- Elijah LauSingapore
These are my impressions of BL after 2 games and basically reflect my past experience with Memoir’44 and Command and Colors: Ancient, as well as my background as a boardgamer, wargamer and RPG gamer.
I’ll not go into the rules and whatnots, as I think they have been amply covered in other reviews. These are just a few observations I have about BL.
To me, BL is probably the best incarnation of the C&C system. The hallmark of the C&C system – cardplay and dice-rolling on a variable terrain map divided into sectors – are recognizable here. The simplicity of the system and ease of play comes through in the system, even with the Lore element thrown in here. In fact, the game is arguably better with the Lore. It gives players more tactical options and ameliorates the common complaint of the C&C system – the “I couldn’t do anything ‘cos I kept getting the wrong cards!” complaint. (Not that it’s not a valid complaint, having made it several times myself.) With the Lore, players can think of creative ways to employ their command cards, like using Portal to bring a weak enemy unit from one sector (where you have no cards) to another where you can now have a go at him.
I like how the simplicity of the C&C system in BL captures the spirit of the goblin army. Goblins when supported are “bold” but at any other time, they are “frightened”. The cowards! I played the goblin army in one scenario. It was interesting to see how my strong goblin army could crumble easily after taking a few hits. Those forced to retreat but couldn’t, had to take extra hits and I took a lot of such hits.
With M’44 and C&C:A, there’s also the tendency of the wargamer in me to judge the system more harshly than I should, since it’s not always possible for a generic system like C&C to capture the historical flavour of the specific time period in C&C:A and M’44. Still, the system was particularly jarring in M’44. But in BL, and in C&C:A, the concept of support that comes from maintaining a ‘line’ gives the C&C system more tactical depth. Players now have incentive to properly to position their troops or risk being picked off piecemeal. Unlike M’44, where your troops could happily wander all over the map…
This is still C&C of course, so there’s a fair amount of randomness with the Lore card and command card draw, and dice rolling. But it works for a light game with a short playing time – about 1 hour.
Days of Wonder proves again that it is a company that makes nice games. Considering that C&C:A cost $65, for $5 more, you get these great-looking minis in BL. The detail is pretty impressive once set up, the game is a visual treat. Downsides – not all the soldiers are easily distinguishable, e.g., between medium and heavy knights, goblin skirmishers and medium infantry etc. This is not a problem when the units are set up and are grouped with the flags but the similarity does increase the set-up time. 15 minutes of set-up for a 1 hour game is a little excessive. And actually, the flags do cause problems too. The blue and green flags are similar in shade. Not a showstopper but annoying nonetheless. These are just some of the niggling things but they are not showstoppers.
I only played 2 scenarios so make of it what you will but I got the impression, after a read-through, that the scenarios appear better balanced than C&C:A and M’44. Maybe the fantasy theme helps, in that it frees scenario building from having to adhere to history. Again, BL does give players more tactical options. Maybe that prevents one player from being completely hosed.
In M’44 and C&C:A, 6-0, 6-1 scores were almost de rigueur for many scenarios, and they were pretty much a foregone conclusion just halfway through the game. But the 2 scenarios I played were tense and things came down to the wire. The first scenario was "Wizards and Lore", in which my opponent won 6-5. My apprehension is really that of the official scenarios, most appear quite bland and Lore doesn’t feature in about half of them. The other scenario I played was an unofficial scenario involving goblins who had captured the mayor of a city and the “good guys” army attempt to rescue the mayor. I managed to win this scenario, which contrasted nicely the strong but fragile goblin army cast in a defensive role and the resilient human/dwarf army having to press the attack against unfavourable terrain.
The interesting thing with BL is that I tend to look at it through my RPG lens, rather than my wargame lens. So I do find it more enjoyable than M’44 and C&C:A. With the latter two games, the wargamer in me frets over the simplistic system and how it doesn’t give a really good sense of warfare. With BL, I switch my “military historian” mode off and get transported to my college days, hack-and-slashing and spellslinging. The tactical decisionmaking over what spells to cast, where’s the best place to deploy the Hill Giant etc appeals to the D&Der in me and, I think, to most D&Ders as well. I think the War Council, where characters can increase in level is a concept that would be appealing to RPGers.
I’ve not completely sold on BL, mainly because it’s a light, 2-player game, while I prefer heavier 2-player games – wargames, basically. But I had fun – certainly the fantasy theme appealed to me as an RPGer and the component quality adds enjoyment to the game. I’ll recommend BL to anyone that’s inclined to playing an easy-to-learn conflict-type game for two players, with some interesting decisionmaking and is not afraid of randomness. And if you're a hack-and-slasher missing the times when you threw lots of dice and fireballs indiscriminately, I'll recommend BL to you as well.
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- Gabe AlvaroUnited States
Nice review. I like your angle/take. It's funny, what doesn't sell you on it totally sells me on it. I love the lightness. I totally agree about the setup time. 15 mins for 60 mins of playtime IS a lot proportionally...but I still love it.
Interesting that you mention the similarity of blue and green flags. I don't have this problem. My annoying problem is sometimes telling the difference in unit color on the dice. Maybe I just need to get used to it.
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- Joe Ritter(jar011)United States
I agree. Nice review and about the blue and green flags. We usually play in my dining room which has decent light and its still hard to see what color is right in front of me. That said, the game is very good. My friend and I have played through to scenario 8 or 9 and it keeps getting better.
As for quicker setup, my friend actually bagged all of the different unit types in separate snack bags. So, one of us sets up the tiles, the other places the flags and then we each take a bag and start filling in the different unit types. I think we have set up down to about 5-10 minutes or so. Not great, but not as bad as it could be.
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- Derek HSouth Africa
Re: BattleLore review: Random musings from a board/war/RPG gNice RPG/D&D perspective.
I can't say I agree with the wargame perspective on C&C:A. Many other wargamers have said that this game *does*, in fact, reflect the "feel" of ancient warfare - I suppose it all depends on how many preconceived ideas you want to stick with. The issue regards scenario balance is also misleading. Many of the C&C:A scenarios have surprising depth to them and reversals of fortune often lead to tight results once you get to see the options (not the "6:0" results you refer to). And, regardless of this, some people do not seem to play the game as it was intended - with both players taking a turn to play each side and then adding up total flags obtained i.e. the scenarios were designed to match the historical conditions, not to make a "balanced" game when only playing with one side.
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- Nicholas(Ansbach)United States
Great review and right on the money for some of us!
* As a self-proclaimed heavy wargamer I snobishly think M44 is a silly dicefest for kids and non-wargamers and I won't play it.
* I bought C&C:A because of the added depth and because I heard the ruleset really suited Ancients and I am a big Ancients fan, but the 'hardcore' wargamer in me thinks it's too light and too random - I have to be in the right mood.
* For some reason I threw the wargamer lens out the window for BattleLore and the Fantasy-Hack-and-Slasher in me loves it!
Isn't it funny the way the theme of a game changes your perception?
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