Battlelore

By Scott Parrino 31 Dec 2006 0

The newly risen sun was bathing the rolling hills in its golden hue, dancing over the armor of the mounted knights and casting their long shadows across the verdant and still moist ground. A gentle summer breeze ruffled the pennants and flags held by the French squires, who shifted uneasily from foot to foot at the thought of the upcoming carnage. Lord Luc d'Picard, atop his armored horse the color of pure virgin snow, gazed intently to the west. Those around him, the men who had pledged their lands and lives to him, also stared. All were waiting. Waiting for?

“There!” One of d’Picard’s barons exclaimed, one hand pointing, sheathed in a leather and steel gauntlet. There, indeed. A rider had crested the nearby hills and was pushing his frothing mount as if the Devil himself trailed behind. Horse and rider stopped before the gathered lords, and the rider leapt off and dropped to one knee.

“My Lord,” he began, rising as he did so, “I bring news of the enemy.”

Lord Luc d’Picard was waiting. “Go on.”

“The army of Henry is on the move. They will be approaching within two hours at their current pace. I counted at least five hundred foot and perhaps half that many horse.”

“Two hours? I should expect them here sooner than that. Why so slow?”

The scout paused and nervously swallowed. “Sire, the English are employing mercenaries. I spotted at least one company. Dwarves, sire.”

d'Picard grunted. “So the stories are true. Well, dwarves bleed just like men. Besides, it’s not like we don’t have any extraordinary help ourselves…”

With that he, and those around him, glanced back in the treeline. There, still tethered in stout iron chains, a spider the color of Hell’s dark heart and the size of a small cottage, anxiously awaited to be unleashed.

French, English, and dwarves? Giant spiders? Say what? Welcome to the Hundred Years War by way of Tolkien. Welcome to Battlelore!

The battle of First Chevauchee in action. Note that you can tell the two sides apart from the style of pennant, horizontal flying or vertical.

All the possible outcomes on the combat dice. Since only one style of helmet is used if you're color blind this is definitely not the game for you. Why they did not also use the unique symbols of Ancients is a mystery.

Battlelore, published by Days of Wonder and developed by Richard Borg (along with Pat Kurivial and Days of Wonder), is the latest title in Borg's Commands and Colors system. The system, card-driven gameplay with iconic dice settling battles instead of combat result tables, has been used in a variety eras. First there was the award-winning Battle Cry, set in the American Civil War. Then the system transported gamers to the ever popular setting of World War II in another award-winning game, Memoir '44. Most recently the Commands and Colors system took us back to when men in skirts fought, with Ancients. And now with Battlelore Borg has given gamers not one, but two eras: medieval and fantasy.

While each subsequent title has added rules and generally improved the system, the core elements first introduced in Battle Cry, remain the driving force in the Commands and Colors system. Units, made up of multiple plastic miniatures, battle on a large hex board divided into three sections. These units are ordered via cards, and combat occurs by rolling dice marked with symbols. From set up to knock-down a typical scenario can be played in under an hour, and thanks to the card driven gameplay no two games will play out exactly the same. As long as a gamer is willing to understand that the Commands and Colors system is a game first and foremost, and not some sort of simulation, plenty of enjoyment can be found.

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