Battue: Storm of the Horse Lords
List Price: $49.99
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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.
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:
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...
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"