Battlelore is a medieval fantasy two player war game. Players can choose to include or exclude as many fantasy elements as they wish, allowing you to recreate medieval battle scenes or go for an all-out medieval fantasy battle (but without dragons). Control of units are via randomly drawn cards that activate different units, with 3 ‘levels’ of units. Where Battlelore really differs is the use of the Command Council whose abilities can bring about special effects through the payment of lore. A fun wargame and probably one of the best in a medieval setting.
Appearance: Battlelore comes in a hefty box with a ton of unit pieces with differing banners and looks. None of them are pre-painted. Also included is the game board and the various terrain tiles and game play cards. The layout of the manual and the pieces are of really high quality, with nothing having broken thus far. Overall, a definite plus in the appearance department.
Minor grouses for me include the fact that none of the pieces are coloured and that it can get difficult to pick out specific figures due to the way the game is packed with only flags and pennants used to differentiate pieces. Easily solved for those who like painting though.
Rules / Ease of Learning: Like most wargames, the rules for Battlelore will take at least 20 minutes to learn. While not particularly hard, there are a number of different rules to keep in mind. A big advantage is the well laid out book and the various ‘cheat’ cards that players can refer to while playing. Definitely allows quick immersion. Also, the scenario book is great as it slowly introduces new elements to the game in each new battle – starting from the base medieval battles to full scale fantasy battles.
Units are broken into the typical cavalry, infantry and archer units. Each unit can be one of three types – green, regular or veteran with corresponding bonuses in damage and reduction in movement rates. Also, additional ‘fantasy’ unit types in the form of goblins, dwarves and ‘monsters’ are available.
Understanding the rules of pursuit, battle-back, morale and archery is as always very important. Perhaps most importantly, battle-back rules allow the defender their only option to ‘hurt’ attackers in the same round, a potentially lethal tactic.
The big difference that Battlelore introduces is the ‘Advisory Council’. Thisis where the game gets really interesting as the council can directly affect the game through the use of Lore cards. Depending on who you have on the council and what cards are available, players can heal friendly units, throw fireballs at enemy units or play ‘sneakier’ cards to increase movement, defense or teleporting pieces.
Actual Gameplay: Battlelore is an interesting miniature wargame. As most scenarios do not require the need for additional pieces, it can be played right out of the box and the multiple scenarios offered are a great way to get started. Set-up times is not bad, with experience obviously playing a good part in speeding it up. The useof multiple figures to indicate unit strength can sometimes be a tad slow, though short-cuts of not using the exact figures can be used to make gameplay run faster.
The combat system is the same used for Memoir ’44, with differently experienced troops having different strengths and movements. While staying to the medieval theme for the most part (all the infantry, archers and cavalry have the same statistics), the introduction of goblins and dwarves offer a little variety inn terms of special troops. The special monsters are powerful but as a friend pointed out, easily destroyed and thus a non-issue quite often.
Command cards dictate movement and units that can be activated per turn, enforcing a tactical twist to any strategy – it’s hard to advance on the left flank when all your cards are for the right! Obviously, this has it’s pro’s and con’s as a well laid out strategy can be ruined by the lack of cards.
Battlelore really shines in the use of council and Lore cards. These provide an interesting new way to affect the game while adding a ‘fantasy’ element to it that is not just dragons and goblins and dwarves. This is perhaps the most interesting aspect of Battlelore in my view and what differentiates it from other ‘war’ games.
Two issues that do bother me about the base system is the lack of realism in combat and unit strength. A unit that has only 1 figure left still can do as much damage as an unhurt unit. Also, because units can only battle-back when they are bold, it is possible to entirely destroy a unit without it ever inflicting any damage back to the attacking unit – which seems unrealistic to me. This is perhaps due to the ‘turn’ nature of combat but the rules do dictate a specific strategic and tactical style.
Conclusion: Battlelore is a great fantasy wargame that works for those that are not looking for anything too complicated or realistic. The lack of differentiation of units and the somewhat unrealistic movement (command card) and battle rules dictate strategy in the game. This is perhaps not the game for ‘realists’ but it is a fantasy medieval wargame. Realism is optional, and it has the best depiction and use of magic that I have come across. Most importantly, it’s fun.