BattleLore Review

Now that I have played BattleLore several times, I figure it is a great time to write a review.

In BattleLore, each player takes charge of an army in a variety of different scenarios - some historically based and some fantasy based. From here, on any given turn, the players will choose a command card to play (thus determining which units and how many are able to be used on that turn) and possibly a Lore card (which affects the standard flow of the game - it may help attack extra units, change die results, or something else entirely). They will move the units ordered by the Command card, attack with these units (if successful at attacking and using the correct units, possibly re-attack with these units), and then they replenish their command card hand and their Lore.  (For those of you familiar with Memoir '44 or Command & Colors Ancients, the mechanics are supposed to be the same other than the Lore cards.)

BattleLore has several aspects of the game that work incredibly well:
  • There are several different types of units - for a basic footman, he may be inexperienced, normal or experienced (and heavily armored), each of which can move a different number of spaces and roll a different number of dice.
  • Not only are there important differences in the level of the unit, there are also several different types of units that come in the base game (and more available through expansions such as BattleLore: Call to Arms and BattleLore: Heroes Expansion) - goblins, humans, dwarves and a giant spider.
  • Another positive about BattleLore is the scenarios. Instead of fighting just to fight, there are a number of scenarios that can be played that make the game feel different every time it is played through.  Scenarios can also be easily customized by selecting different "War Councils" from the ones that are suggested so that even more replayability is added.
  • The strategy in which Command cards to play and when to play Lore cards (the magic cards that can be played whenever) is deep enough to be very engaging while not being so complicated that it would prevent new players from having a good play experience.
However, with all of that said, there are some fairly important negative aspects of the game.  The primary problem is in how battles are resolved.  When a unit attacks another unit, the attacker rolls a number of dice based on its level.  From there, each die may roll a hit, a special attack (which is sometimes a hit sometimes a miss depending on the unit), retreat flags, or a "Lore" icon which allows the attacker to collect Lore tokens to play Lore cards later.  This system sounds reasonable, but in actual playing, it seems to undermine a lot of the strategy of the game.  Too often you will encounter a situation in which you are able to play the perfect Command card (and/or Lore card) to get your units into position just to have them completely miss, whereas the next time you will attack with a single unit that is not even in a good position and hit on every die roll.

Other than the battle mechanic, BattleLore's only other problems are minor - learning curve and setup time.  There are a lot of minor rules to remember the first few times that you play through, such as how far each unit can move and what terrain does, etc.  This is mediated by cards that tell you about each aspect of the game, but since this means you wind up with about 15 cards in front of you, it adds to the play area needed when playing.  The other concern is setup time.  All of the human pieces look very similar, so it can be time consuming to find all of the figures that are needed.  A quick and easy way to fix this problem, however, would be to get colored stickers and place them on the bottom of the figures so that when you are looking for a "blue" footman, you can find him and distinguish him from the red and green footmen quickly.

Overall, I give BattleLore an 8.0/10.  This is a fun game, and I will continue to play it, but because of the frustrations that the battle dice cause, it prevents it from being closer to the 9 range.  I do not recommend this for people that dislike rule intensive games, however, because BatteLore's rulebook is one of the thickest rulebooks I have ever encountered (80 pages, but yes, there are lots of pictures).

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