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.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Battles of Westeros

Fantasy Flight Games has shown its continuing support for the Battles of Westeros line with the new title House Baratheon Army Expansion. This expansion is rather large and comes with 110 plastic figures, eight new commanders, six new units, 50 new Leadership cards, 4 new Gambit cards, 14 new skirmish setup cards, 29 map overlays (i.e. terrain tiles), all of the Baratheon tokens, 32 ship tokens, and last but not least, the map board for the Battle of Blackwater. The map is really impressive and comes with three scenarios to play out the battle. In addition, there are seven other scenarios using the boards from the core set.

This makes the sixth expansion to the series and it now has an impressive number of figures, units, commanders, and options available to it, gaining ground on the original BattleLore, upon which it is loosely based.

As a game system, I prefer the Battles of Westeros game as it adds choices for the player to make not present in the original series, and makes better use of commanders (leaders, generals, etc.) than any of Borg's designs. I worry that all of this variety is leading to a game that is getting harder to memorize all of the little special rules and nuances, which the original BattleLore game series suffered from. Only time and more gaming will tell whether this is true or not.

I have never really reviewed Battles of Westeros in the past, although I have referred to it a couple of times. Referring back to my comparison of the Command and Colors variants, here is how Battles of Westeros (BOW) compares.

Number of limited resources to manage: Here is where BOW differs from all of the rest. BOW does not use the ubiquitous Command Cards in order to determine how many units and in which sector units can be ordered. Instead BOW uses Leadership cards. Although it sounds like semantics, Leadership cards can only be played by Commanders and Comanders can only order units within a certain distance. This makes Commanders hugely important.

A second resource to manage are Command Tokens. A "turn" is much longer in BOW than in any other variant, so command tokens represent how many times you can order units. Further, more complex commands require more tokens. Related to ordering units, each turn each player received a number of order tokens (a third resource), which allow you to order any unit, not just those within command distance of a leader. Finally, you can carry over up to one command token and one order token to the next turn, adding another aspect to managing these key resources, especially as saved command tokens can gain you the first move on the following turn.

The fourth resource is your army's morale. I call it a resource as you can raise and lower it through actions you take. Take too many risky actions and you might crack sooner than you expected!

The final resource, which is an optional rule in the expansions, is the Gambit Card. This essentially allows you to use a special ability when you have momentum (initiative), but doing so passes momentum to your opponent.

Ratio of movement to combat range: This is very similar to BattleLore, with low movement rates (one or two hexes for foot) and better ranges (four hexes for a bow). That means most foot get hit several times before they get to attack back.

Terrain effects: Again very much like BattleLore, where terrain typically stops movement, but does not stop the unit from battling and rather than reducing dice instead indicates the maximum number of dice that can be thrown (thus Green units are usually not affected).

Number of dice thrown in battle: Again, it is very much like BattleLore in that Green gets two dice, Blue gets three, and Red gets four. There are some additions due to leadership cards, unit types, and other special rules like commander abilities, but they do not seem to rack up like they can using Lore in BattleLore.

Are battle dice reduced by range: No.

The odds of hitting: Another big change from BattleLore, BOW uses an eight-sided die rather than a six-sided one. This means that Green has three chances to be hit, Blue has two, and Red has one (with one chance for morale and one chance for special). So, in BattleLore where a Blue unit would hit a Green the Blue would roll three dice and get one chance in six (about 16%) to score Green, in BOW that same combat would be three dice with three chances in eight (or 37%), so that makes Green units much weaker and Red units much stronger.

How does Battle Back work: BOW uses the same support concept as BattleLore (only it is called Stalwart instead of Bold). I have always liked this method best as it leads to tactics like hitting the end of the line and rolling it up and penalizes isolated units, unless they are special.

Can you evade combat: No, unless it is a unit special trait.

Are battle dice reduced by unit casualties: No.

Summary

Again, the core change to BOW is that orders are Commander-centric, rather than sector-centric. That and the eight-sided die make for a pretty different dynamic. All in all, very much recommended for those that love Borg games.

3 comments:

  1. Thanks for the review Dale. I have been eyeing the Borg titles of late and reading various blogs that are using bits of C & C, or Memoir 44. BoW sounds a little bit more what I'm looking for. And I'm almost finished reading A Dance with Dragons.

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  2. Nice summary of the game. I am a huge fan of A Song of Ice and Fire, but only lukewarm to Battles of Westeros. It just doesn't flow easily to me. I have only played it a few times so far, maybe it will grow on me.

    Again, good write up.

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  3. @Sean To be honest, I never really got into the game much myself either. At least not until I started reading the books. After that I was able to put the units and commanders into perspective and therefore it had more meaning to me.

    @Adam I had the same reaction to the game in the beginning. I kept plugging away at it and it sort of grew on me. I think it is much more tactical than any of the pure Borg designs.

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Huachuca City, Arizona, United States
I am 50 yrs old now. I bought a house in Huachuca City, AZ (although I have a townhouse in Houston, TX and a small home in Tucson, AZ) working on a contract for "the next two years" that is going on five years now. 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").