Game Reviews

BattleLore: Command

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BattleLore: Command

In board games, it's not uncommon for a popular set of mechanics to get adapted across a range of different themes.

One of the most popular such systems is Commands & Colors. It's seen service from the battlefields of ancient Rome, through to the age of rifles, and up to World War 2.

All the games work on the same basic premise. The battlefield is divided into three sections and you have a hand of "orders" which you play to activate units each of the sections.

So one turn you might order three units on the left section, the next one unit in each section, and so on. Combat is handled by special dice, which score hits when symbols match the target unit type.

It's a brilliant concept, very easy to learn but with a great blend of excitement and tactical nous. And because turns are usually self-contained, it's also a great fit for mobile.

Yet no-one has bothered to port any of the board games in this family, until now. Fantasy Flight has released the fantasy iteration, BattleLore: Command, onto the mobile world.

Complex commands

BattleLore is one of the more complex variations of the system. The fantasy setting demands a variety of unit types with special powers, like fearsome Rune Golems that stun anything they damage.

There's also a spell casting mechanic called Lore. Certain combat dice results can add to a pool of lore points, which you can draw on to deliver spell effects. You can learn the intricacies without much trouble, thanks to an excellent tutorial.

These added details come together to deliver a rich, deep, and satisfying strategy experience. It makes you work hard for your victories, and you'll feel like you earned them when they come.

At the same time combat dice and a random rotating spell selection keep things fresh and exciting.

Veterans of the original board game may be in for a few surprises. You now get a fixed selection of order cards rather than a random assortment.

Your hand gets refreshed if you choose to effectively pass a turn by ordering just one unit.

The generic fantasy protagonists of the original have been replaced with the Daqan Lords and the Uthuk as part of a tight plot, woven around the single player campaign.

A command of one

That campaign is, in fact, the main draw here because there's no online multiplayer option. This is a suprising omission in an age when it's become pretty much standard for board game adaptations.

With luck, we might get it in an update. In the meantime, the solo experience is a grand way to enjoy yourself as you wait, because it's pretty much flawless.

For starters there's an engaging narrative to follow, even branch points to ensure replayability. And you'll be replaying the battles you do choose thanks to an impressive level of AI, which challenges you at every turn.

When you're done with that, there's a skirmish mode to create your own battles based on a variety of scenario templates. Commands and Colours games traditionally hand the win to the first player who gets a target number of unit kills.

But BattleLore: Command offers a varied palette of objectives, including holding ground, manoeuvring across the map and taking objectives. The campaign scenarios are similarly diverse.

Commanding commands

The addition of varied challenges and fixed order cards adds considerable depth to the game. Previous iterations of this system sometimes felt a bit repetetive and luck could lead to one-sided games.

BattleLore: Command has learned those lessons and honed the rules into a sharp, effective strategy game.

It's all wrapped up in an attractive envelope of graphics and sound. There are occasional clipping issues, but for the most part the units and terrain pop vividly out of your screen. There's also some great voice acting in the campaign narration.

It's hard to give a board game without asynchronous multiplayer a wholehearted recommendation. Without it, BattleLore's shelf life is shorter than it should be at this price.

But the peerless single player mode just about compensates, and should offer hours of fantasy pleasure.

BattleLore: Command

Fun, challenging and atmospheric with plenty of replay value, but the lack of online multiplayer is puzzling
Score