BattleLore: Command

battlelore move units
Players:
2
Multiplayer:LAN only
AI:Yes
Universal App:Yes (there is a single app which works on both iPhone and iPad in HD)
Purchase for iPhone:Use link below to purchase universal app
Purchase for iPad:
BattleLore: Command
Price: $6.99
User rating:
GD Star Rating
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BattleLore: Command, 6.7 out of 10 based on 15 ratings

The venerable Command & Colors skirmish system got a fantasy facelift in 2006, as BattleLore presented an alternate take on the 100 Years’ War that featured orcs and dwarves instead of French and British; a second edition with its own world and backstory followed in 2013. Just before Thanksgiving and almost without warning, Fantasy Flight dropped a full fledged BattleLore app in our laps – are you itching to skirmish?

Editor’s Note: A previous edition of this article indicated that multiplay was possible via pass n play. This is incorrect; the only multiplay option is LAN connection. We regret the error and apologize for any confusion.

Gameplay

BattleLore features a fully-realized campaign that tells the story of the forces of the kindgom of Dagon locked in titanic struggle against the evil Uthuk. (And to think this game system began life as a historical war re-enactment!)

battlelore about unit

Each skirmish starts with each side deploying forces – you are given a total budget, and can buy only a number of units that fit within that budget. Each possible unit for the skirmish has a portrait you can tap for full details if you don’t feel like diving through the rulebook first; you can also call this info up during play. Each turn is then split into 4 parts: Lore, Order, Movement, and Combat.

battlelore lore power

Lore represents magical forces that can turn the tide of battle. Each turn you gain 1 point of Lore and a new power that can be used provided you have sufficient Lore to trigger it when the time is right. Certain combat results will also generate Lore. You can never have more than 4 Lore Powers in stock; if you exceed that number, you must discard.

battlelore select order

The Command phase splits the board into 3 sections. Each turn you must select an Order card from your deck; once selected you cannot select it again without using a Refresh. An Order will allow you to activate a certain number of units in each of the three sections, from 0-3, with no card letting you Order more than 4 units. Once your card is selected, you must then designate which units are being Ordered this turn. You’ll note that a few hexes straddle the lines between map sections; any unit on these hexes is considered to be part of both regions, which can be vitally important strategy for maximizing Orders.

 

battlelore move units

You may then Move your Ordered units one at a time. Each will have their range of possible hexes outlined in blue; double-tap the one you want them to move into, or simply double-tap the unit to order it to hold. You can also tap another Ordered unit to move it instead, if you don’t like the ones the app selects automatically.

battlelore combat 1

If any units have any valid targets in range, they may then attack by double-tapping the target. Each unit has a certain combat strength, and gets to roll dice (handled offscreen) with each roll resulting in several possible symbols. The rolled symbols are displayed, and any resulting effects are calculated, complete with death animations for any fallen warriors. Combat is incredibly random; there’s a bit you can do with terrain to modify effects, but you’re totally at the mercy of the dice for most intents and purposes, and they can be a harsh mistress indeed.

battlelore enemy command

Each scenario will have specific objectives, as well as a time limit. The turn sequence repeats until the time limit has been hit or one side meets their objectives. Objectives need not be symmetrical, either; many early campaign missions charge you with holding the Uthuk back from certain levels of destruction for a certain number of turns, forcing you to outlast the clock while their only objective is to wreak havoc. First to complete their objective wins.

Implementation

Fantasy Flight is known for high-quality components, and their digital implementations are no exception. Audio and visual are both superb here, though we do sort of wish the narrator of the campaign text would read a little faster.

battlelore skirmish

In addition to the campaign, the app offers a Skirmish mode, which is basically just a free-for-all implementation of the board game. 5 different scenarios exist here, and the default muster level of 50 can be modified anywhere from 24 to 60. Multiplay is also possible here via LAN; no online mode exists, and nothing we’ve seen suggests we should be expecting one.

battlelore help

A fully interactive tutorial exists as the first mission of the campaign; this covers 2 rounds of play and introduces you to the core concepts, but pays almost zero attention to battle strategy – about the extent of that is noting that you must be careful not to use up the command cards you need. The complete rulebook is also available and can be accessed at any time during gameplay.

battlelore attack

It really needs to be emphasized that there’s an intangible quality that sets really stellar apps apart – their interfaces are functional, elegant, and consistent. This is the sort of extra oomph that sets, say, a Playdek title apart. BattleLore is also such a title. There is never anything about the presentation that is unclear, and in some ways the app’s visual assists might be seen by some as superior to the physical version. Single taps always get information; double taps always confirm orders. It doesn’t seem like something that should matter, or perhaps should be self-evident; the simple truth is that these seemingly obvious interface standards are by no means universal. Bottom line is that BattleLore is on one of the great ones.

Verdict

Existing fans of BattleLore should run, not walk, to the app store and snap this one up; it might even win a few converts to the system. The gameplay elegantly gives you a large number of meaningful decisions without overwhelming you turn by turn; the game is wrapped up in an app that gets high marks on almost everything. We only wish that some sort of Internet-based gameplay option existed; LAN multiplay is better than nothing, but only by virtue of being something. Still, with a wealth of campaign scenarios, decent AI, and the promise of forthcoming expansions, there’s plenty here to keep the solo gamer busy. Though one quick word of warning: if you’re allergic to dice rolls, this is not the fantasy skirmish battle for you.



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  1. Stephen Thompson

    Thank you for the great review Tovarich.  I always enjoy reading/watching your reviews.  Sounds like this game isn’t for me since I’m do not like games that are heavily weighted towards dice rolling, but I really enjoyed your review.


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