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Subject: Battlelore: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly rss

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Christopher Seguin
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Medina
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Just to start off, I would like to inform everyone that I have now played this game six times. I have played Agincourt 3 times, Wizards and Lore 2 times, and Crisis in Avignon once. I have also played against different opponents with different playing styles, and have had my fair collection of both wins and losses. I will make comments on the various aspects of the game, then give my general comments and recommendations at the end.

As this is my first BGG review, please feel free to not only critique the STYLE of the review, but also the CONTENT of the review so that I may learn.

The GOOD:

The Game Mechanics: Limiting the number of units that you can move in a single turn keeps the game moving relatively quickly. I recall days when I would play 1,500 point Warhammer 40K battles whereby my opponent was playing his orcs and it took him 30 minutes just to move all of his troops forward. With the limited number of units that can move and attack on your turn, most turns are over in a matter of 3 minutes or so.

The Dice: One side for each unit color, a Special Attack side, a Lore side, and a Retreat Flag side. Well done, and much better than a standard 1-6 die where you have to guess what each number represents. And the way the BattleLore Command card uses the dice is also an excellent game mechanic.

Historical Accuracy: Okay, this is stretch somewhat, considering that the game, in its later scenarios, include “magic”, which is not historically accurate. However, I have dabbled in studying the history of Agincourt, the Free Companies, and the Hundred Years War, and the scenarios as presented in the core game are pretty historically accurate given the confines in which they are presented. Also, there are quite a few “User Submitted” scenarios on the website, and many of the contributors have done a good job of keeping the historical accuracy in their Background Information. I am sure that there are more serious wargamers who will argue with me on this, but from a “casual” standpoint, the game does a very good job in maintaining the “realism”.

The Inherent Strategy: Unlike some wargames that I have played (okay, I admit Warhammer 40K is the ONLY wargame I have played other than Risk), this game has a natural, built-in strategy. There is a lot of thought process required that will make a player think 3, 4, or 5 turns ahead. Do I use my “Attack-Right Flank” now, or should I use my “Patrol-Center” to put my center-based cavalry into my Right Flank for my NEXT turn? Also, the Replenish Lore phase requires decisions that will have an impact on 3 or 4 turns later. For example, do I grab two lore tokens now for my Fireball, or do I draw a Lore card and hope that I roll a few “Lore” results in my next Battle Back in the hopes of having enough Lore for my next turn so that I can cast my Fireball?

The Rulebook: 80 pages of full color bliss! This rulebook is thorough, contains a phenomenal number of examples and typical game-play elements, and is segregated into very logical chapters. Overall, this is one of the most impressive elements of the game. Although it did take me a few sessions to read through the instruction manual, the overall publishing aspect of this “book” is beyond anything I have played before.

The Scenarios: Of course, you can always create your own scenarios, but the Standard ones that come with the game gradually add new elements to the game as you progress from Scenario 1 to Scenario 10. It is also nice to see that Richard Borg has not only created 6 additional Official Scenarios at the website, but there are also 5 more Epic BattleLore scenarios for use in very large battles.

The Days of Wonder website: Very easy to use, contains a lot of extra adventures (written by game designer Richard Borg, as well as players), and an excellent Dice Replacement program (which also allows a game owner to get the Earth Elemental figure for a nominal price).

The Unpainted Miniatures: Sometimes, miniatures-based games that are pre-painted have a tendency to look less like miniatures and more like “Donations for the Blind.” Being as I enjoy painting miniatures, having them come in one-tone gray (with only the bases of the mercenaries different than the others), will allow me to customize my armies’ colors to how I like them.

The BAD:yuk

Set up time: One of the few issues that I have with this game is the set-up time. With two players, we split the duty (I get the banner bearers, he gets the terrain, I sort the Lore cards, he shuffles the command cards, etc. etc.). However, it still takes some time, albeit not too bad when you have help. Without help, it can be daunting if you are setting up on your own. Another option to mitigate the longer set-up time is to sort your troop type into different labeled ziplock baggies. That way, when you are looking for Infantry, or Bowmen, or your Cavalry, they are easier to find.

The Rulebook: Yikes, this thing is long. There are a lot of rules to digest, and trying to make sure that you get them all covered can be cumbersome in your first few scenarios. Fortunately, this can be mitigated somewhat if you play the scenarios in the order in which they are presented in the Scenario booklet, as they slowly integrate each new game concept one feature at a time.

The Dice: Supposedly there is a problem with the paint rubbing off of oft-used dice. Although I have not run into this problem YET, I did log on to Days of Wonder’s website and request the replacement dice to have a back-up set.

The Extra Monsters: I don’t know how I feel about having to pay money for extra miniatures. It doesn’t bother me that much, considering that I was once a hardcore Warhammer 40K player with three armies, but other people might not appreciate it very much. However, if you do order the replacement dice, you can get this nice extra miniature for a relatively cheap price.

Unpainted Miniatures: Sometimes I have difficulty trying to distinguish between who is on which team, and whether I have a light infantry to a heavy infantry, or tell the difference between the mounted units. They all have a tendency to look the same, and there is not a lot of color in this game.

Green bowmen: I am not sure how many share this sentiment, but gosh it would be nice if occasionally I had some bowmen that would use more than 2 dice to attack! I know I am probably nit-picking here, but I don’t want to seem like I am writing an annoyingly glowing review without sharing a few faults. However, after only a few “bad” things to mention, this game is so overwhelmingly positive, it takes some creative licensing to come up with anything reasonably negative.

The UGLY:zombie

The good thing is, the only “Ugly” that I can find about this game is the pictures that people submit that have their cats either at the table, or ready to play. Cats cannot play wargames. Cats cannot even play Tic-Tac-Toe. Cats do not belong in my game box, no matter how comfortable they may think it is. I hate cats.

However, I do not hate this game. On the contrary, it earns my 10 rating.

The Conclusion:

Overall, this is a very well-thought out and well designed game. There are very few flaws in the game itself, as most of the flaws mentioned are strictly related to my tastes, and should have minimal, if any, impact on anyone that may be considering the purchase of this game. The game itself is easy to play, harder to master, and overall the best game in my collection. There is never a time in which I would turn down a chance to play this game, and if you are considering purchasing Battlelore, I would suggest that you put it first on your wishlist.
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Kris J
United States
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Washington
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. . . or just let me nibble your soul . . . .
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Great review by a new user!
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Merric Blackman
Australia
Waubra
Victoria
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Ramping up my reviewing.
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Happily playing games for many, many years.
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Not all the dice are wonky - my friend Sarah doesn't have the problem at all. Basically, if you wet your thumb and rub it against a die face, you may get discolouration. That means the dice are wonky. However, as Days of Wonder replace them for free - within a week for me in Australia! - it's not much of a drawback.

The replacement dice I got were fine.

Very nice review.

Cheers,
Merric
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David
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Yes, cats ruin many a good game unfortunately.
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Gabe Alvaro
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Berkeley
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I like that you mention the DoW Web site. A lot of people fail to mention that DoW aren't just selling a game, but actively fostering a community around the game and providing tools, support, and ongoing service which is just a great way for a game publisher to engage with its market.

I also like your honest take on the rule book, both the good and the bad. It's a high quality publication and well written to be sure. The rules themselves, however, do tend to feel a little fiddly at times once you begin a game and get yourself into certain situations. I think the DoW forums are a testament to this. I find sometimes it seems as if just about every rule has been misinterpreted and hashed over in the forums until the CEO has to drop in and set people straight. A little common sense is sometimes in order.

You are not the first to level a complaint at the green bowmen. But I say what about the damn green infantry?! At least the archers can chuck some pot shots. About all the green infantry can do is hide in the woods until they get a decent powerup.

I agree with you on the historical accuracy part. I gotta laugh when people whinge on and on about the historical accuracy not being strong enough. I mean come on, did they not see the cover? Does the art direction not scream "Disney D&D" to people? It even says "epic fantasy adventures" right on the box. Personally I think the game delivers a satisfying compromise squarely on the side of "gaminess" over realism. That said, the game gives you everything you need to abstract a real historical battle. As for the "magic", look again. Only the Wizard and Cleric cards speak to anything supernatural. The Warrior and Rogue speak to non-magical skill abilities, such as you might encounter from crack military units like the green berets, seals, rangers, or marines. One can easily surmise that there have always been "special" factors on the battlefield throughout military history that have had impact on battles. For me, that's what Lore represents.

Finally, I gotta agree on the setup time. It's bothersome enough to where I don't even like to bother setting up for less than two consecutive games. For only one game though, it's a bit much and worth stating so that people know. One more thing about overall game length. I find that playing well requires a certain amount of patience. My games have been going over long not because turns are slow, but because both sides have been making minor adjustments rather than rushing to point scoring maneuvers. If I had to play BL under a time limit, I think my game would suffer due to the extra turns I take tweaking my lines and formations in anticipation of a well planned assault.
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Christopher Seguin
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blindspot wrote:
You are not the first to level a complaint at the green bowmen. But I say what about the damn green infantry?! At least the archers can chuck some pot shots. About all the green infantry can do is hide in the woods until they get a decent powerup.

My games have been going over long not because turns are slow, but because both sides have been making minor adjustments rather than rushing to point scoring maneuvers. If I had to play BL under a time limit, I think my game would suffer due to the extra turns I take tweaking my lines and formations in anticipation of a well planned assault.
I have yet to play any sessions that include green infantry (be it humans or those pathetic goblins). However, I can imagine the frustration involved. On the flip-side, though. At least when you move green infantry into melee, you still get to roll two dice. Move those archers, and now you are hitting with one small block of useless (albeit painted) wood!

If you read some of my Battle Reports (i.e. game sessions on the BattleLore forum), you will see that there is a lot of strategy involved in our games. My friend and I are always looking 3, 4 or 5 turns ahead. Certain games don't allow you to do this, but BattleLore not only ENCOURAGES it, it DEMANDS it. That is why I like this game so much! My friend and I don't play with time limits, although we can usually play most turns (even longer turns that allow you to command a number of units equal to your command cards) in under 5 minutes each.
 
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Scotty Pruitt
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chrisnd wrote:

Set up time: One of the few issues that I have with this game is the set-up time. With two players, we split the duty (I get the banner bearers, he gets the terrain, I sort the Lore cards, he shuffles the command cards, etc. etc.). However, it still takes some time, albeit not too bad when you have help. Without help, it can be daunting if you are setting up on your own. Another option to mitigate the longer set-up time is to sort your troop type into different labeled ziplock baggies. That way, when you are looking for Infantry, or Bowmen, or your Cavalry, they are easier to find.
I agree. Battelore is a great game. However, the setup time has influenced my decision to play it on more than one occasion.

Me: "So, what should we play?"
Opposition: "Battlelore?"
Me: "Do we feel like setting it up?"
Opposition: "No, not really."

Sometimes you just feel lazy.
 
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Derek H
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Quote:
The Rulebook: Yikes, this thing is long. There are a lot of rules to digest, and trying to make sure that you get them all covered can be cumbersome...
Ah! You are now leaving Euroland - welcome to the wonderful World of Wargames. arrrh
 
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Matt Smith
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Troy
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It's a love/hate relationship.
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Nice review.

To get past the setup time issue, I think of it as time spent creating a beautiful, 3-D work of art, that I then get to play a game with. Plus, you get to fondle so many bits...
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Christopher Seguin
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mvettemagred wrote:
Plus, you get to fondle so many bits...
Feel free to keep your fondling bits to yourself...
 
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Jackson Riker
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Excellent Review, the only issue I can think of is that as you have no experience w/the other games in this system, you can't make comparisons.
I have this game, and haven't played it since the Alexander expansion showed up. I much prefer CC Ancients.
thanks
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Tom Sievers
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Great review! I truely enjoy BattleLore--all of the C&C games, in fact. If I had a cat I'd need a special room for the game...for any game, for that matter. In my youth I left a game of AH's Stalingrad unattended one day. The family cat ate several Soviet tank corps. Fortunately they reappeared later in the day. After cleaning off the catbarf they were still playable, if you ignored the toothmarks.
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