The bandit encounter. Every veteran DM has some variation of this encounter in in their toolbelt. A quick and easy combat scenario for any situation at hand. As for less experienced DMs, Steamforged Games has you covered with Epic Encounters: Camp of the Bandit Twins and Cave of the Manticore.
The latest Epic Encounters takes us to an entirely new location. Instead of being on a beach like with the Island of the Crab Archon or in the underground Hive of the Ghoul-kin these encounters take place in a frostier climate.
What is In Epic Encounters: Camp of the Bandit Twins?
In Epic Encounters: Camp of the Bandit Twins, your adventuring party ventures out to stop a bandit camp that has been terrorizing a local village. Something that happens in everything from D&D to Pathfinder.
This familiar set-up has a few interesting twists. First, the camp is set in a snowy mountain pass, and the bandits have more at their disposal than simple knives and bows.
In fact, their leaders may have blessed their followers with supernatural power. The enemies contained within the box are as follows:
- 4x Bandits
- 4x Bandit Bolt-Throwers
- 4x Goat-Mounts with two different sculpts
- 2x Bandit Elementalist
- 2x Earth Elementals
- 2x The Vilon Twins, Bandit Princes
What helps elevate these bandit enemies from generic highwaymen is the strong variety in the units mixed with the more supernatural elements. This is most explicit with the presence of Earth Elementals and the Bandit Elementalists. If this is the kind of power they have at their disposal, what does that say about their bosses?
How Does Epic Encounters: Camp of the Bandit Twins Play?
The best part about running Epic Encounters: Camp of the Bandit Twins is its tactical use of the environment. Bandits are human enemies, which means they would make strategic decisions, set up ambushes, and know when to fall back. When you have a map that includes icy mountain cliffs, a rickety bridge over a frozen river, and a watchtower, you know spatial awareness is going to be very important.
This is translated perfectly to how the enemies are set up on the map.
Bandit Bolt-Throwers fire shots from the cliffs. Goat Mounts and Bandits flank and bottleneck anyone getting across the bridge. And if anyone attempts any alternative routes, the Elementalists and their rocky familiars take them out.
For higher-level adventuring parties, the biggest threat isn't the bandits but the map itself. Everything from the icy cliffs to the bridge to the frozen river can put you bad positions. You can fail a skill check to navigate these areas, provoking more attacks from the bandits at best and suffering fall damage at worst. The encounter book even has rules for the ice sheet covering the river breaking.
In many ways, the first map in this box is designed as a giant kill box; demonstrating the bandits' homefield advantage. Things don't get much better on the second map, featuring the titular bandit twins.
Not only can these leaders provoke a duel against members of the party, but they are terrifying in tandem. Advantage on attack rolls, three attacks each, and they can spend a Reaction to potentially take no damage from a PC's attack.
All of these abilities and spatial savvy more than make up for the bandits' pretty underwhelming stats. Defenses are middling across the board, and damage dealt per attack can seem more annoying than challenging. Granted, these units collectively add up to the death of a thousand cuts, but as one-on-one challenges, they can topple like dominoes.
What Is In Epic Encounters: Cave of the Manticore?
The companion boss box, Epic Encounters: Cave of the Manticore, delves further into the snowy mountains. As for the connection, it seems the bandits may have worked with the titular beast for power. It is a tenuous thematic connection, but the manticore boss scenario truly earns the moniker of an epic encounter.
In addition to air superiority and multiple attacks (up to five at the highest tier), the manticore has several one-time-use Lair Abilities. Roar of the Damned can make all targets frightened and Voices of the Dead causes all PCs to roll attacks with disadvantage. These are but a few of the abilities at the manticore's disposal.
Overall, Epic Encounters: Cave of the Manticore covers a lot of bases as a boss encounter. There are rules for running it as a combat gauntlet or as an extended infiltration operation.
The Manticore's stat blocks are a beast of offense, defense, and movement. Its Legendary Actions and Lair Abilities can make short work of any adventuring party.
The only real gap is that the manticore can't cast spells. But when you can fire poisonous spikes, divebomb, and assault your enemies with the cries of the recently deceased, you really don't need it.
Should You Buy Epic Encounters: Camp of the Bandit Twins and Cave of the Manticore?
Once again, Steamforged Games breathes new life and imagination with these impressive boxes.
If you're a veteran DM who wants a bandit encounter with more punch or to bring mythic weight to an iconic boss monster, then you should definitely pick up Epic Encounters: Camp of the Bandit Twins and Cave of the Manticore.
The copy of Epic Encounters: Camp of the Bandit Twins used to produce this review was provided by the publisher. All photos were taken by the reviewer over the course of the review.