Last week's bumper boardgames bonanza continued on Thursday when Badger appeared for an evening's gaming. We were pleasantly spoiled for choice when it came to where to start:
- There was the ongoing playtest of the M44 Expanded Nationality rules, all the more pertinent since Badger nurses a desire for revenge as the Russians at Klin now that the scenario has been corrected.
- Then there was the new Battlelore: Call to Arms pack I'd picked up last month.
- And, of course, there was the Wings of War: Dawn of War which I'd got hold of only a few days previously thanks to Andy.
Spitfires wasted on me?
Given his choice of sides, Badger chose the Axis. So he took the Me109 and the D.520 up against the Spitfire and the Hurricane. Deciding to stick with a winning strategy, I started by sideslipping ready to turn in so that I could bring the guns of both my planes to bear on a single enemy. I'm beginning to feel that the winningness of this strategy is more luck than judgement, since my turn was too late and too shallow as it was against Tony last week!
Badger meanwhile had hit upon a good counter-strategy: he split to the left and right then turned inwards to bring both his planes in on my Spitfire. I knew that sooner or later someone would come up with a good alternative strategy to my own!
It didn't take long for Badger to start cursing the flying brick that is the D.520, but he was still able to get enough good shots against my Spitfire to send it spinning earthwards with disturbing ease. My Hurricane pilot was clearly more experienced than the Spitfire pilot though, because he was able to down the Me109. The game ended when Badger flew the D.520 off the table. A win! Well maybe not: unfortunately Badger was confused about the victory conditions, thinking that he'd get the VP for this instead of me. Hmm, so I think that we'll have to put that one down to a draw really.
Enthused by the game, and out for blood, Badger readily agreed to have another go. Yet again my Spitfire was the first plane to go down (this time suffering the first explosion yet seen in my plays of this game). What is it about these darn Spitfires? On the face of it they're no more vulnerable to fire than the Hurricanes, yet they always seem to be the first British planes to go down!
I was now doing everything I could with my Hurricane to keep it flying while getting a bead on the enemy. Luck had a lot to with it here as the plane took quite a few hits with no effect. Badger's frustration with the D.520 helped- he just gave up trying to get it back into the flight and flew it off the table. This over-confidence was to prove his undoing. As our planes twisted and turned in the corner of the table, he misplanned a manoeuvre, with the result that his Me109 flew off the table! Another draw!
And so, yet again, Wings of War proves to be a palpable hit.
We answer the call to arms
Dinner and a Doctor Who repeat out of the way, Badger was keen to try out Call to Arms, the new Battlelore army deployment system. Time was at a premium, so we just plumped for the first scenario, appropriately called First Encounter.
The core mechanics of Call to Arms (CtA) are really very simple. First, you set up your map:
Then you choose your deployment deck. There are 6 7-card deployment decks in CtA- 3 for each side. Each deck shows an average of 4 units, giving you the unit types and where you will set them up on your side of the map. Your deck chosen, you draw 4 cards at random from your deck. Then you look at them and decide which card will be your Vanguard, your Middle Guard and your Rearguard, and which will be your reserves. This done, you set up the Vanguard units on your right flank, your Middle Guard units in your centre section, and your Rearguard units on your left flank.
To round off the setup the player with the most light units deployed is designated the first player. The other player then chooses 2 of his reserve units to set up, after which the first player does the same. And that's about all there is to it in CtA's simplest version, known as the 'Impromptu Mode'. (If you want more detail, you can download the rules here.)
Random selection gave me the Standard banners, who set up on the bottom of the above map, and which I soon discovered is the side that gets the dwarfs. I grabbed a deployment deck at random (probably deck A), drew my cards, made my deployment decisions, and was soon set up. I had a reasonable mix of cavalry, medium and heavy infantry, and some archers. My set up looked to be without obvious weaknesses. I was content, and pleased at how quick and easy the whole system was.
With me having the dwarfs Badger had the goblins naturally enough. This meant that he had the most green units, so that I had to deploy my Reserves first. Still no problem. Then we chose our Lore Councils (we just had to play the Lore game, naturally enough!). I choose a level 2 Commander, a level 2 Cleric, a level 1 Rogue, and a level 1 Wizard (that's C2/Cl2/R1/W1 in BL jargon).
And off we went. I'm not exactly sure how it happened, but I tanked Badger in this first game. I do remember that I was able to play both Forest Frenzy and Hills Rumble. Neither had any great number of targets, and each rolled particularly puny dice against those targets they did have in any event. IIRC, the turning point was my Mounted Charge, when my 3 cavarly units were able to do some useful damage.
Mind you, my memory might be failing me here. Maybe this was the game in which I played Greater Portal to swap a dwarf medium infantry with a goblin archer unit, which hapless goblin unit I was then able to trap behind 2 units of my own and then pound into game-winning oblivion in 2 turns. However it went down, the score was 6-1.
Undaunted as ever, Badger wanted to try again. I chose deck C this time, and ended up with a strong force of heavy and medium infantry- mostly dwarfs- deployed on my left and in my centre, and a mixed medium and light force deployed to my right. Badger meanwhile was deploying an unpleasant looking horde of goblins across from me, having drawn at least one of the goblin 5-unit deployment cards from his deck. He was also setting up a Hill Giant with its rockpile.
I too had a creature up my sleeve, on my Reserve card. Facing Badger's Hill Giant I naturally wanted to take the unstoppable Earth Elemental, but Badger and I decided that the Reserve rules prevented this- you have to set your reserves up on your back row, while the Earth Elemental by definition sets up elsewhere. I was already feeling a little bit worried about the amount of cavalry massed against my own lone mounted unit, so having this choice forced upon me just added to my sense of impending doom.
The opening game lived up to those feelings of gloom as Badger was having pretty much everything his own way. But I did manage to get two good things going for me. I was able to manoeuver into a nice defensive formation on my right, at the same time creating a position from which I could support my centre. And my powerful left- 2 medium and 1 heavy dwarf foot, plus another heavy- more than held their own against Badger's attack on that flank. I was soon able to launch a counter-attack spearheaded by my lone medium cavalry unit and that Giant Spider.
Looking back I'd say that it was the Giant Spider which won me the game in the end. I used its mobility to get round the flank and then the rear of Badger's army, where it picked off 2 (maybe even 3?) of Badger's depleted units. I've never seen a Giant Spider do so much. Without it, I'm sure I'd've lost a game in which I sneaked a 6-5 victory.
All-in-all then Badger and I both really enjoyed our introduction to this latest member of the ever-expanding Battlelore family. We're both looking forward to trying it again, especially on the Epic scale.