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Subject: A Couple’s Review rss

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David Bryson
Canada
Ontario
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Perspective
This review takes a very specific point of view – that of a couple who mostly plays 2-player games together. Our criteria for enjoying a game (in no particular order) are:

Theme: We both like fantasy, but there are a number of other themes that work too.

Time: We have young kids, so it’s hard to find the time for a 3-hour game.

Components: Like most gamers, we like quality components, especially when they contribute to the theme.

Conflict: Defined as the opportunity for “take-that” play, in particular deliberate plays that set back the opponent’s progress. Too much of this is usually bad.

Strategy vs. luck: Some luck is important to give both of us a chance to win (I tend to be the strategic type), but some strategic or tactical play is necessary to keep the game interesting.

2-player suitability: Note that, because most of our game plays are 2-player, I’m not opining on how many players are best for the game. The question here is whether we have to bend over backwards to make the game playable by two, and how this game compares to other games from a 2-player perspective.

If these aren’t your criteria, caveat emptor. In the case of Battlelore, other reviews have done an exhaustive job of explaining the mechanics of the game, so I’ll save us all the trouble of duplicating that here.

Theme
Check. You really need to use the lore cards (and preferably creatures) to get into the fantasy theme, but once you do the theme is well established. There’s nothing like wiping out a whole unit with a Fireball spell to remind you that you’re not playing Memoir ’44 anymore (although maybe M44 would be more fun with tactical nukes, too).devil

Time
Check. Although, based on game plays to date, I suspect that the 60 minute estimate is going to be a bit optimistic. Our latest game clocked in at 2 hours; admittedly we’re still getting used to the rules. Having said that, this is a wargame, so 60-90 minutes is pretty darned good. The prospect of spending two or more hours on a wargame is enough to garner a quick veto from m’lady (ergo, we’re not going to be seeing War of the Ring around here for the foreseeable future, even though it would be a slam-dunk for theme). The relatively limited movement options afforded by one's hand of command cards also keeps the game moving, which is good. So the time required for Battlelore is a neutral factor for us (as opposed to a positive or a negative).

Components
This has been discussed at length elsewhere, so to the point: The components are awesome! Yes, some of the minis are bent upon receipt, but the hot water treatment works fine. I also have both the Hill Giant (x2!) and the Earth Elemental (thanks FLGS!!), and we’re really looking forward to the follow-on creatures and other expansions (go dragons and elves!!).The tiles are well done, although the terrain options seem a bit simplistic compared to M44 (at least until you get into the creature lairs and the Lore Masters’ Landmarks). I also wonder whether they couldn’t have done something more creative with the back side of the board (given that we’ll never use it to play an expanded game). Those are nits, though, and the overall production quality is very high (which is necessary to justify the correspondingly high price).

Conflict
This is a wargame, so yes, Virginia, there’s going to be conflict. However, if you asked me a few months ago whether I expected that we’d be playing Battlelore, I’d have said no – because it’s a wargame. In the meantime, though, we played a few games of Memoir ’44, and my wife enjoyed it (much to my surprise). Once we visualized Battlelore as M44 with a fantasy theme, the game was an easy sell.

I spent a considerable chunk of my teen years with wargames, so this comes pretty naturally to me. My wife has to be in the right frame of mind to go out and kill things, though. However, what seems to make the conflict tolerable here is the fact that it’s out in the open – you know that the point of the game is to attack opposing troops. The types of conflict that seem to cause the most problems for us is when she has spent 2/3 of the game building something great, and I come along and take it away. For example, suppose you’re close to finishing a huge town in Carcassonne, and your opponent finds a way to shoehorn in and neutralize it by merging two towns (or worse, take control of it).ninja That can cause considerable friction in a spousal game, but that type of play doesn't happen much (if at all) in Battlelore.

Strategy vs. luck
There seems to be a reasonable balance here. I’ve taken to giving my wife some advantages (e.g. a creature when the scenario doesn’t call for one, and/or additional lore council points) to level the playing field a bit, as solid gameplay can usually overcome bad luck.

However, we have had some freaky die rolling to date. For example, in the first game where my wife had a creature (hill giant), she moved it into position on her second turn, attacked a supported unit – missed. Battle back – one blue symbol of the three dice rolled. Roll that one again – blue. Oops. Dead hill giant. My wife was not amused.blush

On a scale of one to nine, where 1 is all luck and 9 is no luck (all strategy) and our preferred zone on this scale would range from 3 to 6, Battlelore rates a 5 for us.

2-player suitability
Check. This is designed to be a 2-player game.

Conclusion
I’m surprised that we both are enjoying Battlelore, but we are. In fact, my wife is suggesting it more often than I am. I’m still not sure what it is about the Command & Colors system that makes a wargame palatable to my wife, but it works (although I’m not rushing out to buy C&C: Ancients, either). The theme and components really make the game come alive for us, and the time commitment is manageable. It’s not our top-rated game, but it is right up there with a number of other games that we both really enjoy. Battlelore is a great way for a couple with a taste for the fantasy genre to get a wargame on the table more than once.



Note: This review is part of a series that applies a couple’s perspective to game reviews. For others in the series (which I hope to expand), click on the “couples_review” tag above this review.

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Josh
United States
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Competence- It's like a whole new form of cheating!
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Nice review, and enjoy the fact that you are reviewing from a specific perspective. Keep up the good work!

Bit surprised about your average times per game. We (wife and I) have played several times and are averaging about 45 minutes per game. There's about a 15 minute frontloaded setup time, so it's about 2 hours for two games for us. We have found it is possible to get home from work, cook, eat, play two scenarios (with a quick break to make tea), do some chores, and do a bit of goofing off in the course of an evening. Nice to be able to sneak some gaming into the course of an evening!
 
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Rob Bradley
United States
Belleville
Wisconsin
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Just a question to all who play 2 player competitive games with your spouse:

Do you (or have you) ever place a bet on the outcome. Like loser does the dishes or Winner gets a (insert sexual favor here)?

P.S. Even w/o a prize, I've thrown a game to keep my wife jovial. It's important to play the metagame

 
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James Koopman
Canada
Hamilton
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Good review. Me and my fiancee completely agree with you that Battlelore has lots of conflict, but not the angering type of conflict. But I do find your game time a little odd. After the first few plays, our games take less than an hour including set up. Maybe you're overthinking it? Keep up the good work. I enjoy reading the two player/spousal play reviews.
 
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Paul DeStefano
United States
Long Island
New York
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Re: A Couple’s Review
Spacehulk wrote:
Do you (or have you) ever place a bet on the outcome. Like loser does the dishes or Winner gets a (insert sexual favor here)?
I think this happens in any good relationship.
 
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Jim W
United States
wilsonville
Oregon
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Nice review.

As for playing Battlelore with spouses, my wife was not pleased when I started mentioning Battlelore. She started charging me 25 cents everytime I mentioned it. I finally got it and played Agincourt with her (she was the English). I warned her that the French were heavily favored as I heard from the session reports and reviews. However, she whalped me cry crushing the French 4-1. She had ideal cards and pretty solid strategy. Every since I was able to talk her into a few more games (of course at a price )
 
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*two thumbs up*
 
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David Bryson
Canada
Ontario
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Thanks for all of the kind comments.

In retrospect, our last game was drawn out by a few interruptions (e.g. our one-year-old tends to wake up a few times after she's gone to bed, so we have to go to her room for a few minutes to settle her down). If we had been playing without interruptions, we might have shaved 20-30 minutes off the play time. We were taking our time with the moves, too, as we get more accustomed to the rules (and we were playing with almost all the rules last night). I'm pretty sure we'll get the play time down, though.

Re. the metagame, we haven't tried wagering on outcomes, but maybe we'll try once we have a better idea of what kind of handicap will give each of us an even chance of winning.
 
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Rob Leveille
Canada
St. Catharines
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Quote:
I've thrown a game to keep my wife jovial. It's important to play the metagame
Wow. That's the biggest no-no in our house. Aside from our highly competetive natures that would prevent us of even thinking of throwing a game, even my nine year old would be insulted if she thought we were just 'letting her win'.

If you win a game in my house, you've won a game.

Now, handicapping at the outset is a different animal all together.
 
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Michal Vit
Czech Republic
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Thanks! Great review from the couple's perspective. I'm already considering BattleLore for some time, not sure how my wife will accept it. This encourages me to give it a try.

I'm also checking your other couple's reviews.
 
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