New Boardgames

I didn’t do any roleplaying this week but I did have a chance to play some new boardgames. Thursday Rick and I played two games of BattleLore by Days of Wonder and today Rob and I played a game of Combat Commander: Europe by GMT. I enjoyed both games and some scattered thoughts on each follow.It was no big surprise that I liked BattleLore. It’s a medieval fantasy version of the Commands and Colors system, used in previous excellent games like Memoir ’44 and Battle Cry. Apart from the theme, there are a few differences between BattleLore and other C&C; games. The biggest new element is, of course, magic, but the game also tries to bring in some roleplaying elements with a “war council” of traditional RPG archetypes (cleric, rogue, wizard, fighter). The nicest addition is the support rule, which allows units to strike back when attacked in certain situation. I’ve found this really encourages the formation of battle lines and the creation of self-supporting combat groups, which makes the game more tactical than would otherwise be the case. I haven’t played with magic or large creatures yet because the scenarios start historical with Agincourt and then slowly add the fantasy elements. We’ve done the first four scenarios so far and have just started using the goblin and dwarf troops. While I’m not certain how successful the RPG elements are going to be, even if BattleLore is “just” an excellent medieval fantasy boardgame I’ll have no reason to complain.

Combat Commander: Europe, a World War II boardgame, takes its cues from an older generation of boardgames, the wargames of the Avalon Hill/SPI era. You could describe the game as a cross between Squad Leader and Up Front and that’s no bad thing in my book. CC:E starts with classic elements like a hexboard and cardboard counters, but adds new twists with the use of specialized card decks. Each army has a 72 card “fate deck” that is used to order troops, take special actions, and determine unusual events. The deck recipes are constructed to reflect some of the character of each army. Each card also has a 2d6 result on it so the cards can be flipped up to resolve attacks, morale tests, and so on. Sometimes these “die rolls” also trigger snipers and other events. If you’ve played Up Front, you can see where some of this inspiration came from but the development here is quite nice. The overall effect of the rules design and fate decks is to create a good simulation of WWII combat without the brain-melting complexity of many wargames. By the end of one scenario it was clear that the use of real WWII tactics brought good game results. You’ll have a hard time just sitting and blazing away with isolated units or simply charging across open terrain at a machinegun. You really need to coordinate your squads and use fire and movement to get the best results and that felt so right. Combat Commander: Europe covers the Americans, Germans, and Russians. The forthcoming Combat Commander: Mediterranean will add British, Commonwealth, Italian, and French to the game. I look forward to playing again.

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