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Richard Borg





Standing true to their promise to slowly but steadily enrich the playing concept of Battlelore, Richard Borg and the design crew of DAYS OF WONDER now have released Call to Arms, the first set in a row of Battlelore expansion packs.

Containing no new figures but solely cards, two new types of landscape tiles and several markers, this expansion mainly focuses on extending the rules of the game by adding a new element to the traditional Command & Colours playing system. Thus, the players now will not prepare for battle simply by choosing a scenario and placing everything onto the gameboard following the scenario instructions, but instead they now have a possibility to include the deployment of their armies into the game.

For this reason, the expansion contains six sets of seven deployment cards (3 sets - 21 cards - for each player). Each of these cards shows a small portion of the gameboard (4 rows with 3 to 4 hex spaces), and some of these spaces show the symbols of military units. After the landscape has been set up on the gameboard following the scenario instructions, the players now have the possibility to chose one of their three sets of deployment cards. These cards will be shuffled separately for each player, and then each player draws a total of four cards from his own set of deployment cards.

Examining the cards he has drawn, the player now has to assign one of these cards to each section of the battlefield (left flank, center, right flank), whereas the fourth card is kept as reserves. Alternately, the players now will reveal the cards they have chosen for each of their sections, and they will deploy units of the type and on the positions shown on the cards. Finally, each player also reveals his reserves, and he may chose two units shown on the reserves card which he may deploy in addition to the units he has already placed. These two reserve units come into play in sections of the player's choice, but to symbolize their late arrival on the Battlefield (they are RESERVES) they must take positions at the player's base line. Once all units are placed, the game progresses as normal with each player choosing his War Council and starting the battle.

However, the rules for the new deployment phase do not stop with this short, introductory deployment mechanism, but instead the players do have some more options which allow them an even more intricate assembly of their troops. Thus, there is an advanced set of rules included which allows players to choose two sets of deployment cards at the beginning of the game. These cards will be shuffled, and each player again draws four cards from his deck of deployment cards to assign his troops to the sections of the battlefield and the reserves. Although this mechanism may sound like there is a higher amount of luck included due to the fact that the deployment cards are drawn from a deck of 14 cards instead of 7 cards, the players now have more options how to organise their army and to add more variation. This is because each deck of 7 deployment cards usually can be played with just the figures of the basic game, whereas a combination of decks may lead to a stronger army for which extra figures are needed. However, due to the fact that such figures have not yet been released, there exist special army chips which allow players to follow the advanced rules even if they only possess one basic game.

Also, the so-called Specialist cards are part of the advanced rules as well. Thus, a deck of 10 Specialist cards is included, and from this deck each player chooses two cards after they have assembled their War Council. Overall, each of these Specialist cards somehow changes either the positioning of the troops on the gameboard, the weaponry of the troops or may even offer additional protection by allowing the player to add special landscape features. So, for example, there exists a card which equips all human bowmen of the player with Longbows (long range weapons!), a card for recruiting more troops, a card for moving troops before the battle begins, cards for getting Dwarfs or Goblins as allies etc. It is also noteworthy that some of these cards only may be chosen if the player has a corresponding Personality in his War Council, so that the choice of the War Council also restricts a player's choice of Specialist cards. Once these cards have been chosen and acted upon, the battle starts as normal...

Although the new rules for troop assembly certainly include another element of luck in the game, I found it rather enjoyable to have some degree of control where I could place my troops. Due to the fact that both players choose their deployment cards at the same time, unusual constellations are possible on the gameboard which offer the players more room for tactics. The Specialist cards add even more flair, since they offer some last minute adjustments of a player's positioning, and taken together these new rules introduce a good degree of flexibility to the game without actually resorting to a cumbersome points-based mechanism for army build-up which is popular with many miniature wargames. Thus, the real strength of the Call to Arms expansion is the fact that the game remains easily accessible while at the same time including an additional tactical element corresponding to medieval battle formations.

To sum it up, I got the impression that these new rules fit well into the game and certainly are a step into the right direction for developing the game further without overloading the rules with unnecessary details. I am hopeful that - if more such expansions will be coming - they will fit into the game just as easily as Call to Arms...

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Copyright © 2007 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany