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Subject: Impressions from a Warhammer Player rss

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Bryan Pravel
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Impressions from a Warhammer Player

Warhammer: Fantasy and Warhammer 40K are probably the most popular miniatures systems on the market, and considering that BattleLore is a competing miniatures system, I am somewhat surprised that I have not seen more than a couple of reviews from the perspective of someone that might be a Warhammer player. While I've tried to write my impressions in such a way that they make sense for any player, the target demographic of these impressions are players like me; those who enjoy Warhammer but are considering BattleLore as a cheaper and faster alternative to Warhammer: Fantasy or Warhammer: 40K.

Before I begin, let me preface these impressions by explaining that I am not one of the many disgruntled Games Workshop haters. I do not think that Games Workshop is trying to steal money from anyone, and don't think the prices that they charge are unreasonable considering the quality of their work. That being said, I am certainly not Games Workshop “fan boy” either. I would love to see Games Workshop change the way they manage their armies and rules, and frankly, although I don’t feel their prices are unreasonable, I am not wealthy enough to purchase as many of their products as I would like. In short, I imagine that I am a somewhat typical Games Workshop customer, and also the sort of customer that Days of Wonder might be trying to lure away.

With that preface out of the way, allow me offer one additional comment: I have attempted to be quite thorough in my comparison of the two systems and as a result, my impressions are quite long. If you are interested in merely seeing my overall opinions of the two systems, please skip to point #8. If you are interested in a more detailed comparison, please continue reading below:



The BattleLore Box

1. Quality of components:

If nothing else, BattleLore is a very pretty game. It doesn't approach the beauty of a Golden Demon quality Warhammer army played on a board filled with custom terrain, but right out of the box the game looks better than my Warhammer army that I've been working on for over 2 years. As a Warhammer player who struggles finding the time to paint, I definitely appreciate this.

Players are introduced to BattleLore through a glossy full color rulebook filled with detailed illustrations and very high quality art. Even just a quick glance at the cover of the rule book paints a very clear picture of the art style and the overall feel of the game. This is not the dark, dystopian Warhammer universe (which don't get me wrong, I still love), nor is it the "we tried to fit every fantasy setting ever invented in one place" Dungeons and Dragons universe. Instead, the art in BattleLore is more classic and innocent, using lots of bright primary colors to invoke something more timeless. It's almost as if Days of Wonder has identified the core of the mythology that has developed around the fantasy genre and created a very "storybook" feel to the art in their game. Picture "knights in shining armor" and you'll get the idea of the game's artistic style. Overall, the art has a strong "Heroes of Might and Magic" sort of feel.

The game's double sided game board seems well constructed; it has the same bright primary colors look to it as the rulebook, is easy to read, and looks great. The board is divided into hexes and each of the hexes are grouped into one of three sections, the left wing, the center, and the right wing. The hexes and dividing lines are very subtle and do not distract from the overall look and feel of the board. The game also includes 46 terrain pieces and landmarks, each of which can be placed on a single hex on the game board for various gameplay effects. The terrain pieces look great, but the landmarks are really awesome looking. Landmarks range from Palisades to Healing Pools to Secret Passages. Each landmark is drawn in such a way that it almost appears to have a 3D look, despite the fact that it is simply a flat 2D piece of cardboard. Again, the terrain and landmarks use the same bright colors and a classic look to make completed boards really look like a storybook world on your game table.



Sample Landmarks

BattleLore also includes 162 full sized playing cards that are used to either give a quick visual reminder of the rules, or to have some sort of game effect like ordering a unit or to represent the effects of magic in the BattleLore universe. These cards are glossy, sturdy, and gorgeous. I wouldn't say the art on these cards is as good as what you might see in Magic: The Gathering, but it is every bit as good as (and in many cases superior to) any other CCG that I've played.

The heart of BattleLore's gameplay is centered on the plastic miniatures that represent the game's units. There are 210 plastic miniatures in the core BattleLore set. The miniatures are small, probably about an inch or two tall on average. The sculpts on the individual miniatures are not as detailed or dynamic as Warhammer miniatures, but considering their size they have plenty of detail. There is certainly no difficulty in identifying units at a glance, even when left unpainted. The miniatures seem to be similar in quality and scale to Games Workshop's Warmaster or 40K Epic series. They are not the best miniatures out there, I would probably not recommend the purchase of BattleLore based on the quality of the miniatures alone; however, when combined with the incredible quality of the other components, it still manages to look pretty impressive when you have 200+ miniatures on the table at once, complete with colored banners, terrain pieces and landmarks. In addition to the basic units, the core set also includes a plastic Giant Spider and although I have not had the opportunity to play with them, there are also two other Creatures as well; the Hill Giant and Earth Elemental. These creatures are larger and seem to be of higher quality than the basic miniature, but still do not compare to a quality Warhammer miniature.

BattleLore also comes with a glossy, full color Adventure Booklet that shows you how to set up the various scenarios the core game launched with, gives you free access to an online editor that allows you to create adventures of your own, plastic card holders, 2 full color, double sided cardboard "War Council" sheets that are used to help manage the games optional "lore" battles, 12 colored battle dice, Lore Master tokens to represent the heroes commanding your army, and a set of tokens to help keep track of the amount of lore (magic energy) that your army has available, complete with a cup to keep the counters hidden in. All of these components are of the highest quality of any board game that I have played to date.

The only real complaint that I have about BattleLore's components is that some of the miniatures were bent when they were first removed from the box. The BattleLore box is packed to the brim with material, and it looks as if a few of the miniatures were squashed in the process. Because the miniatures are plastic, it is quite easy to place them in warm water and bend them back into shape; however, it does slightly detract from the otherwise high quality of components in the game.

Summary:

Warhammer: Superior miniatures, better for the hobby gamer

BattleLore: Superior "game" materials, better for the "gamer" who considers the hobby aspects of Warhammer a necessary evil.

2. Gameplay:



BattleLore Game Board

As a Warhammer player (and before that a role playing game player), I feel the rules in BattleLore are incredibly easy to understand. Despite the fact that the rulebook is 80 pages in length, even my wife managed to pick up on the rules very quickly, and she complains that Settlers of Catan is too complex for her tastes! That being said, the rules are not so simple that they are boring. Instead, they are written very well and built around concepts that make a lot of sense. Additionally, the rules are gradually introduced by playing through multiple scenarios, in a similar style to computer strategy games that introduce units and abilities a few at a time using a series of connected missions. The introduction of new rules through scenarios was a brilliant decision as it allows players to quickly jump in and start playing without being overloaded with a ton of rules all at once. Overall, I found the Rulebook to be far superior to the Warhammer rule book. First of all, it is full color with tons of illustrations. Second, the rules in BattleLore seem less ambiguous and easier to understand.

The core gameplay is built around using cards to order miniatures and rolling dice to resolve combat. It is a very straightforward and can be completed in a few easy steps. First, players choose an adventure to play, place the appropriate terrain and units on the board according to the selected adventure's instructions, and then select a number of command cards as instructed by their selected adventure. Once this is done, the game begins.

On each turn, players follow these steps:

a. Command Phase: The active player plays a Command Card from his or her hand.

Command Cards are divided into the following types: Section cards and Tactic cards. Section cards typically allow players to order a limited number of their units on a specific section of the board (the left flank, center, or right flank). For example, the "Attack Left Flank" card might allow a player to order 3 of his units on his left flank. He would not be able to order any of his units from the center or right flanks until the next turn, and then only if he had a card that allowed him to do so. Tactics cards tend to have more global effects than section cards and sometimes provide bonuses as well, such as the "Leadership" card that allows you to order a single unit in any section of the game board and gives that unit a combat bonus for that turn.

The purpose of dividing the board into sections and using section cards to send orders is to simulate the limited sets of orders that a Military Commander could give during the medieval period. A commander could not be everywhere on the field at once. While I certainly wouldn't call the BattleLore system "realistic", the system is a more accurate representation of the difficulties a commander would face than most war games or miniature games out there right now. The real genius of the card based order system is that because players are on opposite sides of the game board and share a common draw deck of command cards, if one player takes a lot of right flank cards, this will leave the other player a lot of left flank cards, increasing the odds of conflict in that section of the board and creating a more interesting game.



Command Cards

b. Order Phase: Players announce which units they will order within the limits of the Section or Tactics card that they just played.

After selecting a Section or Tactics card, a player must announce to his opponent which units he or she wishes to activate or “order” for that turn. For example, if a player uses the “Attack Left Flank” section card, and it allows him to order up to 3 units at once, the player must announce which 3 units in his left flank he would like to order. Only ordered units may be given move or attack orders during that turn.

c. Movement Phase: Move all ordered units that you wish, one at a time. Respect all unit and terrain movement limitations, as per the Terrain Summary cards.



Sample movement rules for mounted units

After a player has announced which units he will be giving orders to, the movement phase begins. During this phase, any ordered unit may be moved a number of hexes according to their banner color. Every unit is identified by a green, blue, or red banner. Among other things, the color of the unit’s banner indicates their speed while moving. Using our previous example, if a player had played the “Attack Left Flank” section card, and hard ordered 1 green banner archer, 1 blue banner cavalry, and 1 red banner short swordsman unit, he would be allowed to move his green archer 2 hexes, his blue cavalry 3 hexes, and his red infantry 1 hex because according to the rules, green banner infantry may move two hexes per turn, blue banner cavalry may move 3 hexes per turn, and red banner infantry may move 1 hex per turn. The weapons that a unit is equipped with have no affect on the speed a unit moves at.

An additional consideration during the movement phase is the effect terrain may have on movement. Terrain such as rivers and forests can be a limiting factor on movement and players must be careful their enemy does not use terrain to slow them down.

d. Combat Phase: Battle one ordered unit at a time. Select an enemy unit and:

* Verify your target is within range and line of site;
* Announce the number of battle dice that you are entitled to roll; per your units troop type and weapon type;
* Adjust your number of battle dice, based on an terrain effects;
* Roll the resulting number of battle dice, and apply their effect, per the attacking units weapon card, scoring hits first, then retreats;
* If appropriate, conduct follow-on actions (gaining ground, pursuit actions, Bonus Melee attack, and/or enemy battle back).[/list]

Combat in BattleLore is a fast and fun. After ensuring a unit has range and line of site (which is limited by terrain and other units), you roll a specific number of 6 sided dice based on your unit type and banner color. For example, green banner ranged units are allowed to roll 2 dice per attack, while red banner infantry attack with 4 dice per attack. Attacking into or from certain terrain types can also affect the number of attack dice a unit is allowed to use. For example, when attacking a unit that is in forest terrain, you may use no more than 2 attack dice per combat. At the same time, units inside of forest terrain may attack out of the forest with no more than 2 attack dice per combat as well. Effects like these makes terrain pieces a great place to defend from, but they also tend to reduce your offensive abilities, resulting in some interesting tactical decisions.



Battle Dice

Each face of the attack die shows a different symbol; a green, blue, or red helmet, a lore emblem, a bonus strike emblem, or a retreat flag. This means that on average, each symbol has a 1/6 chance of happening per die roll. The weapon that a unit is armed with determines what effect the various symbols on the attack die have on their target. Some weapons only hit when the banner color of the target they are attacking is rolled. For example, if a green banner short bow unit attacks a red banner short sword unit, the only way a model in the red banner unit can be killed is if one of the green banner unit’s attack die displays a red helmet result. It’s an incredibly fast and simple way to resolve combat. If this was the only method of scoring hits, the only difference between each unit would be the number of attack dice they were allowed per turn. This would be fun, but very simple and probably get boring pretty quickly. Fortunately, each weapon type has unique rules for how the various die symbols affect their targets. For example, short swords not only hit when their attack die displays their target’s helmet color, they also hit when their die display the bonus strike symbol as well. This means they have double the odds of hitting their opponent than units using some of the other weapons. In lore battles it is possible to enchant weapons so that a lore result (which is normally a miss) also counts as a hit, further increasing the odds of killing an enemy model. All of these “to hit” results are further modified by the target that is being attacked. For example, when a unit with short swords attacks a mounted unit, the first of the short sword unit’s bonus strike symbols in each combat is ignored and does not result in a hit. This means that it is more effective to attack other infantry or ranged units with short swordsmen than attacking cavalry (who have no penalty against short swordsmen). Because of these modifiers, the basic combat system remains easy to understand and fast to play, but there are a lot of subtleties one must consider as well.



Sample weapon rules

Another very large part of combat in BattleLore is the Morale system. Morale plays a larger role in BattleLore than most games that I have played; it certainly has a bigger impact on combat than in Warhammer. In most cases, when a flag symbol is rolled, a unit must retreat one hex. Since many units are just as likely to cause a retreat as they are to cause damage, this is a somewhat common occurrence. Fortunately, there are some excellent morale rules that allow players to limit the effect that these retreat flags have by supporting their units. Units that are adjacent to at least 2 friendly models are allowed to ignore the first flag result that their enemy rolls per combat. This makes it less likely for supported units to retreat and encourages players to create battle lines of supporting units. More importantly, supported units are allowed to “battle back” during their opponent’s turn as a response to enemy melee attacks. When an unsupported unit is attacked, he may not normally respond to his enemy’s attack. Supported units on the other hand are allowed to “battle back” against their attacker if they survive the initial enemy assault. During my first games of BattleLore it was not unusual for me to accidentally attack a supported unit and do minimal damage to them, only to have my enemy do equal or greater damage to me in response. I quickly learned that it was better to concentrate on attacking the unsupported units on my enemy’s flanks so they did not have the opportunity to battle back. Against supported blocks of troops it was better to weaken them with ranged fire (units may not battle back against ranged fire) and then hope that my initial melee attacks would be strong enough to destroy the target unit before it had a chance to battle back. Morale is further modified by unit type. Some unit types such as Goblins are naturally fearful. Fearful units must retreat 2 spaces for every 1 flag symbol on an attacking unit’s battle dice. Other units such as dwarves are naturally bold and act as if they are supported, even when they are not adjacent to any friendly units.



Summary of Morale Rules


The final element of BattleLore’s combat is the ability for some units to gain ground or make pursuit actions. After a melee attack, if an attacking unit destroys an enemy unit or forces them to vacate their hex for any reason, the attacking unit is allowed to make a free move into the space previously occupied by the enemy unit they were attacking. This allows one side to slowly move his forces forward to break through an enemy front, but can also be dangerous because it is more difficult to support units that gain ground, meaning a friendly unit that gains ground may no longer have the opportunity to battle back. If a mounted unit gains ground, it is given the option of a pursuit action, which is essentially a second attack during a single turn. This ability represents the power of the medieval charge and can allow mounted units to roll up an enemy flank.

Overall, I found BattleLore’s combat to be surprisingly satisfying. In comparison to Warhammer it is quite simple to learn, but despite this simplicity there is no lack of choices. My personal theory about gaming is that the best game systems are those that use simple rules to give players lots of opportunities to make tough choices. BatteLore’s gameplay does this very well. I have not played the game enough to comment on balance or to identify any exploits in the system, but so far I have definitely enjoyed the fast, but very satisfying combat and am just now beginning to appreciate the subtleties of the game’s tactics.

Summary:

Warhammer: The rules are more complex and take more time to resolve, but are also more detailed and allow players to have more control over their units.

BattleLore: Offers gameplay that is easy to understand and plays quickly, yet still offers satisfying choices. It is a far superior rule system for those who do not mind giving up a little control in favor of tighter rules and more subtle tactical decisions.

3. Lore:



Lore Cards

In BattleLore, “lore” is the mystical energy that powers the fantastic elements and abilities within the BattleLore universe. Whether a wizard’s magical power, a cleric’s faith in his god, or a rogue’s special abilities, all of the fantastic elements in BattleLore use the “lore” system. Lore abilities are played using a card system that is similar to the cards in a collectable card game like Magic The Gathering. Each card has specific rules about when it can be used and what gameplay effect it has printed directly on the card for easy reference. Generally, cards will have a lore cost that must be paid before the card can be used, explain which phase the ability can be used in, and identify which units may be targeted. For example, the Wizard’s “Portal” lore card costs 7 lore to use, can be played along side a command card in the command phase, targets a single unit, and allows the target unit to be teleported at least 4 hexes away from its current location. This ability might be used to transport a friendly unit behind enemy lines so that it can attack an unsupported unit, or perhaps to move an enemy unit so that you break up enemy lines and cause the nearby units to become unsupported. Another example might be the Rogue’s “Backstab” ability which costs 3 lore and can be played after an opponent’s dice roll, targets a single enemy unit, and causes any bonus strike symbols the are displayed on your opponent’s attack dice to damage the unit that attacked you rather than damaging your own unit. It is these lore powers that make BattleLore a fantasy game, rather than just an interesting medieval game.

Lore is collected in a variety of way through the game, the most interesting of which is that when the “lore” symbol is rolled in combat, a lore token can be taken. The reason that this is interesting is that normally, a lore result on a battle die is a miss. However, because misses in combat result in increased amounts of lore, players who have bad luck in combat are sometimes able to use their powerful lore abilities faster than an opponent who has better luck in combat. This system helps to even the odds of battle and create scenarios where loosing players can use abilities to help them stay competitive in a game. I can think of many games in Warhammer where I would love to have my magical or psychic abilities increased to help balance out games in which I was having a string of bad attack rolls.

Lore abilities are used by Lore Masters. Lore Masters are the heroes in the BattleLore game and represent classic fantasy heroes. The core BattleLore game comes with several Lore Masters; the Wizard, the Cleric, the Rogue, the Warrior, and the Commander (who doesn’t use Lore abilities, but actually increases the amount of Command Cards you can keep in your hand at one time). Lore Masters work similarly to the Hero units in the early Heroes of Might and Magic games in that they do not actually take part in combat, but instead use their spells and abilities to indirectly support the troops who actually take part in the battles. While I personally would love to see these Heroes represented on the battlefield, (preferably with their own detailed miniatures), their current representation in the core game is still reasonably satisfying.

Like in role playing games, Lore Masters can be given levels of power. Many Lore powers are of variable strength based on the level of the Lore Master using the power. For example, a Fireball cast by a level 1 Wizard would use 3 battle dice for an attack, but a Fireball cast by a level 3 Wizard would use 5 battle dice in an attack. Unfortunately, there is no method of leveling characters as part of the game. You must either use the level of hero an adventure suggests, or select your own levels using the War Council rules.



Sample Lore Masters

I am mostly satisfied with the way that Lore works in BattleLore. Again, in comparison to Warhammer, the mystical powers have simpler rules, but like the combat, this does not necessarily mean that there are less satisfying choices. In many ways there are more opportunities to use a winder variety of fantastic abilities than in Warhammer, but these abilities also feel like they happen “off board.” I never really get the feel that my Lore Masters are actually participating in a battle. Instead, it almost feels as if the Lore Masters aren’t even at the battle and are hiding away in safety and calling down their magic effects from afar. I’d personally feel a bit more satisfied with the Lore system if my Lore Masters actively took part in the battle. Besides this issue, I think the Lore System is fantastic as it creates lots of opportunities for fun choices and allows for awesome “take that” events in every battle.

Summary:

Warhammer: Has weaker rules for the mystical elements of the game themselves, but has a much stronger feel that your heroes are actually involved in the process of a battle.

BattleLore: Is missing the feel of having heroes participating in combat, but has much better rules for its magic system.


4. War Council:



The War Council

The War Council is a fun way to ensure that Lore Masters are balanced in each army. Essentially, the War Council represents all of the Lore Masters that you are using in a specific battle. For example, you might have a Level 3 Cleric and a Level 3 Commander, while your opponent might have a Level 2 Rogue, a Level 2 Wizard, and a Level 2 Warrior. The catch is that in general, each scenario will have a limit for the total levels allowed in that adventure. For example, most battles have a limit of 6 Lore Master levels. This means it is not possible to take a level 3 Lore Master from every class and means the choice to use a high level Lore Master is also a choice to not use one of your other Lore Masters. It also means that you can play the same scenario multiple times using different War Council configurations and use completely different tactics each time.

I love the idea of the War Council. It is a perfect example of the simple rules that result in difficult choices that make BattleLore so fun.

Summary:

The War Council is a unique and entertaining aspect of BattleLore, but is not so strong a feature that Warhammer players should consider playing BattleLore based on this aspect of the game alone.


5. Monstrous Creatures:



The Giant Spider

BattleLore ships with a Giant Spider and two other monstrous creatures have been created so far. There is a very high likelihood of additional creatures being released in the future. Monstrous Creatures have special rules and abilities that make each one quite deadly and unique. For example, Monstrous Creatures are all immune to normal damage; instead they can only be eliminated by a critical hit. When a unit attacks a creature, any dice that would normally hit must be set aside and re-rolled. If the creature’s banner color does not come up on the second set of die rolls, it survives the attack, otherwise it is eliminated. The decreased odds of damaging a Creature means they can be quite deadly. Creatures also have a variety of other rules such as the fact they are bold and trample enemy units that are in their way when they retreat. Additionally, each monstrous creature has unique rules such as the Giant Spider’s “web” ability that traps a unit and causes all flag symbols on attack rolls to cause damage, and its “poison” ability which causes all lore symbols on attack rolls against that unit to cause damage.

As powerful as creatures are, they also take up one level on your War Council. This means that using a Creature will further reduce the amount of Lore Master levels that you have available, making yet another difficult choice when creating your War Council.



The Creature War Council Token

I haven’t had the opportunity to spend much time with the monstrous creatures, but they seem to be fun and I can definitely see how new creatures could easily be added. I think it might also be fun to have different creature levels like the Lore Master levels so that you could have creatures of varying power. I am a bit concerned by the fact that new creatures will not have any official scenarios created for them when they are first released. I imagine it would be easy to find an existing adventure that includes a creature and replace the suggested creature with a new creature, but there is no way to ensure the new creature would be balanced. Alternately, you could just create a scenario for the new creature, but I don’t see how this would work for competitive play.

Summary:

Warhammer: Monstrous Creatures exist in the Warhammer universe, but they are implemented differently. It is difficult to make a one to one comparison because of this. At this time, Warhammer has a much larger variety of monstrous creatures and special characters than BattleLore and they easily fit into any army, yet they do not feel significantly different from the other units in the game.

BattleLore: The Monstrous Creatures in BattleLore feel more powerful and unique to me than the Monstrous Creatures in Warhammer, however they cannot be deployed without a custom scenario and occasionally feel out of place in some battles. I prefer BattleLore’s implementation of creatures, but feel that this is another area that is not so strong a feature that Warhammer players should consider BattleLore based on this feature alone.

6. Setting:



The BattleLore art helps create a classic fantasy feel

So far, I have been pretty positive about every aspect of BattleLore. Unfortunately, I cannot be this positive about the game’s setting. While the game’s art invokes a classic fantasy feel that is easy to get excited about, the game’s actual setting seems contrived and in many ways, quite silly. Most of the adventures are set during the 100 Years War between England and France. While I think this is a fantastic setting for the game’s historical Battles, it just gets silly when you add in the fantasy elements of BattleLore. Replacing Scottish mercenaries with Dwarves or having the French storm a castle with an army of goblins is just absurd. Even when I was a child I would have thought this was dumb. It’s not that I’m in love with the Warhammer universe (in fact, I don’t particularly care for the Warhammer: Fantasy or D&D universes either), and it isn’t that I am looking for some sort of dark fantasy that takes itself seriously all of the time either. I love fun, light, classic fantasy and would love to see this continue in BattleLore. I don’t even mind basing the fantasy characters off of real European kingdoms (with different names)! I just hate the thought of historical characters like Joan of Arc bringing a Giant Spider to combat the English. I’d rather BattleLore keep its historical battles set in history, and give the Lore Battles a universe that can develop on its own.



BattleLore's setting blends history and fantasy

Summary:

Warhammer: I am no fan of the Warhammer: Fantasy universe, however, I love the Warhammer: 40K universe. The Warhammer: Fantasy universe has elements that are great, but there are some armies that seem sort of forced into the universe and just don’t seem to belong. Because of the scope of the 40K universe, it is easier for me to imagine why such dissimilar armies would exist than in the Warhammer: Fantasy universe. That being said, both universes are very deep, have years of back-story, and have very developed settings. A player who was drawn to Warhammer because of the setting and back-story will probably not enjoy playing BattleLore.

BattleLore: Despite my distaste for the Warhammer: Fantasy universe, even it is superior to the BattleLore setting. BattleLore’s setting is its weakest link and the only way that I find it palatable is to simply ignore the official setting altogether.

7. Army Customization:

Another area of concern is with the BattleLore adventures system itself. As I stated earlier, I love the way the BattleLore adventures slowly introduce rules and concepts into the game, allowing players to slowly become familiar with the rules instead of learning everything at once. My concern is that once I’ve played through the scenarios a few times, I imagine they might start to feel a little stale. The ability to go back and play each scenario with a custom War Council will certainly add to the replay value of each scenario, but this does not change the fact that there is no way to customize your army itself. Army customization is probably my favorite element of Warhammer, even over playing the game itself. I love the meta-game that has developed in the Warhammer universe, I love finding ways to tweak my army to combat a strategy only to have another player tweak his army to combat my strategy. Because army composition and deployment is scenario based, I have a hard time envisioning this sort of customization in games of BattleLore. The “Call to Arms” expansion looks as if it might address some of these concerns, but the base game seems as if it might get stale after a few times through each scenario. Sure, it is always possible to create new, custom scenarios with the free online adventure editor, but this doesn’t have the same, competitive feel that building a “take all comers” list in Warhammer has.



Sample Army Creation and Deployment Instructions

An additional concern with army customization is related to the use of the game’s non-human units as mercenary forces. An aspect that I love about building an army in Warhammer is the ability to easily create “themed” armies based on race. I’d love to be able to create an army entirely made up of Goblins or Dwarves. If I prefer to leave the humans at home, I’d love to have that option. It might also be fun to have a few unique weapons or creatures that would only work with a specific army. While I understand that the product range is very limited right now, I haven’t seen anything that indicates Days of Wonder has plans to allow for themed armies consisting of only a specific race of units. My guess is that Days of Wonder will develop some method of creating themed armies as the product range increases in size, but it would be nice to hear that this was in the works.

Summary:

Warhammer: One of Warhammer’s strengths is the ability to completely customize almost every aspect of the army so that every battle plays differently. If you are drawn to the Warhammer hobby because you enjoy customizing armies or creating powerful army lists, you will probably grow tired of BattleLore’s scenarios and will not consider BattleLore the superior game system.

BattleLore: While there is potential for army customization in the near future, the core BattleLore set does not allow for any kind of army customization at the moment. Players who dislike the ability for players to create “power lists” in Warhammer will probably consider BattleLore’s approach a refreshing change of pace.

8. Overall Comparison:

So how does BattleLore compare to Warhammer? Should a Warhammer player consider BattleLore? Personally, I think it depends on why you enjoy Warhammer in the first place. If you primarily enjoy the hobby aspects of painting and customizing your Warhammer miniatures, you probably will not be satisfied with the BattleLore game system. BattleLore’s miniatures are simply not of the same quality as the miniatures in Warhammer. If you love the back-story and setting of the Warhammer universe, or can only enjoy fantasy settings that are more dark and mature, you probably won’t enjoy the “storybook” feel of the BattleLore setting. If you are a die hard tournament player who would be crushed if you could not spend hours trying to squeeze an extra 10 points of wargear into your army list, or like the ability to make an army that is uniquely your own, you probably won’t enjoy BattleLore yet, but might want to check it out again in a few months after the Call to Arms supplement has been released. However, if you love Warhammer because you enjoy playing the game itself, I believe that you will be quite pleased with the BattleLore system. In many ways, I feel the rules in BattleLore are superior to the Warhammer rules. The BattleLore rules are more straightforward, but still manage to offer very satisfying strategic decisions. The game also plays faster than Warhammer; which means you can play several games of BattleLore in the time that it would take to play a single game of Warhammer. The production values of the game are outstanding, meaning you can put a great looking army on the table much faster and with less effort than with Warhammer, so it’s great for those who don’t love to paint their miniatures. Finally, BattleLore is much cheaper than Warhammer, so it’s great for scratching that “miniatures itch” when cash is tight. Overall, I think BattleLore is a perfect match for Warhammer players who are game players first, and Warhammer players next.

9. Closing Thoughts:

BattleLore is an excellent game. I think there are lots of opportunities for the system to expand and improve, but right out of the box it is a quality game system that should be enjoyable for a large percentage of Warhammer players. I’m not a fan of the game’s setting, would love to see heroes become more involved in the game, would like to see the game expand into having themed armies, and feel the game desperately needs some method of army customization, but despite these flaws, the core gameplay is outstanding, the components are of the of highest quality, there is tons of potential for future game releases, and most important, the game is just tons of fun. I personally do not see BattleLore as a replacement gaming system for most Warhammer players at this time, but feel that it has a lot of potential and might be more attractive to a Warhammer player after the system has developed a bit more. For the time being, it’s an excellent board game and I doubt any Warhammer player who looks at it this way will be disappointed with their purchase.

Overall BGG Rating: 8 out of 10
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Dan Conley
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Thanks for a great write-up, Bryan! Well done! I'm a BattleLore fan myself and I agree with nearly everything you've said. I think Heroes will be a factor in future expansions and I look forward to the addition of other races as well. As you said, it's a darned good game right out of the box and the future looks bright indeed! cool

Thanks again!
 
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Graham Smallwood
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Very well written. I'd recommend to Warhammer fans to wait until Call to Arms. Without army construction rules, the base set could feel unfinished to people used to juggling point costs.
 
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Bob Swander
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A wonderful review with a mountain of depth- thanks for taking the time to write it.
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Miguel
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THIS is a review!
And I was curious to know the view WH players could have on this game.

Useful for those wanting to know more about BL and for those wanting to know more on how to write a review...
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Bill Abner
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Good stuff Bryan. Quality review. As a Warhammer die-hard myself, I really appreciate this viewpoint.
 
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Gregory Smith
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My usual comments on a game run to tripe such as "great game play, wonderful pieces," so I am blown away by the depth of this review. Great piece of work. I really appreciate the effort that went into this.
 
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Dane Peacock
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THIS is your first review? More please...

Quote:
BattleLore: Despite my distaste for the Warhammer: Fantasy universe, even it is superior to the BattleLore setting. BattleLore’s setting is its weakest link and the only way that I find it palatable is to simply ignore the official setting altogether.


The setting is one of my favorite parts of Battlelore. The alternate history peppered with fantasy elements is very cool. For me, it adds atmosphere. It was fun to play through the story driven scenarios in order. I STILL have problems with the victory conditions of this system, but the setting won me over.
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Sigurdur Gunnarsson
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A great review.
I especially agree with the complaint about the lack of a convincing background story for the lore scenarios in Battlelore. Hopefully DoW will work on that aspect as the expansions start coming out.
 
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John McLintock
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A very well-written review which approaches its chosen viewpoint with remarkable attention to detail and a thorough grasp of the key points of comparison between BL and the Warhammer games many potential BL players might already enjoy. So, though long, this review doesn't overstay its welcome. An exemplary piece which I hope will encourage many Warhammer fans to take a look at this fine boardgame. Well done Bryan. Make sure you point as many Warhammer fans here as you can!
 
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Tristan Brightman
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It is extremely rare to see a "someone who plays game X reviews game Y" review that is not only well written but also very well balanced and considerate.

This is a very useful and extensive review. Thankyou
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Eric Hautemont
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Thank you for your very insightful analysis and review!

Eric @ DoW
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R Hart
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That is the best game review I have read in any forum / format. You are an excellent writer and very insightful. You should be paid for that review. While I have never played Warhammer, your description of BL was so comparable to my own feelings that I imagine I would feel the same as you about Warhammer. Muchas Gracias!
 
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Gabe Alvaro
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This is what a review should be: in-depth, thoughtful, honest about positive and negative. Great Job!

The most interesting part for me was your take on the fantasy setting. Until now I hadn't thought about it much. But it really made me think. As a mostly life long gamer I'm vaguely familiar with the all the fantasy "universes" of which you speak, but I've never really gotten myself too deeply involved with them, unless it was through the reading of a book, and only then while reading it. For me BattleLore has the same effect. I can take it or leave it, I guess. The funny thing is, I think us Geeks take for granted having been exposed to so damn many fictional universes over a lifetime that after a while it all seems cliché and so we are quick to judge anything that seems absurd or that perhaps does not jibe with myths we know. But when you really think about it, it really is all absurd. Just what, after all, is a goblin? Has anybody ever met one? Or a dwarf? Or an elf. What is the sense in splitting hairs over fantasy and reality? Or claiming one is more believable than another?

For me, what the BattleLore universe, if it can be called as such, succeeds at is reminding me that these fantastic creat(e)-ures were originally nothing more than human created myths and superstitions probably based on grotesque caricatured perceptions of other human beings be they small, big, short, thin, tall, dirty, sneaky, strong, strong-willed, cowardly, smart, dumb, or whatever. And of course during the middle ages, you can bet all sorts of twisted human beliefs ran rampant. Today it is the stuff of fantasy, but a thousand years ago fantasy and reality were probably not so easily separated. A people of a tall strong region fighting against a short, dirty people of another region may very well have believed that they were fighting strange and magical creatures. And a spider? Well one really can't explain it perhaps. But I think Giants (big people) or elementals (weather/terrain) could be explained away, if one tries hard enough or just believes...or just decides not to think about it too much and instead have a good laugh.

Edit: I think the aesthetic of the BL universe and art is somewhere between classic fantasy and Disney. There's something very richly cartoony about it...in a good way.
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Fazekas Tibor
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Before I didn't think about it, but you have right: the graphics on the components are realy-realy similar to Heroes of Might and Magic. And since Heroes (III) is the BEST computer-game of all time IMO, that only gives me another reason to love this game.

Excellent review, by the way! Thumbs up!
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Andrea Chiarvesio
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Excellent review, thanks!

I would say that I agree on all your comments.
 
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stephen
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Nicely balanced review, if only they were all as well thought out.

I agree that the back story for battlelore is lacking somewhat. To me it feels a sort of generic fantasy afterthought. It needs more colour.
I also think that some heroes actually on the battlefield would make the game feel a little more epic, although I would hate to have the same situation i have seen in warhammer where heroes can overwhelming and make regular troops a sideshow.

 
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Philip Thomas
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There's also the problem (with a system in which heroes are represented on the playing surface) that when a hero gets killed you lose all his spells etc. Which means you're losing even faster than before.
 
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Hovhannes B.
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Excellently written review! Thumbs up.
 
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John Ward
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I am not a fan of Warhammer products, for reasons unimportant to your article. However, I vastly enjoyed your review and the way you explained the viewpoint for decisions. It allowed me to evaluate Battlelore for my own purposes. Great review!

It's kind of like reading James Berardinelli's Reelviews movie reviews. I don't always agree with him, but I understand his biases, which helps me make my own decisions.
 
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Henry Rodriguez
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I'll add my voice to the community's praise for the reviewer and this review. It was much needed. The reviewer's statements happen to capture my complete feeling about BL. I also come from a similar GW/mini-gaming background [yet allow me to note that I believe Warhammer is a much superior rule set to W40K].

dcjackso wrote:
I wonder if you could comment directly on your perception of the role of luck in BL v. WH:F. I was very excited to play Command and Colors: Ancients, but was turned off after two games by what I perceived as the overwhelming role of luck in that game (in both card draws and dice rolls).


I too, after having played Memoir and BL, felt that luck was a greater component in this type of game than in mini-games in general. Both systems use dice to randomize combat resolution, but mini-games, for the most part, do not use luck for moving units. I probably will continue to find this to be the weakest aspect of BL and its ilk.

However, thanks to some insight from a good friend, I am slowly growing to appreciate how this randomness in movement likely better replicates the possible (likely?) disorder involved in medieval military engagements. Though I believe it poorly replicates WWII troop coordination/movement. It so happens that Warmaster also uses a random movement element and yet that element of was one that I barely criticized the few times I played that game.

What this previous paragraph should convey is that the weakness in the BL system can be rationalized away and accepted given the nature of the combat that is being replicated. However, this explanation does not remove the fact that the luck in movement does restrict one's tactical options when compared to what a mini-gamer is accustomed to.

The question is whether you feel that this restriction limits your ability to enjoy the game? I suspect you already know the answer. I myself do still enjoy the BL (though I need Call to Arms!!! and more official scenarios!).
 
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David McLeod
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I'll echo the comments of others on a great review!

It seems like a lot of your concerns will be answered with the upcoming expansions. The way they seem to have designed them it should keep this game fresh for months (years?) to come!

 
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Bryan Pravel
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Thanks for the encouraging words (and tips, I certainly didn't expect that!) everyone! I had a lot of fun writing these impressions and it’s nice to see that my thoughts were well received. I certainly hope that it can help potential BattleLore players make a more informed decision.

Dcjackso, the question about luck in BattleLore is a great one. As a Warhammer player I am used to luck having an impact on my game. A large part of playing Warhammer is learning to understand the odds when rolling dice and using them to help you make better decisions. Die rolling in BattleLore is similar, except that because there are less die rolls in BattleLore, it’s a lot easier to calculate the odds of success. At the same time, with less dice being rolled overall, a few bad rolls in BattleLore can have a larger impact than in Warhammer. Fortunately, with the brilliant “lore symbol = more lore” rule, I haven’t felt that I’ve lost a game because of bad die rolls. With this rule, even my worst troops have a 50% chance of a positive outcome on each die roll, even if it doesn’t mean that I actually destroy my enemy’s troops. Even the best troops in Warhammer can't hope for 50% of their die rolls to be positive, so personally I've found that managing the odds in BattleLore has been pretty simple.

Honestly, the only area of BattleLore that I feel might have a higher amount of luck that I am used to is the command card system. I’ve dabbled with a few CCGs, so I know a little bit about managing the odds within a deck, and it’s obvious to me that there was a lot of thought placed into the exact composition of the command deck. The deck includes several scout cards (which allow you to move a unit and then choose the best of two replacement cards), tactics cards that can almost all be played in any sector and often have some sort of bonus for the unit(s) that are moved (such as increased attack power), and even has cards that allow you to mimic the most recent order played by your opponent. The deck is also balanced in that if one player gets a lot of right flank section cards, his opponent will probably have a lot of left flank section cards. I haven’t done the math on the command deck yet, but from my plays so far it seems that a player would have increadibly low odds of getting a string of cards that he could not use at all. Despite the fact that not being able to use any cards at all will be uncommon, I have definitely seen scenarios in which a player has a series of cards he is able to play, but would not want to play. For example, in one game I had several powerful units threatening several weak enemy units on my right flank. If I had managed to get even a single attack card on the right flank, I would have had excellent odds of destroying these weakened units and winning the game. However, because I only got left and center flank cards for several turns, I was not able to attack these weakened units and ended up loosing the game. This was a bit frustrating as I felt the only thing keeping me from winning the game was the cards that I drew from the command deck. Had this been Warhammer I could have chosen to order all of my units and would have had little difficulty defeating my enemy.

The above scenario happened in one of my early games of BattleLore. As my understanding of BattleLore’s tactics begins to develop, I have not noticed this being as large an issue. From what I’ve seen so far (and I could easily be wrong), it seems that a slow and steady, balanced advancement along all flanks that ensures that as many units are supported as possible might be superior to the domination of one specific flank. The primary reason I think this might be the case is that the “battle back” rules allow you to damage your enemy during his turn, regardless of which section cards are in your hand. As a result, a steady expansion that is built around battling back as often as possible will result in more opportunities to roll battle dice against the enemy than if you completely destroy the enemies in one section of the board. It also helps to make you less dependant on drawing a “good card.” It is possible that my previous frustration might have been the result of my decision to concentrate on a single flank of the board, not a fault of the game mechanics themselves. Alternately, I might not know what I’m talking about and I just had bad luck. I really feel that I need to play the game more before I can say for certain. Either way, I can say that like the die rolls in Warhammer, learning to manage the odds for the command cards will certainly be a skill I need to develop in order to truly compete in BattleLore.

Perhaps someone with more experience playing BattleLore could comment about this? Is it really better to take a more balanced approach, to focus on a flank, or does this depend entirely on the situation? How much of an impact do command cards have on the overall success in a scenario?
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Henry Rodriguez
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dcjackso wrote:
Bryan and Henry, thanks for the well-written and thoughtful replies.

Regardless, thanks for keeping this discussion going. Perhaps other mini's players (the system doesn't really have to be Warhammer or 40K) who have also played BL will chime in...
-daren


You are welcome. Just to let you know, my mini-gaming experience encompasses many more games than just GW stuff (though I began with them and have tried most of their systems). I have extensively played Chronopia, Flames of War, Babylon 5 Wars, Warmachine, Chainmail, and Wizard's D&D & Star Wars minis. I also have tried Gear Krieg and Warzone.

Henry R.
 
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Kevin Chamberlain
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Good review

Although, I have to disagree with you completely. Even the very fact that you compare the two is wrong. They are too different in gameplay to compare the two fairly. I love the variety that goes into warhammer, but battlelore is just barebones. A quick pick up and play game. Nothing to compare to Warhammer's richness and deep history.
 
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