Battue: Storm of the Horse Lords
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(Worth 3,995 Funagain Points!)
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Rooted in the World of Terris, a brutal, dark fantasy setting envisioned by authors Robin Laws and Scott Hungerford, Battue: Storm of the Horse Lords is a strategy board game where players take control of a horde of horsemen as they pillage Tarsos, the City of Brass Pillars. Loot the richest sections of town to prove to the competing hordes that you should be named the leader of the Golden Horde!
This strategy game is easy-to-learn, fast-playing, fun, and keeps players involved in the game even when it's not their turn. The player who manages to control the choicest sections of the city and has the most loot at the end of the game is the winner. Further expansions will introduce new rules and options as well as allow additional players to join the game.
- 1 Game Board
- 52 City Tiles
- 60 Horse Lord Tokens
- 40 Flag Tokens
- 60 Loot Cards
- 20 Event Cards
- 2 Dice
- 1 Full-Color Rulebook
Average Rating: 3.5 in 1 review
I first saw an early copy of Battue: Storm of the Horse Lords (Red Juggernaut, 2007 – Jim Long) at Origins, 2007. The game was imposing and incredible looking with beautiful bits and an intriguing layout. I didn't get a chance to play it and forgot all about it until it showed up in a large box several weeks back. Upon opening the box, the game was as good looking as the one I had seen earlier, and a quick reading of the rules confirmed that this was a two to four player wargame. I use that term very loosely, because Battue is a very light wargame, and I figured that it would be too much of a dice fest for me to enjoy much.
Battue is a game that is extremely light, and luck plays a large role in the game – I find it good, but in a mildly amusing way. However, my personal opinions aside, this game has become a smash hit amongst everyone I've introduced it to – from teens to soldiers. Gamers will not be tremendously pleased, because there are wild swings of luck – but it's a great casual game, if only because it plays in about an hour and has some of the nicest pieces I've seen in a game. Elimination is possible but is mitigated by the fact that it's very rare and the game only lasts an hour.
The board is a fourteen by fourteen grid of squares that make up a city. The outer squares have wall sections printed on them, and a palace piece is placed in twelve of the middle squares, but the rest of the squares have buildings of various shapes and sizes mixed up and placed face down on them by the players in an almost Tetris-like fashion. Players receive fifteen warrior tokens and 10 flags of their color and place six warriors (called a horde) next to one of the wall sections on the board. Two decks of cards (Loot and Event) are shuffled and placed near the board, and one player is chosen to go first.
On a player's turn, they first decide if they want reinforcements. If so, they roll a six-sided die, and for each horde they are increasing (hordes can have a maximum of eight warriors). On a "1" or "2", they add one warrior, two warriors on a "3" or "4", and three warriors on a "5" or "6". Players are limited to the fifteen total warriors that they have.
Then, the player may move hordes to any adjacent tile (the first turn, they will move onto the wall section they are facing). Hordes can be split into two or more hordes when moving but cannot move if they were reinforced this turn. When a horde moves to a new tile, it is flipped face up and revealed. The hordes then fight on new tiles (whether they be city or a wall section) that they move to. The tile is examined. If it shows an event card symbol, the player must draw the top event card and immediately resolve it. Then, the player determines their attack value by rolling a six-sided die and adding it to the number of warriors in the attacking horde. The defense is then calculated by adding a six-sided die to the defensive number on the tile plus any defending warriors (if any). If the defender total is equal to or higher the attacker's, then one attacking warrior is killed. The same thing for the defender, if they lose. Both players then have the option to retreat. If the warriors on either side are eliminated, then the other side wins – the attacker gaining the tile, if it is them.
When capturing a previously uncontrolled territory, the player gets the rewards indicated on the tile. This includes loot cards and possibly some extra warriors for their horde. Players place a flag in the tile to show that it is there, taking it from another tile if they are out of flags in their reserve. The next player then takes their turn, after all battles are complete.
Loot cards do a variety of things:
- Some help the defender in a battle.
- Others help the attacker.
- A few allow players to scout undiscovered tiles.
- Some give reinforcements to hordes.
- Many cards are victory point cards and are placed face up in front of a player in their "War Chest".
When a player's turn is over, then the next player takes their turn. Players can attack city sections that other players have captured, and the game continues until three specific sections have been captured (Palace, Templum, Jupiter, and Universitas.) When this happens, all players calculate their victory points by adding the cards in their war chest plus the value of all tiles that they have flags on. The player with the most points is the winner! (An elimination victory is also possible, but doubtful.)
Some comments on the game...
- Components: There is no question that the game is stunning to
see. The board is quite large, and the artwork on the walls and tiles
is great, looking like a beautiful ancient city from the top down.
The tiles are thick and laminated, although they do seem to chip at
the edges a bit. The plastic pieces are well designed, although the
flags tip over a little easily. I especially like the colors (black,
olive green, red, and tan), as this is quite a difference from the
bright colors in most games like this. The cards themselves are well
designed, albeit with mediocre artwork, and are very clear on when
they can be played. Everything fits inside a very large square box
with an almost shoddy cardboard insert, but it's very sturdy and looks
pretty good on the shelf.
- Rules: The rulebook is twelve pages that clearly explain the
game with lots of diagrams and pictures – we found it exceedingly easy
to navigate. The game is simple enough that players, who had not read
the rulebook and only played the game once, were able to clearly
explain the game to others with no problems. The cards are clearly
defined, and the tiles have symbols, which make them quite easy to
understand. The game is on the low end of the complexity scale,
although it looks and feels a bit heavier just because of the
- Luck: Let this be perfectly clear – Battue is based on a ton of
luck. From the wildly effective and powerful event cards to the
random and quite different Loot cards to the rolling of the dice, the
game is almost enough to be called a "luck fest". You might try your
hardest and be rewarded with only a few reinforcements each turn while
your opponents get more. You might get pathetic loot cards and weak,
profitless city tiles while your opponents plunder and pillage. You
might seem to lose every battle you enter, and this can be
discouraging to people who want to carefully plan their ways. Luck
does not necessarily determine the victor of the game, but it
certainly plays a key role.
- Maps: This may sound strange, but one of the most fun parts of the
game is building and discovering the map. For one, it really does
look like a city map, but it's also interesting to take the different
shapes and put them together in the large square. This also leads to
a sense of discovery. The shapes for two of the final buildings are
obvious, but there are two other buildings with the same shape; so one
never knows exactly where they are. Also, the size of a building
means nothing; a few small buildings are full of loot, while others
are dirty hovels worth nothing. This adventure aspect of the game is
my favorite part.
- Strategy: There are some strategic elements to the game, despite
the heavy luck. A player must determine how and when to split their
forces, and when to reinforce and when to simply move. Players can
pull out of tough battles and save their Loot cards for when they are
most needed. Players can even determine the time for the end of the
game by refusing to capture some of the key areas. The game is
certainly tilted to the defenders of a property, although Loot cards
can overcome a lot of the obstacles. Battue is a game filled with
luck, but it offers enough decisions to keep it interesting.
- Time and Players: The game plays well with two, three, or four
players. The city is large enough for everyone, yet small enough that
players will likely come in contact with each other; and the
temptations are high when it comes to victory points. The game seems
to take about forty-five minutes on average, a little longer, when
players are more cautious, and faster, when they move recklessly and
speedily through the city. I haven't seen a game won by elimination
yet; and I haven't in fact seen anyone eliminated, although I have
seen people beat down badly enough that they might as well have been
eliminated. I've played the game with my seven year old daughter; and
while she had some trouble understanding all the strategy, she handled
the game well and was able to move and attack easily. The game may be
at its best with kids.
- Fun Factor: Strangely, no one seems to mind when they get crushed
in the game, simply because it was fast and fun. Loot cards add flair
to the game, but much of the fun comes from turning over and capturing
city tiles. This discovery aspect of the game, along with the
shifting board, keeps every game different. Combat is simple and
quick, and the game moves at a fast clip. I can see that this game
would drive wargamers nuts, but most folks will like the light feel of it.
I think I could list a dozen light war games that I would prefer to play before Battue. Yet I keep bringing it to functions, to my game club, and more. That's because it has a high appeal to folks, and it's easy to teach and play. It might be one of the few games that I would classify as a "family war game", because that's exactly what it is. My daughter isn't going to be interested in a hearty game of Axis and Allies. But she'll play Battue, and I'm glad for that. Besides, it lets me build the board one more time.
"Real men play board games"