Technically the Online Hook-up Before the First Date: BattleLore: Heroes

My mind is sploodge right now, so this will be short. (ETA: I should stop saying that, because what happens is that my brain spills out everything it’s been thinking about, as opposed to reining itself in, and every time I say this it ends up being the opposite of short. Sigh.)

I wanted to get a better impression of this newest expansion for BattleLore, but the weekend oncall ate my brains, and now I’m kind of doing an all-nighter, and argh things are building, and I’m bored, and… well, I’ve got BattleLore all laid out and it’s eating at my mind and you know what I do when something eats at my mind.

Right, I blog it.

Anyways, if you don’t know what BattleLore is, you can stop reading right now.

Image from BattleLore Master, unofficial BattleLore fan site

Image from BattleLore Master, unofficial BattleLore fan site

BattleLore is part of the Commands & Colors war boardgame family, dreamed up and executed and playtested yea unto infinity by Richard Borg, who is awesome. Relatively speaking, the mechanics are similar between branches of the family—American civil war (one game, sadly); World War II (very prolific); Ancients (Rome and suchlike); and BattleLore, which is medieval/fantasy. With BattleLore: Heroes, this leans heavily towards fantasy, at least the way it’s packaged right now.

Of these games, Ancients is somewhat the more complex, perhaps more “pure” historical wargaming—BattleLore, with its various add-ons, is starting to approach Ancients in terms of strategic options; especially with Heroes, this may boost BattleLore past Ancients when we consider strategery options in battle. In general strategery terms, BattleLore is the most complex of the C&C games, what with the pre-game strategic options of Call to Arms, all the special powers, and the war council.

Heroes, in essence, adds one of the more interesting and unique C&C attributes of Ancients: leaders (called Heroes here). Leaders are quite interesting in the way they can strengthen other units by merging in with them (something regular units can’t do), general mobility in terms of moving this bonus around where you need it, and interesting choices in that a leader is somewhat more vulnerable than a normal unit, although this is mitigated somewhat by a different pattern of die rolls, similar to the method for killing creatures.

(Hmmm. Creatures can be thought of as, perhaps, a kind of leader all along, but they can trample like elephants in Ancients and don’t particularly inspire other units save as support, even if creatures have special powers, unlike elephants.)

I’ve been waiting for this for some time. In addition to adding a leader-type component to the battleground, Heroes also provides “battle savvy” rules for normal units, which boosts them up to the strategic options of Ancients units. This is also welcome, although evade is still missing for certain units (one of my favorite aspects of Ancients; sometimes running away is the best approach, and this helped light units be a bit more useful). Plus, heros have classes (priest, warrior, wizard, etc) which are distinguishable from each other and have different development paths.

Of course, some strange things got added in the mix, which gives BattleLore its own flare, of course… a very RPG flare. I don’t mind, having been solidly on the fantasy version because you get fewer complaints from men about how women don’t belong in a historical war simulation (though it’s by no means absent), despite it being, in the end, a game. After all, dwarves can somewhat be thought of as Scotsmen, but they’re still little dwarf figurines. And missing out on always bold units who can always battle back is a shame, although Battle Savvy units somewhat take care of that.

(For guys who think women shouldn’t complain about this: I know some of you get angry when “she” is used instead of “he” in rules manuals, partly because you feel this excludes you as a gamer. Well, think how women gamers feel about that kind of thing when it happens all the time to their gender. Yes, one can argue that “he” is “general” usage for a gender-neutral pronoun in English, but in the absence of a real one, why is “she” not as applicable for the role? “Tradition” you might say, but there was never a good reason in the first place—unless you want to argue that women are not as consequential as men.

And if you say “tradition” again, why the hell can’t things change in this modern age? Language isn’t static, after all, nor should it be; we add new vocabulary and change old meanings all the time, because communication and social interaction are, uh, kind of interlinked. And if you say, “traditional in gaming,” all I can say is: do you or do you not want that to change? And do you or do you not want women to always feel uncomfortable because language excludes them? And if you say that’ll never change, well, do you or do you not want to expand the ever-shrinking pool of gamers as it is currently?

And if you say it’s not worth using “she” or having women figurines in a game in order to make women more included because they should just, basically, deal with being in a man’s world even though it doesn’t have to be that way, I throw up my hands right here, because you’re just silly at that point. Yeah, yeah, you can’t win with me, I’m so unreasonable and a horrible feminist. Go away if you feel like that.)

The most jarring addition to me is the artifacts, which allow a hero to not be quite as vulnerable on the field (nice, because unlike leaders in Ancients, you really normally can’t have extra heroes in BattleLore) and grants them special powers. But it’s a bit of a lottery, naturally, and it’s the most un-C&C-like of BattleLore’s aspects; still, perhaps it’s necessary, as creatures have special powers. (I really look forwards to the upcoming flying dragons expansion! BattleLore really is the kitchen sink of much of the C&C developments in its glorious past, since flying units appear in Memoir ’44.)

BattleLore: Heroes is purely a fantasy Lore version addition, with no historical simulation rules; I feel sorry for the historical simulation folks, actually. I wish for something a bit less fantasy, too; sometimes you don’t want to deal with Lore.

Ah well. Heroes will be interestin’ to try out. When I can get around to it….

Also, I just remembered: mounted heroes (available via the “riding” upgrade for all classes)! No such things as leaders on horseback.