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Subject: My Approach to Battlelore (Part 2) rss

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Jay Borden
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Intro

This article is part 2 in my “How I approach Battlelore” series. For a more complete picture of where this post is coming from, please first read the following 2 discussions from the BGG Battlelore strategy forum:

How to minimize luck in Battlelore (http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/148780)
My Approach to Battlelore - part 1 (http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/164161)

To better show specific unit maneuvers, I created a few quick macros to help draw out examples using different colors fonts and backgrounds. In the examples, I’ll always be playing the units with grey background and the banner color as the text (up will always be towards the opponent's side of the board). My opponent will be represented by the unit color in the background with white text. For both sides, the number will represent how many figures are left in the unit. I will only list the cards relevant to the example, assume the rest of my hand has nothing that can order those units or would only distract from what I’m trying to illustrate.


Basic Maneuvers

I’ve talked about regrouping, withdrawing, rotating, and screening units, but I haven’t yet explained in detail exactly how and why I do those things. Since they form the tactical foundation to my approach, I figured it’s a good place to start for this post. Now that I have an easy to create notation method to illustrate the examples, I’ll also touch on the 3-pack and 6-pack explained in part 1 again.

Formations

The 3-Pack

This is also shown in the rule book as an example of a mutual supported formation. If the 2 side by side units are closer to the enemy (‘forward 3-pack’), it will often be more difficult for an opponent to get more than 2 supported units into base to base. The Arrow 3-pack can still be useful, especially when backing off slower red units or when moving towards a flank while withdrawing.

A Forward 3-Pack An Arrow 3-Pack

|4|4| |4|
|4| |4|4|


The 3-pack is not the most reliable attacking formation since wounds taken quickly reduce your ability to continue an attack. 4 or more units are definitely preferred when possible, but that would require a lot of big orders to keep them together in a solid formation while pushing forward. When setting up a push that I know will last a few turns, I’ll sometimes leave units unsupported in the back of the formation in order to get more than 3 units into the conflict. In this case, I make sure there is either a 3-pack protecting the unsupported troops or all of my opponent’s units are out of range from my unsupported units (including foot onslaught range if more that one unit could get into base to base and attack from it). I’ll cover this in more detail later.


The 6-Pack

|4|4|4|4|
|4| |4|

Really it’s just two 3-packs next to each other. The space in the middle of the back row allows all the units a way to retreat if necessary. Having so many units close by to reinforce the front, screen wounded units, or slip around to get an aggressive flank make this formation quite flexible. Of course needing to move around 6 units is going to take quite a few orders, so this is mainly a possible defensive formation to aim for while adjusting your starting lines or setting up to take an opponent’s advance.


The Withdrawals

When withdrawing, the main object is to get the most vulnerable units as safely away from the opponent as possible. How effective the move is depends on what you are hoping to gain, and how long it takes for your opponent to finish off that wounded unit. For those that think spending turns not rolling dice is a waste, I’ll list out some reasons why I may withdraw.

Here’s a basic ‘run away’ example to help explain my points:

|4| | |4| |
4|4|
4|4|
|1| |
| | |
My wounded blue unit retreats from a 3-pack
| | | |
| | |
| |1|



1. Gain time – If I move my blue unit with 1 wound left 2 hexes away from your blue units, it will take you one order to get back to into base to base, and then another to make an attack (assuming no lore spells or the foot onslaught command card). If you consider we both spent 1 turn maneuvering to get the 2 units into the same relative positions from each other, I delayed the combat that can kill my unit by a turn. That turn allows me to see another command card and draw lore tokens or cards.

2. Hope to drain resources – Using the same retreat example above, I am also forcing my opponent to order his unit 2 times instead of just once. There’s a chance that he may not have 2 orders available in that flank (delaying the killing blow even longer). Even if he does have the 2 command cards needed, he’ll need to be ordering at least 3 units if he wants to keep support while chasing me down. Before I withdrew, even dice with a scout command would have finished me off. After my withdrawal, a scout card would leave him unsupported and exposed without him even getting an attack in. If he uses a big order to keep formation while closing, then it is 1 less orders he can bank on having later.

3. Thin your opponent’s line / Move the opponent towards your strength or away from his – By making your opponent move to finish off your units, he’ll be forced to move his units towards the direction you fled (if he decides to continue the attack). Giving up a victory point that’s all but lost already to better shape the battlefield can help you set up a better counter attack or spread your opponent out more (and hopefully expose a weakness in his line). This can often be enough of an advantage to flee even if your opponent only needs a single turn to pursue and kill off the unit (if you consider the turn it will take the opponent to regroup his pursuing unit, it could still be considered an even 1 turn delay). I’ll cover this in more detail during the later examples.

4. Tip the effective dice count in your favor – Rolling more dice than your opponent is definitely a good thing, but my fortune cookie advice to win at Battlelore would be ‘make more dice count’. It’s quite a useless statement since your opponent and luck have a lot of say in the matter; you would gain just as much by me saying “score more points by the end of the game”. That being said…when you successfully withdraw a unit, it reduces the amount of effective dice your opponent rolled. Unless he can later finish off the unit, you have gained directly from your opponent’s loss.


2 order regroup /screen

|4| |4| |4|
3|3|
3|3| 3|3|
|2|4|
| |4| | | |
|4|
|4| 4|4|
| |
|2| |2|


My wounded blue unit first moves back 2 hexes. Next, my full health blue unit moves left to the space just vacated, then back to end next to the red unit in a 3-pack.

In the above example, let’s assume my opponent played a 3 order to move his 3-pack into base to base with mine and attacked my blue foot unit (getting even dice). My 2 order moved my wounded blue unit out of harm’s way to where it is now fully protected by units with full health. If my opponent continues to push (which he’ll now need a 3 order to do so and keep support), even dice will put his front units at 2 wounds.

My example shows how my defensive action of 2 orders still leaves the conflict even after the attacker’s 6 orders by spreading out my wounds and getting equal dice from battle backs. This also demonstrates why I will not push unless I have an advantage; even units with support will get even results unless you get more luck with the dice.


Other withdrawals
Any order can be used to move at least a single unit as far away from the opponent as possible. When just running, remember that you need to get out of range from opponent attacks for at least one round to just break even in commands. Always consider the direction you’re fleeing, and think of how your opponent will be able to pursue and how you want him to follow. If you can’t get completely out of range, then fleeing is most often NOT worth it and you should look to gain the advantage somewhere else.


Rotating wounded units while pressing an attack

Before quoting any of this section in a reply, please note that I am only using even dice to help calculate my best play. I’m well aware they do not roll that way in the real world, but I evaluate each play on that assumption and adjust as needed after each roll. The theory in this section is not to be taken as a list of hard rules, please look at my examples as a way to put what I try to do into the right context.

The only way to get victory points from wounding units is to completely destroy it. Each wounded unit you can keep your opponent from destroying is one less victory point he’ll earn. If you initiated the conflict, then you should have the resources to continue the conflict for a turn or two after getting into base to base. Rather than withdrawing the wounded unit completely out of the conflict, you can sometimes move the unit to a support role or at least a less dangerous position where it will more likely survive battle backs and counter orders from your opponent.

If you and your opponent are both supported and have the same unit types, the only time one of you will roll more dice is when a unit is destroyed. Using that logic along with expected even dice, we can say that when a unit is left with only 1or 2 wounds and the opponent has an order to get a concentrated attack, that’s the only time it matters who issued the orders to attack. If you consider attacking with an already wounded unit will put you in that critical 2 or less figure point from a battle back, sometimes attacking with fewer units than possible to keep out of that dangerous 2 figure position first may be better than an extra 3 for 3 trade on your turn. That being said, the attacker does get to choose which units trade dice, so they get to drive the conflict in the direction they benefit from the most. If you know you can drive the attack on future turns, you should attempt to keep your unit resources available for when your opponent will be at the 2 figure point by avoiding that same position when not likely to destroy a unit.

I try to keep my units out of positions where even dice by my opponent can finish them off without him needing to give up support. Battlelore is far too tactical to put hard rules on when to rotate wounded units, but my basic logic would be as follows:

If a unit has 1 figure left, it should not attack supported units and should be moved completely out of harm’s way is possible (either withdraw or screen the unit)
If 2 figures are left in the unit, it should not attack supported troops and should end the turn where only one enemy can get an attack on it (not counting lore cards or foot onslaught)
If the unit has 3 figures left, I’m reluctant to attack and take the expected wound from a battle back. If my even dice will finish a unit, then I’ll usually take the chance. If not, I will try to move other units into the conflict, use other units in that conflict to make the attacks, or concentrate on gaining an advantage somewhere else on the battlefield.


2 orders

Example: An opponent’s 3 pack concentrated attacks on my blue unit. I first move the wounded unit out of harm’s way, then move the other front unit to the left to help screen it.

|4| |4| |4|
3|3|
3|3| 3|3|
|2|4|
| |4| |4| |
|4|
2|4| 2|4|



In the above example, which unit to attack will be dependent on the orders in your hand. If you only have a 2 order, hit the unit on the left since that’s the only unit you can concentrate on next turn without giving up support. It won’t matter as much if you have a 3 order, so look at the other units that may join the conflict and hit the unit that will make it more difficult to support the line once you hopefully destroy the targeted unit.

My 2 figure unit is still in danger 1 hex away from a blue unit, but only one unit will be able to attack it without a combat trick (and it would take 3 orders to keep all the units supported). The example also doesn’t have my even dice attack added against the unit that is in attack range yet. If all goes even, he’ll be moving a 2 figure unit to make the attack and my battle back would leave both units at 1 figure going into my turn. It’s not going to go that way all the time, but we are maximizing the expected results to be in our favor (anything extra on our side is just gravy).


With big orders, you can often do more than one of the above maneuvers at once. There are other ways to do each maneuver, but I figured showing a single way to execute each would be enough to demonstrate the concept. If anyone is unclear on any of the examples I’ve provided, just ask and I add a few more (or look into another way to illustrate it if my notation doesn’t work for everyone).

The key is to think of the advantages you want to deny or limit your opponent from getting: Superior troops, Concentrated Attacks, or Attacking Wounded Units.


Troop Roles

Most of this is fairly basic, but I’m adding it for the sake of completeness.

Some units are better at filling specific roles than others. When attempting to break an opponent’s formation, you’d want a red unit with 4 dice to do the attacking if possible. When attempting to chase and finish off a single figure fleeing, you wouldn’t want to pursue one hex at a time with that same red unit when a mounted unit could do the job with a single order. The key is to remain flexible while considering troop roles, but below I’ve outline the way I most often use each unit type.


Range units:

Archers - From what I’ve heard, no unit’s usefulness is more debated then the archer’s. I think it has a lot to do with the first scenario where one side has a ton of archer units and other side has mounted units up front. That scenario can play quite differently depending on the command cards drawn. If the archer player can play an early green banner, darken the skies, or another big order, they can easily cause some serious damage to the mounted units up front (slowing down the entire advance long enough to safely shoot down a few VPs and weaken the opponent before the 2 sides meet in melee combat). If they do not get good cards early, the mounted units will just roll over the archer line once they get there. That first impression is probably where the opinions fueling the debate are coming from.

To me, the archers are perfect the way they are as a solid support troop. While holding back and setting up my formations in the early game, I order my archer units as much as possible. While not likely to swing a battle, 2 dice here and there will add up some wounds if given enough time. If I do get lucky with the archer rolls, my opponent will either need to spend orders to shift the wounded units back, or at least move the fresh units up to the front when advancing their line (so the push will be a hex behind a normal advancing pace).

My typical targets are the mounted units since they only have 3 figures and are far more dangerous with their pursuit attacks when a line breaks. If my opponent’s mounted units are not up front, I’ll pick my targets based on the cards in my hand. If I am weak in the section and will likely be holding back my line, I’ll hit the opponent’s blue foot units since they are likely to get into base to base with me sooner (if the second line has slower red units, they’ll be advancing at an even slower pace if they try to shift the back line in front to protect the wounded units). If I am strong in a section and will likely try to push my line forward, I’ll be trying to soften the units where my line will be attacking. If no obvious point on their line is weaker then the rest, I’ll hit the units with more dice per attack (red banners first). Once you start to move your line up, archers can be moved into the second rank for support. If the opponent flees a wounded unit back, when you shift your front line towards the next target, the archers will often be in range to attempt to finish off the retreated unit.

Crossbowmen - I use the dwarven crossbowmen for the same role as archers units. The shorter range keeps them closer to danger, but having crits also cause wounds usually makes up for it. Their always bold status makes them a bit more dependable, so they make good end units on a line or could be left behind alone when advancing the rest of a formation forward.

Melee foot units:

Irregulars (Green foot units) – They are always able to move 2 hexes and still attack, but they only get 2 attack dice. They are mainly used to screen more valuable troops or to reinforce a conflict by quickly getting into a support position. Occasionally they can run down the odd unsupported troop or block a path for retreat (aggressive flank), but it’s usually better to use them to eat wounds while closing, then withdraw them to safety or a support position.

Regulars (Blue Foot units) - The blue foot units form the core of most armies. Their extra mobility when not attacking allows them to quickly close into base to base, effectively rotate wounds while advancing, or withdraw quickly when necessary. The standard 3 dice attack with banners and crits hitting should give a reliable single wound each combat (based on even dice). For both of those reasons, they are not limited to a specific role and often see more combat than the rest of the units.

Heavy infantry (Red foot units) - They pack a good punch with 4 attack dice, but are limited to 1 hex movement a turn. It takes a while to get them in front for a conflict, but it’s usually worth it when they do. Red units are easier to use on defense, since less orders are needed to get them into position (just move you other units behind the red rather than trying to move the red unit in front when the opponent is advancing). When attempting to use them on offense, I usually start moving them first and have my other units pass them up. When I start shifting wounded units back, the full health reds will be moved up to hopefully break the opponent’s weakened formation.


Mounted Units

Mounted units have extra mobility and can make pursuit attacks, but start with 1 less figure than other units. Pursuit attacks are only gained when a unit flees, or when a unit is completely destroyed. During the early game, when most units will be at full health and supported, mounted units will rarely gain any pursuit attacks. If a mounted unit doesn’t get a pursuit attack, it is basically an already wounded foot unit of the same color once in base to base. If you have full strength mounted units at the end game, you will likely gain more pursuit attacks as units start taking more wounds and you opponent’s line starts to thin out a bit.

I always attempt to ‘save’ my mounted units for the later parts of the game. I quickly move my mounted units out of archer range, then leave them in a position where they can join the forward conflicts when needed as either a reinforcement unit or to help finish off a broken line. If my opponent moves them into conflicts early, I’ll make a point to take them out as soon as possible. If my opponent doesn’t have healthy mounted units at the end of the game, I’ll more likely be able to withdraw my wounded units. If my wounded units can survive more easily than my opponent’s, it could be the advantage needed that will win the game.



To be continued…

The article is getting a bit too long, so I’ll save the ‘How to set up an advance’ section I still want to cover for part 3. If anyone has any requests on what else I should cover, please add a comment. I covered most of the points I wanted to get across for why I believe a conservative approach is the way to go, but I’d be happy to chime in with my thoughts on other concepts if anyone is interested in what I think.

Again, this article is an attempt to outline my current approach to Battlelore as accurately as possible and I welcome any discussion that can help to improve it. If you have any comments, questions, counter strategies, or other points on the topics I’ve covered, please add them.

Keep Gaming!
~Jay
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Gabe Alvaro
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Well it was worth the wait. As I read your points, the words of a young Cassius Clay "Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee" come to mind as you describe what amounts to a bit of fancy footwork in the BattleLore ring.

By unpacking the subtleties in your approach, this article illuminates what is really going on this game. By providing rock solid strategy points that form the foundation for an approach to consistent winning you do not only a service to those who play the game, but also to those who have yet failed to see what it's really all about.

Simply masterful Jay! thumbsup
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Jay Borden
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I hope giving away my approach will leave me with good gaming karma in case I ever meet any of you in a tournament. I also hope all the other conservative players out there aren’t too mad at me for giving some of our secrets away.

I was honestly expecting more debate and discussion on the points I raised. Maybe everyone was just being polite and waiting for me to finish all my points first. I’m trying to decide if a part 3 is really needed now. I was going to include examples of setting up a push, but I don’t know if it will be worth it since there are too many factors to really set more than basic guidelines (which are all covered in the last 3 posts). Anyone have any ideas?

Thanks for all thumbs and tips!
~Jay
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Gabe Alvaro
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Secrets? This is the kind of stuff that should start to vaguely reveal itself to a smart player after a couple dozen full lore games, only it would never occur to most people in such a concise and organized manner.

There's a lot here for the casual player to digest and frankly I believe they have been blown away by your awesome authority on the matter. I also don't think there are that many people informed enough about the finer points of BattleLore, which are exactly what you've presented, to debate this...yet. It's my view that a study like this helps make all of us better players and that can only be good for the game. Don't stop now, I say on with part three!
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Todd Rewoldt
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blindspot wrote:
Secrets? This is the kind of stuff that should start to vaguely reveal itself to a smart player after a couple dozen full lore games, only it would never occur to most people in such a concise and organized manner.



My sentiments exactly, my hope is that this will catch a lot of players new to the game up to speed. Tactical advantages be damned

Edited to better reflect intent, maybe
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Jay Borden
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The 'secrets' comment was meant as a joke. I don't think there's anything here that hasn't been discovered before, I just don't think anyone has been put it on the forums in detail yet (at least not that I've seen).

I will be finishing off the series with part 3 over the next couple of weeks. My goal is to focus on putting all the concepts together and show a lot of examples.

I will likely do other articles when some of the expansions come out if I find something that's worth sharing, but the series will end as just a tactical reference to my approach. Anything beyond that is going to get a lot more subjective, so I'd rather handle that outside of this series so it remains focused.

Again, thanks for all the comments, thumbs, and tips.

~Jay
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Gabe Alvaro
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PlanetSmasher wrote:
I will be finishing off the series with part 3 over the next couple of weeks. My goal is to focus on putting all the concepts together and show a lot of examples.

<--- Eagerly awaiting Part III. Any news Jay?
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Jay Borden
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Sorry to keep you waiting, Gabe. I was trying to get it finished by the end of last month, but my work load tripled so I haven’t had any free time at all. I figured a bit longer wait for a better detailed article was worth it, it’s about 60% complete now. I’ve got 3 more points I want to try to cover, but I am having some trouble writing and illustrating them in a comprehensible way. I’m trying to avoid general statements that lead to either confusion in what I’m trying to get across or end up being a waste of time since the context and intent are not defined enough to make use of it.

I have a much needed extra day off this week, so I’ll be looking to finish it by Friday (or I’ll be putting what I have finished out there and planning a very short part 4).

So, it's coming and it should add a few more details that were missing. To give you a teaser, the stuff I'm focusing on is unit positioning and attack order, setting up a push, and breaking a line. I already revealed most of the basic details already, so I'm just trying to bring it all together in this last article.

~Jay
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James Gambrell
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I am still pretty new to the game but I have been analyzing tactics right since I got it. I just wanted to say I don't find the exact 6-pack formation really practical to employ. Because you often can only move 2 or 3 units at a time, and the enemy is not likely to be arrayed in a perfectly horizontal line, you need a more flexible formation. What you want to maintain is a 'supported line' of any type, right? Basically a long line of adjacent troops with a few guys in the back (ideally not reds since you might need 2 space movement). These guys in the back will rotate in to fill gaps or relieve weakened troops, just as you say. This loose formation can move forward a piece at a time no matter how many orders you have available.
 
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Jay Borden
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The 6 pack formation was meant to show a hex free to allow those center 2 units in the front row a way to retreat is needed. It may come up when adjusting from your starting positions in some of the original scenarios or after retreating units back to your strength when an opponent pushes, but you are correct in observing that it is not a practical formation you will see often in a game situation (and is not something you should try to maintain while advancing a flank). The concept is to not allow your opponent a way to “trap” units in the front line of your big troop packs for multiple turns if you can help it. It is easier for a big order with a spell to get lucky if flags start counting as kills too.

You seem to have the general theme I tried to outline of keeping supported and remaining flexible. I tried to show a few simple examples of how to gain a tactical advantage from some common game situations. I don’t subscribe to any hard rules in Battlelore, just always look to gain any advantage I can (either by advancing my own or by diminishing my opponent’s).

It’s been a long time since I’ve looked at this series or played Battlelore…I may have to dust off my copy and play again now.

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Talorien
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Outstanding work.

meeple
 
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