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Subject: Lost Battles - A Negative Review rss

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Andrew C
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Intro (or I'm so excited!)

This is the first game review I’ve written in several years, but I felt strongly enough about Lost Battles to break out of my inertia and get back to the keyboard.

I’ll start with my incredible anticipation for this game. I am exactly the target audience for Lost Battles. Like many wargamers, I fancy myself something of an amateur historian. I even went back to school in my 30’s to study military history, which culminated with a thesis on Alexander the Great. So Lost Battles is right up my alley. It focuses on ancient warfare, it’s designed by Dr. Sabin, a history professor, and it’s accompanied by a several hundred page book that includes chapters on the history of the battles, the reasons behind the critical design decisions, and additional historical insights that can be gleaned by using the model. In addition, Lost Battles sports extremely high production values, with excellent artwork, mounted tiles, oversized and rounded edge counters, and even includes a second game of strategic warfare in the ancient world. I didn’t even blink when I plopped down the $130, including shipping, to preorder the game from Noble Knight Games.

It comes with a book! Talk about you designer notes


When I received the game and opened the box, I was not disappointed. The bits really are excellent. The rulebook is glossy, with lots of pictures, and includes 35+ scenarios in the back. The counters and maps are great. Some folks complain that the green background on the counters, which matches the green grass of the board tiles, makes it a bit hard to see the units. I disagree and think they are great, making the figures on the units stand out. Also, the unit counters have no combat factors of any kind on them, only excllent stylized artwork, and their type (as in Veteran Hoplite Infantry, or Levy Light Cavalry). They look great, and if you’re a fan of Archer Jones’ weapon systems matrix (in the excellent book The Art of War in the Western World) then you’ll love these guys.

Beautiful, just beautiful


They only issues I see with the components are that the tiles warped a bit (not really a big deal since they aren’t too big) and that they didn’t include any system to keep the square terrain tiles from sliding around during play (this is a more significant issue). The latter point sort of bothers me, since even the designer recommending using the extra material on the edges of the counter sheets, of which there was plenty, to create puzzle piece locking edge pieces. Why didn’t they just die cut the sheet that way? Plus, the green of the units didn’t carry over to the edge of the counter sheet, so the frame would be stark white.


Why didn't they use the extra material to make a frame for the tiles?



Well, it’s a minor quibble anyway, easily overlooked for a game that provides fun game play, a strong narrative, and historical insights.


Unfortunately, Lost Battles does not provide any of these things...


Gameplay

Let’s start with the design decision that ruined the rest of the game. The board is made up just 20 tiles, each of which is an individual location. Units from opposing armies cannot co-exist in a single tile, and every unit in a location must face the same direction. The designer supports his decision for such a coarse map with a few points (and since I sold my copy already I can’t refer back to the book, and will go from memory).

First, he wanted to design a relatively simple game, that would play quickly, and therefore wanted to keep the map simple and both sides to around 20 units. That is an admirable goal, and one I have no issue with. In fact, Command and Colors: Ancients has the same goal and achieves it admirably.

Second, Dr. Sabin argues that due to our lack of specific and credible detailed information about the battlefields themselves, attempting to model more accurate renditions of the terrain is futile in any case, and prone to error. On this last point, I agree with the good professor, to an extent. The sources for many ancient battles make only the most general comments about the terrain, such a setting up behind a river, or on a clear plain etc. In many or most cases, historians can’t agree on where the battles took place, so we can’t walk the ground today, and in other cases the course of rivers has shifted, or other changes have occurred.

Twenty locations in total? Bad move.



The problem is, Dr. Sabin went too far in abstracting the terrain, and made it too coarse. Afterall, we are talking about a game here, not a dry academic exercise... at least we are in theory, though in fact I think Lost Battles is much closer to the latter.

So I contend the map is too coarse, and it ruins the game. Why is that? I’ll try to get specific, but in the interest of full disclosure, let me say first that I have only played Lost Battles a few times. I played four solo games (finishing a couple) and one face-to-face game, where we both agreed to abort and move on to something actually fun to play.

Okay, that’s out of the way. So why is Lost Battles so bad that I couldn’t even stomach finishing a single face-to-face game? Oh yes, the coarse map. The map is 20 tiles, laid out if four rows of five columns. Let’s see what game mechanics this map drives.

1) A River Runs Through It.

Let’s start with something very basic. Rivers run through a tile (space) not along the edge. That means when defending behind a river, as the Persians did at Granicus, your units are actually standing on the river space. And guess what? The game puts troops at a disadvantage when standing on a river space. That makes absolutely no sense for ancient warfare. Tightly packed phalanxes lost cohesion when crossing uneven ground, let alone shallow rivers, and anyone attacking across one should be penalized... particularly heavy infantry that rely on ordered formations like hoplites and Macedonian phalanxes.

Defending "behind" a river.


2) Key Zones. What's so Key about them?

The game introduces a concept of "Key Zones" that each army must defend or suffer permanent morale damage. Of course there are certain parts of a battlefield that are most important, and over which armies fight, but a good game makes them inherently valuable or useful, and therefore drives the players to act realistically. In Lost Battles these Key Zones are completely arbitrary.

"Men! See tha green space, near all the other green space. It's more important then other others, trust me."


3) Flanking...or not.

Since there are so few spaces on the map, all units in a single space must face the same direction. This pretty much destroys flanking, and refusing the flank. The designer argues that this is a "grand tactical" simulation, and that such fine maneuvering is outside the scope of the design. Fine, maybe, but any decision that sucks all the maneuvering out of a tactical ancients game also sucks all the fun out too. Imagine a body of your troops standing in the center space of the five rows of tiles. There are enemy units in front of your men, and a group of enemy units manage to get to the tile to their left. Your troops can either ALL turn and face the new threat, and ignore the original line, or they can stand fast and ignore the peril. In short, they are pretty much stuck where they are. So they stand there and attack, or they turn and attack with amounts to the same thing, namely look up a bunch of die roll modifiers, roll a die, and consult a table. Over and over again. Until the game is over.

It wasn't easy to find a picture of flanking in the database (that should tell you something) but this looks like the end for the boys in white.


4) Lack of maneuver, lack of fun.

What all these factors roll up to is this: line up your guys, move them forward, look up modifiers, roll an attack, rinse and repeat. What modifiers? Read on.

5) Combat modifiers.

Now you may argue that the description of combat in Lost Battles I just made above applies to any wargame, but it is far more descriptive of Lost Battles than any game I have every played. This is due partly to the extreme lack of detail on the map, so situational and positional factors all have to be handled by modifiers. The other reason is due to the fact that the units have no factors of any kind on them (more on this point later). Since position on the map is so abstracted, you get a slew of extremely long winded text descriptions on the modifier list. We’re not talking about a few words for each modifier (like "+1 for flank attack" or "+1 defending on a hill") but rather some of these descriptions for modifiers run to several sentences or lines and deal with VERY specific situations on the map.

Take a look at that list of modifiers. Seriously, before you plunk down your hard-earned dough on this, make sure you review a copy of this.


6) More combat modifiers.

Since the counters have no factors on them, then the relative superiority of heavy infantry over cavalry, or of light foot infantry over light mounted cavalry (we’re back to Archer Jones here) then all the battles resolve using a table and modifiers. Unfortunately I didn’t scan a copy of the modifier sheet, and there is no picture in the database yet. Happily, BGG user bestwysch has kindly created several play aids to help with this issue. Please check them out before buying the game. They will give you insight into some of the many problems with Lost Battles.

7) Activations, but not much activity.

Lost Battles uses a simple (to start with) activation model to drive turns. Each player essentially gets a few impulses a turn, then back to the other player, and so on, until all units have moved or a side uses all their commands. Problem is, first, that lack of orders is rarely an issue, so there are few hard decisions here. Second, again to make up for the fact that units have no inherent abilities or factors of any kind, and only a very abstract board position, all that has to be accounted for in exceptions to the very simple basic rules. So light cavalry gets some free activations, but only for certain actions, as does light infantry, and veterans, and units with leaders. Even after several games I still never internalized all the situations for activation, nor many of the combat modifiers. I’m sure many of the folks out there that rave about the game managed to memorize them, but I didn’t. They are way too fiddly for what should be a simple game.

8) Morale - or how Lost Battles broke mine.

Not to be outdone by the other mechanics, Morale in Lost Battles is fiddly. At the end of each turn after a certain number of units are lost, each and every unit on the board must check their morale. And for each one a player has to, you guessed it, consult a list of modifiers that take into account several factors. So its roll a single morale die, then apply unique situational modifiers for every unit on the board, one at a time, and apply the result. I’m sure the designer thought this single morale die roll applying to every unit was very slick, but honestly it would have been easier and more fun just a roll a die for each unit.

This is the end

Well, I’m running out of steam, and while there are other things about Lost Battles I don’t like, I think I made my point and it’s time to sum up.

Lost Battles is the greatest concept for a wargame I every encountered, with the worst execution. It is, in my estimation, the worst board game I’ve ever played.

I’ll close with this tidbit. After suffering through a few solo plays, I strongly considered trading the game, but with such glowing reviews from fellow geeks I greatly admire, I refused to trade it until I gave it a chance for face-to-face play. When fellow geek Chris Zerosum came down for a geekend with Paul goldenboat, he graciously agreed to be a guinea pig and try Lost Battles with me. We sat down, and played a few turns before we agreed that Lost Battles is terrible. I thanked Chris for trying it and commented that he, in effect, had saved me $130 by helping me realize there is nothing about Lost Battles that would ever cause me to play it over Command and Colors Ancients (which is far simpler and provides more insight into strictly linear ancient set-piece battles). I sold my copy days later and used the money to buy Maria, U-Boat Leader, AND Commands & Colors: Ancients Expansion Pack #6 – The Spartan Army.



Best trade of my life.



images courtesy of: marticabre, aTomm, bestwysch, Snowman, Arich54, and Dave in Ledbury. A sincere thank you to them.

edited for typos, clarity, and changed title to be more clear up front
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Steven Goodknecht
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Re: Lost Battles is Remarkable...
Great review! Glad to see you are writing reviews again and haven't lost your touch.

So, when can we expect the next one?
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David
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Re: Lost Battles is Remarkable...
Great review. It's refreshing to see someone take the time to write a negative review.

However, I think you blew your argument with one of your last comments "there really is nothing to Lost Battles that would ever cause me to play it over Command and Colors Ancients (which is far simpler and provides more insight into strictly linear ancient set-piece battles).

You lost me on that one. I just can't see how that stacks up. Among other things, LB comes with probably the best background material of any board-game ever produced, which provides the framework from which to further develop ones own insights into ancient set-piece battles. I sidelined C&CA because it doesn't give me the historical insights that LB does

That aside, well done on the review.
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Leo Zappa
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Re: Lost Battles is Remarkable...
We don't get to see too many negative reviews that are as well-written and well thought out as this. It certainly confirms the doubts I had on this very tempting looking package that I very nearly purchased before stepping away from the 'buy it' button. I don't doubt that the source material contained in the book is quite fascinating and I might very well buy the book by itself, but as for the game, it appears my own concerns were well founded. Hopefully you won't get too badly roasted for posting a contrary review on what has appeared to be a darling game to quite a few wargamers around these parts.
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Andrew C
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Re: Lost Battles is Remarkable...
David,

One of the problems with Lost Battles is that it is meant to be taken as a tool to provide historical insights, and I think that if it provides any, they are likely mistaken. CC&A doesn't pretend to do so, but actually provides some decent insights into the importance of mantaining unbroken lines, and of heroic leadership, and the strengths and weaknesses of light versus heavy troops. For more detail as to why I think CC&A is a better simulation than is generally given credit for, please see my review of it here.

I will grant, however, that GBoH is better than both CC&A and Lost Battles for study, and while heavier and longer than both, it still retains its fun factor.
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Andrew C
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Re: Lost Battles is Remarkable...
No Expectations wrote:
Great review! Glad to see you are writing reviews again and haven't lost your touch.

So, when can we expect the next one?


Steven,

It was your geeklist that got me thinking about getting back on the horse...thanks for the push! I hope to do some catching up in the next few weeks, and on games I really like.
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Aaron Bedard
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Re: Lost Battles is Remarkable...
haha!!
I was so excited to get wifi at this hostel I'm staying in here in Marseille, sign onto the Geek and read your heading in my subscriptions.. thennn I opened it, saw the author and knew it wasn't going to be pretty.

I'm glad I was able to take your lowest rated game off your hands and that you were able to beef up your collection with some games that you will get much more out of.

I'm very new to wargaming and have never played an Ancients type game before, so I am hoping that may work in my favor and am also trusting that the amount of praise that is (generally) attached to Lost Battles is not completely unwarranted. I will be back stateside in a couple weeks and see for myself.

And if I do find the game to be UNfun and even close to worthy of your clobbering, I will gladly return to this thread and admit it.

Either way, thanks for being so fair and cool to me through my first ever BGG transaction.
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Steven Goodknecht
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Re: Lost Battles is Remarkable...
Andrew,

Glad I inspired you! This review will be regarded as 'negative' by many but I saw it as 'honest'. There is a difference.
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Andrew C
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Re: Lost Battles is Remarkable...
Aaron,

I really hope you enjoy this game more than I did. If not, I'm pretty sure you can sell it, since it's pretty rare and many folks see something in it that I just don't.
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Todd Pytel
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Re: Lost Battles is Remarkable...
Interesting. I tend to agree with you on many games, Andrew, but not at all on this one. I've been wargaming very little in the last year, but LB is the one title I've pulled out repeatedly. I do agree with your comment that LB is at least as much an academic exercise as a game, and thus breaks certain expectations that we have of wargames. While I still find it interesting and enjoyable, I think your review does a good job of explaining why it doesn't work for you, and that's fine.

I do, however, have a couple of more academic points and some odd comments...

Cleitus the Black wrote:
The designer support his decision for such a course map with a few points...

IIRC, there was at least one other important consideration in the terrain design - the sizing of units. The whole "sliding scale" aspect of unit sizes and attack limits was based on considerations of frontage and command and control, and ends up being a fundamental driver of most of the rest of the system, including movement and terrain. The design of the unit sizing system certainly invites discussion and possibly disagreement, but I do think it's a less easily dismissed rationale for the terrain than just the uncertainty and simplicity arguments you cite.

Quote:
The game introduces a concept of "Key Zones" that each army must defend or suffer permanent morale damage. Of course there are certain parts of a battle field that are most important, and over which armies fight, but a good game makes them inherently valuable or useful, and therefore drives the players to act realistically.

I disagree. Psychology in the form of doctrine and expectation is important to any battle, and even more so for ancient battles, where troops had limited training and commanders had limited control. If troops expected that they would hold or take a certain side of the field, whether out of habit or out of pre-battle planning, that location assumes an importance to morale that may be disproportionate to its "real" value in combat. I think you can easily argue about the placement of certain key zones or even whether they should exist at all in some battles. But I don't think they're necessarily as meaningless as you make them out to be.

Quote:
Since there are so few spaces on the map, all units in a single space must face the same direction. This pretty much destroys flanking, and refusing the flank. The designer argues that this is a "grand tactical" simulation, and that such fine maneuvering is outside the scope of the design.

He also makes the case, supported by examples, that the impact of flanking is drastically overstated in most wargames - more a result of gamers wanting a dramatic mechanic than something firmly grounded in ancient warfare. Like the other decisions, that seems to me debatable, but not indefensible or merely oversimplified. However, I do agree that the coarseness of the terrain and maneuvering feel rather less plausible towards the end of the game as the battlefield thins out. But then I could also say the same of the endgames of many other reasonable pre-modern titles - probably because they're all awkwardly imposing an order upon what is in all likelihood complete chaos by that point.

Quote:
So they stand there and attack, or they turn and attack with amounts to the same thing, namely look up a bunch of die roll modifiers, roll a die, and consult a table. Over and over again. Until the game is over.

I also agree that LB, compared to most ancients wargames, has a lot of standing around and rolling dice, and that that can be less fun in a gaming sense than other systems.

Quote:
Since position on the map is so abstracted, you get a slew of extremely long winded text descriptions on the modifier list.

I agree that the modifier system is trying to do far too much lifting all by itself and is rather clumsy. This is, to me, the most glaring weakness of Lost Battles as a system. I don't think Phil would disagree either. I've played a couple dozen games and it's gotten a little better, but it's still awkward. This seems like the place where a traditional designer could have found a structure that was reasonably unobtrusive, but still considerably cleaner than the single, hulking list of wordy modifiers.

Quote:
Problem is, first, that lack of orders is rarely an issue, so there are few hard decisions here.

I disagree strongly, and think you're missing some of the depth of the combat system here. Saving two orders gets you a +1 bonus on an attack. That sounds like nothing, but in a 2D6-based combat system where many of the target rolls hover between 7 and 10, that +1 makes a pretty substantial difference to the chance of scoring a hit or to the chance of scoring a double hit, which is especially important when it comes to morale checks. Apart from maybe the first turn of moving troops into position, I've never felt like I had as many orders as I'd like to have.

Quote:
I’m sure the designer thought this single moral die roll applying to every unit was very slick, but honestly it would have been easier and more fun just a roll a die for each unit.

Dunno... I love the morale system. I think it does a great job of showing how panic can suddenly spread through the ranks. And, unlike the combat modifiers, I didn't find it fiddly at all after the first couple of games. Usually it seems pretty obvious whether a given morale roll is going to have an effect or not.

Anyway, good review, even if I come to the opposite conclusions. I think I see a lot of the same things in LB that you do, but just find the logic of them more compelling for whatever reason. I would certainly agree that LB feels very different than any other ancients wargame I've played, and quite possibly shouldn't be called a wargame at all. It's easy to see how it wouldn't be what some people, like you, were looking for.
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Christopher Donovan
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Re: Lost Battles is Remarkable...
Great review Andrew - and you now owe me a game of GBoH for comparison (not to mention compensation...)
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Piero
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Re: Lost Battles is Remarkable...
Great review, even if I totally disagree! Lost Battles has given me the nail biting tension I never thought I could get out of an Ancients' battlefield.

To each his own, enough said.
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Reinhard Mueller
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Re: Lost Battles is Remarkable...
Cleitus the Black wrote:

2) Key Zones. What's so Key about them?

The game introduces a concept of "Key Zones" that each army must defend or suffer permanent morale damage. Of course there are certain parts of a battle field that are most important, and over which armies fight, but a good game makes them inherently valuable or useful, and therefore drives the players to act realistically. In Lost Battles these Key Zones are completely arbitrary.

In my view the key zones sort of represents the plan the commander devised to his army before the battle on where to strike and not a terrain feature. So whether you take the key zone (or hold your key zone) is representing on how well or bad you progress on the plan devised before the battle. Intertwined with the impact on the morale system this is a very ingenious mechanic in my opinion.
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A.T. Selvaggio
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Re: Lost Battles is Remarkable...
Thanks for the review. This reflects my feelings and observations regarding the game. I sold it as well. Ultimately, I found it lacking in fun and, like you, prefer CCA.
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Wendell
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Re: Lost Battles is Remarkable...
Good review, thanks. Haven't played Lost Battles and probably wouldn't (I don't do tactical much), but always interesting to see a well-written negative review.
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Darrell Hanning
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Lost Battles » Forums » Reviews
Re: Lost Battles is Remarkable...
I think it's important to take Lost Battles as more of a model, and less of a game. That isn't to say that another designer couldn't take it, and modify it to make it more game-like; someone probably could. But that wasn't the designer's intent.

As to how "coarse" the scale is, I have to admit to being initially bothered by the scale not giving archers/slings a first-strike capability, and I'm still trying to reconcile that with what I'm watching occur on the board versus what I picture in my head. It almost gives the game an operational aspect, in that regard.

Still, I think LB does quite a few things (albeit in a less "streamlined" way) that other ancients games just don't do very well, and so, all told, I'm quite happy with it.
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Mick Weitz
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Re: Lost Battles is Remarkable...
Thanks for the review Andrew. I also looked with great anticipation to this game, and its related text. However, the more I viewed the materials presented on the game here on BGG, the more "queasy" I felt about what I was seeing. In the end, I didn't pull the trigger, as C&C:A and GBOH did not appear to be sufficiently supplanted.

Good Gaming~! Mick
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Martí Cabré

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Re: Lost Battles is Remarkable...
Great negative review! Thanks for taking your time into writing this.
BTW, could you change the spelling of "course" to "coarse"? Being a non-native I've taken my time to understand what you meant!
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Mark Kalina
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Re: Lost Battles is Remarkable...
I had doubts to begin with, whether I would be interested in this game. Based on other reviews and AAR's that were available to me it did not seem like the game for me. Now I am sure.

A game review should help a player decide if they want to play and/or purchase a game. This review has done exactly that. Thanks for the review.
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Andrew C
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Re: Lost Battles is Remarkable...
marticabre wrote:
Great negative review! Thanks for taking your time into writing this.
BTW, could you change the spelling of "course" to "coarse"? Being a non-native I've taken my time to understand what you meant!


Doh, thanks for pointing that out. I noticed a ton of typos and will circle back to corret them.
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Andrew C
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Re: Lost Battles is Remarkable...
Blastpop wrote:
A game review should help a player decide if they want to play and/or purchase a game. This review has done exactly that. Thanks for the review.


That's exactly why I wrote it, glad I could help!
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Re: Lost Battles is Remarkable...
Hi Andrew, nice review, but I'm afraid you may have got the wrong end of the stick on a few things. I've playtested the game and am a fan of the system so (for better or worse!) please take that into account in reading what I have to say.

1) Units defending behind rivers are *not* disadvantaged. It's the other way around. At Granicus it is the Macedonians who must enter the river tiles, and when they are in those tiles their phalangites get a combat minus while the defending Persians get a positive modifier when attacking them.

2) Key zones are one of a number of subtle rules included to encourage players to make historical choices, particularly when deploying, otherwise we might see players unrealistically sending heavy infantry to the wings and so on. If players do not protect their key zone they take a significant morale hit and their army will tend to rout much earlier. The key zone thus encourages players to use battle tactics specific to the battle and the era. To illustrate, as you know, hoplite armies frequently stacked the right wing, so key zones in the right centre tile encourage this. Punic war battles tended to feature symmetrical deployments and encirclement tactics so the key zones are in the centre. Successor battles varied, but often saw 'revolving door' battle lines, so again, key zones encourage players to focus their attack and defense in particular areas of the battlefield.

3) Flanking. Flanking is represented. When a tile is outflanked on one side, it gets to use more units in combat to represent the lengthening of the line. Successfully flanking the enemy actually requires careful manoeuvring due to the different movement allowances various units have and the rules about which units can turn and attack on the one turn. It can take two or more turns (out of ten) to get units into a flanking position and into the attack, so there is more to it that you have seen. Refusing the flank is a very important tactic in the game, precisely for this reason. You trade space for time and hope that your men elsewhere break through before your own flank is routed. Again, key zones contribute to decisions on tactics in this area.

4) Manoeuvre. It's there, it's just different from what you're used to. Different troops have different movement and combat capabilities so using these in combination is a key element of good play. Compare the encirclement ability of light cavalry to that of heavy cavalry, for example, and you start to see how manoeuvre (ie, getting the right units in the right place at the right time) works.

5) Combat modifiers. Yes, they can be clunky and hard to get your head around but they do several jobs, including unit differentiation (how are hoplites different from phalangites or from legionaries? It's shown through the movement rules, combat modifiers, and in morale) and again, incentive to use historical tactics. The designer doesn't directly tell you 'don't let your hoplites get outflanked by other hoplites!' but the combat modifiers do.

7) Activations. It's a lot to remember, but players really do have to learn how the different troop types are represented in the rules. There are no two ways about it. It we don't learn that things will not make sense, as you have found!

8) Morale. Again, we have to learn how it works and see it in action before it starts to click. This is where we see why it's not such a good idea to all-out attack all the time, or why Hannibal might have allowed his first two lines to get destroyed (shattered) at Zama before bringing his veterans into the attack, or why it's not such a good idea to mix fresh and spent cavalry in the same tiles late in the game, or why being encircled is a bad idea, etc.


Anyway I'm sorry that it was not your cup of tea, but I did enjoy reading your review.
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Re: Lost Battles is Remarkable...
butterbur wrote:
Hi Andrew, nice review, but I'm afraid you may have got the wrong end of the stick on a few things. I've playtested the game and am a fan of the system so (for better or worse!) please take that into account in reading what I have to say.

1) Units defending behind rivers are *not* disadvantaged. It's the other way around. At Granicus it is the Macedonians who must enter the river tiles, and when they are in those tiles their phalangites get a combat minus while the defending Persians get a positive modifier when attacking them.

2) Key zones are one of a number of subtle rules included to encourage players to make historical choices, particularly when deploying, otherwise we might see players unrealistically sending heavy infantry to the wings and so on. If players do not protect their key zone they take a significant morale hit and their army will tend to rout much earlier. The key zone thus encourages players to use battle tactics specific to the battle and the era. To illustrate, as you know, hoplite armies frequently stacked the right wing, so key zones in the right centre tile encourage this. Punic war battles tended to feature symmetrical deployments and encirclement tactics so the key zones are in the centre. Successor battles varied, but often saw 'revolving door' battle lines, so again, key zones encourage players to focus their attack and defense in particular areas of the battlefield.

3) Flanking. Flanking is represented. When a tile is outflanked on one side, it gets to use more units in combat to represent the lengthening of the line. Successfully flanking the enemy actually requires careful manoeuvring due to the different movement allowances various units have and the rules about which units can turn and attack on the one turn. It can take two or more turns (out of ten) to get units into a flanking position and into the attack, so there is more to it that you have seen. Refusing the flank is a very important tactic in the game, precisely for this reason. You trade space for time and hope that your men elsewhere break through before your own flank is routed. Again, key zones contribute to decisions on tactics in this area.

4) Manoeuvre. It's there, it's just different from what you're used to. Different troops have different movement and combat capabilities so using these in combination is a key element of good play. Compare the encirclement ability of light cavalry to that of heavy cavalry, for example, and you start to see how manoeuvre (ie, getting the right units in the right place at the right time) works.

5) Combat modifiers. Yes, they can be clunky and hard to get your head around but they do several jobs, including unit differentiation (how are hoplites different phalangites of from legionaries? It's shown through the movement rules, combat modifiers, and in morale) and again, incentive to use historical tactics. The designer doesn't directly tell you 'don't let your hoplites get outflanked by other hoplites!' but the combat modifiers do.

7) Activations. It's a lot to remember, but players really do have to learn how the different troop types are represented in the rules. There are no two ways about it. It we don't learn that things will not make sense, as you have found!

8) Morale. Again, we have to learn how it works and see it in action before it starts to click. This is where we see why it's not such a good idea to all-out attack all the time, or why Hannibal might have allowed his first two lines to get destroyed (shattered) at Zama before bringing his veterans into the attack, or why it's not such a good idea to mix fresh and spent cavalry in the same tiles late in the game, or why being encircled is a bad idea, etc.


Anyway I'm sorry that it was not your cup of tea, but I did enjoy reading your review.

Thanks for this post. I hope everyone who reads the review also reads this.
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Re: Lost Battles is Remarkable...
butterbur,

Thanks for the well thought out replies. Just a couple of quick comments.

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.

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.

I'd imagine that after many plays, and once all the exceptions and modifiers are memorized, it will all feel less clunky. The problem is, the lack of manuever (compared to other games) sucks all the fun out of it for me.

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.

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.
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Re: Lost Battles is Remarkable...
Andrew, you ignorant slut.
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