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Subject: Battlelore - First Chevauchee rss

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mike hibbert
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This was originally posted on The Gamescape - by Si, but as it's such a great game, I thought I'd post it here!

Long-time readers may recall that Mike and I had a period of playing Memoir ‘44 every Sunday morning, and we’d then write up the session reports relating how the battle went. Well, with the advent of Battlelore, the battle reports are back. Mike’s got his copy of the game already (mine’s with Santa!), so this morning we sat down to play the ‘First Chevauchee' scenario. We chose this one as we’d had a quick run through the first scenario ‘Agincourt’ earlier in the week and Mike’s also played it a few times online using Instant Messenger (but I’ll let him tell you more about that!).

Ok let’s get this out of the way. As you’ll know from previous posts I was effusive in my praise of Memoir ‘44. Well Battlelore is better. And that’s before we’ve even got into a major aspect of the game - lore. I’m not going to talk about lore for one very good reason - I’ve no idea how it works! The two scenarios we’ve played don’t use it - like the Memoir scenarios the Battlelore scenarios ease you into the game rules gradually. But even without it, I feel Battlelore is a much deeper and more satisfying game. I’ll try and explain why as we go through the session report.

The first thing I’ve noticed from the scenarios we’ve played is that they use even sides - and from a quick flick through the scenario booklet this seems to be consistently the case. In Memoir the scenarios often gave very different resources and objectives to the Axis and Allied players, and in some it wasn’t a case of who was going to win but by how much. This didn’t bother me as Mike and I would play a game then switch sides, with the winner being the player who scored most points over the two battles. In both ‘Agincourt’ and ‘First Chevauchee’ you don’t need to do this - with even sides you can declare a winner after one game.

Now I’ve played a bit of Command and Colors: Ancients (C&C:A) and from what I’ve seen so far Battlelore is closer to this than it is to Memoir. The most noticable ways in which Battlelore is similar to C&C:A and different to Memoir are the relative weakness of ranged combat (and consequent importance of melee), the ability to ‘battle back’ and the support rule that allows you to ignore a retreat if supported. These things alone fundamentally altered the way we approached the battle when compared to Memoir.

First of all, positioning is key. In Battlelore a unit that has two other units adjacent to it is said to be ‘Bold’. This gives it both the ability to battle back when attacked and to ignore one flag. So there’s none of the reckless advancing you get in Memoir. A lone unit is likely to get picked off very quickly and cheaply. You need to hold your line and watch out for weak points that your opponent can exploit.

The importance of good positioning and reliance on melee combat to do major damage appears to mean a Battlelore battle is slower to develop than a Memoir one, but for me the way it does is much more engaging. You’re probing for your opponent’s weaknesses while positioning yourself to make a telling attack. In our game, the opening was very cagey, with both of us using our archers to try and chip away at each other’s forces. Range is good for archers (4 hexes) but damage is poor (just 2 dice and only 1 if they move) so we found that our attacks weren’t having much effect. This seemed pretty authentic to me (not that I’m an expert on medieval warfare!) with the two lines of troops drawn up opposite each other and the archers letting fly.

Mike was the first to break rank, probing my lines along my right flank. This resulted in an isolated skirmish on that side of the battlefield as our sets of units engaged. I was able to gain the upper hand eventually as I advanced my medium cavalry unit into position to attack a non-bold unit of Mike’s and force it back. I then pursued, destroying the unit , rolling around the end of Mike’s line and breaking down his formation. At this point it looked like I had a decisive advantage, and in Memoir that would have been the case. But with some careful maneuvering, Mike was able to reform his defensive position, make all of his units bold and give me reason to pause before attacking.

Again this phase of the game somehow felt right - the commanders’ carefully laid plans degenerating into a fierce free-for-all as a group of units becomes isolated from the main battle line. In this case my swift-moving cavalry was able to reinforce my battling units and make a decisive difference. Once more, this ability to commit reserves and have them swing the tide of battle felt immensely satisfying from a game experience point of view.

There was a key moment in this skirmish that made us notice how different the decision making in Battlelore is than Memoir. Mike had one unit that was down to two figures flanked by a unit with three figures and a unit with four. In Memoir it would have been a no-brainer to attack the numerically weakest unit - to finish it off and get the victory point. But this unit would have been able to battle back. I was attacking with a three-man medium infantry, which rolls 3 dice to attack. The risk of not getting the two hits I needed and having to suffer the battle back was too high. So instead I attacked one of Mike’s stronger but unsupported units. This ability to keep weakened units in the fight and representing a threat is, for me, a great example of how some simple rule changes can result in a far deeper and more challenging game experience.

At this point I was 3-1 up in victory points and with the stalemate on my right it was time to shift attention elsewhere. Mike began an advance on my left, as his centre had been somewhat depleted by reinforcing his left flank. However, I had a terrain advantage here as there was a hill and woods hex on my side of the board. The hill in particular turned out to be importantas it restricted Mike’s ability to battle back by reducing the number of dice he could use to two (the wood basically just got in the way as I wasn’t able to put in the decisive cavalry charged I wanted to because of poor positioning on my part!). So despite the fact that Mike kept a strong formation I felt confident enough to take him on. With my archers continuing to chip away from the centre, I finally managed to get my cavalry through the woods and did enough damage to get the final two victory points I needed.

The final 5-1 scoreline didn’t really do justice to Mike’s play. He’d successfully shored up what looked to be his disastrously weakened left flank and by keeping my units tied up there he prevented them from outflanking his centre. The battle on my left could easily have gone the other way, and I think the terrain was a key factor here. In the end I think it was my experience of C&C:A that gave me an edge, but that won’t last long as we’ll be playing Battlelore regularly from now on!

Anyway, both of us finished the game with big grins on our faces, and agreeing that Battlelore was a cracking game. And we’ve really only just begun to scratch the surface. There’s an entire aspect of the game we haven’t begun to explore and the potential for expanding the game is enormous. I’m really excited about some of the stuff I’ve been reading about Days of Wonder’s plans for the game and how they’re going to evolve both the wargaming and roleplaying aspects of it.
 
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Jon Karlsson
Sweden
Linköping
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This would be much more readable if it had some sort of section headings. Now it's a great big block of text, and that does not really incite me to read it at all.
 
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Simon Vasey
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Jon Karlsson wrote:
This would be much more readable if it had some sort of section headings. Now it's a great big block of text, and that does not really incite me to read it at all.


I myself enjoyed reading your session report . As a Memoir player, it has been an interesting adjustment playing Battlelore. Moral is a great part of this game. I too have enjoyed the necessity of having to hold your lines together.

Will this game make it into your TOP 10?

Thanks for the report Mike - happy gaming.
 
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mike hibbert
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Jon Karlsson wrote:
This would be much more readable if it had some sort of section headings. Now it's a great big block of text, and that does not really incite me to read it at all.


Fair enough, but I didn't post it simply to incite you to read it. I don't like reading stuff with small text, so I don't read it, everyone has a style - this is ours - so sorry if it isn't to your liking, but I guess you can't please everyone.

 
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Douglas S
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Very nice session report, Mike!

 
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Ben Cole
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Very enjoyable session report indeed.

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Robert Wesley
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heh! well, at least I'm not 'alone' where YOU can't "please" everyone eh? This is GREAT for a "Session Report", and don't worry too much mate, SOME folks are just too 'persnickety' and they'd "pitch"-A-*bitch* no matter WHAT you done.
"Keep UP the Good JORB!"
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