Ancient Lore – or – Why 2007 was a very good #wargame & #boardgame year

THE GOLDEN GEEK AWARDS FROM 2007 are very interesting to me, although it has taken 12 years for me to figure out why. Recall that I challenged myself this year to play all the Golden Geek Award winners in my collection. To date I have concentrated on the Charles S Roberts (CSR) winners in my collection and am a bit behind on the the Golden Geek. This weekend I pledged to make up for it. In the process I pleasantly discovered a very interesting crossover between the wargame and hobby boardgame communities.

In 2007 there was a tie in the category Best 2-Player Game. The co-honorees were Commands & Colors: Ancients (GMT Games, 2006) and Battlelore (Days of Wonder, 2006). Battlelore also won Best Artwork/Presentation (more on that in a bit).

At first glance these winners appear to be very different. After all, one is a wargame (gasp!) and the other a strategy boardgame (although not a Euro, tsk tsk). At first I was going to play both and write up two blogs about my experiences with each.

Box backs – even the form factor shows wargame vs boardgame

But then I remembered that Commands & Colors: Ancients (hereafter CCA) and Battlelore (BL) are essentially the same game!

Externally, both CCA and BL they certainly look very different. CCA is a hex-n-block wargame with cards. The presentation is, if anything, a bit bland. Really now; who puts stickers on dice! BL, on the other hand, is colorful with a richly illustrated rulebook and plastic minis (and custom inked dice…although the early sets rubbed off). It’s really no wonder BL won the award for Best Artwork/Presentation.

Under the hood, though, the two games are very closely related; more so than even kissing-cousins. To begin with they both use the same Commands & Colors game engine. Not surprising given that both credit Creation & Development to the venerable Richard Borg. Both also had Pat Kurivial for Development. There is even overlap in the playtesters for each game.

Rule Book – Commands & Colors: Ancients

That is not to say the games are identical (outside of theme, of course). The most obvious difference is magic in Battlelore. Both games are also different in how they approach components. It’s more than just the blocks vs minis. The big usability difference that jumps out at me is the use of a wargame-like Player Aid Card in CCA versus boardgame “hint” cards in BL.

Rule Book – Battlelore

Of the two, I personally like the wargame~ish Commands & Colors approach better. Then again, I am a dyed-in-the-wool grognard and am more comfortable in a wargame setting. Thus, you probably would understand my love for Compass Games’ Commands & Colors Tricorne: The American Revolution (2017). The RockyMountainNavy Boys went the other way and fully embraced Memoir ’44 (Days of Wonder, 2006) the WWII version published along at the same time a Battlelore.

Although I have my preference I will not pass on a game of M’44 or Commands & Colors with the RMN Boys. The fact that the games are so similar means the relearning-curve before a game is small; one just needs to refresh on special rules for that “setting” vice relearning an entire game system. This helps all these games get to the table more often.

At the end of the day, isn’t that the real reason to play games? Gather round a table and immerse yourself into a game. Whether your reason is to escape the grind of the week or learn a bit about history the most important part of the game is the social exchange amongst family or friends.

I doff my cap to the 2007 Golden Geek jury which showed courage by awarding a “wargame” the honor of a win outside of that category. I also respect them for giving a dual award and showing the hobby gaming community that wargames and strategy games might look different, but at heart can be very closely related. Doing so reminds us that although many might try to wall off your niche, the truth is that we are more alike then we are different. The 2007 Golden Geek jury embraced that message.

So should you.

My @BoardGameGeek Challenge for 2019 – Golden Geek Edition

This is the time of the year that many in the boardgame community start their “challenges” for the coming year. The classic is the 10 x 10 – pick 10 different games and play each ten times during the year.

But I want something a bit different.

The other night I was messing around with the Advanced Search function of BoardGameGeek and sorting my collection in different ways. As I was browsing and sorting, I noticed that some of the games I own were winners the BoardGameGeek Golden Geek Award.

I have written before about the award and my mixed feelings towards it. However, after looking at my collection, I see that I own 15 Golden Geek winners. Sounds like a good challenge; play each Golden Geek winner at least once in 2019.

Thus, my 2019 Golden Geek Challenge games are:

  1. Commands & Colors: Ancients – 2007 Best 2-Player (tie)
  2. BattleLore – 2007 Best 2-Player (tie)
  3. Zooloretto – 2007 Best Family Game / Best Children’s Game
  4. Pandemic – 2009 Best Family Game
  5. Washington’s War – 2010 Best 2-Player / Best Wargame
  6. Forbidden Island – 2010 Best Children’s Game
  7. King of Tokyo – 2012 Best Family Game / Best Party Game /  Best Children’s Game
  8. Love Letter – 2013 Best Family Game / Best party Game / Best Card Game / Most Innovative Game
  9. Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures – 2013 Best 2-Player
  10. 1775: Rebellion – 2013 Best Wargame (PLAYED Sat 05 Jan)
  11. Patchwork – 2014 Best Abstract Game
  12. Codenames – 2015 Best Family Game / Best Party Game
  13. Tiny Epic Galaxies – 2015 Best Solo Game
  14. Scythe – 2016 Game of the Year / Best Strategy Game / Best Thematic / Best Artwork/Presentation / Best Solo Game
  15. 878: Vikings – Invasions of England – 2017 Best Wargame

I will keep this blog and a GeekList over on BoardGameGeek updated with my progress throughout the year.

I am running this challenge in parallel to my 2019 CSR Awards Wargame Challenge. Between the 20 games there and the 15 here I should have a fun year. Not to mention all the new games I’m sure to get this year….

So, what’s your 2019 Boardgame Challenge? 


Feature image courtesy BoardGameGeek

Old Lore – #BattleLore (Days of Wonder, 2006)

The RockyMountainNavy Family Game Night game this week was BattleLore (Days of Wonder, 2006). This is the first edition of the game and not the more recent Fantasy Flight Games second edition. Our game this week was generally good although I made a few errors during the evening. Playing BattleLore has rekindled my interest in the game and it deserves more table time.

In the RMN family, we usually end up playing a 3-player event. This makes it harder than it should to find a good game because many games are either 2-player or a multiple thereof (i.e. 4-players, etc.).  The Birth of America-series from Academy Games (1754 -Conquest: The French & Indian War, 1775 – Rebellion: The American Revolution, 1812: The Invasion of America) work well because they are 4-player games that also work at 2-players or – best for us – 3-players.

I own BattleLore: Epic BattleLore (DoW, 2007) that I thought would give me a scenario using the multiple boards that is suitable for 3-players. Using the extra board, it is possible to make a layout that is six-sectors wide that allows multiple commanders to play one side. But when I looked for an adventure (scenario) that used this map configuration there was none in the booklet. As the RMN Boys were already at the table and itching to play, I went ahead and laid out an adventure from the booklet that used a single army and an epic-scale 3-sector map. I asked the Boys to share command and they (reluctantly) agreed.

Wrong choice on my part.

Asking the Boys to “share” command of a single army spread over three sectors did not work. I thought about using a variation of the 4-player Reluctant Allies in Epic BattleLore but decided it would be unfair in a 3-player set-up. The Boys ended up bickering a fair bit (more than their usual friendly banter) and I could see the frustration growing in Middle RMN as his younger brother outright refused at times to work together. The Boys ended up winning, 7 banners to 5, but it was not a really fun game.

I apologized to Middle RMN about my choices going into the game and he was a good sport. I think he and I are OK but I don’t want to be his brother on the other side of a future battle because I sense there will be no mercy given!

All that said, the game night was not a total disaster. Having not played BattleLore in a long time (my last previously recorded play was in 2010!) and putting aside the command issues we enjoyed it. The addition of Lore and Creatures and the Goblin or Dwarf units – each with advantages and disadvantages – makes for an interesting game. The game is not without its challenges; soft sculpts and lack of good player aids detract a bit, but should not be showstoppers to enjoyment. I also think that the Boys are much more able to handle all that BattleLore brings to the table now that they are more experienced gamers. The last time we played Youngest RMN was a wee 6-years old and Middle RMN, my Austism Spectrum hero, was 12.

In addition to the core set and the previously mentioned Epic BattleLore expansion, I also own Call to Arms, the Dwarven Battalion Specialist Pack, and the Goblin Skirmishers Specialist Pack. Between all these expansions I “should” be able to come up with good adventures for 3-players, especially using the Call to Arms system. Although fantasy is not my go-to genre for gaming, I sense that BattleLore may actually fit many of our Family Game Night needs. BattleLore will find itself on the gaming table again, but not before I thoroughly reread the rules and make considered decisions on adventure design and balance.