My blog about my wargaming activities. I collect a lot of 15mm miniatures for the American War of Independence and so collect a lot of rules for this period. I started miniatures with Napoleonics, so I have a number of armies in 6mm and 15mm figures for skirmishing. I have15mm WW II figures that I use for Flames of War, Memoir '44, and someday, Poor Bloody Infantry. Finally there is my on-again, off-again relationship with paper soldiers that I sometimes write about.

Monday, October 10, 2011

BattleLore on the Tabletop (Part 1)

In a previous blog entry I pondered how to bring the Command and Colors series of games to the tabletop. It is relatively easy, if you design a hex board of the appropriate size and divide it into three sections, per the standard rules. However, I wanted more of a free-form game system, similar to Battles of Westeros.

The basic system is to assign a certain number to each side, indicating the number of dice to roll, which in turn would indicate the number and type of units that could move that turn. (These number was called the Command Rating.) Unused dice could be saved and used in a future turn. This would allow you much greater freedom in which units could move, and in what part of the board, but there would still be a luck element representing the chaos of the battlefield.

That blog entry had some ideas about making groups of orders and changing the color of the dice, etc. and that was all well and good, but when I started to test it, I pitched it all out as it adding complexity (bookkeeping) while giving little advantage at all.

The second idea I had was to allow the player to either play the dice rolled or use tokens from the pool, but mechanically that failed miserably as I tried to sort out which token was this turn's and which was in the pool.

So, here are the basic rules:
  1. Roll the number of dice indicated by the Command Rating.
  2. For every Red banner rolled, take a Red token. Likewise Blue banners are exchanged for blue tokens, Green banners for green tokens, and Lore for purple tokens.
  3. Place all of your tokens into your Token Pool.
  4. You may then play up to your Leadership Rating in tokens, using red tokens to order a Red unit, blue tokens to order a Blue unit, a green token for a Green unit, and a purple token for any unit of your choice. (Note that in the Basic Game, your army's Command Rating and Leadership Rating are the same.)
  5. Now play out the turn just as you would had you played the appropriate card(s) to order the units.
So, the basic idea is roll dice to get colors, play colors as you see fit (and have tokens for) and have jolly good fun. So, let's test it out.

Humans and Elves versus Humans and Dwarves

Nothing like a good battle with Elves and Dwarves at each others' throats, except BattleLore does not really have Elves. Here are my rules for them:

SwordsBlueAs BlueAs BlueLong SwordAs weapon
SpearsBlueAs BlueAs BlueSpearAs weapon
BowsGreenAs Green2 if moved, 3 if stood 1Elven BowHits on Bonus if Ranged; range of 4
RidersGreenAs mounted GreenAs GreenJavelinRange 2, does not hit on Bonus
KnightsBlueAs mounted BlueAs BlueLong SwordAs weapon

1 During the test game I made them 2 dice, whether they moved or not. I decided later that they should be better when standing.

Click on the picture to the right to enlarge. The Humans/Dwarves (HD) are on the right (the Dwarves on the right flank, or the top of the picture) while the Humans/Elves (HE) are on the left of the picture (with the Elves on the left flank, opposite the Dwarves). There are about 25 units per side.

So, to start off the game, the HD commander rolls 6 dice, representing his Command Rating. The picture below shows the roll: Blue, Green, two Lore, and two Shield.

This converts to the four tokens shown below: 1 green, 1 blue, and 2 purple, allowing the HD side to move up to one Green unit, one Blue unit, and two units of any color.

I decided to play only a single blue token, and stored away the remainder for a future turn.

The HE commander rolls six dice (also with a Command Rating of 6), and gets a much better roll!

After a few turns of play, you see that a commander's piles of tokens start stacking up for a future turn. Here the HD player has three purple, 1 red, 1 blue, and 1 green saved. In a given turn the player can only play tokens equal to the Leadership Rating of their leaders. In this scenario, both sides have a single leader with a Leadership Rating of 6. (There will be further discussion on Leaders later.)

Finally, the first attack comes in. The Elven archers (on the left) take a shot at the left-most Dwarven unit, but misses. (The Dwarven unit is Blue.)

The Elves are the first to reach the summit, and they arrive in force, with two formations (each consisting of a Green Archers unit, a Blue Swords unit, and a Blue Spears unit), and an additional Archer unit. Facing them are two Dwarven Blue Sword units, and one Dwarven Red Sword unit (in the rear with the banner).

The Dwarves charge up the hill and score the first kill, taking out the Elven Swords. HD 1-0.

The second Elvish formation crashes into the Dwarves, and a Dwarven (Blue) Sword unit is defeated. HD tied at 1-1.

More Dwarves arrive on the hill to contest the summit and two Elven units go down. HD leading 3-1.

More Elven units arrive, including the Riders, which drive the Dwarven crossbows back across the hilltop. With the Dwarven Red Swords in play, things are looking grim for the Elves. (Of course, fighting from hill to hill is not generally the work of Red units, given that they only get three dice maximum.)

With the Riders attacking from the flanks, while the Elven Swords and Spears press from the front, the Dwarven units are starting to wear down.

But the Elven Swords are the first to fall! HD leading 4-1.

A lucky shot from the Elven Archers take out the Dwarven Blue Swords. HD still leading at 4-2.

The Elves drop back into a proper supported formation and pour fire into the Dwarves. The Dwarven Red Swords finally fall and it is 4-3, with the HD still leading.

The Dwarves keep throwing troops up the hill and enlist the aid of a Human Green Lancer unit to attack the rear of the Elven formation.

The Elven formation starts to crack and the last of the hand-to-hand fighters fall. The HD leads with 5-3.

The Elvish Riders flank the Human Green Lancers, but it is too late; an Elvish Archer unit falls while the other retreats down the hill. The HD leads 6-3.

The weakened Dwarven Sword unit is shot down by the Elven Archers, after the Elven Knights failed to run down the Dwarven Crossbows. HD still leading at 6-4.

Finally moving away from the struggle on the hill, the HE Knights sweep around the hill and crash into the HD Knights, supported by the Green Lancers. Very little in the way of casualties resulted.

The HD Knightly counter-charge, however, absolutely wrecks the HE Knightly formation. Not pictured is the HD crossbowmen firing into the flank of the HE Knights, which definitely helped matters along. HD now leads 8-4.

Surrounding the small remaining force of Dwarves on the hill with missiles, the Dwarven Crossbows finally go down in a hail of arrows and javelins. HD leads 8-5.


I needed to stop, as I had a (face-to-face) game to go to and I needed a bit of a stretch, as I had been sitting down all morning. So, here is where the game was left off at.

As shown in the picture above (click to enlarge), the Human/Dwarves are on the right and the Human/Elves on the left. The Elves have largely been wiped out by the Dwarves, but those Dwarves on the hill are slowly falling to the superior missiles of the Elves.

In the center, the HE Knights were crushed by the HD Knights, but the HE forces have mustered swordsmen and archers to back up the remaining Knight while Knightly reinforcements are brought to the left.

The picture above shows a close-up of the Knightly clash in the center. KD forces are on the right. The picture below shows a close-up of the Dwarven-Elven clash on the hill. Only the two units in the center  are Dwarven.

So far it has been a very interesting game. Slow to develop, to be sure, but fun nonetheless. I think these rules lose nothing by allowing the player to pick and choose units from here and there all over the field, however there needs to be some incentive to having leaders, and to using orders to apply to groups. I'll explore that next time.


  1. Hi Dale, that looks like a lot of fun. It reminds me of Rudi Geudens a little bit. I'm not sure if you've seen his site
    I can't find the link on his site anymore, but I do have his Lords & Levies rules which are an adaptation of Command and Color series.
    I look forward to the next installment of your play test.

  2. Looks like your rules have come together nicely, so congrats. It's not something I have the patience for, but it looks like you had fun.

    As a Heroscaper, I love seen the use of the tiles in there, well done!

  3. Looking at the games of Bob "Portable Gamer" Cordery convinced me to give the Heroscape hexes a go. The fact that standard DBA bases fit within them is perfect.

    Now to decide whether to paint them or leave them as is.

  4. Looks an interesting game.

  5. Well, since it was brought up. I would paint the hexes. I don't know how it seems in person, but in the photos it seems pretty neon and distracts from the figures. Of course I'm not the one who has to do the work.

  6. Here are pictures of Bob Cordery's painted hexes:

    He used to flock them, and they looked good, but I think it got to be too much work.


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Huachuca City, Arizona, United States
I am 58 yrs old now. I bought a house in Huachuca City, AZ working for a software company for the last three years. To while away the hours I like to wargame -- with wooden, lead, and sometimes paper miniatures -- usually solo. Although I am a 'rules junkie', I almost always use rules of my own (I like to build upon others' ideas, but it seems like there is always something "missing" or "wrong").