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Subject: How Complicated and involved? rss

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David Bezio
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I’m not really afraid of “complicated” games,, but to be honest I don’t really “have time” for them in my life. A 320 page rule book doesn’t sound like a game to be taken casually? So, how complicated is it?

My current favorite board/wargame is Battlelore (a Colors & Commands game). C&C works very well, is fun, and fairly easy to learn and play. I’ve played the usual suspects in the past, like years of Warhammer (fantasy and 40K) and other mainstream miniature games. I’ve also played my share of board games that are often called “complicated” such as Descent or Twilight Imperium.

I’ve never been a fan of the “old school” wargames with dry rules, lots of charts, and numbers numbers numbers to attempt to “simulate reality”.

I've played hundreds of RPGs, so a large page count doesn't scare me...but RPGs are a different animal than board or wargames (where rules are written in stone).

So, I guess I’m asking how this reads and compares to other games I’ve listed (or like games), how easy the game is to learn and teach, and how involved is game play? Is this the kind of game you read the rules and play the game a few hours later, or do you need to take a week to read the full 320 page rule book and digest everything? Is this the kind of game that requires you to commit to it being your main game (at least for a while) or is it casual enough to just pull off the shelf every now and then and run a quick pick-up game?
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Scott Muldoon (silentdibs)
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The rulebook is not 320 pages. The book included with the game is the full text of Sabin's Lost Battles book, already long available, a fraction of which is the actual rules. Most of the book is an explanation of how he arrives at his abstractions, and their specific application to many battles.

That said, I would put the rules at slightly more complex than Battlelore. Many of the concepts are newish to wargaming (perhaps a bit closer to miniatures gaming) but other than some obvious innovations they have an olde schoole "feel" to me.
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Cracky McCracken
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Have you visited the website? They run through a sample game there. Doesn't seem too brain bending... a Battlelore player should be able to handle it (and certainly a Warhammer man should have no problems with it).

http://fifthcolumngames.co.uk/

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Kent Reuber
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The rules for gaming the battles are only 20 pages. The rest of the book is about analysis of the various battles. The rules aren't that difficult, but they are different than most games out there and I think you'll have to re-read them multiple time to "get it".

What I'd suggest you do is to look at the turn-by-turn summary of a battle and see if it looks like something you're interested in pursuing.

http://www.kcl.ac.uk/schools/sspp/ws/people/academic/profess...

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David Bezio
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Thanks everyone. That sounds better

I've been poking around that site (that's actually how I found out about the game).

So, it's a solid recomendation then for a guy who likes modest war/board games and miniature games (and likes to tinker with making board games into miniature games).
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Panagiotis Zinoviadis
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The rules are about 20 pages in "rules writing" (tight no-nonsense text with no examples).

The most difficult part of the game are the new concepts. Not a simple thing if you are acccustomed to 'older style'games.

The first 70 pages of the book that explain why the rules are such is one of the best reads i had for a long time actually. If it wasn't for the many footnotes and references that made it like a text book .
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Jim O'Neill (Established 1949)
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ZiNOS wrote:
...that made it like a text book .

It is a textbook. And a bloody enjoyable one at that!

Jim
Est. 1949

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Panagiotis Zinoviadis
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English is not my native language... but you get the picture m8 .

By textbook i meant the 4.1.2 blah blah blah mechanical textbooks i am used to due to my proffesion.

Cheers!
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Bob Roberts

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Well worth joining the Yahoo group, Dr. Sabin posts there pretty often.
Look through the files section, there is an excellent play-through there.

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/lostbattles/

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Our gaming group found the rules were incredibly confusing at first, and the disjointed way some of the modifiers get applied can really slow things down: eg:

+1 for a fresh lead unit of hoplites or phalangites attacking heavy infantry, unless the phalangites have adjacent enemies they are not facing or are attacking into or from a zone containing a camp or any kind of terrain feature (9.2)

Ouch! Exceptions layered underneath exceptions. This is actually somewhat poor game design in my opinion, and smacks of bolt-on additions for effect that end up seriously compromising one's ability to just play the damned game already.I just thought to myself "there has to be a better way to do all this", but then I realised I wasn't getting paid, so I gave up and went back to CC:A.

Some ideas in the game are pure genius (like the double move thingy), and I think the game needs some serious time getting bashed about by a good development team, and it has a serious chance of being a real winner (like CC:A).

However, after 6 games, we still found ourselves bogged down in modifier-checking, and not getting any better at playing it in a reasonable time, so we concluded we are too stupid for this game. This game will continue to have an extremely small following in my view, and modifier paragraphs like the one I showed above will be a big part of the reason for that, but I thought it had real potential. In my view if the modifier system could be replaced by an easier to use combat system that produced the same effect with about one quarter of the neuron use, it'd have a serious chance of breaking out among the Euro-gamer crowd the way CC:A has.

I have ASL, A3R and TK in my pedigree, but I just can't bring myself to give up the time I'd need to, to wrap my head around Dr Sabin's modifier system, given what you get out of it. And I'm a mathematician by trade.

Here endeth the critique...
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Piero
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I think you nailed there the issue.

CC:A is a game.

Lost Battles tries to be a simulation. An abstract one, but a simulation nevertheless.

You were looking for a game, maybe?

I don't think any game costing £80 will ever attract the eurogamer bunch anyway.
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David Bezio
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I really want to thank everyone for taking the time to answer, provide links, and most importantly explaining why they feel the way they do.

I’m going to pass on this one for reasons that probably have nothing to do with the quality or playability. In a nutshell, I’m currently getting games that are involved, but much more convenient to simply pick off the shelf and play. I was already a bit leery about a 2 player game (of which I already have scads), simply because I’m more inclined to play with a group these days...but I didn't want to miss out on an event

The answers and links here were great, and I feel it’s not a defeat when someone decided NOT to get a game (you love) because it isn’t the right fit at the time. Rather, it goes to show that the forums can work for the better in both directions with less waste (of time and money).
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Panagiotis Zinoviadis
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grubman wrote:
I really want to thank everyone for taking the time to answer, provide links, and most importantly explaining why they feel the way they do.

I’m going to pass on this one for reasons that probably have nothing to do with the quality or playability. In a nutshell, I’m currently getting games that are involved, but much more convenient to simply pick off the shelf and play. I was already a bit leery about a 2 player game (of which I already have scads), simply because I’m more inclined to play with a group these days...but I didn't want to miss out on an event

The answers and links here were great, and I feel it’s not a defeat when someone decided NOT to get a game (you love) because it isn’t the right fit at the time. Rather, it goes to show that the forums can work for the better in both directions with less waste (of time and money).


Still, if you are interested in Ancient warfare, read the book that is sold separately, sometime.

Cheers.
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Chris Hansen
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ZiNOS wrote:
Still, if you are interested in Ancient warfare, read the book that is sold separately, sometime.

Cheers.


I quite agree, though be warned; it will only heighten your desire to want to play the upcoming game!
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Chris, don't you mean "simulation"? gulp

Actually I disagree about simulation vs game in this instance. There are only 20 zones on the board. There is a tremendous amount of abstraction. This is part game part simulation. I am saying the mechanics could be far better, thus making for a better gaming experience, whilst losing none of the inherent simulation value.

Then again, a good chunk of the Eurogamer crowd has already spent far in excess of 80 quid on CC:A and its expansions.

CC:A for all its critics is both a good game, and a fairly decent simulation, if judged against Lost Battles. It focuses on what was important (leadership and troop quality), ignores minutiae, but if you follow any play-throughs, you find that in many cases the description you'd give of the game you played fits surprisingly well with the ancient narrative. It has its problems, (its retreat rules are wonky, and I don't like mandated retreats in Ancient games, since I think it was very difficult for ancient formations to extricate themselves from proximity to the enemy) and it does a God-awful job of something like Cannae, or Lychaeum. But you can't fault the speed of play of the game, nor the insights into positioning and leadership.

I like the attrition mechanism in Lost Battles however, and I think the zone system is entirely appropriate. The scale has a very good feel about it, and the setups look reasonable given the knowledge we have of the battles. I just wish the combat mechanism had been easier to apply, so I could play three or four games in an evening, like I can with CC:A.
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Piero
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To each his own.
 
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..but we can all wish, too....blush
 
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Gorgoneion wrote:
CC:A is a game.

Lost Battles tries to be a simulation. An abstract one, but a simulation nevertheless.

You were looking for a game, maybe?

By placing "abstract" before "simulation", a lot of "games" qualify.

I have played several ancient battles' games and most of them pretend to be better as simulations than others due to all the CRTs, coefficients, modifiers, number of pages, exceptions to the rules, length...

CC:A has the merit to demonstrate that simulation is not proportional to complexity. It "abstractly simulates" many things others do in a quite painful (and from now on, old) way. And, IMHO, CC:A does it better. Another example of depart from the old school with results at least as good is Bowen Simmons' games.

And I thought that all the entries in BGG were "games".
 
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Piero
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I may have hurt some feelings here. Sorry for that.

I dislike CC:A, this is why I cannot agree with your point of view even if I can understand it, to some degree.
But I think we're going off topic here.
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David Bezio
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Gorgoneion wrote:
But I think we're going off topic here.


I don't mind...every thread is a good place to talk about whatever comes up.
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Barry Kendall
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grubman wrote:
I really want to thank everyone for taking the time to answer, provide links, and most importantly explaining why they feel the way they do.

I’m going to pass on this one for reasons that probably have nothing to do with the quality or playability. In a nutshell, I’m currently getting games that are involved, but much more convenient to simply pick off the shelf and play. I was already a bit leery about a 2 player game (of which I already have scads), simply because I’m more inclined to play with a group these days...but I didn't want to miss out on an event

The answers and links here were great, and I feel it’s not a defeat when someone decided NOT to get a game (you love) because it isn’t the right fit at the time. Rather, it goes to show that the forums can work for the better in both directions with less waste (of time and money).


I get what you're saying, particularly because your drift these days is toward playing with groups.

I have LBs preordered. After reading one of the rules examples cited above, a small chill ran down my spine as it sounded something like what I hear at miniatures cons when passing by the Ancients tourneys that used to use WRG rules and now use whatever incarnation has replaced WRG 7th these days. There was a lot of discussion between players, a lot of rules-referencing, and occasionally some moves on the table. Absorbing for some, off-putting for others.

However, I don't think LBs will end up seeming as convoluted as some miniatures systems I've seen, and even if a rule seems arcane, having Dr. Sabin's commentary in the book will, I expect, help to bond theory to practice and aid comprehension and retention of the particular "exception" rubrics encountered.

I concluded that buying LBs is a safe move in any case because even if I don't like it, the limited-quantity release, coupled with very high production standards and Mark Mahaffey's art, will make resale easy, probably at a higher price than I'm paying for the game.

I have found such assurances go a long way to mollify the Mistress of the Exchequer, also known as "Mrs. K." Though she dreads what she considers to be an inevitable task: disposing of The Collection once she passes into widowhood.

I am sometimes troubled by the certainty with which she regards the inevitability of my predeceasing her . . . .
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David Bezio
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Barry Kendall wrote:
I am sometimes troubled by the certainty with which she regards the inevitability of my predeceasing her . . . .


Don't eat or drink anything she offers with a smile!
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broadsword wrote:
Our gaming group found the rules were incredibly confusing at first, and the disjointed way some of the modifiers get applied can really slow things down: eg:

+1 for a fresh lead unit of hoplites or phalangites attacking heavy infantry, unless the phalangites have adjacent enemies they are not facing or are attacking into or from a zone containing a camp or any kind of terrain feature (9.2)


Probably the most convoluted of the modifiers. However, no where near the Barkerese found in WRG Ancients or DBx. The modifier is not that hard to decipher as follows:
I have a lead unit of phalangites attacking heavy infantry. (Since there is only one lead unit in a zone, this modifier will not apply to any additional attacks from the same zone.) I get the bonus unless one of the two following exceptions apply.
A.) If there is an enemy unit in one of the other three adjacent zones (left, right, and rear) then I don't get the bonus.
B.) If my phalangite unit is in a zone or attacking a zone that has a camp or a terrain feature (hill, wood, river/stream, marsh) then I don't get the bonus.

Of the 19 total modifiers only a few will apply to any one type of unit. This is definitely less than the number of modifiers usually found in Phil Barker's rules and I am pretty sure is less than the number of modifiers found in Field of Glory.

Lost Battles is the fourth iteration of the rules. The first version was Phalanx using hexes. The second and third are Strategos and Strategos II using the same system as Lost Battles. Strategos II is still available from The Society of Ancients in printed and CD versions. The CD version allows you to play on your computer against yourself or others via hot seat or PBEM. At 5 British Pounds, not a bad price.

Lost Battles is not well suited for a group game due to the low number of units and is better suited to one-on-one play. Though our club has had multi-player games where each player was one of the Generals. Also, one of the members of the LostBattles yahoo group is running a second multi-player email game with six participants.

Most of our games run about an hour and a half. Our club had a campaign a while back where we used the earlier version of the rules - "Strategos" - to resolve battles using miniatures. One day we had three battles to resolve for one participant due to a multi-province revolt. He started the first game at 10:00 A.M. and finished the last at 2:00 P.M.

I enjoy playing Command and Colors Ancients. My daughter likes playing C&CA also. Though it is a lot of fun, most of the force compositions in the various battles only bear a passing resemblance to the actual troops. I have been tempted to play an epic C&CA game of the battle of Raphaia using Bar Kochva's interpretation of the forces fielded
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If you play HotT or DBA, the modifiers are scant indeed - I compare these things because in my view LBs is setting the same kind of scale, and attempting a game in the same kind of flavour and level. For the record I am deeply critical of DBA and HotT as anything other than geometric shenannigans masquerading as Ancient/Fantasy warfare. I doubt very much that Caesar measured the lines of march of his legions at Pharsalus with a protractor and a yardstick. And what the heck is a "wheel" suppoosed to represent on a grand scale anyway. Didn't the Austrians get creamed at Austerlitz trying to wheel at Corps level?

I am critical of CC:A as well, and I believe I mentioned that it is an abstraction, and that it fails miserably at Cannae, or even Carrhae (it simply has no mechanism for a swirling encounter where the enemy "rear" is the centre of the board).

But I feel the modfiers, and rules presentation, in LBs are convoluted enough that that alone is a major impediment to newbies learning the game, and like it or not, the casual gamer is the bread and butter of the hobby. If you don't think so, you're producing a curio, albeit a rather expensive one.

Not condemning here, the OP asked me my opnion, and I gave it.
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willial butler
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DBA and HOTT do indeed have fewer and less complexly written modifiers. The rule sets I was thinking of are DBM, DBMM, DBR, and the earlier WRG Ancients.

I also agree that some of the modifiers should be presented in a somewhat less convoluted manner. Maybe bullet points as done in HOTT2, Though the number of modifiers almost doubled from HOTT1 to HOTT2. Lost Battles actually has fewer modifiers than the preceding Strategos II. However, the modifiers in Strategos II are more cleanly written.

The modifier you cited and at least one other have become more complexly written as the rules have evolved through their various iterations. As such a casual player or someone new to the rules may just to put the game aside for the reasons you gave..
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