My colleague Ben, who runs Game Club with me, and I were talking about another game for us to introduce the kids to next year that would be like Heroscape. Heroscape is out of print, but the simpler hex-based movement with varied terrain and special ability-focused units was really interesting to Ben. Its like a Battletech Lite that he could play with the kids and feel confident. So, we purchased a copy for Club and tested it out last week.
Battlelore is a direct descendant of a game that came out in the 90s that I owned and played called Battlemasters. Testing Battlelore out was very familiar to me and I remember playing a simpler and less balanced version of this in my youth.
Battelore is a constructible game, both from a unit perspective and terrain perspective, but everything you need comes in the box. Its a Fantasy Flight game, so it is very high quality. I guess the units are based off of factions in the Runescape Universe, which I know nothing about. Its pretty standard good/evil fantasy fare.
The basics of terrain is that the hexes are set in different locations for different scenarios. The scenarios are on a set of cards that are pre-set not only with different tile arrangements, but also different special rules for setup, unit benefits and victory conditions. There are water, hills, buildings and forest tiles, each with their own special rules that significantly affect game play.
Units each have a cost. You build a standard squad of 50 points from a “good” or “evil” army. You can choose fewer points to get extra “currency” to spend on magic-like cards during game play. These regenerate each round, but having a few extra at the start can help you gain an edge. You can also elect to get a headquarters building that gives you five extra build points. It has the consequence of providing your opponent with extra victory point possibilities. You also can’t place units ahead of your headquarters on the board. Units come in groups of three representing numbers of hits the unit can take. After two wounds, the unit is weakened. Units also have a variety of special abilities. Some trigger with a certain event, and some require you to roll specific symbols on the dice to activate them. The Legendary units (a demon and a griffon rider) have more than three hit points and use wound tokens to represent damage.
Combat is a simple manner of determining attack type, range and number of dice. Dice have a variety of symbols on them: double sword, sword, helmet, bullseye, and diamonds. Each has their own effect. Double swords always cause a wound. Swords cause wounds unless a unit is weakened. Helmets activate special abilities. Bullseye cause wounds with ranged attacks. Diamonds generate “mana” for playing spell cards.
You win the game by amassing victory points. You gain points either with the “magic” cards, occupying key locations on the map, or from your scenario requirements. Sixteen wins the game. A feature that I like is that you keep track of who starts the game. The game guarantees that the second player will get a chance to respond to a first player’s victory, so there isn’t a bias to being the first player.
The game is pretty simple to learn. It takes a while to setup, but once you learns the ins and outs it happens much quicker. Fantasy Flight will likely release other factions beyond the generic “good” and “evil” for the game. Expansions could also easily include additional scenarios and terrain types, depending upon the angle they take.
We’re excited to get kids to start designing units and scenarios for the game. We tried to get kids to design scenarios for games last year, but there wasn’t much ground swell for it. We’re wondering if some kind of incentive, like getting into our Overday celebration for free, might be what gets kids to start designing. We could design scenarios, of course, but we want this club to always be student-centered.