The war on bore propagated by the pandemic has been arduous. When the world suddenly stopped turning and I was plunged into lockdown with the rest of humanity, my own escapism became my first personal casualty.
The gaming club which we have built up over the last four years, Sunday night ‘winehammer’ with my hobby muse, and not to mention that steady serotonin of imminent away event weekends ceased with very little notice or time for emotional adjustment. The siege of sanity had begun.
In short, everything I needed to medicate through my reality was taken away unceremoniously, and like so many it left me.....lost.
Survivor guilt through an unconditional furlough robbed me of both the voice, and the right, to raise any complaint about this loss. A fact that has not escaped me at any point during my captivity. Yet I needed my fix, to chase the war gaming dragon, and no amount of YouTube batreps, theoryhammer rundowns or by the author video games could sate this red thirst. Admittedly setting sail on a sea of grey sprues provided some temporary distraction, but even this charter capsized early in its expedition as I discovered the destination was cut from the cartography.
For the longest time, I’ve held the traditional RPG in the highest regard of our escapist hobby. There’s something truly magical about removing the pieces, scenes, cards & boards from a game of fantasy yet still delivering an immersive adventure using only the minds of its protagonists & a roll of the dice to play the part of fate in their every decision. The granular detail of D&D terrifies me, specifically the prospect of immersing myself in a totally new universe, with no craft or companions to guide me & without the conviction of my fervent passion for Warhammer & it’s intricate lore. Added to that I perceive it as a game system where you begin your ascension from the roots up, bereft of heroic deeds or renown, and therefore unremarkable in obtaining the pantheon's affections.
Praise be then, to a rare intervention of positivity from the many armed beast, social media. The boon it gifted at the opportune moment descended in the form of Soulbound: A roleplaying game set in the Age of Sigmar. A tome rich in lore not just on the mortal realms themselves but also the fascinating & varied Dramatis Personae that inhabit them. It contains an in-depth look at the lesser recorded texts on living, worshipping & surviving in each of the unique landscapes, alongside a well respected translation of the many & varied foes of the universe with intricate thought into their interaction with the individuals that encounter them.
It’s akin to a grimoire that grips you with knowledge, quickly luring you into plumbing its depths for answers to the innumerable experiences of the denizens of the realms.
All this fascination is bound together by a gaming system that is both as familiar yet alien enough to Warhammerers that is equal parts exciting & challenging. Through my own experience, I found the mechanics of playing particularly diverse in the fact that during our sessions we could just as easily introduce ‘props’ and miniatures as easily as we could pour over the finite details of an adventure without the single roll of a dice, with both endeavours as equally rewarding.
This for me, is the formidable appeal of Soulbound, and when we are released from captivity I fully intend to run sessions complete with minis, scenes & a nod to the tabletop that we know & love. We’ve even planned to play regular games of Age of Sigmar, Warhammer quest & Warcry all based on the histories & heroic deeds of our characters both before & during their adventures within the binding. Our resident Skyriggers for example still won’t reveal the details of his fateful failed Grundcorps operations against the Sylvaneth unless we stage a narrative re-enactment of the cataclysmic event. Only then will the true reasoning of their induction into the binding be revealed.
I will be forever grateful to the inner circle of club mates who enthusiastically joined me in a quest to understand what we all consider the upper echelon of our hobby & consistently encouraged this flailing first - time GM through adventures fraught with near limitless possibilities.
So if you have the opportunity, and a small cabal of like minded individuals, I cannot recommend Soulbound enough, and am frequently chastised for my zealous preaching to our war gaming congregation about its benefits to humanity.
To take a vast universe we already know & love, let it loose in the infinite possibilities within our minds, coupled with the quirks & unpredictable reactions of good friends, with a well structured ‘gaming’ mechanic that you can indulge as much or as little as you like, is hugely rewarding. Whether agonising over all the qualities & characteristics of your archetype, or indulging in the finite detail of a seemingly unremarkable artefact that reveals itself to have a rich history & suitably grandiose title has genuinely revolutionised my time in isolation.
Endlessly re-watching / re-reading / re-hearing every fantasy & science fiction adventure I’ve ever enjoyed has also been incredibly inspiring as they too are adapted into our various sessions - the researching in itself also inadvertently helping me to pass the vast amount of free time I have acquired.
Where previously I simulated a vague semblance of routine to help count down the days until my release I now lose countless hours thinking about what the ‘binding’ would & should encounter when our adventure reconvenes. What project-less miniatures from my collection will be given new life & colour, photographed with an appropriate ‘visually aiding’ backdrop for the party to decide whether friend or foe. And how the world, the subtle nuances of the characters’ responses to spontaneous peril, and the ramifications of hasty decision making will resurface to provide fresh consequence much later in our adventures.
Soulbound is all this, and so much more. I would guarantee that even those without the immediate opportunity to organise a binding & sessions could at the very least immerse themselves in some fantastic literary work even just for their own enjoyment, and still find equal comfort in the nourishing art of escapism we are all craving in such uncertain times.
I am right now scouring on for the right miniatures, scenery pieces & backdrops to expand my library of NPCs, arch enemies & obstacles for the binding to face. I’ve even begun expanding this search into the Wrath & Glory of the 41st millennium for a future endeavour...
So with thanks to the invaluable team at Cubicle7 for returning my Mojo to the mortal realms, I submit this plea to the community:
If you are craving the fantastic to do battle with your time & reality, immerse yourself in the exceptional works the Warhammer RPG teams have so loving crafted for us & leave our universe to the fates. You won’t regret it...