Thursday, December 2, 2010

Comparative replay session of Battle Cry versions -- 2000 and 2010

Budding wargamer Game Store Tony was up for a double header of Battle Cry at the shop using both the classic original Battle Cry and the new 150th Anniversary Edition of the game to play the same scenario as a comparative exercise.

I selected the First Bull Run scenario, which is the first in each edition's scenario book. Game Store Tony prefers to play the side he perceives as the underdog, which in this case was the South because they lost the war. Of course the CSA did win this particular battle ... .

2000 edition scenario set up for First Bull Run

In any case, we played the classic edition first. Game Store Tony had played Battle Cry before as well as a number of sessions of Memoir '44, so has experience. As an experienced Magic: The Gathering player he's also pretty good at hand management, which is a useful skill in card-based warames such as the Borg designs.

Tony's dice were also pretty hot along with his card draws, so he was able to jump out to an early lead in the flag count. Basically he smashed each Federal attempt to close on him. It was pretty grim. One of the flaws in the older game soon came into play as I had a Bombard card but my sole artillery unit was already gone, rendering the card useless -- a serious problem with just a 4-card hand. Left, center and right the Union side was decimated and the final score was 6-2 for the CSA.

For the rematch I explained the changes in the rules that applied to the scenario at hand.

Among them was that infantry units entering woods now have a limited ability to enter and still battle -- in the older version a unit that enters a woods cannot battle.

The new game adds a new kind of building hex called a "homestead." It provides less protection (-1 die) than the old game's -2 buildings (which are now "town" hexes in BC150) but infantry and cavalry that enter can still battle out at a penalty.

There are some significant differences with generals, who no longer add one die to attacking units they are attached to, but instead allow those units to ignore a flag and also "take ground" under some circumctances. Players of other Borg games such as Memoir '44, Commands & Colors: Ancients and BattleLore have seen these before, but it'sa new addition to the Battle Cry system.

The new Battle Cry also adds a new card called a "Fight Back" card which allows something similar to the "Battle back" function seen in C&C:A and BattleLore.

There have been changes to some other cards as well, with two of the most notable being the addition of the option of using a card you can't otherwise use (such as Bombard when you have no artillery) to order a single unit of any type instead and the disappearance of the overpowered All-Out Offensive card. In it's place is the Battle Cry card, which allows the player to roll dice equal to his command level -- ordering units that match the dice symbols. All of these are familiar to players of the other games in the series. Battle Cry, being the first game, lacked some of the refinements introduced in subsequent designs. These changes bring Battle Cry up to the current standard.

2010 edition scenario

Armed with these new rules we played the First Bull Run scenario from the new edition. Interestingly enough, the biggest changes in the game came from changes in the scenario design, rather than rules and card changes. The revised scenario adds an infantry unit to the CSA side and makes a minor position shift of the two infantry on the Confederate Right. It also ups the CSA card hand from 5 to 6. More signifcantly it also increases the USA hand from 4 to 6 and as the Union player I definitely preferred getting an extra card and having card parity over having one more unit.

In this case the outcome was even more one-sided, but the other way. Aided by good dice and useful cards the Union army was able to smash in both flanks of the CSA. Down 5-1 Game Store Tony decided to go out like a true Rebel and used an Assault in the Center to make a final charge with his survivors. They knocked off a couple more boys in blue and forced a retreat or two, but a Federal Counterattack card meant I had several opportunities to get that last flag. As it turned out, the first Union battle was enough and the game ended 6-1.

Overall I think the rules changes represent common-sense enhancements that bring Battle Cry in line with the state-of-the-art of the other Borg designs. It's still the most straightforward and easiest of the line and is an excellent introduction to the system. It's also a very handsome package, with all components upgraded, brand-new sculpts and new art throughout. The cards are sturdier than the original edition and the dice now have the special symbols printed on them instead of the player having to apply stickers. You still have to sticker the flags, though, which is a challenge for fumble fingers like me,

It's a great package.

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