The western sky darkened into a sickly purple as the wind blew across the plains. Atop the the hill, the Guardians of Hernfar stood in their armor, still, ready to defend their realm from whatever was coming. The scouting archers had not returned, and it was doubtful they’d ever be seen again. The Ironbound, clockwork golems made from masterwork armor, held spears longer than a man was tall. Slowly, purposefully, they marched into formation at the behest of the Battlemages of Greyhaven. The ground began shaking as the Siege Golem trundled onto the field, stamping holes into the damp earth, cementing its position as rear artillery. Its handler swiftly locked a spear into the ballista.
In the distance, a horrible wailing began to fill the air, swirling the clouds with its horrible din. Mist began to pour over the top of the hill and across the plain. When the first of the Nercomancers crested the hilltop across the valley, he planted his staff firmly into the earth. With words uttered in a long dead tongue, green lightning flashed as the earth ripped itself apart. Bones began to assemble themselves in the air, forming towering horrors that rattled and swayed. Legions of Reanimates in rusty armor marched down from the hill, flesh sloughing off in patches. They stopped when they reached the plain, raising their shields. More Necromancers began weaving through the ranks, having appeared from the shadows. That’s when the Hernfar Guardians first saw her.
Her chains rattled in the wind as two Reanimate soldiers pulled at them mercilessly. A towering, suffering, wailing figure, draped in a ghostly white-blue light, she began to cry out. Her ruby eyes sunk deep into their dark sockets, screwed shut in pain. A lone Necromancer stood before her, staff held high. With one quick motion, he pierced her ribs with the staff. The Banshee screamed. The hills rippled as chunks of earth were torn free. The Reanimates lowered their shields and broke into a full run, hissing death on rotting bones. The men of Hernfar unleashed a mighty war cry for all of Daqan, banging sword against shield. The warhorses of the Lancers reared back and charged forward. The battle had begun.
To briefly recap, Battlelore was essentially a fantasy version of Memoir ’44, a WWII board game with simple-to-learn mechanics and a ton of miniature soldiers duking it out on a hex-grid board. It has terrain, which alters the properties of the hex it’s placed on, and tons of figures for infantry and heavy units, and rolling dice to make attacks. It’s also got the staple Command Cards which display exactly how to move your troops around the board. Battlelore turns that on its head with the Lore system. By acquiring Lore, you can play Lore cards which let you cast these grandiose magic spells on a massive scale. For instance, you could dramatically boost the movement and attack powers of a given unit or shuttle them halfway across the board in one go.
The game comes in a heavy box. Cracking it open, you’ll see a big, green, gorgeous foldout board with each section divided into hexes and a line dine each third of it. 1 rulebook. 1 book for rules reference. Peeling that away, you’ll find punchboards riddled with terrain hexes, status tokens, victory point tokens, health tokens, lore tokens, and a few more odds and ends. You get a handful of chunky, purple dice and a ton of cards for units, commands, and reference. Every card, token, hex piece, and even the board, has gorgeous art and that signature linen-finish you’ll find in most Fantasy Flight products. Underneath the insert, however, is the real treat.
This game comes with 92 plastic miniatures. 92 of them. Red for the Uthuk (the bad guys), and Blue for the Daqan (the good guys). It’s broken down like this: for each faction, you get 15 archers , 15 infantry, 9 cavalry, 6 heavies, and 1 legendary, your faction’s own “big-bad.” The miniatures are well-detailed and cast in a single color, to help you identify your units from your enemy’s. In Battlelore 2e, you’ll have reference cards for each of the units that lay out their movement, combat, and health states, as well as any abilities and traits they may have.
In the old Battlelore, setting up the board was a bit of a chore. You’d have to assemble the units with their flags and put everything where it was supposed to go according to the scenario in the book. In 2e, each player drafts their own scenario setup card. On the card are bonus scenario abilities unique to that card and faction, as well as VP scoring instructions. The hexes you can set your units in are highlighted, and each player places a mini-card face down to represent where a potential unit could be. So, even before you start playing, the set up itself is a mini game that both players participate in. It’s great and really gets you amped to start playing. After placement, each player reveals the face of the mini-card and goes about setting their miniatures in their hexes.
With the board having been set, figures placed, and initial hands of Command and Lore cards gathered, players are ready for glorious battle. Basic gameplay flow goes like this: pick a command card, order your units, chuck some attack dice, and maybe play a lore card. Your opponent does the same in kind and you both check for victory points, pick whether you want lore cards, points, or both and do it all again until someone wins. Sprinkled in there are unit abilities, terrain abilities, special scenario abilities, and unique scoring criteria for each player.
Each army can be configured using preset cards or entirely from scratch using a point-buy system. This makes the game extremely customizable and repayable. Each time you play with your army it feels special and unique, adding to the enjoyment. The action is fast and fluid with attacks, counter-attacks, and spells blasting off with every turn.
The 2 factions in the core box are fantastic to play with and uniquely different from one another in meaningful ways .The Daqan Lords are stalwart defenders, leaving your enemy with nowhere to run and striking them down where they stand. The demon-touched Uthuk Y’llan are bloodthirsty, willing to wound themselves to do damage and getting stronger the more hurt they are. You’ll definitely want to experiment playing with both factions to grasp each of their nuances.
After purchasing the core game— which, if you couldn’t tell I highly recommend— if you decide that you just don’t have enough stuff, fear not. There are a total of 4 big box army packs as well as several single-figure mini boxed expansions. There are 2 army packs for each of the core set armies, and 2 for the new Undead faction. In the army packs, you get a ton of minis, hexes, cards and tokens. The Undead play exactly how you’d want them to. They’re a seemingly unending horde, able to possess their enemies and resurrect their fallen.
Battlelore 2nd Edition is my favorite Commands and Colors game. It’s easy to learn, plays quickly, is soaked in colorful, brutal theme, and is just a ton of fun. If you’re looking for a solid war game in a box, Battlelore 2e is the best one out there.