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Lost Battles: Forty Battles & Campaigns of the Ancient World» Forums » Reviews

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Peter Bogdasarian
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butterbur wrote:

This is the kind of thing you learn through Lost Battles: you learn about the movements, the manoeuvres and the moments of decision that made up an ancient battle. You see on what small things great events turn. Sure, we're rolling dice, but you can feel the dust, see the confusion and hear the clash of arms.
I didn't find these things, but I'm glad you do. To me, the command point system had nothing to do with ancient warfare. I don't think commanders like Alexander spent their battles trying to decide where best to spend the extra command points for a +1.

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Lost Battles is not a game in which you give up or resign because you are losing. The losing side should lose. You play it out to the end, and then you tally up the victory points. The challenge is to do better than the historical participants, and if you can win the field when you are overmatched then it's something to remember.
We didn't fight either engagement to the end because the experience wouldn't have made the result satisfying. At Paraitacene, I had a minor (3 pt) FV advantage, but when we knocked off, my friend's army had lost just about everything not stacked with his leader and I was up by perhaps . He'd endured sheer misery for several turns after a round of below average rolls and absent a similar, even more improbable run of miserable dice for me, nothing was in doubt about the outcome.

Some times trying to die slower can make for an involving game, but I didn't find a point handicap made it the case here. The victory conditions may provide a balanced outcome, but they don't spread the fun around.

And to those who complained, I picked the title deliberately, because I think the game is a whole lot less deep than how it is presented in the book & surrounding copy.
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Leo Zappa
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jormungandr wrote:
butterbur wrote:

This is the kind of thing you learn through Lost Battles: you learn about the movements, the manoeuvres and the moments of decision that made up an ancient battle. You see on what small things great events turn. Sure, we're rolling dice, but you can feel the dust, see the confusion and hear the clash of arms.
I didn't find these things, but I'm glad you do. To me, the command point system had nothing to do with ancient warfare. I don't think commanders like Alexander spent their battles trying to decide where best to spend the extra command points for a +1.

See, this part I actually have the easiest time envisioning. I reason that Alexander "trying to decide where best to spend his extra command points" really represents Alexander making a decision as to which area of/problem on the battlefield required his attention, his intellect, and his physical presence in order to influence the outcome of the battle. To me, the allocation of command points is an abstract means to illustrate that he could only apply his superior intellect and leadership capability to a given section of the battlefield at any given time (especially in ancient warfare, where the commander did not have sophisticated communications technology to allow him to communicate to multiple areas of the battlefield simultaneously.) He had to pick the part of the battlefield where his direct presence or attention could tip the balance in a decisive manner.
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Nigel Wright
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jormungandr wrote:
And to those who complained, I picked the title deliberately, because I think the game is a whole lot less deep than how it is presented in the book & surrounding copy.
It sounded rather more as though you'd have preferred a beer & pretzels game with a quick & easy set of rules and were disappointed that Lost Battles wasn't that game. With all due respect, you don't seem to have made much of an effort to learn the game before dismissing it. It might not have been the game you were expecting or would have preferred, or the game you would have designed yourself, but some of the criticism does seem a little shrill. For example:

jormungandr wrote:
Sabin's book spent six chapters breezily explaining the model, then walked through the battles. When I read it for the first time, I found myself completely and utterly confused, until I reached page 227 and realized the actual rulebook (rather than a breezy discourse sprinkled with rules references) was waiting for me there.
For my part, I found a quick glance at the table of contents told me how the book was laid out and so I read the first five chapters explaining the rules, then the rules summary at the back, then followed the play through of the first few turns of the battle of Cannae in chapter six. I then checked out the yahoo group and found another play through this time of Granicus to follow using the play aids in the game. I'm still not up to speed on the various modifiers and exceptions which do serve to up the complexity level of an otherwise deceptively simple set of rules, but so far I've been impressed by the quality of the components and the amount of thought and development that have gone in to the game and look forward to getting many hours of enjoyment out of Lost Battles.
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Steve Bishop
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oneilljgf wrote:
Peter,

Although I disagree wholeheartedly with your conclusions, I have thumbed and tipped your excellent and well-written review.

Regards,


Jim
Est. 1949

I'm with Jim.
I couldn't disagree more with your opinions but I will defend your right to express them and have given you a thumb!
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Geoffrey Noble
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Can't help thinking the reviewer has missed the subties that lie deep within this game. There is much to admire in it - in fact I'd go further it beats the efforts of GMT (C&C, GBOH) and Avalanche Press by some considerable margin.

You see battles how they really were not how gamers would like them to be.
This is an outstanding game and the vast majority who have played seem to agree with me.



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Roger Hobden
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butterbur wrote:
This is an honest review and well put together but I would hate for it to colour people's perception of the game before they've had a chance to try it for themselves (or, in some cases, even receive it).

As a disclaimer, I have played the game with miniatures for around six years and have had a small playtesting input latterly. I am a fairly experienced player and a great admirer of the game and of its author, so take that into account when reading what I have to say.

The reviewer here seems to have encountered the same issues I had when I first played the game. OK, the handicap system seemed like a good idea in theory, but really, where was the winning in losing? You lose on the field, you lose, was my thinking on the matter. We did the calculations, but only because my partner insisted. It turned out that the Carthaginians had won at Ilipa. How ridiculous! I thought. I'd been pretty much smashed.

And the modifiers. Interminable. I don't care who the lead unit is - just roll the bloody dice. OK, an 8. I get hit. It's just a dice fest. Who cares? All right, that's true; if I had put light cavalry in the lead instead of the heavy cavalry, it wouldn't have been a hit. But in the long run, what does it matter? It's just one hit, and it's all luck. While we're at it, what are these stupid 'combat bonuses'? You can spend command points to give a unit a +1 in attack? That sounds a bit forced, doesn't it? It represents the ability of a commander to focus attacks in certain areas? Whatever. They don't do this in Warhammer! And so it went on.

Six years later it's my favourite game. I play it solo, I play it with opponents, I play it to win, I play it for fun, I play it to get a better idea of what happened in particular historical battles and I play it because it has a magnificent clarity to it. It is comprised of wheels within wheels, with each component of the system vital to the integrity of the whole. The putting of that light cavalry unit in the lead rather than a heavy cavalry may in fact be the difference between winning and losing.

Yes, it is abstract, but it plays like the primary sources read. If you find them dull then perhaps you will find the game dull as well, but you can't complain about a lack of historicity. There are more involved games, but this does not try to take the interactions to a level that the sources do not support. Read Caesar's account of Pharsalus and then play the game. You will find you are thinking in the same scale and watching things unfold at the same level. Read Polybius' account of Cannae; Livy's too: no other set of rules will allow you to play out this most famous of battles with the accuracy that Lost Battles will, and no other system will make a real game of it, as this system, played as it's meant to be played, handicap system and all, can. You will find more complex games, but I have not found any as satisfying in its trueness to history. You need no special rules, you need no 'idiocy constraints' - Varro's plan to crash through the centre turns out to be about the best chance the Romans had. Think you can do better? Play with the free deployment option and see.

This is the kind of thing you learn through Lost Battles: you learn about the movements, the manoeuvres and the moments of decision that made up an ancient battle. You see on what small things great events turn. Sure, we're rolling dice, but you can feel the dust, see the confusion and hear the clash of arms.

Lost Battles is immersive, complete and - most important - entirely plausible in its results. It is the tightest wound, most perfectly contructed game engine I have seen, and after six years of play it still blows me away how good it is. As others have mentioned above, it's not only a game but it's also a toolkit. It includes 35 battles (36 I think including Kadesh), but you can use it to recreate any battle of the era that gives you enough info to work with.

If you join the yahoo group you'll find there are at least a dozen more battles in the files section, and more in the posts, which demonstrate the flexibility and range of the system.

Lost Battles is not a game in which you give up or resign because you are losing. The losing side should lose. You play it out to the end, and then you tally up the victory points. The challenge is to do better than the historical participants, and if you can win the field when you are overmatched then it's something to remember.

For all his good intentions, the author of this review has simply made the same mistakes I did. You have to give it some time to sink in, and you have to play it as it's supposed to be played. Leave anything out, dismiss any element as pointless and you the throw the whole system out of kilter.

It would not be fair of me to fail to mention what is for some people a downside: the game relies on dice and so the variation that the dice bring in will not suit everyone. It is also a game that takes time to learn, and you will find as you switch between eras and weapons systems you have to change the way you play, and relearn certain aspects of the game.

Finally, for me as an ancients enthusiast (and a far greater one since I began playing this) the game is an absolute gem. Nothing is superfluous and everything is there for a reason. There are no errata in Lost Battles, and this alone should tell you how much thought and refinement has gone into it. Those interminable modifiers, the seemingly pointless handicap system, and those irritating exceptions are what turn Lost Battles into a study in command, a clash of weapons systems, a clash of cultures and an interactive portrayal of ancient warfare that, if you are anything like me, you will think about long after the game is over. And for those worried, it's far from beer and pretzels and there is plenty of game there once you know how to see it.

Anyway, for any who may still be reading, I'll link to a couple of battle reports for those who would like to see how the game plays (but with miniatures, and with the zones demarked in such a way that you can't see them on-table).

Asculum: http://prufrockian-gleanings.blogspot.com/2011/01/asculum-oh...

Heraclea (a user-made scenario):
http://prufrockian-gleanings.blogspot.com/2011/02/heraclea.h...
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Roger Hobden
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geoff999rugby wrote:
Can't help thinking the reviewer has missed the subties that lie deep within this game. There is much to admire in it - in fact I'd go further it beats the efforts of GMT (C&C, GBOH) and Avalanche Press by some considerable margin.

You see battles how they really were not how gamers would like them to be.
This is an outstanding game and the vast majority who have played seem to agree with me.

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Andrew C
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geoff999rugby wrote:

You see battles how they really were not how gamers would like them to be.
I strongly disagree with this point. Lost Battles is far to abstract to get a true sense of ancient warfare.

GBoH's cohesion system paints a far clearer image of how manuevering over rough ground disrupts tight ordered infantry, and how being attacked in the flank can wreck a unit, and of weapon system's relative superiority, and of Victor Hanson's image of phalanxes pressing against each other until suddenly one breaks and melts away (several of these points are clearer in CC&A as well).

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Matt Jolly
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oneilljgf wrote:
Peter,

Although I disagree wholeheartedly with your conclusions, I have thumbed and tipped your excellent and well-written review.

Regards,


Jim
Est. 1949

Me too!

In all particulars...

Cheers,

Matt
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