the 2010 Russell Crowe portrayal, and most recently in 2018 with the turbo charged (but also silly) Robin Hood starring Taron Egerton. They all had their faults, but they never bothered me.
More recently I took it upon myself to read the 1956 novel by Roger Lancelyn Green which brings together all the early Robin Hood poems and songs into one cohesive (more or less) narrative.
All of this Robin Hood material attempts to tell the story in their own way. Some attempts are more successful than others, but they all have their particular charms. It’s the romance of the idea of living outside of society, amidst the giant yew tree forests – popping up here or there to rob from the rich and give to the poor. I wanted to live that kind of life.
With that said, I’ve never played any boardgames about Robin Hood – but I’ve always wanted to. When I read about Historic-One Editions new title “Sherwood”, I suspected it would be a neat starting point both with Robin Hood games and with Historic-One. This one is thematically fashioned after the classic Errol Flynn version of the tale.
Sherwood is a hex and counter wargame mixed with minor roleplaying elements that drive the scenarios (mostly this is just thematic flavour in the form of scenario-specific rules). There are two sets of rules provided in the box. One is a single page “Initiation” set, designed mostly for use with kids. The “Standard” ruleset is only five pages long, but dives us in a little deeper. Sherwood is a featherweight skirmish game, either way you play it. One of their aims was to “help young gamers get to grips with the concepts of wargaming”. This would be a perfect entry point for any youngster who wanted to try wargaming.
With that said, Historic-One also publishes a “Norman Saga” series of games on which Sherwood is based, and that series has a more advanced “CRY HAVOC” ruleset that you can download from their website for free. Those rules can be easily applied to the Sherwood scenarios – which is something I would be interested in looking at. The Standard rules are fine, and I suspect most people will enjoy them, but they do leave me longing a bit for something extra.
“Rob? That’s a naughty word, we never rob! Just sort of… borrow a bit from those who can afford it.”Robin Hood (Disney)
Sherwood pits the Norman’s with Prince John and his Sheriff of Nottingham against the Anglo-Saxon Robin Hood, Friar Tuck, and the other Merry Men of the forest. Rules for movement and combat are straight forward. Players can climb up trees and even jump onto steeds from balconies. Every character in the game has two counters which track various states of health (healthy/stunned, wounded/dead) or in the case of mounted characters, four counters (which also track the state of the horse’s health).
The smaller sized scenarios (on one map page) are difficult, because I feel like the rules are really built for a larger play area. Characters can move 8 hexes, which lets them get 3/4 of the way across the narrow side of a single page map in one turn (provided there aren’t any terrain modifiers). Arrows can be fired (at long range) 25 hexes, and a single sheet is just about 25 hexes on the wide side – so that feels weird. All of this stuff kind of goes away when you put two or more maps together. This is where the rules marry better with the scale and everything feels more stable, and more natural.
The rulebook is nicely laid out and easy to parse. It’s not very long (half of it is taken up with scenario details). It’s full colours and there are plenty of examples. One thing I will note is that the example images are very small and when they use these to help illustrate a rule, they often cite the counter name which my terrible eyes had a very hard time seeing without a magnifying glass. Thankfully, the rules are terribly complex, so these example images aren’t critical.
Sherwood is a nifty little entry-level wargame that will also appeal to more hardcore gamers looking for something lighter that doesn’t take four hours or more to complete. Games of Sherwood should be over in 1-2 hours (depending on the size of the scenario).
Review copy provided by the publisher.