Saturday, May 30, 2009
My guess is that Topps wants to keep the property alive enough to have vaule for a sale.
It's too bad, because it was rather useful for tracking your collection and warbands.
Another useful Heroclix related site, WhoClix, is also gone, apparently a casualty of the sudden shutdown of AOL on Oct. 31 of last year.
The WizKids site is still up, although apparently inactive. There are no new posts.
It might be wise for HeroClix fans to get what they need from the site before it disappears.
The next time you visit a friend, don’t be surprised if your host asks you what you’d like with your glass of wine — not cheese and olives, but from a collection of board games! Despite stiff competition from the numerous online games and Playstation and Xbox 360, newer, more exciting variants of the good old Ludo and Snakes and Ladders are here. Businesswise, says Satish Sundra, owner, Ram Chander & Sons, India’s oldest toy shop, board games are doing so well that customers are walking into the store with a list of games that they have surfed for on the net. “Families walk into the store and want at least three different versions of Scrabble,” he says. R Jeswant, Funskool’s vice president (sales and marketing), asks, “How can board games make a comeback? They never left us,” he says, adding that the company has recorded a 40 per cent growth in 2008-09 in the board games category alone. It tied up recently with IIT Mumbai to develop a host of homegrown games for Indian consumers. “As part of the industrial design course, students prepared board games and we decided to distribute them,” says Jeswant, explaining that all that these family games require are skill and aptitude.
He’s yet to learn about Funskool’s latest offering but Ajesh Shah, an investment banker in the US, who came back to India two years ago to start “game clubs” for likeminded enthusiasts, is busy firming up plans for the next “board game night” in Mumbai. “I don’t earn the way I used to in the US, but I was burning out and had to do something about it,” he says. Still in his early twenties, Shah started Peacock Projects, a forum for organising cultural festivals while also promoting newer names in the field of music, dance and visual arts. Since he is a board game “freak”, he also started Board Game Bash, a club where members register and meet to play — what else? — board games. The response, says Shah, who owns around 20 board games, has been overwhelming, and there are already 150-160 registered members. The club has already held Poker nights, UNO-card bashes, Scrabble club nights and what have you in members’ residences, but now hopes to host board game parties at pubs too.
Friday, May 29, 2009
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
The KV-series tanks show up fairly often in Axis & Allies Miniatures, It's collector No. 4/48 from the Base Set, shown left, and again as No. 20/60 of the 1939-45 set, shown below. This card has been officially revised, with new special ability notes on the Hasbro Axis & Allies Miniatures site. An up-gunned version of the tank appears as the KV-85 in the Eastern Front set, No. 19/60.
Cost: 32 (35 for the KV-85)
Attacks vs troops at short-medium-long ranges: 9 -9 -7
Attacks vs vehicles at short-medium-long ranges: 13 -11 -10 (14-12-10 for the KV-85)
KV-1 (revised): Exposed Transport — This unit can carry one Soldier. That Soldier can be attacked while it’s boarded on this transport. (A friendly Soldier can board or dismount this unit instead of moving during your movement phase.) The original version of the ability was simply Transport, which unrealistically made the soldiers immune to enemy fire.
Heavy Armor — Ignore the first Damaged counter this unit receives each game. Originally this special ability was called Hulking Mass
KV-85 special ability: Heavy Armor — Ignore the first Damaged counter this unit receives each game.
KV-1 historical text
On 19 August 1941, Lt. Zinoviy Kolobanov destroyed 22 German tanks at Krasnogvardeysk in his KV-1. His tank was hit 135 times during the firefight, but not one German shell penetrated the tank’s heavy armor.
KV-85 historical text
Delays in the development of a new heavy tank led the Soviets to produce this improved version of the KV-1.
The unit in history: Experience from the Spanish Civil War prompted the Soviets to consider the merits of more heavily armed and armored tanks, leading to the fielding of the KV-1 heavy tank and the medium T-34 tanks which unpleasantly surprised German panzer troops in 1941. Unlike the revolutionary T-34, the KV-1 was a conventional design that achieved its superiority through the simple principle of "more." A larger engine, thicker armor and a bigger gun than contemporary foreign designs was the formula. The design had limited potential for growth, however, and aside from the stop-gap KV-85 version, the tank was superseded by the IS series of tanks in the latter part of the war. The KV chassis served as the basis for the powerful SU-152 heavy assault gun, however. KV stands for Kliment Voroshilov, a Soviet official.
The unit in the game: The KV-1 is a very good 1941 tank. It's heavy armor is enough to make it a tough opponent for early war Axis tanks; let alone the heavy armor special ability which means it will take several tries to bring it down under normal battlefield conditions. The transport ability is nice to have, allowing the tank to carry some protective infantry along. It's a cost-effective purchase at 32 points, providing good all-around capability against both vehicle and soldier targets. By 1943, when the KV-85 becomes available, the tank series isn't significantly better than most medium tanks in fighting power and is still slow, so it's most likely to appear in historical scenarios.
Monday, May 25, 2009
Unlike the other session reports from that game day, this one won't include any pregame strategy notes for the very good reason that I had very little clue what I would do under the new rules!
Mark drew the French first, which suited me fine, because that meant I could put off deciding what to do even longer as the British setup is fixed and I could see how Mark might cope with the new conditions. He opted to stick with a typical French defend-the-beaches set up, with his blocks divided more or less evenly between the four zones of Levis, Montmorency, Beauport and St. Charles. I decided to use four of the detachments on suicide scouting missions which revealed that each beach was defended by a substantial force, with St. Charles a little stronger.
As each assault was going to be about as tough I decided to go for Levis, on the theory that it was the hardest to reinforce and success there would open up a larger part of the board. My first attempt at an assault by four 4CV regiments was bloodily repulsed, although I did do significant damage to the defending French militia. A second landing stayed ashore, as the outgunned French took their double-shot volley at the disembarking British and then retreated to Etchemin.
As the British built up their strength the French consolidated their troops at Abraham. There ensued a conventional British campaign of burning farms (occupying zones) and cutting supply (capturing Cap Rouge) followed by a turn 16 move into Abraham for a climatic battle that ended up going the British way.
Pondering the lessons of the first game, I decided that the forward French beach defense was obsolete now that the British had a plentiful supply of expendable scouts. Under the old rules impatient British players might be ambushed by an unexpectedly strong French force and more prudent British players would be forced to spend a couple of turns and risk some decent units to scout the French setup. Now the British could simply send out four detachments to use skirmish combat to reveal the whole French force.
Instead I decided to stuff St. Charles and Levis with units, almost half the French host, while holding Montmorency and Beauport with a detachment and a militia, respectively. My idea was that I would make St. Charles and Levis unassailable and force the British to commit to a north shore advance.
The British did, indeed, land at Montmorency and Beauport and started a buildup. When they got about halfway through I pulled the St. Charles forces back to Abraham and started the Levis troops to Etchemin. This was done to try to induce the British to split their forces and also use the whatever Levis troops survived (they were mostly Quebec militia with a few Montreal militiamen) to reinforce the main army.
About half the British force ended up going the Levis route, followed by the fleet. It soon became apparent that the British were stuck between the horns of a dilemma. Neither half of the British force was strong enough to take on the whole French militia-enhanced army by itself, but there was no way to combine them in the time left. Likewise there wasn't enough time left to capture Cap Rouge and hold it long enough to cut down on the number of Montreal militia. The British conceded on turn 15.
Mark K. and I have decided on a rematch. I want to see if I can come up with a counter for this new French approach.
Sunday, May 24, 2009
I picked up that very first edition back in the day and it rapidly became of one my favorite games in the 1970s. It was wild, it was woolly and it was fun.
Another way that Cosmic Encounter was ahead of its time was with its multiple expansions that added new rules, new pieces and new cards. This started with the Eon editions, but the later Mayfair editions followed the same idea as well. Some of the new rules were well received, others less so. I didn't choose to follow Cosmic Encounter down the expansion route, finding the base game good enough for the amount of play it got from me, but I know that many hardcore fans enjoyed them a lot.
Enough liked those new rules that there was widespread disappointment with the Hasbro/Avalon Hill re-issue, which stripped the game down to something similar to the original Eon version. I got this one, but I have to admit that it did seem to lack some of the charm of the old Eon game in my opinion. The plastic spaceships was a good concept, but the execution was clumsy and overall it seemed like this version was not the final word. Most people who had the Mayfair edition kept using it, but being long out of print made it hard for new players to discover the game.
The new Fantasy Flight edition seems to be an attempt to capture a new audience with handsome components and clean game play while incorporating some of the better ideas from the earlier expansions. I haven't had a chance to play it yet, so I can't definitively say whether or not they succeeded, but it looks promising at first glance. While I don't think there's anything in the game that veteran CE players haven't seen before somewhere, for someone like me who didn't keep up with all the expansions the unfamiliar rules seem well explained and what they add to game play seems clear.
Three mistakes of the Avalon Hill edition were avoided: There are plenty of Aliens, The Game holds five players and the plastic spaceships are easy to use (and look like spaceships).
Fantasy Flight Games is well-known for top-notch game production, so I think there's a good chance this will become the definitive edition of the game. There are expansions planned, so veterans who didn't see their favorite expansion rule still have hope of seeing it, although I suspect that FFG's strategy will be to issue a few, fairly ambitious expansions, in keeping with it practice with games such as Tide of Iron or War of the Ring rather than multiple small expansions like some competitors do.
But I don't think players should feel compelled to follow the expansions. There's an enormous amount of playing potential in the base game and unless your group lays CE an awful lot then I think the base game should be enough.
Friday, May 22, 2009
Thursday, May 21, 2009
Ships from five nations
There's a bit of talk circulating about China's rising naval power, but the stark reality is that China is generations away from being able to challenge U.S. Naval power, and will only succeed if the U.S. leadership is negligent. The best the Chinese can hope for in the case of a war with the U.S. is to seize temporary control of its local waters. This is much less ambitious than what England faced in its challenges from the Dutch, Spanish, French and Germans or the U.S. faced from the Japanese or Soviets.
Most other wargames are set in the era that began roughly with Lepanto or the Armada in the late 1400s and came to a close, as far as active combat went, in 1945, although the Cold War standoff between the West and the Soviets included a strong naval component.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
While this might seem like a minor change, it is not. These new detachments are much your useful and flexible than their predecessors. Under the old rules decoys could never move by themselves or be left by themselves, so all they could do is inflate the strength of a position. While the British actually had more decoys than the French it was hard to get much use out of them. They could even act as drag on British deployments, as one might have to leave a real unit on Ile d'Orlean to babysit them. About the only real good they did was reduce the effectiveness of Indian scouting missions a little.
Now they add an additional seven CV to the British, putting them that much further from the magic level of 19CV where the British automatically lose. They can act as scouts and are good for sending off to burn out French farms, too. Overall they seem a benefit to the British, although they are useful to the French as well.
As to how much they change strategy, I'll have to play a few more times to firm up my opinion, but they do seem to have a major impact based on the pair of games that Mark and I recently played. More on that later this week.
Overall it appears like an interesting change.
Monday, May 18, 2009
This situation is kind of like an Eighteenth Century Omaha Beach. A British force lands on the beach in the teeth of a fortified defensive line and has to fight its way inland.
As always, any discussion of strategy starts with a look at the Objective, what the victory conditions require. As is usual in the Wars for America system, victory is achieved by accumulating victory points, with the most common source being eliminated enemy units, at one VP each.
For the French, victory is achieved by getting 7 victory points or avoiding the British victory conditions.
For the British the goal is also 7 VPs, but they only have 18 turns to do it, which makes this one of the shorter scenarios in the game system. It also clearly puts the burden of attack on the British. In addition to VPs for eliminating enemy units, the British have four victory points of objective hexes deep behind the French lines.
The left two-hex deep edge of the map is the ocean, from which the British invaders will come.
There's one hex of hill on the beach, but otherwise the French have a clear line of fire at the disembarking British. The main French position is made up of a five-hex long line of entrenchments, which provide protection from fire and morale benefits. Behind the French line the rest of the battlefield is made up of clear terrain with scattered woods hexes providing some cover but far enough apart to provide plenty of movement paths.
Order of battle:
The French are heavily outnumbered. They have a single leader, five regular infantry, an artillery unit and one band of Indians. The VP value of the entire force is 8, so the British victory condition is, essentially, to wipe out the French force. The VP hexes mean the French cannot simply run away, they will have to fight.
The British host comprises 22 pieces. There are two leaders, two Elite infantry, two light infanty, a unit of American rangers and 10 regular infantry. They also have five boats to carry them ashore. The first wave of British comprises the rangers, both elites and both light infantry, along with one leader.
My objective as the French is to take advantage of the fortified line to achieve a positive kill ratio against the British. I expect British numbers to tell, eventually, and be forced to fall back either because of British flankers or because the British have penetrated the line.
Three of the French regulars will man the line, along with the cannon and fire at will against British troops within range. A fourth regular will pull back slightly and be used to guard the line against any short flanking moves. The Indians will be used to guard against any infiltrating rangers or light infantry. The last regular and leader Saint Julien will form the general reserve, either assisting the Indians if the British try an infiltration strategy or helping guard the flanks of the entrenched line.
My British plan aims to stretch the French by posing multiple threats and then exploit the weakest point in the line that develops. This could mean infiltrating rangers or light infantry past the flanks, taking the entrenchments in the flank or pushing directly into the French main line of resistance.
The British only have enough boats to carry one third of their force at a time, so the invaders are naturally broken down into three waves. The first wave is set by the scenario setup and comprises the rangers, both elite infantry and the two lights, along with 2/1 leader Wolfe. As this wave comes ashore it will pressure the French left flank by threatening to outflank the line with the light infantry. Wolfe and the elites with him will shelter on the hill while waiting for the second wave to arrive. The other Elite will endeavor to occupy the attention of the cannon in order to spare the rangers, who will lie low in the early going.
The priority for commands will be to empty the boats as soon as possible and bring on the second wave at the earliest opportunity. This wave will comprise leader Amherst and five of the regulars, who will join Wolf for the main assault on the French line. Once the French are fully committed the rangers will make a break for the VP hexes. I don't necessarily expect them to make it, but the threat may be enough to provide a critical edge in the main fight by drawing off French units and commands.
The third wave will be loaded and brought on if extra commands allow, but I don't think they can arrive in time to have a real impact.
I started with the French side in my game with Mark K. Frankly things went precisely according to plan for the first half of the game and I was feeling pretty good about the overall situation. Mark was trying to win pretty much with the initial wave, spending nearly all his action points moving and fighting those troops, with just a few spared to bring on a trickle of second wave forces.
And this plan wasn't working all that well. His elite troops and the few regulars on the beach were making no headway against the main French line, and I was even able to wipe out the rangers on the beach with cannon and musket fire.
About the only worrisome aspect of the situation was on the French left flank, where the British light infantry was able to slide past the French flank and threaten the rear VP hexes, although one of those light infantry was reduced to just 1 morale point. As per the plan I had the Indian band and a leader-led regular unit detailed to deal with that threat.
While this should have been sufficient force, it wasn't. The first sign of trouble appeared when I got a little too feisty with the Indians and let them stray within long-range of the lights, who promptly eliminated them with a single volley! Now it was up to St. Julien and his regulars to hold off the lights, a task they failed at miserably. Because the British lights could just sweep up the VP markers without stopping it seemed necessary to park the regulars on one of the markers to force the lights into range if they wanted to claim the points. They accepted the challenge and moved up on both sides of the regulars to set up a flanking attack.
Here I blundered. There was still a lot going on elsewhere and I was loathe to spend my limited stock of command points on just this one threat, so I spent the one AP to fire at the weaker light infantry (in order to break up the flanking bonus) and promptly missed. In retrospect I think I should have spent the 3AP needed to make a leader-led close combat against that weak light infantry because it was critical that it be taken out.
On the following turn the two British lights fired with flanking bonus and wiped out the French regulars, although St. Julien escaped. The way was clear for them to sweep up the four VP markers and they did, suddenly putting the British way ahead in VPs with several turns left to get the last one they needed. The British had 4 VPs for objective markers, 1 for the Indian and 1 for the French regular, so the two British light infantry were responsible for all of the British success! The French tried falling back but the British were able to pick off the last VP they needed for a 7-1 win.
On the flip side, I tried executing my British plan, spending the majority of my action points to bring on the first two waves of British. The created a scenario that really did resemble Omaha Beach, and not in a good way. Mark insisted the dice were about average and they probably were, but it sure seemed like the French fire was exceptionally effective and British casualties mounted. Even though I tried rotating damaged units out of the line to rally them it did no good as the casualties came too fast to keep up.
I was able to spring the rangers into the French rear by covering their advance with regular troops. The Indians weren't able to stop the rangers from picking up all four VP markers, but as it turned out that was a Pyrrhic victory. On the beach the French were closing in on their 7 VP and bringing in parts of the third wave just seemed to add more targets.
The final score was 7-4 for the French.
Mark's approach was probably better, I think the first British wave needs to be active enough that it creates space for the second wave to come ashore. I ended up just giving the French more folks to shoot at.
Interestingly, in neither game was it possible to stop the British from infiltrating someone through to pick up the 4 VPs in the rear. Mark was better able to absorb this loss because he didn't pull any regulars away from the main fight on the beach. My French lost no units on the beach, but also were not able to inflict any permanent losses on the British. Mark's French concentrated on pummeling the beach landing and let the Indians try to protect the rear area unsupported. This proved to be the better solution.
Despite the fact my French lost, I do think my approach could also have worked, but for some mistakes on my part, so I would consider the French side slightly favored in this scenario.
Sunday, May 17, 2009
The scenario will be the Battle of Lake George, 8 September 1755 from the game Clash for a Continent. This was part of a full day of gaming with Mark K.
The map from the scenario:
The basic situation is that the British have sent out a force (in the middle of the map in red) from their fortified camp (at left) that is about to be ambushed by larger force of French and Indians (in black on three sides of the British force).
The first thing to do is check the victory conditions.:
British: 6 Victory Pointss (VP) or avoid French victory for 25 turns
French: 7 VPs in 25 turns or less
Victory points are mostly scored by eliminating units, including generals, at 1 VP each. The French can also earn VPs for capturing the VP markers inside the British camp. These VPs basically exist to keep the British from simply abandoning their camp and making a sortie to rescue the ambushed force. Unless the British strip the camp of defenders these VPs are out of reach for the French. The burden of attack is on the French, if time runs out without a resolution the British win.
The left side of the map is dominated by the British fortified line, which both reduces the effect of enemy fire while providing a morale bonus to the defenders. There's a two-hex wide cleared zone in front of the trench line meaning the defenders will have a clear line of fire on any attackers. The line is anchored on one end by an impassable swamp and the other end by the board edge.
Most of the rest of the map is covered with light woods, in which hexes of woods and clear terrain are inter-spaced. There's a clearing in the middle of the map where the British force is marching. The woods provide some benefit to defenders, reducing the effect of fire and providing a morale benefit, but they block fire and slow non-Indian movement.
Order of Battle:
Both armies are the same size, with 13 combat units and two leaders.
The British are mostly American militia with a couple of allied Indian units and a single unit of cannons in the fort. Half of the militia, the Indians and the leader Williams make up the ambushed force. The historical notes say that Mohawk chief Hendrick observed of the detached force that if the men "were to be killed, they were too many; if they are to fight, they are too few."
This is reflected in the game by the fact that the entire force is worth 8 VPs for the French if they wipe it out, more than enough for them to win without attacking the British fort. But the force is also outnumbered nearly 2-1 by the ambushing French force.
The other half of the militia, the cannon and leader Johnson are behind the fortified line.
The French are likewise divided into two parts, each under a leader. The larger part, assumed to be under leader Dieskau, comprised of two regular French infantry, three militia and two Indians lies in wait North of the British detachment. The other portion, under De Saint-Pierre, comprising one regular, two militia and three Indians is to the South.
Although both sides are equal in numbers, the French regulars give them an edge in overall strength of 32 to 26, and 32 to 14 at the ambush site.
For the French and Indians the strategy has already been set and its really a matter of execution. A classic three-sided ambush as been set up and the French side has overwhelming force. The only thing standing in their way is that the game system makes it hard to bring all that force to bear at once. The best possible command roll will allow less than half the French army to move or fire at any given time. Still, the British command situation is just as bad.My French plan will be to use the mobility of the Indians to finish encircling the British force and block any breakout while the French regulars move in for the kill. Priority for commands will be Indians, regulars next and militia last. The militia units will be used to support the Indians and regulars as necessary. The goal is to wipe out the British detachment and get the 7 VPs before they can escape to the fort.
The British situation is challenging. The obvious course of action is to simply hightail it for the British forts. There's a good chance half of them will escape, although it means forgoing any chance of causing much damage to the French because any actions spent shooting will not be spent running. This could result in an almost pristine French army being able to attack the fortified line, with a good chance of breaking through, given the fragility of militia units.
The doctrinal US Army solution to being ambushed is to attack the ambush and I think that is what I will try to do. I will attack the southern, weaker half of the French ambush force with my militia and leader while the Indians cover the rear. The idea is for the British detachment to make its way into the woods along the south side of the clearing and then use the woods to provide cover during the retreat to the portion of the fort between the cannon and the swamp. If 3 or 4 of the units from the detachment make it back then that will be a success, so long as they kill 2-3 VPs worth of French units. With prior losses, the French task of breaking into the forts without losing 6 VPs is much harder.
I ended up playing the British side first, and it ended up being even more of a disaster than I thought it might be. The very first couple of Indian attacks wiped out a pair of militia units, fatally compromising my plan to have some guys cover the rear while the rest tried to fight their way through the ambush. There was no rear and Mark's French simply kept running and gunning down the fleeing militiamen. The only survivors ended up being the Leader Williams and the British-allied Indians, who had been unmolested.
Things looked pretty grim, with an untouched French force slowly gathering just outside of range, the British having already lost 5 VPs worth of units. Mark didn't bother bringing up any of the French militia, who were largely spectators throughout the battle. His Indians were mostly near the scene anyway after their pursuit, so he spent the next few turns bringing up the French regulars. When the final assault came it was led by the two French leaders, each at the head of one unit of regulars, while a pair of Indian warbands joined in on the French right. (Top map edge in the map above)
The French regulars who attacked the portion of the fort with the cannon suffered heavy losses, but were still standing when the end came, having done their job of occupying the guns while the main assault went in on the French right. There the sole French casualty was the leader, who fell while gloriously leading his men over the parapet. The militiamen were no more stalwart on the walls then they had been in the woods and the last two VPs soon came the French way.
The final score was 7-1 in Mark's favor with the game ending around Turn 15. A decisive victory.
My original plan with the British never really got started and I ended up switching to the high-tailing option, but that worked as badly as I thought it would. I wondered if the British might be better off standing and fighting, but Mark's experience in our next game makes me doubt that would work either.
When we switched sides I decided I would do my best to execute my pre-game French strategy and the French once again caught an early burst of good fortune as one of the first Indian attacks not only eliminated the British militia unit closest to the fort but also eliminated British leader Williams! This move and a couple of others effectively slammed the door on any British flight and the British column was swarmed by French militiamen and Indians. I think the regulars only got off one volley, although it was an effective one, destroying a British militia.
As the militia melted away the British-allied Indians desperately sought an escape. One band slipped by the French militia after taking a hit, but the other band of Indians was trapped. While the French-allied Indians would not shoot at their fellow Indians, they also would not let them pass. Flushed like quail from the bush, the British-allied Indians dodged a few volleys from French militia units until their luck finally ran out.
The sole witnesses to make it back to the fort was a half-strength warband of Indians. The final score was 7-0, with the game over around turn 7 or 8.
Given the disproportionate results in both battles I'd have to conclude that the British side has a tough time in this scenario. While it's true that the French in both episodes benefited from early good fortune, the results were so lopsided it's hard to credit luck alone for the outcomes. I proved the British can't run. Mark proved they can't stay and fight, either. The only French unit loss in either battles was a leader, which is a function of luck.
Militia in the Wars for America system is extremely fragile. It's not uncommon to roll a few pairs of sixes when rolling trios of dice, so the militia units are prone to disappear with little notice. While theoretically the French Indians and militia were just as vulnerable, it is a theoretical vulnerability if they aren't shot at. Neither Mark nor I found many opportunities to shoot as the trapped British always seemed to need to try moving to escape the trap.Wars for America is a fun system, so I think we enjoyed playing, but I do think that this one is almost a gimme for the French side as far as competitive play goes.
Friday, May 15, 2009
Still, sometimes you have to choose and prospective purchasers may wonder which is the best choice for them. Each game has its vehement fans, but here is what I believe is a fairly objective rundown of their strengths and weaknesses.
Really, they are close enough in quality and game play (with the possible exception of Battle Cry) that I think the main consideration should be which theme a player finds the most interesting. pick that first.
From purely a game play perspective they each have strengths and weaknesses.
Battle Cry (American Civil War) is the weakest of the lot, simply because it was the first, and the subsequent designs have all refined the concept. If Battle Cry had expansions like the others I'm sure it would have kept up, but it's a one-off design.
Command & Colors: Ancients (Ancient battles of the Classical Era) matches its era well and is probably the most tactically intricate because of all the different troop types, which often have fairly subtle differences between them. Terrain plays a smaller role in this game than the others as ancient armies tended to fight on the flattest and clearest terrain available.
BattleLore (fantasy but also historical medieval) is similar to C&C:A, especially when played with the Medieval Rules. Adding Lore adds some interesting new twists to the game system. The fantasy aspects of the game are not overpowering and it is still an army-level game and not a sort of role-playing experience.
Memoir '44 (World War II) is a lot more about terrain and combined arms effects. The interaction between the units is more subtle than it is in C&C:A because of the long ranges involved. Just because units are not near each other doesn't mean they don't affect each other. And the air pack adds a new dimension of course. There's more variety in the scenarios compared to the other games, which are almost all line-them-up-and-fight battles, with a few notable exceptions.
You may also want to consider how they are marketed.
Battle Cry (Hasbro/Avalon Hill) is a single, self-contained game, but it's out of print.
BattleLore (originally Days of Wonder, now Fantasy Flight Games) and Memoir '44 (Days of Wonder) each start with a self-contained base game that you can add to as finances and interests allow, although that may change for BattleLore as it is moving to a new publisher. While some of the expansions require parts from other expansions there are always scenarios that require nothing more than the base game and that particular expansion to play.
C&A:A (GMT Games) has a self-contained starter and then each of the expansions is a major purchase as well. These expansion tend to build on each other, so I would say this series is something you'd want to commit to in a serious way to get the most out of it.
Hold The Line advanced/optional rules 11.1-11.3 are the same in Clash for a Continent. They deal with attacker morale checks, rally and elite units, respectively.
HTL 11.4 & 11.5 are the same as Clash 11.5 & 11.6, dealing with increased artillery range on hills and reduced effect firing into forest, respectively.