Wednesday, 13 June 2007

Battle Lore, my point of view

Battle Lore is the fourth (and not final game) in the successful series of Commands & Colors line by Richard Borg. Battle Lore is unlike the rest of the series because it is the first that moves away from the strictly historical recreation and delves into fantasy. The previous games in the series recreate battles from; the American Civil War, World War II, and Ancients (Roman Era).

If you are unfamiliar with the system, here is a quick breakdown of the way the game works. The units are laid out as shown by the scenario with the correct numbers of figures per unit and both sides are dealt a hand of cards. The game goes in the igo-ugo system with one player laying down a card and activating the units as shown on the card. Combat results are determined by the rolling of dice, the number of dice is determined by the unit type. As an example, a red (veteran or heavy) unit rolls 4 dice in melee. The die does use numbers, instead it has, in Battle Lore, helmets representing the three colours of units (red, green and blue) , a sword, a lore symbol and a flag. When the veteran unit rolls it’s dice the results are compared to the unit it is fighting against. If you wanted to hit that unit you would need to roll a red helmet. This can be modified by the units you are attacking with and spells (hence the Lore). The game continues until one side destroys the number of units required by the scenario for the win. Battle Lore is the second most complex of the systems, falling behind Commands & Colors: Ancients and directly ahead of Memoir ’44 on the complexity scale.

Battle Lore adds two things that did not exist in previous versions; the first is the fantastical creatures (the game comes with goblins and dwarves), and the second is the Lore.

I think Days of Wonder has really tapped a good market here with the idea of fantasy in this game; there are more players willing to play Agincourt with goblins helping the French then just a French vs. English battle. Memoir ’44 was a big hit for them as well, but the collectable aspect of Battle Lore may propel their sales even higher. Days of Wonder has also scheduled a series of add-ons for the game that will give the players more options and monsters. Those that pre-ordered received a Hill Giant and some received an Earth Elemental as well. They have also created plans for releasing a Dwarven Battalion Specialist Pack plus a Goblin Skirmishers Specialist Pack this year. The first supplement for the game has already seen a release date and that is the Call to Arms expansion. Days of Wonder is planning on releasing 4 expansions in the first year alone.

This is both good and bad, for one, it allows the game to continually change and for another it causes players to continually purchase new packages for the game, almost like a CCG. I am not a big fan of this, but I can see why companies do it. I am wondering if there will be a backlash to this huge amount of updates because it may slow down updates to Memoir ’44 and the volume of the updates may turn people off.

The other new aspect, Lore adds another degree of randomness and strategy. Battle Lore also does not include leaders on the field like Battle Cry of C&C:A but does allow for off field leaders, the “War Council”. In its most basic sense, you add cards depending on the type of “War Council” you have, your choices are Commander, Wizard, Warrior, Rogue and Cleric. Each war council member has different abilities and lore cards they can use to “cast spells” on their opponents. The Lore cards can be played offensively (e.g. fireball) or defensively (dispel lore) with varying costs between them of 1-10 Lore points.

The way Lore points are collected and used is as follows: the player whose turn it is collects lore cards and/or lore tokens at the end of the turn, plus any Lore results on the dice allow them to be collected as well. This means that if you attack and subsequently get attacked back, your opponent could collect lore in the battle back. Each Lore card has a cost associated with it, and some are variables as well, the Fireball costs 10, while the Dispel Lore is equal to half the spell originally cast.

One other new feature to the game is the concept of “Battle Back”. This was first introduced in a different form in Commands & Colors: Ancients. In the Battle Lore version you are only allowed to battle back if you are bold. There are different ways of being bold, the first being supported by two other friendly units, another being dwarven. Battle Back is the ability to “battle back” when you are attacked and have not been forced to retreat or wiped out.

One of the fundamental differences between Battle Lore and the other games in this series is the way you set up your units. The preferred setup is in a triangle, this allows all the units to support each other (be bold) and move together. This is different from the others because Commands & Colors: Ancients uses lines (as they would then) and the other two do not have bonuses for grouping.

One thing I do not like, although I do understand the reasoning, is that all miniatures are the same colour. Battle Cry and Memoir ’44 both use different colours of miniatures to depict the two sides, Battle Lore uses grey for both. The logic behind this is the ability to design your own battles and be able to pick any units. The other two games use blue and grey (Battle Cry) and a different colour for every force in Memoir ’44, C&C:A uses different colour blocks.

My final opinion on Battle Lore is that it is not as good as C&C: A but is a good game nonetheless. It has slightly more complexity then Memoir ’44 but it may lack the legs that I think C&C: A will have. On a 1-10 scale I give this a 7 or an 8, not a perfect game but a very good game.

What are your thoughts?

Added URL to Days of Wonder, Battle Lore, Memoir '44 and C&C:A


tim said...

Nice review, sounds interesting...

...wait... "collectable aspect"...?

Are we talking "booster packs" of random figures and/or cards...?!?

(a link to the manufacturers website might be handy - I'm sure you have it elsewhere in your archives - or I could google it... still a link right there in the review might have been handy)

Jolo said...

I added some links.

The reason why I call this collectable is the huge number of expansions they have planned. It will not be as bad as a CCG because you will not need the new figures to play the game, it is just that they are pushing these expansions.

It is a form of laziness in one way, but allows you to make the game "fresh" and new. Many gamers are completion freaks, and I am one, but I fight it all the time. They are the ones that are targetted.

I am not saying I dislike the game, I will say that I would rather be playing Commands & Colors: Ancients