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A quasi review this is as well, as all the components of Bearded Brave were on display for the first plays I've been able to get involving this expansion. My gaming partner had already played a handful and a half of the Bearded Brave scenarios, but I've played a gawdawful lot of BattleLore in the past 4 (!) years, so I could well afford the handicap
The March to Verneuil was the scenario of choice:
The war council set up gives a Level 2 Commander, Level 1 Warrior, Level 1 Wizard, Level 2 Cleric to the Pennants along with the first move, and L2 Co, L1 Wa, L1 Rogue, L1 Wz, and L2 Cl to the Standards. We played this scenario using the original Medieval Tactics rules rather than the Battle Savvy rule.
The pennants have two advantages at the start of the game: first move and a leg up in the lore race with a starting hand of two cards (able to carry three through the game) and a goblet with two lore tokens as opposed to the 1/2/1 for the standards.
Depending on the opening hand, the pennants' best options look to be press against the standards' two arbalestier units on the pennant left or grabbing the hill adjacent to the single arbalestier on the right. Lacking a card to do both, the pennants chose the hill on the left, hoping to retard the progress of the Bear Riders as well as tie up two of the three arby's on the board. Facing a total of 7d, the arbalestiers on the hill chose to accept the first banner granted, and surrendered position in the favor of keeping the unit on the board.
Instead of responding in kind, whether due to a forced hand or richer opportunity, the standards took the hill on their left and fired a volley of bolts and arrows at the hapless pennant blues. Pennant commander felt fortunate to get away with only 2 figures lost from the rightmost foots.
And the battle was on. Over the ensuing several turns, the Pennants managed to keep the bears at bay (a well timed Parry on a mounted charging after an initial uphill attack stalled a couple of turns) while taking out the Standards' center. A 4-2 lead was forged, however at the expense of a red and blue cavalry unit. The one blunder/moment of bad fortune for the Pennants was a decision to attack a 3-figure strong axe wielder with a 2 strength blue foot and 1 strength blue cavalry, rather than attack the two-figure (but one hit) bolts which were within reach of the mounted unit. the 6d attack on the dwarven axes only yielded one hit, and the cav fell while the foots were ripe for the picking next turn, at a lone figure.
The standards had stemmed the tide, and it was the next event that would break the game in their favor. With a warrior's strength the bears bull rushed a full strength and supported archer and felled it in a single attack (Green, Shield, Shield, before the dice exploded for the fourth hit. The frenzying bear riders barreled into the unsuspecting red heavy infantry, pushing them back and halving their courage. The center section had become the domain of the bears.
A play of Enchanted Mass Might by the Standards left the score knotted at 5 banners all. Time for last tricks for the pennants, a chain of lightning ripped through the center of the board. Mighty though it was, each of the four potential units being hit, the bear riders still stood at 2 figures. However, the victory was there for the taking, the axe wielders that had withstood the early battles were taken by the pennant blue cavalry and now had two dice to attempt to fall what could be the final banner of the game, a weaselly arby unit cowering in the trees. Archers stood at the ready to fire if the arbelestiers did not flee further, but the roll of Flag,Flag meant likely doom for the pennants.
And it came, though not in the manner expected. A flash of hope when a center order was not given. A further flash of hope when the first of three potential banners for the Standards was denied. The second fell as expected, leaving the red dwarfs facing off against a full strength but unsupported blue cavalry unit. Anything but a kill or two flags would leave it within reach of the still cowering arbalestiers, and 3d with a chance of victory. However, the ebb and flow of fortune is often torrential in this game, and such it was at this moment: four blue.
Another fun and momentum shifting game of BattleLore - better than I had expected for this particular scenario. The bear riders performed as I feared they would, but being isolated as the sole mounted unit tempered their ability to completely control the game. Very creature-like in its potential to remain on the board and cause devastation with single throws of the dice on full strength units. We played the Arbalestiers using the new rule set for them (basically, can now move and fire with 1d, as opposed to no battle if moving previously). The pennants were able to keep them locked in melee for the most part, and it was never timely for the move and fire to be used. The Bolt Thrower/spotter combination caused some early trouble, but they were closed upon quickly as well. A tight scenario such as this doesn't do them many favors, but they still control the action early. I do like how they crumble once approached, and that the inability to retreat from flags leaves them as sitting ducks if targeted by multiple threats.
The second play went more as I envisioned this particular scenario to play out. Not as interesting a battle, as the Standard player drew, in succession, for lore cards: Eagle Eye, Take Aim, and Magic Missiles. The first play of Eagle Eye was used on a moving arbalestier, enabling it to roll 4d at an unsuspecting blue mounted unit, removing two figures. The play of Take Aim was the pull of the thread that began the unraveling of the game for the pennant player, as a the pennant right began to position to charge the bolt throwers, 6d obliterated the challenge of the full strength blue cavalry mounting the threat. The Magic Missiles play was more of a luxury play at the moment it was unleashed - in retrospect that was the time to bring down the hammer of the bear riders, as that play left the arbalestier and bolt throwers in the center exposed, even though they did considerable damage (though probably about the same as a leadership ordered bear rider - which was ordered and Held by the Cleric after the Pennants had amassed enough lore to do so in the proceeding turn).
The game was in hand at that point:
And would end so:
While still conflicted in many ways with the state of BattleLore, for me, Bearded Brave is more enjoyable in the variety of play it introduces than discouraging in what it means for Call to Arms and Dwarf vs. Goblin battles - plus I am still hoping there's more to come on that front as well. And if there isn't, well plenty to work with
Nice Session Report Todd
Our first game was a little more tense but this one was fun as well.
Well that tells me you didn't read it
I'm on right now -- let's get some more session report fodder going
Sounds great Todd.
Can you give me a feeling of what the two key new units are like? The Bear Riders and the Bolt Throwers?
Are the new arbelest rules for the better or the worse?
Great write up!!
Nice write up mate! BB looks to be a fun addition.
We're still waiting for it on this side of the world. So I echo Gile's questions.
Giles and Ben,
Not my intention to keep you hanging - while I didn't end up connecting with Dan, did get some Napoleonic and Ancients plays in. Trying to cram a bunch of Vassal in before returning to the real world on Monday
Anyway, I think you both know the skinny on the Bolt Throwers, Spotters, and Bear Riders game mechanics-wise, but for those that don't:
Bolt Throwers: 4 figures per unit, two Bolt Throwing Apparatus and two
crossbow er, Dwarven Arbalestier figures, but each hit removes one apparatus and one arbalestier (2 hits earns a banner, etc.) ; may move up to two hexes (Green Banner) but may not battle if moving that turn; Range of 5 hexes; battles with 2d (Green Banner); hits on bonus strike for ranged attacks/doesn't for melee; if forced to retreat due to a battle roll (or lore card effect that causes retreats - note: I assume Evade is not considered a retreat...) unit is removed from board and counts as victory banner for the other player; since it is a dwarf foot unit, is bold; not mentioned on the card, because assumed for Battle Savvy rules, but we also decided that it shouldn't collect lore from ranged attacks even if not playing BS.
Spotter: embedded figure; adds range of one hex and an additional battle die to any ranged unit it is embedded in - ranged attacks only, not point blank/melee; last figure to be removed from that unit (i.e. this is the banner bearer of the unit)
Bear Riders: 4 figures per unit (ouch); movement of two hexes (mounted unit, Red Banner) - three if Mounted Charge is played, just like any other Red Banner mounted unit; Melee only; Battles with 4d (Red Banner); exploding dice for any bonus strikes rolled, reroll them for additional hits and retreats, rerolls that are bonus strikes are also eligible to be rerolled (yikes!); bold (ouch). Note - I don't own the expansion (yet ), Dan does, but we assumed that even though the Bear Riders are equipped with Axes and not Long Swords that they do not get their first bonus strike ignored when attacking other mounted units, and they do ignore the first bonus strike rolled in melee combat with foot units. We would rather assume the opposite, but are pretty sure that if we looked closer in the rules/cards we would see that that is how they play. Hey, I am grasping at straws for downsides to these beasties
BOLT THROWERS: In action, if one can keep the Bolt Throwers away from melee, they are brutal - especially with Spotters (which I believe all the scenarios in Bearded Brave have). Dan and I also played the first scenario this morning (interrupting this long long post ) and both it and The March to Verneuil have relatively close battle lines at the start of the game. It is paramount to rush the Bolt Throwers ASAP. Fortunately they fold as easily as I do playing poker once the melee ensues.
Inexpensive lore cards such as Strength, Take Aim, Bless, and Eagle Eye make them just that much more devastating, not to mention a card like Magic Missiles. I imagine that in Call to Arms and Epic Call to Arms games these units will be somewhere between highly and insanely effective.
BEAR RIDERS: In the three games I've played against the Bear Riders, they ruled two of them (The March to Verneuil plays) and were victims of unfortunate dice in the third (though they still directly and indirectly accounted for two of the three banners earned by the Standards, and likely should've had three directly if not for managing only one hit on a 6d berserking roll against a 2 figure red cavalry unit...).
When playing against them, I treat them as I do creatures, attacking from afar as often as possible, keeping out of their kill radius as much as possible, and only coming in when I think I can reasonably get a kill. When playing with them, I treat them as I would a creature as well: shield them from ranged attacks and push them up into the action as soon as effectively able. They are a unit that can stand alone and do considerable damage. No more whining about Scout cards Two hex and battle is fast in this game, especially in the single board version.
Portaling the Bear Riders into most any situation is going to be a good use of those cards on them (especially since the other player has probably worked hard to put distance between their forces and that unit), and as with any card that boosts its attack dice. When facing the Bear Riders, hang on to those Evade/Scatter and Parry/Slow cards. Backstab is an obvious play to save against them.
Fun units on the board, but the potential for abuse in Call to Arms games seems high. Yet to see in this regard.
In general, the power creep in Bearded Brave is a bit troubling to me, but I'll take this over nothing, and probably many of the somethings that Bearded Brave could've been.
Quick note about the Arbalestier rule change: I didn't like it when I heard about it, then thought it would be okay if the Dwarf Arbalestiers would be Green Banners (they are Blue), as essentially they would still be crossbows. In action in the three scenarios we've played, it was only useful in one of them, but I think that is because the Pennants were playing to minimize that occurrence, basically swarming the Arbalestiers at almost all cost, not allowing them to get shots off without being in melee. However, often 1d with no chance of a battle back is more effective than 3d with a battle back opportunity - especially since the 1d is hitting at 33% per die whereas the 3d are only ~17% hit rate. I still don't like the rule change - I liked that crossbows had an advantage over the arbalestiers in that they could fire on the move, but now the only advantage they have is that they can fire on a two hex move, but the arbalestiers (being Blue) cannot. It appears that FFG is phasing out the crossbows altogether, so it may be a moot point anyway. But, good golly, place a spotter in these... yikes of all yike.
"The bear riders performed as I feared they would, but being isolated as the sole mounted unit tempered their ability to completely control the game. Very creature-like in its potential to remain on the board and cause devastation with single throws of the dice on full strength units."
Very nice report and Bearded Brave insight. I wonder if using a decently powerful creature/monster (blue or red) to tie up bear riders might neutralize the bear riders dominance on the battlefield.