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Todd Rewoldt
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Much of this review is pinched from a post I made later in a thread for a session report on the Bearded Brave scenario "The March to Verneuil", but figured I would include notes about each scenario in addition to the remarks about the units included in the Bearded Brave, and give it a proper home in the Review section of the Forums:

I know, I know, "Yet another Dwarf expansion for BattleLore? What a surprise snore " Before jumping into the descriptions of the scenarios and units included in this expansion, a quick (well, that is a relative adjective...) note about that sentiment: Whatever direction the BattleLore game system takes next, I felt this to be a necessary expansion in order to "complete" the Dwarf army for this game, just as I view Horrific Horde as necessary for completing the Goblin Army and Code of Chivalry necessary for completing the Human Army. How well these expansions complete those armies and how well the additional Call to Arms deployment cards included in each expansion work towards creating fun, relatively balanced, and race specific armies, I will leave to another thread, thereby allowing this note to remain as it was announced: quick Alright, back to the what the Subject line of this thread promised:

THE NEW UNITS

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.

In action, if one can keep the Bolt Throwers away from melee, they are brutal - especially with Spotters. All of the scenarios included in Bearded Brave 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.

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


In the five games I've played with the Bear Riders, they ruled three of them (The March to Verneuil plays), were victims of unfortunate dice in the fourth (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...), and were slowed by terrain before having a hill giant sicced upon them to be removed from the fifth game.

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.

General Comments:

All are fun units on the board, but the potential for abuse in Call to Arms games seems high. Yet to see in this regard.

The relative power creep in Bearded Brave is a bit troubling to me, but I'll take this over nothing, and probably over many of the somethings that Bearded Brave could've been as well.

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 five scenarios I've played, it was only very useful in one of them and marginally in one other, 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 ADVENTURES:
Note: the following images of the Bearded Brave adventures were made using a Vassal module for BattleLore. To represent the Bolt Thrower units, the Green Banner Bagpipes with a green levy token were used. To represent the Dwarven Arbalestier units, the Blue Banner Bagpipes with a blue levy token were used. To represent the Bear Riders, the Red Banner Bagpipes with a red

Adventure 1: Dwarven Reinforcements


The War Councils are as follows:
Pennants: Level 3 Commander, Level 1 Warrior, first move
Standards: Level 2 Commander, Level 2 Warrior

I've played this one twice, and feel it is a good introductory scenario for growing accustomed to the strengths and weaknesses of the new units. The Standard Right/Pennant Left is set up to pit one Bear Rider unit against several mounted units. In both of the plays, the Standard player opened with Mounted Charge, and each time the Bear Riders were left with a single figure. The Bear Riders were still to be feared, and managed to take, directly or indirectly, 5 of the 6 necessary banners in the second game (I should be posting a session report on those two plays).

Adventure 2: Prelude to Cravant


War Councils:
Pennants: Level 2 Commander, Level 1 Wizard, Level 1 Cleric, 1st move
Standards: Level 2 Commander, Level 1 Warrior, Level 1 Cleric

I've yet to play this one, but it similarly is set up to demonstrate the weakness and strengths of the new units. The Pennants must pick their poison: Double Bolts on the Standard Right, single Bear Riders (again facing off against 4 pennant cavalry) on the Standard Left, or the triple Arbalestiers in the center (albeit right up close and initially obstructed from getting clean shots).

Adventure 3: The March to Verneuil


War Councils:
Pennants: Level 2 Commander, Level 1 Warrior, Level 1 Wizard, Level 2 Cleric, 1st move
Standards: Level 2 Commander, Level 1 Warrior, Level 1 Rogue, Level 1 Wizard, Level 1 Cleric

A full session report of the two plays I've had on this board is here. Another "pick your poison" situation, somewhat mitigated by the terrain heavy section in which the Bear Riders begin. Of the three scenarios so far presented, this one puts the Pennants behind the largest 8-ball. Also, interesting War Council make up, with the Pennants having a Level 2 Lore Master, while the Standards have each of the four "Lore influencing" Lore Masters present.

Adventure 4: Bloody Day


War Councils:
Pennants: 6 Levels of choice, 1st move
Standards: 6 Levels of choice

This is the centerpiece of the expansion. Essentially it pits a well equipped human army against an equally well equipped (possibly with the upper hand...) dwarf army. I have one play on this board so far, and after the second expect to be doing a session report on those plays as well.

EDITS: cleaning up typos/grammar
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Dan Cavaliere
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Again nice write up Todd

I am looking forward to playing Bloody Day again and of course March to Verneuil also.

Still can't get over those Bears angry - I'm glad there's only one unit of them.
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Geoff H
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Hi Todd,

Nice review. However, I'm troubled by the couple times you said 'we assume' and 'we decided'. Are the rules unclear on these points?

I hope that FFG isn't still adding questions to the mythical FAQ in their new expansions.

Thanks for reviewing this expansion. I'm sure I'll be picking it up as soon as I clear the Christmas bills. zombie

Geoff
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Dan Cavaliere
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Hi Geoff,

I don't want to speak on behalf of Todd here but 'yes' is the answer to your question.

It's not stated in the rules or on the card so we made those assumptions.

Unfortunately I think questions keep getting added (along with the many I'd like answered) to that mythical FAQ you mention soblue
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Todd Rewoldt
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Geoff, I am at work and don't have a lot of time for a proper response right now - but topics like what you bring up are what I was hoping to have some discussion on.

One point I would like to make clear - I think FFG does an overall good job of making their intended rules clear, it's just that some of the rules contradict earlier rules and/or introduce elements that impact the earlier rules...I'll stop there for now, but certainly will be back to blather on soon
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Geoff H
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Thanks Todd and Dan.

I look forward to your reply. My feeling at this point -- even moreso than with M'44 -- BattleLore is in need of an updated ruleset that is released. I'd even be happy with a PDF or Word file on their website nothing fancy...

Although I haven't played BattleLore as much as I would like soblue, I'm intimidated by the rule inconsistencies. Between the changes from the DoW to the FFG rules, the optional (or encouraged) changes to the units (such as the cattle riders), the ambiguities to the new expansions, and the recommendations in the forum (for the new Call to Arms cards, I'm afraid that it will take a lot of work and digging to figure everything out.

I hate to mention it in the BattleLore forums for fear of reprisal, but I see the same problems cropping up with Battles of Westeros. I'm starting to think that this problem is endemic to FFG's business model.

I really love their games, but the rules are getting hard to keep up with.

Geoff
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Dan Cavaliere
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Geoff,

I'll echo Todd (as I usually do) about the rules & FFG. The basics are all there but the follow up with newer item discrepancies would be nice.

I agree with you, even just an online web release FAQ or Errata sheet would be nice. I've seen them do this with the Battlestar Galactica game and Dungeonquest and I really appreciate that.

In the meantime we'll just go with our rationale.
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Ben Boersma
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I think a lot of this rule inconsistency could be avoided by setting a clear baseline.

After Code of Chivalry, they should release a 2nd edition rulebook that includes all the rules from the base game right through to the Code of Chivalry release. Sell the book on its own (much like the new Tannhauser book). Then they have a baseline for any further releases. Its all in the one place then too. Much more user friendly and accessible.

Cheers,
Ben.
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Geoff H
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Boromir_and_Kermit wrote:
I think a lot of this rule inconsistency could be avoided by setting a clear baseline.

After Code of Chivalry, they should release a 2nd edition rulebook that includes all the rules from the base game right through to the Code of Chivalry release. Sell the book on its own (much like the new Tannhauser book). Then they have a baseline for any further releases. Its all in the one place then too. Much more user friendly and accessible.

Cheers,
Ben.


Exactly. Although I'd even be happy with a pdf web release at this point.

Geoff
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Joe Fling
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Boromir_and_Kermit wrote:
I think a lot of this rule inconsistency could be avoided by setting a clear baseline.

After Code of Chivalry, they should release a 2nd edition rulebook that includes all the rules from the base game right through to the Code of Chivalry release. Sell the book on its own (much like the new Tannhauser book). Then they have a baseline for any further releases. Its all in the one place then too. Much more user friendly and accessible.

Cheers,
Ben.


Why this seems like a great idea, i don't feel I should have to buy a new rule book to play my game. I think they should just release a PDF FAQ version online and be done with it. How time consuming could that possibly be? Will it be done? Probably not. The inconsistency of the rules is the only real problem I have with battlelore. It's a great enough game to just make a few common sense house rules.

If they do end up releaseing a book, I would like it to have multiple (100 or so) official scenarios that include all the expansions. Maybe they could explain the rules through out the scenarios, have some cool new terrain hex's with the book, add the creatures and dragons in the scenarios and do some Dwarves vs Goblins while thier at it!

This game has so much potential, I would really like to see it's potential met. A good place to start would be clearing up these rules!
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Ben Boersma
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I see your point Joe, but you don't need to buy a new rulebook to play the game - all the rules are there (given some need clarification through FAQs).

A 2nd edition rulebook would just make it easier to find things and basically compile everything so you don't need to hunt through expansion booklets.

Cheers,
Ben.
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Geoff Speare
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It's not just a one-time rulebook though, it's an ongoing process of paying attention to rules consistency. New questions will always come up (with expansions, if nothing else).

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Giles Pritchard
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I wouldn't mind a new rules book, though I'd rather see one released with a new base set.

If we imagine that FFG are working on a new base set I wouldn't mind seeing:

A base set with just a human army (expanded by Code of Chivalry). This woud include a Core rules set.

Base army boxes for the Goblins and Dwarves (expanded by Horrific Horde and Bearded Brave) - this would allow a holistic approach to CtA. The base armies would include rules addendums that essentially add chapters to the core rules set.

Some form of large scenario book - perhaps released with new terrain (magical terrain perhaps), new heroes, or new lore masters. This could include some form of campaign play, or the scenarios in the book could represent a campaign.

New base armies and expansions...


Another alternative is that FFG release a new base set with two new races - and work on base armies for the humans, dwarves and goblins to make up for those who don't have access to the old base set.



If they were to produce a large, expanded and updated rules book, I'd also love to see a short campaign or set of scenarios in a little glossy book released together with it.

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Todd,

How do you feel Bearded Brave compares with Horrific Horde? From afar the new units in Bearded Brave sound quite powerful. Do the sets seem to balance ok?

Thanks.
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Todd Rewoldt
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I'm still coming to terms with the fact that Horrific Horde and Bearded Brave didn't introduce "complete" Call to Arms respective race specific decks and have yet to play a Dwarf vs Goblin battle, a la Attempted Breakthrough, using any form of the Call to Arms decks that can be constructed using the original decks and the additional cards included in the expansions. I had played some Call to Arms games using solely the cards in Horrific Hordes for Goblin vs Goblin battles, and I imagine that doing so with one side using the Bearded Brave deployment cards would be some fun, even if ultimately one-sided. Once we get these cards added to the Vassal module for BattleLore, I imagine I'll get to tinkering around quite a bit and find out

For what it's worth, the scenarios included in Bearded Brave played out a lot more "balanced" than I thought they would. Limiting the dwarf cavalry to a single Bear Rider unit, or even that plus a couple of Cattle Riders, and then facing off against four to six mounted units on the other side seems to be about fair. The overwhelming range superiority is still rough for me to think of in similar terms, but I do like how fragile the Bolt Throwers are. I still have a mind to post the session reports from the plays that Dan and I had on the BB scenarios, and certainly should do some once we get around to some Dwarf/Human/Goblin Call to Arms battles.
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D Fed
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toddrew wrote:
I still have a mind to post the session reports from the plays that Dan and I had on the BB scenarios, and certainly should do some once we get around to some Dwarf/Human/Goblin Call to Arms battles.


Please do when you get a chance.

I have Horrific Horde in my possession and am looking to get Bearded Brave. I am still working through the core set scenarios with a regular playing partner (about once a month if we are lucky), so am a ways away from introducing CTA and HH and eventually BB to find out the balance on my own.

In the meantime I would love to hear your findings and anyone else's regarding balancing with the new expansions.
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