Monday, 3 October 2016

Classic BattleLore...

The Command and Colors series of war games, by Richard Borg, are something of a phenomenon, with a core set of well tested mechanisms tuned to cover nearly every period you could think of, from Ancients through to the Napoleonic period, World War I, World War 2, science fiction, and fantasy.

One of my favourites of this game series is BattleLore, originally published back in 2006 by Days of Wonder, and later by Fantasy Flight Games, BattleLore (First Edition) was a fantasy/historical game set during an alternate 100 Years War, with Goblins, Dwarves and other fantasy creatures thrown into the mix for good measure. The cartoonish aesthetic and mingling of fantasy tropes and history was off-putting for some, but to be honest I found it pleasant, and a nice break from the overly serious and too-well-trod generic style that seems to dominate much fantasy game art.

The core system of BattleLore, like all of the Command and Colors games, revolves around activating units on the battlefield by playing cards, the dice system for combat is simple, and the weapons and other special rules provide enough variation to make play tactical and interesting. BattleLore also includes special rules for Lore (or Magic), a system which can have a powerful effect on the game, but is regulated through the managing both your War Council (where you have various Lore Masters: the Commander, Rogue, Warrior Wizard and Cleric), and through the economy of Lore Tokens - which are gained through dice rolls, and for various other things.

BattleLore is a lucky game, you can have the cards and dice swing for and against you, but it is a highly enjoyable game that does reward tactical play. While luck may play some role in how a game falls out, a player's choices still make a big difference in the game results. I find the game tense and engaging, formulating a plan and hoping the enemy doesn't mess it up is a lot of fun.

The Lore system is a fun addition that fits seamlessly in with the rest and manages to add a thematic and enjoyable magic system into the game. Combine this with the War Council, where players can use their points to create a well balanced council, or where they may choose to leave some Lore Masters off and make others more powerful, all of this then flows into the Lore system, and makes the game highly variable.  While set-up can take a little time, it is not long enough to be off-putting, especially for someone used to playing miniatures games.

All in all BattleLore has been a long time favourite of mine, and it has been nice that I have recently been able to dust off my copy as a friend (Quinton) and I play through the scenarios. Currently, we have played through 7 of the scenarios in the base game, and between the dozen expansions or so and the Call to Arms system which lets players create their own scenarios, we have many more to go. 

I haven't played the second edition by Fantasy Flight Games, and to honest I won't be getting it. Not because I don't think it's a good game, but because I have all the fantasy Command and Colors I need in the First Edition (and I prefer the kooky aesthetic). Plus, I think there will be enough Command and Colors around the Castle because...

After this most recent dalliance with the old favourite, Quinton and myself have both decided to grab other games in the series, after much vacillation on my part we have worked out that Quinton will be getting Command and Colors Ancients, a game I have played once before, and a period I am very much a fan of.

For my own part, I was very excited to see GMT announce the P500 (preorder) of Command and Colors Medieval. This game will begin with a focus on the wars between the Byzantine Empire and the Sassanid Persians, a choice which has garnered some interesting comment online. While certainly medieval by any historical standard, it is not as iconic of the period as, say, the 100 Years War, or the Scottish Wars of Independence or whatever. Personally, I am very excited by it as it is a period I very much enjoyed hearing about through the 12 Byzantine Emperors podcast, something I think I'm going to have to download again as the release date rolls closer...

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