Going to be released in August 2011. Preorder price is up for BP54.95 from Fifth Column Games here: http://www.fifthcolumngames.co.uk/LBpreorder.html
The designer wrote an article about the game in Battles magazine #6 Into the Bastards! It is worthy of a read and it makes the game more appealing.
This expensive game finally arrives after 6 months of preorder! Holy weight! The writing is scholarly but absorbing and entertaining. A lot of food for thoughts. I love it at first reading!
How does the game play? I was not totally satisfied with Great Battles of History (better with SGBoH though) because it put me more into the shoes of leaders in tactical units rather than the overall commander on the field of the day, e.g. Alexander or Darius. I was not totally satisfied with Command and Colors either because it is more a game than a simulation - it does not give me a sense of reality. After playing 3 scenarios of Lost Battles in a row, I can safely say that it is the BEST of both worlds!
After choosing the scenarios, each side is allocated a number of command points, which is determined according to 1/10 of the total Fighting Value of the army. So a larger army would be given more command points. A larger army doesn't necessarily have the initiative on the battle field though as it is determined by the scenario with the side on the left always going first.
For example in Marathon, the Athenians have 63 FV and so they have 6 command points in the beginning. Total command points are further halved if the conditions of the battle field is wet or dusty. You spend each command point to activate a group of units or units individually. A die is rolled when the command point is reduced down to one or zero the first time. The die roll result would add that number of additional command points to the side. A player continues his turn until he spends all the command points to resolve movement or combat or until all units being activated. The other player then do the same. So Lost Battles sequence of play is a basic I-go-U-go structure but wait a minute, this system is realistic and fun! I feel that I was able to act like the overall commander.
There are three types of activations - normal, limited and express. The interesting bit is that in each different types of activations, they cost you different number of commands and then there are different restrictions. For example, in a normal activation, you spend one command to activate a single unit or a group of "veteran" units but you have to spend two command for any other group, i.e. not veteran class units (see how veteran units are factored in as they are "easier" to command and activate). For the activated cavalry units, they receive two "actions", one for other type of units. Since actions are spent to move, attack or change facing, the cavalry can therefore "charge" after making the move, while the infantry can only stop after moving into the next tile. In a limited activation (cost 1 command), a group of any size can be activated. A unit in the group can be assigned as the "lead unit" which can move and then attack, while the remaining units can follow the lead unit but cannot attack. In an express activation, it costs 2 commands for a single unit of any type, 1 for a veteran unit. The above sounds a bit complicated as it seem. With player aid in the game as well as those in BGG here, soon they are just "natural" to the flow of the game!
Attack is resolved with reference to a very important Combat Table, in which combat effectiveness differential is expressed as a number. The number is lower if a type of attacking unit is more effective against a certain type of defending unit. For example, the number is 9 if heavy infantry is attacking heavy infantry but 8 if it is attacking heavy cavalry.
To resolve a combat, you roll two dice and then modify the result with a number of factors. The most common ones are +1 for the combat bonus (with spending of a command point), non-levy unit attacking levy unit, lead unit attacking downhill, and the more curious one to me - hoplites attacking hoplites who did not just enter the tile. This is an interesting way to increase the more bloody results between hoplites ferocity. The final dieroll result is then compared to the combat effectiveness differential number. For a positive combat differential of 1 or 2, one hit is inflicted; two hits if 3 and the attacker chooses to conduct an all-out attack (for fresh unit, not reduced "spent" unit); or two hits if 3 above.
A morale check is required when a unit is eliminated, i.e. it has been inflicted two hits or more. It goes to the "shattered" state and other units on the map have to go for a morale check to see if they go panic. You roll two dice and halve the one with the lower number. The result is adjusted by the Army morale (basically a comparison of the size of the Armies on the board). It is further adjusted by Unit morale according to the class of the unit, distance to the battle just taken place, fresh or spent status of the unit etc. A negative result would cause the unit to panic and rout. If the result is zero, the unit would go panic only if it is in the same hex of the battle.
Victory Points are tallied at the end of turn 10 or when all units from a side are removed from the map. The total fighting value of all spent, withdrawn leader or routed enemy units are the VPs. Each shattered unit worth 2 times the fighting value of the unit while each other routed unit earns additional one VP. Remember the handicap rules on the calculation of VPs though. It is because even though all of your units have gone after morale check, if you have inflicted enough casualties on your opponent, you still have a chance to victory. I think this is an excellent idea to balance the gameplay and historicity, in which your performance is gauged strictly against the performance of your own historical counterpart.
If you use the historical deployments given in the game (here is the only quibble I found with Lost Battles - the historical deployment map is too small for two players to read at the same time!), you start the scenario on turn two. Otherwise, you can always choose to use free deployment rules, which is encouraged by the game designer Philip Sabin himself, as the design is built up from free deployment premises.
There are so many scenarios to choose from in this package that it is simply a pure fun in itself choosing the one for a game. There are individual campaign rules which link the given scenarios altogether. Different level of victory and defeat are determined after the end of the scenario. Campaign victory points are awarded to the players according to the respective levels who completed the scenarios. This way, even if you lost one scenario, you still have a chance to come back in a campaign by winning the remaining scenarios.
There are still many chromes that I haven't touched upon yet. For examples, there are many leaders in the game as it covers a lot of history. There is a system called "Empire Strategic Game" that links the game (essentially a tactical game) to a strategic aspect. I expect the system, just like many other chromes in this game, would enrich the main system and gameplay system only much more, not less. Overall, I couldn't stop recommending this game to anyone who has the interest in the ancient period, whether your are a board wargamer or miniature wargamer. Grab a copy while stock lasts! This is THE game if you ever only bring one copy of ancient wargame to Robinson's Island. The game is an everlasting glory in itself - value expounded if you manage to get a copy of the accompanying book as well. It proves that academic wargame designer can also work, not just dry number-crunching military wargame or commercial wargame. It captures the best of both world. Yes, the bar is raised again. Lost Battles is a perfect illustration of how to combine both simulation and game together. (And no, I am an independent wargamer and I bought this game with my own hard-earned money.)