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Subject: [Review] BattleLore: Epic BattleLore rss

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Tom Vasel
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BattleLore is a great game – one of the best I’ve ever played, and the Call to Arms expansion is simple yet adds a lot of variety to the game, making it essential in my opinion. I was really looking forward to the Epic expansion (Days of Wonder, 2007 – Richard Borg), since the Overlord scenarios in Memoir ’44 (same designer – same basic system) are my absolute favorite of that game. The designer warned me that BattleLore would be different; and I could tell that, since the flip side of the original board was half of a huge, deeper board rather than the long board of the Overlord scenarios.

The Epic expansion simply adds another board (you can get this by buying another copy of the basic game, but that seems awfully expensive), some tokens (more lore tokens, alliance tokens, and turn order tokens), and a very well written rule set. The rules are mostly available online, for those who buy two copies of the game and, therefore, don’t need the expansion.

While the Overlord rules are the best, most fulfilling way to play Memoir ’44, the multiple player rules in Epic BattleLore aren’t nearly as interesting. In fact, I feel that Epic is a very good expansion; not because of how it handles multiple players, but because it creates an exciting huge game for two players!

There are two ways to play with multiple players. For six players (or less), each player takes one section of the board and controls the units in that section. The player in the middle (Lord Commander) is the player who decides which cards are played, but each player is in charge of their own units. This is an okay way to play, although the “Field Marshals” (folks on the side sections) may not get the full experience of the game.

The four-player game is known as “Reluctant Allies” variant. This is an interesting version that utilizes two of the scenarios in the book and also requires two whole copies of the game. Half of the forces in each army are marked with the alliance banners. Two players take each army – one controlling the units with alliance banner tokens, the other the forces without. The player with the most green banners takes Turn Marker # 1, then the next player takes Turn Marker # 2, etc. Each player has their own War Council and controls their own cards – both command and lore. On a player’s turn, they may only order their own units but may also move their allies units by assigning two orders per unit moved. The game plays as normal, following the normal Epic rules, with the first team to get the prescribed number of banners being the winner and the player on that team with the most banners being the overall winner. I find this variant okay, although I don’t like that you need two copies of the game, but would rather play with six or two players.

When playing an Epic scenario, a few changes are made. Obviously the board is much bigger and there are some fairly huge armies involved. However, there is also an extra “Epic Command” rack placed on the table, which has three command cards that both players can see placed in it. On a player’s turn, they have two options.
- They can play a single tactic card, either from their own rack or from the Epic Command rack. After the end of their turn, this card is replaced.
- They can play one or two section cards; but if they play two, one must come from the epic Command rack. The two section cards can be the same section or two different ones; it doesn’t really matter. Both cards played are then replaced.
Normally, in the games that I’ve played, players are eager to play two section cards, because you can move a LOT of units, especially if you manage to play two advance cards. However, some of the tactic cards are fairly-powerful when used with armies this large. Darken the skies can be devastating when four or five units are firing, and the Red/Blue/Green banner cards can maneuver a lot of forces.

There is no doubt in my mind that having a high level Commander is almost critical in an Epic game. Many tactic cards allow a player to move forces equal to command; and since there are so many units on the board, the ability to move five or six of them can be a devastating-blow. The Leadership card from the original game, which allowed a player to move one unit at +1, has been upgraded in an Epic game to allow a player to move extra units equal to their Commander’s level. Anyone who takes a level one or no Commander at all in an Epic game is simply asking for trouble.

More lore tokens are included, because with all the forces running around the board and fighting, there is a lot more lore being given out. Since archers tend to fire quite a bit more (due to the large board), lore is not given for their rolls. Interestingly enough, I think the value of archers has really increased with this expansion.

Seven expansions are included in the rules, five or which follow normal Epic rules – the other two the Reluctant Allies variant. The scenarios are really nothing special, although they do show some huge armies and cause a player to either get seven banners and at least two more than their opponent – to win, or be the first to gain nine banners.

Epic can be mixed with the Call to Arms expansion, which is modified slightly to allow players to put more forces on the board. This is fine by me – I only wish that the players could use more than two specialist cards, although we’ll probably just make a house rule to that end.

My overall opinions of Epic are positive, although it’s not as necessary as Call to Arms; and players who like smaller battles may never need to purchase it. I personally love the huge two-player battles, although they do take a bit longer to play and set up (the entire process just tops two hours now). New players can be taught Epic with very little problem, and the bigger board seems to give players a little more room to maneuver – something nice for the goblins. BattleLore has now reached top status in my game collection and offers so many variations that I’ll never play the same game twice. Utilizing both expansions (and the specialist packs), BattleLore has now officially replaced any desire that I’ll ever have to play a miniature game.

Tom Vasel
“Real men play board games”
www.thedicetower.com
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Cédric Rothacher
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I'd only add, that for the epic expansion "patience" is even more a virtue than for the standard game. You gotta keep your units together, what is more difficult to do than in the standard game because of the deeper battle field. And the cavalry, because of it's higher speed becomes very important for an agressiv 'strategy' as there may be long ways to go...
For me Epic Batlelore has become the way I play battlelore if ever possible. And sometimes I think that epic is the way BL was meant from the very start.
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Matt Smith
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I'd have to say I disagree with the OP's assertion that a high-level commander is more important in Epic than standard Battlelore. I feel it's more important each turn to order units in the section you want than to order one more unit with a Tactics card. This is particularly true in Epic, when two Section cards will often order more units than one Tactics card, regardless of the Commander level. In a standard game, your command rack is all you have to choose from. At best that means you'll have 6 command cards available. With Epic, even with only a L1 Commander, you have 7 cards to choose from each turn. By only allocating one level to Commander, I can go for a L3 Lore master and still cover two of the remaining three Lore masters. This provides great flexibility in my Lore cards.

I've only played five Epic games so far, but I've not felt constrained by my L1 Commander. And I'm unbeaten in Epic, for whatever that's worth.
 
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Kurt Weihs
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"BattleLore has now officially replaced any desire that I’ll ever have to play a miniature game."

Ouch. With a single stroke of his pen Tom Vasel reduces an entire genre of gaming to something less than Battle Lore.

I hope you get a chance to experience playing a miniature game that allows you to re-think this particular comment.

I agree that BattleLore is a great boardgame with some very similar qualities to those found in miniature games. But, I believe you have done miniature gaming a great disservice with this statement. I can't speak for 40K or any of the Warhammer varients, but I play Warmachine and Hordes and I find them both very thought provoking and challenging in ways that BattleLore isn't and never really could be.

I agree that Epic BattleLore was a good addition to the series, but like a movie sequel long in the waiting, it seemed to lack many of the features I was hoping to see. Namely, a campaign system that would allow a player(s) to string together a series of games in a grand strategic chain of events that would require players to manage their armies and culminate in the large two-board battle we all expected.
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Tom Vasel
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I don't mean to demean miniature gaming. However, for me personally, the statement holds true.

I like the idea of miniature games, but the painting/modeling/huge amount of room and setup needed turns me off. Battlelore has the feel of a miniature game, without all these things. That's why it has worked as a substitute for me (Battleground: Fantasy Warfare also).

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Kurt Weihs
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(quickly hiding my screen so the wife doesn't see...)

B..b..but...the painting...modelling...$12,000.00 addition to the house for miniature storage is the best part!

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