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Subject: Review by Game Elements rss

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Cedric Chong
Singapore
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Play History
Played with gamers, casual-gamers and non-gamers.

Update: An update after 20 games.

Thematic
BattleLore is set in the Late Medieval hypothetical 14th century period around the time of the Black Death and the Hundred Year's War. BattleLore depicts the conflict of England and France armies fought over medium-sized battlefields. Thrown into the mix are fantasy races, magic spells, and creatures like Hill Giants and Earth Elementals.

Chrome
In the unlikely event that you haven't already heard, the bits in BattleLore are top-notch. Everything is beautiful. The only component I feel that is over-produced is the Lore goblet (bin). Since its open-information, throwing lore tokens into the bin can delay the game abit when you have to check how many lore you currently have. Yes, you have to know your current Lore count, and more importantly your opponent's, all the time. At least you do, if you want to win. ^^

Update: No longer play with the bin.

Miniatures
The miniatures in the game are highly detailed and scream "paint-me-please". There is already a growing community of players who post pictures of beautifully painted BattleLore miniatures. Regardless of whether you paint them or not, the 200+ miniatures that comes with the basic game makes it pound for pound, worth your money.

Set-Up Time
The scenarios take some time to set-up. Although by comparison, it is shorter than Memoir '44. This is because in Memoir '44, there are more terrains, and stuffs like wires and sandbags. For BattleLore, once the game is set-up, the rest is a smooth ride.

A point to note, the terrain tiles in BattleLore are friendlier than those in Memoir '44. I believe the publisher noticed the double-sided tiles can delay setup quite significantly. In BattleLore, they designed it such that there are only afew variations on the core terrains, making setup of terrain faster.

I take about one minute to set up the terrain, five minutes to place the banners and miniatures.

Little Downtime
The card-driven mechanics ensure little downtime. Most decisions are tactical.

More Balanced Scenarios
In comparison to historical simulations from Memoir '44, the scenarios in BattleLore are more balanced.

Update: It is apparent from the AARs on battlelore.com that the scenarios are not totally balanced. Currently, adventures 3, 4, 6, 8 seem to be the most slanted. Adventures 5, 7, 9 seem to be the most balanced.

Balanced Game Mechanics
The Command Cards are more balanced to mitigate the effect of randomness. The Lore cards are slightly more inbalanced, but countered firstly by its Lore costs, and secondly by the maximum playable of one card per turn by each player, and thirdly by the small number of maximum hand of Lore cards. The Lore face of the dice counter bad luck of missing by giving you a Lore token. The War Council share similar spell abilities on some cards that further balance them, yet having a distinct feel for each (Warrior, Rogue, Wizard, Cleric).

Dice-fest (Random)?
Yes, you get to roll many dice in this game and very frequently. You deploy your troops tactically to increase the number of dice you get to throw. You plan the usage of spells at the most strategic times to raise that number even higher. In the end, its still rolling dice and inevitably, random. The rules of the basic game makes elimination of Creatures (Giant Spiders, Hill Giants, Earth Elementals) extremely random. Players report deaths varying from the first few hits to the toughest ones enduring up to 15 hits and survived till the game ended. A variant rule can fix that.

IMHO, the randomness in this game is managable. Rolling dice is fun. Not knowing the outcome of battles is fun, and probably realistic. Going into the battle knowing the exact outcome (e.g. Antike) would make game weight heavier, and game duration longer. The game would probably become a complete mental gym. Not fun, IMHO.

Player Interaction
This game is all about player interaction. Players throw maneuvers after maneuvers at each other. I press, you counter, I ambush, you evade.

Secret War Council Deployment
The secret selection of War Council keeps things interesting. However, I feel unbalanced game may arise because of this. I have tried both secret as well as open war council selection. I have no preference for either. One way in which advantage may be thrown to a player could be if his opponent choose a L1 Cleric, he choose a L3, that would mean 14 Cleric spells in the deck. If his opponent didn't choose a Cleric, that would mean 8 Cleric spells in the deck. Investing L3 when he only get 8 cards is going to cost him. On the other hand, getting 14 cards in the deck with him having L3 versus his opponent's L1 Cleric is good, assuming the probability of drawing these cards are equal.

This is something to think about when choosing War Council. My friends and I would deploy and redeploy our War Council openly until we are satisfied with the selection. Its like a mini-game by itself (This mini-game is a fun exercise where sinister smiles are exchanged and bluffs are called ^^). This usually lead to the final deck setup resulting in 50% probability of either of us getting useful cards from the Lore Deck. Of course, the other cards you can use, just pay 3 Lore tokens more. ^^

Also, judging by the terrain, you will be able to guess your opponent's strategy by choice of his War Council (sometimes ^^).

Strategy vs Tactics
There are elements of long term strategy and short term tactics in this game. With the Lore and Command cards you have, you can plan some nasty combos ahead of time. However, the exact execution depends on tactical situations, how the troops are maneuvered and the degree which your opponent's actions foil your plan. The ability to execute your plans successfully is satisfying.

Clear Victory Conditions
In BattleLore, the Victory Condition is clear. Each player play to X banners. The number of banners each has is open information. This information may sometimes affect tactical decisions in interesting ways. In any case, the moment the winning banner is scored, the game ends. GGs are exchanged, everyone smiles. New game.

There are good games where the winner is not known when the game ends. You have to count Victory Points (VPs). Examples like Puerto Rico where you count VPs, and Modern Art where you count money. We also have games like Ticket to Ride. It is insane as players almost always forget to add some VPs throughout the game and as long as one player disputes, everyone has to count their VPs based on the board conditions all over. That is pretty sucky. I generally prefer games where victory condition is clear and straight-forward.

Replay Value
The War Council makes this game highly replayable. When the scenario-editor comes online, it'll only get more interesting. On top of that, we have epic rules where you join two boards together for a massive battlefield. We have heroes rules. Days of Wonder has planned expansions. The community is asking for it. More races, more creatures, more weapons!

Update: Amazing replayability. Same map, different council, different creatures equal different strategy, different outcomes.

Gateway Game
This game is non-gamer friendly. Introduced successfully to non-gamers and the response were excellent. The summary cards are really good and useful for teaching the game in a systematic and meaningful way to new gamers.

Update: I have played with this eleven or twelve year old kid who plays lots of PC strategy games. He totally kicked my butt in his first games of BattleLore. Incredible.

Medieval vs Lore Adventures
I believe almost everyone started by playing Non-Lore Adventures. Once mastered, everyone probably plays Lore Adventures exclusively. I have the chance of playing a Medieval Adventure after playing several of Lore Adventures. Expecting it to be less engaging, it surprised me that it didn't turn out to be so. The Medieval Adventures, experienced after a fair dose of Lore Adventures, are fun and engaging as well. I am really impressed by this and it shows the core system of the game is solid. Try it. (This should not be a surprise since the mechanics of this game had went through three iterations from Battle Cry, to Memoir '44, to Commands & Colors: Ancients, before coming to the current BattleLore.)

Update: Medieval is more tactical and less random. However, Lore is much more fun!

Game Duration vs Decisions
The game plays in one hour. From the first minute, you become involved in making interesting decisions. Some tactical, some strategic. Sometimes you have to guess what your opponent is going to do. Sometimes you read your opponent's moves and guess what command cards he has. Every minute of the one hour is engaging, fulfilling and fun.

In comparison, there are nasty games out there where you make one or two strategic decisions and labour through turns after turns to execute them. Long down time and mindless play plague these games.

Therefore, the amount of decisions and fun packed into the short game duration makes BattleLore one of the most engaging and satisfying experience I've had.

Final Words
This game has many elements of a great game. Its fun, deeply engaging, short game duration, polished game mechanics, highly replayable, easy to get into, beautifully produced with a strong company supporting the product line, providing excellent customer service. What more can you ask for in a game?

I have played a couple of games in my short stint in boardgames. I rate BattleLore a 10. It is the only 10 I've ever rated. I believe I'd always want to play this game.

Now, when is my friend gonna show up for our big fight where my Hill Giant's gonna crush his Giant Spider once and for all?
\(^_^)/

Update: After squeezing 20 games in three weeks, I should drop its rating. There are no games where I can play so many times within such a short period without feeling drained and dry. I should declare that I'm BattleLore-Out. However, I'm still addicted to the game, still looking forward to the next session. Something is not right! I'm loving it!

Update:Days of Wonder customer support feedback: An email enquiry regarding a missing token for Ticket to Ride: Marklin was replied after about 2 weeks. Received the air mailed replacement 3 weeks after. An email enquiry regarding missing cardholder for BattleLore took afew days for the reply to come in. Received the air mailed replacement 2 weeks after. Totally happy and satisfied with the support, especially their expressed commitment to replace the dice (still on the way, I suppose).
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steven colby
United States
mount laurel
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awesome review!!!
 
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Michael Cheong
Singapore
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Good review dude! Hah but so much for your Giant crushing my Spider (unless you crushed your other friend, then I am very nmuch relieved that your Giant spared me!) You're right about the intensity of gameplay being covered in such a short time. Battlelore truly is a great game, and I can see what my next game purchase is going to be
 
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Cedric Chong
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redeemedegg wrote:
Hah but so much for your Giant crushing my Spider
Hehe. Yeah, my Hill Giant was pretty wussy against your two cavalries charge and died in first encounter. However, I do remember vividly that in another game, my Hill Giant totally kicked your butt. Kekeke. Today's session awesome. Thanks!

Note: Once again, another fine display of how randomly creatures die.


Thanks to everyone who left me kind words. Merry Xmas~! \(^_^)/
 
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