Hex-A-Decimate: Battlelore Command

Battlelore Command is a digital adaptation of Fantasy Flight’s Battlelore 2nd edition, a fantasy boardgame based on Richard Borg’s Commands & Colors game system. The PC version, just launched on Steam with a purchasable DLC expansion already in place, is ported from a recent tablet release. I’m always excited when I see Fantasy Flight games on PC because I’d love to have a huge digital library of their games, particularly Arkham/Eldritch Horror, Runebound and Descent. I’ve never played Battlelore but Rab’s review of the boardgame makes it clear that I should do so immediately.

There’s a singleplayer campaign and several multiplayer modes. There are “demon-blooded barbarians”. Here’s Rab:

Battlelore, like all the Command and Colors games, is easy to learn and play. I think it flows so smoothly because you can only think about a few things at any one time. Because you are limited in your commands from moment to moment, it feels like you are zooming into different areas of battle. “I will think about this now” and then “I will deal with this now”. It’s always tense, but never overwhelming. There’s dice-chucking, sure, and every game under this game system will throw up a few moments of being horribly unlucky with the dice. But your opponent will have those moments too, and it’s your job to try to lessen the impact of your freak events.

I might not have played Battlelore but I have dabbled with the Command & Colors system. The splendid Memoir ’44 utilises it, as does Battles of Westeros, which seems like an obvious next step on the path to digital boardgame domination. I might want to sit in a corner shuffling my sanity counters but I’d wager the demand for a Game of Thrones wargame is louder than the demand for a theme-heavy but fiddly Lovecraftian token-shuffler.

A quick word on the port – based on the fifteen minutes it took to play through the tutorial, everything seems to work just fine. There’s none of the occasional frustrating tippy-tappy hangovers of a tablet port and the graphics are clean and colourful. The main problem is (and it’s a good problem), I’m tempted to play through the entire campaign rather than doing Important Things this evening. The tactical emphasis on positioning really gets me. Y’know – the way a good pop song gets some people? Wargame systems are my pop music. Yeah.


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    Aerothorn says:

    Sadly I don’t think we’ll ever see a digital adaptation of any of FFG’s ASoIaF stuff because I think they *only* have a license for books and tabletop games – I think the digital license is held and negotiated seperately and the price tag would be well out of reach for FFG.

    Battles of Westeros is wonderful, though, though *technically* it’s not command and colors as it removes the “three parts of the board” bit (which is why FFG calls it “A Battelore Game” rather than a C&C game).

  2. Bull0 says:

    Oh, nice. I won’t have to play this on my android emulator anymore. It’s great! Richard Borg, by the way.

    Battles of Westeros is amazing but very complicated. Memoir ’44 is great and punchy but over simple. This is somewhere in the middle of the two. ;) Some guys called Plastic Soldier Company kickstarted a WW1 Commands and Colors game recently – just called The Great War – looking really good indeed

  3. TheMythicOne says:

    Yay! Day one DLC! Do developers still do that these days?

    Fantasy Flight’s [card] games are amazing, but I can see someone took some Paradox classes on marketing. I’d like see more actual digital card games come to light, but after Elder Sign’s shadowed release and even more neglected upkeep, I’m not sure if that’s such a good idea or not. : /

    • Bull0 says:

      It isn’t day one, because the game’s been out on android for a while. You’d rather they just delayed the DLC on PC arbitrarily so it’s not day one, I guess. Or give it to you for free just because the game was later on PC, and piss off all the people that have to pay for it on android. Hmm. You talk about the paradox school of marketing, but I’d be interested to hear what your almer mater is.

  4. Fellhuhn says:

    Digital version of Descent? WHERE?! Need it now! :D

    • SgtStens says:

      Yes. I would love to play Decent on the PC. So much better than Talisman and Warhammer Quest!

  5. Veldzhes says:

    Bought this yesterday, quite nice so far.

  6. Edgewise says:

    So far, this port from cardboard to PC (with a stop at mobile on the way) is pretty solid. I’ve played a game online with a friend and the first campaign mission (which is basically a tutorial).

    First, the good stuff. The graphics and art are terrific in the vein of Warcraft/Torchlight polished cartoon fantasy. Much nicer than the port of Memoir ’44 on this front. The main change to the rules is a good one: instead of getting a hand of random command cards, you use up preallocated commands, refreshing them with a special command that otherwise lets you order only a single unit. That’s elegant and interesting.

    There are also a few disappointments. The multiplayer features are very limited – you can’t even password-protect your games, much less restrict them to invitation-only (or invite anyone, for that matter). There are seemingly no win-loss statistics, nor matchmaking features. There is a lobby, but there don’t seem to be many other players at this time.

    There are a couple of simplifications of the rules that are small, but largely unwelcome. Scenarios are pretty much canned, instead of allowing each player to essentially select “half” the scenario and map. IIRC, the boardgame gives you the option, during your lore phase, of taking two lore points, two lore cards, or one of each. There’s no choice here; you just take one of each.

    The rules could be more clearly explained, especially for scenario objectives (we were both confused about how exactly one of us was supposed to destroy buildings that the objective called for). For the most part, this isn’t an issue if you’re familiar with the cardboard version, but it’s hard for me to evaluate it for someone who’s not. For what it’s worth, though, the tutorial mission struck me as very lucid and useful to newbies.

    Overall, it looks like a lot of fun, and we both enjoyed the game we played. I hope they add more scenarios, but as it is now, ten different selections will probably provide plenty of variation. I’m not mad about the day-zero DLC, because I’m assuming it wasn’t day-zero when it came out on iOS/Android. If you have one or more friends who wants to play, it’s probably a good investment, but otherwise they are really going to need more players and some kind of matchmaking features to make it truly come alive.

  7. Shiloh says:

    A digital version of Eldritch Horror and its expansions… there wouldn’t be enough hours in the day for me if that existed.