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Subject: Review by a Commands & Colors: Ancients player rss

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Mark Christopher
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In the wonderful game, Bonaparte at Marengo, this is how to get nasty Frenchies out of a village.
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I've just come from my first three playings of Battlelore, specifically the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th scenarios. That means I haven't gotten to the lore scenarios yet; that'll likely happen tomorrow.

I've played all the games in the C&C series now, multiple times. My favorite is by far Commands & Colors: Ancients, with Battle Cry collecting dust on my shelf and a friend who owns Memoir '44 rarely suggesting that one to me any more. Both of those earlier games are fun, but not in the league of C&C:A.

I was eager to try BL, but aware that it was sort of a regression; a step back towards M'44 from C&C:A, at least from what I'd read. The fantasy aspect at once intrigued me and put me off; I've read various books about battles, the history and evolution of warfare, and enjoy putting myself in the postion of past generals. While I love fantasy as a book genre, I don't tend to play many fantasy games, especially war-related ones.

The addition of some rules used in C&C:A also attracted me; units being bold, units retreating more than one hex per flag rolled, and a more diverse set of units than found in BC or M'44.

All in all, I was prepared to enjoy the game but not be blown away.

That's pretty much what happened, though I enjoyed it a slight bit less than I thought.

The main reason for that is the command card deck. I've gotten very used to the area cards, the ones that allow you to command a variable number of units on the left, right, or center, not being quite so prevalent in the deck. In C&C:A, there are, along with those cards, the Darken Sky cards, the Infantry Onslaught (called "Line Command" in C&C:A), and Battlelore (called "I Am Spartacus" in C&C:A) more (or at least, it seems like there are more) cards that command the green (light), blue (medium), and red (heavy) units. Even more importantly, there are on-board leaders in C&C:A, and there are several cards that take advantage of them to command the leaders, the unit attached to the leader, and 3 or 4 additional linked adjacent units. Thus, not getting left flank cards for most of the game won't cripple that flank. Add to that the fact that every unit battles back in C&C:A, and sometimes a flank can almost take care of itself, or at least hold until you can command there. Finally, many units, specifically light units and fast units, have the ability to "evade"; that is, make it less easy to hit them by running away. They give up the chance to battle back should they evade but will likely survive.

However, I found that it's not as useful to keep troops in lines as it is in clumps in BL. I can't tell if that's just because of the situations I found myself in, or if it's more systemic, and it's nothing I could call a flaw; merely something I wasn't used to. However, the lack of command cards that aren't area-dependant along with the need to leave unit in clumps for mutual support or else have them lose the ability to battle back does seem to make this a more luck-dependent game than C&C:A, and worse, at least from what I'm used to, a less dynamic game.

Don't get me wrong; I had fun and look forward to playing more, trying out the critters and the lore, and really seeing what this system can do. So far, though, this feels like a slightly improved M'44 than a branch of the system that's come as far as C&C:A has; a rich tactical experience and beautiful use of Richard Borg's C&C system.
 
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Dan Dolan
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Wait till you try the Lore. It really changes the game quite a bit. There are a lot more creatures that will be coming. It's going to be a VERY good "game system"
 
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Jeff Paul
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Interesting review. I must admit that I am on the fence for this one.

At first, I was quite excited, but then, how many Command and Colours games does one need (or can one afford :-) )

I look forward to hearing your reaction to lore.

In the interests of full disclosure:

M44 - didn't really like this
* the troops did not seem to react like I would expect (guess I have played too much ASL and other tactical wargames) - and it seemed to encourage ahistorical tactics
* I didn't find there were enough different types of troops
* I found the miniatures clunky and fiddly to move around

CC:Ancients - I like this
* liked the blocks
* like how it encourages historical tactics (form line, light skirmishers, etc)
* liked the leaders
* liked the many different troop types
* did not like how there is really no nationality characteristic - heavy infantry is heavy infantry
* (oh, and I didn't like the dice - but this has been fixed :-) )

So, will I like Battlelore...



 
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Blue Jackal
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I'm enjoying Battlelore, though I can definitely see a player who owned other games of Borg's questioning the purchase...
 
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E J
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TnT! wrote:

CC:Ancients - I like this
* liked the blocks
Blocks!!! Nooooo!

 
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David Bohnenberger
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I'm looking forward to trying this game, but my main fear is that nobody's gonna wanna play C&C:A anymore. In fact, last month someone turned me down for a game of C&C:A with the reason that they were "waiting for BattleLore".

I don't know if I'll buy it. It seems I really won't need to - most of my friends already have it, and if what I fear is true, this will be the only C&C game I'll be able to play for the foreseeable future anyway.
 
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I was telling a friend that I think C&C:A still has the edge among all the C&C titles at the moment. I felt this was because there's a lot of different and specialized units, the card deck offers a bit more flexibility (thanks to the leaders), and the rules are tailor-made for the period.

Historical BattleLore is not nearly the game that C&C: Ancients is, but it models a different era of linear warfare. One where a lot of specialized and highly developed knowledge about weapons and warfare have been lost. Medieval units did not have the size, high degree of drill, and flexibility that a the big Classical era armies had, so I expect that a faithfful recreation of the period would reflect that. (And I think BattleLore does.)

But with the Lore deck and the addition of the other fantasy elements, BattleLore is very nearly (at least approaching) the sort of game that C&C: Ancients is now. I find the Lore deck idea fascinating and while it may work best in BattleLore, I think variants of it could be applied in some way to any of the C&C titles. (Say, an Operations deck for Memoir or an "Oracle" deck for C&C:A or a "Turn of Events" deck for Battle Cry.) a lot of the flexibility that is missing (understandably) when playing the historical BattleLore is recaptured with the Lore deck.

But you can tailor how much "magic" you wan to add to the game, too. One BGGer has already suggested that players simply not be able to draw any Lore when they reach the end of the turn. Which is not a bad idea if players think that Lore has too much influence on the game.

I find them both great. And I think it would be great if Hasbro gave BattleCry another shot with some of the historical detail that we all know (now) that the system and players can handle.
 
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Mark Christopher
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TnT! wrote:
M44 - didn't really like this
* the troops did not seem to react like I would expect (guess I have played too much ASL and other tactical wargames) - and it seemed to encourage ahistorical tactics
* I didn't find there were enough different types of troops
* I found the miniatures clunky and fiddly to move around

CC:Ancients - I like this
* liked the blocks
* like how it encourages historical tactics (form line, light skirmishers, etc)
* liked the leaders
* liked the many different troop types
* did not like how there is really no nationality characteristic - heavy infantry is heavy infantry
* (oh, and I didn't like the dice - but this has been fixed :-) )

So, will I like Battlelore...
This may be a rhetorical question, but I'll give my feelings on it anyway.

I was also underwhelmed by M'44 for the same reasons as you, and was therefore rather blown away by C&C:A for pretty much the same reasons you were. I do think that BL is the better game than M'44. The troops act a bit more like they would have, is seems, than in M'44 (okay, the dwarves and goblins are fantasy races, but even they follow the standard archtypes for them). Days of Wonder did keep the game more towards game than simulation as compared to GMT and C&C:A, and given the choice, I'd usually (though not always, depending on my mood) rather play C&C:A than BL. I don't see myself ever wanting to play either of the other two games of the series ever again.

The things that kept messing me up were the limited battling back, though I got used to that, and the utter lack of evasion rules. That was especially jarring when it came to cavalry. One has to be a lot more careful with cav in BL. Well, the cards were also tough to get used to; there are just so many options in C&C:A.

So, if you can get used to a card mix more like M'44 than C&C:A, and having rules that begin to explore the territory C&C:A does, and if you like the fantasy aspect at all, I'm betting you'll at least enjoy the game.

Dweeb wrote:
I'm looking forward to trying this game, but my main fear is that nobody's gonna wanna play C&C:A anymore. In fact, last month someone turned me down for a game of C&C:A with the reason that they were "waiting for BattleLore".

I don't know if I'll buy it. It seems I really won't need to - most of my friends already have it, and if what I fear is true, this will be the only C&C game I'll be able to play for the foreseeable future anyway.
This is a fear of mine, too. I own BC and C&C:A; one friend owns M'44 and the Russian expansion, another friend owns BL. A third friend is my main opponent for C&C:A, and it was with him that I've played all my games of BL so far. I'm betting I'll be able to play either game with him, but that remains to be seen. As my friend who owns BL bought it, I'm hoping that's not the only one he wants to play. Indeed, he's in the SCA, so I'm surprised he's not more into C&C:A, what with the huge lines of infantry crashing into each other.

BradyLS wrote:
Historical BattleLore is not nearly the game that C&C: Ancients is, but it models a different era of linear warfare. One where a lot of specialized and highly developed knowledge about weapons and warfare have been lost. Medieval units did not have the size, high degree of drill, and flexibility that a the big Classical era armies had, so I expect that a faithfful recreation of the period would reflect that. (And I think BattleLore does.)
I think that's the crux of my being somewhat underwhelmed by the "historical" scenarios; I was hoping for C&C: Medieval rather than the base for a fantasy game. Indeed, I tried to rationalize the lessened capabilities of the units as you just described; these weren't the well-trained armies of Rome. Still, I was hoping for more and instead had to change my expectations. For example, I could see overconfident heavy cavalry (knights) not being able to evade, but in that case I'd expect it to be bold, preferring to continue fighting. I now see the basic game for what it is rather than what I'd hoped it would. Somewhat disappointing, but hopefully adding creatures and lore will make it a neat fantasy battle game (personally, I'm looking forward to, and perhaps they're already out there, fantasy literature-inspired battles. Pelennor Fields, Five Armies, that sort of thing).

I'll be trying the scenarios that add lore and creatures later this afternoon and will report my feelings on them.
 
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Nate Merchant
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Phlegm wrote:
Wait till you try the Lore. It really changes the game quite a bit. There are a lot more creatures that will be coming. It's going to be a VERY good "game system"
Yeah, Dan, but that's what everybody says. "Oh, wait until you see what they will come up with!" So, basically, you're paying $70 on the PROMISE and the POTENTIAL of a really great gaming system, when you have that out of the box with C&C:A.

The Lore is fine, but I sure didn't play it and yell, "OMFG! That so roxxors!!!" It does what you'd expect it to do, but I don't feel like I've made some genius tactical maneuver playing the Lore cards. Or maybe I'm just jaded after playing Warhammer Fantasy Battles. That could be it.
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John O'Haver
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I have C&C:Ancients plus the 1st expansion as well as M'44 +expansions and BC. C&C:A has been the main only war game I've played in months. It is the perfect combination of complexity, pplaying time and historical interest for both me and my main gamer friend, Richard the Methodical, an old chit pusher like me.

My concern is Richard will not be seduced away from C&C:A by the minis and theme of Battlelore. Even if he is, I've spent $100.00 on C&C:A so far and I'm still getting my fix and kicks from it.
 
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Doug Adams
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scribidinus wrote:
My concern is Richard will not be seduced away from C&C:A by the minis and theme of Battlelore.
I'm having a hard time being seduced by the theme of BattleLore. Goblins and a Spider running around Europe during the 100 Years War...? I don't know whether to laugh or cry
 
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Mark Christopher
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I just played the first two lore scenarios; each player gets a level-1 wizard in them, and one player (my opponent, in this case) gets a giant spider in the second.

I do like the addition of lore, though I'll hold off from more than a tentative opinion until I play with the full lore rules. I'll update my rating (currently 7.5; BC and M'44 are 7, C&C:A is 9) after that point. Lore added possibilities that helped make up for the lack of leaders, evade, and similar, and of course succeeded in giving the game a more fantastic feeling. Some of the lore was gaudy and impressive, like the fireball that utterly destroyed a heavy infantry unit I had. Some was more subtle, like the "slow" spell that cut the number of my opponent's heavy cavalry attack dice from 5 dice to 2, turning the tide on that flank.

I wish I could give my opinion on the giant spider, but as my opponent never had a "center" card after the first turn, it never entered the battle.

I still prefer Commands & Colors: Ancients; it's still a richer tactical experience, where one can use reasonable tactics and get reasonable results (like my opponent charging his elephants through my lines at Zama, despite the efforts of my lights to whittle them down. Grrr...), and I expect to play that one more often than BL, but Battlelore is a fun game in its own right. The lore does seem to add more chaos, which goes some way in countering the randomness of the cards, and this game needs it to stand out from the other games in the system (and indeed, to stand above BC and M'44). I'm glad my friend bought it; I wouldn't have, even after playing it, but it's nice to know someone who owns it. I'm still hoping for scenarios inspired by Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit.
 
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Spare Tire
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Quote:
I wish I could give my opinion on the giant spider, but as my opponent never had a "center" card after the first turn, it never entered the battle.
I'm still new to the game , but I thought that you could spend 1 lore token an activate the spider at any time?

I wish I had my rulebook handy.
 
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Mark Christopher
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SpareTire wrote:
Quote:
I wish I could give my opinion on the giant spider, but as my opponent never had a "center" card after the first turn, it never entered the battle.
I'm still new to the game , but I thought that you could spend 1 lore token an activate the spider at any time?

I wish I had my rulebook handy.
I have no idea; I only skimmed through the creature rules, letting my opponent deal with them, as it was his creature. I'll ask him to check on it.
 
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markus_kt wrote:
I think that's the crux of my being somewhat underwhelmed by the "historical" scenarios; I was hoping for C&C: Medieval rather than the base for a fantasy game.
Well, I can't help that. There was plenty of press and buzz on BGG about what BattleLore would be and wouldn't be. The packaging, talk, and Primer said it would be an alternate Earth set in the Hundred Years War where magic was possible. That didn't sound like C&C: Medieval to me.
 
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Philip Thomas
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You can activate a creature out of section by spending 3 lore, yes. Its in the rulebook, but not on tbe creature cards, so easy to miss.

 
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Mark Christopher
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BradyLS wrote:
markus_kt wrote:
I think that's the crux of my being somewhat underwhelmed by the "historical" scenarios; I was hoping for C&C: Medieval rather than the base for a fantasy game.
Well, I can't help that. There was plenty of press and buzz on BGG about what BattleLore would be and wouldn't be. The packaging, talk, and Primer said it would be an alternate Earth set in the Hundred Years War where magic was possible. That didn't sound like C&C: Medieval to me.
It was the triumph of hope over experience. Being set in medieval times with a historical scenario, it's not hard to make the leap. I read up on the game and knew what to expect as far as the rules went, the lore, and so on, but having played C&C:A for so long, I'd forgotten how much the command deck in that game is enhanced over BC and M'44, and now I realize, BL. As I've said, I was hoping for more. Also as I've said, it's a fun game, and the lore pushes it beyond BC and M'44, but so far, not to the heights C&C:A has reached. It's a fun game I'll happily play, especially when I'm in a fantasy mood, but I doubt it'll come out as often as C&C:A, as the latter game just has a better battle dynamic to it.
 
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Mark Christopher
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Philip Thomas wrote:
You can activate a creature out of section by spending 3 lore, yes. Its in the rulebook, but not on tbe creature cards, so easy to miss.
Thanks! We must have missed it in the book, and were generally just using the creature and spider cards the few times anything came up with the spider (basically, one shot with my archers at it that did nothing).
 
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David McLeod
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I guess on the positive side Battlelore and C&C:A are not the same game! Cause I honestly would be dissapointed if people were reviewing this saying "If you have Ancients, avoid BL because it's the same game set in a different time." I think RB does a good job of making each one unique and it seems the only people who've been dissapointed are the ones who've played all versions.

Different strokes for different folks I guess.
 
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