Sunday, January 12, 2014

A Review of Chainmail Bikini

I can hardly believe it has been more than a month since I have posted but the holiday season really flew by this year and ate into my hobby time. That is not to say I did not take a few nights for Pathfinder games or to find a little time to paint. I've now added a WWII 28mm project to my workbench to give both Bolt Action and Chain of Command a try but that's a post for another day.

A Cunning (& Sexy) Barbarian Adventure of (Dim)Wits!

I've been bugging Howard Whitehouse to give his new Chainmail Bikini rules a try. Like everything Howard does, it promises to be hours of hilarious fun with simple rules that anyone from the ages of 8 to 180 can understand. As the title of the rules implies, it is a game of adventure that feels like a cross between tales from Robert E. Howard's Hyborea and the humor of a Monty Python sketch. What these rules are not, are high fantasy adventure with elves or dwarves as you might find in D&D or Pathfinder. There are some low fantasy elements though like lumbering ogres and ghostly wraiths (as I'll explain later).

The Enigmatic & Very British Howard Whitehouse
Our adventure began with Howard questioning as to who had the largest feet in the group and, of course, it just so happened that I won with a whopping size 16. After all, you know what they say about a man with large feet? He has large socks! This was his way of deciding who would get to choose their figures first and without hesitation I chose the Sisters of the Sword. A group of six, scantily clad warrior women who were tasked with entering the dungeon in search of a golden belly ring that was stolen by the barbarians and affixed to "Eric the Idol." It was likely my ladies would have to throttle some barbarians for answers.

The dungeon layout.
The dungeon of course had a back story (something about barbarians taking their sweet time in clearing it out because they are too busy getting wasted) and so did our groups. Each group (4 in total including mine) had a specific mission in the dungeon depending on where we started. I already told you mine but the others included searching for a book, stealing lots of valuables, and stealing some magic candlesticks.

Sisters of the Sword!
The sisters enter the dungeon.
The Sisters entered the dungeon where they encountered a drunken, groggy guard that they quickly dispatched with a swift blow to the...arm....using the barbarian's own mug. While the combat was simple, fun, and easy as it utilizes both dice and cards, it can be a bit foolish when you somehow manage to knock a guard unconcious by striking a blow on his arm. Remember though, this is like a Hollywood film. It doesn't have to make sense, it just has to be entertaining and it was! 

A Throne of Hammered Barbarians!
Creeping into the throne room, the Sisters encountered a mass of sleeping and hungover barbarians lying in their own filth. With some lucky rolls, my Sisters managed to slip by without so much as a sound (well...they did make a little sound but not enough to wake the barbarians). Meanwhile, elsewhere in the dungeon the Irish barbarians played by John were being viciously mauled by lions. Assassins played by Barry were desecrating the dead in search of valuables. And Pete (playing Middle Eastern looking warriors) was battling two lumbering ogres who had been trying to play dice but didn't quite know the rules.

The Irish family of Barbarians really opened the wrong door.
Those goth kids have no respect for the dead.
My girls went back into action, this time waking and throttling a barbarian to find the idol before seeing that those goth like assassins were hanging out in the hallway and busily trying to con a guard into letting them steal some jewels. The ogres and Middle Eastern warriors in the next hall were causing quite the racket though and began to wake the barbarians in the throne room where I was! So, what were my girls to do? Scream and tell the barbarians, "Those bad men in the hallway are trying to steal all your gold! We're just helpless dancers!" The barbarians, with the combined IQ of a squirrel, agreed that this was a truthful story and took off after the assassins while my girls snuck past into the corridor for the idol.

Eric the Idol surrounded by sleeping pussy cats.
The Sisters finally (after a hilarious meeting and diplomatic negotiating with the Irish family) made it to the door where Eric the Idol was but realized that the recently fattened cats were now in there sleeping with the odor of potatoes and dark ale on their breath. The most nimble of the Sisters, utilizing her acrobatic skills, snuck in and...of course stepped on a tail! All I had to do was not roll a 6 but of course, I got a 6. Thus, the lions woke and quickly the ladies broke out into a song of "Soft Kitty" to lull them back to sleep. Howard the GM deemed this a fitting feat and on a successful roll, the lions were fast asleep and I was on my way to victory with the ring in hand.

In the end, all parties were successful. If there was a loser, it was the Irish family as they lost one of their members to the hungry lions and another kicked a magical chest and was quickly transported into another dimension and never seen again....EVER!

The Review
Let's get down to it and rate these rules. I'm a bit biased because I have always made it a point to participate in at least one of Howard's games at Historicon in the past. They are the most fun I will have all weekend and provide the most laughs. Even my father, who is definitely not a wargamer, looks forward to Howard's games. I like to take a break from sending regiments of men to their deaths on vast plains of green felt and this type of game is the best way to do that.

Like Howard's other rules, the combat system is easy to understand and fun. It is not over complicated and utilizes a handy chart that tells you where a blow has landed. Each player had both blue and red cards. The blue cards were your defense and red were offensive. These cards, according to who was the attacker and who was the defender, would have to be drawn at random and when drawn, it was possible you might draw a blunder type card. This meant your character suddenly did something idiotic like drop his sword or trip. There was also a "Taunt" card which you assuredly did not want to draw when on the defense lest your sudden mooning of the enemy result in a spear up your rear.

As for the game play, I was speaking to my friend Craig prior to the game and he was pointing out how much D&D, Pathfinder, and other more traditional role play games have slowly been moving towards more of a combat focus rather than the actual role playing. I tend to agree with him on this and when we were playing Chainmail Bikini, I saw more role playing in those 3-4 hours than I have in any other traditional role playing. It was even more enjoyable to see some of the non-role players get into it and do their character voices,

Chainmail Bikini won't be for everyone but I don't think it ever intends to be. It's going to be a game for those who want to create a great Hollywood style adventure with their friends and have a ton of laughs doing it. I am going to refrain from giving these rules a hard number out of 10 like I might usually do just because I don't own a hard copy of them to really review and test. Also, it was my first and only game. I will definitely be adding these rules to my shelf though because I think they will make for a fun time with the guys after a long week of work.

At the end of your first game of Chainmal Bikini, you will only wish to drive your enemy before you and hear the lamentations of his women! For that is what is best in life! If you are interested in buying Chainmail Bikini when it is released, keep an eye on Howard's website, Pulp Action Library.


  1. Great game. I love the dungeon boxes. How were they made?

  2. Howard made them using gift boxes that you might get at Christmas with a fruitcake inside. He cut off smaller pieces of cardboard for the ground tiles and used paper mache on the walls for rocky type formations. There was also some textured spray paint on them. It looked very nice and affordable.