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Subject: Lost Battles - A Negative Review rss

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Joshua Gottesman
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Re: Lost Battles is Remarkable...
Cleitus the Black wrote:
butterbur,

One final point I forgot to mention in the review. One thing I think would help this game tremendously would be to use the option in the rules to create your own setups rather using historical ones. At least that would allow for more movement and variability in the game.

First of all, thanks for this review. You encapsulated many of the negative things I've seen in other threads into one place. That being said, I still am fascinated by this game, although I've done very little with it (curse you, tax season!). And I've read and seen enough here to realize that the game a) has a relatively steep learning curve and b) isn't going to feel like other ancients games I've played.

One point I'll make about Key Zones is that, in the text, Professor Sabin always describes why the various Key Zones were chosen. IMO, its anything but arbitrary.

I quoted the part above, because this option is already in the game. The games start on turn 2 because turn 1 was spent maneuvering into these "historical" positions. There are clear options to start on turn 1 with the existing force mix and using your own talents to deploy and fight.
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Re: Lost Battles is Remarkable...
Thanks for your great review, even though playing Lost Battles is much fun for me. I like C&C Ancients, too, but (at least for me) Lost Battles is quicker to setup and play, therefore a little bit more suitable for me.
And thanks for selling your copy so someone else can benefit from it, this is much better than just letting it gather dust.

Cleitus the Black wrote:

I'd imagine that after many plays, and once all the exceptions and modifiers are memorized, it will all feel less clunky.
Not all of the modifiers apply to every scenario, as some only apply to certain troop or terrain types which are not used in it. Some people suggested making a copy of the modifier table and strike out the unused ones.

Cleitus the Black wrote:

One final point I forgot to mention in the review. One thing I think would help this game tremendously would be to use the option in the rules to create your own setups rather using historical ones. At least that would allow for more movement and variability in the game.
Oh, there is! When using the historical deployments you start with turn 2. If you start at turn 1 you can use the rules for unit deployment to position your forces. You can even defer deployment of some of your units for later reinforcement and surprise attacks, like in the historical deployments where not all units are initially deployed.
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Re: Lost Battles is Remarkable...
Thanks for the comprehensive review. For me Lost Battles has been my standout purchase of the last year or so. It has been played more than any other game since I purchased it - and my gaming friends are always up for another battle.

For me the components are Ok but it is the gameplay that wins me over, but it is the gameplay that has won me over. Apart from setting up a game, I can't remember when we last had to refer to the rulebook, or the playaid for that matter – we find the game that intuitive. Like all things, it comes down to personal choice - but I find in this game a compelling recreation of ancient warfare. In one evening, we can play multiple battles or reset a battle and play multiple times.



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Andrew C
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Re: Lost Battles is Remarkable...
ThomasAH wrote:
Cleitus the Black wrote:

One final point I forgot to mention in the review. One thing I think would help this game tremendously would be to use the option in the rules to create your own setups rather using historical ones.
Oh, there is! When using the historical deployments you start with turn 2. If you start at turn 1 you can use the rules for unit deployment to position your forces. You can even defer deployment of some of your units for later reinforcement and surprise attacks, like in the historical deployments where not all units are initially deployed.
I added emphasis to my original wording, since what I wrote apparently wasn't clear. I never did try the option, but I think it might help.
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Andrew C
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Re: Lost Battles is Remarkable...
redfred666 wrote:
Quote:
Command and Colors Ancients (which is far simpler and provides more insight into strictly linear ancient set-piece battles)
is laughable.

I play CC&A, it's a lot of fun, but outside of the evading mechanic -directly taken from GBOH really- there is no facing, no flanking, no morale, etc.
I wrote a pretty lengthy review of C&C:A here where I explain in detail, with supporting quotes from ancient historical sources, why I think C&C:A is a better simulation that it is generally given credit for. Regarding flanking, its in C&C:A much more effectively than in Lost Battles. A quote from the review:

Quote:
In brief, any unit that is adjacent to two other friendly units is ‘supported’ and can ignore one flag (retreat result). This creates an incentive to maintain long straight lines of troops. Troops in a line are automatically supported, making retreat less likely. Those on the very end of the line, being adjacent to only one friendly unit, are not supported, and therefore more likely to retreat under pressure, which simulates the weakness of the flank nicely. When I first played I couldn’t believe that an ancients game didn’t have an explicit rule that provides a benefit for attacking the flank. But it IS in there in the form of the support rule, its just not spelled out as a ‘flank bonus.’
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Re: Lost Battles is Remarkable...
Hi Andrew, thanks for your reply.

Cleitus the Black wrote:
butterbur,
Regarding rivers, I don't have the scenario book anymore, but I may have been thinking of Issus not Granicus. As I recall, in the Issus scenario, the Persian Key Zone is ON the river space, forcing them to fight at a disadvantage, where they historically defended the river line.
If you were meaning Issus, then your criticism makes more sense, but you've still overlooked a key point: the Persians start behind the river and do not have advance into it unless they want to. This is because the key zone weighting changes when rivers are involved. What this means in practice is that the Persians only need to hold one of their three central zones (and any one will do) to keep their key zone morale modifier intact. They only need to advance into the river zone in one area, as they did historically against Parmenion's flank.

There is a trade off though - if the Persians stay behind the river Alexander gets to pick and choose where and when he will attack them (as he did historically). The Persians therefore have to weigh up their options carefully. These kinds of subtleties are very important in terms of what tactical choices to make during a game.

Sorry for getting bogged down in details here, but in this regard you appear to have based your criticism on a misreading of the rules.

Cleitus the Black wrote:
]Regarding the rest, even Lost Battles' defenders generally acknowledge the fiddliness of all the modifiers. As I stated above, I believe the too coarse map grid forced the designer too "make up" for that with far too numerous modifiers and exceptions.
Yes, they are fiddly, but they serve a vital purpose in differentiating between unit types and in encouraging historical tactics. The detail of Lost Battles is in modifiers, morale and movement.

Cleitus the Black wrote:
One final point I forgot to mention in the review. One thing I think would help this game tremendously would be to use the option in the rules to create your own setups rather using historical ones. At least that would allow for more movement and variability in the game.


You are right, there is a rather different emphasis when playing Lost Battles with free deployment. The historical scenarios are just one part of the picture. Not using the free deployment option is like playing a car racing video game on learner mode - you can go around the track but the gears are handled automatically and the steering is simplified.

Cleitus the Black wrote:
Regardless, this game simply wasn't for me, but it clearly is loved by many others. I just wanted to provide an additional viewpoint for those considering this very expensive purchase.
Fair enough. It would be a boring world if we all agreed! Thanks again for an interesting take on the game.

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Re: Lost Battles is Remarkable...
I'm reading Professor Sabin's new book Simulating War, which has other games he designed. All of his games were designed for use in his classroom, which means they have to be quick to teach how to play, and quick to play. Sabin highlights the key factors of the subject as he sees them, and he ruthlessly abstracts the rest. If using only a few pieces and a few map areas gets the lesson across, that's what he does. On that level, I think Sabin is an excellent game designer. Lots of designers know what to put in, but few know what to take out.

Note that I used the word "lesson". I approached Lost Battles not as a competitive game player but as a student. As a lesson, I think it works very well; as a game, not so well, but that's not Sabin's fault. It's inherent in the situation.

In ancient battle, the most important decision the army commander makes is the deployment. Grand-tactical (army-level) reserves in the 19th century+ sense did not exist, and only the Roman system had so much as tactical reserves. In the Greco-Alexandrian system the army commander fought in the front rank and had no influence outside his immediate vicinity after contact, so Lost Battles actually gives a Greco-Alexandrian player a bit more control than he should have. I think contrasting Lost Battles with other ancient battle games only reveals what other designers have done to make ancient battle a more interesting game situation after contact.
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Jim F
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I agree with Andrew on this one. Not a great deal of fun. I am surprised to see the rules described as 'intuitive'. I thought they weren't particularly well-written and found myself re-reading some to clarify what they actually meant.

I also sold on my copy after a few plays for a small profit...which was nice.
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Hi Jim I found the rules intuitive not the rulebook - which as you state could have been an easier read, but once absorbed it does not require much, if any, reference (absorbing the rules took us 4-5 battles - maybe two evenings of play).
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I appreciate your review, and I wish there were more critical (I prefer this word over "negative") reviews on BGG that were this well thought out. And photos are included to boot!

That said, I think part of the issue might be your 4 solo games and 1 game with an opponent. Part of my fun with this game (and other games in general) has come from trying to outwit my opponent, especially when my side is the underdog (historical loser). I solo games when I first get them to test drive the rules, but I typically like to play a few games with another player(s) before I yay or nay it. In this case, yeah, soloing wasn't superb, and I really had to sell my first opponent on the game; I've since played at least a dozen and half matches with that person.

Part of what is lost when playing a game solo is the strategy planning (specifically, I'm thinking of bluffing) element. In the best case, you consciously know what your "opponent" is going to do, and in the worst case, you subconsciously favor one side over the other and your decisions will aid that side and inhibit the other.

I enjoy this game for its abstract approach to strategy. It's not a perfect game and there are things I may have liked to have seen implemented differently. However, it functions as advertised and I've easily gotten my $$$ out of it, and I've only played 6 or 7 of the scenarios (though multiple times each), and I haven't even tried the Empire subgame yet.

If there is just one thing I really didn't like about the system, it's the free 1d6 additional actions once you have 0 or 1 actions remaining. I like the mechanic of giving additional actions, but I've had a handful of matches where one player consistently received 5 or 6 additional actions per turn, and that can be killer, no matter how well you execute your strategy and how poorly the other person executes theirs.
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Joshua Gottesman
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DukeVonDuck wrote:


If there is just one thing I really didn't like about the system, it's the free 1d6 additional actions once you have 0 or 1 actions remaining. I like the mechanic of giving additional actions, but I've had a handful of matches where one player consistently received 5 or 6 additional actions per turn, and that can be killer, no matter how well you execute your strategy and how poorly the other person executes theirs.
You could always use averaging dice to smooth that out.
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Joshuaaaaaa wrote:
DukeVonDuck wrote:


If there is just one thing I really didn't like about the system, it's the free 1d6 additional actions once you have 0 or 1 actions remaining. I like the mechanic of giving additional actions, but I've had a handful of matches where one player consistently received 5 or 6 additional actions per turn, and that can be killer, no matter how well you execute your strategy and how poorly the other person executes theirs.
You could always use averaging dice to smooth that out.
On the LB Yahoo! Group there is a diceless resolution mechanic that they have playtested.
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Joshuaaaaaa wrote:
DukeVonDuck wrote:


If there is just one thing I really didn't like about the system, it's the free 1d6 additional actions once you have 0 or 1 actions remaining. I like the mechanic of giving additional actions, but I've had a handful of matches where one player consistently received 5 or 6 additional actions per turn, and that can be killer, no matter how well you execute your strategy and how poorly the other person executes theirs.
You could always use averaging dice to smooth that out.
There is also the optional rule to change a 1 rolled to 3, and a 6 rolled to 4.
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Gorgoneion wrote:
Joshuaaaaaa wrote:
DukeVonDuck wrote:


If there is just one thing I really didn't like about the system, it's the free 1d6 additional actions once you have 0 or 1 actions remaining. I like the mechanic of giving additional actions, but I've had a handful of matches where one player consistently received 5 or 6 additional actions per turn, and that can be killer, no matter how well you execute your strategy and how poorly the other person executes theirs.
You could always use averaging dice to smooth that out.
On the LB Yahoo! Group there is a diceless resolution mechanic that they have playtested.
I'll need to look at that this weekend.
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DukeVonDuck wrote:
Gorgoneion wrote:
Joshuaaaaaa wrote:
DukeVonDuck wrote:


If there is just one thing I really didn't like about the system, it's the free 1d6 additional actions once you have 0 or 1 actions remaining. I like the mechanic of giving additional actions, but I've had a handful of matches where one player consistently received 5 or 6 additional actions per turn, and that can be killer, no matter how well you execute your strategy and how poorly the other person executes theirs.
You could always use averaging dice to smooth that out.
On the LB Yahoo! Group there is a diceless resolution mechanic that they have playtested.
I'll need to look at that this weekend.
I generally love the dice in this game, and the favour of the gods has made it even better, so I never felt the urge to try the diceless version.
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I have Sabin's book, Lost Battles. I'm slowly working my way through it as it is not easy to understand. I have looked more closely at the rules in the book and never imagined that the game would be fun. After all they were designed for analysis. The number of modifiers is daunting, almost as many as WRG ancients rules.
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It is a well written review, and it is on that basis that it should be considered by the community. It does not matter if we agree, disagree, or do a bit of both, what matters is how well the review is written; and here Andrew has done well. Let's drop the "positive" and "negative" labels.

goo

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Quote:
I am surprised to see the rules described as 'intuitive'.
Some see "intuitive" as one's ability to read between the lines, and, sometimes, in spite of the lines. Others understand it differently. And then there is the dictionary which likely means all of us are wrong.

goo
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Cleitus the Black wrote:
The problem is, the lack of maneuver (compared to other games) sucks all the fun out of it for me.
I've found that to be the case with pre-gunpowder-era games in general, so I tend to steer clear of that period. Anytime such a game allows a lot of maneuver (usually making the game more fun), I start suspecting it's not very realistic.

The impression I get from reading this review and the replies is that LB may be pretty realistic, while being light enough to remain playable, but I probably wouldn't find it much fun either.

Guess I'll stick with Ancient Battles Deluxe. It's small, quick, and relatively inexpensive--and I don't play games set in this era much anyway.
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Patrick Carroll wrote:
Cleitus the Black wrote:
The problem is, the lack of maneuver (compared to other games) sucks all the fun out of it for me.
I've found that to be the case with pre-gunpowder-era games in general, so I tend to steer clear of that period. Anytime such a game allows a lot of maneuver (usually making the game more fun), I start suspecting it's not very realistic.
Patrick, why would you think there was less maneuver in the pre-gunpowder era? I don't see how carrying guns would increase a force's maneuverability. In fact, there are some armies I think of as very maneuverable (like the Mongol cavalry.) Would you please explain further?
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Eric Brosius wrote:
Patrick Carroll wrote:
Cleitus the Black wrote:
The problem is, the lack of maneuver (compared to other games) sucks all the fun out of it for me.
I've found that to be the case with pre-gunpowder-era games in general, so I tend to steer clear of that period. Anytime such a game allows a lot of maneuver (usually making the game more fun), I start suspecting it's not very realistic.
Patrick, why would you think there was less maneuver in the pre-gunpowder era? I don't see how carrying guns would increase a force's maneuverability. In fact, there are some armies I think of as very maneuverable (like the Mongol cavalry.) Would you please explain further?
Well, by Frederick the Great's day, linear tactics and light infantry had come into their own. A body of infantry could project firepower for eighty yards or so, and there was no practical value in massing infantry many rows deep (two or three ranks would do). Big, deep formations were vulnerable to artillery and musket fire anyway. So, units tended to be smaller and move so as to form lines of fire (or sometimes assault columns).

Greek phalanxes and Roman legions were very different--often massed very deep and not necessarily across a broad front. Just getting a phalanx to turn was a big deal. And once engaged with the enemy, it was especially hard to disengage, as the fighting was hand-to-hand.

Yes, the Mongol cavalry was a notable exception, and there were others as well (Parthians, etc.). But horse archers weren't the norm in most places throughout most of ancient/medieval history.

Firepower basically enables men to kill each other from a distance; and as long as you're still at a distance, there's some room for maneuver or disengagement and reengagement. When most or all of your force is armed only with melee weapons, you're going to have just one chance; once you close with the enemy, you pretty much have to keep fighting until one side is spent.

At the other extreme is modern warfare, where not only are there motorized vehicles, but even infantry has to maneuver in small packets (squads), using fire-and-movement techniques and taking advantage of cover and concealment.

Just some impressions of mine. I could have it all wrong.
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bentlarsen wrote:
It is a well written review, and it is on that basis that it should be considered by the community. It does not matter if we agree, disagree, or do a bit of both, what matters is how well the review is written; and here Andrew has done well. Let's drop the "positive" and "negative" labels.

goo

Is that the Royal We? Personally I'm not comfortable with having the parameters of how I should judge something laid out by others and, at the risk of being zapped Dumbledore style, I'll ignore it whistle
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Ashiefan wrote:
bentlarsen wrote:
I think, so we must ...
Is that the Royal We? Personally I'm not comfortable with having the parameters of how I should judge something laid out by others and, at the risk of being zapped Dumbledore style, I'll ignore it whistle
Took the words right out of my mouth. shake
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redfred666 wrote:
As said by HuginnGreiling Butterbur, the defenders behind a river have the advantage - but you're right for the persians's keyzone at Issus.

The rest of the review is well written but this (emphasis mine):

Quote:
Command and Colors Ancients (which is far simpler and provides more insight into strictly linear ancient set-piece battles)
is laughable.

I play CC&A, it's a lot of fun, but outside of the evading mechanic -directly taken from GBOH really- there is no facing, no flanking, no morale, etc. But I admit, the little cubes are in line and there are activation cards with "Line" written on it :D

Your comment on the game nailed it better : GBOH = insight CCA = fun. That's more like it ;)
My thoughts also about CCA and GBOH. Ancient Battle Deluxe is another good option. Lost Battles is now on the table. There seems to be good opinions about the game after repeated play, so I'll play several scenarios and decide for myself. Thanks to everyone for their thoughts.
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Actually, reading the "negative" review makes me WANT to buy the game ... go figure ...
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