Monday, December 11, 2006


Today I'm in a rush because I burnt up a large block of hours yesterday playing BattleLore.

At first I figured the game must suck because it was made in China. I thought better about it after opening it and realized, "Hey! They hired some of them good Chinese people this time. Must have paid an extra ration of rice or something. Nice stuff."

It became increasingly hard to belittle this game as the day wore on. After having my hopes dashed upon discovering the contents of the box and even the box itself were all high quality I looked for the obvious flaws in the rules. Crap. Where are the good old days of gaming? You know? The ones where pretty much every page of every rule book had errors on it?

Scratching my head I looked elsewhere for the weak spots I knew must exist with BattleLore. Why must they exist you ask? Easy. The game is obviously flawed because:

* Days of Wonder (the publisher) is located in America

* There has been much anticipation and hoopla on the Net

* Eric H, the boss of DoW, is French. Or maybe part French. Or possibly just speaks with a French accent. At the very least, he's been to France. We all know how sinister that is

Anyway, it was Jumbo-Tron who spoke up and indicated what might possibly be the Achilles Heel of Battlelore and bring down the cheap and flimsy facade of quality and competence that Days of Wonder was foisting off on us. Jumbo asked, "Hey! How about my Hill Giant? I wanna use him. How do I do that? Huh? C'mon DW... I wanna use my Hill Giant and I can't find anywhere in the rules man where it says I can... and I wanna.... BWAAAAAAAA!!!!!"

It's hard enough to watch a grown man cry. But to watch a 330 pound grown man - one with a Sluggo haircut, a scraggly Abe Lincoln beard and fists the size of frying pans bawl - all while daintily holding his Hill Giant between a massive thumb and forefinger... well, I'll tell you, it was quite a dramatic moment. What I wouldn't have given to have my video camera running.

Nonetheless, watching Jumbo collapse into a puddle of heaving, mewling flesh on the floor just made me quake in anger. Anger at the French. Anger at the cheapness and trivialization of our treasured games. Anger at the hype that always lets us down... but mainly, I was pissed at Jumbo. He was staining my frickin' carpet! So I managed to coax him back up (I'll skip the really icky parts of how one goes about coaxing a huge, snuffling gamer off the floor... suffice it to say, we had to use props and a few pneumatic appliances). We went to the table to see if we could discern a way to use the Hill Giant. I had already been on Days of Wonder's laughably amatuerish website and so knew they were lying to us by telling us that additional data on expansions, rules and scenario generation was coming soon and so I didn't bother checking there again. Instead, I began looking at one of the scenarios that uses the Giant Spider that comes with the game.

It was then that I realized those crafty miscreants at Days of Wonder had foiled us again. Why? Because! In the scenarios that use the Spider it is counted as "1 Level" of a War Council. It's a Green Standard monster. Green = 1 Level. The Hill Giant is a Blue Standard.... a tougher opponent than Green. So, using my almost superhuman powers of deduction, I deduced that if a savvy gamer wanted to add the Hill Giant he would therefore have to use up 2 Levels of whatever total he had to assemble his War Council.

Sheesh! Why the hell didn't the game authors just tell us that to begin with? Why give us a Hill Giant and then send us on a merry chase, fraught with anger, remorse, pooling tears and stained carpets? I'll tell you why..... because they're evil! That's why!

Of course, it could also be I'm wrong... and they really are going to reveal more on their website. But even then... why make us suffer?

The bulk of the day was spent playing one scenario after another of this supposedly great game. Oh sure, the "lore" aspect of the game is a balancing factor and reduces the negative impact random die rolls have. And sure, the proper application of Lore cards in a game go a long way towards removing the sting of drawing poorly from the Command Card deck. And yes, the banners themselves are designed so they port a large chunk of game information directly into the brain of the gamers... reducing the level of complexity while retaining the "feel" that there is much, much more here than what one thought at first glance.

I'll even grudingly concede that the rule book is organized in a "section" format that transmits subtle visual cues to the brain allowing the user to quickly find the "section" he might need and then easily find the rule he might be looking for.

But still, no matter how good this may seem... I'm almost positive that BattleLore is in some way a flawed product. It'll just take me some time, perhaps a few dozen more plays... maybe even a little extra abuse on the miniatures and other components. Doesn't matter, this game must be broken and I'll break the damned thing if it's the last thing I do!!


Just in case I miss next Monday, I'll wish all you guys a Merry Christmas. Even the Canadians. Yes, even those of you who are Jewish... or some other religion. I'm not wishing you a Merry Christmas for any reason other than it's Christmas Season and one ought to be Merry. Too bad if you're so hung up on your own significance that you go out of your way to be offended when someone wishes you well and that well-wish has some remote and tenuous link to a hazy religious symbolization that has had almost zero connection to the actual season of the year since the advent of television and targeted marketing.

When I was a kid my family did Christmas for a chance to get together, drink to excess, eat huge amounts of food, get into fistfights, drive while intoxicated, slap the kids around and just, in general, bask in the warm glow of familial togetherness and the realization that we were all witnessing the miracle of contagen of aberration as we observed directly how negative human traits can be passed down, generation after generation... ensuring that young Texans everywhere would certainly be as crazed and screwed up as old Texans. Plus, when I was 11 years old I got a totally bitchin' red cowboy shirt with pearl snaps... and I tell you, it was pure bliss for me.

Yep. Christmas is a fine time of the year. Screw the gifts. I haven't gotten a decent gift since the red cowboy shirt. Screw the religion. Just driving by a church makes me feel guilty. This season ought to be about celebrating the boon of family and friends! Even if your family is psycho and friends are all a bunch of drunken thieves! It's a damned good excuse to be a glutton, drink extra whiskey and make fun of each other.

Well, whatever your religion... or spiritual persuasion (except for you Godless Atheists)... I hope you have a great Xmas, Kwanza, that Jewish holiday whose name I forget, Holiday Season or just Family Assemblage and I hope you get a board game or two for whatever passes as a gift exchange in your neck of the woods.

Whatever you do... play a game and don't let them catch you cheating.


Anonymous said...

"When I was a kid my family did Christmas for a chance to get together, drink to excess, eat huge amounts of food, get into fistfights..."

Sounds exactly like the definition of Festivus, which I celebrated last night with my friends. So, to you, I wish a Festivus Maximus. Not because I think you should celebrate Festivus, but because it is the Festivus season and you should be uhhh... Festive to the maximal possible amount?

Never mind the fact that I don't understand the greeting. The holiday is great.

Then again, you've never needed a holiday to air your grievances.

Anonymous said...

It was a nice production. I liked seeing how they had enough outsourced labor to individually shrink wrap every component of the game.

Oh, and Happy Saturnalia everyone. For it, I will be playing a selection of Knizia's Clash of the Gladiators, watching UFC Unleashed, and decorating the Saturnalia tree.. For those about to die, we salute you.

Gerald McD said...

Merry Christmas, DW. Hope the coming year is kind and generous to you. No, that's not tongue-in-cheek or satirical. Even this ex-Okie wishes you, an ex-Texan, a Happy Holiday seaon (of whatever variety you wish it to be).

About BattleLore -- I'm so glad to hear that you are on the job and will explain in great detail all the problems with BattleLore in the future. In the meantime, I'm glad to hear the errors are well-hidden. My son-in-law and grandson are really looking forward to getting and playing it, and I might even get in a game or two with them.

Hermus said...

Maybe its just me, but whenever I read DW's column I visualize him as the main character from My Name Is Earl, with Jumbo as Earl's brother Randy. But that's just crazy, Earl's probably way better looking than DW.

Anonymous said...

D.W., the Hill Giant can be substituted for the spider - straight up. Even though it's blue, it's the same value - "1".

Try them both out in battle, and see - they're about equal in strength.

DWTripp said...

D.W., the Hill Giant can be substituted for the spider - straight up. Even though it's blue, it's the same value - "1".

Thanks Tom. Although I wish you hadn't told me that. I could have strung Jumbo along for a few more games until he found out that he was over paying for his beloved Giant.

Well... I guess honesty is usually the best policy... so I suppose I'll tell him.

Christopher Stogdill said...

I got this in my email today and thought you'd like it:
For My Democrat Friends:

"Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, our best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low-stress, non-addictive, gender-neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasion and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all. We also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the of the generally accepted calendar year 2007, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make America great. Not to imply that America is necessarily greater than any other country nor the only America in the Western Hemisphere. And without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual preference of the wishes. By accepting these greetings you are accepting these terms. This greeting is subject to clarification or withdrawal. It is freely transferable with no alteration to the original greeting. It implies no promise by the wisher to actually implement any of the wishes for herself or himself or others, and is void where prohibited by law and is revocable at the sole discretion of the wisher. This wish is warranted to perform as expected within the usual application of good tidings for a period of one year or until the issuance of a subsequent holiday greeting, whichever comes first, and warranty is limited to replacement of this wish or issuance of a new wish at the sole discretion of the wisher."

For My Republican Friends:

Merry Christmas

and a Happy New Year

Pawnstar said...

I know how Jumbo feels; the same thing happened to me when somebody tore a tile punching out my copy of Ra. I recovered a few days later when I found a drawstring bag to put them in. Clarification: that's the tiles, not the idiot who tore them at the edges.

I remember Christmases like those, back in Liverpool - fond memories of basting the bird, being basted by everybody else and breaking all of my toys the morning I got them.

This year when everybody else is at church I will be dancing naked around Avebury stone circle whilst being whipped with mistletoe by the locals - nothing religious, they will just want me to put my clothes back on. After that I can go home and open my copy of BL, try to look surprised (I had to go out and buy it so the Better Half could wrap it) and spend the day eating, drinking and twisting everybody else's arms into playing games they clearly don't want to.

Seasons Greetings, one and all.

ekted said...

"When I was a kid my family..."

"...slap the kids around..."

That explains a lot. :)

GREEN spider uses 1 lore slot, and BLUE hill giant uses 1 also??? I think you found the game breaking factor!

Mark (aka pastor guy) said...

GREEN spider uses 1 lore slot, and BLUE hill giant uses 1 also??? I think you found the game breaking factor!

Sadly, Ekted, no. DW will have to hunt further to find something to complain about.

That green spider moves faster & has two "cheap" lore special powers - Web & Poison. The blue hill giant is slower & his main special power is keyed to his landmark.

The search for flaws continues...