A couple of BattleLore-related things

Posted on : 01-12-2007 | By : Brian | In : News

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First off, I’ve recently discovered a program called VASSAL via Board Game Geek that allows me to play BattleLore online with other people. Sweet. After trying it out and playing an entire scenario (which I lost), I have a few thoughts.

  • The overall design is pretty good. The graphics are clean and attractive, and they convey everything they need to fairly well.
  • That said, playing BattleLore via VASSAL is a little bit clunky, when compared to the real thing. Sure, the setup time is significantly reduced, but space constraints apparently necessitate your command and lore cards being kept in a separate window from the actual board, making it very, very difficult to see both your options and the battlefield at the same time. When playing BattleLore, I like to be able to get the whole picture, and that’s very difficult to do in VASSAL.

So, all in all, while VASSAL does provide a good alternative to playing the actual game when you can’t find a physical opponent, it’s really no substitute for playing with the actual product. I should mention that, while VASSAL and the accompanying BattleLore module are free downloads, they do not come with the rules for the game. So, unless you already know all the rules, the program doesn’t actually allow you to have the game for free, as all rules adjudication is left up to the players, not the game engine.

In related news, I just received my Earth Elemental figure for BattleLore. The package comes with the actual Earth Elemental figure and creature flag (a blue one), a terrain tile depicting a Circle of Summoning (which you use to summon the Elemental), and three reference cards displaying rules for using both the Elemental and its accompanying Circle. The whole thing cost me $4.00 in shipping, and is free to anyone who already owns BattleLore (though there is a one per game limit). So, now I’ve got two creatures in my game. Cool!

BattleLore Session Report: A Complex Web

Posted on : 01-06-2007 | By : Brian | In : Session Reports

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My wife and I just got done playing “A Complex Web”, the sixth scenario for BattleLore. My wife took the side with the dwarves and the giant spider, while I played the side with the goblins. I led with my goblins early, trying to capitalize on their speed advantage, and aimed them primarily at non-dwarf units as much as I could while bolstering them with Mass Might. My wife, on the other hand, marched forward with her dwarven infantry and charged her giant spider forward to take its place on a hill near my front lines. My goblins, unfortunately, got routed pretty quickly, and my wife’s spider didn’t really do much throughout the entire fight. Despite this, I did manage to kill the spider toward the end of the game, after at least three failed attacks. A couple of other highlights: I managed to entirely destroy a red cavalry unit with a fireball, while my wife used Greater Portal to very good effect, swapping the places of a blue dwarven infantry with only one figure left and a fully-manned red cavalry unit right at the end of the game. In the end, my wife won the battle, with six victory flags to my four.

BattleLore: Wizards & Lore

Posted on : 01-03-2007 | By : Brian | In : Session Reports

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Played the fifth scenario last night, and I thought I’d give a quick report. Lore is awesome. A well-placed fireball or magic missile can really turn the tide of a battle, and it actually softens the blow of a missed die when you roll a lore symbol. It’s good stuff. There’s not a lot to say so far that I haven’t already said before, and I haven’t actually gotten enough experience with lore to really say much more about it. I’ll talk more about lore and other things after I’ve played with it some more.

BattleLore Session Report: Deeper in Castile

Posted on : 12-31-2006 | By : Brian | In : Session Reports

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We played again today, this time the fourth scenario: Deeper in Castile. I, once again, took the side with the goblins, while my wife had the dwarves on her side. I’ve got to say, those dwarves are really something. You get four units of dwarves in that scenario (three blue infantry and one unit of green crossbowmen), and they can really hold that line. I focused most of my attention on knocking those dwarves off of their hills, and I didn’t manage to get a single one to retreat a single step (though I did kill the crossbowmen and two of the units of infantry). I got to use my goblins a little bit more. It’s nice to have blue units that can both move two spaces and battle in the same turn, but their morale problems make them something of a liability. Having them retreat is almost as bad, if not just as bad, as taking a hit, so you’re going to want to make sure they’re supported by allies as often as possible. In the end I won, six flags to four, and all four of my wife’s victory flags were goblin units: both of my hobgoblin cavalry and both of my blue goblin infantry. They’re very tempting targets, apparently.

The battle made me think of how best to use the different mercenary troops. Goblins are at their best as skirmishers; they run in and attack a lone unit, they stick to forests and hills, and you try like hell not to send them up against bold troops. Dwarves, on the other hand, are the ultimate defensive units. Since they’re always bold, they always get to battle back. That makes them very tough nuts to crack, even more so when they’re supported. As such, you probably want to utilize your goblins as much as you can, and get as much mileage out of them as you can before they get killed off or run away. If you have dwarves, on the other hand, your best bet is probably to focus your energies on commanding your other troops and bringing them to bear offensively, while your dwarves just sit in defensible positions and hold off the attackers for as long as they can. A dwarf is really at his best when he’s surrounded by enemies, because (provided he survives), he’ll get to battle each one of them back as they attack him. Really, it doesn’t get much better than a blue dwarven infantry unit sitting on top of a hill; those guys are going to hold out for most of the game, chances are. I think that, if my wife had focused more on bringing her heavy infantry and cavalry into the fray and attacked with them, just leaving the dwarves to ward off attacks from my units, she might have won. Toward the end there, it really could have gone either way; I think I just got lucky.

BattleLore Session Report: First Chevauchee and Burgos, Castile

Posted on : 12-31-2006 | By : Brian | In : Session Reports

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Well, my wife and I played the second and third scenarios in BattleLore yesterday, and this time I won both battles. Some brief impressions follow:

First Chevauchee: I don’t know if it was the command cards we got or how we played them, but this scenario turned into a massive brawl pretty quickly. After the third or fourth round, seventy percent of the units on the battlefield were involved in an all-consuming melee in the center of the board. Seriously, it was like a meat grinder. Virtually every unit involved was supported by allies, meaning that every time anyone attacked, the opponent got to battle back, and nobody was running away. The scenario only lasted about half an hour before I got enough flags to win.

Burgos, Castile: Goblins. I had the side with the goblins, and I didn’t really get to use them as much as I wanted to. Mainly it was because they were on my right wing, and I had all left wing and center cards. In fact, I think it was on the fifth or sixth round that I actually got to use them for the first time, with a Green Banners card. My goblin light infantry got deflected pretty handily by my wife’s regular infantry and archers (all supported), though my hobgoblin cavalry did take out a few opponents. My regular goblin infantry, on the other hand, sat and watched the whole time, since I never got a card that really allowed me to utilize them. Meanwhile, though, the mass of cavalry and infantry in the center were being made liberal use of, and to good effect. I had managed to pull both of my hobgoblin cavalry into the center, giving me a grand total of three cavalry units in the center (two green and one red). After a while, I had whittled my wife’s troops down to one and two figures each, and my cavalry did a good job of mopping up.

All in all, good scenarios. I wish I had gotten a chance to really fully utilize my goblins, but I don’t see that as a failing of the system, just a quirk of luck.

BattleLore: Agincourt Session Report

Posted on : 12-30-2006 | By : Brian | In : Session Reports

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I went out and spent some of my Christmas gift certificate money on BattleLore the other day, and I got to play it with my wife for the first time today. The game is just too massive for me to do a review of it yet, especially since the Agincourt scenario doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of what’s available (no goblins or dwarves, no creatures, no loremasters). At any rate, I’ll probably post session reports from time to time, giving a sort of mini-review on a scenario-by-scenario basis until I can review the whole game. My session report on the Agincourt scenario follows:

My wife and I played the scenario, both of us beginners. She was the French, with their heavy cavalry and well-trained foot soldiers, and I was the English, my side brimming with archers. I opened with a volley from my bowmen, and for quite a few turns it looked like things were going my way. I kept on peppering her soldiers with arrows, picking off figures one at a time, while my side remained relatively unmolested. I even managed to eliminate one of her heavy cavalry before it was able to do any damage, scoring the first victory flag of the battle in the process.

We danced around each other for a while, me lining up my foot soldiers and hitting her with volley after volley, she packing her footmen into tight formations and bringing her cavalry around to outflank me. I attacked with a Foot Onslaught, but her units were well supported and devastated mine with their counter-attacks. The real damage came when she was able to bring her cavalry to bear on my foot soldiers: one blue regular cavalry and her remaining red heavy cavalry. Between the two of them, they must have wiped out three of my units by themselves.

The game seemed fairly close toward the end; we each had three of the four victory flags that we needed. However, her side was made up mostly of blue footmen and her aforementioned cavalry, while I was the proud owner of a number of heavily damaged infantry units and four sets of archers, who were really only picking figures off one at a time, not doing any serious damage.

In the end, her heavy cavalry (now down to a single figure) hammered one of my blue infantry units and sent it running, then hammered it again with a follow-up attack, rolling three (!) bonus strikes, one for each figure left in the unit. And that was game.

But I hear you asking, “Was it fun?” Yes. Yes it was. Despite the fact that there seems to be a lot that I haven’t gotten to use yet, I really enjoyed my first game of BattleLore. Even more impressive, though, was the fact that my wife enjoyed it and expressed her interest in playing again (in the same day, even), and she’s not usually a big board game player. The game seems simple enough that you can pick it up quickly (and the huge number of reference cards that come with the game certainly help), but deep enough that there’s a lot of room for nuance and strategy. I, for one, can’t wait to start playing with goblins, dwarves, giant spiders, and all the various loremasters and their associated powers. Thus far, I can find quite a bit to recommend this game.

Electronic translations for board games

Posted on : 10-26-2007 | By : Brian | In : News

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Recently I purchased Puerto Rico: The PC Game, and I haven’t been able to stop playing since. I’ve only played the physical game a couple of times, mainly because I don’t own it (my friend Chris does), and it’s difficult to get everyone to agree on the game sometimes. The PC game isn’t quite as good as sitting down with your friends, but it satisfies that board gaming itch well enough, and it’s really quite a lot of fun. I’ve heard complaints that the AI isn’t that great but really, for a beginner like me, it’s fine. I may outgrow it eventually, but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.

What it’s gotten me thinking of is how I wish more PC translations of board games were out there. There are a few out there. Over at AsoBrain.com you can play pretty faithful online translations of Carcassonne and Settlers of Cataan. You can even play BattleLore online with your friends using the Vassal Engine. And of course there are things like Magic The Gathering Online.

Still, I wish there were more. I’d love to be able to play the HeroCard games, or Munchkin, or Arkham Horror on my computer when I can’t get my friends together. Or, better yet, with my friends, online. It would be awesome.

Stories in Board Games

Posted on : 04-08-2007 | By : Brian | In : News

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Monte Cook just did an interesting post on his blog. I must say that I do agree with this position. When it comes to board games, stories are great, but it’s the gameplay that’s the real clincher. I’m a big fan of games with themes, and I sometimes make my decisions based, at least in part, on the theme of the game. Take BattleLore for example. Now, Memoir ’44 uses the same basic mechanics, but I probably won’t buy it. Why? Apart from already owning BattleLore, the fantasy theme of the first game appeals to me quite a lot more than the WW theme of Memoir ’44. That said, though, I’m a huge fan of the Command and Colors system that both games use, and if BattleLore didn’t exist, and I played Memoir ’44 at some point, I’d probably like it a lot and wind up buying it, despite the theme.

And that is exactly why I love it when game designers put manuals for their games in electronic format on their websites. I suppose that you could make some argument against that, invoking things like piracy, but it would be a pretty silly argument. Reading a game’s manual, if that game has mechanics that I’ll enjoy, only gets me more excited to play the game, and makes me want the game that much more. It’s a far more powerful form of advertising for your game than simple, story-based ad copy.

Game Night

Posted on : 01-06-2007 | By : Brian | In : Session Reports

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Last night my friends Tad and Chris came over and we played some games. Namely, we played BattleLore and Carcassonne.

My friend Chris came over first, and we played the Agincourt scenario of BattleLore. Last time, when I played with my wife, I played the pennant side, with lots of archers and no cavalry. This time I played the standard side, with three cavalry and only one archer. Both times I lost. This time, I can trace my loss to a big mistake on my part. See, Chris was doing the smart thing, hanging back and pumping me full of arrows from a distance and forcing me to come to him on his terms. In my hurry to meet him in melee, I charged forward with my cavalry and didn’t pay enough attention to my infantry or my lone archer. As a result, the first three casualties in the game were–you guessed it–my three cavalry units. I managed to kill one of his archers (if I remember correctly), but he had played the patient game while I had rushed forward to engage too fast. As a result, when our infantry finally met in the middle of the battlefield, none of my units were supported while most of his were. Between his normal attacks and his battle-backs, he wiped out one of my infantry and ended the game. Of course, it didn’t help things that he had gotten a Darken the Skies card early in the game, and had managed to severely cripple two of my three cavalry with that card alone.

Around midnight, Tad came over and we broke out the Carcassonne. This was my first (and second) time playing, and I’ve been curious about this game for quite a while. I must admit, I liked it. The first game we played was the core game (which Chris refers to as the “introduction game”); it lasted about 30 minutes and ended with my victory. Beginner’s luck, I guess. The second added in one of the expansion packs (I forget which), and Chris won that one. For those who haven’t played yet, Carcassonne involves randomly drawing and then playing tiles such that they both match up with tiles already on the table and are advantageous to you and not to your opponents. In addition, you get seven meeples, and you can place them in cities, on roads, in monasteries, or on fields to score points. If you place a meeple in a city or monastery, or on a road, you get it back when the feature is completed and immediately score points for it; otherwise, they remain there until the end of the game and are worth fewer points. If you place a meeple in a field, it stays there until the end of the game, but has the potential to score pretty big.

The expansion pack that we played with added two new terrain features: inns and cathedrals. Inns increase the value of completed roads that they are on (or decrease the value to zero, if the road is incomplete), while cathedrals do the same thing for cities. The expansion pack also gave each of us a “giant meeple”, worth two meeples for breaking ties (this comes into play when you wind up with two players’ meeples on a single feature; if there’s a tie, both players score equally, but if one player dominates, the other player gets nothing).

After the second game of Carcassonne, Tad left to go home and play Dead Rising on his 360, and Chris and I played a second game of BattleLore. We played the second scenario, First Chevauchee, and this time I won (barely). I tried to correct for my mistakes in the previous game this time, advancing with my infantry and making use of my archers (this time I got Darken the Skies) while holding my cavalry back for mop-up battles. There were two main clashes: one on my right wing and one straddling the center and left wing. For a while, it looked like I was going to lose again. Chris had 4 victory flags to my 2, and none of my command cards were really all that useful. However, I drew some section cards that allowed me to use the right units at the right times, and it made a pretty big difference. I wound up scoring two flags in one turn thanks to a well-placed Forward card, and after that Chris was on the retreat to some extent due to the fact that we were tied and his units were somewhat more beat up than mine. In the end, he wound up pulling a blue infantry back (it only had one figure left), and I charged forward with my blue cavalry, using a Leadership card for +1 die to my attack on his heavily damaged unit. I rolled two hits–more than enough–and ended the game with my victory.

At this point it was about 5am, so it was time for me to go to sleep. It was a really good night of gaming, though.

ütüleme epilasyon