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Subject: I know goblins run a way in fear and sometimes I do too... rss

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David Wishart
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No I'm not a goblin but I do retreat like they do from a game of Battlelore more often than not, which may seem odd since I think that Battlelore is an excellent game.

Often I find I'm searching for a game that plays best with 2 players. I tend to enjoy games with a higher player count more, but it's not always easy to get 4 to 5 people together on a regular basis. Having a good collection of 2 player games available fills that gap, and as far as two player games go I feel that Battlelore is one of the best. And yet it is frequently avoided. I will explain why I like the game so much and then why I rarely play it below.

The Rulebook - The rule book is a little intimidating at first since there is a lot to remember your first go around. Having some experience with games like Warhammer 40,000, Mage Knight etc. will flatten the learning curve however. Although there are a large number of rules, the rulebook is generally well written and clear and uses examples with pictures to help illustrate several features of the game. The rulebook is made of high quality color materials and is quite durable.


The Components - The Battlelore box weighs a ton. The box itself looks great and is pretty heavy duty. Inside it's like discovering the holy grail of miniatures... well not really, but the number of figures included is impressive. And unlike a game like Warhammer, they don't need to be assembled or painted in order to get started. The game board is also high quality and comes with a number of modular tiles you can place over it to alter the terrain for various battles. All of the cards included are high quality card stock and the images on them are easy to read and generally top notch. A lot of the artwork has a very cartoon like feel to it, especially on the magic spells. Overall you get some great bang for your buck with this game just on the components alone.


The Gameplay - The battle system is very smooth and generally keeps the game flowing at a quick pace. I've been able to get multiple games finished in one evening before, which is also a testament to the game's replayability. Player's play command cards to issue movement and attack orders to various units in 1 of 3 zones or flanks on the board. Units deal damage based on their banner color, so heavily armored units tend to do more damage but move more slowly and vice versa. Magic spells are also cast by playing cards drawn at the end of each turn. Usually these spells have an additional mana cost called Lore that needs to be spent before the card can be played. The diverse array of spells and their ability to be upgraded through strategic use of the war council makes their effects interesting. The only gripe some individuals might have with the game is the dice based combat system. In the games I've played rarely do I feel that I won or lost by the roll of the dice but it can happen. It's also possible to lose due to a poor draw of command cards but again, a good player can strategically work around these problems by maneuvering units away from combat and only attacking in a position of strength. I find the randomness of the cards one of the exciting elements of the game, although I wouldn't mind seeing the dice system have some kind of modifier to it where the number of units remaining could allow you to re-roll a certain number of dice or something to that effect. In any event the gameplay is quick, fun and strategically rewarding.


And yet I don't play Battlelore that much. It's not because I don't have any willing opponents. Rather the biggest issue I have with Battlelore is how long it takes to set up. Getting the units organized and set on the board, shuffling and dealing out cards, deciding on the war council levels, catching up on rules regarding random monsters, etc. can easily take 30 or more minutes. Most games I'm well into my first game by that time. My biggest pet peeve with board games is long set up times and this game takes the cake in that category. The game is excellent but it doesn't see the light of day as often as it should for the above reason. If you have a game room in your house where you can leave Battlelore partially set up, each subsequent game after the first takes a fraction of the time to get ready, so I recommend this to anyone who can.
Overall:

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Phil McDonald
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Staffordshire
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I find Battlelore and Memoir '44 VERY playable Solo. The cards allow you to focus on playing the best available option each turn, so it's easy to compartmentalise information. It also helps a lot if you don't treat either side as YOURS and just play for joy of a fun thematic experience.

There are some things you can do to maximise the value of setup time, and to speed it up.

1. If an opponent is visiting you to play, set the game up in advance so you can dive straight in when they arrive, maximising available playing time. I also find it quicker to do alone than have 2 people faffing around, and conversation REALLY slows things up.

2. Always play a battle from both sides. This gives a fair result when the medals are totalled, but also avoids having to set up terrain for a second game.

3. It's worthwile getting a good storage organiser if you are going to play the game regularly as this can seriously cut down on setup times.

4. If you have the luxury of a games room, leaving it set up for the next session when you finish is great.

5. Painting your figures DOUBLES the enjoyment of the playing experience. If it's a game that gets a lot of use, it will repay the time spent many times over. DON'T demand showroom quality painting of yourself. It only makes a difference when you hold the figures up to your face. A fairly simple paint job will look great when gaming.

ENJOY !!

And don't forget to play the games on VASSAL online or by pbem when you haven't got an opponent or space to set he game up. It's FREE and it's awesome.

http://www.vassalengine.org/
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Sean P
United States
Tucson
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Good review and I couldn't agree more with Phil's response. There's nothing more frustrating than planning to play a complicated boardgame and having to spend a chunk of your allocated play time to setting up the game and getting everyone settled. Big games like Battlelore, Arkham, most wargames, etc should be ready to go when the first guest arrives.
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David Wishart
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I think part of the problem here is that my most frequent opponent is my roommate. Since we're both already there and are selecting the game on the spot rather than a predetermined decision to play Battlelore we tend to defer to Race for the Galaxy or Saint Petersburg but generally speaking I agree with both of the above comments.
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Ted Kostek
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Camano Island
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I am (slowly) painting my set. My first step was to buy plastic tackle boxes and separate every unit into a separate little spot.

The painting makes the visual appeal amazing, and the tackle boxes makes setup much faster.
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