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Tag: BattleLore (page 1 of 3)

Anyone for a Game of Thrones?

A Game of Thrones

George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire books, which began with A Game of Thrones in 1996, is a hugely successful fantasy series that has gripped the imagination of readers, boardgamers, roleplaying gamers and television audiences—and soon, video gamers as well.

Fantasy Flight Games have been releasing games based in this rich melieu for some time now, and with the release of the second edition of the A Game of Thrones: The Boardgame, it’s the perfect time to have a look at them!

A Game of Thrones LCGIt all started in 2002 with the release of the A Game of Thrones LCG: Core Set. This endlessly engaging Living Card Game (expansion sets are a fixed number of cards of the same type; no random collecting) has won two Origins Awards, and FFG run regular tournaments. Players assume the leadership of one of the great houses of Westeros, each with a different play style, and by exercising military might, intrigue, or diplomacy, they compete for power. In addition, a special plot deck brings in thematic effects that can greatly affect the game. The game can be played by two players or more, and with three or more players, each chooses a role at the start of the each round which engages with the other roles in interesting ways. The great thing about the game is that it acomodates a whole range of different playing styles, whether you prefer military conquest, diplomatic manoeuvring, or underhanded scheming… And with six deluxe expansions and over 40 ‘Chapter Packs’ of 60 cards each, the variety is staggering.

I’ve gone into some detail before about the ‘BattleLore’ game Battles of Westeros, but if you’re a fan of the Command & Colors games such as Command & Colors: Ancients, Memoir ’44, Battle Cry and BattleLore, you can’t go past this fresh new take on the system. Not only is it full of the character of the books, with a big emphasis on the leader personalities and their impact on the battles, but the system moves away from the ‘play a card to activate units on a particular flank’ system, and gives the player a lot more flexibility and choice. I’ve found it to be a very strategic game with a lot of tactical complexity to explore, and very different from the other games in the C&C system series.

There’s also a great range of expansions available so your armies and strategies can grow: Wardens of the West gives you Lannister reinforcements; Wardens of the North more troops for House Stark; Tribes of the Vale lets you add clansmen as allies to your force; Lords of the River adds House Tully as allies; and the upcoming Brotherhood Without Banners introduces even more new units and commanders.

Game of ThronesThe latest exciting release in FFG’s stable of Westeros-based games is the return of their much-praised game A Game of Thrones: The Boardgame, in a spectacular new second edition that incorporates much of the original game’s expansion material. It’s the perfect time for new fans—those who have discovered the melieu through the incredibly impressive HBO television series, for example—to start gaming in the world of Westeros.

A Game of Thrones: The Boardgame sees three to six players take on the roles of the great Houses of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, as they vie for control of the Iron Throne through the use of diplomacy and warfare. It’s an epic boardgame that requires more than military might to win—much as in the books, there are many ways to achieve your goals, and strategic planning, masterful diplomacy, and clever card play will all be required. And with totally updated components covered with stunning artwork, new innovations, and the best bits from the original two expansions, this is the definitive edition of the game.

As you can see, if you’re a fan of A Game of Thrones and a strategy gamer, there’s a wealth of good gaming to be had. Just remember: “When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.”

The Battle Continues with BattleLore!

Battlelore

Fantasy Flight Games bought the BattleLore brand off Days of Wonder several years ago, and since then there has been a lot of speculation about the future of this wonderful fantasy/medieval-themed battle game, as it was revealed that the original core set is so chock-a-block with plastic figures and high quality components it is too expensive to reproduce in its current form. FFG has, however, been slowly but steadily releasing expansion sets for the game, and no matter its future there is already a virtually endless amount of playability in what is one of my favourite games.

I suspect that the company will re-release the core set in a more limited form, so if you haven’t yet your hands on the original core set, now’s the time to grab what will possibly be the last remaining copies of BattleLore in this format. We’ve got our hands on some of the French-language sets that FFG re-purposed for the English market. Don’t worry—though the rulebook is in French, all the cards and components are in English, and the English rules are available as a PDF download from the FFG BattleLore support page. Once you’ve played a few games you won’t find yourself referring to the rulebook much anyway—especially if you have a copy of my BattleLore summary sheet! Personally, I have two core sets!

HeroesMy very first article for this blog was about BattleLore—check it out for an overview of the game. Since then some new releases have expanded the game system even further, and there are now a total of fourteen expansions available. The big release was the Heroes expansion, which introduced player-created leaders and champions to lead your forces in battle. Heroes start with a bare minimum of skills and artifacts, but over a series of battles they may survive to become more and more powerful. The set comes with 10 plastic hero figures (5 characters, both on foot and mounted) and banners, more than 100 cards, 2 landmark tiles, and over 40 tokens. Seven new adventure scenarios lurk within the rulebook, ready to challenge your battlefield skills.

Bearded BraveBoth goblins and dwarves have seen some impressive additions to their armies. The Bearded Brave expansion features six different types of Iron Dwarf units, three of which—Spotters, Mighty Bolt Throwers, Arbalestiers, and Bear Riders—are completely new. Bearded Brave comes with 40 new figures, 27 cards, and a rulebook featuring 4 new adventures.

The greenskin hordes have been bolstered by the arrival of the Horrific Horde expansion, which adds more of goblin units we’ve seen before (Swordsmen, Calavry and Hyena Riders) plus the brand new Goblin Halberdiers and powerful Ogres—42 new figures in all! Five brand new adventures are in the rulebook, plus the usual collection of cards and tokens.

Remember that you’re not limited to the available adventures—with the Call to Arms set, which is fully supported by all these expansion sets, you can draft your own armies using a card-based deployment mechanism, paving the way for limitless clashes between custom armies.

The latest new release is Code of Chivalry, an expansion for the human armies. Apart from more of the previously released Arbalestiers and Mounted Knight Lancers, this set comes with two completely new units, the Mounted Knight Long Swordsmen and the Foot Knight Long Swordsmen. Perfect for fantasy and medieval battles alike and including four new adventures in the rulebook.

Inaddition to the many other expansions already released—don’t forget to add some impressive Creatures and Dragons—these expansions flesh out the human, dwarf and goblin forces so you can field some truly formidable armies! It will be interesting to see where FFG takes BattleLore next, but in the meantime, there is enough gaming material available for endless hours of desparate combat upon the field of battle. Attack!!

Friday’s Gaming News Update

It’s the last Friday before Christmas eve and time to wrap up (boom-tish!) the latest gaming news.

New Releases from Games Paradise
7 Wonders is the highly anticipated card development game by Antoine Bauza, designer of Ghost Stories. Fans of Dominion and Race for the Galaxy will definitely want to check out this stunning-looking game.

Also from Asmodee and a must for card game fans, Gosu has also been collecting excellent reviews. Players raise goblin armies and send them into battle. Check out the Drake’s Flames review here—Matt doesn’t beat around the bush, and he can’t come up with anything bad to say about the game!

Days of Wonder’s light-hearted favourite Small World has a new expansion: Be Not Afraid. It features five new races to add to your games (Barbarians, Pixies, Homonculi, Pygmies and Leprechauns), five new special powers, and a new storage tray. It also comes with a bonus Necromancer expansion!

Don’t forget to get your pre-orders in for the 15th Anniversary Edition of Settlers of Catan. Every dedicated gamer will want this deluxe wooden edition as part of their collection.

News From the World of Gaming
The website for Earth Reborn, the upcoming post-apocalyptic combat game from Z-Man Games, has posted new scenarios and a map editor.

WorldWorks Games make amazing papercraft terrain for gaming (you might even find the set that was created by yours truly)—be sure to take advantage of their Christmas specials.

The usual surfeit of riches from Fantasy Flight Games:

new hardback and Vault versions of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay are coming soon. Whether you get the core set or the hardcover books and separate components (or whether, like me, you’ll get both), this brings a lot more flexibility and clarity to the WFRP roleplaying game system.

Yet another expansion has just been announced for Battles of Westeros: Lords of the River, which brings the forces of House Tully to the battle. FFG are also making available premium plastic banners to replace the original game banners; yes BattleLore fans, they are the same design as the banners in that game.

Talking about BattleLore, you can find a link to the rules to Bearded Brave, the new dwarf expansion, here. And talking about dwarves, the new Reiner Knizia game The Hobbit should be available soon.

Tannhäuser fans will soon have another character to add to their Reich forces – the clairvoyant Hoss.

Battlestar Galactica just keeps getting better and better with the announcement of the new Exodus expansion. Check out the FFG designer diaries here and here to get all the details.

Enjoy your gaming this Christmas!

What’s Hot: Battle Cry

Ready the Cannon! Fix Bayonets! Prepare to Charge!

The Battle Cry 150th Anniversary Edition is here from Wizards of the Coast. This updated version of the classic Command & Colors-system game by Richard Borg is an absolute must for fans of Memoir ’44, BattleLore, Command & Colors: Ancients and Battles of Westeros. This is the one that preceded them all!

Civil war is now upon us, and you must take the field as the leader of the Union or Confederate forces. Command your generals and direct your infantry, cavalry, and artillery in 30 different scenarios (13 of which are completely new) that feature the terrain and troop deployment of each historical battle—from the First Bull Run and Wilson’s Creek to Prairie Grove and Gettysburg.

History may have been written, but in Battle Cry, the outcome of each battle is up to you. With your strategy and tactics, you can turn the tide to carry Old Glory or Dixie to victory!

Gaming News Update

Fantasy Flight Games has released a FAQ for Battles of Westeros.

Games Workshop have posted some great videos of designers Phil Kelly and Jes Goodwin discussing the new Dark Eldar range.

Check out the Michael Barnes review of Betrayal at House on the Hill 2nd Edition.

… and the Ted Cheatham video review of Werewolf-like card game The Resistance.

Battles of Westeros: First Impressions

Last night I finally got a chance to play the brand new ‘BattleLore’ game from Fantasy Flight Games (FFG), Battles of Westeros, so I thought I’d write up my first impressions of the game for anyone who is wondering what this new incarnation of BattleLore is all about. Battles of Westeros is set in George R. R. Martin’s fantasy world of Westeros, from his Song of Ice and Fire series of books.

After creating a fan site for the original BattleLore game at www.battleloremaster.com, back when it was first released by Days of Wonder (DOW) in 2006, I was  very interested to try this latest evolution of Richard Borg’s Command & Colors (C&C) system. When Battles of Westeros was first announced, there was a frantic flurry of opinions by old BattleLore players, most of whom were concerned that their favourite game was going to be superseded. While it’s still not clear how much Fantasy Flight intends to support ‘classic BattleLore’ with new expansions, it’s fascinating to play this new game and compare the two systems.

First, let’s see what you get. Battles of Westeros comes in a deep box, the same size as the original DOW BattleLore but a new box format for FFG. Inside you’ll find over 130 plastic figures belonging to the Stark and Lannister house factions, a double-sided mounted map board, several decks of cards, and a plethora of cardboard counters, along with a rules book and a book of battle scenarios. There has been debate about the quality of the figures; some have said the designs are a little ‘generic’, though we must remember this is really just a core set and future expansions will no doubt add more distinctive troop types. You may have to do a bit of wok to straighten some of the swords and lances, but this is pretty much par for the course for plastic game pieces these days. Dip the bent figure part into a bowl of very hot water to soften, straighten it, then plunge it into a bowl of ice cold water to ‘set’.

There’s a nice selection of individual heroes, and a good bunch of basic troops, cavalry, and archers for each side. The most interesting figures here are the kennelmasters—big bald guys holding on to a couple of snarling trained hounds each!

BattleLore fans may be a bit surprised to discover that the figures come detached from their bases, and a decent amount of preparation is required to glue the figures into the bases. FFG suggest that gluing is an optional step, but really there’s no way that the figures would be usable by just pushing them into their bases. I found that a few dabs of superglue, and pressing the figures into the base slots with the end of a pair of tweezers, did the job well. No doubt the cost of producing these figures has increased since the initial release of BattleLore—in fact the CEO of FFG, Christian Petersen, has admitted on the company website that it is currently unaffordable to produce classic BattleLore in its original form and in the shorter print runs that FFG prefer. What this means for the future of classic BattleLore is anyone’s guess, but in the short term it means that a little more work is involved in preparing your Battles of Westeros figures for play!

I was keen to have the figures painted for our first game, though of course you can happily play the game without painted figures. There really is nothing like a BattleLore game with fully painted armies however, so I recommend taking the time and effort. To make the task more manageable, I set aside the figures required for the first battle scenario and painted those in one batch; that way you can start playing the game without facing the daunting task of painting the entire 138 figures in one go. I’ve written an article on figure painting before  (A  Beginner’s Guide to Figure Painting), but remember that washes are your friend! Painting the base colours of the figures and then giving them a wash (I used Devlan Mud for the Stark figures and Gryphonne Sepia for the Lannister figures) can give you fast and attractive results.

So, your figures are painted (or not), you’ve downloaded the rules summary available on my website (or not) and you’ve set up the forces for the first scenario, ‘Clash on the Kingsroad’. The big question is, how does the game play?

Well, the first thing to do is put thoughts of Memoir ’44, Command & Colors: Ancients, and BattleLore out of your head, because this is quite a different beast. Yaes, there are many similarities, and the game certainly looks the same as a C&C game, but gone is the division of the board into three sections and the restrictions of activating units by section.

Firstly, each player makes up a Leadership card deck with ten basic Leadership cards and five special Leadership cards for each of his commanders on the field. There’s also a new Morale track and a round track. The banners attached to each unit are different too; in addition to identifying unit types as usual, they have become an integral part of the game system, and are rotated to face the player to indicate whether the unit has been activated that turn or not.

Basically, players roll a number of eight-sided dice equal to the Order Rating of the battle plan, and then take Order Tokens matching the symbols rolled. When it is a player’s turn, there are two ways to activate units on the battlefield. One is to spend one of your order tokens to activate a unit—for example, a blue shield token activates a blue banner unit. You can also spend two tokens of one type to activate any unit. This allows you to activate any of your units on the field. The other way is to play a Leadership card, and this is much more restricted by the position of your commanders on the field. The units (usually multiple units) activated by a Leadership card must be within your chosen commander’s Zone of Control—a radius of 2 hexes from the commander’s unit.

Already you can see that this means the game plays very differently from your usual BattleLore game. It’s very important to keep your commanders alive—as I learnt when one of mine died early in our first game and the abilities of my units were suddenly very restricted! Also, the number of options available means that there is far less of a feeling of being controlled by your card draws. There’s definitely more strategy on offer here, which suits the more gritty, medieval feeling of the game, as opposed to the light, fun fantasy feel of classic BattleLore.

As you activate units, moving and attacking with them in a way that will be familiar to C&C players, you rotate their banners to  mark them as activated. You can’t activate them again that turn unless you manage to either play  Leadership card to rally several units (ie, rotate their banner poles back and make them available for activation again) or spend a Morale order token to do them same to one unit (and take a morale hit to do so). So it is possible to activate a unit several times in the same turn.

A small change to combat also introduces another level of strategy to the game: when you engage an unengaged enemy unit, you place an Engagement token between the units. Then, if you attack the target from another hex with a different unit, it is designated a flanking attack, and you get to re-roll all the dice of one symbol, which can be devastating. So instead of single discrete attacks and hoping to get the right cards to activate units on the same flank, you can really plan and execute multiple attacks that can destroy your opponent’s units.

Another welcome change to the C&C system, I feel, is that victory conditions are no longer so reliant on just destroying the other player’s units. Not only does destroying a unit reduce your opponent’s morale—and in some scenarios you can successfully rout your opponent’s army as a result—but each scenario has specific victory conditions that are much more interesting, usually tied to controlling various objectives on the battlefield.

All in all, I was highly impressed with my first play of Battles of Westeros. In fact, I think that classic BattleLore might find itself sitting on the shelf while we explore all the possibilities of this new game system. FFG have created an interesting, more strategic take on the classic system, and while the branding is a bit confusing—it really does sit in an uneasy place between being a BattleLore-type game and a brand new game—I think once things settle down it is going to be a winner for the company. I’m looking forward to more distinctive troop types in future expansions, and I hope the battle scenarios continue to be varied and interesting (by the way there’s a set of ‘skirmish’ rules for setting up your own battles, so there’s endless variety there). Two expansion sets have already been announced: Wardens of the West (new commanders, pikemen, crossbowmen and militia for the Lannister house) and Wardens of the North (new commanders, lancers, shieldmaidens and trident bearers for the Stark house). I also like how the individual commanders really stamp the game with their personalities and style of play, depending on their special abilities and selection of Leadership cards.

If you’re a fan of other games in the Command & Colors family and you’ve been wondering if Battles of Westeros was just more of the same, I can safely say this game has something new and exciting to offer. Grab yourself a copy!

For more information about Battles of Westeros, visit FFG’s site (www.fantasyflightgames.com) or BoardgameGeek (www.boardgamegeek.com). You can also find a rules summary and reference sheet for the game at Headless Hollow (www.headlesshollow.com/freebies_games.html#bw).

by Universal Head

Universal Head (www.universalhead.com), has been designing for clients across the globe for more than twenty years, and playing games for much longer than that. He’s responsible for the graphic design of several boardgames, notably ‘Tales of the Arabian Nights’ by Z-Man Games, and once spent an entire year recreating the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza in 3D for a computer game. In between he’s designed just about every form of visual communication: corporate identities, websites, packaging, brochures, even postage stamps. He also created the game websites www.tekumel.com and www.battleloremaster.com. His blog site www.headlesshollow.com is an obsessive repository of professionally designed rules summaries and reference sheets for popular boardgames.

A Beginners Guide To Figure Painting

More and more these days, boardgames come with plastic figures to enhance the game experience. Whether they’re an essential part of the game, like the armies in BattleLore, or a nice atmospheric substitute for cardboard tokens, like the characters in Middle-Earth Quest, plastic playing pieces can bring life to a game. But there really is nothing more satisfying than playing a great game with fully painted figures, and though it can seem a daunting prospect if you have no experience, this article aims to give you a few tips to get you painting those little men and making your game look as good as it possibly can.

Preparing Your Workspace
There are a few essentials you’ll need to paint figures—paint, of course, is one! I’ve used Games Workshop paints for many years and find them perfectly adequate for my needs, but there are other alternatives on the market such as Vallejo paints and the P3 range from Privateer Press. Plenty of painters will swear by their favourites, and some will use a mix of different ranges, but to start with get yourself a good selection of basic paints. Remember you don’t necessarily need a wide range of paints as you can mix colours—a little bit of colour theory will help you here, which you can easily research on the internet.

We’re not finger-painting here, so you’ll need some brushes! This is not the place to try to save money—good quality brushes will make your job immeasurably easier and more enjoyable, so get yourself a couple of good sable brushes from an art shop. The Games Workshop ones are pretty good too. You’ll be doing most of your painting with about a ‘1’ size brush, but a ‘00’ is good for details as well, and you’ll need something larger for drybrushing (you can buy a cheaper synthetic brush for this as drybrushing is hard on the bristles).

You can buy a palette to mix your colours on, but I’ve been using the same white, smooth ceramic tile I bought from a hardware store for years. Also you’ll need a little pot to keep your water in, some way to store your brushes—with the tips upright!—and I also find a few layers of paper towel useful for wiping your brushes after washing them, and wiping off excess paint. Find a table space with good lighting—you’ll need it, these figures are small—and be sure to cover your workspace with newspaper or other protection, especially if it’s the dining room table!

Preparing Your Figures
The first step when preparing your figures for painting is to have a look at them and see if they need any improvement. Sometimes a figure will have obvious mould-lines or ‘flash’, which is where the mould joined together on the figure. Whether you want to go to the trouble of removing these imperfections is up to you, but keep in mind they will become even more obvious to the eye when your figure is painted. And it’s the work of a moment, so why not make your figure worthy of all the attention you’re about to bestow upon it? Get yourself a sharp blade and/or needle file and carefully scrape or file away the offending bits. Be careful! You don’t want to get blood all over your nice new figure!

Plastic figures tend to come with a little bit of greasy residue from the mould they were popped out of—you wouldn’t notice this normally, but it can make it hard for paint to adhere to the surface. The trick is to give your figures a little scrub with a toothbrush in water and a bit of detergent. Then let the figures dry and your ready to undercoat.

Undercoating is the ‘primer’ layer of paint that is the basis for all the detail work to follow. Just like painting a room, you need to undercoat your figure first. This is a matter of personal choice—my preference is ‘old school’: I undercoat figures in white (I use Games Workshop spray white for this) because I can see the detail of the figure better, and colours go on brighter and in one layer. A lot of people these days prefer to undercoat in black, as the black ‘fills in’ any little details they might miss during the painting. You’ll have to experiment to see which method you prefer. Whether you choose black or white, make sure you spray your figures carefully, with even strokes, and outside with plenty of ventilation. Try not to breath in that paint or spray it over anything except the figures. I have an old table out in the back yard I use exclusively for spraying figures. Another good tip is not to use spray paint on a humid or wet day—this can make the paint go on in a strange way, trust me.

Time to Paint
Once your undercoat is thoroughly dry, you’re ready to start painting! This can seem daunting at first, but the only way to get better is to practice, so you have to start somewhere! The first thing to do is put your base colours on. Carefully apply your basic colours onto the figure and paint in the areas neatly. It’s often helpful to start with the ‘skin’ if there is any, and work your way ‘out’ through the layers of clothing. Detail work like belts and swords can be left until last.

If I can give you one really important tip from this entire article it is this—thin your colours! Depending on the paint, a brush-load of water to every brush-load of paint is about right. A dead giveaway of an amateur paint job is gluggy paint, filling in the fine detail of the miniature. If the paint is thinned it will flow off your brush a lot easier and with more control—several thin layers of paint are far better than one thick layer!

So what colours do you pick? Well, it’s up to you. Sometimes you’ll be painting within historical boundaries; for example, a little bit of internet research can give you the correct colours to paint the American and German forces from Memoir ’44. Other times, you might want match game illustrations of the characters, or save yourself the trouble of picking colours and use someone else’s choices (say, from a picture posted on boardgamegeek.com). But don’t be afraid to make your own colour selections if you want—just keep in mind that you usually want a roughly realistic look with appropriate colours, so maybe painting that Nazgul from Middle-Earth Quest a bright pink isn’t such a great idea!

Shading
There are lost of ways to paint, and you can find alternative methods on the internet, but for now I’ll take you through the system I find easiest after painting for some 25 years. The next step after the base colours is to apply shading. This has been made vastly easier by the introduction of quality washes (which you don’t have to thin, by the way), and the Games Workshop range is excellent. I use Gryphonne Sepia to wash flesh tones and Devlan Mud a lot for other areas, but you can also get more specific and use the green for greens, the red for reds etc. Experiment a little.

Washes are a fast and effective way to get the dark shadows in your figure. You might even want to stop here because a figure can look absolutely fine after having base colours and a wash applied. But if you really want to get a fantastic-looking figure, it’s time to move on to highlights.

Highlights
The highlight stage really brings a figure to life. This is when you paint in the parts of your figure where, in ‘real life’, light would catch the upper folds of a cloak, or the tip of a nose, or the top of a hat. Of course our little figures are too small to have these natural highlights, so we have to exaggerate them to give the figure the impression of realism.

When choosing your highlight colour, don’t just reach for the white and mix it with your base colour. Again, this is where a bit of colour theory comes in handy. You can get different highlight effects depending on your choice of highlight colour. For example, if you have a bright green, it is best highlighted by adding yellow to the green rather than white (though you can add white if you’re starting with a duller green). Yellow is a good highlight for orange. Black can be highlighted by grey, or even blue, depending on the effect you want.

You can also try the ‘drybrushing’ technique for highlighting, and it’s especially useful when highlighting fur or hair. Get the highlight colour on your brush (use an older or cheaper brush for this) and wipe most of the paint off on a paper towel. Then gently wipe the side of the bristles over your surface repeatedly, leaving just a tiny bit of paint on the raised highlights each time. You can quickly build up a highlight without affecting the recessed areas.

Details
You’re almost there! Now it’s time to go over your figure and fix up all those little details you missed. If you have a tiny brush and a very steady hand, you can paint the eyes black, and then either add two tiny dots of white for the whites of the eye, or dot them with white and then a dot of black for the pupil. Try not to make them look too ‘goggle-eyed’. Fine details like belts are best painted black, then painted again in brown or whatever, leaving a fine outline of black to make them stand out a bit. I use Tamiya ‘Smoke’ to paint a wash over metallics; I find it give a good, slightly oily effect to metallics.

Basing & Varnishing
You’re not quite finished yet however. Depending on the figure, you may want to paint some detail on its base. You can either paint a flat colour on the base that matches the board it will be moved on, or try a flat colour with a few ‘scrunchy’ layers of highlight using an old brush to give it a bit of texture. Or if you want to go all out you can use traditional basing techniques like glueing on sand or ‘static grass’ using white glue. If you’re using both, remember to paint and drybrush the sand before gluing on the static grass.

>Finally, you need a clear varnish to protect your hard work from the rigours of many hours of gameplay. Again, this is a matter of preference; there are both gloss and matt sprays available which give different effects. Some prefer the better protection and brightness of a gloss varnish; some the ‘realism’ and duller finish of a matt varnish. After much experimentation I’ve settled on a semi-gloss varnish available by Tamiya in small spraycan. Again, remember to spray outside and don’t breath it in!

Let your figure dry thoroughly and there you have it—a gaming piece that will give you many years of pleasure and pride!

Other Techniques
Of course, this is assuming you’re painting army or character figures like those from BattleLore or Last Night on Earth—what about the tanks from Memoir ’44 or Tide of Iron? The basic techniques outlined above are the same, though you can easily highlight with drybrushing. For some tanks, I’ve even got out my old airbrush to paint camouflage markings, which worked really well! When painting lots of figures that are the same, you can speed up the process by ‘batch painting’. Using white glue, attach five or so figures to a strip of foamcore or card and paint them in batches. Once you get into the flow of things you can paint a lot of figures quickly this way.

Your figures are ready to be brought to life—get painting!

by Universal Head.

Universal Head (www.universalhead.com), has been designing graphics from the most corporate to the most creative for more than twenty years. He’s responsible for the graphic design of several boardgames, most notably ‘Tales of the Arabian Nights’ by Z-Man Games, and once spent a year recreating the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza in 3D for the computer game ‘The Omega Stone’. In between he’s designed everything from large corporate identities and websites, to packaging, to interactive educational modules. His personal site www.headlesshollow.com is an obsessive repository of professionally designed rules summaries and reference sheets for popular boardgames.

An Introduction to BattleLore

I was trudging along the muddy verge of an ancient highway, heading south back to the land of my birth, when I first heard the distant rhythm. I immediately stopped and hid myself among the bracken that lined the muddy ditch to the side of the road. I had not long to wait. The clanking of metal upon metal became louder, accompanied by the martial rhythm of hundreds of feet marching in time. And then, around a bend in the road, the vanguard of the invading army appeared. Knights caparisoned for war, their bright banners flapping violently in the fitful breeze, the horses snorting clouds of vapour in the still-cold air of the morning. Behind the knights came the main force of men drawn up in disciplined rows, their short swords banging against their thighs, the companies identified by banner bearers who held the symbols of the army aloft. Then, the mercenaries, groups of grubby goblins in stained bronze armour, and behind them goblins mounted on restless scaly beasts that sniffed the air as they rode by, and made me retreat further back into the bracken.

If you enjoy the mighty clash of armies, strategic decisions in the heat of battle, and the manipulation of powerful magics, then BattleLore is the game system for you! BattleLore is a game system of medieval battles that was originally released by Days of Wonder (DOW) back in 2006. Since then the game has had nine expansions, and in 2008 found a new home at Fantasy Flight Games (FFG), who plan to expand the BattleLore line even further.

BattleLore uses an easy-to-play wargame system called ‘Commands & Colors’, invented by the game designer Richard Borg. This system first appeared in an American Civil War-themed Avalon Hill game called Battle Cry in 2000, then the hugely successful DOW game series Memoir ’44 in 2004, the Command & Colors: Ancients series by GMT Games in 2006, and finally—to date—BattleLore. All of these games share core elements—a deck of Command cards, a board divided into large hexes, and a set of battle dice with symbols on them. With the exception of C&C:Ancients, which uses blocks, the games use plastic miniatures (usually arranged in units of three or four figures) to represent the armies on the board. In BattleLore, these units are identified by coloured plastic banners.

The great thing about BattleLore and the Commands & Colors system in general, is that you can enjoy a satisfying wargame without all the fiddly complexity that wargames are often known for. BattleLore is relatively fast to set up, looks spectacular—especially if you’re dedicated enough to paint the figures—plays fast, and has just the right balance between strategy and luck

So how do you play? Every game requires a scenario, or Adventure as they’re called in BattleLore, which gives you instructions about which figures to set up on the table, which terrain elements to put on the board to make the battlefield unique, the victory conditions, any special rules, and how many Command cards each Commander (player) receives. The Command cards are what drives the game. Each turn you choose a Command card from your hand, and this card tells you which of your forces you can ‘activate’—move and attack—in your turn. Most are Section cards, which allow you to activate a certain number of units on either the left, centre or right flanks of the battlefield. Other cards are Tactics cards, which let you make special activations, such as charging your cavalry into the fray, or firing twice with your archers, or counter-attacking an opponent’s Command card.

You move your units, and then, if you wish, can attack with ranged weapons or in melee combat. Various weapons have different ranges and strengths, but basically you roll a number of Command dice, and depending on the symbols, do damage, and/or cause the target units to flee. Coloured helmet symbols matching the banner colour of the target unit are usually a hit; a bonus strike symbol can be a hit depending on the weapon used; a flag symbol can cause the target unit to flee one or more hexes; and a Lore symbol can be used to activate Lore cards, which have magic and other special effects.

Lore cards bring a unique element to the game of BattleLore. If both players agree, at the start of the game you can set up a War Council consisting of several Lore Masters—the Warrior, Cleric, Wizard and Rogue. Each of these Lore Masters has a deck of Lore cards that can unleash powerful effects on the field of battle.  For example, the Wizard can create a magical portal that can teleport a unit across the battlefield; the Rogue can spring an ambush so your unit can attack first when attacked; the Warrior can parry an attack, causing an opponent’s attack to be weakened, and the Cleric can make the very hills quake, damaging units on and around this terrain! Players power all of these effects by spending Lore counters, which they receive during the game when they roll the Lore symbol on their Battle dice.

The BattleLore core set was chock-full of plastic armies—human, dwarf and goblin—but it wasn’t long before the expansions began to roll out. The first was Call to Arms, an unique army-building system that used card decks instead of points. This was followed by army packs that expanded the options available to Dwarf and Goblin armies, including Goblin ostrich riders and Dwarven bagpipers! For those players that preferred to play the game without the Lore rules and concentrate on historical scenarios of the Hundred Years’ War period, the Crossbows and Polearms set was a must-buy. The Epic expansion provided rules for playing on double-sized battlefields with larger armies and extra Command card options, and is believed by many to be the best way to experience the game’s full potential.

With the transfer of BattleLore to FFG, two new sets—Creatures and Dragons—have given BattleLore players more creatures to rampage over their battlefields, including a Hydra with interchangeable heads, and of course that essential fantasy staple, Dragons.

So what’s the future of BattleLore at FFG? Well, they’ve just announced Battles of Westeros, a BattleLore-inspired game that recreates warfare in George R.R. Martin’s fantasy world from his A Song of Ice and Fire series of novels. It’s been announced that BattleLore will be the brand name of a series of medieval tactical warfare games using both the Command & Colors system, and other new wargaming systems. It’s definitely a time of change for BattleLore players, but what is now known as ‘classic BattleLore’ will still be supported and expanded by FFG—though in what forms are yet to be revealed.

Until then however, there is already a huge wealth of BattleLore goodies out there that can provide thousands of hours of exciting wargaming enjoyment. And the battle has just begun!

For more information about the BattleLore line of products, visit Fantasy Flight Games at http://www.fantasyflightgames.com and the unofficial BattleLore site BattleLoreMaster at http://www.battleloremaster.com.

Finally, the army was gone, and stillness descended again over the old road. I emerged from the ditch and with a last glance at the dust cloud that marked the army’s passing, hurried onwards to my rendezvous.


Universal Head


Universal Head (www.universalhead.com), has been designing graphics from the most corporate to the most creative for more than twenty years. He’s responsible for the graphic design of several boardgames, most notably ‘Tales of the Arabian Nights’ by Z-Man Games, and once spent a year recreating the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza in 3D for the computer game ‘The Omega Stone’. In between he’s designed everything from large corporate websites, to postage stamps, to a mobile phone interface. His personal site www.headlesshollow.com is an obsessive repository of professionally designed rules summaries and reference sheets for popular boardgames.

Monopoly: Talkin’ bout a Revolution

A classic game’s anniversary is something to look forward to, because it usually means a new, improved edition is waiting in the wings. To celebrate Scrabble‘s recent diamond anniversary, a slick, portable version hit the shelves and Scrabble fans have never looked back. Monopoly’s 75th anniversary this year will also be a date to remember. Monopoly: Revolution Edition has already been unveiled by Hasbro and it’s a complete contemporary update targeting Gens Y and Z.

Monopoly Anniversary: Revolution Edition and more

There are a whole range of Monopoly variations already on the market. We even have our very own 25th Anniversary edition of Australian Here & Now Monopoly. Or how about an Anti-Monopoly Edition or the popular Dog Lovers Monopoly? There’s also a whole host of re-branded editions to choose from, such as Garfield Monopoly, GI Joe Monopoly, Elvis Monopoly, Muppets Monopoly, Las Vegas Monopoly, Beatles Monopoly and the nostalgic Retro Monopoly, to name just a few.

Hasbro mantra – Innovate or detonate

So is there really a strong demand for another version? For me, the answer is yes, yes, yes, and many other die-hard fans will agree. Monopoly is a classic game, which means it has what it takes to never go out of style. This latest edition however cleverly targets the savvy youth market in an attempt to prise them from their computer and video game screens. Hasbro has put the digital age mantra – innovate or detonate – into practice.

Pass GO and get – 2 million dollars!

Monopoly: Revolution Edition has not only been updated, but reshaped. As the name implies, the board is now round instead of square. This is either a stroke of genius or just a novelty factor. Players now wheel and deal using debit cards and an ATM instead of cash. An electronic banker oversees the game from a centralised pod, making cheating impossible. To catch up with 75 years of inflation, you now get $2,000,000.00 for passing GO instead of $200.00! Sound effects and music clips by performers like Beyonce, Rihanna and Elton John (“Elton who?” Gen Y might ask), are also brave attempts to connect with younger players.

Generations Y and Z

Time will tell if everyone is thrilled with this latest anniversary edition, but its development reflects the reality of the age that Gen Y and future generations will live in – for better or worse. In an increasingly cashless society with more leisure time and greater spending power, Monopoly: Revolution Edition may yet capture the imaginations of a wider, younger audience.

Ghouls, zombies and vampires! What’s the appeal?

Vampires! Once the mere mention of this word would evoke fear and loathing and send shivers down a normal person’s spine. But now, due to their recent sexy makeover in Hollywood’s Twilight series of films, there’s been a massive resurgence of interest in all things ghoulish and supernatural.

The Twilight Effect

Fantasy stories and games have always been popular. They have a timeless, escapist appeal. The nineties TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer normalised vampire killing as a past-time, but these poor vampires were always cast as the bad guys. Now that the Twilight effect has taken off – zombies, ghosts, werewolves and even your run-of-the-mill ghoul – are suddenly so much more appealing! But whether cast as good guys or bad, these creatures play an important part in our shared cultural mythology.

Satisfy your ghoulish cravings

And don’t you just love being scared out of your wits?  Isn’t it exciting to believe that there’s another more mysterious and dangerous shadow reality, just waiting to be discovered and explored? The problem with the movie or TV experience is that it only lasts a couple of hours at most, leaving us unsatisfied and hungry for more. This is where a great game trumps a movie or TV show every time. Playing fantasy games can satisfy our ghoulish cravings for weeks, months and even years!

There are many games to choose from that fulfil our yearnings for blood, human flesh and unlimited power! From Dark Heresy to Dungeons and Dragons – fantasy games earn a respectable slice of gaming revenue each year. A great macabre RPG is Vampire: Prince of the City, which uses blood as one of the currencies used on an ultimate quest to become the new Prince of all the Kindred.

The Zombie Game is coming – hold on to your brain!

And if you love zombies as much as I do, then you’ll love playing either a hero or zombie in the hugely successful Last Night on Earth: The Zombie Game, which sold out on release and is into its second printing. Hold onto your brain while you can because this is a must-play game for all zombie horror fans. Let’s face it. Zombie lovers are truly spoilt for choice. There’s the whole Zombie!!! series of games to choose from, and the recently released All Things Zombie: The Board Game, which is an intense strategy RPG well worth getting your hands on.

There are so many supernaturally themed games to choose from, there’s no end to exploring this genre. Just be warned ! All vampires do not look like Twilight’s Robert Pattinson.

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