Sunday, October 18, 2009

BattleLore session report: Free Companies on a War Footing

After a long hiatus playing other things, Young general and Old Warrior returned to BattleLore. The nice thing about being young is that you don't have has much to remember, so what you do remember to tend to remember rather well. Young General retained his grasp of the rules without any trouble at all, even reminding the Old Warrior of a few he had forgotten during the hiatus.

The point of this scenario is to introduce the concept of a full war council. Each player had the option of choosing the composition of their war council with only a few limitations. Each player's commander has to be at Level 1 at least, there are no "strongholds" (introduced in the next scenario) and the Banner Player has the Giant Spider, which counts as one level for his war council.

Young general prefers to play with the monsters on his side, so we agreed he'd take the Banner Army. He chose to go with a Level 2 commander, giving him a hand of five command cards and a Level 2 Warrior Loremaster and a Level 1 Rogue Loremaster. The Spider rounded out the six-level council.

My choice was to go heavily militarized this time, so I took a Level 3 Commander, giving me six command cards and a Level 3 Warrior.

This made a Lore Deck comprised of 14 Warrior, 8 Rogue, 5 Wizards and 5 Cleric lore cards.

Troopwise, the Banner Army was pretty strong, with human troops comprising the center and right sectors with three Red, 4 Blue and a Green unit, plus the Spider. The left flank was Dwarves -- one red and three blue sword units. The Banner army was short on numbers of horse (just 2) and just a single missile unit (the green human unit on the right flank.)

My Standard army was much weaker in melee power, with just a single red human unit, five blue and three green. The humans made up the Standard center and left flank, facing the Banner human units. Facing the Dwarves were a mass of seven Goblinoid units, all green or blue. Our experience so far has been the Goblinoid quantity rarely makes up for Dwarvish quality and I determined from the beginning I'd do my best to keep the Goblins away from the Dwarves. My army did have an edge in cavalry units (three blue human horse and two green Goblin lizard-riders) and missile units (three).

The battlefield is rather unuusal in Battlelore, being devoid of any large exapns of clear ground. Instead it's all scattered hills and woods throughout, with the only extensive clear spots along the board edge. A small clearing existed where the Goblins set up, but otherwise every other clear hex in the central 7 rows of the map was next to a woods or a hill.

The two sides are nominally Burgundian and d'Armagnac, but this has no bearing on play.

My initial draw gave me three attack cards in the center, although my Lore hand was nothing special. I started off with some minor maneuvers to adjust my troops positions a little and improve my hand, expecting that my redoubtable, but young, opponent would follow his usual scattered toss-everything-and-see-what-sticks approach. While fatal in many wargames this kind of approach can work surprisingly well in BattleLore. It's hard to plan against because you literally don't know what's coming next and it tends to make efficient use of whatever cards one draws, although not the most efficient deployment of the troops.

Young General's dwarves made an effort against the Goblins, but apparently he failed to draw the cards needed for a sustained effort on that flank. The opposite flank was much better served by the card draws and the Spider and its escort pressed back that wing rather effectively.

Meanwhile I made my big center push, actually reinforcing the center with some troops detached from the two wings.

A long struggle ensued along the whole line, with my two flanks doing their best to hold on until the center was able to break through. Unfortunately the Banner center was pretty hard to crack, especially the two red sword units. Eventually the crisis of the battle was reached, with my army having just three victory medals while the Banner army had five -- leaving it one away from victory. Lore cards played a bigger role in this battle than earlier ones, although Young General still seems to be reluctant to part with them. On the other hand, I persisted in my spendthrift ways, and sometimes found myself needing to save up Lore over a couple of turns in order to play the cards I wanted. Generally the Lore cards were useful, although I did end up spending 8 Lore to activate a Lost Orders Rogue card (cost double Lore because I had no Rogue Loremaster) that ended up helping the Banner army because the random command card I forced him to play was really better than the card he had originally wanted to play.

Fortunately for my cause, I was able to execute a plan that had been in the making for several turns as I gathered even more forces in the center, including both Goblin mounted units and one full-strength human cavalry. I played a Mounted Charge along with the Cry Havoc Lore card. The Banner's Young General countered with a Mass Shield Lore card, a very good play that did mitigate the damage a little, but not enough to stop the Goblins and Humans from riding down the enemy with 5-dice and 6-dice attacks to bring me to the magic number of 6 victory medals.

The final score was 6-5, therefore, and there's little doubt that had the Mounted Charge fallen short the Banner army wouldn't have had any trouble grabbing that last casualty.

Lessons I derived from this encounter were to be a little more cautious about expending Lore cards and tokens for minor advantage because it may mean not being able to play the decisive card in time. I was vulnerable for a couple of turns as I massed not just my mounted forces but the lore tokens I needed to play the Cry Havoc card. The Banner army came within one figure of making that effort too late.

The lesson was reinforced that Goblin foot units are best kept out of the fighting when possible, especially when facing Dwarves. The Banner army had a shortage of command cards for the Dwarvish flank and a good thing, too. The Goblinoid mounted units' speed makes them very useful and being able to play a Mounted Charge/Cry Havoc combo made them into the equivalent of enhanced heavy cavalry for the decisive moment.

As usual. the game was entertaining to play and the actual gameplay only took a little over an hour, although setup time is starting to become substantial now that the full Lore rules are in effect.

1 comment:

  1. Nice post. Like the way you get into detail.